Archive

Archive for April, 2011

Tracking North Dakota Senator Kent Conrad in Media

Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND)

Chairman Conrad’s Opening Remarks at Nomination of Heather Higginbottom

March 17: SenateBudget’s YouTube Channel:

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Conrad Calls for Greater Financial Awareness

April 1: Kent Conrad–U.S. Senator: Pressroom: “Far too many of our friends and neighbors in North Dakota and across the nation are not aware of what financial services and savings tools might be available to them,” Senator Conrad said. “As a result, too many vulnerable families aren’t taking advantage of services that could improve their economic outlook and help them stave off financial ruin.” More…

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Conrad Sponsors Conference on American Indian Health Care

April 5: Kent Conrad–U.S. Senator: Pressroom: “Despite years of prevention efforts, all too many tribal communities still struggle with keeping members from taking their own lives.  More must be done to put an end to suicide, especially amongst youth,” Senator Conrad said.  “The Native American community has such great pride, but they must know that it is never a sign of weakness to ask for help.” More…

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Conrad Votes to Repeal Bill That’s a Burden on Businesses

April 5: Kent Conrad–U.S. Senator: Pressroom: “We must not do anything that hurts our fragile economic recovery and that means removing obstacles that keep small businesses from creating jobs,” Senator Conrad said.  “By getting rid of this provision, we are providing a common-sense solution for small businesses so they can focus on growing our economy.”More…

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Farm Program Decisions Should be Made by Ag Committees, Conrad says

April 6: Kent Conrad–U.S. Senator: Pressroom: As Congress works toward a compromise on spending for fiscal year 2011, Senator Kent Conrad is urging President Obama and congressional leaders not to support funding cuts for farm programs, but instead allow the agriculture committees to set spending limits during negotiations on a new Farm Bill.

In a letter to President Obama, Senator Conrad and Montana Senator Max Baucus stress that the Senate Agriculture Committee should be tasked with making decisions on spending for farm programs.

“Instead of making arbitrary cuts now through an appropriations bill, we urge that the Agriculture Committee be given the responsibility for crafting any necessary reductions as part of the reauthorization of the 2008 Farm Bill,” the Senators write. More…

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Conrad: Corps Will Continue Flood Fight Despite Possible Government Shutdown

April 6: Kent Conrad–U.S. Senator: Pressroom: “While the federal government may shut down, the water will still continue to rise.  I have been assured that the Corps will remain in the flood fight and help us prepare as best we can,” Senator Conrad said. More…

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Conrad Votes to Protect ND Energy, Ag Interests

April 6: Kent Conrad–U.S. Senator: Pressroom: “Congress, not the EPA, should take the lead in deciding how to confront the challenges posed by global climate change.  That way, we can ensure our solution does not place an unnecessary burden on American energy resources like the coal, oil and natural gas we’re producing in North Dakota,” Senator Conrad said. “With our economy still fragile, our job now is to produce energy legislation that will allow our businesses and industries to grow while protecting our environment for future generations.” More…

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Delegation Announces More Than $50 Million to Bolster Roads in Flooded Areas

April 7: Kent Conrad–U.S. Senator: Pressroom: Senators Kent Conrad and John Hoeven and Congressman Rick Berg today announced that more than $50 million in federal resources have been awarded to the North Dakota Department of Transportation to bolster roadways in flood impacted areas.

The delegation noted that after three consecutive years of record or near record flooding, the state’s roadways are badly in need of support to ensure the safety of motorists, particularly those in the Devils Lake and James River Basins.

Federal grants totaling $50,450,000 were awarded to: Devils Lake Basin, $33,500,000, Red River Valley, $7,750,000, West James River Basin,  $6,700,000, Sheyenne/James River Basin, $2,500,000. More…

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Conrad Honored As Champion For Rural Health Care

April 8: Kent Conrad–U.S. Senator: Pressroom: “Everyone deserves access to quality health care regardless of where they live.  With a shortage of doctors in our country, it is becoming harder for people in our rural communities to get the medical care they need,” Senator Conrad said.  “I am proud of the success of the Conrad State 30 program, and I will continue to work to improve and expand this legislation to address this urgent need.” More…

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Conrad Backs Bill Guaranteeing Pay for Troops

April 8: Kent Conrad–U.S. Senator: Pressroom: “At a time when our nation is engaged in three separate armed conflicts, it’s especially important to ensure our troops are able to keep focus on their mission, not on what’s going on in Washington.  We can’t let partisan politics jeopardize support for our troops,” Senator Conrad said.

The White House and the Department of Defense have indicated that in the event of a government shutdown members of the armed forces would not receive paychecks.

However, the legislation supported by Senator Conrad — the Ensuring Pay for Our Military Act of 2011 — sets aside funds to prevent any interruption in pay for active duty members of the military in the event of a federal government shutdown.  The bill also protects those who serve in the Coast Guard and Reserve components. In addition, the legislation grants permission to the Secretary of Defense to allow those who serve as civilians or contractors in support of the military to continue to be paid.

“This legislation will take care of those who take care of us.  It will ensure that the brave men and women of America’s military continue to receive the compensation they earned and deserve,” Senator Conrad said.  More…

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Conrad Keeps Pressure on Administration for Flood Support

April 8: Kent Conrad–U.S. Senator: Pressroom: “We’re just in the early stages of the federal role in this flood fight,” Senator Conrad said.  “I will continue to hold their feet to the fire and press for any additional assistance that is necessary.” More…

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Conrad, Hoeven Continue Push to Protect Military Funerals

April 14: Kent Conrad–U.S. Senator: Pressroom: “While I am a staunch defender of the Constitution and the freedom of speech, these vicious verbal assaults on grieving families violate their basic right to privacy,” Senator Conrad said.  “I’ve been to these services. I’ve seen the pain and suffering of the families of the fallen. They have every right to lay their loved ones to rest in peace and with dignity.  No one should be allowed to take that away from them.” More…

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Eight the Hard Way: Good News, Bad News for Senate Dems

FOX News: April 1: Now, on to the Power Politics Senate Democrats misery index. Here are, ranked by degree of difficulty, the eight toughest races for Democrats next year

2) North Dakota – The retirement of longtime Democratic Sen. Kent Conrad means that this increasingly Republican state will likely be all-GOP in Congress. Neither party has produced a frontrunner for the nomination, but the Republican bench looks much deeper. National Republicans are particularly interested in the state’s tax commissioner, Cory Fong. But this race holds on to its second spot on political climate alone.

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Budget deal riding on two big issues

POLITICO: April 3: With a shutdown looming, budget negotiations this week will rise or fall on two major issues: policy riders demanded by Republicans and an estimated $6 billion to $8 billion in new savings in mandatory programs offered by the White House to forestall deeper cuts in domestic appropriations.

The administration is prepared to accelerate proposed reforms in the Pell Grant program for low-income college students and cut billions elsewhere from one of the initiatives enacted under health care reform: the establishment of new nonprofit health cooperatives, a priority of Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.).

The Children’s Health Insurance Program, extending Medicaid coverage to the children of working class families, is a third potential target, together with billions to be saved from rescinding highway contract authority.

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Reid on discretionary cuts: ‘We can’t go any more’

The Hill: April 5: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said Tuesday Democrats have reached the end of their rope on discretionary spending cuts as the clock ticks closer to a government shutdown.

“We have been willing to do what is fair in ratcheting down very, very hard on programs dealing with domestic discretionary spending,” Reid said. “We can’t go any more.”

House Republicans have proposed slashing $61 billion in non-security discretionary spending this year, of which $10 billion in cuts was enacted last month. GOP leaders have not publicly budged from the $61 billion figure – nor their insistence that all of it come from discretionary programs.

Democrats, though, have already slammed the one-week spending bill, with House liberals condemning the abortion language and Reid indicating it’s likely dead on arrival in the Senate.

“As you heard the president say, there’s going to be no more short-term extensions,” Reid said. “It’s really time to get the job done.”

Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), chairman of the Budget Committee, criticized the GOP’s short-term proposal because it would take Pentagon cuts off the table this year.

“I don’t think anything should be off the table,” Conrad said. More…

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Dem budget chief: Ryan plan ‘draconian’

The Hill: April 5: Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) decried the 2012 budget proposal introduced by House Republicans Tuesday as “draconian.”

“I think that it completely lacks balance,” he said of the plan unveiled by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.). “He has dramatic cuts in taxes for the wealthiest among us and finances that by draconian cuts to those of us who are dependent on Medicaid and Medicare.”

“It’s draconian,” added Conrad, who first ran for Congress on a pledge to reduce the federal deficit and has positioned himself as a fiscal hawk throughout his Senate career. More…

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Democratic Sen. Conrad On Long-Term Budget Deal

NPR: April 7: Steve Inskeep talks with Democratic Sen. Kent Conrad of North Dakota about a long-term budget agreement. Conrad is chairman of the Budget Committee and part of a group of six senators (three Democrats and three Republicans) trying to negotiate a compromise based on the recommendations of President Obama’s debt and deficit commission. Listen

INSKEEP: Senator Conrad, some people will know that you’ve said that you’re not running for re-election in 2012. When I heard that news, I wondered if part of your motivation for that was that you are anticipating having to take budget votes that you think would be so unpopular that you’d have trouble winning re-election anyway.

Senator CONRAD: (Laughing) Well, it’s always hard to know all of what goes into a decision like this. More…

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Your Turn: Fix The National Debt

NPR: April 7: CONAN: Well, here’s an email question from Chris(ph) in Oklahoma: Could you please briefly explain who the U.S. federal government owes money to, and what are some of the major dangers associated with the amount of debt that we presently owe?

Former Sen. SIMPSON: Tell that to the numbers guy, there, old Conrad. He knows that one.

CONAN: Senator Conrad?

Sen. CONRAD: Well, our debt now is $14 trillion. That’s the gross debt of the United States. If we hold a bond auction today to finance the debt for this year, half of those bonds will be purchased by foreign buyers.

Our biggest creditor are now the Chinese. Number two is Japan. So the United States has a circumstance in which our gross debt, that is the debt we owe to the public, as well as the debt that we owe to the trust funds of Social Security and Medicare; that gross debt, which will be by the end of this year $15 trillion, will be 100 percent of the gross domestic product of the United States. More…

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US Sen Conrad: Roughly 60% Of Proposed Spending Cuts Would Be Discretionary

Wall Street Journal: April 8: A top Democrat said Friday that roughly 60% of spending reductions that would form part of any deal to fund the federal government through September would come from so-called discretionary spending funds.

The rest of the spending cuts would come from what are known as mandatory spending — programs that run on autopilot and are renewed each year without any congressional action, Sen. Kent Conrad (D., N.D.) said Friday.

The distinction may be a subtle one for most people outside of Washington, but for Democrats it is a modest victory in the last-minute negotiations with Republicans over the terms under which the federal government will be funded for the rest of the fiscal year.

Democratic leaders had argued that any further cuts from discretionary funding would be dangerous to federal-government programs that are vital to lower-income people. Instead, they advocated for one-off cuts to mandatory programs that would reduce spending in this fiscal year, but not necessarily in future periods.

Conrad said both the level of cuts — $38 billion in reductions from current spending — and the breakdown of mandatory versus discretionary had been agreed to. He said that some of the details in terms of what programs or government departments saw reductions had yet to be worked out. More…

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Kent Conrad: GOP Threatens Shutdown For Mountaintop Mining

CNN: YouTube: April 8: In an interview on CNN, Senate budget chair Kent Conrad (D-ND) explains that House Republicans are refusing to drop their riders to HR 1 that would eliminate environmental and health rules that restrict mountaintop coal mining. Watch

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West Virginia, North Dakota Senate Race Ratings Change

Roll Call: April 11: The shifting 2012 Senate landscape and lack of candidates in two states have prompted Roll Call Politics to change two race ratings. One adjustment is good news for Democrats, while the other favors the Republicans who are attempting to win back Senate control.

In North Dakota, the Democratic seat is looking more likely to shift to the GOP.

After Sen. Kent Conrad (D) announced his retirement earlier this year, Democrats started looking for a potential successor to the three-term Senator. Roll Call initially rated the race as Leans Republican, a big shift from when Conrad was favored to keep it for the party.

But a few months after Conrad’s announcement, there’s still not a single Democratic candidate publicly looking at the race. Former Rep. Earl Pomeroy (D-N.D.) has dismissed speculation that he could succeed his longtime friend and colleague, instead telling reporters that he’s looking at a bid for governor.

Given the dearth of Democratic candidates and the state’s overwhelming track record of voting for Republicans in recent cycles, Roll Call now rates this race as a Likely Republican pickup.

Although no well-known Republicans have jumped into the race yet, several elected officials are publicly considering bids and are expected to make a decision once the state legislative session is over in the next few weeks. Republican Rep. Rick Berg, state Sen. Tony Grindberg, state Treasurer Kelly Schmidt and other statewide officeholders are just a few names on a long list of potential GOP candidates looking at running for Conrad’s seat.

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Kent Conrad pushes Gang of 6 over budget proposal

POLITICO: April 12: Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad is growing impatient with the so-called Gang of Six.

The North Dakota Democrat is threatening to move forward with his own Senate 2012 budget proposal in early May, adding new pressure on the bipartisan group of moderate senators to strike a deal on a sweeping deficit-reduction plan.

“I’ve been trying to give room to the group of six to reach a conclusion on a plan,” Conrad told reporters Tuesday. “And I’ve told them, ‘I’m running out of time. I gotta go very soon after we get back.’”

His remarks followed a budget presentation he gave to his Democratic colleagues during the weekly caucus lunch.

The Gang of Six plan, spearheaded by Sens. Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), would slash about $4 trillion over the next decade through spending cuts and entitlement reform. Conrad said he plans to release his budget after Congress returns from its Easter break on May 2. But Conrad, along with two other members of the Gang of Six, Sens. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and Warner, declined to discuss whether the group was making any progress on a deal. More…

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Conrad hails Obama call for negotiations on deficit

The Hill: April 13: Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) welcomed President Obama’s call for administration-led talks on a long-term deficit solution.

Conrad has been saying for months that Obama needs to get in front of the issue and lead a summit with leaders of Congress. Obama on Wednesday asked House and Senate leaders to open talks with Vice President Joe Biden on the deficit in May. The goal would be to have a deficit plan in place by June, shortly before the nation’s debt ceiling must be raised.

“President Obama set the right spirit and tone in his remarks today. To solve our long-term fiscal crisis, we are going to have to break through the partisanship and gridlock that has taken hold in Washington,” Conrad said.

“Democrats and Republicans must be willing to put aside our differences and find common ground.  We need to sit down together with everything on the table and negotiate a comprehensive, balanced and bipartisan long-term deficit and debt reduction plan. The nation’s strength and security depend on it,” he added. More…

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Tracking Tim Johnson and Brendan Johnson in Media

Weekly Clips from March 31, 2011 to April 14, 2011

U.S. Sen. Tim Johnson – D-SD

JOHNSON: TAXPAYERS SHOULD KNOW WHERE THEIR MONEY IS BEING SPENT

March 31: Pressroom: U.S. Senator Tim Johnson: Johnson cosponsored the Taxpayer Receipt Act, which would require the Treasury Department to provide all taxpayers with a free, easy to understand, one-page document that itemizes how their tax dollars were spent across all major categories.

“We get a receipt for nearly everything we purchase, but the Internal Revenue Service does not provide taxpayers with easy to understand information about how the government is putting their tax dollars to work. The American people should know where their tax dollars are being spent,” said Johnson. More…

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CHAIRMAN JOHNSON HOLDS HEARING ON VA BUDGET

March 31: Pressroom: U.S. Senator Tim Johnson: Mr. Secretary, I would note that, outside of the increase for medical care in the FY 12 budget submission, the Department’s request for all other functions is down a combined $859 million from last year’s request.  I understand and appreciate that as budgets get tighter, Departments are being asked to do more with less, but I want to make sure that these cuts won’t erode services or diminish the quality of care that vets receive.

In particular, I am concerned about the 25% reduction in the request for the construction and facilities accounts and the impact this may have on the adequacy of VA medical facilities and health care delivery in future years. VA has a $9 billion backlog in repairs and improvements to its existing buildings, and I am concerned that this budget does not adequately address that requirement.

The VA is estimating that the average wait time for disability claims will reach 230 days in FY 12.  This is totally unacceptable.  This Subcommittee has provided the VA with significant resources over the past several years, including an additional $460 million in the current CR for FY 11, which the Department said was needed to reduce the wait time and backlog, yet the problem is getting worse not better.  I understand that the decision on Agent Orange claims and the complexity of new claims have added to the problem, but the VA needs to come up with a comprehensive plan to solve this problem sooner rather than later.  More…

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JOHNSON INTRODUCES BILL TO TAKE POLITICS OUT OF THE REDISTRICTING PROCESS

April 1: Pressroom: U.S. Senator Tim Johnson: “Partisanship has crept in to the redistricting process more and more over the years, with politicians hoping to increase their odds of winning elections. It shouldn’t be this way. The Congressional redistricting process should be based not on party politics, but according to the Constitution and the Voting Rights Act,” said Johnson. More…

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Johnson Supports Legislation That Would Bring More Federal Dollars to Rural Schools

April 4: Pressroom: U.S. Senator Tim Johnson: “South Dakota students in rural and remote areas of our state shouldn’t get left behind by federal programs,” said Johnson. “This legislation will ensure that students in our state are able to see the benefits of federal education programs that help prepare them for the careers of the 21st Century.”

Johnson supported the creation of the Rural Education Achievement Program in 1991, which is the only federal funding dedicated solely to aiding rural schools.

The Rural Education Achievement Program Reauthorization Act would make federal funds more closely targeted to rural school districts nationwide. The legislation is crafted to modify the current program to give rural schools more opportunity to qualify for REAP grants and funding that they would otherwise be ineligible for receiving. More…

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Johnson: Native American Veterans Should Have Equal Recognition on Capitol Hill

April 5: Pressroom: U.S. Senator Tim Johnson: U.S. Senator Tim Johnson (D-SD) continued his efforts to give Native American veterans equal recognition on Capitol Hill by introducing legislation to grant the National American Indian Veterans Association (NAIV) a federal charter. The charter would formally recognize the organization as it advocates in Washington for Native American veterans in South Dakota and across the nation.

“It’s time for the National American Indian Veterans Association to have the same status as other veterans organizations. No other group has served our country at the rate of Native Americans, and their sacrifice should be formally recognized by the federal government,” said Johnson. More…

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Johnson: Telecom Reforms Should Help Support Continued Efforts in Rural Areas

April 6: Pressroom: U.S. Senator Tim Johnson: U.S. Senator Tim Johnson (D-SD) today joined a bipartisan effort to ensure that proposed telecom reforms by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) do not have unintended consequences for rural Americans’ access to quality, affordable services. Johnson has continually worked to expand broadband service in South Dakota and is committed to maintaining the intended purpose of the Universal Service Fund, which provides affordable telecom service to rural and underserved areas.

“We believe strongly robust broadband networks will lead to increased adoption, job creation and economic opportunity. However, as the regulatory reform effort moves forward, we must also ensure new rules and regulations do not have unintended consequences and hamper our investment in our rural communities,” Johnson and 29 of his colleagues wrote in a letter to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski. More…

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Working to End the Shortage of Veterinarians

April 7: Editorials: U.S. Senator Tim Johnson: There are many pressing issues this Congress that will require much of our attention. However, we can’t let this problem go unsolved. It is unsustainable and the lack of veterinarians in our underserved areas is expected to grow in the next five years. Agriculture is the economic engine that drives our rural communities, and without viable family farms and ranches, our small towns and Main Street businesses throughout South Dakota and our nation would face significant hardships.  It is absolutely essential that our agricultural producers have access to the services they need to be successful, and the Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program Enhancement Act will help make that possible. More…

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Johnson and Committee Discuss Biofuels Infrastructure Issues

April 7: Pressroom: U.S. Senator Tim Johnson: The committee also considered the Biofuels Market Expansion Act of 2011, a Johnson-cosponsored bill that aims to expand the market for renewable fuels.

“For biofuels to reach their full potential to displace foreign oil and enhance our energy security, we need to ensure that the vehicle and fueling infrastructure is in place,” Johnson said. “This is a challenging fiscal and political environment, but I am committed to working to ensure biofuels can compete with traditional fossil fuels and help grow South Dakota’s economy.” More…

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JOHNSON COMMENTS ON GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN

April 8: Pressroom: U.S. Senator Tim Johnson: Republicans are willing to shut down the federal government over the funding of women’s health care.  It is outrageous and it is wrong.

By not funding Title X millions of women will lose access to cancer screening and other preventive medical services.  Catholic Social Services, clinics, and other groups provide these heath services that have nothing to do with abortion.

This is not about abortion.  It is the law now that no federal money can fund abortions.  Democrats and Republicans have already agreed on the money.  It is time to act in the interest of American’s women and the rest of us.  Don’t shut the government down on the issue of women’s health.

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Johnson Statement on Budget Deal

April 11: Pressroom: U.S. Senator Tim Johnson: While I am relieved that an agreement was reached to keep the government operating, and especially that our men and women in the military will continue to be paid, I can’t say that I’m pleased with either the process or, in some respects, the agreement itself.

One of the effects of this agreement will be to be to add to the pain of some of the most vulnerable in our society, as well as to delay very badly needed infrastructure projects.  In addition to reducing federal spending, certainly some attention also needs to be given to raising revenue from those best able to contribute–those who make over $250,000 a year, for instance.  That would be a more balanced approach to solving our fiscal problems, in my opinion, and I hope that is the direction we move in the future.

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Johnson Pushes Ag Secretary to Fund Aerial Program Protecting Livestock

April 11: Pressroom: U.S. Senator Tim Johnson: “Ending the federal commitment to this program could further strain state programs and impact producers. This is exactly the type of program that has real value in our state, but could go under-funded by federal bureaucrats in Washington,” continued Johnson. More…

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JOHNSON: RURAL SD STATIONS TO RECEIVE FUNDING FOR DIGITAL UPGRADE

April 12: Pressroom: U.S. Senator Tim Johnson: “I am pleased that broadcasters in South Dakota are participating in this program as they transition to digital television,” Johnson said. “This is an important program that improves service for South Dakotans who rely on television to access local news, weather and important public safety information.”  More…

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Johnson Statement on President’s Speech

April 13: Pressroom: U.S. Senator Tim Johnson: I’m glad that the President put out a solid alternative to the House Republican budget proposal, particularly their plan to privatize Medicare, a program that tens of thousands of South Dakotans rely on.

I also believe that the President is right that deficit reduction must include raising revenue through closing tax loopholes and asking millionaires to pay their fair share—that is the only realistic way to bring the budget into balance.

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Johnson Fights for Crucial South Dakota Water Projects

April 13: Pressroom: U.S. Senator Tim Johnson: “I agree that there need to be spending cuts, but the water projects in our state are vitally important infrastructure, and this budget request takes us backwards on our investments,” Johnson said. “Making sure South Dakotans have access to clean drinking water has been, and continues to be, one of my top priorities in Congress. These water projects improve public health in the areas they serve, in addition to boosting economic development.”More…

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Dodd-Frank Supporters Fire Back

Wall Street Journal: April 1: Supporters of last year’s financial overhaul law hit back at Republicans who sponsored legislation to repeal the Dodd-Frank measure.

“If someone proposed a repeal of regulations on nuclear reactors today, they would be called crazy. But when it comes to the safety of our economy, Republicans apparently believe Americans were adequately protected during the financial crisis despite the fact that they lost millions of jobs, millions of homes and trillions of dollars in wealth,” Sen. Tim Johnson said in an email. The South Dakota Democrat is the chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, having taken over for Sen. Chris Dodd of Connecticut, a key architect of the financial overhaul, who retired last year.

“Republicans must have forgotten what caused the financial crisis and the painful consequences that continue to hurt so many Americans, and are ready to let Wall Street run wild all over again,” he said. More…

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Shutdown drama fuels worry in S.D.

Argus Leader: April 2: Lawmakers representing South Dakota – Democratic Sen. Tim Johnson, Republican Sen. John Thune and GOP Rep. Kristi Noem – insist they are trying to avoid a shutdown. To demonstrate their resolve, all three lawmakers have backed bills that would withhold their congressional salary if there’s a shutdown.

Like Reid, Johnson has accused Republicans of not willing to compromise.

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Another Idea

Yankton Press and Dakotan: April 4: Rev. Dr. Rodney Veldhuizen: In January, I noted a story concerning a proposal seeking to designate Yankton as a medically underserved community. While I agree that Yankton could fit those criteria, my concern is the approach seeking more government intervention and funding in an era when most governments are facing cutbacks and funding is becoming increasingly difficult to obtain. Now I see Sen. Tim Johnson speaking to this issue, noting that government cuts may make this a challenge. More…

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Ellsworth feels budget crunch, waiting on answers

Rapid City Journal: April 5: We have 1,100 civilians working here at Ellsworth. It would have a significant impact if they couldn’t come to work,” Taliaferro said. “Democracy is a little sloppy.… I just think we need to be patient with how our system works and have confidence that our leaders keep us in the right direction.”

The ongoing stopgap budget measures have required the base to prepare contracts on a monthly basis, Taliaferro said. The base’s $6.4 million runway repair project this summer and $700,000 hanger repair remain on schedule, but all other new base construction is on hold until a final federal budget is approved by lawmakers.

The future of the Financial Services Center, which employs another 550 workers at Ellsworth, and six B-1B Lancer bombers scheduled for retirement in Obama’s 2012 budget, are also unclear.

The center, under the direction of DOD, is staffed by about half civilian, half military personnel. Under a reorganization plan, a portion of its function, currently performed by airmen, would move back to individual bases.

“It’s my understanding it would be military enlisted positions moving,” Taliaferro said. “The full details and numbers on that strategy will be shared I think in the next few weeks.”

Last week, Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley told Sen. Tim Johnson that the six B-1s slated for retirement will come from both Ellsworth and Dyess Air Force Base. That could mean a reduction or shift in maintenance staff, but few details have been released. More…

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Letters: April 6, 2011

Rapid City Journal: Financial industry drove economy into crisis

The Academy Award-winning documentary, “Inside Job,” explains in clear and simple fashion how financial institutions caused the recession.

It should make your blood boil.

As the film states, financial institutions such as big banks have turned their backs on society, corrupted our political system, and plunged the world economy into crisis.

Presidents Reagan, Clinton and the Bushes all played a part, by signing laws deregulating the financial industry.

Their treasury secretaries and regulating agency appointments often came from banks and investment firms with some degree of responsibility for this catastrophe.

President Obama has wimped out on this issue, despite promising in his election campaign to reform Wall Street, and having a popular mandate to do so.

The financial reform bill he signed in 2010 will do little to change things. The men and institutions that caused the crisis are still in power.

Sen. Tim Johnson is Chair of the Senate Banking Committee. South Dakotans have a responsibility to pressure him to create real reform, or this crisis will happen again soon.

We need a financial industry that is stable and safe, that serves us, not the other way around.

MICHAEL MELIUS

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Thune, Johnson Blame Opposite Parties for Possible Government Shutdown

KDLT: April 6: South Dakota’s senators agree on one aspect of the federal spending debate:  a government shutdown would be bad.

“This needs to get done. Certainly, nobody benefits from or is advantaged by a shutdown,” said Sen. John Thune, (R-SD).

“It would be highly irresponsible to shut down the government and punish our constituents solely to assert a political point,” said Sen. Tim Johnson (D-SD).

But that’s about all they agree on. Thune and Johnson blame each others party for the potential shutdown, set to start Friday at midnight if no compromise is reached.

Republicans want to cut $61 billion in spending between now and October, when the federal fiscal year ends, and Democrats don’t want to go any higher than $33 billion.

“The Democrats have given up half of what is due, but the Republicans say, ‘My way or the highway’,” said Johnson.

“We are where we are because last year, the Democrats failed to pass a budget, failed to pass a single appropriation bill when they had huge majorities in the House and in the Senate,” said Thune.

Services deemed essential will still be available during a shutdown. But non-essential services like national parks, paper tax returns, and passport applications will come to a halt.

Neither senator has high hopes for reaching a deal.

“The short of it is, they’re about $30 billion apart,” said Thune.

“It is grim, but we hope there’s still a possibility that common sense will prevail,” said Johnson. More…

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More than 8,000 South Dakotans could take direct hit with federal shutdown

Rapid City Journal: April 7: South Dakota’s senators took different tacks on the impact of a shutdown.

Sen. Tim Johnson, a Democrat, said a shutdown would be catastrophic.

“A shutdown would actually cost money and jeopardize our economic recovery just when unemployment has dropped,” Johnson said.

But Johnson said most effects won’t be felt in the short term.

“The short-term impacts would not be as great, but the long-term impacts would be enormous,” he said.

Sen. John Thune, a Republican, said areas like national parks and museums would be affected but said most people might not notice.

“Most Americans’ day-to-day lives won’t be impacted,” he said. More…

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Last-minute deal averts shutdown

Sioux Falls Argus Leader: April 8: Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., criticized Republicans for driving an ideological agenda.

“Don’t shut the government down on the issue of women’s health,” he said in a statement issued Friday afternoon before the Planned Parenthood component was dropped. More…

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Disappointment despite deal

Rapid City Journal: April 9: It’s a historically large spending reduction, but Republican Rep. Kristi Noem is disappointed that the cuts weren’t deeper. Democratic Sen. Tim Johnson is dismayed as well, chiefly because he thinks the deal cuts too much.

Johnson wants to balance the budget not only through spending cuts to programs he deems vital to constituents but also by raising taxes on families earning more than $250,000 – a step Republicans have opposed.

“That would be a more balanced approach to solving our fiscal problems, in my opinion, and I hope that is the direction we move in the future,” he said. More…

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Noem raises money for campaign at record pace

Rapid City Journal: April 12: Rep. Kristi Noem raised money for her re-election campaign at a record pace over the first three months of the year.

Noem took in $396,000 from January through March, more than twice what any South Dakota House candidate ever has in the first quarter of a non-election year.

The next highest fundraising total for a House race over the same time period was then-Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin’s $167,475.89 in the first quarter of 2007.

Noem made the fundraising announcement Tuesday ahead of the Friday deadline to file campaign finance reports with the Federal Election Commission.

Neither Sen. John Thune nor Sen. Tim Johnson has filed their first quarter campaign finance reports yet.

Of Noem’s $396,000 fundraising total, 56 percent – or $222,000 – came from individual donors.

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Yankton Delegation Gets Face Time In Washington

Yankton Press & Dakotan: April 14: South Dakota’s elected officials were keenly interested in the economic health of the area.

When told that Yankton never experienced the serious economic declines of some other places around the country during the past three years, Sen. Tim Johnson noted that the community “never booms, but it never busts, either.”

He went on to ask about progress on the planning around the Meridian Bridge, which is being converted into a recreational path. Johnson had attempted to secure some federal funding for the process of transforming the streetscape around the historic structure.

However, on Thursday, he concluded that “things don’t look good” for that request to be approved.

Johnson visited Yankton recently to offer his support for a federally-qualified health center (FQHC) that is being pursued by the local medical community to cope with patients who cannot afford health insurance. More…

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State Senator Dan Lederman

Mitt Romney, John Thune address Jewish Republican gathering in Vegas

American Jewish World: April 5: Thune said the Obama administration’s emphasis on settlements made it appear that they were the reason peace talks were not advancing while ignoring Arab recalcitrance and the Iranian nuclear threat.

“America’s ally is now and always will be the State of Israel,” he said. “I think the Obama administration sometimes forgets that fundamental fact.”

Thune has said he is not running, but his supporters will not count him out and his appearance at this event and others like it fuels speculation that he may return to the race. Dan Lederman, a Jewish state senator from South Dakota, joked that he had already reserved the VP spot on the Thune ticket. More…

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SD business staying put, adding job

KTIV News Channel 4: April 12: X marks the spot.  Fifty-years ago, paving equipment manufacturer Bid-Well opened up along the railroad tracks in Canton, South Dakota.

“Bid-well has been a landmark business here in Canton, that has changed the lives of people all over the world,” explained State Senator Dan Lederman, (R) Dakota Dunes. More…

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Track Tom Carper, John Carney and Jack Markell in Media

Weekly Clips from March 17, 2011 through March 31, 2011

U.S. Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE), U.S. Rep. John Carney (D-DE) and Gov. Jack Markell (D-DE)

U.S. Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE)

Sens. Boxer, Carper Urge NRC to Investigate Vulnerabilities of U.S. Nuclear Facilities in Wake of Recent Disaster in Japan

March 17: Tom Carper–U.S. Senator: Pressroom: “Public safety is our top priority, and it is therefore vital that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission extensively investigate the risks posed to nuclear facilities in the United States as soon as possible,” said Senators Boxer and Carper. “We believe it is important to assist Japan to ensure that the nuclear disaster is contained as quickly, safely and effectively as possible, and we will closely monitor the situation as it unfolds. We will also continue our oversight efforts, including holding hearings in the near future, to ensure that the nuclear energy industry and NRC regulators are adequately prepared to respond to unexpected disasters, whether they are the result of human or mechanical malfunctions, acts of nature or terrorist threats.” More…

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Lessons Learned From the Affordable Care Act

March 17: Tom Carper–U.S. Senator: Carper’s Corner: Since the Affordable Care Act was signed into law last spring, I have traveled across the First State talking to my constituents about our new health care reform law. From Dover, to Wilmington, to Rehoboth, I often heard the same questions and concerns, particularly from seniors who fear that the new law will reduce their Medicare benefits.

I hope the information discussed during this hearing will help to correct some of the myths about the law and highlight the increased benefits that Americans are already experiencing as a result of the Affordable Care Act. Many Delawareans, and most Americans, are unaware of many of the law’s benefits that have already gone into effect. More…

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Sen. Carper Calls for President to Use Comprehensive Measures to Achieve Long-Term Deficit Reduction

March 18: Tom Carper–U.S. Senator: Pressroom: “Bringing balance to our federal budget will be difficult, requiring a shared sacrifice from all of us,” said Sen. Carper.  “The President’s National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform provided us with a valuable roadmap to long-term fiscal order, and while we may not all agree with every recommendation, its basic approach is sound. We need to take a hard look at all of the options available to us and get to work on a comprehensive deficit reduction package. Our nation needs to shift from a ‘culture of spendthrift’ to a ‘culture of thrift,’ where we endeavor to look in every nook and cranny of the federal government for ways in which we can save money and perform work more efficiently. I will continue to work with my colleagues and the Administration to advance a broad, long-term approach to bringing our fiscal house in order.” More…

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Senators Introduce Bill to Improve International Nuclear Safety

March 18: Tom Carper–U.S. Senator: Pressroom: Senator Carper said: “Over the past several years, the United States has made enormous strides in building a culture of safety within the nuclear industry in large part because of the concerted effort by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to make safety a number one priority at our nation’s 104 nuclear reactors. However, the recent problems with the Fukushima Daiichi power plant in Japan are a sobering reminder that nuclear facilities are always vulnerable to unexpected disasters whether natural or man-made. I’m a firm believer in the notion that ‘everything I do, I know I can do better,’ and the nuclear industry is no exception. It is, therefore, timely that the United States takes the lead in the global effort to promote nuclear safety.” More…

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Delaware’s Congressional Delegation Trumpets Grant Award to Help Children Access Healthy Food Year-Round

March 21: Tom Carper–U.S. Senator: Pressroom: “A complete, nutritious diet is critical for Delaware’s children to be able to grow into healthy adults,” said the Delaware Delegation. “Whether it’s December or July, our kids need regular access to wholesome food and meals so they can lead healthy lives and learn to the best of their ability. This grant from the USDA will help increase access to healthy food and we will continue to support similar programs that ensure that Delaware’s children, regardless of where they live, have access to nutritious and healthy meals throughout the year.” More…

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Sen. Carper Marks One Year Anniversary of the Affordable Care Act

March 23: Tom Carper–U.S. Senator: Pressroom: “For years now, the U.S. has been spending twice as much on health care as most other advanced nations while still failing to get better results and leaving millions of Americans without coverage. The Affordable Care Act, which President Obama signed into law one year ago, represents significant progress in our effort to improve health care for all Americans.

“It works by establishing new initiatives – such as tax credits to help small businesses with the cost of providing health care; expansion of employer wellness programs; removal of co-payments for preventative services like screenings and immunizations; annual checkups in Medicare; assistance to help seniors pay for prescription drugs such as through closing the Part D donut hole; consumer protections to prevent insurance companies from denying coverage to Americans with preexisting conditions or dropping their coverage when they get sick or injured; and new, stronger programs to fight fraud, waste and abuse that will protect and extend the life of Medicare. These initiatives and more help deliver better health care results for less money, and in doing so, ensure that we can provide more Americans with access to affordable, quality care.

“That being said, we all know there is no such thing as a perfect law, and health care reform is no exception. This anniversary offers an opportunity to highlight the law’s strengths, as well as work on areas where we can and should make improvements. Fortunately, this law is not written in stone, and I will continue to work with all of my colleagues and the Administration to improve the law and our health care system.” More…

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Sen. Carper Reacts to Postal Regulatory Commission Opinion on Postal Delivery Frequency

March 24: Tom Carper–U.S. Senator: Pressroom: “While I’m not an advocate for eliminating Saturday delivery, and I continue to question whether taking such a step would be a good move at this time, I do believe that decisions on operational matters such as delivery frequency should be handled by postal management. At a time when the Postal Service is struggling with record budget deficits and facing insolvency, it makes no sense, in my opinion, to tie their hands when it comes to making difficult operational decisions. A significant amount of money could be saved if Saturday delivery is eliminated. I hope it isn’t necessary, but taking this step at the right time, and in the right way, might very well be a necessary component of a comprehensive postal recovery plan. It would be irresponsible for Congress, as it does now, to stand in the way and act like a 535-member Board of Directors. No real business could ever function under that type of governance and it’s unrealistic to think that the Postal Service would be well served by that type of micromanagement.More…

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Committee Statement: “Tools to Prevent Defense Department Cost Overruns”

March 29: Tom Carper–U.S. Senator: Speeches: Today, Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), Chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Federal Financial Management, convened the hearing, “Tools to Prevent Defense Department Cost Overruns.” The hearing examined the efficiency of the Department of Defense’s (DOD) system for developing the nation’s largest and most costly weapons. Today, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) announced that DOD’s major weapon systems have experienced more than $400 billion in cost growth, including $70 billion in new cost overruns. The hearing included testimony on the analysis of the reasons for these cost overruns and recommendations on corrective measures.

For more information on the hearing or to watch a webcast of the hearing, please click HERE.

A copy of Sen. Carper’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, follows:

“Today’s hearing will focus on how the Department of Defense can more efficiently develop our nation’s largest and most costly weapons. This hearing comes amidst joint efforts by U.S. and NATO forces to avert a humanitarian catastrophe in Libya. The major weapon systems of the U.S. military and of our NATO allies have helped to level the playing field against a regime that has chosen to launch airstrikes against protestors and deploy tanks to attack its own population. As we applaud the effort to stop this aggression, though, we need to keep in mind that the cost of our involvement in three simultaneous wars contributes to already unsustainable spending levels.

“In addition to our costly national security challenges, our nation still faces equally costly economic challenges that have led to record budget deficits in recent years. Our national debt now stands at more than $14 trillion, well over double what it was just ten years ago. While most Americans want us to reduce the deficit, determining the best path forward will not be easy. Many believe that those of us here in Washington aren’t capable of doing the hard work we were hired to do – that is to effectively manage the tax dollars they entrust us with. They look at the spending decisions we’ve made in recent years and question whether the culture here is broken. They question whether we’re capable of making the kind of tough decisions they and their families make with their own budgets. I don’t blame them for being skeptical.” More…

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Committee Statement: “Nomination of Virginia Seitz”

March 30: Tom Carper–U.S. Senator: Pressroom: Today, Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) introduced Virginia Seitz, President Obama’s nominee to serve as Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Counsel at the U.S. Justice Department, to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

For more information on the hearing or to watch a webcast of the hearing, please click here.

A copy of Sen. Carper’s statement, as prepared for delivery, follows:

“I have the great honor and pleasure of introducing Virginia Seitz, the President’s nominee to serve as Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Counsel at the U.S. Justice Department. The President has made a wise choice in nominating Ms. Seitz for this position.

“Our country is fortunate that someone with her outstanding credentials has stepped forward to do this important work. Ms. Seitz’s education, background and experience are superbly suited for this position.” More…

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Sen. Carper Unveils Newly Redesigned Website

March 30: Tom Carper–U.S. Senator: Pressroom: “In a world where our daily communication is increasingly digitized and online, it is important that I am as accessible as possible to my constituents,” said Sen. Carper. “Being accessible also extends to my ‘online office,’ and this redesigned website will help ensure that my constituents can quickly and easily access the information they need, whether it is on a bill that I’ve sponsored, applying for a grant or academy nomination or to get news on a natural disaster. I also travel up and down the First State and to and from Washington, D.C. nearly every week, and I want Delawareans to see what I am working on and how they can get more involved. This new and improved website, along with my e-newsletter and several social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter, Flicker and You Tube, helps me to more effectively communicate with my constituents and in doing so, hopefully allows me to better serve them.” More…

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Sen. Carper and Senate Colleagues Call on President Obama to Protect Public Health and Environmental Safeguards in the Budget

March 30: Tom Carper–U.S. Senator: Pressroom: “While we all agree that there must be cuts to the budget in order to reduce the federal deficit, it must be done in thoughtful and responsible way that does not sacrifice a clean and safe environment. Our nation is facing tough economic times, but tough times call for intelligent decision-making and wisdom, not reckless cuts that will do more harm than good – cuts that will lead to illness and premature death,” wrote the Senators. More…

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In Final Piece to Bipartisan Deal Reforming Senate Rules, Sen. Carper Cosponsors Bill to Streamline Senate Confirmation Process

March 31: Tom Carper–U.S. Senator: Pressroom: “The logjam of appointments to fill key administration openings has too often left agencies without leadership that can be held accountable for performance, and leads to a situation I call ‘executive branch Swiss cheese,’” said Sen. Carper. “I strongly believe that the confirmation process needs to be reformed in order for the Senate to better deliver on its responsibility to provide advice and consent. I am encouraged by the bipartisan support we now have to improve this aspect of government operation, and I look forward to working with my colleagues to pass this legislation so we can ensure that the most qualified candidates are confirmed to positions in the executive branch without unnecessary delay or burden.” More…

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Sen. Carper Cosponsors Bill to Improve Quality of Charter Schools

March 31: Tom Carper–U.S. Senator: Pressroom: “Part of our effort to ensure American competiveness and success in the future must include strategic investments in areas like education,” said Sen. Carper, a long-time advocate for charter schools. “Public charter schools can help propel our students to a brighter, stronger future, but we need to make sure that we are emphasizing quality, and not just quantity, in establishing these schools. The Charter School Quality Act will encourage states to adopt tougher authorizing standards to ensure that our nation’s charter schools are more than just an option for students, that they are an exceptional option. The legislation will also help spread innovations from charter schools to all schools in Delaware, improving our entire education system through increased sharing of high-quality and effective education practices.” More…

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McConnell questions Dems’ good faith

POLITICO: March 29: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) called out Democrats on Tuesday for being more focused on anti-GOP rhetoric than on striking a budget deal, citing a press call during which Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) was overheard instructing colleagues to use the word “extreme” to describe Republicans.

Before the Tuesday morning media call began, the Senate Democrats’ top messaging lieutenant could be overheard telling colleagues Barbara Boxer of California, Ben Cardin of Maryland, Tom Carper of Delaware and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut to paint the Republicans into a tea party “box,” according to the account.

“I always use the word ‘extreme,’” Schumer said. “That is what the caucus instructed me to use this week.” More…

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Sen. Carper to run his 28th C.R. Half-Marathon Sunday

WDEL: March 25: The 48th annual Caesar Rodney Half-Marathon steps off Sunday morning at 9:30am in downtown Wilmington.

One of the participants will be Senator Tom Carper, who will be running the 13.1 mile course for the 28th time.

Carper says he remembers his first C.R. Half, a day in 1982 when weather conditions were less than ideal, but crossing the finishing line could not have felt better.

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Carper failed to convince me of Medicare Part D benefits

The News Journal: March 28: Sen. Tom Carper’s recent Delaware Voice column about the benefits of the health care law fails to point out the adverse impact on the healthy.

He claims the new law allows Medicare recipients to receive “free” annual physicals for life. They are not free if one is healthy with no significant medical expenses. Co-payments and deductibles apply, so one pays for the exam, as I did this year. I suggest he work with his colleagues to exempt annual physicals from any co-payment or deductible, as has been done for procedures such as colonoscopies.

Sen. Carper refers to an improvement of the Medicare Part D prescription drug program by closing the “donut hole.” This is an improvement for those with significant drug expenses. But Medicare as structured is more expensive to the healthy. Last year my spouse and I paid $40 a month each for Part D coverage, or $960 for the year. Using Part D, we saved about $100, resulting in a net cost of $860 for coverage we did not use.

Walgreens’ plan would save me about $400 a year for the same prescriptions, but it could not be offered to me because I was eligible for Medicare Part D, according to one their pharmacists. I suggest Sen. Carper work to correct this discriminatory feature as well.

Walter S. Rowland, Wilmington More…

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U.S. Rep. John Carney (D-DE)

New Member of the Week: Rep. Carney: ‘The smart, measured approach is hard’

The Hill: March 28: “It was crazy — absolutely the craziest election I’ve ever been through,” said Democratic Rep. John Carney, Delaware’s at-large representative, of the 2010 midterms there.

Carney is describing the race between Democratic Senate nominee Chris Coons and gaffe-prone Republican nominee Christine O’Donnell, though his own contest against Tea Party candidate Glen Urquhart — who at one point said the separation of church and state was a “Nazi” sentiment — was not so different in character or outcome.

Now, as one of seven at-large representatives in Congress, Carney says Delaware’s pragmatic approach to politics has a natural place in current fiscal debates.

“There are a lot of guys — it is mostly guys on the other side — that are very focused on the deficit and budget imbalances, and appropriately so,” he said.

“The question becomes, ‘What are the priorities for protecting the things government should be having a role in?’ I think there are opportunities for discussion there.”

Carney said Senate Democrats haven’t gone far enough in their proposals to cut spending, but he characterizes the Republicans’ approach as haphazard.

“They [Republicans] came up with this pledge [to cut spending] during the campaign that was politically driven. They picked a number out of the air and said ‘we have got to get this number.’ My point is, let’s have a meaningful number,” he said.

“The smart, measured approach is hard,’” he said. “I want to go out and have a conversation with voters about that. People have no sense that so much of our federal outlays are for checks that go to individuals. I don’t think they fully understand how the math [to balance the budget] has to work.” More…

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The Gadhafi curse

Dialogue Delaware: Esteban Parra: March 20: Delaware’s freshmen congressmen want to avoid a drawn-out conflict with Libya’s Moammar Gadhafi.

But Rep. John Carney and Sen. Chris Coons stepped into the decades-old argument when they issued statements Saturday in response to a U.S. and European nations’ attack on Gadhafi’s forces: How to spell the Libyan leader’s name.

Carney spelled the name “Muammar Qaddafi,” while Coons spelled it “Qadaffi” with no mention to the first name.

But one can’t say they misspelled the name since no one seems able to agree on the correct spelling. ABC News in 2009 listed 112 different ways Gadhafi’s name was spelled.

Seasoned Delaware politicians Sen. Tom Carper and Vice President Joe Biden easily sidestepped this mess Saturday.

Carper did so by not mentioning the Libyan leader’s name in his statement to The News Journal and Biden avoided the conflict by keeping mum Saturday and referring comment to President Obama.

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Biden leads academic pep rally

The News Journal: March 22: Nearly one year ago, Delaware and Tennessee were the only two states chosen to receive funding in the first round of President Barack Obama’s Race to the Top initiative, designed to offer incentives to states to find ways to fix broken schools.

But after a year, much of Delaware’s $119 million is unspent.

“I am deeply saddened that [vice president] Biden and [U.S. Sen. Chris] Coons would come back to Delaware to celebrate the winning of a competitive grant that by its very nature creates winners and losers,” Young said in an email. “I’m a school board member precisely to ensure that all children win. Race to the Top has already failed this litmus test: it does not help all, only some.”

There were a lot of big names at Howard High on Monday. U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Gov. Jack Markell, Coons, Rep. John Carney, D-Del., and state Secretary of Education Lillian M. Lowery joined the student body for what turned out to be an academic pep rally.

“This state — through Race to the Top, through the governor’s leadership — the eyes of the country are on you,” Duncan said. “This state is going to take education to an entirely different level. It’s going to be great for you guys, for your younger brothers and sisters, your nieces and nephews, all the children on the block. You are going to lead the country were we need to go. The collective leadership, the collective courage, I can’t tell you how much I respect that.”

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Congressional delegation, dean laud Center for Community Research and Service program

UDaily: March 24: In early 2008 the University of Delaware Center for Community Research and Service (CCRS) joined forces with the Federal Home Loan Bank (FHLBank) of Pittsburgh to become only the third region in the country to co-sponsor the Blueprint Communities initiative. Blueprint Communities provides intensive training, technical assistance, coaching as well as initial seed funding to competitively selected neighborhoods throughout the state to help them formulate plans to revitalize their communities.

On Friday, March 18, six Blueprint Communities were recertified, allowing for additional funding opportunities as well as in-kind donations that will provide the resources necessary for the communities to implement their revitalization efforts. The six teams receiving the recertification were Eastside, Edgemoor, Hilltop/Little Italy, Historic Overlook Colony Vicinity, Riverside, and Simonds Gardens.

U.S. Sen. Tom Carper and U.S. Rep. John Carney joined George Watson, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, CCRS Director Steven Peuquet in congratulating the six teams, which have made tremendous strides in rebuilding their neighborhoods and addressing issues that are unique to each.

“We are very pleased with the commitment and accomplishments to date of Delaware’s Blueprint planning teams,” Peuquet said, adding, “Revitalizing communities is hard work, and it’s clear that the six teams being recertified are committed to leading sustained efforts to make their communities the best that they can be. The model for the Blueprint program is based on strong partnerships, partnerships within neighborhoods and across neighborhoods. We are pleased to help these partnerships grow and succeed.” More…

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Tell the president we are already too busy with war

The News Journal: March 24: Our president has now seen fit to join us in the Libyan rebellion, as if the rest of the world didn’t have sufficient forces.

What I’m wondering is, why hasn’t there been an uproar from the people of this country?

Are we so busy we don’t care if we’re caught up in yet another war eventually draining us of our youth’s blood and valuable resources?

Each of our representatives in Washington, Sen. Chris Coons, Sen. Tom Carper and Rep. John Carney have local phone numbers and email. Take the time to let them know how you feel.

William B. King, Clayton

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Gov. Jack Markell (D-DE)

Delaware Launches Fund to Help Sister State in Japan

March 18: Jack Markell–Gov.: Pressroom: “Our relationships with friends in Miyagi go back for many years, and these relationships run deep,” said Governor Markell.  “Our businesses work together to promote job creation.  Our teachers cooperate to promote cultural understanding.  And Delaware parents host Japanese students, welcoming them as a part of their families.  Parents in Miyagi have long done the same for our children.” More…

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New Jobs Credit Would Help Employers Hire Here

March 18: Jack Markell–Gov.: Pressroom: “When a company hires a new employee, it does more than add a person to its workforce,” said the Governor. “It creates a new customer for other businesses in the area, which gives those companies a greater chance to hire as well. ”

“The New Job Creation Credit specifically encourages companies in high-growth and sustainable energy industries to apply and locate here,” said the Governor. “It makes more investments in credits upfront to encourage more economic growth now. By better targeting these credits, we are able to do all of this at no additional cost to taxpayers.” More…

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Governor Jack Markell Adds his Support to Legislation Creating Civil Unions for Same Sex Couples

March 22: Jack Markell–Gov.: Pressroom: How can the state, in good conscience, say to someone – “you have dedicated your life to someone for years. Your partner trusts you to make their medical decisions if they become incapacitated and don’t have a living will but we, the state, do not?”

Or say to a child that had been raised since birth in a home of love, hope and help that because both of those parents happen to be men or women that if the parent who was the legal guardian dies, you lose the legal rights and protections to be raised by the other? That, when your world has been torn apart, the law may tear it further?

Those are just some of the reasons we are here today to show our support for this bill.
I want to thank the bill sponsors and the legislators here for their years of work on expanding these freedoms. It has not been an easy fight and it’s possible that this bill may not have an easy time as well.

Let’s be clear – just two years ago, until we signed a law to change it, it was legal in Delaware to be fired because of your sexual orientation. Anti-gay and lesbian discrimination was legal simply because the law had not caught up to the times.

Well, the time is here and the time is now – and this legislation will move us forward, together.” More…

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Dept. Of Interior, DNREC Initiate Process For First Lease Of Commercial Wind Power For Offshore Delaware

March 24: Jack Markell–Gov.: Pressroom: “We have been working closely with Governor Jack Markell and his team through our ‘Smart from the Start’ initiative as they seek to meet Delaware’s renewable energy goals,” said Director Bromwich. “We will continue working closely with the state, local communities, and affected parties as we begin the leasing process.”

Gov. Markell highlighted the economic opportunity presented by the expediting of commercial wind leases. “It’s encouraging to see the federal government putting some of its efforts into moving offshore wind energy forward,” said Gov. Markell. “The decision recognizes the longer-term economic and environmental benefits the NRG Bluewater Wind project could provide Delaware and that the offshore wind industry could provide the nation.” More…

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Delaware Still Running Hard After Winning Race to the Top

March 25: Jack Markell–Gov.: Pressroom: “Normally winning a race means you get a chance to stop and celebrate, but it feels like we are still racing forward together with good reason,” said Governor Jack Markell. “There’s a global race between nations to see whose children are best prepared to compete for the high-paying jobs of the future. We are running hard to win.”

Vice President Biden and Secretary Duncan made clear when they came to Delaware this week to celebrate Delaware’s progress. While other states seems to be mired in conflict, Delaware is running as a team — educators, employers, public officials and parents, students and school administrators.

“We’ve made clear that when it comes to our state’s kids, our common ground matters so much more than our differences. A year later, the team is still together, putting positive changes in place, and more changes are coming,” said the Governor. “The race is too important to run half-heartedly. It’s another way we’re working together to keep Delaware moving forward.” More…

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“Operation: Pressure Point” Coordinates Efforts to Crack Down on Violent Crime Statewide

March 29: Jack Markell–Gov.: Pressroom: “Violent crime affects every aspect of society throughout Delaware. Kids don’t learn as well, businesses don’t grow as fast, and communities don’t thrive in places where the fear of violent crime flourishes. This task is neither easy nor quick, but the goal of saving lives is critical and clear,” Governor Jack Markell said. “The idea of a ‘pressure point’ is fitting. This is a deliberate application of additional force anywhere in Delaware where it can make the greatest impact to protect public safety.” More…

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Markell oversteps his office in ending Board of Parole

The News Journal: March 18: It is presumptuous of Gov Markell to exclude the Board of Parole from his 2012 budget. Although he is trying to abolish the Board of Parole, it is not a done deal. As well as being irresponsible, his proposal is only a savings of .00015 percent.

He represents the people of Delaware, and there is plenty of opposition to his proposal. At his “town hall,” he recited the old adage that “the best disinfectant is sunlight.”

He should remember those words and stop making backdoor deals that would risk the safety of all Delawareans.

Mary F. Welch, Wilmington

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UD study says agriculture biz contributes billions to Delaware

WDEL: March 23: 40 percent of land in Delaware is used for farming and those farms contribute $8 billion to the state, according to a new study by the University of Delaware.

Despite a proposal to cut more than $10 million in funding for farmland preservation, Gov. Markell says his administration is doing everything they can to promote Delaware agriculture, including the farm to school program which is in every school district in the state.

“We have kids able to eat freshly grown produce from Delaware farms,” he said. “It’s good for the kids because it’s healthy, it’s good for the farmers because it’s a sales outlet and it’s good for our environment because it means trucks are driving less distance burning up less fossil fuels.”

Much of the output comes from Sussex County which generates nearly $4 billion and 15,000 jobs. More…

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Delaware budget: For poorest residents, $95 means much more

The News Journal: March 23: Danny Sheftal is trying to work his way back home, but the 43-year-old drummer has a long way to go. At the moment, he has no job, no car, no prospects.

What he does have is the used bicycle he bought from a friend using the general assistance money he got from Delaware’s taxpayers. That bicycle, he hopes, will help him get to a job as soon as he finds one. It will save him bus fare and give him more options until then.

But he’s out of cash now until his $95 general assistance check arrives next month. So he didn’t get the prescription filled to treat the cellulitis in his feet. Even the Medicaid co-pay was beyond reach for him. And he won’t have anything to quiet the hunger pangs until his next meal at a mission.

He had a message for Gov. Markell and Delaware legislators who are considering whether to eliminate the state’s $4.5 million general assistance program as they struggle to make ends meet for fiscal year 2012, which begins in July.

“Please hold off on that idea,” Sheftal said while taking shelter from a downpour at the Homeless Cafe run by Connections Community Service Programs at what used to be West Presbyterian Church in Wilmington. “There’s got to be another solution. I’ll help you find it. Call me.” More…

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Gubernatorial candidates shaping up

The Tidewater News: March 30: Here is how we see some of the gubernatorial contests in the opening months of the election cycle. Just as we stressed for the upcoming Senate races, we expect our ratings to change as candidates drop in and out, and as issues and scandals develop or fade. This first take is descriptive, not predictive.

Delaware: Gov. Markell starts the cycle in very strong shape. With each passing cycle, Delaware seems to turn more Blue. Republicans have a weak bench in the post-Mike Castle era.

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