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It’s only been four months since President Trump signed tax reform into law, and the benefits only seem to be growing for West Virginians. Tuesday marked the last day Americans had to file their taxes under the old, outdated system, and individuals and families across the country are already feeling the effects of a simpler and modernized system.

Out With the Old, In With the New

As I continue reading and hearing your stories about solutions you are seeing in your communities, I am so glad to learn that tax reform is really working for West Virginians. I am even more excited to hear the many ways West Virginians are using their extra dollars as a result of these pro-growth reforms.

Whether it’s the employee I met in Huntington who is purchasing high-speed internet access so her daughter can do her homework or the Putnam County family I heard from that is supporting a local drug recovery initiative, the benefits of tax reform have spread far and wide. It’s not only providing much-needed relief for families and small businesses, but it’s also helping to revitalize our communities, expand the reach of local charities, and support efforts to combat the opioid epidemic.

Thanks to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, Tax Day has a new meaning.

Addressing America’s Opioid Epidemic

Also this week, Senate health committee leaders introduced the Opioid Crisis Response Act, a bill I am co-sponsoring to combat the growing opioid epidemic. This comprehensive legislation is a major step forward in addressing this crisis and includes many legislative priorities I worked to secure.

Take hospice care, for example. Currently, hospice staff are unable to dispose of unused medication—even after a patient has passed away. This increases the risk that prescription drugs will end up in the wrong hands. The comprehensive legislation introduced this week includes provisions of my Safe Disposal of Unused Medication Act to change that.

Other provisions I worked hard to include will help with everything from allowing the partial fill of opioid prescriptions and establishing comprehensive treatment centers to providing support services for children and families. While we have made progress in this fight, there’s still more work to be done.


Additional Resources for West Virginia

Making sure our West Virginia communities and businesses have the resources they need to succeed is important. As a leader on the Senate Appropriations Committee, I’ve worked hard to advocate for West Virginia priorities when it comes to federal funding. This week, I was proud to announce several grants that will help communities and programs across the state. Learn more about each one below:

  $230,086 to support preventive medicine curriculum and programs.
  Funding for a mathematics and computer science conference at Marshall.

Sincerely,
The Gilmer Free Press
Shelley Moore Capito
United States Senator

The McKinley Capitol Report

The Gilmer Free Press

McKinley Focuses on Opioids

Wednesday evening, I delivered a speech on the House floor to draw attention to the Energy and Commerce Committee’s work to combat opioid addiction.

The United States only accounts for 5% of the global population, yet we consume over 80% of the opioids produced around the world. Shouldn’t that have raised red flags? Since 2011, we’ve held over 50 round table meetings on opioids with doctors, pharmacists, nurses, and law enforcement, listening and learning from the professionals how to best address this problem, and taking those ideas to Washington.

While there’s still more work to be done, Congress has been taking steps to fight back. Next week we will begin the process of putting together this year’s major legislative package aimed at education, prevention, treatment, and enforcement. We will be taking steps to expand treatment options, find alternatives to opioids for pain management, crack down on the growing amount of Fentanyl being shipped into America, and make improvements to the prescription drug monitoring system to ensure bad actors aren’t filling prescriptions in multiple states.

You’ll Never Have to Use the Old, Outdated Tax Code Again

Tuesday was the last day that West Virginia families will have to use the old and broken tax code when they file their taxes. Next year, when Americans go to file their taxes they will find their rates were reduced, their standard deduction was nearly doubled, and their child tax credit was doubled. This will enable them to keep more of their hard-earned money. This was the first time in a generation that we reformed our tax code, and it has made the system fairer and simpler for middle-class families.


McKinley On a Mission to Help Veterans Hear

This week, I was featured in Roll Call for our efforts to expand access to cochlear implants for veterans, secure coverage for hearing implants under Tricare, and force the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) to cover bone-anchored hearing aids.

Our office is laser-focused on expanding access to cochlear implants for our veterans. Currently, civilians are four times more likely to get cochlear implants than veterans. You would think that the VA would bend over backwards to help people that have made that sacrifice, but they’re not. We’re on a little bit of a mission right now to try and correct that.


McKinley Stands Up for West Virginia Power Plants

On Tuesday, I pressed Commissioners from Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) on the need to protect coal and nuclear fired power plants, and secure the reliability and resiliency of our nation’s electric grid.

Over the past 10 years, coal and nuclear plants have closed at alarming rates. In the past three years, we’ve had over 4,000 forced outages during extreme cold weather, almost all of which were gas, as it is understandably diverted to heat homes. This should not instill in us a confidence that closing more coal and nuclear plants and replacing them with less reliable options is in America’s national security interests.

But this goes far beyond just our national security, this is a critical economic issue. These plants are often the lifeblood of our communities. Take for instance the Pleasants Power Station in West Virginia. If that plant closes, 27% of the county’s tax base would be instantly wiped out. This funding supports their schools, first responders and police department. As the largest employer in the county, the job loss would be detrimental to the community.

McKinley Helps Dedicate New Fairmont University Veterans Lounge to Major George Davis

Even though I couldn’t be there in person, I was excited to join in via Skype as the new veteran’s lounge at Fairmont State University was dedicated to my dear friend, George Davis.

George served in the Army for 20 years before beginning his successful career in the private sector. Since his retirement, he has dedicated his life to serving West Virginia’s veterans. George serves on the Veterans Advisory Council at the Clarksburg VA Hospital, the Marion County Veterans Council, is Commander of the Disabled American Veterans Chapter 45, is Service Officer at VFW Post 629, and serves as a trusted adviser on my office’s Veterans Advisory Council.

George, we salute you for your lifetime of service and thank you for your tireless advocacy on behalf of our veterans. I can’t thank of anyone more deserving of this honor.

Have a great week,

David McKinley
The Gilmer Free Press

DNC Sues Russia While Comey Memos Prompt ‘Hooker’ Buzz

The Free Press WV

The Democratic National Committee on Friday sued Russia, the Trump campaign and WikiLeaks, alleging a conspiracy to skew 2016 presidential election results.

That’s just the latest in a week of Russiagate twists for President Donald Trump.

They include the president allegedly telling since-fired FBI director James Comey that Vladimir Putin had bragged to Trump about Russian sex workers’ beauty, according to Comey memos released at the urging of Republican legislators.

That may help explain why the president’s just hired experienced criminal attorneys, along with former U.S. attorney Rudy Giuliani.  Source:  The Atlantic

White House Investigates Pruitt’s $43K Phone Booth

The Free Press WV

Scott Pruitt’s week isn’t getting any easier: White House budget director Mick Mulvaney said Wednesday that he’s planning to investigate the embattled EPA chief’s activities, which include allegedly violating the law by spending $43,000 in taxpayer funds on a soundproof phone booth for his office, Politico reports. “We take the anti-deficiency statute,“ which limits spending by federal agencies, “very, very seriously,“ Mulvaney said during a House hearing, per Reuters. “We will enforce the law, and we’ll do so in a transparent fashion.“ Federal agencies are required to notify Congress when they spend more than $5,000 improving the offices of presidential appointees, though EPA officials argue that installing the booth shouldn’t be classed as redecoration.

Some 39 senators, meanwhile—38 Democrats and an independent—introduced a resolution calling for Pruitt to step down over what Sen. Tom Udall called “a list of ethical transgressions that grows longer by the day.“ Udall said Pruitt “completely violated the trust of the American people” with the alleged lapses, including travel expenses and the renting of a condo from a lobbyist’s wife. The AP reports that, according to records released this week, Pruitt, who says he needs to fly first class for security purposes, flew coach on two personal trips home to Oklahoma last year that were not paid for by the taxpayer. Pruitt flew on a companion pass obtained with an adviser’s frequent flier miles, while the government paid for his 20-man security detail to travel with him.

NYT Backs Up Reporter After Trump Fires Up Tweetstorm

The Free Press WV

Maggie Haberman has gotten under President Trump’s skin again. The New York Times reporter filed a story on Friday detailing Trump’s relationship with longtime lawyer Michael Cohen—one in which Trump is said to treat Cohen “like garbage,“ per Trump associate Roger Stone. That article apparently spurred a tweetstorm from Trump Saturday morning in which he defended Cohen, attacked Haberman (with whom he has a long history, per Mediaite), and made some other claims about how people react under duress from the US government. “The New York Times and a third rate reporter named Maggie Habberman, known as a Crooked H flunkie who I don’t speak to and have nothing to do with, are going out of their way to destroy Michael Cohen and his relationship with me in the hope that he will ‘flip,‘“ began Trump’s words on the matter.

He continued: “They use … non-existent ‘sources’ and a drunk/drugged up loser who hates Michael, a fine person with a wonderful family. Michael is a businessman for his own account/lawyer who I have always liked & respected.“ And finally: “Most people will flip if the Government lets them out of trouble, even if … it means lying or making up stories. Sorry, I don’t see Michael doing that despite the horrible Witch Hunt and the dishonest media!“ Haberman responded with a tweet that linked back to her story and took a jab at Trump’s misspelling of her name. “One B, sir (or Dan?). Here’s the story that seems to have touched a nerve,“ she tweeted. (Trump deleted the tweets, then reposted them with the spelling corrected.) The Times issued its own tweet: “We are extremely proud of @maggieNYT, who is a part of a team that just won a Pulitzer Prize. We stand by our story and our reporting.“

FACT CHECK: Trump’s shifting rationale for firing Comey

The Free Press WV

Donald Trump offered a shifting rationale this past week for his firing of FBI Director James Comey and joined other Republicans in exaggerating how much simpler it will become for Americans to file their taxes next time. He also erred, though by just a hair, in claiming a historic achievement in black and Hispanic joblessness.

A look behind recent statements on these matters and more:

TRUMP: “Slippery James Comey, the worst FBI Director in history, was not fired because of the phony Russia investigation where, by the way, there was NO COLLUSION (except by the Dems)!” — tweet Wednesday.

THE FACTS: Only Trump knows why he decided to fire Comey. But Trump has changed his story. In May 2017, two days after ousting Comey, Trump told NBC: “In fact, when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said, ‘You know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made up story.’”

Comey’s firing, and Trump’s subsequent suggestion that the investigation into Russian meddling in the election was a factor, led Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to appoint special counsel Robert Mueller to oversee the probe. Mueller now is examining the Comey firing as part of an investigation of potential obstruction of justice by the president. The wide-ranging investigation also has been looking into potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian interests.

Trump’s rationale for dismissing Comey has changed before. Initially, the White House attributed the firing to Comey’s handling of the FBI’s investigation of Hillary Clinton’s email practices. Trump contradicted that explanation in his NBC interview, and now has changed it again.

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TRUMP: “This is the last time you’re going to fill out that long, complicated, horrible return. ... Tomorrow, last day. Very importantly, next year, it’s going to be a simple — for the most part, one page. It may get a little bit bigger. But it will be simple and easy to do.” — remarks in Hialeah, Florida, on Monday.

VICE PRESIDENT MIKE PENCE: “Thanks to the historic TRUMP TAX CUTS, today marks the last time the American people will file taxes under a complicated & outdated tax system.” — tweet Tuesday.

THE FACTS: These assurances from the White House, echoed by Republican lawmakers, only apply to a subset of the “American people.”

Long, complicated returns are not going away. The Trump tax overhaul does not introduce a system permitting everyone to file a one-page or so form, or one that sustains a blanket promise of simplicity. The process will become easier for some people, not for others.

There’s already a one-page form, the 1040EZ, which has been around for years. It can be used by people who have less than $100,000 in taxable income and no dependents and who meet other criteria. Trump previously had promised a card-size tax form but now appears to be backing off that claim by describing next year’s form as “for the most part one page” but “may get a little bit bigger.”

In fact, there’s no sign the IRS is planning new filing forms, card-size or otherwise, for the 2018 tax year.

Many taxpayers will indeed have an easier time filing because of the doubling of the standard deduction. But they’ll still have to do legwork to figure out their taxable income and whether they qualify for the deduction or would be better off itemizing. They will also need to figure in the hit they could take from the capping of deductions for mortgage interest and state and local taxes. Tax-filing migraines are not vanishing.

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TRUMP: “Unemployment for African-American workers, for Hispanic workers, unemployment is at an all-time-low in history. In the history of our country, it’s at the lowest point.” — news conference Wednesday.

THE FACTS: Not quite.

Hispanic unemployment hit a record low in October 2006, 4.8 percent, a record matched in three months last year. In the latest report, for March, it stood at 5.1 percent.

Black unemployment indeed reached a record low, 6.8 percent, in December. That nudged up to 6.9 percent in February and March.

This progress comes with some caveats. Jobless figures for blacks and Hispanics can jump around from month to month, such that any record can be short-lived. The unemployment rate for whites is consistently much lower than for the other groups, now 4.1 percent. And the black unemployment rate would be much higher if the rate of black labor force participation was near its levels before the Great Recession. The most dramatic drop in black unemployment came during the Obama administration, when it fell from a recession high of 16.8 percent in March 2010 to 7.8 percent in January 2017.

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PENCE: “Our Tax Cuts- the largest in American history- will save YOU money, increase opportunity & create more JOBS for American workers.” — tweet Tuesday.

THE FACTS: The tax cuts are not the largest in history.

They considerably trail Ronald Reagan’s 1981 tax cuts, Barack Obama’s 2013 extension of George W. Bush’s tax cuts, and more.

The estimated cost of Trump’s package is $1.5 trillion over 10 years. In October, before the details were complete, the nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget assumed a higher value to the package — $2.2 trillion. Even that more significant plan ranked as only the eighth largest in history as a percentage of the GDP and the fourth largest by another measure — inflation-adjusted dollars.

Trump has persistently called his cuts the biggest in history. But, notably, he pulled that back a notch in his USA Today piece published Tuesday, even if his vice president didn’t.

Trump wrote, more modestly: “I signed one of the largest tax cuts in history and the most sweeping tax reform in a generation.”

___

TRUMP: “Russia and China are playing the Currency Devaluation game as the U.S. keeps raising interest rates. Not acceptable.” — tweet Monday.

THE FACTS: Trump’s claim misstates the current economic situation and contradicts his own Treasury Department, which several days earlier released a report showing no country was labeled a currency manipulator.

Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign had vowed to brand China a currency manipulator immediately after taking office. But in three straight currency reports issued since Trump took office, the administration has not branded China or any other country as a currency manipulator.

Asked why the administration has not labeled China a currency manipulator in the Treasury reports, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Monday that China was placed on a watch list and “that’s something that the Treasury Department is watching very closely, and we’re continuing to monitor it.”

Trump’s tweet also inaccurately describes the economic situation. China’s currency, the yuan, has actually been rising in value and now stands at the highest levels against the dollar in about three years.

By contrast, Russia’s ruble has been falling against the dollar and did plunge sharply last week. But that reflected new economic sanctions the United States imposed on Russia — not rising U.S. interest rates or efforts by the Russian government to drive down the ruble’s value.

Trump is correct that rising U.S. interest rates could contribute to boosting the dollar’s value against other currencies by making investments in the United States more attractive to foreign investors. But U.S. interest rates are only one factor that can determine the dollar’s value against other countries.

It is not clear what Trump meant by calling the current situation “not acceptable.” It is true that a stronger dollar can increase America’s trade deficit by making American exports more expensive in overseas markets while making foreign goods cheaper for U.S. consumers.

But the Federal Reserve’s current moves to gradually raise U.S. interest rates are being taken to ensure the economy does not overheat at a time when unemployment is at a 17-year low and the economic expansion is now the second longest in U.S. history. Previous administrations have usually been careful not to make public comments about Fed interest-rate policies to protect the Fed’s political independence.

Comey Memos Detail Trump Concerns Over Flynn, Prostitutes

The Free Press WV

He kept the receipts. Former FBI Director James Comey says he wrote the memos, which the Justice Department released to congressional committees, immediately after conversations with President Trump.

They detail the president’s fixation on the salacious Steele dossier, his exhortation to Comey to go easy on adviser Mike Flynn, and his musings on jailing journalists.

Trump tweeted that the memos are “self-serving and FAKE.”

Meanwhile, the Justice Department referred its probe into fired FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe to the U.S. attorney for potential criminal prosecution.  The Guardian

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