A vote has been delayed in the U.S. House on the measure that would replace Obamacare. Alisa Nelson reports.
A vote has been delayed in the U.S. House on the measure that would replace Obamacare. Alisa Nelson reports.
A committee headed by Missouri Republican Senator Roy Blunt has met to discuss air travel. Blunt was elected to a 2nd term in November, and chairs two subcommittees in the Senate.
Thursday, he headed the Commerce Subcommittee on Aviation Operations, Safety, and Security, which held a hearing titled “FAA Reauthorization: Perspectives on Improving Airport Infrastructure and Aviation Manufacturing”.
Much of the meeting focused on how to update outdated infrastructure at U.S. airports, which is lagging behind other parts of the world. While opening the hearing, Blunt stressed the need for upgrades after a severely critical report by the American Society of Civil Engineers.
“The grade that the civil engineers gave to the airport infrastructure was a grade of “D”, which is mostly below standard” said Blunt. “And that’s, of course, not where anybody wants to be.”
The report said airports are struggling to keep up with investment needs.
Blunt noted the federal government supports airports through three funding mechanisms – Airport Improvement Program (AIP) grants, authorized passenger facility charge (PFC’s) and tax exempt bonds issued by state and local authorities for airport improvements.
St. Louis Lambert International Airport Executive Director Rhonda Hamm-Niebruegge testified at the hearing. She’s run the facility since 2010, having spent all of the previous 27 years of her career working for airlines.
Hamm-Niebruegge said funding for infrastructure improvements could be generated by loosening restrictions on PFC’s. “Congress can dramatically improve our resource deficit and promote self-sufficiency of U.S. airports with no federal investment by increasing, or outright eliminating the PFC cap.”
Those charges are currently limited to $4.50 for every passenger who boards a commercial airliner. Airports use the fees to pay for FAA-approved projects such as boosting capacity and security, and increasing air carrier competition.
Hamm-Niebruegge also expressed concern over federal proposals to limit or remove the tax exemption of municipal bonds.
“Considering the infrastructure needs airports and cities alike are facing, the last thing we need is the loss of tax free municipal bonds, which in many cases, are the funding mechanism of last resort.”
Lawmakers in Washington plan to take up infrastructure and the tax code, which President Trump has said are major priorities for his administration.
Southwest Airlines Airport Affairs Vice President Bob Montgomery also testified about infrastructure funding.
He said Airport Improvement Program (AIP) grants should be expanded, but strongly opposed hiking the passenger facility charge (PFC’s) favored by Hamm-Niebruegge. “We see simply no good justification to raise our customers’ tax and fee burden” said Montgomery.
St. Louis Mayor was in Washington earlier this week asking for federal approval to look at placing Lambert International under private management. Doing so would free up airport revenues to be used for purposes beyond the airport itself.
During the hearing Hamm-Niebruegge referred to Lambert International as a medium hub airport, a rung below the ranking of large hub.
A transportation bill in January and a new Republican party executive director. All in 60 seconds. Bill Wise reports.
By Joe Lancello of KZRG Radio
Southwest Missouri Congressman Billy Long (R) says he doesn’t have much faith in the Congressional Budget Office’s projections about the Republican health care proposal being debated today in the U.S. House. According to the office, 24 million people would lose their insurance coverage over the next ten years under the plan that would replace Obamacare.
“They said that in 2016, there would be 24 million people on Obamacare, 24 million. There were ten million in 2016, so they missed it by a ton,” says Long.
He says the analysis doesn’t take into account those who choose not to buy insurance. Long says there’s a difference between not being able to get insurance and choosing to not buy it.
“You know, no one should be able to force you to say ‘Hey, you gotta buy a polled Hereford, you gotta buy a limousine, you gotta buy a Ford pickup truck.’ And that’s the same way with insurance. People should not have to be coerced to buy insurance,” says Long.
Democrats say the plan would make healthcare costs dramatically increase for people age 50 to 64. They say it slashes Medicaid funding to pay hundreds of billions of dollars in tax cuts for the wealthy.
Long’s district includes Springfield and Branson.
Top Stories: The Republic Police Department near Springfield is investigating injuries suffered by an 8-month-old baby at a day care. And a St. Louis based health economist sees fatal flaws in the Republican plan to replace Obamacare.
With congress set to vote on the Republican replacement for Obamacare, a Missouri health economist thinks the GOP is in a shaky position.
Washington University Professor Tim McBride contends President Trump and the party have promised too much for the plan to be functional.
Taken together, Trump and House Republican have said the plan would do several things including; allow people who secured insurance under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to maintain coverage; replace the expansion and lower the costs of Medicaid; eliminate the individual mandate; leave in place popular provisions; eliminate all or nearly all tax increases enacted to pay for the ACA.
“By now, most if not all of the GOP members of Congress realize that achieving all of these goals is impossible,” said McBride.
He says the problem started when Trump and some Republicans said no one would lose coverage. “Basic problem there is, if you’re going to do that, you have to put in place Medicaid expansion and marketplace reforms to keep the same number of people covered as there currently are. But that’s going cost money, and they want this to cost a lot less money.”
McBride says it’s impossible to repeal the taxes which pay for Obamacare and cover the same number of people because the subsidies in the plan are what allow poor people to afford coverage. Repeal of Obamacare taxes removes $900 billion from health care spending over 10 years.
McBride notes Republicans spent many years vowing to repeal Obamacare, but failed to find a replacement they could all agree on. “There were always proposals out there to do this, that and the other thing” said McBride. “But they never got together and put all their members together to agree on one approach. And that’s turning out to be a lot harder than they thought.”
House Republicans can’t find a consensus on what to do. The conservative Freedom Caucus is focused on repealing the plan and reducing government spending, while GOP leadership favors a replacement which includes element from Obamacare.
McBride says he hopes the party will adopt his approach of repealing and repairing the plan, rather than repealing and replacing it.
“What hopefully would happen is they would go in there and change the things that aren’t working and come to a bipartisan agreement. That’s what I hope happens. That would be the best thing to do.”
McBride, who’s been following legislation for many years, contends sweeping measures such as the ACA are never perfectly drafted.
But because of the partisan divide in Congress, he says changes to fix the health plan could never be made and it’s largely in its original form seven years later.
McBride thinks the current Republican plan will squeak through the House, but hit a roadblock in the Senate. At least four GOP Senators have said they will not support the House bill as drafted. The measure would die if three of them aren’t somehow persuaded to vote for it.
Figures from the non-partisan Government Accountability Office show that with the plan, 24 million fewer people will be covered over 10 years while the ongoing rise in the cost of insurance premiums will be reduced by 10% over the same time period.
Republican House leadership has been planning to vote on the measure Thursday.
In addition to his position as a professor at Washington University, McBride also heads Missouri’s Medicaid Oversight Committee.
The Missouri House Transportation Committee chair says there will not be a major transportation bill this year.
While House Transportation Committee Chairman Bill Reiboldt (R-Neosho) says a major bill won’t happen this year, he predicts lawmakers will pass legislation this spring establishing the “21st century Missouri highway system task force”.
“We’re going to ask the governor (Eric Greitens) to have a representative on this task force, and then from there we’re going to lay out a strategy and a plan moving forward,” says Reiboldt.
Under State Rep. Kevin Corlew’s (R-Kansas City) House Concurrent Resolution 47, the task force would have nine Missouri residents, along with two state senators, two House members, and designees from the Governor’s office, MODOT, the Missouri Highway Patrol and the Department of Economic Development.
Reiboldt, who emphasizes the importance of having everyone “on board”, plans to introduce comprehensive transportation legislation in January.
“This time we’re going to lay out a good plan that will work and we want the governor and as much bipartisan support as we possibly can,” Reiboldt says.
The Neosho Republican confirms he’s working on the plan.
“That’s our goal and I think that’s pretty much what everyone would tell you,” says Reiboldt. “I’m not trying to kick the can down the road, but I am getting something together that we can all support.”
Reiboldt says options include a sales tax, toll roads or a gasoline tax increase. Reiboldt tells Missourinet he’s looking at a gas tax increase, saying that Missouri has the nation’s lowest.
Missouri currently ranks 47th in the nation in revenue per mile.
Missouri’s fuel tax hasn’t been raised in 21 years. The last increase was part of a bipartisan 1992 six-cent gas tax increase backed by former Governor John Ashcroft (R) and state lawmakers. Ashcroft worked on the issue with then-Speaker Bob Griffin (D-Cameron) and the overwhelmingly Democratic Legislature.
Missouri has 33,884 miles of roadway, making it the nation’s seventh-largest state highway system. Rep. Corlew notes Missouri also ranks sixth nationally in bridges with 10,394.
Governor Greitens (R) has proposed a $2.3 billion budget for the Missouri Department of Transportation (MODOT).
The agency has said that the minimum cost to reconstruct and expand I-70 in Missouri is $2 billion.
The Missouri Republican Party’s new executive director says the U.S. House’s vote today on the GOP health care plan proposed to replace the Affordable Care Act is going to be a tough fight. Missourinet asked Austin Stukins how important replacing Obamacare is to ensure Republicans are successful in 2018.
“There are going to be many different approaches to health care and how we fix the broken system that has become this albatross around the neck of Americans known as Obamacare. It’s not going to be come overnight,” says Stukins. “It’s going to take a lot of hard work. It’s absolutely imperative that our Republican elected officials in Washington never forget the heart of which they were sent to Washington and the trust of voters gave them to get it right.”
Democrats say healthcare costs for people age 50 to 64 would dramatically increase under the plan. They also say the bill includes hundreds of billions of dollars in tax cuts for the wealthy.
The Congressional Budget Office says the proposal would cut about 14 million people off of insurance next year and 24 million over ten years.
Stukins also says he is confident a Republican will beat Senator Claire McCaskill (D-Missouri) in 2018. Stukins says the seats gained by the GOP in 2016 show that Missourians have had enough of the liberal agenda.
“I don’t see how Senator McCaskill can continue on the path that she’s led down several years now and continue to identify with the direction that Missouri has taken over the past several years. I think that the Senator has a lot of an uphill battle to climb based on her record,” says Stukins.
No Republicans have announced yet their plans to run against McCaskill in 2018. McCaskill is seeking her third Senate term in Washington.
In a written response from Missouri Democratic Party Chair Stephen Webber, he says:
“Claire knows she’ll have to work her heart out for every vote, but that’s what she’s had to do many times before,” says Webber. “She’s an independent fighter for Missouri, with a real record of achievement for our state, and I know she’s going to work hard to keep listening and learning from Missourians so she can do the best job possible.”
Stukins says the U.S. Democratic Party is going through an identity crisis. He cites Ronald Reagan saying the Democratic Party left him. Stukins also says Democrats have denied the involvement of religion in their platform.
“You have a lot of issues at stake that are very paramount to a lot of beliefs of Missourians,” says Stukins. “For that matter, the heart of America believes in farmland. Yet, the Democratic Party as a whole has just kind of abandoned those issues. Their platform has changed so much to the point that it’s almost egregious in nature to the ideals that the Democratic Party used to at one point stand for.”
Tom Perez has taken over as chairman of the Democratic National Committee. His message is expected to include fighting for the protection of Medicare and union workers and increasing wages.
Missouri’s U.S. Senators discuss President Trump’s U.S. Supreme Court nominee. Alisa Nelson reports.
Elected Missouri Republicans in Washington and Jefferson City are aiming to take down a consumer agency.
Ballwin GOP Congresswoman Ann Wagner, who was assigned to chair a financial services subcommittee this year, has her sights on a federal office set up after the great recession.
Her panel held a hearing Tuesday titled “The Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection’s Unconstitutional Design”.
The agency is funded by the Federal Reserve, and is therefore largely insulated from congressional oversight. Wagner contends the resulting lack of checks and balances is unconstitutional.
Meanwhile, Republican state Attorney General Josh Hawley filed a brief in federal court earlier this month, also arguing the bureau is unconstitutional. 14 other states joined in on the brief ahead of an appeals court hearing.
A lower court had ruled to agency to be unconstitutional because it’s headed by a single director not accountable to any elected official. That ruling resulted from a lawsuit by a mortgage company, which is fighting a $109 million fine from the bureau.
Hawley has further criticized the agency for hurting Missourians for years with out of control regulations.
“Government bureaucracies shouldn’t be able to impose burdensome regulations on small business and local banks without political accountability” said Hawley. “Reforming this blatant violation of the separation of powers is essential to preserving the Constitution’s model of accountable, democratic government.”
In the committee headed by Rep. Wagner, Republicans sought to find a way for President Trump to fire the bureau’s director, Richard Cordray.
Although he initially said he had no immediate plan to oust Cordray, Trump has made the dismantling of the Dodd-Frank financial law a priority. The consumer bureau is a product of that law.
During the Tuesday hearing, Wagner said the agency was regulating outside it’s authority “to the detriment of consumers”.
Democrats on the committee countered that Republicans were attempting to reign in the agency as a move to protect business interests.
According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Wagner received nearly $364,000 from the banking and financial industries in the last election.
The Missouri Democratic Party blasted Wagner following the hearing.
In a statement, chairman Stephen Webber said if Wagner’s “idea of holding Washington accountable is firing a top consumer watchdog, unleashing Wall Street, and siding with the big banks over Missouri’s working families – then Missourians have good cause to wonder whose side she’s on.”
The consumer bureau is now working on ways to regulate payday lending, where high interest loans often impoverish borrowers. The city of Springfield reached out to the bureau last year for that very reason, asking it to crack down on the lenders.
Since it started in 2011, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has retrieved $11.8 billion for 29 million consumers due to illegal business practices.