Westerly Sun: Connecticut, Rhode Island reaction to judge’s ruling on ACA

Westerly Sun: Connecticut, Rhode Island reaction to judge’s ruling on ACA

By the AP & Sun Staff

The head of Connecticut’s health insurance exchange tried to assure residents Saturday that a federal judge’s ruling will not affect their ability to sign up for and use 2019 plans offered through Access Health CT.

Chief Executive Officer James Michel’s comments came less than 24 hours after a North Texas judge ruled that the Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional.

“Access Health CT is the official marketplace under the Affordable Care Act in Connecticut and we are committed to upholding the ACA and the support it provides to residents of our state,” he said in a written statement. “We will not let this news get in the way” of the organization’s efforts to reduce the number of uninsured in the state.

While the decision by the Republican-appointed judge in Texas was sweeping, it has little immediate practical impact because the Affordable Care Act remains in place while the legal battle continues, possibly to the Supreme Court.

Access Health CT also announced Saturday that it is extending its open enrollment period for another month.

The deadline to sign up for health insurance coverage beginning Jan. 1 was Saturday at midnight. However, the exchange announced Saturday afternoon that customers will now have until Jan. 15 to sign up for coverage that starts on Feb. 1. The extension was planned prior to the Texas court ruling.

Rhode Island officials reminded residents that their exchange, HealthSource RI, also remains open for business. Open enrollment is underway until Dec. 31, and individuals and families have until Dec. 23 to enroll for uninterrupted coverage starting Jan. 1, 2019.

In his decision, U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor, a 2007 appointee of President George W. Bush, asserted that the entire 2010 Affordable Care Act is “invalid” as a result of last year’s tax cut bill, which knocked the constitutional foundation from under the law by eliminating a penalty for not having coverage.

Before his appointment, O’Connor was a staff member of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, and as a judge he has issued similar decisions seeking to undermine Obama-era policies. In 2016, he blocked a directive that required public schools to allow transgender students to use bathrooms consistent with their gender identity. He also held that regulations issued pursuant to the ACA could have forced doctors to aid in abortion or gender transition procedures that did not conform with their religious beliefs or medical judgments.

In a tweet, President Donald Trump praised the judge’s decision. He told reporters Saturday that “on the assumption that the Supreme Court upholds, we will get great, great health care for our people.”

Democratic officials and lawmakers in Rhode Island and Connecticut criticized the ruling, with Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I. calling it a political stunt. Gov. Gina Raimondo said Saturday that “Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, Rhode Island has one of the lowest uninsured rates in the country, and HealthSource RI offers among the lowest premiums in the country. I will continue to stand up for access to affordable, high-quality healthcare for all Rhode Islanders and will take all steps necessary to protect the ACA.”

U.S. Rep. Jim Langevin, D-R.I., said: “While Republicans tried to repeal the ACA over 60 times during the eight years they spent in control of Congress, the incoming Democratic majority will fight to protect the law and ensure that quality, affordable health care remains accessible for all.”

Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., accused “anti-health care zealots in the Republican Party” of “intentionally ripping health care away from the working poor” and increasing costs for seniors and people with pre-existing medical conditions.
Brown Daily Herald: R.I. elected officials talk future of Dem. Party

Brown Daily Herald: R.I. elected officials talk future of Dem. Party

By Alex Reice

PROVIDENCE, R.I.– After the midterm elections turned the House of Representatives blue, Rhode Island’s Democratic Congressmen say they are hopeful that their party is positioned for success in 2020. Recently re-elected officials Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse D-R.I., Rep. David Cicilline ’83 D-R.I. and Rep. Jim Langevin D-R.I. in addition to Sen. Jack Reed D-R.I., who was not up for re-election Nov. 6, spoke to The Herald about their hopes for the future of the country and the Democratic Party.

“We had extraordinary candidates running for Congress all across the country, and I think Democrats, including me, ran on a very specific agenda that really focused on the issues that are important to the American people,” Cicilline said.

Among the most pressing issues for Rhode Island’s elected officials is affordable healthcare. Whitehouse plans to prioritize healthcare by changing the industry’s incentives — rewarding doctors for having healthy patients rather than for the number of procedures they perform, he said. 

The congressmen also said they are ramping up efforts to improve economic conditions for middle-class families in the state. Cicilline hopes Congress takes action “on a number of proposals to help raise incomes and really address the economic consolidation in this country,” he said. “People need to earn a living wage,” and “nobody should be working 40 hours a week and living below the poverty level,” Langevin added.

Rhode Island representatives and senators alike expressed the importance of bipartisanship in addressing the issues most important to them. With the Senate and the presidency still in Republican hands, the only way to pass legislation in Congress is to work together “wherever possible,” Langevin said, adding that there is potential for bipartisan cooperation when it comes to infrastructure. Trump campaigned on a $1 trillion dollar infrastructure package, but getting that through Congress is something that will take both Democrats and Republicans, Langevin added.

While they plan to work across the aisle in Congress, Rhode Island’s elected officials see the election results as a sign of Americans’ dissatisfaction with Washington’s current Republican leadership. “There are a number of issues where I think the Democrats better reflect the concerns and wishes of the American public,” Whitehouse said. Americans are “voting for change, and they’re voting for Democrats,” Langevin said.

The Democratic majority in the House will also likely focus on checking the presidency, Cicilline said. “We’re going to be able to conduct real oversight,” he added. Democrats’ success sends a signal that Americans want to see “real accountability in Washington,” Reed said.

“Once there’s another power sector in Washington that he has to deal with, I think that the conversation will move much towards the middle,” Whitehouse said.

Rhode Island’s congressmen are also concerned about Trump’s recent firing of Attorney General Jeff Sessions. In place of Sessions, Trump selected Matthew Whitaker as interim Attorney General, circumventing the normal line of succession which calls on the Deputy Attorney General to serve. “Why would you bring in somebody who isn’t in the ordinary line of succession and has not been confirmed by the Senate, unless you have some ulterior motive?” Whitehouse said. If it were just an ordinary president, “there’s nothing to get too excited about,” he added.

Now that the midterms are over, the Democrats voted into office are ready to show their constituents that they can accomplish real change. According to Langevin, Democrats have been running on an economic message prioritizing the working and middle class for years, and with newfound control of the House, “hopefully that is the message that we can deliver on. … We have two years before the next election to earn our message with the bills that we pass and the work that we do,” Whitehouse said, emphasizing the importance of running on policy rather than relying on political messaging to win over voters.

In preparation for a competitive presidential election in 2020, Cicilline sees issues centered around lowering healthcare costs, protecting retirement security and ensuring economic security for all as “the heart and soul of the Democratic Party,” he said. “I have no doubt that we’re going to have a very strong candidate to run against Trump, if he’s a candidate in 2020,” he added.

WJAR: Beyond the Podium- Congressman Jim Langevin

1. What differentiates you from your opponent(s)?

  • It is my experience working for middle class Rhode Islanders that differentiates me from my opponent. I have fought tirelessly for our state’s working class families. All families deserve a fair shot at achieving the American dream, and that means quality and affordable healthcare, good jobs with good pay, and quality education.
    I am proud of my record fighting for Rhode Island seniors and people with disabilities against Republican efforts to privatize Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. I also continue to work on policies and funding to improve our nation’s career & technical education programs so workers have the skills to succeed in 21st Century jobs.
    I have nearly two decades of experience fighting for Rhode Islanders, and I know how to be their champion in Washington.

2. Explain what you see as the most important issue facing the state, and how you believe it should be addressed.

  • Rhode Island’s economy is on the rise, but in order to see sustained, long-term growth, we need to do a better job of closing our skills gap and aligning what is taught in the classroom with the skills our local businesses need. Our hardworking students deserve good-paying jobs and Rhode Island’s businesses need workers who are ready to work on day one. I was proud to fight for increased career and technical education funding to address this skills gap, but there is still more work to do. I remain committed to fighting for the necessary resources at the federal level to ensure all Rhode Islanders have the opportunity to succeed with 21st-century skills, in the 21st-century economy.

3. RI is scheduled to expand tractor trailer tolling along I-95. Do you agree with those expansion plans?

  • This is a state issue that will be determined by the General Assembly and Governor.

4. Are the current gun laws in Rhode Island too strict, too weak, or just right? If not just right, what needs to be changed? Should teachers and/or other school employees who are not law enforcement officers be armed?

  • Many federal laws affect gun safety for Rhode Island residents. While I support the second amendment, I believe in common sense gun safety laws. I support universal background checks, and closing the “gun show loophole”. I am also strongly opposed to efforts to impose “concealed carry reciprocity,” which would invalidate state laws relating to carrying a concealed handgun and instead allow most people to carry automatically. I am also fighting for federal support for strong child access protection laws that hold parents accountable when their child accesses an unsecured gun. As someone who was injured, albeit accidentally, at the hands of well-trained professionals, I reject the notion that arming teachers will keep our kids safer, and help reduce risks in schools.

5. Under what circumstances would you support the legalization of marijuana for recreational use in Rhode Island?

  • I support the rights of states to develop medical marijuana rules, and I hope more research will be conducted into its medical uses. To that end, I have voted for legislation that prevents the Department of Justice from interfering with state medical marijuana laws. However, marijuana remains a restricted drug at the federal level, and, absent further research, I do not support changing that designation for recreational purposes.

6. Are you satisfied with the way sports betting is being implemented in Rhode Island?

  • Sports betting was regulated at the federal level until a Supreme Court decision earlier this year. Because the ruling was so recent, it is too early to say whether Congress should step in again and introduce new laws relating to sports betting or whether it should be left to the states. I will continue to monitor this issue as new state approaches emerge.

7. Is the minimum wage in Rhode Island too high, too low, or just right? If not just right, what should it be?

  • I believe the minimum wage in Rhode Island is too low, which is why I support federal legislation to increase the minimum wage for all states to $15 per hour by 2025. I don’t think anyone should work a 40-hour workweek and still live below the poverty level. Hardworking Americans should be able to support their families with fair compensation.

8. What are your thoughts about the ongoing opiate crisis? Are current local and national policies appropriately addressing it?

  • I have been devastated by stories I’ve heard from Rhode Islanders who have been personally affected by the opioid overdose epidemic. Addiction is a public health crisis that we must use a comprehensive approach to address, with a particular focus on treatment and counseling. I am proud to have worked with the federal delegation to support the opioids bills that have been signed into law over the past two years to bring millions of dollars to Rhode Island to help with prevention and recovery. I have also introduced legislation that would improve collaboration between local, state, and federal law enforcement when it comes to interdicting potent narcotics like fentanyl at the border.

9. What national issue or controversy do you believe resonates most deeply in Rhode Island?

  • Constituents across my district are deeply concerned about quality affordable healthcare. They are worried about rising costs and if they will be denied coverage if their preexisting conditions are no longer covered under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). We must work together to make healthcare more affordable and accessible for all Rhode Islanders.

10. What is an example of a policy or issue you have changed your view on in the last 20 years?

  • I strongly oppose discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. However, for much of my legislative career, I did not support same-sex marriage, believing instead that civil unions were sufficient. It was not until 2011, three years after I attended the commitment ceremony of one of my long-time staff members, that I finally understood that preventing same-sex couples from achieving full marriage equality was, in fact, a form of discrimination. Since then, I have proudly fought for full marriage equality.

BONUS ROUND – ANSWER ANY OR ALL OF THESE QUESTIONS:

1.  What has drawn you to public service?

  • I have always had a strong desire from an early age to serve my community. Growing up, I wanted to be a police officer, and perhaps going on to become an FBI agent. When my accident ended my law enforcement dream, the outpouring of support that I received from the community inspired me to give back and pursue a career in public service.

2.  Who is your political hero? Why?

  • I will list two: President Franklin Roosevelt and Senator Claiborne Pell. As President, FDR guided the nation through one of the most difficult, tumultuous times in our history, and he never let his disability get in the way. And Senator Pell was a champion of good public policy for Rhode Island and the nation. He didn’t care about taking credit and he always put his constituents first.

3.  Under what circumstances would you tell a lie?

  • As President George Washington said in one of my preferred fables, “I cannot tell a lie.” I think this a good philosophy for all of us to follow.

4.  What is the best advice you have ever gotten?

  • The best advice I have received is from the late and former State Representative Paul Sherlock, one of my oldest political mentors. He told me that the key to being successful in public service is to be “accessible, responsive, and to never embarrass your constituents.” I have taken this advice to heart, and it has been a guiding principle throughout my career in public service.

5.  Top item on your “bucket list?”

  • I’d love to visit the Egyptian pyramids.

Name:

  • the last live music concert you saw:
    • U2
  • the last movie you saw in a theater:
    • “Mission Impossible: Fallout”
  • the TV show you never miss, or the last one you binge-watched:
    • Game of Thrones
  • What sports team(s) (Pro, college, Little League) do you cheer the loudest for?:
    • Patriots
  • What question do you wish someone would ask you and what would your answer be?:
    • I would like to hear from someone who is considering entering public service and would like to know if it is worthwhile. I would them know that it certainly is. While the intensity of today’s political climate may be intimidating, it’s absolutely critical to get involved. We are in desperate need of good people in the public arena who are in public service for the right reasons.
ProJo: Rep. Langevin, seeking to restrain Trump, faces Caiozzo, GOP moderate and veteran

ProJo: Rep. Langevin, seeking to restrain Trump, faces Caiozzo, GOP moderate and veteran

By Mark Reynolds

PROVIDENCE, R.I. –

A 57-year-old West Greenwich man who served in the Army before he ran a plumbing business is the Republican candidate who hopes to unseat U.S. Rep. James R. Langevin next month.

To continue his run in Rhode Island’s 2nd Congressional District, which started in 2000, Langevin must vanquish Salvatore G. Caiozzo on Nov. 6.

Langevin has done this before. But the political landscape has changed since the 54-year-old Democrat beat Caiozzo in 2016.

This is not to say that Caiozzo, who ran as an independent that year, now represents himself as Rhode Island’s version of President Donald Trump.

“I am Sal,” Caiozzo says in the early moments of his interview. “Sal is a guy who has been out here with everybody else and knows exactly what everyone is going through. I have my own platform.”

“Yes, I am a Republican, because I stand by certain Republican values, but it doesn’t mean I stand by all of them,” adds Caiozzo, who describes his politics as moderate and not unlike those of a John F. Kennedy Democrat.

That said, here are a few things that Caiozzo and Trump agree on:

Like Trump, Caiozzo supports members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization spending more money on their own defense.

“I think we’ve been used long enough by NATO,” says the candidate, who won endorsement from the Republican Liberty Caucus, an association of the GOP’s libertarian-leaning activists.

But if the U.S. spends less money on its NATO commitments, Caiozzo says, the savings should benefit veterans.

Caiozzo, who says he was disabled by exposure to chemicals on an Alabama Army base in the 1980s, talks quite a bit about supporting veterans.

Like Trump, Caiozzo wants to change the nation’s health-care policy. But he says he would not abandon parts of the Affordable Care Act that provide coverage for preexisting conditions.

Schools and education decentralization are central to the Taunton, Massachusetts, native’s platform. He says he wants to improve education across the country and he believes education should be governed at the state and local levels, not by the federal government.

Neither Caiozzo nor Langevin brought up the probe being conducted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election and contacts between the Trump campaign and Russia.

When prompted, Caiozzo says, “I haven’t really seen the Mueller investigation come up with anything.” He adds that he regards the probe as a “waste of money.”

Langevin said if he and other Democrats can control the House after the election, they can provide stronger checks and balances on Trump generally.

He is hopeful, he says, that even with the current Republican majority in the House, Congress will keep Trump from shutting down the investigation.

“I’m determined to let the truth come out and let the facts lead where they will,” Langevin says.

But taking control of the House would “certainly allow us to advocate for and put forth policies that are important to building a strong middle class in this country,” he says.

“We would end attempts to try to dismantle the Affordable Care Act,” he says. “And we would hopefully work on ways to strengthen and improve health care, quality health care, in the country, and also work on growing good-paying jobs to further grow a strong middle class.”

The experienced politician has lots to say about how he would proceed if given the chance.

Langevin’s focus is on the middle class, improving the health-care system, launching infrastructure projects, protecting the country from cyberattacks and reducing gun violence.

“The country is at its best when we have a very strong middle class,” says the Warwick resident, who also says political leaders must do what’s possible to help Rhode Islanders gain the skills they need to find good-paying jobs.

Langevin, the first quadriplegic elected to Congress, was paralyzed when he was accidentally shot as a 16-year-old. He says he’s captivated by research that shows that a large proportion of all guns tied to crimes are funneled through a very small proportion of companies that supply guns.

“There is something wrong with that,” he says.

 

Salvatore G. Caiozzo

Age: 57

Residence: West Greenwich

Occupation: Retired from plumbing business, disabled veteran

Affiliation: Republican Party

Education: Monsignor Coyle & Cassidy High School, attended Labore Junior College and the University of Palermo

Previous elected office: None

Family: Single with two grown sons and one daughter

 

JAMES R. LANGEVIN

Age: 54

Residence: Warwick

Occupation: U.S. representative

Affiliation: Democrat

Education: Rhode Island College, Harvard University

Previous elected office: Rhode Island secretary of state, 1995-2000; state representative, 1989-1994

Family: Single

RIPR: JAMES LANGEVIN – US HOUSE DISTRICT 2 – DEMOCRAT 2018

RIPR: JAMES LANGEVIN – US HOUSE DISTRICT 2 – DEMOCRAT 2018

By RIPR Staff

Editor’s note: these are the candidate’s responses to questions provided by RIPR. The views expressed are the candidate’s alone, edited only in cases of inappropriate or libelous language. No changes have been made to correct errors of fact, spelling or grammar. 

What are your positions on immigration reform?

We need comprehensive immigration reform in this country. That means improving security at our border, but it also means reforming and modernizing our visa system. We also need to address the undocumented members of our communities, particularly the Dreamers brought to this country through no fault of their own. Unfortunately, far from working toward comprehensive reform, the current Administration has embraced senseless – and at times heartless – policies including a border wall, a travel ban targeted at Muslims, and, most disturbingly, the separation of children from their families at the border.

Should the Affordable Care Act be repealed and replaced? If so, by what?

Americans need affordable, quality health care. The Affordable Care Act was not a perfect law, but it was a significant step toward expanding coverage for millions of Americans, including 100,000 Rhode Islanders.  However, many Rhode Islanders are seeing steep premium increases due to the Trump Administration’s efforts to undermine the law. That’s why I introduced the Individual Health Insurance Marketplace Improvement Act, a bill that would create a stabilization fund to increase competition among insurers and lower premiums. I hope to see more work on a bipartisan basis to advance solutions rather than overturn meaningful reforms, like protections for people with preexisting conditions, that have changed the lives of so many for the better.

Rhode Island was rated by CNBC as having among the worst infrastructure in the nation; Should transportation infrastructure be a more important issue in the US House’s next legislative session?

Rhode Island’s infrastructure is in desperate need of repair and modernization – especially our highway bridges, which are beaten down from extended use and corroded by storms. I am pleased the state is making this a priority, but we also need the federal government to pitch in more. That’s why I introduced the SAFE Bridges Act, which would direct up to $170 million in federal funds toward repairing Rhode Island’s bridges. I will continue to fight for funding that will enable our state to build the first-rate roads, bridges and public transit systems we need to support a 21st Century economy and allow Rhode Islanders to connect and travel safely and with ease.

How can Congress help solve the opioid crisis?

We must take a comprehensive approach to the opioid epidemic, including educating physicians about opioid prescribing practices, funding research that looks at alternative pathways and treatments to manage pain, and supporting programs that are the lifeline for those seeking treatment and recovery from addiction.  It’s also important to prevent these substances from arriving in our communities in the first place.  That’s why I’m pleased that my bill, the Joint Task Force to Combat Opioid Trafficking Act, passed the House of Representatives. The legislation creates a task force at the Department of Homeland Security to increase coordination within the Department and with public and private sector partners in order to stop the inflow of opioids before they cross our border. This public health emergency cannot be ignored, and Congress’ work is important to reducing the prevalence of addiction and overdose deaths in our communities.

What is your position on abortion and Roe v. Wade?

My pro-life stance is shaped by my personal experience of having come so close to losing my own life. However, I did not come to Congress to overturn Roe v Wade, and in this time of deep political divisiveness, any court ruling changing that precedent could tear deeply at the fabric of our nation. I believe we should work together to reduce unintended pregnancies by expanding access to reproductive health care, contraception, scientifically-based sexual education, and support services for new mothers.

Is flying unmanned drones in foreign airspace an acceptable method of eliminating terrorists?

I am honored to serve on the House Armed Services Committee, which oversees military drone programs. While unmanned aerial vehicles provide the United States with a great number of strategic advantages, we must ensure we use them responsibly and humanely. When drone strikes are carried out in accordance with US and international law, they can be an effective tool for combating terrorist groups like ISIL and stopping their deadly activities before they inflict more damage at home and abroad.

Should the US pull out of the Iran deal?

I was deeply disappointed that the President chose to unilaterally withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal. The agreement provided for comprehensive monitoring by the international community, and there remains no evidence that Iran violated its commitments. Walking away from the deal abandons our allies, weakens our credibility, harms our ability to foster similar diplomatic agreements in the future, and undermines the central goal of the agreement – to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. Withdrawing from this agreement threatens U.S. national security and international stability, and I believe the President should reverse his decision.

Should the US continue to give financial aid to Israel?

Israel is one of our closest allies and exists in a perilous region of the world. It is imperative that we continue to support its security and economy as a bastion of democracy in the Middle East. I have visited Israel several times, and I know that many Rhode Islanders also have close ties. I will continue to support efforts in Congress to strengthen these bonds, including my bill to enhance cooperative cybersecurity research and development.