Rep. Levin Works to Extend May 15th Prescription Drug Deadline
With the May 15th deadline quickly approaching and millions of Americans still deciding whether to enroll in a drug plan, Rep. Levin went to bat for seniors at an oversight hearing this week on the new Medicare Prescription Drug program. The hearing was held before the Ways and Means Health Subcommittee. Rep. Levin and other Democrats asked tough questions about extending the enrollment deadline and offered a warning that the largest difficulties with the new drug law may still be ahead: "We must extend the May 15th deadline so seniors don't pay the price for the flawed Republican drug law," urged Rep. Levin. "It is simply unfair to make seniors pay a lifetime of higher costs for drug coverage because President Bush and Congressional Republicans insisted on a confusing, inadequate benefit, making it difficult for Medicare beneficiaries to decide whether to enroll and navigate the new system." For additional information, click here. In addition, the GAO released a report finding that in 60% of test calls to the Medicare Hotline they did not get correct answers about which plan would best pay for a particular set of medicines. Seniors and their families are encouraged to contact the Michigan Medicare and Medicaid Assistance program for assistance through their website (http://www.mymmap.org/index.php) or at 1-800-803-7174.
House Adopts Energy Price Gouging Bill
On May 3, the House voted 389 to 34 to approve legislation [H.R. 5253] to give the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) explicit authority to define, investigate and prosecute price gouging by gasoline retailers and wholesale distributors. The measure significantly boosts the penalty for price gouging in the sale of fuels, including gasoline, diesel fuel, and home heating oil. The legislation, which Rep. Levin supported, sets criminal penalties of two years in prison and up to $2 million in fines for price gouging at the retail level. On a related matter, the House also debated a motion by Rep. Larson of Connecticut that called for rolling back $5.4 billion in unjustified tax subsidies and loopholes for the oil industry. Rep. Levin spoke in favor of the motion, saying, "The Senate has voted to close these loopholes, and the House should do the same. We are here to represent the interests of American consumers, not the interests of the oil companies...." To read Rep. Levin's full statement, click here.
House Narrowly Approves Weak Lobby Measure
On May 3, the House voted 217 to 213 to adopt a watered-down lobby reform package that many lawmakers, newspapers, and public interest groups called a "sham" ethics package. Speaking in opposition to the GOP lobby legislation, Rep. Levin said, "This bill is reform in name only. Under this bill companies could continue to fly members in their corporate jets at discount rates. Members could continue to accept lobbying jobs shortly after drafting and advocating for industry-friendly legislation.... The bill before the House is not going to fool anyone. Across the country, newspapers are blasting the GOP lobbying reform bill for the farce that it is." Rep. Levin supports a much tougher reform measure that would: permanently ban travel from lobbyists and organizations that retain or employ them; prohibit lobbyists from funding, arranging, planning, or participating in congressional travel; create a new and separate Office of Public Integrity, whose officials would be authorized to investigate charges and refer violations to the Justice Department as well as the House Ethics Committee; permanently ban Members from using corporate owned or privately owned jets for official travel; and prohibit secret insertions of legislation after House-Senate conference committees finish formal work, prevent unlimited time for members to vote, and give members more time to study legislation before it is considered by the House. For more information, click here.
Consolidating College Loans Before July 1 Could Save Thousands of Dollars
On July 1, 2006 the interest rates on outstanding federal student loans are expected to rise to just over 7 percent - the highest rate in six years - and the rate on outstanding federal parent loans are expected to rise to about 7.8 percent. Student borrowers who consolidate before July 1 may be eligible to lock in a rate as low as 4.75 percent over the life of their loan(s), which would save the typical undergraduate borrower almost $3,500 over the life of his or her loan. Students and parents must act quickly to ensure that they can lock in these lower rates. For more information, click here.
House Panel Rejects President's Elimination of Food Program for Seniors
On May 3, in response to widespread public outcry, the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee rejected President Bush's proposal to eliminate the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP), and instead increased funding for the program by $11 million. In Michigan alone, CSFP provides nutritious food to over 75,000 low-income seniors, mothers and children. After the President's budget proposed eliminating CSFP, Rep. Levin joined a bipartisan group of concerned lawmakers and citizens from across the country in calling on the Appropriations Committee to reject the misguided cuts. "The Subcommittee's decision on CSFP is certainly a promising sign, but we're not out of the woods yet," said Rep. Levin. The measure containing the CSFP funds must now be considered by the full Appropriations Committee and then go before the full House and Senate.
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