Note From Washington March 28

By U.S. Senator Deb Fischer
Many Nebraskans have been closely following reports of the current situation in Ukraine and growing tensions with Russia. The Senate recently took action to approve legislation that provides aid to the Ukrainian government. The bill authorizes the State Department to provide assistance to Ukraine for recovering assets linked to corruption of Ukraine’s former President. It also allows the State Department to help improve democratic governance in Ukraine and enhance security cooperation between Central and Eastern European nations and the United States.
Importantly, this legislation permits the president to sanction those responsible for violence, gross human rights violations, or undermining Ukraine’s territorial integrity.
I supported advancing the measure, which I believe is critical to bolstering the splintered nation, and was pleased to support its final passage. I believe it’s important for Congress to come together and join the president in standing up to Putin and his belligerent behavior. The bill passed by the Senate is part of Congress’s effort to impose costs on Putin for his invasion of Ukraine.
Without serious penalties, the world just invites further aggression.  These measures give the President a variety of tools to demonstrate that the U.S. will not stand idly by while Putin annexes Crimea.
I also had the opportunity to directly question EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy about the impact of EPA’s Clean Air Act regulations. These regulations are part of EPA’s anti-coal agenda, which will cost Nebraskans valuable jobs, increase electricity prices for middle class families, and jeopardize access to affordable, reliable energy.
I expressed my concern that utility companies in Nebraska are spending a significant amount of time and resources to keep their existing coal units in compliance with EPA’s rules, which limits their ability to invest their resources in exploring alternative sources of energy.
To illustrate my point, I shared with Administrator McCarthy the example of the adverse impact these rules are having on Nebraska power utility Lincoln Electric System (LES). In order to comply with regulations from EPA to address regional haze, LES is being forced to pay an additional $70 million more than originally expected to keep its coal-fired power plant running. Though EPA’s regulations will have a minimal effect on improving visibility, compliance costs associated with these rules deprive LES of millions of dollars that could be used for investment in wind, solar, and energy efficiency.
Despite EPA’s efforts to ignore the devastating economic impacts of its war on coal, I won’t disregard that reality. I will continue to fight against these misguided regulations and ensure the administration is held accountable for the real-world consequences its policies have for hardworking Americans.
Finally, Nebraskans received the news that the Obama Administration has announced another ObamaCare delay, but not for all Americans. With the deadline to sign up for ObamaCare approaching, the administration announced that it would extend the enrollment period beyond March 31.
This latest delay – in a long, long series of delays, waivers, and extensions – is especially troubling.
Earlier in March, officials at the Department of Health and Human Services insisted that March 31 is the firm deadline to sign up for Obamacare. “We have no plans to extend the open enrollment period,” HHS official Julie Bataille said. “In fact, we don’t actually have the statutory authority to extend the open enrollment period in 2014.”
However, the administration appeared to ignore its earlier statements and moved forward with delaying the deadline anyway. Nebraskans are sick and tired of the administration saying one thing and doing another. I am too. I’m also tired of the administration hiding behind the excuse of lacking authority whenever it’s politically convenient.
That is why I introduced legislation, the FAIR Act, to provide the administration with clear legal authority to delay the individual mandate for all Americans. No more selective delays or selective compliance with the law– all Americans deserve a reprieve from the heavy hand of ObamaCare.

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