Report: Trump, Officials to Discuss Changes to Biofuels Policy

U.S. President Donald Trump has called a meeting early next week with key senators and Cabinet officials to discuss potential changes to biofuels policy, which is coming under increasing pressure after a Pennsylvania refiner blamed the regulation for its bankruptcy, according to four sources familiar with the matter.

The meeting comes as the oil industry and corn lobby clash over the future of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), a decade-old regulation that requires refiners to cover the cost of mixing biofuels such as corn-based ethanol into their fuel.

Trump’s engagement reflects the high political stakes of protecting jobs in a key electoral state. Oil refiner Philadelphia Energy Solutions (PES), which employs more than 1,000 people in Philadelphia, declared bankruptcy last month and blamed the regulation for its demise.

Oil, farm state senators

The meeting, scheduled for Tuesday, will include Republican Senators Ted Cruz of Texas, Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst of Iowa, along with Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, and potentially Energy Secretary Rick Perry, according to the four sources, who asked not to be named because they were not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.

One source said the meeting would focus on short-term solutions to help PES continue operating. PES is asking a bankruptcy judge to shed roughly $350 million of its current RFS compliance costs, owed to the EPA which administers the program, as part of its restructuring package.

The other sources said the meeting will consider whether to cap prices for biofuel credits, let higher-ethanol blends be sold all year, and efforts to get speculators out of the market.

Officials at the EPA, Agriculture Department, and Energy Department declined to comment. A White House official, Kelly Love, said she had no announcement on the matter at this time.

The offices of Cruz, Ernst and Grassley did not immediately return requests for comment.

The sources said the options moving forward would be constrained by political and legal realities that have derailed previous efforts at reform.

The Trump administration has considered changes to the RFS sought by refiners this year, including reducing the amount of biofuels required to be blended annually under the regulation or shifting the responsibility for blending to supply terminals, only to retreat in the face of opposition from corn-state lawmakers.

​Narrow options, broad resistance

The EPA is expected to weigh in officially in the coming weeks on request by PES to the bankruptcy judge to be released from its compliance obligations. But any such move would likely draw a backlash from other U.S. refiners, who have no hope of receiving a waiver.

Under the RFS, refiners must earn or purchase blending credits called RINs to prove they are complying with the regulation. As biofuels volume quotas have increased, so have prices for the credits, meaning refiners that invested in blending facilities have benefited while those that have not, such as PES, have had to pay up.

PES said its RFS compliance costs exceeded its payroll last year, and ranked only behind the cost of purchasing crude oil.

Other issues may have contributed to PES’ financial difficulties. Reuters reported that PES’ investor backers withdrew from the company more than $594 million in a series of dividend-style distributions since 2012, even as regional refining economics slumped.

Regulators and lawmakers have been considering how to cut the cost of the RFS to the oil industry.

In recent months, for example, the EPA has contemplated expanding its use of an exemption available to small refineries, a move that would likely push down RIN prices, but which both the oil and corn industries have said would be unfair.

Cruz last year proposed limiting the price of RINs to 10 cents, a fraction of their current value — an idea that was roundly rejected by the ethanol industry as a disincentive for new ethanol blending infrastructure investment.

Senator John Cornyn, also a Texas Republican, is preparing draft legislation to overhaul the RFS in Congress that would include the creation of a new specialized RIN credit intended to push down prices, but it too faces resistance from both the corn and oil lobbies.

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Report: Trump, Officials to Discuss Changes to Biofuels Policy

U.S. President Donald Trump has called a meeting early next week with key senators and Cabinet officials to discuss potential changes to biofuels policy, which is coming under increasing pressure after a Pennsylvania refiner blamed the regulation for its bankruptcy, according to four sources familiar with the matter.

The meeting comes as the oil industry and corn lobby clash over the future of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), a decade-old regulation that requires refiners to cover the cost of mixing biofuels such as corn-based ethanol into their fuel.

Trump’s engagement reflects the high political stakes of protecting jobs in a key electoral state. Oil refiner Philadelphia Energy Solutions (PES), which employs more than 1,000 people in Philadelphia, declared bankruptcy last month and blamed the regulation for its demise.

Oil, farm state senators

The meeting, scheduled for Tuesday, will include Republican Senators Ted Cruz of Texas, Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst of Iowa, along with Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, and potentially Energy Secretary Rick Perry, according to the four sources, who asked not to be named because they were not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.

One source said the meeting would focus on short-term solutions to help PES continue operating. PES is asking a bankruptcy judge to shed roughly $350 million of its current RFS compliance costs, owed to the EPA which administers the program, as part of its restructuring package.

The other sources said the meeting will consider whether to cap prices for biofuel credits, let higher-ethanol blends be sold all year, and efforts to get speculators out of the market.

Officials at the EPA, Agriculture Department, and Energy Department declined to comment. A White House official, Kelly Love, said she had no announcement on the matter at this time.

The offices of Cruz, Ernst and Grassley did not immediately return requests for comment.

The sources said the options moving forward would be constrained by political and legal realities that have derailed previous efforts at reform.

The Trump administration has considered changes to the RFS sought by refiners this year, including reducing the amount of biofuels required to be blended annually under the regulation or shifting the responsibility for blending to supply terminals, only to retreat in the face of opposition from corn-state lawmakers.

​Narrow options, broad resistance

The EPA is expected to weigh in officially in the coming weeks on request by PES to the bankruptcy judge to be released from its compliance obligations. But any such move would likely draw a backlash from other U.S. refiners, who have no hope of receiving a waiver.

Under the RFS, refiners must earn or purchase blending credits called RINs to prove they are complying with the regulation. As biofuels volume quotas have increased, so have prices for the credits, meaning refiners that invested in blending facilities have benefited while those that have not, such as PES, have had to pay up.

PES said its RFS compliance costs exceeded its payroll last year, and ranked only behind the cost of purchasing crude oil.

Other issues may have contributed to PES’ financial difficulties. Reuters reported that PES’ investor backers withdrew from the company more than $594 million in a series of dividend-style distributions since 2012, even as regional refining economics slumped.

Regulators and lawmakers have been considering how to cut the cost of the RFS to the oil industry.

In recent months, for example, the EPA has contemplated expanding its use of an exemption available to small refineries, a move that would likely push down RIN prices, but which both the oil and corn industries have said would be unfair.

Cruz last year proposed limiting the price of RINs to 10 cents, a fraction of their current value — an idea that was roundly rejected by the ethanol industry as a disincentive for new ethanol blending infrastructure investment.

Senator John Cornyn, also a Texas Republican, is preparing draft legislation to overhaul the RFS in Congress that would include the creation of a new specialized RIN credit intended to push down prices, but it too faces resistance from both the corn and oil lobbies.

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GOP Congressmen Challenge New Pennsylvania District Map

Pennsylvania’s highest court overstepped its authority in drawing new congressional district lines and did not give state lawmakers enough time to produce a map of their own, eight Republican congressmen said in a lawsuit filed Thursday.

The complaint in Harrisburg federal court argued against the legality of the map put in place Monday by the state Supreme Court, and said a 2011 Republican-crafted map should remain in use this year.

The plaintiffs are suing top elections officials under Democratic Governor Tom Wolf, asking for an injunction to prevent the Department of State from implementing the new plan.

“Far from being free of politics, it appears every choice in the court-drawn plan was to pack Republicans into as few districts as possible, while advantaging Democrats,” the plaintiffs alleged.

The Philadelphia-based Public Interest Law Center, which helped argue the successful case against the 2011 map in the state courts, on Thursday called the Republican lawsuit “baseless” and in a federal court filing said independent analysts found the court’s map shows no sign of partisan bias. The law center also said that Republicans who control the state Legislature never tried to pass a replacement map in the time allotted by the court.

A separate legal challenge to the new map by two senior Republican legislative leaders is currently awaiting action by the U.S. Supreme Court.

A spokesman for Wolf said he and the elections agency “are complying with the court’s order to implement the remedial map and assuring the commonwealth is prepared for the primary election.”

The 2011 map is widely considered among the nation’s most gerrymandered, a mélange of jagged lines and odd shapes that include one likened to the cartoon character Goofy kicking Donald Duck. Some Republicans acknowledge the map was gerrymandered, but say that is not unconstitutional.

It has proven to be a political winner for the GOP, helping the party maintain a 13-5 edge in the state’s congressional delegation over three straight election cycles. Democrats have about 800,000 more registered voters and a recent winning record in statewide elections, although Republicans hold wide majorities in both chambers of the General Assembly. Republican President Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton in Pennsylvania in 2016.

‘Partisan skew’

An analysis conducted through PlanScore.org concluded the state court’s redrawn map would eliminate “much of the partisan skew” favoring Republicans on the old GOP-drawn map, but not all of it.

Democrats hope a new map in Pennsylvania will help them retake majority control of the U.S. House this year. Six congressmen elected in 2016 are not running again, an unusually large number that has helped draw a slew of would-be candidates seeking to replace them.

The plaintiffs include seven Republican members of Congress who are expected to seek re-election: Reps. Ryan Costello, Mike Kelly, Tom Marino, Scott Perry, Keith Rothfus, Lloyd Smucker and Glenn Thompson.

Not among them is U.S. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, a Republican from the Philadelphia suburbs who wants to turn over redistricting to an independent, non-partisan commission.

Incumbents said they have already spent money on re-election campaigns in their existing districts, and that ongoing work to help constituents they may no longer represent is likely to be disrupted.

Legal scramble

The federal lawsuit was filed the day after Republicans asked the U.S. Supreme Court to stop the court-ordered map from being implemented. Some of the same lawyers worked on both filings, and the approaches are notably similar.

In throwing out the 2011 map in January, all five Democrats on the state Supreme Court sided with Democratic voters who challenged the map, saying it ran afoul of the state constitution’s guarantee of free and equal elections. One of the Democratic justices, Max Baer, has been critical of the compressed time frame. The new lawsuit drew heavily from the minority opinions in the state case filed by Baer and the court’s two Republican justices, Thomas Saylor and Sallie Mundy.

The legal scramble comes on the eve of a very busy time for congressional candidates hoping to get on the May 15 primary ballot. Congressional candidates have from Feb. 27 to March 20 to collect and submit enough signatures to qualify.

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GOP Congressmen Challenge New Pennsylvania District Map

Pennsylvania’s highest court overstepped its authority in drawing new congressional district lines and did not give state lawmakers enough time to produce a map of their own, eight Republican congressmen said in a lawsuit filed Thursday.

The complaint in Harrisburg federal court argued against the legality of the map put in place Monday by the state Supreme Court, and said a 2011 Republican-crafted map should remain in use this year.

The plaintiffs are suing top elections officials under Democratic Governor Tom Wolf, asking for an injunction to prevent the Department of State from implementing the new plan.

“Far from being free of politics, it appears every choice in the court-drawn plan was to pack Republicans into as few districts as possible, while advantaging Democrats,” the plaintiffs alleged.

The Philadelphia-based Public Interest Law Center, which helped argue the successful case against the 2011 map in the state courts, on Thursday called the Republican lawsuit “baseless” and in a federal court filing said independent analysts found the court’s map shows no sign of partisan bias. The law center also said that Republicans who control the state Legislature never tried to pass a replacement map in the time allotted by the court.

A separate legal challenge to the new map by two senior Republican legislative leaders is currently awaiting action by the U.S. Supreme Court.

A spokesman for Wolf said he and the elections agency “are complying with the court’s order to implement the remedial map and assuring the commonwealth is prepared for the primary election.”

The 2011 map is widely considered among the nation’s most gerrymandered, a mélange of jagged lines and odd shapes that include one likened to the cartoon character Goofy kicking Donald Duck. Some Republicans acknowledge the map was gerrymandered, but say that is not unconstitutional.

It has proven to be a political winner for the GOP, helping the party maintain a 13-5 edge in the state’s congressional delegation over three straight election cycles. Democrats have about 800,000 more registered voters and a recent winning record in statewide elections, although Republicans hold wide majorities in both chambers of the General Assembly. Republican President Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton in Pennsylvania in 2016.

‘Partisan skew’

An analysis conducted through PlanScore.org concluded the state court’s redrawn map would eliminate “much of the partisan skew” favoring Republicans on the old GOP-drawn map, but not all of it.

Democrats hope a new map in Pennsylvania will help them retake majority control of the U.S. House this year. Six congressmen elected in 2016 are not running again, an unusually large number that has helped draw a slew of would-be candidates seeking to replace them.

The plaintiffs include seven Republican members of Congress who are expected to seek re-election: Reps. Ryan Costello, Mike Kelly, Tom Marino, Scott Perry, Keith Rothfus, Lloyd Smucker and Glenn Thompson.

Not among them is U.S. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, a Republican from the Philadelphia suburbs who wants to turn over redistricting to an independent, non-partisan commission.

Incumbents said they have already spent money on re-election campaigns in their existing districts, and that ongoing work to help constituents they may no longer represent is likely to be disrupted.

Legal scramble

The federal lawsuit was filed the day after Republicans asked the U.S. Supreme Court to stop the court-ordered map from being implemented. Some of the same lawyers worked on both filings, and the approaches are notably similar.

In throwing out the 2011 map in January, all five Democrats on the state Supreme Court sided with Democratic voters who challenged the map, saying it ran afoul of the state constitution’s guarantee of free and equal elections. One of the Democratic justices, Max Baer, has been critical of the compressed time frame. The new lawsuit drew heavily from the minority opinions in the state case filed by Baer and the court’s two Republican justices, Thomas Saylor and Sallie Mundy.

The legal scramble comes on the eve of a very busy time for congressional candidates hoping to get on the May 15 primary ballot. Congressional candidates have from Feb. 27 to March 20 to collect and submit enough signatures to qualify.

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Widow Disgusted by Indiana Immigration Ad Featuring Husband

The widow of an Uber driver killed in a suspected drunken driving crash said her family has been “devastated” by a political ad featuring her deceased husband, an Indianapolis Colts player who was also killed and the Guatemalan immigrant charged with their deaths.

Deb Monroe, the widow of driver Jeffrey Monroe, told The Associated Press in an interview Thursday that Republican U.S. Senate candidate Mike Braun should take his ad off the air.  

“Why would you do this? He has not even been in the ground two weeks,” said Monroe. “You could have had the decency to wait and let us deal with our loss.”  

The ad by Braun, who has yet to address to Monroe’s concerns, comes in the midst of a heated GOP Senate primary. And it’s just the latest example of a political figure, among them President Donald Trump, seizing on the Feb. 4 deaths of Monroe and Colts linebacker Edwin Jackson. 

The two were struck while standing outside Monroe’s car along Interstate 70 after Jackson, 26, became ill while Monroe, 54, was transporting him for the ride-hailing company, police said.

​Trump tweeted about the tragedy, calling it “disgraceful” that the man charged with the crime, Manuel Orrego-Savala, 37, was a twice-deported immigrant in the country illegally. Braun’s GOP primary rivals both released statements in the wake of the fatal crash. 

The ad, which is narrated by Braun, displays Orrego-Savala’s mug shot as well as pictures of Monroe and Jackson.

“Politicians in Washington have ignored this issue for far too long,” Braun intones. “We must build the wall, ban sanctuary cities and put an end to chain migration. There are lives at stake.”

Deb Monroe said calls for a crackdown on immigrants are beside the point. 

“Immigration didn’t kill my husband,” said Monroe, 62, of Avon, Indiana. “The idiot that chose to drink and get behind the wheel of a 5,000 pound vehicle did.”

She added: “If he had been sober and gone by them on the road, you wouldn’t even know he was in the country.”

Furthermore, she said her husband of 26 years was against building a wall along the southern U.S. border. 

“He felt the wall was a waste of money, that it could be used better someplace else,” she said. 

Immigration has been a hot button issue in Indiana’s Republican Senate primary, which features two sitting congressman squaring off against Braun. Rep. Todd Rokita has embraced Trump’s anti-immigration stances and Rep. Luke Messer recently sharpened his own tone. 

But the ad by Braun, a businessman and former state lawmaker, takes it to a new level. 

Monroe said she phoned Braun’s campaign to request that they take the ad off the air, but they have not returned her call. 

Campaign spokesman Josh Kelley declined to address questions about whether Braun would heed her request, or if they plan on returning her call. 

“Mike Braun believes that Washington needs to stop illegal immigration, build the wall, and keep criminal illegals like the one that killed Jeffrey Monroe and Edwin Jackson out of Indiana,” Kelley wrote in an emailed statement. He added: “Mike and his family are praying for the families of the victims.”

Deb Monroe said politicians have been all too happy to “exploit” her husband’s death.  

“Everyone is upset over this,” Monroe said. “I can’t let them do this to his name. I just can’t.” 

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Widow Disgusted by Indiana Immigration Ad Featuring Husband

The widow of an Uber driver killed in a suspected drunken driving crash said her family has been “devastated” by a political ad featuring her deceased husband, an Indianapolis Colts player who was also killed and the Guatemalan immigrant charged with their deaths.

Deb Monroe, the widow of driver Jeffrey Monroe, told The Associated Press in an interview Thursday that Republican U.S. Senate candidate Mike Braun should take his ad off the air.  

“Why would you do this? He has not even been in the ground two weeks,” said Monroe. “You could have had the decency to wait and let us deal with our loss.”  

The ad by Braun, who has yet to address to Monroe’s concerns, comes in the midst of a heated GOP Senate primary. And it’s just the latest example of a political figure, among them President Donald Trump, seizing on the Feb. 4 deaths of Monroe and Colts linebacker Edwin Jackson. 

The two were struck while standing outside Monroe’s car along Interstate 70 after Jackson, 26, became ill while Monroe, 54, was transporting him for the ride-hailing company, police said.

​Trump tweeted about the tragedy, calling it “disgraceful” that the man charged with the crime, Manuel Orrego-Savala, 37, was a twice-deported immigrant in the country illegally. Braun’s GOP primary rivals both released statements in the wake of the fatal crash. 

The ad, which is narrated by Braun, displays Orrego-Savala’s mug shot as well as pictures of Monroe and Jackson.

“Politicians in Washington have ignored this issue for far too long,” Braun intones. “We must build the wall, ban sanctuary cities and put an end to chain migration. There are lives at stake.”

Deb Monroe said calls for a crackdown on immigrants are beside the point. 

“Immigration didn’t kill my husband,” said Monroe, 62, of Avon, Indiana. “The idiot that chose to drink and get behind the wheel of a 5,000 pound vehicle did.”

She added: “If he had been sober and gone by them on the road, you wouldn’t even know he was in the country.”

Furthermore, she said her husband of 26 years was against building a wall along the southern U.S. border. 

“He felt the wall was a waste of money, that it could be used better someplace else,” she said. 

Immigration has been a hot button issue in Indiana’s Republican Senate primary, which features two sitting congressman squaring off against Braun. Rep. Todd Rokita has embraced Trump’s anti-immigration stances and Rep. Luke Messer recently sharpened his own tone. 

But the ad by Braun, a businessman and former state lawmaker, takes it to a new level. 

Monroe said she phoned Braun’s campaign to request that they take the ad off the air, but they have not returned her call. 

Campaign spokesman Josh Kelley declined to address questions about whether Braun would heed her request, or if they plan on returning her call. 

“Mike Braun believes that Washington needs to stop illegal immigration, build the wall, and keep criminal illegals like the one that killed Jeffrey Monroe and Edwin Jackson out of Indiana,” Kelley wrote in an emailed statement. He added: “Mike and his family are praying for the families of the victims.”

Deb Monroe said politicians have been all too happy to “exploit” her husband’s death.  

“Everyone is upset over this,” Monroe said. “I can’t let them do this to his name. I just can’t.” 

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Trump Seeks to Clarify Call for Arming Teachers to Deter School Shootings

President Donald Trump sought to clarify his idea of arming educators in the classroom to deter school shootings, saying he wants to look at the possibility of giving “concealed guns to gun adept teachers with military or special training experience.”

A day after an emotional exchange at the White House with victimized students and parents of school shootings, Trump, in a pair of tweets, said “only the best 20% of teachers, a lot, would now be able to immediately fire back if a savage sicko came to a school with bad intentions.”

 
At the White House listening session Wednesday, Trump said “If you had a teacher who was adept with the firearm, they could end the attack very quickly.” He added that “This would be obviously only for people who were very adept at handling a gun, and it would be, it’s called concealed carry, where a teacher would have a concealed gun on them.”

Also spreading former military service members throughout schools “could very well solve your problem,” Trump said in the White House State Dining room. “We’re going to be looking at it very closely.”

At one point, Trump asked: “Does everybody like that idea?”

A few people raised their hands. The president then asked who opposed it and more hands went up from the approximately 40 people in the room, mainly students, family members and educators directly affected by school shootings.

Later at a CNN town hall event in Florida that included survivors of last week’s shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, where a 19-year-old former student has been charged in the killing of 17 people, Senator Marco Rubio told the audience he does not support arming teachers.

Under questioning by students, parents and teachers, Rubio also said tighter gun laws alone will not prevent future shootings, while he does support a minimum age for buying rifles and a ban on an accessory called a bump stock that can allow the weapons to shoot more bullets more quickly.

Scott Israel, the sheriff in the county that includes Parkland, said trained deputies would carry rifles on school grounds, but rejected the idea of giving guns to teachers.

Trump is set to hold another meeting on school safety Thursday at the White House, this time with state and local officials.

During Wednesday’s event, the president also called for an end to gun-free zones near schools, declared his administration “is going to be very strong on background checks” and that it will also examine raising the minimum age for purchase of guns (28 states have no such restrictions).

“If he’s not old enough to go buy a beer. He should not be able to buy a gun. It’s just common sense,” said Stoneman Douglas student Samuel Zeif.

“It should have been one school shooting and we should have fixed it and I’m pissed. Because my daughter, I’m not going to see again,” said Andrew Pollack, whose daughter, Meadow, was shot nine times and died. “King David Cemetery, that is where I go to see my kid now.”

Pollack questioned, “How many children have to get shot?”

Some students from the school declined invitations to attend Wednesday’s White House event and instead rallied at Florida’s state Capitol in Tallahassee to call for gun control reforms.

The president also referred to shooting suspect Nikolas Cruz as a “sick guy…who should have been nabbed.” Cruz is being held without bond on 17 counts of premeditated murder at the Broward County jail.

Trump put more emphasis on the mental health issue than gun control in his remarks, saying “there’s no mental institution, there’s no place to bring them” in many communities.

Since 1990, there have been 22 shootings at elementary and secondary schools in the United States, in which two or more people were killed (not counting gunmen who committed suicide).

The president on Tuesday ordered the Justice Department to look at outlawing bump stocks, which were used in the shooting in Las Vegas, Nevada, last October that killed 58 people and wounded 851 others.

The Trump administration and lawmakers are facing a backlash — including from some of the student survivors of the latest school mass shooting — that they are too focused on the mental health of gunmen rather than the weapons they carry.

A Washington Post-ABC News poll released this week said 86 percent of respondents who identified themselves as Democrats said stricter gun control laws could have prevented the Florida shooting, while 67 percent who identified as Republicans said stricter laws could not have prevented the massacre.

 

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Trump Seeks to Clarify Call for Arming Teachers to Deter School Shootings

President Donald Trump sought to clarify his idea of arming educators in the classroom to deter school shootings, saying he wants to look at the possibility of giving “concealed guns to gun adept teachers with military or special training experience.”

A day after an emotional exchange at the White House with victimized students and parents of school shootings, Trump, in a pair of tweets, said “only the best 20% of teachers, a lot, would now be able to immediately fire back if a savage sicko came to a school with bad intentions.”

 
At the White House listening session Wednesday, Trump said “If you had a teacher who was adept with the firearm, they could end the attack very quickly.” He added that “This would be obviously only for people who were very adept at handling a gun, and it would be, it’s called concealed carry, where a teacher would have a concealed gun on them.”

Also spreading former military service members throughout schools “could very well solve your problem,” Trump said in the White House State Dining room. “We’re going to be looking at it very closely.”

At one point, Trump asked: “Does everybody like that idea?”

A few people raised their hands. The president then asked who opposed it and more hands went up from the approximately 40 people in the room, mainly students, family members and educators directly affected by school shootings.

Later at a CNN town hall event in Florida that included survivors of last week’s shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, where a 19-year-old former student has been charged in the killing of 17 people, Senator Marco Rubio told the audience he does not support arming teachers.

Under questioning by students, parents and teachers, Rubio also said tighter gun laws alone will not prevent future shootings, while he does support a minimum age for buying rifles and a ban on an accessory called a bump stock that can allow the weapons to shoot more bullets more quickly.

Scott Israel, the sheriff in the county that includes Parkland, said trained deputies would carry rifles on school grounds, but rejected the idea of giving guns to teachers.

Trump is set to hold another meeting on school safety Thursday at the White House, this time with state and local officials.

During Wednesday’s event, the president also called for an end to gun-free zones near schools, declared his administration “is going to be very strong on background checks” and that it will also examine raising the minimum age for purchase of guns (28 states have no such restrictions).

“If he’s not old enough to go buy a beer. He should not be able to buy a gun. It’s just common sense,” said Stoneman Douglas student Samuel Zeif.

“It should have been one school shooting and we should have fixed it and I’m pissed. Because my daughter, I’m not going to see again,” said Andrew Pollack, whose daughter, Meadow, was shot nine times and died. “King David Cemetery, that is where I go to see my kid now.”

Pollack questioned, “How many children have to get shot?”

Some students from the school declined invitations to attend Wednesday’s White House event and instead rallied at Florida’s state Capitol in Tallahassee to call for gun control reforms.

The president also referred to shooting suspect Nikolas Cruz as a “sick guy…who should have been nabbed.” Cruz is being held without bond on 17 counts of premeditated murder at the Broward County jail.

Trump put more emphasis on the mental health issue than gun control in his remarks, saying “there’s no mental institution, there’s no place to bring them” in many communities.

Since 1990, there have been 22 shootings at elementary and secondary schools in the United States, in which two or more people were killed (not counting gunmen who committed suicide).

The president on Tuesday ordered the Justice Department to look at outlawing bump stocks, which were used in the shooting in Las Vegas, Nevada, last October that killed 58 people and wounded 851 others.

The Trump administration and lawmakers are facing a backlash — including from some of the student survivors of the latest school mass shooting — that they are too focused on the mental health of gunmen rather than the weapons they carry.

A Washington Post-ABC News poll released this week said 86 percent of respondents who identified themselves as Democrats said stricter gun control laws could have prevented the Florida shooting, while 67 percent who identified as Republicans said stricter laws could not have prevented the massacre.

 

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Beyond ‘Obamacare’: New Liberal Plan on Health Care Overhaul

A major liberal policy group is raising the ante on the health care debate with a new plan that builds on Medicare to guarantee coverage for all. 

Called “Medicare Extra for All,” the proposal to be released Thursday by the Center for American Progress gives politically energized Democrats more options to achieve a long-sought goal.

Still, the plan would preserve a role for employer coverage and for the health insurance industry. Employers and individuals would have a choice of joining Medicare Extra, but it would not be required.

That differs from the more traditional “single-payer” approach advocated by Vermont independent Sen. Bernie Sanders, in which the government would hold the reins of the health care system. 

Even though the plan has no chance of passing in a Republican-controlled Congress, center president Neera Tanden said, “We think it’s time to go bolder. There is consensus on the progressive side that universal coverage should be the goal and health care is a right.”

Picking up on the leftward shift among Democrats, Republicans are already working up rebuttals. President Donald Trump tweeted earlier this month that “Dems want to greatly raise taxes for really bad and non-personal medical care. No thanks!”

The Center for American Progress is a think tank that was closely aligned with President Barack Obama and 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. A 2005 proposal from the center foreshadowed Obama’s Affordable Care Act.

Medicare Extra would use Medicare’s thrifty payment system as framework to pool working-age people and their families, low-income people now covered by Medicaid, and seniors. A major missing piece: There’s no cost estimate for the plan, although its authors say that’s in the works.

The proposal comes at a time when polls show intense interest among Democrats and some independents in a government-run system that would guarantee coverage and benefits while reducing the complexity and out-of-pocket costs associated with private insurance. The future of health care is expected to be a defining issue in the 2020 Democratic presidential primaries, and political messages will be tested and honed in this fall’s midterm elections.

A nonpartisan expert who independently reviewed the Medicare Extra plan said it could provide Democrats with a middle way to achieve their longstanding goal of coverage for all.

“It’s an attempt to capture the enthusiasm for a single-payer system among the Democratic base, but trying to create a more politically and fiscally realistic roadmap,” said Larry Levitt of the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation.

To be sure, taxes would rise and the federal government would take on a larger role.

“It is in some ways ‘repeal and replace,’ but from the left rather than the right,” Levitt added.

Medicare Extra envisions a complex transition that would take the better part of a decade. Among its major elements:

-All U.S. citizens and lawful residents would be automatically eligible for coverage.

-Preventive care, treatment for chronic disease, and generic prescription drugs would be free. Dental, vision and hearing services would be included.

-Low-income people would pay no premiums or copays. Premiums and cost-sharing would be determined according to income for everyone else.

-Employers would have the option of maintaining their own plans or joining Medicare Extra. Workers could pick the government plan over their employer’s. The proposal would preserve the tax-free status of employer-provided health care, subject to a limit.

-Seniors with private Medicare Advantage insurance plans through Medicare would be able to keep similar coverage, although the program would be redesigned and called “Medicare Choice.” Seniors would gain coverage for vision, dental and hearing services not now provided by Medicare. Long-term care services would be covered.

-Government would negotiate prices for prescription drugs, medical devices and medical equipment.

Although costs and financing are not spelled out in the proposal, its authors acknowledge significant tax increases would be required. Options include rolling back some of the recently enacted GOP tax cuts for corporations and upper-income people, raising Medicare taxes on upper-income earners, and higher taxes on tobacco and sugary soft drinks.

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