sheldon whitehouse

3 important RI health care stories you might have missed

January 15th, 2015 at 11:24 am by under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site

The end of the year is often a time when news stories that might otherwise receive a lot of attention get overlooked while people are busy with the holidays. That’s even more true in a year like 2014, when Rhode Islanders were recovering from a huge election season and preparing for new leadership.

One example of this phenomenon was health care. While the future of HealthSource RI continues to get a lot of attention, three other things that happened in December deserved a closer look than they got. Together, they give some sense of what public and private leaders in the local health sector are expecting to focus on in 2015.

Here they are.

1. The $20-million federal health-care grant

Governor Chafee and the congressional delegation announced Dec. 16 that the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services had awarded Rhode Island $20 million for a State Innovation Model initiative. The eight-figure grant garnered headlines, but relatively little attention was paid to how it will be spent.


Watch Newsmakers: U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse

December 7th, 2014 at 5:00 am by under Nesi's Notes

Three former US attorneys blast Cianci comeback bid

October 14th, 2014 at 1:36 pm by under Nesi's Notes

By Dan McGowan

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Three former U.S. attorneys – including current U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse – held a press conference Tuesday urging city voters to reject former Mayor Vincent A. “Buddy” Cianci’s bid to return to City Hall.

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RI delegation holds fundraiser to help Elorza beat Cianci

October 3rd, 2014 at 11:10 am by under Nesi's Notes

By Dan McGowan

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – A who’s who list of Rhode Island’s political establishment turned out to support Democrat Jorge Elorza at a fundraiser Thursday, pledging to do whatever it takes to help the 37-year-old former Housing Court judge defeat Buddy Cianci in the race for Providence mayor.

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RI delegation weighs in on scrapping HealthSource RI

May 27th, 2014 at 2:28 pm by under Nesi's Notes

By Ted Nesi

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Rhode Island’s congressional delegation is taking a cautious approach to the state’s debate over whether to jettison HealthSource RI for the federal Obamacare marketplace, saying it’s a matter for state lawmakers to decide.

Read the rest of this story »

• Related: Feds drop demand for $4.6M to fund HealthSource RI (May 27)

Sheldon Whitehouse traveling to Iowa – to talk climate change

March 5th, 2014 at 12:54 pm by under Nesi's Notes

By Ted Nesi

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse is making a campaign swing through Iowa later this month – not because he’s running for president, but to call attention to climate change ahead of 2016.

Whitehouse’s office confirmed Wednesday the senator will visit Iowa and Nebraska for three days starting March 17 to talk with local activists about global warming as the Hawkeye State prepares to once again play its key role in choosing the Democratic and Republican nominees for president.

Anytime a prominent politician visits Iowa in the years leading up to a presidential election it sparks speculation that he or she is running for president. But in an interview, Whitehouse adamantly ruled that out.

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Whitehouse: GOP may bend on sequester, taxes in budget talks

October 29th, 2013 at 5:03 pm by under Nesi's Notes

By Ted Nesi

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse said Monday he’s cautiously optimistic that Senate Democrats and House Republicans can reach an agreement during high-stakes budget talks aimed at keeping the government open and reducing the impact of mandatory across-the-board spending cuts.

A conference committee was created in the bipartisan deal that ended this month’s government shutdown, and ordered to craft a federal spending blueprint by Dec. 13. Whitehouse, a member of the Senate Budget Committee, is the panel’s only member from Rhode Island, Massachusetts or Connecticut.

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• Related: Watch U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse on Newsmakers (Sept. 29)

Jack Reed’s campaign war chest grows to $2.8 million

October 16th, 2013 at 10:06 am by under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site

U.S. Sen. Jack Reed has plenty of campaign cash. All he needs now is an opponent.

Reed, a Democrat who is up for re-election next year, had $2.84 million in his campaign war chest as of Sept. 30, up from $2.57 million on June 30, according to his quarterly filing with the Federal Election Commission.

Reed raised $425,902 and spent $150,040 during the third quarter, the filing said. His donors included former Secretary of Defense William Cohen ($600), prominent mediation lawyer Kenneth Feinberg ($1,000), Clinton confidante Harold Ickes ($1,000), former CVS Caremark CEO Tom Ryan ($1,000) and a host of PACs.

Reed’s camapign committee spent $1,332 at the Aspen Meadows Resort in Aspen, Colo., and $507 at the Intercontinental Hotel in Austin, Texas, as well as $815 on “event expenses” with The Podesta Group, the influential Washington lobbying firm founded by Democratic powerbrokers John and Tony Podesta.


Watch: Sheldon Whitehouse debates Ted Cruz on ‘Crossfire’

October 10th, 2013 at 11:39 pm by under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site

Here’s the video in two parts, via YouTube:

What do you think? Who won?

• Related: Whitehouse will debate Ted Cruz on CNN’s ‘Crossfire’ Thursday (Oct. 9)

Whitehouse will debate Ted Cruz on CNN’s ‘Crossfire’ Thursday

October 9th, 2013 at 8:31 pm by under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site

Whitehouse_Cruz_CNN_Crossfire_10-2013Well, this should be interesting.

U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse will debate U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas – who has become one of the most prominent Republicans in the country for leading the GOP’s shutdown fight – on Thursday’s evening edition of “Crossfire,” the venerable political program CNN recently revived. The program airs at 6:30 p.m.

“The senators and the hosts will debate the latest developments in the partial government shutdown and the looming congressional battle over raising the federal debt ceiling,” a CNN spokeswoman said in an email. Newt Gingrich and Van Jones will also be on the show.

It should be quite a clash of views.

Cruz is a rising Republican star in Congress already being discussed as a possible 2016 presidential candidate, and he thinks the Affordable Care Act is a grave threat to the future of the United States. Whitehouse is, of course, Rhode Island’s second-term junior senator and a vocal liberal Democrat who feels more free than ever to speak his mind after his landslide re-election victory last November.


RI delegation will give up pay if federal workers lose wages

October 2nd, 2013 at 5:52 pm by under Nesi's Notes

By Tim White

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – All four lawmakers in Rhode Island’s congressional delegation will forgo their pay if federal workers lose their wages as a result of the government shutdown, has confirmed.

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Watch Newsmakers: US Sen. Whitehouse; political analysis

September 29th, 2013 at 5:00 am by under Nesi's Notes

Reed: ‘Extreme’ Republicans may force government shutdown

September 27th, 2013 at 5:29 pm by under Nesi's Notes

By Tim White

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – U.S. Sen. Jack Reed said Friday he’s concerned that “extreme elements” of the Republican Party in the U.S. House of Representatives may be pushing the country toward a government shutdown next Tuesday.

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• Related: Whitehouse: Prepare for possible government shutdown (Sept. 23)

Whitehouse: Prepare for possible government shutdown

September 23rd, 2013 at 5:12 pm by under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site

By Tim White

EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse said Monday people should be prepared for the federal government to shut down on Oct. 1, saying there is “sufficient enough chance” it could happen.

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• Video: Watch today’s full interview with U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (Sept. 23)

Q&A: Sen. Whitehouse on a government shutdown, debt limit

September 23rd, 2013 at 3:37 pm by under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site

Jack Reed, other RI Democrats still undecided on Syria vote

September 9th, 2013 at 4:54 pm by under Nesi's Notes

By Ted Nesi

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – U.S. Sen. Jack Reed said Monday he still hasn’t decided whether to support a request for authorization to attack Syria, a sign President Obama has yet to win over one of his own party’s most senior military experts. U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse has stayed silent about Syria since Aug. 31.

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• Related: Sen. Whitehouse: US must help Syria as France helped US in 1700s (Jan. 22)

RI gaining clout in Congress while Massachusetts loses it

July 29th, 2013 at 12:17 pm by under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site

Michael Mullen, Jack Reed, Edward KennedySurveying the diminished clout of Massachusetts’ congressional delegation, Stonehill College’s Peter Ubertaccio writes for The Boston Globe:

The Bay State now ranks last in Senate seniority, and no member of the Massachusetts congressional delegation holds a committee chair or leadership position in either the Senate or the House. For the first time since early 1919, no member of our House delegation has served with a speaker from Massachusetts. …

Senator Edward Kennedy’s death in 2009 ruptured an important historical axis upon which the Commonwealth so depended for its influence. …

Why does this matter? Seniority, leadership, and clout bring two key benefits: prioritizing federal dollars and articulating political values. …

There is no easy solution to our dilemma. It requires the continued cultivation of political leaders who see their futures within the institutions they now call home.

This is a real challenge for Massachusetts. When I asked U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse in January what makes an effective senator, his first response was: “Seniority, which you can’t do much about – it is what it is – but as time goes by you need to be ramping it up the match your seniority.”


Whitehouse, Warren back up Reed in bid to cap student rates

July 23rd, 2013 at 1:21 pm by under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site

U.S. Sen. Jack Reed is getting some backup from two of his fellow Southern New England Democrats as he battles to change a bipartisan compromise on student-loan rates.

U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Sheldon Whitehouse on Tuesday sent email blasts to their campaign supporters in a bid to rally support for Reed, who is seeking to amend the loan legislation to cap students’ interest rates at 6.8%, lower than the 8.25% currently envisioned. The bill could be voted on as soon as today.

“Senator Jack Reed’s amendment is the only plan on the table right now that guarantees student loan interest rates won’t skyrocket above their current levels,” Warren wrote in an email pushing subscribers to sign up on Reed’s website in support. “We need to pass this amendment for our kids and grandkids.” The subject line of Warren’s email said: “The whole system stinks.”

“Unfortunately, our opponents would rather profit off our students than invest in them – so Jack is going to need all of us to stand with him to win this fight,” Whitehouse wrote in his email. “I’ve joined a group of Senators to work to pass Senator Reed’s amendment. But we need your help before this week’s vote.”

The emails are another sign of the increasing closeness of the Rhode Island and Massachusetts U.S. Senate delegations now that Warren and the newly elected Ed Markey have joined Reed and Whitehouse in Washington. All four are down-the-line liberals, and they share many of the same policy passions, notably financial regulation for Reed and Warren and climate change for Whitehouse and Markey.

• Related: Jack Reed pushing to overhaul interest rates on student loans (May 9)

Reed, Whitehouse embrace transparency on campaign finance

July 17th, 2013 at 5:49 pm by under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site

whitehouse_reed_campaign_2012Rhode Island’s two U.S. senators are giving advocates of open government in Washington a reason to cheer.

U.S. Sens. Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse will both start filing their campaign-finance reports electronically, beginning with the latest one for the quarter that ended June 30, their spokesmen told this week.

The addition of Reed and Whitehouse means 17 senators are now filing their reports online – 13 Democrats, two independents who caucus with the Democrats, and two Republicans. Rhode Island is one of only three Senate delegations in which both senators file digitally, along with Montana, California and Vermont.

Senators, unlike lawmakers in the U.S. House, still have the legal right to submit their campaign-finance reports on paper. The Secretary of the Senate delivers the paper copies to the Federal Election Commission, whose employees must manually input the data into the FEC’s online database before they can be reviewed.


RI unveils Obamacare exchange, branded HealthSource RI

July 15th, 2013 at 1:13 pm by under Nesi's Notes

By Ted Nesi

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Gov. Lincoln Chafee announced Monday Rhode Island will roll out President Obama’s health law under the brand name HealthSource RI, with less than three months to go before consumers can start buying insurance in the new online marketplace it creates.

One of the big remaining questions, however, is how much the HealthSource RI insurance plans will cost.

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• Related: Chart: How health insurance will work in RI once Obamacare starts (June 12)

Jack Reed: Time to look at balance between security, privacy

June 13th, 2013 at 10:45 am by under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site

The Washington Post’s E.J. Dionne has a column today about the debate over surveillance, and one of the voices in the piece is that of U.S. Sen. Jack Reed (who also expressed concerns to WPRI last week):

That we’re now more inclined to question the national security state should not surprise anyone. “In the period immediately after the attacks of 9/11, the American people were willing to give the government broad power to keep them safe,” Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.), one of Congress’s most thoughtful voices on national security, said in an interview. “Now, more than a decade later, it’s entirely appropriate that Americans are asking about the balance between security and privacy.”

Reed believes that we still need extensive surveillance programs. But he was also in the minority last December in supporting an earlier version of the Merkley proposal on the FISA court decisions. He also favored another amendment, proposed by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), that would have required the director of national intelligence to submit a report to Congress and the public on the impact of the revised FISA law on the privacy of U.S. citizens.

This is a rare issue that divides Reed and his junior colleague, Sheldon Whitehouse.

Reed voted yes but Whitehouse voted no on the two measures from December that Dionne references – the Merkley amendment to disclose legal justification for surveillance and the Wyden amendment to require a privacy report. As I wrote in Saturday’s column, Whitehouse’s views may relate to his past service on the Intelligence Committee, his time in law enforcement and his general trust in the federal government.

• Related: Sen. Whitehouse defends Obama on surveillance programs (June 7)

Watch Newsmakers: U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse

June 9th, 2013 at 10:44 am by under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site

Sen. Whitehouse defends Obama on surveillance programs

June 7th, 2013 at 12:55 pm by under Nesi's Notes

By Ted Nesi

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse defended the Obama administration’s use of surveillance in terrorism investigations on Friday, breaking with fellow progressive lawmakers who have harshly criticized the president’s tactics this week.

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Whitehouse fears ‘more timid’ IRS after audits scandal

May 13th, 2013 at 6:19 pm by under Nesi's Notes

By Ted Nesi

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Rhode Island’s congressional delegation slammed the Internal Revenue Service on Monday for giving special scrutiny to conservative groups, but U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse suggested the scandal reflects a broken national campaign-finance system.

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Minority turnout surged in RI in 2012; white vote slumped

May 9th, 2013 at 12:49 pm by under Nesi's Notes

By Ted Nesi

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – President Obama, Congressman David Cicilline and other Democrats were propelled to victory last November by a surge in voting by Hispanic and black Rhode Islanders as well as a sharp drop in participation among white citizens, a analysis of new Census data shows.

The Census data reveals 32,000 Hispanic Rhode Islanders voted in last fall’s presidential election, up from 20,000 in 2008 and just 13,000 in 2004. It also shows 30,000 black Rhode Islanders went to the polls on Nov. 6, up from 27,000 in 2008 and 17,000 in 2004. Both groups’ vote totals more than doubled in eight years.

Yet even as Hispanic and black turnout soared to new highs, voter participation among white non-Hispanic Rhode Islanders dropped precipitously. The report shows only 400,000 whites voted in Rhode Island in 2012 – the fewest since tracking began in 1996, down from 451,000 in 2008 and 431,000 in 2004.


RI delegation uniting on Wednesday – to fight Obama

May 8th, 2013 at 5:00 am by under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site

Three of the four members of Rhode Island’s all-Democratic congressional delegation will take aim Wednesday at someone who’s an unusual target for them: President Obama.

U.S. Sen. Jack Reed, U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse and Congressman David Cicilline are among the eight members of Congress co-hosting a summit on Capitol Hill to criticize a proposal in Obama’s latest budget that would trim Social Security benefits by switching to a measure of inflation known as “chained CPI.”

Rhode Island’s entire delegation slammed the policy when it emerged, and Cicilline has garnered national attention for introducing a resolution that would have Congress express formal disapproval of chained CPI. U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Bernie Sanders of Vermont are also among the summit’s hosts, giving it a decidedly New England flavor.

There were 207,122 Rhode Island residents receiving Social Security benefits in December 2011, the most recent month for which figures are available – meaning nearly 20% of state residents are on Social Security. Two-thirds of Rhode Island’s beneficiaries were 65 or older, while 35,905 were disabled and 15,704 were children. The Rhode Islanders’ combined Social Security benefits totaled $236 million that month.

The congressional event at 12:30 p.m. will be streamed live online by Strengthen Social Security, a coalition of unions and progressive groups that supports increasing benefits.

• Related: RI congressional delegation slams Obama over Social Security (April 10)

RI congressional delegation slams Obama over Social Security

April 10th, 2013 at 5:21 pm by under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site

RI_delegation_bride_4-10-12_Lewis_SchulerPresident Obama isn’t getting any support from Rhode Island’s congressional delegation for his controversial proposal to trim future Social Security benefits.

All four Democrats – usually loyal defenders of the president – issued statements Wednesday criticizing Obama for his proposal to use a different measure of inflation, known as “chained CPI,” to calculate Social Security benefit increases, which would reduce payments over time compared with current law.

The harshest critique came from U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, a leading liberal in the chamber. “The so-called ‘chained CPI’ proposal included in President Obama’s budget is nothing more than a benefit cut disguised behind technical jargon,” he declared.

Whitehouse said he thinks the way Social Security currently calculates inflation already “shortchanges” senior citizens and should be changed to increase benefits – the exact opposite of Obama’s proposal. “I made a promise to the people of Rhode Island that I would always oppose cuts to Social Security, and I’m going to keep that promise,” Whitehouse said.


Reed, Whitehouse vote to repeal tax on medical-device makers

March 22nd, 2013 at 9:46 am by under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site

U.S. Sens. Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse were among the 79 senators who voted Thursday night to get rid of a tax on sales of medical devices passed in 2010 to help fund President Obama’s health reform law.

The two Rhode Island senators joined 31 of their fellow Democrats and all 45 Republicans in voting to repeal the 2.3% excise tax on medical devices, which took effect Jan. 1. Getting rid of it would cost the federal government $29 billion from 2013 to 2022, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a left-leaning Washington think-tank that opposed repealing it.

Whitehouse and another stalwart liberal, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, were among those who sided with the device industry on the repeal measure, which was introduced by Republican Orrin Hatch of Utah and has been the subject of a heavy lobbying effort.

Stephen Lane, chairman and chief venture officer of the Providence-based medical-device firm Ximedica, said at a manufacturing forum last year co-hosted by Congressmen David Cicilline and Jim Langevin that the tax was causing his industry to move production to Asia. Cicilline and Langevin voted to keep the tax, and Cicilline clashed over the question with his Republican opponent Brendan Doherty in a WPRI 12 debate last fall.

Senate Dems reportedly set to back Whitehouse’s ‘Buffett Rule’

February 12th, 2013 at 6:47 pm by under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site

It looks like U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse will get another chance to pass his “Buffett Rule.”

A growing number of reports from Washington indicate top Senate Democrats will make a version of the Buffett Rule – which would set a minimum tax rate for millionaires – a key part of their proposal to avert the so-called “sequester” of mandatory spending cuts set to take effect next month.

The Buffett Rule started out as an idea in an op-ed by Warren Buffett. After President Obama mentioned it in last year’s State of the Union address, Whitehouse quickly introduced legislation to put the measure into law. Whitehouse’s bill died in April when it failed to overcome a filibuster.

To pass the measure under normal Senate filibuster rules, Democrats would need every senator in their 55-member caucus to vote in favor and then win over five Republicans. That seems unlikely. But the idea’s continued prominence is another sign that Whitehouse has a feel for the legislative zeitgeist.

As for the fiscal impact, the CBO said Whitehouse’s “Buffett Rule” bill would raise $47 billion over 10 years. Whitehouse himself included the Buffett Rule in his new plan [pdf] to offset the sequester without spending cuts earlier this week, though he acknowledged the whole proposal was dead on arrival.

• Related: Not one, not two, but 18 views on Whitehouse’s ‘Buffett rule’ (April 16)

Whitehouse, Waxman send Obama climate change ‘wish list’

January 25th, 2013 at 9:57 am by under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site

Zack Colman reports for The Hill:

Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) on Thursday outlined a slate of climate change actions that President Obama could execute with his own authority.

The lawmakers conveyed a bleak outlook for climate legislation this Congress, noting considerable Republican opposition in the House. But they said Obama’s climate comments during his Monday inaugural address raised the prospects for administrative action to address the issue. …

Whitehouse, Waxman and Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) laid out a menu of options for executive action on climate change in a Thursday letter to Obama [pdf]. Among them were moves federal agencies could take to curb greenhouse gas emissions and enlisting national laboratories to pump out clean-energy technology. …

Whitehouse also suggested the federal government could use its procurement powers to strike deals with cleaner, sustainable contractors.

Whitehouse has made clear in the weeks since he won re-election last fall that one of his core priorities during his second term will be pushing Washington for action on climate change, as well as new efforts to protect the health of the sea through his bipartisan Senate Oceans Caucus.

“I think it’s going to take some hammering to open the window [of what's possible] up a bit, but the public is now so clearly behind doing something about climate change that it puts the Republican opposition in a very different – and I think, before long, untenable – position,” Whitehouse told me during an interview in his Capitol Hill office earlier this month.

With that in mind, on Thursday Whitehouse also restarted the series of weekly floor speeches about climate change he’s been giving for the past year. The video of yesterday’s edition is here.

​(photo: Whitehouse’s office)