As thousands of high school students protested Congress’s lack of action on gun safety measures a month after the Parkland high school mass shooting, the House on Wednesday approved spending additional money for training to recognize mental health issues, threat reporting systems, and security equipment.
Nicole Hockley, founder and managing director of Sandy Hook Promise, applauded House passage this week of the “STOP School Violence Act” saying the bill “doesn’t solve everything, but is an important step in preventing all forms of violence — from bullying to suicide and shootings — in our schools.”
Sandy Hook Promise has been advocating for schools to get more resources so that teachers can be trained on how to respond to mental health crises and to implement “Say Something” gun-violence prevention programs and training for schools and youth service organizations.
Representative Elizabeth Esty, whose district includes Newtown, was a co-sponsor of the legislation and spoke in favor of passage on the House floor and credited Hockley and Mark Barden of Newtown — both of whom lost a child at Sandy Hook Elementary School to a mass shooter five years ago — with turning their grief into action.
“They and other parents took their grief and formed a group called the Sandy Hook Promise. That group has been working tirelessly for over 5 years now, and the bill we address here today is largely a testament to the hard work that they have put in working with mental health professionals, school officials, and law enforcement to come up with real steps that will help save lives,” she said.
Esty said the bill should be just the first step in many that Congress takes to address “the scourge of gun violence.” Still to do, she said, is comprehensive background checks for all gun purchases and a ban on so-called bump stocks.
Esty joined Senators Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy outside the Capitol earlier that day to show support for thousands of students who demonstrated in favor of action on gun safety legislation.
All three praised high school students for taking up the issue and petitioning their elected officials to act.
“There is no great social change movement in this country that has not been led by the youth of America. It is not going to be easy. There are going to be defeats before you reach final victory,” Murphy said. “I know in the end, that we will beat the NRA, that we will kick out members of Congress who don’t listen to you, and we will deliver change in the end.”
Trump Taps Kudlow as Economic Advisor
President Donald Trump this week announced via Twitter that he was appointing Larry Kudlow to be his top economic advisor.
“Larry Kudlow will be my Chief Economic Advisor as Director of the National Economic Council. Our Country will have many years of Great Economic & Financial Success, with low taxes, unparalleled innovation, fair trade and an ever expanding labor force leading the way! #MAGA”
Kudlow, a CNBC commentator and Connecticut resident, was offered the job Wednesday to replace former Goldman Sachs executive Gary Cohn. Cohn resigned last week over Trump’s decision to impose stiff tariffs on steel and aluminum imports.
Kudlow told CNBC that Trump called him Wednesday to tell him he’d gotten the job saying: “It’s out. … You’re on the air. … I’m looking at a picture of you. … Very handsome!”
Like Cohn, Kudlow opposes the tariffs but has a good working relationship with Trump. Born and raised in New Jersey, he was an advisor to Trump during the 2016 campaign and worked closely with Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin on the design of an initial tax plan, according to the LA Times.
Kudlow had considered a Senate run in 2016 but opted against challenging Senator Richard Blumenthal.
DeLauro Wants ORR Director Fired Over Abortion Denial
Representative Rosa DeLauro on Thursday urged Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar to fire Scott Lloyd, the director of the Office of Refugee Resettlement, whom she says has violated the Constitutional rights of girls in his custody by impeding their efforts to obtain an abortion.
“He has shown disregard for the Constitution,” she said at an Appropriations Committee hearing.
“He has abused his authority and forced his own personal beliefs on immigrant women in his custody over and over again.”
In 2017, Lloyd would not allow a 17-year-old undocumented immigrant in the custody of the ORR from obtaining an abortion. A lawsuit followed, and after a Texas judge ruled in her favor she had the abortion.
DeLauro pointedly asked Azar: “When will you fire Mr. Lloyd?”
Azar made it clear that he has no intention of dismissing Lloyd, saying the director is obligated by law to coordinate the care and placement of these immigrant minors including providing for serious medical services.
“This is not about Mr. Lloyd. This is longstanding policy and procedure of the department,” he said. “This is the statutory obligation of the director of the office of refugee resettlement to coordinate the care and placement of these minors including providing for serious medical service to them.”
Lloyd has intervened on several occasions when girls placed under ORR custody because they arrived in the U.S. illegally, have sought abortions, according to the Washington Post. In at least one case the girl had been impregnated during a rape.
DeLauro read from an ORR memo explaining why the girl’s request for an abortion was being ignored: “Here there is no medical reason for abortion. It will not undo or erase the memory of the violence committed against her, and it may further traumatize her. I conclude it is not in her interest.”
DeLauro argued that Lloyd is not qualified to make such a determination. “He is not a medical professional, his actions have been overruled by a federal judge,” she said.
Azar said that ORR has a very unique and difficult statutory obligation that requires case-by-case assessments. “We have to look out for the interests of these children and their unborn children,” he said. “If we get different guidance from the courts on how we need to be implementing that we certainly will do that.”
Lloyd assumed the position of ORR director in March 2017. Before that he had built a career as a champion of religious values. He had served as an attorney in the public policy office of the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic fraternal and service organization, headquartered in New Haven, according to the Washington Post.
Ex-Husky QB Sacked by White House
Former University of Connecticut quarterback John McEntee was unceremoniously removed from his job as White House personal assistant this week where he was often at President Donald Trump’s side.
He was escorted out of the building but landed on Trump’s campaign staff. The move, however, reportedly came after McEntee lost his security clearance. The Wall Street Journal first reported on the firing, citing an unspecified security issue and later reporting the problems related to online gambling and mishandling of taxes.
McEntee, who worked on Trump’s campaign, was brought into the White House to be Trump’s “body guy,” the aide who travels with the president wherever he goes, the New York Times reported. During presidential trips, McEntee and the White House doctor were two aides who were never left off the travel manifest. Aides told the New York Times that McEntee often tried to keep hangers-on away from Mr. Trump when he traveled to his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida.
McEntee had his first brush with fame in 2011 at UConn when he released a YouTube video demonstrating his skill at “trick shots” with a football. The video has had more than 7.3 million views.
Save The Children: Disaster Aid Needed For Children
Jeanne‐Aimee De Marrais, senior director for U.S. Emergencies, told a Congressional panel this week that more federal emergency preparedness dollars need to be targeted to children’s safety.
In testimony before the House Homeland Security Committee, De Marrais said that less than a penny of every $10 of emergency preparedness grants goes to support children’s safety.
“We need to dedicate more funding to emergency preparedness, response, and recovery to lessen the gaps that remain and further support children,” she said.
De Marrais has led Save the Children’s response to every natural and man‐made disaster in the U.S. since Hurricane Katrina. She also served on the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) National Advisory Council from 2014‐17.
The relief organization, with its U.S. headquarters in Fairfield, was asked to testify at an oversight hearing on lessons learned from Hurricanes Maria, Irma and Harvey and other natural disasters in 2017. De Marrais noted that six months after the hurricanes, at least 15 percent of Puerto Rico remains without power and frequent brownouts impact as much as half the island.
“Nearly one in three schools lacks electricity and many also lack consistent access to clean, potable water. This has forced many schools to operate on a limited daily schedule,” she said. “This has led to school‐age children in Puerto Rico missing out on more than 20 million full days of learning. Not only are Puerto Rican students falling behind their peers academically, but they lack the daily routine school brings, which is critical for emotional recovery.”
While the U.S. invests billions of dollars to support emergency preparedness and response, very often children’s needs are overlooked, De Marrais said. Along with increasing funding, she said, Congress must enact policies with a commitment that no child misses more than a month of school, post disaster. She also said funds should be directed to states to train teachers on how to provide support to grieving students and students in crisis.
Check out how our congressional delegates voted on key bills here.
U.S. Subs in Icy Waters
The Navy’s USS Hartford and USS Connecticut submarines surfaced through the ice-covered Arctic Ocean north of Alaska this week as part of a five-week long, multinational exercise to assess the Navy’s operational readiness in the Arctic.
Both submarines, as well the U.K. Royal Navy submarine HMS Trenchant, are participating in the biennial exercise in the Arctic to train and validate the warfighting capabilities of submarines in extreme cold-water conditions, according to the Department of Defense.
“From a military, geographic, and scientific perspective, the Arctic Ocean is truly unique, and remains one of the most challenging ocean environments on earth,” said Navy Rear Admiral James Pitts, commander of the Undersea Warfighting Development Center.
According to Pitts, operating in the Arctic ice alters methods and practices by which submarines operate, communicate, and navigate.
“We must constantly train together with our submarine units and partners to remain proficient in this hemisphere,” Pitts said. “Having both submarines on the surface is a clear demonstration of our proficiency in the Arctic.”