– Former Eli Lilly executive Alex Azar received a hearing before the Senate Finance Committee this week as President Trump’s nominee for Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS). Procedurally, the President had to re-nominate him in 2018. Since Azar was confirmed by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee fairly easily, we do not anticipate any issues with the Senate Finance Committee, where after confirmation there, he goes to the full Senate floor for a vote.

– Senators Joe Donnelly and Todd Young, along with Rep. Pete Visclosky, sent a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regarding its recently proposed Statement of Basis for cleanup of the former DuPont industrial area in East Chicago. The letter to EPA’s newly appointed Region Five Administrator Cathy Stepp urges EPA to consider the East Chicago Calumet Coalition Community Advisory Group’s request to extend the deadline for public comment on the Statement of Basis.

“We welcome the EPA’s focus on cleaning this site, exemplified by the proposed Statement of Basis. Members of the community, however, raised concerns to our attention in response to the public comment timeframe and their limited access to supplemental materials relating to the Statement of Basis,” the letter states, “As the EPA works to develop and implement this plan, we urge you to continue to coordinate and communicate with interested stakeholders, local officials and members of the East Chicago community. To that end, we respectfully request that the EPA consider the East Chicago Calumet Coalition Community Advisory Group’s request to extend the deadline for the public comment period to allow for the opportunity to review the proposed Statement of Basis and submit detailed comments.”

– The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) has returned to the media spotlight this week. A U.S. District Court judge in San Francisco temporarily blocked the Trump administration from ending the program. His ruling stated that the decision to rescind DACA was based on a flawed legal premise. This means that DACA recipients who failed to renew their status by last year’s deadline will have a chance to submit renewal applications. However, no brand new applications would be allowed for submission.

Meanwhile, earlier this week, the President hosted a lengthy bipartisan meeting at the White House to discuss a potential immigration reform deal. The deal includes: protection of nearly 800,000 DACA recipients from deportation, beefing up security along the Mexico border, changing the weighting given to familial relationships when granting legal status and reforming the diversity visa lottery program. The President was quoted as saying that lawmakers should pass a “bill of love” – indicating that he wanted a solution to DACA. Congress is under pressure to find an answer because immigration talks are tied to the government funding bill; the current funding resolution expires on January 19.

Also, former Indiana GOP Chairman Jim Kittle has signed onto a letter, along with 100 other leaders, demanding protection for DACA beneficiaries. The letter states that the situation “is creating an impending crisis for workforces across the country.” The letter also stresses that the economy could suffer a $215 billion deficit to the GDP if Congress fails to act.

– This week, Sen. Young provided the introduction to another fellow Hoosier, Jim Sweeney, nominee for U.S. District Judge for the Southern District of Indiana, at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

“Jim has led a life of honor, courage and commitment to our country. If there is a phrase that encapsulates Jim’s ethos it’s that he has lived a life of service,” said Young. “If confirmed, the Southern District of Indiana will gain a judge that has exhibited integrity, collegiality and an unparalleled work ethic.

“As many of you know, the court in the Southern District of Indiana is currently in a state of judicial emergency, carrying one of the highest caseloads in the country. In the 12-month period ending June 30, the Southern District of Indiana was the second most overworked court in the nation, with 915 filings per judgeship,” Young added. “I’m grateful that this committee is considering Mr. Sweeney’s nomination, and I’m hopeful the Senate will quickly move to confirm him so that he can get to work helping the district tackle its current caseload.”

Resource: Caryl Auslander at (317) 264-6880 or email: [email protected]