Veterans Groups Against Cuts to IU Compensation

Earlier this afternoon, the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs held a hearing on the President’s proposed for the 2018 fiscal year. While many programs are facing major cuts, veterans’ programs are receiving a six percent increase in the 2018 budget proposal compared to fiscal year 2017. There are many people who argue this is great for our veterans, but many experts are quick to point out the devil is in the details.

There were several representatives of veterans’ groups there to testify about their concerns. One of their major concerns was the fact that the budget would cut the Individual Unemployability (IU) compensation for veterans who are eligible for Social Security.

The way the system is currently set up a married disabled veteran who is receiving 100% IU receives over $3,000 a month. If the changes are put in place that the Trump Administration has proposed, it would go down to about $1,300 once they hit the age wen they could begin receiving social security. John Rowan, the president of the Vietnam Veterans of American, said that this was simply unacceptable.

“Should any member of Congress exhibit political naivete and vote to eliminate IU at age 62,” Rowan said, “tens of thousands of Vietnam veterans in their late sixties and seventies would be in jeopardy of not being able to meet their basic needs, which would lead, for many, to impoverishment, homelessness, even suicide.”

Joseph Chenelly, the Executive Director of AMVETS, pointed out that the organization “has received thousands of calls and messages over the past two weeks from veterans decrying the proposal to steal” benefits from 225,000 veterans who are over the age of 62.

Part of the argument for changing the payment structure is that people will receive benefits from social security. It should be noted, however, that the payments for many disabled veterans are usually really small from Social Security. That’s because they often can’t work, so they haven’t paid into the system like someone who isn’t disabled. In fact, their social security can be as little as $25 a month.

The Administration also claims this move is something worthwhile because it would save $3.2 billion in 2018 and $41 billion over the next decade. As Chenelly from AMVETS pointed out, though, there would be “serious repercussions.” In addition to the direct payments that would be lost, it would also impact their healthcare, educational benefits, tax relief, and commissary privileges.

In other words, the cuts would have a devastating impact on the lives of hundreds of thousands of veterans. And that is why so many different veterans groups decided to speak out against the cuts to IU compensation.

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Mnuchin moves away from the Mnuchin Rule

Earlier today, Secretary Steve Mnuchin testified before the Senate Budget Committee. While he created some news by telling Senator Tim Kaine that there would potentially be a good government shutdown, he also created a stir when he admitted that he’s walking back from the Mnuchin rule.

The Mnuchin rule came after Mnuchin used an interview on CNBC to say tax cuts would primarily serve the middle class (a sentiment he emphasized this morning as well) and that the rich wouldn’t an absolute tax cut.

“Any reductions we have in upper-income taxes will be offset by less deductions so that there will be no absolute tax cut for the upper class,” Mnuchin said during the interview.

Since Mnuchin had been walking back from those statements recently, Senator Ron Wyden decided to confront the Secretary about the rule. Highlighting how he seemed to be so proud of the rule a few months ago, he wanted to know if the Secretary stood by the CNBC interview.

“You made it a rule. I didn’t make it a rule,” the Secretary responded. Those comments were in response to the fact that it was Wyden who first dubbed the comments “the Mnuchin rule.” He then went on to say that it’s still the “objective” of the Trump administration to avoid giving the wealthy a tax cut, but wouldn’t commit to actually following through with the idea.

While Mnuchin walking back from his promise is newsworthy in itself, it also ties into other topics discussed during the hearing. Senator Bernie Sanders, for instance, pointed out that the Republicans tend to want to repeal the tax on large inherited estates.

While questioning the Secretary, Sanders pointed out that the inheritance tax only applied to the top .2% of families. In other words, these are people like the Waltons and the Koch brothers. Bernie even pointed out that it would potentially give the Trump family a tax break.

If the Republicans end up repealing the inheritance tax, it would essentially be a tax cut for the uber wealthy — a direct contradiction to the Mnuchin rule.

With all this in mind, Mnuchin kept insisting that his “objective is to deliver tax reform so we can get the economy moving again.”  He also added that he wants to “simplify the tax code and make it easier for Americans to file their returns.”

The point of those statements was to make it sound like the Trump Administration was trying to focus on improving the economy for everyone — especially the middle class. The way it was phrased, however, it didn’t rule out actually giving the wealthy a tax cut. Those who believe in trickle down economics, after all, believe tax cuts for the wealthy could “get the economy moving again.”

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Secretary Mnuchin says there could be a good government shutdown

KaineSecretary Steve Mnuchin testified before the Senate Budget Committee earlier today about the budget released by President Donald Trump. While they didn’t really get into the details of the budget, there were a variety of budget related issues that they did cover.

During an exchange with Sen. Tim Kaine, for instance, the Secretary was asked about a tweet of Trump’s that said “Our country needs a good “shutdown” in September to fix mess!” Kaine wanted to know if Mnuchin thought there would ever be a good time for a government shutdown.

Although the Secretary said during another exchange that he hopes a solution to funding issues would be put in place before Congress goes on it’s August recess and told Kaine a shutdown would be “an unfortunate outcome,” he admitted he thought there could be times where a shutdown could be good.

“At times there could be a good shutdown, at times there may not be a good shutdown,“ Mnuchin said. “There could be reasons at various times why that is the right outcome.”

Kaine was quick to point out that he represents a state where there’s a very large federal workforce. All of those workers are not only impacted when there’s an actual shutdown, but the uncertainty of whether or not one will happen can also influence how families go about making their budget.

Considering how Sen. Bernie Sanders used his opening statement to say this was the “most anti-working class budget” that would cause “devastating pain” to millions of families, it was clear the Democrats were already unhappy with the way things were going in terms of the budget. Add in the revelation that Secretary Mnuchin believes there might be a good time for a shutdown and there is clearly a divide in the direction the political parties want to move forward.

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Ryan Raburn travels 13 hours to meet up with Nationals

When you think of the life of a major league baseball player, you mainly thing of how glamorous it could be. Not only do they get to make an enormous amount of money to play baseball, but they get to travel in relative comfort….at least usually. Ryan Raburn, however, had a 13 hour trip to make to meet the Nationals in Los Angelos yesterday.

As Chelsea Janes from the Washington Post pointed out, Raburn rode the bus from Rochester, NY to Pawtucket, RI with the Syracuse Chiefs expecting to play against the Paw Sox. When he arrived in Pawtucket, however, he received word that he was actually being called up to the big leagues. He therefore took a cab to Logan Airport in Boston (which took two hours due to traffic) and then flew out to LA.

Despite the long day of travel, Raburn didn’t have much time to rest up because Dusty Baker penciled him in to bat second and play left field against the Dodgers last night.

“It’s been a little chaotic,” Raburn said according to Janes. “But it’s definitely worth it to be back up here and playing with a great team.”

Unfortunately, Raburn didn’t have as strong a showing as he would hope during his first game in the big leagues this year. He went 0 for 4 and was eventually taken out of the game in a double switch. Since the Nationals will likely need him to bat against Kershaw on Wednesday, though, he likely won’t have to do any travel before his next start and will hopefully have a stronger showing.

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Jayson Werth sent to the DL with left foot injury

Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post is reporting that Jayson Werth has been placed on the 10 day disabled list with a bruised left foot. The Nationals are calling up Ryan Raburn from AAA Syracuse in a corresponding roster move.

This is the first trip to the DL for Werth since he had wrist issues back in 2015 and comes after he fouled a ball off his left foot in Saturday’s game against Oakland during the ninth inning. Things immediately looked alright as he finished the at-bat, but he would exit the game after reaching base (Wilmer Difo pinch ran for him). When things didn’t improve over the last few days, the Nats made the decision to move him to the DL retroactive to Sunday.

It’s always disappointing to lose one of your starters, even for a short period of time, but this comes as the veteran left fielder has put up a solid season so far with a .262/.367/.446 batting line. He’s also backed that up with some solid power numbers as he already has eight home runs and 18 RBI while playing in 47 games.

While coming up to replace Werth, Raburn will be making his first appearance with a Major League team this season. That being said, he’s played in parts of 11 seasons for several different teams. He’s put up decent numbers during that time with a .253/.317/.436 batting line, 146 doubles, and 91 homers in 922 major league games. Since joining the Syracuse Chiefs at the end of May, Raburn’s hit for a .261 average, hit one homer, and had five RBI.

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Could Bryce Harper get a $455 million contract?

HarperAlthough Bryce Harper won’t become a free agent until the end of the 2018 season, I can remember conversations dating back to when he first signed with the Nationals speculating about where he’d eventually end up. I can’t tell you how many people have told me they think he’ll end up with the New York Yankees because they’re willing to spend massive amounts of money on free agents.

This was the most evident after his MVP season in 2015, but seemed to slide back a little bit after he fell back to earth a little bit last year. After having a great start to the season this year, however, this speculation has returned to a feverpitch.

Of course this was also fueled by the fact that he signed a one year deal worth $21.625 million for the 2018 season. This covers his last year of arbitration and is a record setting amount for a one year deal for arbitration eligible players.

This lead some writers to ask around to see what league officials think Harper is worth on the open market. The general consensus is that he’s going to be pulling in hundreds of millions of dollars.

“He is going to get paid. Like, paid paid,” one American League GM said according to ESPN’s Eddie Matz. He added that “Four hundred million is light. It’s going to be more than that. If you could sign him to a 15-year contract, you do it. I would say something in the range of $35 million a year, maybe closer to the high 30s. It could approach 40 million dollars a year.”

If that seems like an outrageous amount of money, it’s because it is. If you stop and think about it, that’s significantly higher than when people start going absolutely crazy about the lottery — and those are paid out over 20 years if you want the full amount. But it’s not the highest amount that people have speculated Harper would get.

Joe Pasnanski over at NBC Sports wrote an article about how Harper could be the first player in history to have a $500 million contract. He might have started off the article by claiming he wanted to laugh it off when a friend mentioned the amount to him, but he then went on to explain why various factors (Harper’s age, his agent — Scott Boras, etc) would lead to the contract actually happening.

While I agree with the American League GM who said Harper’s going to get “like paid paid,” I don’t think the contract will be quite make it to the $500 million mark.

As it stands right now, the largest per season contract in MLB goes to Zack Greinke who gets paid $34,416,667. His contract with the Arizona Diamondbacks is only for six years though. When you’re talking about biggest overall contract, however, it goes to Giancarlo Stanton who signed a 13 year deal with the Miami Marlins. With an annual salary of $25 million, the total contract is worth $325 million.

I believe Harper will end up essentially combining the two contracts and getting $35 million a year over the course of 13 years. That will put the value of his total contract at $455 million per year.

The question becomes: which team will be willing to shell out that much money to have him in their lineup?

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Andrew Benintendi Leads Red Sox to 7-3 Win

Camden YardsBALTIMORE, MD — On what many fans were describing as the hottest day of the season (the game time temperature was a muggy 85 degrees), the Boston Red Sox took on the Baltimore Orioles in the final game of a four game set at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

Chris Sale was coming off of his worst start of the year earlier in the week and the Orioles were hoping this would continue into today’s game. Even though they started out giving up two runs in the top half of the first, it looked as though they might get their wish as it took Sale 39 pitches to give up three runs and make his way through the bottom of half of the inning.

After the 45 minute first inning, it looked like it could be a long day at Camden Yards but the game picked up rather quickly after that.

In the third inning, the Orioles were still up 3 to 2 until Andrew Benintendi came up. Like Sale, he’s had some struggles recently and was looking for a more productive day at the plate. He got it as he was able to get a hold of a fastball from Chris Tillman and launched it into the bleachers in right to tie the game.

The score would stay that way until the sixth inning when the Red Sox were able to take advantage of a throwing error by Orioles catcher Francisco Pena. While trying to throw out a runner at third, Pena accidentally ended up sending the ball into left field and two runs were able to score on the play.

Then, in the seventh, Benintendi stepped up to the plate and hit another homerun for his first multi-homer game. When you combine this with the RBI single that he had in the ninth, there’s no doubt that the rookie was the offensive star of the game. He attributes his ability to turn it on today after being in a slump to his strong mental state.

“It’s baseball. You’re going to go through those kind of things. I think mentally you just have to stay strong and I think that’s one thing that I can do pretty well is mentally stay there,” said Benintendi said according to Ian Browne of

This wasn’t just a strong appearance on the field for the Red Sox. Boston fans filled up the seats behind the visiting dugout and were scattered throughout other portions of the stadium. On several occasions in the later innings, chants of “Let’s go Red Sox” took over Camden Yards and even the boo birds from Orioles fans weren’t able to drown them out.

The victory for the Red Sox earned them a split in the four game series, which puts them almost even for the season series among these division rivals (the Orioles have won seven of the 13 games the teams have played this year).  Just as important, this puts the Red Sox just two games back of the Yankees as they head into New York for a three game series.

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Donald McEachin Endorses Justin Fairfax for Lt. Governor

Anyone who has been following Justin Fairfax the last few years knows that he’s been traveling all over the Commonwealth of Virginia building relationships with people of all types of different backgrounds. That’s why it shouldn’t be surprising that someone who represents a diverse district has come out in support of Justin’s candidacy.

Earlier today, Congressman Donald McEachin issued the following statement saying that he’s backing Justin’s campaign for Lt. Governor.

“I wholeheartedly endorse Justin Fairfax for Lieutenant Governor, in both the primary and general elections.

The 4th District includes urban, suburban and rural communities. All Virginians will benefit from the priorities that Justin will bring to the office of Lieutenant Governor: bringing economic security to working people, protecting reproductive and healthcare rights, and ensuring that our Commonwealth is a place where everyone is welcome and nobody is denied the chance to live the American dream.

Justin Fairfax will be a Lieutenant Governor of whom we can be proud. I urge Virginians to join me in voting for him on June 13.”

Upon receiving the endorsement of Congressman McEachin, Justin Fairfax gave this statement:

“I am honored that my candidacy for Lieutenant Governor has the support of Congressman Donald McEachin, who previously served as Democratic Caucus Chair in the Virginia Senate and as a member of the Virginia House of Delegates. Congressman McEachin is also widely respected for his long and successful career as a litigator.”

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Gerry Connolly on Trump’s Decision to Pull out of Paris Climate Agreement

Donald Trump announced this afternoon that he’s pulling the United States out of the Paris Climate Agreement. This decision has already received a significant amount of criticism, including from Rep. Gerry Connolly and the other co-chairs of the House Sustainable Energy and Environment Coalition (Rep. Doris Matsui and Rep. Paul Tonko).

Here is the statement they released.

“We condemn President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement. Climate change is a pressing global problem that is putting lives at risk now and taking the planet as we know it away from our children and grandchildren.

“In a moment in history when the American people and the entire world need a bold leader to help us find a solution, Trump has proven that he doesn’t have what it takes to face this challenge.

“It’s up to the rest of us, working together, to lead the fight to protect our families and our planet. Action on climate change doesn’t just happen at the national level—cities of all sizes, states, and companies across the country are already leading the way on reducing greenhouse gas pollution. We urge mayors, governors, and CEOs to reaffirm their commitment to being part of achieving and surpassing the U.S. climate pledge. And as members of SEEC, we will continue to fight for funding and policies that protect our communities from climate change. Together, we can let the world know that America is still with them in building a cleaner economy and a safer planet for all.”

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Despite struggles in the first, the Nationals have comeback win

opening weekBetween limited use during the World Baseball classic and his last exhibition start being rained out, Tanner Roark had only seen 10 and 2/3 innings of game action over the course of the last month. This caused some folks to be concerned that he wasn’t quite ready for the season to start as he made his way to the mound in last night’s game against the Miami Marlins. Although the Nats eventually won the game 6-4, that concern for Roark’s lack of work this spring really sparked some nerves during the first two innings.

In the first inning alone, it took Roark 29 pitches to give up two runs and eventually get out of the inning. Throughout the inning, the crowd wasn’t pleased with how the home plate umpire had a relatively small strike zone. But part of that was really just frustration with Roark being a little wild.

The right hander walked two batters during the first inning and then proceeded to start the second inning by hitting Derek Dietrich with a slider in the mid-80’s. He also hit Dee Gordon with a fastball later on in the second inning, which caused a fair amount of concern even though he ended up getting out of the inning without giving up a run.

Fortunately, Roark appears to have flipped a switch when he came out for the third. From the third through sixth inning, only former National Tyler Moore was able to get on base when he hit a pinch hit double in the fifth inning. He ended up pitching six innings and only giving up three hits while having six strikeouts.

On top of that, the Nationals were able to step it up on offense to help build up some momentum. They were able to first get on the board in the bottom of the second as Ryan Zimmerman hit a solo homer to right center field. Then it was in the fourth inning that the offense really got going.

After Adam Eaton walked on four straight balls, he scored on a Bryce Harper double. Harper then scored on a single from Daniel Murphy before Ryan Zimmerman and Jayson Werth both got on to load the bases for Matt Wieters. The new catcher then ended the day of Marlins’ starter Dan Straily when he drove in Murphy and Zimmerman on a grounder to left field.

Bryce Harper drove in another run during the bottom of the fifth to bring the Nationals’ total runs to six. This ended up being more than enough for Washington, but that didn’t prevent some fans from getting nervous during the bottom of the ninth.

The bullpen had struggled during the eighth inning and J.T. Realmuto had hit a solo homer to make the score 6-3, which should have left more than enough of a comfort zone heading into the ninth.  That’s especially the case when Treinen quickly retired the first two batters he faced during his second game as the Nationals’ closer.

The excitement began with two outs though as Dee Gordon hit a single to center field before proceeding to steal second. He then scored on a soft fly to right field by Realmuto. A couple fans near me began openly calling for Treinen to be taken out at this point, even though he still had a comfortable two run lead. Fortunately, the fans were overly worried as Treinen was able to immediately turn things around and strike out Christian Yelich to end the game.

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