Jeff Fortenberry

Jeff Fortenberry

NEBRASKA's 1st DISTRICT

Omaha World Herald: Nebraskans and Iowans are Divided over Health Care: Which Plan will Help or Hurt the Most?

2017/06/25

WASHINGTON — Moses Ward is part of the problem facing health insurance in America today, and he knows it.

The 46-year-old small-business owner from Lincoln works hard to keep himself in good health, but he has a rare genetic disorder that causes parts of his body to randomly swell up. It’s a potentially life-threatening situation that requires a shot — sometimes once a month, sometimes once a week.

Each shot costs $10,000.

Insurers under the Affordable Care Act are required to sell him coverage, but that raises their costs and drives up premiums for others who aren’t facing serious health problems. Ward feels their pain given that his own family plan isn’t exactly cheap, with its $1,500 a month premiums and $14,000 deductible.

As Capitol Hill Republicans push forward on health care legislation, many Nebraskans and Iowans have mixed feelings about both the current situation under the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, and the proposed changes.

Advocates worry that children and disabled individuals relying on Medicaid would be harmed by capping the growth of that program. Others warn that granting states and insurance companies more regulatory flexibility could erode protections for older, sicker Americans.

On the other hand, middle-class families seeing premiums rise under the ACA wonder why they’re paying more for

insurance with deductibles so high they hardly see a benefit.

The House wrote a health care bill that passed with the support of the five members, all Republicans, representing Nebraska and western Iowa.

Senate Republicans just unveiled their proposal and hope to pass it this week. So far, Nebraska and Iowa senators, all Republicans, have said little about its merits.

Both bills would cut taxes, particularly for wealthy Americans, limit the growth of Medicaid funding and give states and insurers more flexibility from ACA regulations, including a requirement that all plans cover 10 “essential services.” Both also would repeal a mandate that requires people to buy policies.

Pam Weldin, 60, of Minatare, Nebraska, said ACA regulations are part of the reason she lost her insurance four times in three years. Weldin noted that people say if the ACA is repealed, many individuals will lose insurance.

“Do they not realize that there are many people, not just me, who have lost their insurance multiple times because of Obamacare?” Weldin said, adding that she expects to lose it again at some point. “I’m kind of holding my breath until I get to Medicare age.”

One plan she had came with a $20,000 deductible that she said wasn’t disclosed upfront. Now she has a plan that costs $1,400 a month with a $400 deductible. Subsidies bring her premium down to about $200 a month.

From her perspective, she’s always been a smart consumer of health care and taken personal responsibility by exercising, watching her weight, not smoking and not running to the doctor for every sniffle.

She finds it ridiculous that a 60-year-old woman like her must have insurance that includes maternity care.

She expressed skepticism of analyses suggesting that the Republican proposals could cause costs to rise for some Americans, particularly the elderly living in rural areas.

But she also said she would support repealing and replacing the ACA even if the result was higher costs overall. At least she’d have choices, she said, and that’s how the free market works.

Weldin said she believes in personal responsibility and doesn’t want the government taking money from some and giving it to others. She characterized the subsidies she gets through the ACA as offsets for those struggling to pay for higher premiums that have resulted from the law.

“The offsets are being provided by law to help pay for the premiums that went sky high specifically as a result of that law,” she said.

The argument in favor of ACA requirements is that, prior to the law, many Americans had coverage that ultimately proved inadequate. But not everyone is satisfied with the ACA-compliant plans either.

Marcie Strahm, 46, of Lincoln recalled twisting her ankle so badly it swelled up to the size of a softball, but she didn’t want to incur the cost of an emergency room visit or an X-ray, so she never had it checked out.

She’s a director of admissions at a for-profit college. Her husband works on designing bridges and roads for an engineering company. Neither employer provides health insurance.

Before the ACA they had a catastrophic coverage plan through Blue Cross Blue Shield of Nebraska that cost about $230 a month with a $10,000 deductible. The plan didn’t meet ACA requirements, however, so it went away.

They make too much to qualify for subsidies, and even with a high deductible, they saw their premiums shooting up, eventually reaching nearly $800 a month.

“That’s a mortgage payment,” Strahm said.

Her husband, whose 22 years in the military left him with a partial disability, has been able to get coverage through the Department of Veterans Affairs, and Strahm now has a policy for just herself that costs $500 a month. Her daughter is forgoing insurance for the time being.

“It’s priced us out of health care,” Marcie Strahm said.

She stressed that she’s a strong opponent of “government health care” and said she’s not sure about the Republican proposals working their way through Congress. She concedes she’s not an expert on what they would do or even the actual provisions of the ACA itself.

“I don’t know what the answer is, but it’s not working for middle-class people,” Strahm said. “It’s a disaster.”

Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, has cited the impact of the ACA on Weinrich Truck Line in Hinton, Iowa, which has about 65 employees.

The company’s vice president, Brenda Dittmer, told The World-Herald that every year since the ACA passed, rates to cover the company’s employees have gone up double digits for a total of more than $120,000 a year. And employees’ contributions also have risen, along with their deductibles and out-of-pocket costs.

Those rising costs put a strain on both employees and the country’s small businesses, Dittmer said. She wants to see parts of the ACA — such as protecting those with pre-existing conditions — preserved. Experts say requiring insurers to cover people with pre-existing conditions has contributed to premium increases, but Dittmer said she feels the real problem is pharmaceutical and health insurance companies. She suggested looking at the executive compensation packages at major health insurers.

Ward, the Lincoln man with the rare condition, believes the goal should be for everyone to have access to health care, and he’s not seeing where the Republican proposals now on Capitol Hill will solve anything.

To the extent they would stabilize the insurance market, he said, they would do so by pushing older and sicker people out of the market and simply selling skimpy insurance to young, healthy people.

That requirement that insurers sell him coverage?

That would remain in both the House and current Senate bills. But states could waive other insurance rules that weaken protections for medical conditions or, in the House bill, states could opt out of requiring that insurers charge everyone the same regardless of pre-existing conditions.

Ward said high-risk pools and reinsurance mechanisms might help address high-need individuals.

He questioned, though, whether universal coverage can ever happen in a system aimed at ensuring profits.

“That’s why they wouldn’t touch me beforehand, and going back to that just seems a little crazy,” he said.

He worries that if the ACA protections are rolled back, he and his family could end up as “medical refugees” forced to leave Nebraska for a state with robust regulations. He worries about his eldest son, who has the same genetic disorder.

But he also realizes it’s complicated.

“I’m just a dude in Nebraska living in a cornfield,” he said. “I don’t have the answers.”

Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, R-Neb., said that in a perfect world, people would be “held harmless” in any transition to a new health care law.

He said an under-discussed portion of the Republican health care proposal basically sets up a government reinsurance program aimed at addressing the dynamic of high-need people driving up costs in ways that chase out younger, healthier individuals.

Those provisions would give insurers an incentive to sign up individuals such as Ward because the government would be backing up the excess costs.

The question is whether Congress will authorize enough money to achieve that goal. Fortenberry said it’s not clear how much is required.

He also said the country needs to deal with a flawed delivery system that leads to unnecessary costs and less desirable outcomes for patients.

What is clear, he said, is that the issue is intense for many people.

“It’s not about some remote policy,” Fortenberry said. “It’s very personal.”

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Fort Report: Caring for Our Vets

2017/06/23

If you are starting to feel overwhelmed by our nation’s struggles, talk to a vet. If you see our policy battles as impossible to solve, talk to a vet. If you want to reconnect with those things that bind us, talk to a vet.

In Congress, we often hear about how much we care for our vets. No doubt, our hearts are in the right place. However, it is also important to remain vigilant to ensure that legislative action actually fulfills our obligation to those who have served.

Fortunately, in Nebraska, we have consistently maintained good service standards for our veterans. However, this has not always been the case across the country. I was therefore encouraged when the President today signed into law a bill that passed Congress with overwhelming bipartisan support. The Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act of 2017 works to shift and refocus the VA on what should matter the most: the needs of our veterans. As the Los Angeles Times stated, “The reform bill would make it easier to fire employees for cause, adds some protections for whistleblowers, and puts more power in the hands of Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin. Dan Cadwell, director of policy for Concerned Veterans for America, said the bill will replace a system he said is too bureaucratic, too lenient on employees, sending the message that the ‘days of employees who engage in flagrant misconduct are over.’”

Another positive development took place last week, when Congress reviewed its commitment to veterans in the appropriations process. As Vice Chair of the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Subcommittee, I am pleased by the initiatives to dramatically improve veterans' care. As a start, we proposed nearly a 7% increase in veterans’ health care benefits, as well as enhanced funding in a number of high-priority areas. The appropriations bill also highlights and refocuses on high-risk illnesses like Hepatitis C, opioid abuse, and rural health initiatives that will serve veterans living outside urban areas.

The transition from military service to civilian life can be fraught with unique challenges. Some veterans thrive in that transition and go on to live exceptional lives. Others are so affected by Post-Traumatic-Stress-Disorder (PTSD), Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), loss of limbs or sight, or other debilitating conditions that they can easily end up marginalized. Especially in urban areas, we see the scandal of veterans on the streets. To address this problem, we added a new focus in the appropriations bill on support, services, and job training for homeless veterans.

We are doing more on other fronts. For example, for the past several years, I have proposed legislation that would expand the G.I. Bill to allow veterans to use their money for a small business loan as well as education. We have been working with veterans groups to further refine the proposal. We also have been in conversations with military leadership about the concept of professional certificate reciprocity. Exceptional training received in the military should be readily transferrable to satisfy certification standards in various states.

Finally, making health information more useful and available is essential for improving veterans’ quality of care. For years, the Department of Defense and VA health systems did not “talk” to one another. It’s better now, but the full integration of health records will halt unnecessary delays, preventable medical errors, and excessive paperwork. Veterans will be able to better move from active duty to retirement utilizing whatever health system works best for them. And their information will remain with them wherever they go.

It is not easy to make progress in Congress. Nevertheless, there are times when both parties and the administration come together for the good. Taken together, these actions for veterans represent a unique and proper American opportunity to support the men and women who have served our country. As we approach the Fourth of July and consider how to celebrate the gift of being American—it’s always good to ask a vet.

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Fort Report: Political Violence

2017/06/16

Earlier this week, a gunman opened fire on Members of Congress and staff assistants as they were practicing for the annual bipartisan charity baseball game. Among the many injured was my dear friend and colleague, House Majority Whip Steve Scalise. As news of the event came in right before our weekly Nebraska Breakfast, I felt bewildered, shocked, and numb. I learned that Steve was playing second base at the time of the shooting. He tried to crawl off the infield, leaving a trail of blood.

This isn’t a movie. These are not distant figures. These are people I work with on a daily basis. Representative Scalise and I interact frequently on the nuances of policy, and, sometimes, the differences of policy. I am part of what is called “the whip team.” And, no matter what our disagreements—and, believe me, there are hard differences, even on one side of the political aisle—Steve always works with me in a cordial, professional, constructive, and gentlemanly manner. That’s just who he is. So, regardless of what you think of his political viewpoints, Congress, or the GOP, he did not deserve to be shot.

 As noted by Senator Rand Paul (R-KY), who was at the practice, were it not for the courageous United States Capitol Police officers who accompany Representative Scalise to events, it would have been a “massacre.”

 My heart goes out to Steve Scalise and those affected by this traumatic event. However, my words cannot stop there. For years now, across multiple administrations, across party lines, we have witnessed worsening political rancor in our country. It’s hard to get your mind around some of the stuff people write. It’s awful. And it goes beyond just pointed language. It’s now so frequent, so violent, and so directly threatening, security personnel are working overtime just to keep up.

Many good men and women serve in the United States Congress. These are people who have accomplished important things in their communities and decided they wanted to serve their country in a broader capacity. While Washington, D.C. can seem elitist and aloof, Members of Congress are real people from real places with real families. Sure, there is a disproportionate share of lawyers, but there are also nurses, social workers, teachers, small business owners, and doctors (one of whom, Representative Brad Wenstrup, an Iraq War veteran, tended to Steve’s gunshot wound). Above all, they are Americans.

Nevertheless, there is a limit to what the human person, even a paid public servant, can absorb. We take the violent words, but when it spills into violent action, it’s too much. The country cannot continue to rip itself apart like this.

Within a few hours of the shootings, certain national media had begun to routinize the issue, as they returned to obsessing on the latest crisis du jour in Washington. And why not? The assassin was "a troubled man," a "lone wolf" with a history of violence who was likely "mentally ill." Nothing unique to see here. Friends, these were not our thoughts after the assassination attempt on President Reagan or the shooting of Democratic Congresswoman Gabby Giffords of Arizona. When President Kennedy was shot, I understand it seemed as though the entire world came to a halt. If we are now going to move beyond words and normalize the violent targeting of people just because they chose to pursue public service, hold views that are different from our own, or speak in a style that is not to our liking, then there is no country. I find the widely praised theatrical assassination of President Trump at a rendition of Julius Caesar in New York City’s Central Park (underwritten by The New York Times) to be particularly jarring.

As we see in our battle against ISIS, when you call for evil to happen on social media, in mainstream media, and in art, eventually someone in the real world takes it to heart. This is no longer about free speech—it's about freedom from violence. The responsibility of freedom of speech demands that we must come together to denounce this poison ripping our country apart. Enough is enough.

In a hint of good news, the House of Representatives in a private session (Democrats and Republicans) had a family meeting and with due candor spoke about the impact of escalating rhetoric. And the baseball game went on as planned Thursday night. I took my younger staff. The game was energetic and patriotically bipartisan. My side lost—but America won.  

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The Hill: Security Fears Grow on Both Sides of Aisle

2017/06/15

Members of Congress are debating whether it’s time to adopt new security procedures after the shooting at a Republican baseball practice in Virginia.

Even before the attack, Republican members of Congress were on edge about threats and harassment from constituents angry with President Trump and the GOP’s push to repeal and replace ObamaCare.

Their concerns have only been heightened by Wednesday’s assault, where the lives of lawmakers were likely saved by the presence of Capitol Police officers who were on security detail for House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.).

“Capitol Police saved a lot of lives today,” said Rep. Chuck Fleischmann (R-Tenn.), who recounted running for his life as gunshots rang out across the field.

“I was running from where I was to try to get to that dugout as quickly as possible. All I could think as I was running was, this guy was going to shoot me,” he said.

Lawmakers were visibly shaken by the second incident of gun violence targeting one of their own in the last six years. In 2011, former Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-Ariz.) was shot in the head at a constituent event.

Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.) announced that he plans to carry a gun with him from now on. Rep. Barry Loudermilk (R-Ga.) said Congress should consider expanding ways for lawmakers to defend themselves. And Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.), the third-ranking House Democrat, said he wants to give lawmakers more flexibility to secure their homes and offices.

“You look at the vulnerability. I can assure you, from this day forward, I have a carry permit, I will be carrying when I’m out and about,” Collins told local ABC affiliate WKBW in Buffalo, N.Y.

Collins will not be able to carry a gun at all times, however. Guns are banned from the Capitol complex, and the District of Columbia has strict gun laws.

Loudermilk suggested that more lawmakers, beyond members of leadership, could start receiving additional security protection.

“We’re not any more special than anybody else, but we are targets,” Loudermilk told reporters in the Capitol. “This is exactly why there is a lot of fear of even doing town halls at this point. Some of the things this guy is posting on Facebook — we get the same things, and even worse.”

Clyburn, for his part, wants lawmakers to have more access to security measures.

“For us to have a rule … that you can’t have security cameras in your offices unless you pay for them with your campaign — I just found that out this morning — or you can’t have security stuff in your homes?” Clyburn said. “I can’t tell you how many threats I’ve had against my home. In fact, I’ve had state police staying at home with my family.”

Rep. Tony Cárdenas (D-Calif.) said he urged Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) to fast-track new security measures for lawmakers. 

“Many of us receive threats. And it’s not that we get used to it. You’ve just got to hope and pray that people don’t follow up on those threats, but at any given moment they could, like we saw this morning,” Cárdenas said. “I personally stressed to the Speaker if we could put that on hyper drive and get those results and those decisions as quickly as possible.”

Fleischmann, for example, said he still plans to attend a festival this weekend with thousands of his constituents.

“I’m out with the people. And I think that’s what our founding fathers wanted,” Fleischmann said. “I’m going to continue to do that this weekend when I go home.”

Rep. Patrick Meehan (R-Pa.), another member of the GOP’s baseball team, suggested that enhancing security for individual members could be difficult.

“We were just out practicing baseball. It’s a function of everyday life. We’re public figures, and we can’t hide,” he said. “I don’t know how you look at security for individual members and change it.”

And Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas), the GOP baseball team’s manager for the upcoming congressional charity baseball game, shook his head when asked if he’d do anything differently at his next town hall.

“When you run for public office and are a member of Congress, you assume certain risk. It’s sad. We shouldn’t be targeted personally. I hope this was not a targeted attack, but we live in a democracy and there are a lot of bad, bad folks out there,” Barton said.

Lawmakers in both parties have been worrying for months about physical threats from angry protesters.

Multiple Republicans, including Reps. Martha McSally (Ariz.) and Tom Garrett (Va.), have received death threats. A woman upset over Rep. David Kustoff’s (R-Tenn.) vote for the GOP’s healthcare bill pursued a car carrying him from an event and later struck its windows.

Within hours after Wednesday’s shooting, Rep. Claudia Tenney’s (R-N.Y.) office said it received a threatening email with the subject line “One down, 216 to go.”

“Did you NOT expect this? When you take away ordinary peoples very lives in order to pay off the wealthiest among us, your own lives are forfeit. Certainly, your souls and morality were lost long before. Good riddance,” the email said.

The threats haven’t been limited to Republicans. BuzzFeed reported that Rep. Nanette Barragán (D-Calif.) said Wednesday that multiple Democratic House lawmakers have received threatening phone calls saying, “You guys are next.” 

The heightened vitriol had been on Rep. Jeff Fortenberry’s (R-Neb.) mind before Wednesday’s shooting. Last month, his young daughter found a sign on the family’s lawn that said: “Traitors put party above country. Do the right thing for once, shithead.”

Fortenberry said he’s “always thought it prudent” to have police at his public events. And now, he said, lawmakers have to be ever more vigilant.

“It’s a sign of the fractured signs, and this deep cynicism that’s projected on the institution is ripping the country apart,” Fortenberry said.

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NET Nebraska: Nebraska Delegation Reacts To "Dark Day" In D.C.

2017/06/15

Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana was wounded in the attack by a gunman who targeted congressmen practicing for a charity baseball game. A congressional aide, lobbyist and two Capitol Police officers were also injured. The gunman was shot and killed by police.

Nebraska First District Congressman Jeff Fortenberry called Wednesday a “dark day” in Washington following the shooting, which may have been politically motivated.  Fortenberry said it left him “shocked” and “numb.”

“It’s very difficult to get the mind around how political discourse which is becoming increasingly acerbic can turn to targeted violence against an elected official. It’s deeply disturbing,” Fortenberry told NET News in an interview.

Fortenberry said representatives from both sides of the aisle got together privately Wednesday to talk about how their own words can add to or detract from the public discourse.

“In our closed door meeting with Democrats and Republicans there was a resurgence of the need to not only watch our own language, our own pointed language at one another, and how this type of division here translates in the country, and there was a real sense of unity during that time and then afterwards on the House floor," Fortenberry said. 

During the public meeting of the House, Fortenberry said he made a “conscious decision in the moment” to sit with the Democrats. He said he did that because he thought it was important to express unity. 

Nebraska Second District Congressman Don Bacon condemned the actions of the shooter.  He says Americans need to become a more unified people.

"We’re a better country than this. We’ve got to raise the bar on civility. At the end, we’re all Americans," Bacon said. "We have so much more to be unified on than what separates us. We’re just going to have to stand back, maybe take a knee, and rethink what we’re doing."

Congressman Adrian Smith, who represents Nebraska's Third District, also condemned the shooting, saying the actions of one individual don't represent the attitudes of millions of Americans.

"This kind of violence should never be seen as a solution," Smith said. "It's counter-productive. It certainly runs inconsistent with what I hear from both sides of the aisle.  It's obviously a disturbed person.  We don't know exactly what triggered that action on his part, but clearly it's unacceptable."

All three Nebraska representatives praised the Capitol Police for responding quickly and bravely to the attack.

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Omaha World Herald: Nebraska Congressional Delegation Expresses Shock, Offers Prayers After Shooting at Ballfield

2017/06/15

WASHINGTON — Wednesday morning’s shooting at a Republican congressional baseball practice rattled lawmakers on both sides of the aisle and prompted many to decry an increasingly toxic political discourse.

Members of Nebraska’s congressional delegation trickled into their weekly breakfast with constituents just as news of the shooting was breaking.

Reflecting on a then-developing situation, Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, R-Neb., told the audience that “awful stuff” is regularly directed at him and other members of the delegation — a stream of vitriol he indicated comes with having a free and open society.

“But when it spills over into deliberate violence against persons, it’s just wrong,” Fortenberry said. “It tears at the heart of who we are as a country.”

All lawmakers representing Nebraska and western Iowa expressed their sympathy for those affected by the shooting while offering praise and gratitude for the Capitol Police — particularly those officers who were at the practice as part of the security detail for Louisiana Rep. Steve Scalise, one of the top Republicans in the House. The quick response of those officers was widely credited with preventing the situation from descending into a bloodbath.

No Iowa or Nebraska lawmakers were participating in this year’s game, so they were not at the practice when the shooting occurred.

Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, went to the scene afterward, however, according to the Washington Post. The controversy-prone congressman suggested that the incident could be traced to rhetoric coming from the other side of the political spectrum.

“The center of America is disappearing, and the violence is appearing in the streets, and it’s coming from the left,” the newspaper quoted King saying.

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, had a different take. He said, in contrast to contentious town halls going back to 2009, his recent events have been quiet, with people being “nice in how they ask their questions and approach issues.”

Wednesday’s shooting is certain to spark discussions about congressional security measures. Several Nebraska and Iowa lawmakers declined to say much on security matters, in part because of guidance from Capitol Hill police.

“There’s no doubt we are all concerned,” Rep. Adrian Smith, R-Neb., said in a statement. “I’ve never seen so much inflammatory rhetoric based on misinformation as we’ve experienced in recent months. It elicits emotional responses and can lead to, as in this case, destructive actions.”

He said a wise, measured reaction is needed because members of Congress must be accessible to those they represent.

For his part, Grassley said that the best way to reach constituents is through open town halls and that he will continue to hold them.

“Otherwise I better get out of politics,” Grassley said.

He also didn’t sound interested in having an armed entourage. “It would be awful if every time I wanted to go to the airport I had two people accompany me.”

Still, word of the shooting unsettled many members.

Smith, who used to play in the annual charity game, opened Wednesday’s breakfast by informing the audience about the shooting and pleading for understanding if members seemed rattled. “I’m kind of shaken by it.”

The shooting also prompted Rep. Don Bacon, R-Neb., to reissue his recent call on the House floor for more civility. “I fear we are pulling apart. The left and right should not hate each other.”

Rep. David Young, R-Iowa, said he was “horrified and stunned” when he heard the news on his way to the office.

Young praised the speeches by Speaker Paul Ryan and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

“It’s a reminder about a lot of the tone out there on both sides of the aisle — the rhetoric that’s out there and how it’s just not constructive and it can just go too far with some people,” Young said. “It’s so important still to make sure that you are accessible to those you represent and this cannot scare us.”

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Lincoln Journal Star: Fortenberry: Country Must Not 'Rip Itself Apart' Over Political Divisions

2017/06/15

Stunned and saddened by a shooter's targeted attack at a congressional baseball practice, Rep. Jeff Fortenberry of Lincoln said Wednesday that "the country cannot continue to rip itself apart like this."

The "dark cynicism" of today's political climate has poisoned the political debate, he said, and the scene of Wednesday's attack was "triply ironic" in terms of American values.

The congressional baseball game between Republicans and Democrats scheduled for Thursday is "the last bipartisan thing that is celebrated here" in Washington, Fortenberry said. 

The game is played to raise funds for charity, he added.

And it is baseball, America's long-celebrated pastime.

"A lot of good men and good women in Congress are trying to do the right thing according to their beliefs," Fortenberry said. "We cannot continue to survive as a country if good men and women who are willing to serve become targets."

These are "real people from real communities with real families, all Americans," he said.

And personal security and safety has become a growing concern.

"You ought to see some of the stuff that people write," the 1st District Republican congressman said. "Some of it is awful, horrible, pointed language," and some of it leads to security concerns.

"While vitriol in politics is nothing new, it has accelerated," he said.

When Fortenberry held a town hall meeting in Lincoln in March, it attracted a boisterous and largely critical crowd of more than a thousand people, many of whom were critical of the congressman's support for repeal of the Affordable Care Act.

Six Lincoln police officers were assigned to keep watch and, Fortenberry said, another four officers were sent to the scene at Lincoln Southwest High School as the evening proceeded.

"It's also about protecting other people who were there," the congressman said.

Fortenberry said Lincoln Police Chief Jeff Bliemeister phoned him Wednesday in the wake of the gunman's attack in Alexandria, Virginia, to offer his support.

House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, who was shot while he was standing at second base during the baseball team's early-morning practice, is "a friend of mine with whom I have a strong working relationship," Fortenberry said.

Fortenberry attended high school and college in Louisiana, where Scalise represents the 1st District.

Although public discussion of security needs and concerns is a delicate topic, Fortenberry said that this week's events add "a necessary intensity of vigilance."

Other members of Nebraska's congressional delegation expressed their concern on social media.

In a tweet, Sen. Deb Fischer said she was praying for Scalise and the others injured in the shooting.

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KLIN: Congressman Fortenberry Is Shocked and Grieved By Shooting Spree In Virginia

2017/06/15

Nebraska Congressman Jeff Fortenberry tells KLIN's LNK Today that he is shocked and grieved by the shooting spree where congressmen were practicing baseball in Virginia. Congressman Fortenberry says it only adds to the tragedy that the gunman attempted his shooting spree in an area where children were present.

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Omaha World Herald: Shooting at GOP Baseball Practice Injures Louisiana Congressman, Several Others

2017/06/14

WASHINGTON -- House Majority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana was shot Wednesday at a congressional baseball practice in Alexandria, Virginia, officials said.

A congressional aide said Scalise was in stable condition at George Washington University Hospital.

Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Ala., said several other people also were hit, including two law enforcement officers.

Brooks said that Scalise, 51, was down on the ground with what Brooks described as “a hip wound.”

Later, Alexandria police tweeted that the gunman was arrested and no longer a threat.

Rep. Mike Bishop, R-Mich., said Scalise was standing on second base when he was shot.

“I was looking right at him,” Bishop told Detroit radio station WWJ. “He was a sitting duck.”

Scalise is the No. 3 House Republican leader. He was first elected to the House in 2008 after serving in the state legislature.

Rep. Jeff Duncan said in a statement that he was at the practice and “saw the shooter.”

“Please pray for my colleagues,” Duncan said.

No members of the Nebraska or Iowa congressional delegations are on the roster for the Thursday night game between congressional Republicans and Democrats. The entire Nebraska delegation was at the weekly Nebraska breakfast when reports of the shooting began to come in.

Brooks, the Alabama congressman, later appeared on CNN and described hearing a loud "bam," seeing a rifle and then another "bam," and then hearing Scalise scream. The shooter continued to fire, he said.

“He continues to fire at different people. You can imagine all the people on the field scatter. I run around to the first base side on the batting cage … and hide behind the plastic. … Gunfire continues. Heard a break in the gunfire and decided to take a chance.”

He said he applied a tourniquet to someone, though he did identify that person.

Brooks said security guards returned fire.

“There must have been 50 to 100 shots fired,” Brooks said.

It seemed the shooter shot the security detail, Brooks said, and then started circling around third base.

“My understanding it that’s where our security detail … still defending us, took him down. Once we got the 'all clear' that the shooter was down, we went out to the outfield for Steve Scalise, he had crawled out in the outfield leaving a trail of blood.”

At least five people were wounded, Brooks said.

As the No. 3 House Republican, Scalise has a round-the-clock Capitol Police detail.

Had he not been at Wednesday’s practice, it’s unlikely there would have been any law enforcement immediately present — which, Sen. Rand Paul told MSNBC, almost certainly would have resulted in a “massacre.”

“Everyone probably would have died” without the presence of Capitol Police, Paul, R-Ky., told MSNBC. Simply by being there with his protective detail, Paul said, Scalise “probably saved everyone else’s life.”

Multiple Capitol Police officers were injured in the shooting, members of Congress said, but they are expected to survive.

The 7:30 a.m. gathering in the park in the 400 block of East Monroe Street was the final practice before Thursday night’s scheduled game between Republicans and Democrats at Nationals Park. The park is near the Potomac Yard shopping center on Route 1 and Old Town Alexandria. It has two well-groomed baseball fields, one big and one smaller, for little leaguers. It is adjacent to a YMCA and across the street from a CVS and an Aldi grocery store.

Five people were taken from the shooting scene for medical treatment, police said.

Authorities did not say if that number included the shooter, who reportedly also was injured and taken to a hospital.

“We know that five people were transported medically from the scene,” Alexandria Police Chief Michael L. Brown said during a short press briefing.

Capitol Police said they have a "robust police presence" around the Capitol, but the building remains open.

Members of the Nebraska delegation members and aides watched developments scrolling on Twitter with shock during the weekly breakfast.

“Terrible,” Rep. Don Bacon, R-Neb., said as he heard some of the details coming in.

Rep. Adrian Smith, R-Neb., used to play in the annual bipartisan competition but retired some years ago.

As emcee of Wednesday’s event, Smith started off by noting the shooting and asking everyone to pray for those affected and to understand if members seemed rattled.

“I’m kind of shaken by it,” Smith said.

Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, R-Neb., told The World-Herald that Scalise is a close friend and that he was simply at a loss for words, just hoping his friend will be OK.

Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., tweeted “Praying for @SteveScalise and the others injured at baseball practice in Alexandria, Virginia this morning.”

Fortenberry later told the Nebraska gathering that Scalise is a “close personal friend.”

“I frankly am still processing this,” Fortenberry said.

He told the audience that in spite of a lot of cynicism, Washington has many people engaged in public service for the right reasons. He said no one in society, including those in political leadership, deserves to be the target of such violence.

“You can disagree, you can write notes, you can be very strong and robust,” Fortenberry said. “You ought to see some of the things that are written about me, written about Adrian, Deb, Don. Awful, it’s awful stuff.”

He said that kind of vitriol must be absorbed in a free and open society.

“But when it spills over into deliberate violence against persons, it’s just wrong,” Fortenberry said. “It tears at the heart of who we are as a country.”

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Lincoln Journal Star: Members of Nebraska Delegation Respond to 'Terrible Incident' on Baseball Practice Field

2017/06/14

As news broke Wednesday morning of multiple people being shot at a congressional baseball team practice, members of Nebraska's congressional delegation expressed their concern.

In a tweet, Sen. Deb Fischer said she was praying for House Majority Whip Steve Scalise and the others injured in a shooting on a baseball field in a park in Alexandria, Virginia.

First year Rep. Don Bacon said on social media that all members of the Nebraska delegation were safe.

Said Congressman Jeff Fortenberry on Twitter: "

I'm shocked, I'm grieved, I'm numb about the shooting of my friend Steve Scalise."

It's unclear if any members of the Nebraska delegation were at the practice for Republican members of the baseball team preparing for Thursday night's scheduled game for charity.

Click here to read the entire article.

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Contact Information

1514 Longworth HOB
Washington, DC 20515
Phone 202-225-4806
Fax 202-225-5686
fortenberry.house.gov

Jeff Fortenberry was elected to the United States House of Representatives in 2004 to serve Nebraska’s First Congressional District. His work in Congress is rooted in the belief that the strength of our nation depends on the strength of our families and communities. Jeff is a member of the House Appropriations Committee, which appropriates United States government expenditures. He serves on three subcommittees with importance for Nebraska: Agriculture, Energy and Water, and Military Construction and Veterans Affairs.

Jeff previously served on the House Foreign Affairs Committee where he placed particular focus on human rights concerns, Middle Eastern affairs, and nuclear weapons non-proliferation. He also represented Nebraska on the Agriculture Committee, where his work on two Farm Bills advanced opportunities for young and beginning farmers and promoted agricultural entrepreneurship.

Prior to serving in Congress, Jeff worked as a publishing industry executive in Lincoln, where he also served on the Lincoln City Council from 1997-2001. Jeff also has significant personal experience in small business, and early in his career he worked as a policy analyst for the United States Senate Subcommittee on Intergovernmental Relations. Jeff earned a bachelor’s degree in economics and two master’s degrees, one in public policy. He and his wife Celeste live in Lincoln and have five daughters.


Serving With

Don Bacon

NEBRASKA's 2nd DISTRICT

Adrian Smith

NEBRASKA's 3rd DISTRICT

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