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Furloughed federal workers may lose some health benefits: US senators

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Four U.S. senators expressed concern on Wednesday that federal employees affected by the partial government shutdown could lose their dental and vision health insurance benefits if they are unable to pay their premiums.

In a letter to the government’s Office of Personnel Management (OPM), Democratic Senators Mark Warner, Tim Kaine, Chris Van Hollen and Ben Cardin said forcing workers to pay the premiums during the shutdown would be “unacceptable.”

Some 800,000 federal employees have been furloughed or are working without pay since the shutdown began on Dec. 22, after Republican President Donald Trump and Democrats in Congress deadlocked over his demand for $5.7 billion for a border wall with Mexico.

With no paychecks and thus no payroll deductions, federal workers subject to the shutdown will miss paying their vision and dental premiums. OPM has said workers would start receiving bills for the premiums depending on how long the shutdown lasts.

“We are alarmed that unpaid federal employees will be required to incur this additional financial hardship during a time when they can least afford it,” the senators said.

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The senators said some insurers were willing to allow workers to continue coverage without payment and urged OPM to work with all insurers to help employees maintain their coverage.

The states the senators represent – Virginia for Warner and Kaine and Maryland for Cardin and Van Hollen – have a large population of federal workers. Many of those affected by the shutdown have turned to unemployment assistance, food banks and other support, or have sought new jobs.

OPM did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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Reporting by Eric Beech; Editing by Kevin Drawbaugh and Peter Cooney


Report typos and corrections to [email protected].
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WATCH: Civil rights icon John Lewis drops the hammer on Trump — and has no qualms about calling his remarks racist

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On Tuesday, the fallout continued from remarks President Trump made telling four freshman congresswomen -- and women of color -- that they should go back to their own countries.

While some prominent Republicans criticized the president, they stopped short of calling his comments racist.

MSNBC reported Tuesday that Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) -- a civil rights icon -- deemed Trump's remarks racist.

"This is not any, any way for the president of the United States of America to be attacking to be saying what he's saying about these young women," Lewis said.

"It's just dead wrong. We must use everything in a nonviolent way to say that it's wrong."

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Trump believes white nationalism is a winning strategy — because Fox News tells him so

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Donald Trump thinks white nationalism is going to win him the 2020 election. This much is clear. Trump's racist Twitter rant on Sunday — in which he suggested that four nonwhite congresswomen, three of whom were born in the United States, are "originally" from somewhere else and should therefore "go back" — might have seemed at first like a spontaneous eruption of racist rage from the simmering bigot in the White House.

Soon, however, it became clear that this was strategic. Trump thinks it's a winning move to echo the claims of David Duke and other white nationalists who believe the United States is for white people. He justified his racism by saying that "many people agree with me," and by continuing to rave on Twitter about how the real purveyors of "racist hatred" are those who look askance at his embracing the rhetoric of Stormfront and the KKK.

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‘White supremacy is a hell of a drug’: columnist explains the GOP’s garbled response to Trump

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On Tuesday, President Donald Trump addressed comments he'd made telling four freshman congresswomen -- all American citizens and women of color -- to go back to their countries.

The comments set off a furor that the president was being outwardly racist.

“It's up to them. They can do what they want. They can leave, they can stay, but they should love our country,” the president told reporters Tuesday when he was asked about his remarks.

On CNN Tuesday, New York Times columnist Wajahat Ali explained how Donald Trump's comments -- and his Republican counterparts' refusal to call them racist -- is rooted in a dangerous white supremacy, or terror at the "browning of America."

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