I have been so busy lately with my real life responsibilities that the blog hasn’t really been a priority. Below you will find some of the September “This Week in Washington” reports from Congressman Graves. This is his weekly update newsletter of what is going on in Washington.
The first is from September 10th. In it he discusses health care and MaObama’s joint lecture to gain disciples on the healthcare debate. One intersting thing he mentions is a bill that passed last week that he voted against. HR 965 authorizes “such sums as necessary” to pay for the Chesapeake Bay Initiative Act. Yeah, not kiddin “such sums as necessary” in other words 311 idiot Congresmen/women just gave a blank check to a Federal program. And people wonder why we are $13 trillion in debt and Social Security and Medicare are broke.
This Week in Washington- September 10, 2009
It was a very short week in Washington due to the Labor Day holiday and tomorrow’s observance of September 11th. It is a testament to the good job that our intelligence and law enforcement agencies have done that we have not had another 9/11-style attack happen in this country.
Even today, we have hundreds of thousands of soldiers serving in harms way across the globe. For every soldier serving his or her country over there, we have proud and anxious families waiting for them here. To all of them I say, thank you for your sacrifice.
Health Care Speech
The President delivered a speech on health care to a rare joint session of Congress on Wednesday night. The President said many of the same things he has said before.
He did mention medical malpractice. However, he only promised some demonstration projects. I got the sense that this was simply bi-partisan window-dressing and not a serious commitment to seek medical malpractice reform.
He also said he is open to new ideas. I hope he means that because if he wants a bi-partisan bill, I believe he and the Speaker need to push the reset button. The Chairwoman of the Small Business Committee, Nydia Velázquez, and I have a bi-partisan bill that would help small business pool together and buy health insurance as one big company instead of many small ones. Over half of the uninsured are small business owners, their employees or their dependents. We can do this at just a fraction of the cost of Nancy Pelosi’s bill.
In addition, I would support many provisions that we have talked about previously including making sure that people with pre-existing conditions are not discriminated against. I would also support doing away with state lines and forcing insurance companies to compete against one another for customers.
This bill cannot be a partisan solution. However, as long as the President continues to push for a public option that will hurt the quality of our health care and quickly become our only option, I am going to oppose this bill.
And lastly, let me just say that the President’s analysis that this bill will not add one dime to the federal deficit is flat out false according to every independent analysis that I can find. There is certainly waste, fraud and abuse in the system, but I don’t believe for a second that more bureaucracy is going to improve the situation.
H.R. 965 – Chesapeake Bay Gateways and Watertrails Network Continuing Authorization Act –It would permanently authorize the Chesapeake Bay Initiative Act and authorize “such sums as necessary” to carry out the programs under the Act. The Chesapeake Bay Initiative Act requires the National Park Service (NPS) to work with State and local governments and the private sector to provide assistance to communities, museums, historic sites, and natural parks around the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries. It runs on a $3 million/year appropriation. I do not think permanently authorizing a program at “such sums as necessary” is something any responsible government should do. It passed on a 311-107 vote.
Small Business Committee
The House Small Business Committee heard testimony from federal agencies, small businesses, healthcare providers and financial institutions on preparedness efforts and concerns about the 2009-H1N1 influenza.
If a pandemic develops, it is essential for small businesses and others to be prepared. The H1N1 virus may leave small businesses with extended employee absences and affect customers and their supply chain.
Because this virus was initially called the “swine flu” it has had a negative impact on our pork industry. There is no evidence that this disease is spread through our food chain. Our food supply is safe and we need to make sure that message is heard.
We will be back in session next week.
This next one comes from September 17th. In it Mr. Graves discusses the Baucus health care plan that was proposed last week. Yet another health care plan with little support. He talks about ACORN and pledges to follow up on legislation, thank you Mr. Graves! Another thing he discusses is something that all should be alarmed at, especially if you are in college or have kids going to college. HR 3221 “Student Aid and Financial Responsibility Act of 2009.” Sounds innocent right? Not really. This is a complete government takeover of the student loans by the government. You want a loan for college, now the US treasury is who your money goes to. This is dangerous because during the campaign Obama was talking about compulsory service as part of requirements for recieving student loans. This bill had 6 Republican “Ayes,’ Buchanan, Cao, Johnson (IL), Petri, Platts, Ros-Lehtinen. Republicans are supposed to stand up against this sort of crap. There were only four Democrats that voted ‘No,” Boyd (Fl), Herseth Sandlin (SD), Kanjorski (PA), McMahon (NY). Call your Senator and demand a no vote on HR 3221!
This Week in Washington- September 17, 2009
Senator Max Baucus of Montana introduced his $856 billion version of health care reform legislation this week. Probably the biggest thing in it is an individual mandate for health insurance. The federal government will mandate that you carry health insurance or you will face a penalty of $900 for an individual or $3,800 for a family. This blatantly violates the President’s pledge that if you make under $250,000 you will not see your taxes go up.
If you are a small business and do not provide health insurance, there will be a $400 penalty per employee. This will be a huge incentive for businesses to drop health insurance coverage for their employees. This will result in more Americans who will have to find a new health insurance provider. This would break the President’s pledge that if you like your health care, you can keep it.
There were a few good things in the Baucus plan, but it did not get a single Republican co-sponsor and many Democrats said they would not vote for it. As I said earlier this week, we need to hit the reset button and work on bi-partisan bill for health insurance reform.
In addition to health care, the House voted to cut all funding for ACORN. I will be following this legislation very closely and hope to see it signed into law. This is a corrupt organization who I believe has misused taxpayer dollars. I hope the Federal Bureau of Investigation will open an investigation into their activities.
H.R. 3246 – Advanced Vehicle Technology Act of 2009 – This bill would authorize appropriations totaling $2.85 billion over the 2010-2014 period for the Department of Energy to support research to reduce the number of vehicles fuels that generate high emissions. CBO estimates that implementing the legislation would cost $2.43 billion over the 2010-2014 period and $423 million after 2014. This bill passed on Wednesday by a vote of 312-114.
Republicans wanted to amend the bill to prevent double dipping and duplicative funding for vehicle technologies at the Department of Energy. This legislation has already been included in numerous other legislative measures. However that motion failed by a vote of 180-245.
2. H.R. 3221 – Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2009 –Yet another government takeover. The “Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act” would abolish the longstanding privately-run Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) and replace it with taxpayer-financed lending from the U.S. Treasury. By giving the federal government a monopoly over student lending, this plan will eliminate choice, competition, and innovation in our student loan system. It passed on a 253-171 vote.
The House will be in session next week.
The last one here is from September 25th. There is lots of odds and ends in this one and nothing too outrageous. ACORN is mentioned, further promises by Mr. Graves to go after this wasteful corrupt organization. One thing I thought interesting, apparently there is some issue with being able to fund the government, they nearly missed the Sept. 30th deadline and had to push some stuff into October. Ah, yes, the smell of sweet success in WADC!
This Week in Washington- September 25, 2009
Another interesting week in Washington. Congress was faced with a September 30th deadline to fund the government. However, because it is not even close to meeting that deadline, a host of programs were extended to October 31st. Representative Jordan of Ohio proposed that we fund the government at the 2008 level, instead of the 2009 level. It would have saved taxpayers $84 billion dollars. Predictably the Speaker didn’t allow a vote on this proposal.
The Baucus health care bill ($856 Billion) is being debated in the Senate Finance Committee. Speaker Pelosi is now saying that she hopes to have something on the House floor in mid-October. I’m not sure she has the votes to pass it.
The IRS announced that it will sever all ties with ACORN. Senators and Representatives are calling for an investigation. I would support that. This is a group that has used $53 million in taxpayer funds since 1994. Congress needs to do a better job of making sure that taxpayer money isn’t wasted like this.
Unemployment Compensation: The House by a 331-83 vote passed H.R. 3548, providing an additional 13 weeks of unemployment compensation benefits in states with unemployment rates above 8.5 percent- including Missouri. I voted to extend those benefits.
Small Business Extension: The House passed H.R. 3614 by a vote of 417- 2. The bill would extend the authorization of the Small Business Administration (SBA) through October 31, 2009. The current authorization for SBA is scheduled to expire on September 30, 2009. As the Ranking Member of the Small Business Committee, I know that these programs are important and are helping small businesses create jobs.
FAA Extension: On Wednesday, the House passed H.R. 3607 by voice vote. The bill would extend certain authorities of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for three months, through December 31, 2009. The bill would extend the FAA’s authority to spend money from the Airport and Airway Trust Fund, their authority to charge taxes, and their appropriated spending levels.
Highway Extension: The House also passed H.R. 3617 by a vote of 335- 85. This bill would extend federal highway and surface transportation programs and authorize the appropriation of funding from the Highway Trust Fund for three months. I voted for it because we need to fund infrastructure and because building roads and bridges also spurs economic development.
Santa Cruz Valley Heritage Area: The House passed H.R. 324 by a vote of 281-142. The bill would establish the 3,325 square mile Santa Cruz Valley National Heritage Area in Santa Cruz and Pima counties in Arizona and authorize $15 million in federal funds to pay for the designation. I voted against this measure because it is more spending we do not need.
Medicare Premium Fairness: On Thursday, the House passed by a 406-18 vote H.R. 3631, providing that no Medicare beneficiary will receive an increase in Part B premiums next year. Since right now there will be no Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) for 2010, I don’t believe the federal government should increase premiums on some of those same seniors.
Small Business Committee
The House Small Business Committee heard testimony about the impact of regulatory reform for small businesses this week.
I support smarter financial regulatory reform. However, I am concerned that upcoming legislation takes a one-size fits all approach to regulation. This will create more burdens on small businesses and make it harder for them to get credit. We have to strike the right balance.
I will host a Future Leaders Academy on Monday and Congress will return on Tuesday. Have a good weekend.