Greetings to our constituents, fellow Floridians, and all Americans – a very fast-paced week, and here we are for our weekly update to you all. I must share a “Sense of the Congressman” at this time.
This is the last week of high school for my oldest daughter Aubrey Elizabeth. She will be graduating from Archbishop McCarthy and going on to attend Nova Southeastern University to begin her pre-med studies. I just want to take the time to express to all how proud I am of my daughter in this accomplishment. Likewise, my youngest daughter, Austen Brianna, will be completing her middle school years and beginning high school next year. And this Sunday Austen has made the decision to be fully baptized.
I have missed many moments in the lives of my daughters due to my commitment to serve my country. My responsibility has been to set the conditions for them to get the best possible education in order to grow and enjoy all the opportunities our great nation has to offer. My commitment to Aubrey and Austen, and all of your children and grandchildren, is to leave them a far better America than what was left for us, including economic prosperity and unyielding security.
This week was my first ever House Armed Services Committee, National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) mark-up. It was an incredible learning experience and gave me a clear insight into the strategic level of national security. From my nearly 25 years of uniformed and retired support to our U.S. military I experienced the tactical and operational levels of national security. It is critical that we continue to provide the resources and guidance to ensure we have the best trained and equipped military in the world, as indicated by the flawlessly executed US Navy SEAL raid to kill Osama bin Laden. In the legislative update section of this report, there will be more discussion on the results of the NDAA. It will now move to the House floor for vote
At this time we are contending with many issues of epic proportion: exorbitant debt and deficits, an eroding security situation in North Africa and the Middle East, questionable relations with Pakistan and operations in Afghanistan, a reconciliation pact between Fatah and Hamas, soaring gas prices in the face of the coming summer vacation season, and an unsecured border and rampant illegal immigration issues.
However, an issue surfaced which could undermine the very fabric of who we are in this constitutional republic.
This week a “draft” Executive Order was leaked which would force any entity competing for a federal government contract to disclose political and third party organization contributions as part of the “Request for Proposal (RFP)” submission process. I was fortunate to be a part of a joint hearing between the Small Business and Oversight and Government Reform Committees on this issue. Under the pretense of “transparency,” this is nothing more than an Obama Administration political maneuver. This represents an onerous intrusion of the federal government, but especially President Obama, because political contributions have nothing to do with meeting RFP criteria for services. I find this politicization of federal contracting reprehensible. The White House proves once again it rather play politics than actually govern our nation. These actions make the American people feel our government is untrustworthy. Is it possible the President believes we can be distracted? Or even worse, does he believe the successful US Navy SEAL raid gives him such carte blanche?
Perhaps I should remind us all that even a broken clock can be right twice a day.
– Putting the Gulf Back to Work – On Wednesday, the House approved H.R. 1229 by a vote of 263-163, I voted YES. The bill would amend the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act and would require the Secretary of the Interior to provide application denials in writing, complete with reasons why the application was not accepted, detailed information concerning any deficiencies, and any opportunities to remedy such deficiencies. H.R. 1229 would deem an application approved if the Secretary has not made a decision by the end of the 60-day period beginning on the date the application is received by the Secretary. H.R. 1229 would set deadlines for certain permit applications under existing leases, and it would provide 30 days, with no extension, for the Secretary to restart Gulf permits approved before the Administration’s moratorium was imposed on May 27, 2010. According to the Obama Administration’s own estimates, the six-month “official moratorium” (May 2010-October 2010) on drilling may have cost up to 12,000 American jobs. However, the long-term impacts of the de facto moratorium could be significantly higher. A study by Dr. Joseph Mason of Louisiana State University predicts if the de facto moratorium were sustained for 18 months, there could be a loss of 36,137 jobs nationwide, with 24,532 jobs lost in the Gulf Coast region alone.
– Reversing President Obama’s Moratorium Act — On Thursday, the House approved H.R. 1231 by a vote of 243-179, I voted YES. The bill would amend the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act to require that each five-year offshore oil and gas leasing program offer leasing in the areas with the most prospective oil and gas resources, and would establish a domestic oil and natural gas production goal. The bill would essentially lift the President’s ban on new offshore drilling by requiring the Administration to move forward on American energy production in areas estimated to contain the most oil and natural gas resources. Since President Obama took office, he has systematically taken steps to re-impose a new offshore drilling moratorium. The President first abandoned the 2010-2015 leasing plan that would have provided for oil and natural gas leasing in the newly opened areas. His administration postponed and cancelled previously scheduled lease sales in the Gulf of Mexico and Virginia identified in the 2007-2012 five-year leasing plan for the Outer Continental Shelf. In December 2010, the President announced a restrictive drilling plan that placed the entire Pacific Coast, the entire Atlantic Coast, the Eastern Gulf of Mexico, and much of Alaska off-limits to future energy production—as it was before record high gasoline prices in 2008 prompted President Bush and Congress to lift the moratoria.
– Intelligence Authorization for Fiscal Year 2011 — On Friday, the House approved H.R. 754 by a vote of 392-15, I voted YES. The bill would authorize programs and funding levels for the Intelligence Community, as well as foreign intelligence activities of the Department of Defense, Federal Bureau of Investigation, State Department, and Department of Homeland Security. These activities are intended to enhance national security, support and assist the Armed Forces, and facilitate U.S. foreign policy. The bill would provide budget authority and personnel manning levels for the conduct of intelligence activities in the amounts specified in the classified section of authorizations. This bill is the primary vehicle for exercising credible congressional oversight over the intelligence agencies yet there has not been an intelligence authorization bill, including funding authorities, enacted into law in six years. As a direct result, congressional oversight of our intelligence agencies—including spending—has been significantly diminished.
– National Defense Authorization Act of 2012 – At 3:00 am on Thursday morning, the House Committee on Armed Services voted to favorably report to the House of Representatives the FY2012 National Defense Authorization Act by a vote of 60-1. I voted YES. Important aspects of the NDAA included three amendments I offered that were passed by voice vote.
The first amendment authorizes to appropriate $8,000,000 to the Department of the Army for the development of a high efficiency air breathing turbine propulsion system for the Army Unmanned Aerial System (UAS).
The second amendment authorizes to appropriate $2,500,000 in funding for Defense Research Sciences for the Navy to conduct research into the magnetic and electric fields of the coastal ocean environment in furtherance of national security objectives.
The third amendment authorizes to appropriate $1,750,000 in funding for the Strategic Environmental Research Program for an offshore range environmental baseline assessment.
The funding authorized in each of these amendments are reprogrammed funds which come from wasteful Department of Defense offsets.
In addition to these three spending amendments, I offered, then withdrew an amendment version of the Global Combat Zone Recognition Act because it has yet to be scored by Congressional Budget Office (CBO) or Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT).
Finally, included in the Chairman’s bill were the three YouCut bills I introduced, which will generate a total savings of over $80 million in wasteful DOD spending in Fiscal Year 2012 alone.
Within the NDAA, I was one of only five Members who voted against an amendment that allows General Electric (GE) to continue to build the second engine for the F-35. Congress had voted overwhelmingly in H.R. 1 to follow the recommendations of the Department of Defense and Defense Secretary Gates to cut funding for this program. This amendment allows GE to backdoor the defense procurement system.
Finally, after the Subcommittee on Military Personnel voted in favor of a one year moratorium on increasing TRICARE fees, Chairman Buck McKeon altered language in the full committee mark-up that increases TRICARE fees in 2012, and then allows Department of Defense to make annual increases in TRICARE not greater than the percentage of COLA offered to military personnel each year. While the TRICARE increase for 2012 equals just $2.50/month and $5/month for individuals and families respectively, by linking it to COLA from 2013 on, it gives the DOD the ability to essentially raise fees every year from now on, except on those off years when the COLA is not adjusted. This seems to be a major break in the promise of TRICARE to those who joined the military. I do not support this full HASC initiative and recommendation on TRICARE.
Highlights of the Week:
– Tuesday, 10 May, met with Ms. Fran Hunsaker, mother of Leavenworth 10 Soldier, Sergeant William Hunsaker. We discussed his case, the current situation, and issues she has with the military judicial system. Once we have completed the NDAA bill, I shall push for our Military Personnel Subcommittee to set a hearing date. Met with the renowned writer and scholar, Dr. Walid Phares, who is possibly America’s foremost authority on Islamic Jihadism and Middle East affairs. Met with US Army War College staff group and discussed political-military issues. The group featured several senior officers from Senegal, United Kingdom, Poland, and United Arab Emirates and American Army and Marine officers. Spoke at a dinner hosted by Mr. Alex Sanchez, President of the Florida Bankers Association, which included some 20 Florida bank CEOs.
– Wednesday, 11 May, from 10:00 am to 3:00 am Thursday morning was spent in the HASC NDAA mark up. Simultaneously I participated in a Small Business Committee mark-up on Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) enhancement and reauthorization legislation. Had the distinct honor of presenting the GI Film Festival Hero Award to Korea and Vietnam veteran Colonel Wiedhahn (USMC, Ret.) at the reception kicking off the 2011 GI Film Festival.
– Thursday, 12 May, started off with a Florida legislator welcome for Realtor, Chamber, and Space Coast members which featured Lieutenant Governor Jennifer Carroll, Chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, and Senator Marco Rubio. Spoke to the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) at a luncheon held in the Hart Senate Office Building. Participated in a joint hearing on the “draft” Obama Executive Order on defense procurement contracting political contributions.
– Friday, 13 May, attended a classified briefing with FBI Director Robert Mueller on the PATRIOT Act. Flew home to Plantation for Constituent work week.
– Saturday, 14 May, participated in the Sixth Annual Palm Beach County Police Memorial motorcycle ride, and was keynote speaker. Stopped by the US Military Vets MC West Palm annual ride and party.
In closing, our Congressional office mailed out a letter to the President in support of releasing Jonathan Pollard. Justice has long been served and if President Obama consented to the release of the Lockerbie bomber, then this should not require much deliberation.
Finally, on Friday the news was given that Social Security will run into financial hardship by 2036 and benefits will be cut by 22%. The same report also stated that MEDICARE has until 2024 until it is financially insecure. We can listen to the inept response from the naysayers who just play a political blame game… or we can take action.
The choice is yours.
Steadfast and Loyal,