The Space Industry Aiding National Security--This Week in Congress

Last week in Committee... Although two of my committees were idle, the House Armed Services Committee was very active last week. On Tuesday, the Full Committee met to discuss the realignment and bed-down of forces returning to stateside locations from Europe and the Far East. Since the end of the Cold War, our overseas basing structure has remained largely unchanged. The purpose of the hearing was to receive testimony from the Department of Defense on the plans to close many overseas basing locations and bring forces back to the United States.

On Wednesday, there were two more hearings. The first was on the U.S. Space Industry and how it relates to National Security. Basically, without our GPS, Weather, Com, Surveillance, and Imaging satellites, our quality of life would be vastly different. We would return to living a 1960s lifestyle and fighting wars similar to the way we fought in Vietnam. For example, one target can be destroyed today with one bomb using GPS guidance. During the Vietnam War, to destroy one target took an entire flight of aircraft (4 to 6 F-111 fighters) each armed with 6 to 8 bombs.

The second hearing was on the Department of Defense energy strategy. The Pentagon is the single largest energy user in the world -- accounting for 2% of total U.S. consumption. For every $1 rise in the price of a barrel of oil, it costs the Air Force an additional $10 million dollars to operate on a daily basis. The Department of Defense wants to explore the use of alternative fuels.

On Thursday, there were another two hearings. The first was on advances and developments within the People's Liberation Army of China, and the second was classified.

Last week on the House Floor...

[HR:5631], the Department of Defense Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2007

This bill would appropriate $427.6 billion for defense programs, including $50 billion for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. The total includes $120.5 billion for operations and maintenance, $81.8 billion for procurement, and $75.3 billion for research and development. It also would provide $9 billion for ballistic missile defense and $84.9 billion for military personnel, including a 2.2 percent pay raise. This bill passed the House, with my support, by a vote of 407-19.

[HR:5638], the Permanent Estate Tax Relief Act of 2006

This bill would reduce the estate tax, providing an exemption of $5 million for individuals and $10 million for couples, effective in 2010 and indexed for inflation. Beginning in 2010, the estate tax rate would be equal to that on capital gains for estates up to $25 million and twice that for estates valued at $25 million or more. The bill would also provide a 60% deduction in capital gains from qualified timber sales. This bill passed the House, with my support, by a vote of 269-156.

[HR:4890], the Legislative Line Item Veto Act of 2006

This bill would authorize the president to recommend that appropriations, direct spending and targeted tax benefits be cancelled. The bill would establish expedited procedures for votes on proposed rescissions. This bill passed the House, with my support, by a vote of 247-172.

I have signed on as a cosponsor to the following legislation:

[HR:5590], The Stealth Tax Relief Extension Act of 2006 (Original Cosponsor)

This bill would extend relief from the alternative minimum tax (AMT) for one year. It would allow nonrefundable personal credits to be used against AMT liabilities and would raise AMT exemption levels. Under the bill the exemption income levels for single filers would be increased from $42,500 to $44,900 and for joint filers from $62,550 to $66,100. Although the alternative minimum tax was designed to prevent a small number of taxpayers from paying little or no income tax, it has inadvertently trapped millions middle-class taxpayers.

[HR:4188], the Focus on Family Health Worldwide Act of 2005

This bill amends the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 to authorize the President, through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), to provide assistance for voluntary family planning programs in developing countries, including activities to: (1) improve public knowledge of voluntary family planning programs; (2) support public and private voluntary family planning programs, including networks for community based and subsidized commercial distribution of contraceptives; (3) expand training for health care providers and educators; (4) provide improved coordination between voluntary family planning programs and programs that receive U.S. assistance for the prevention of HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections; and (5) strengthen supply chain logistics for the procurement and distribution of safe contraceptives, including coordination with the supply chain for HIV/AIDS prevention, care, and treatment. It also gives priority to developing countries with acute family planning and maternal health needs.

[HR:4517], a bill amends the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act to restore federal aid for the repair, restoration, and replacement of private nonprofit educational facilities damaged or destroyed by a major disaster.

The bill would allow private nonprofit colleges and universities to apply directly to FEMA for repair to damaged facilities.

[HR:5291], the Gang Elimination Act of 2006

This bill directs the Attorney General to report to Congress on a national strategy to eliminate the illegal operations of National Threat Drug Gangs (i.e., the top three international drug gangs that present the greatest threat to law and order in the United States). It sets forth criteria for the Attorney General to consider in identifying a National Threat Drug Gang, including (1) ties to international terrorist organizations or state sponsored terrorism; (2) the volume of controlled substances imported or distributed by such gangs; and (3) the threat to children and schools in the United States.

[HR:5319], the Deleting Online Predators Act of 2006

This bill would require schools and libraries to monitor the internet activities and implement technology to protect children from accessing commercial networking websites where children can be preyed upon by predators or receive or view indecent material.

 

These are recent letters that I have signed:

To the President of the United States, asking for continued leadership and direct support to Serbia to promote stability in the Balkan region. Integration of this still fragile part of Europe into the EU and NATO is a process that requires the support and awareness of the President.

To the President of the European Commission, expressing concerns regarding Turkey's ongoing denial of the Armenian Genocide, recognition of which is fundamental to the shared values of the United States and Europe. It also expresses concern with Turkey's lack of progress in adhering to the to basic democratic principles.

To the Chairman and Ranking Member of the House Ways and Means Committee, on behalf of the hospitals that were reclassified for purposes of Medicare's wage index by section 508 of the Medicare Modernization Act to ask that Congress renew these classifications.

To the Chairmen of the House Ways and Means and House Education and Workforce Committees, urging them to help conferees to report a pension reform bill before the July 4th recess. The letter also asks that the conferees include language that will preserve airline employees' retirement benefits without placing that burden on the U.S. taxpayers and the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation.

To the Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), asking that CMS continue to match at 50% on university contracts so that Medicaid work can continue without a cloud of uncertainty of future disallowances.