Consumers Deserve To Pay True Cost for Gas

On May 3, the House passed the Federal Energy Price Protection Act of 2006, [HR:5253], a bill giving the Federal Trade Commission the authority to prosecute instances of price gouging in the market for gasoline, diesel fuel, crude oil, home heating oil and biofuels. The bill passed 389-34, with my support. I am well aware of the pain that my constituents are experiencing at the pump and they deserve to know that the price they pay for gasoline reflects its true cost.



The House also passed the Lobbying Accountability and Transparency Act of 2006, [HR:4975], with my support, by a vote of 217 - 213. This bill will reform the lobbying and earmark process to bring greater sense of transparency and accountability. It is important that all elected officials are held to the highest ethical standards and to maintain the trust and confidence of our constituents.

On May 4, the House voted on the Security and Accountability For Every Port Act or the SAFE Port Act, [HR:4954]. It passed overwhelmingly with my support 421-2. This bill is based on a layered security strategy that builds on existing initiatives to improve port and cargo security both at home and abroad. This legislation is important to protecting our nation from terrorism, natural disasters, or other threats to our safety.

On May 9, I voted in favor of the Respect for America's Fallen Heroes Act, [HR:5037], which will prevent disruption of military funerals at national cemeteries beginning 60 minutes before and continuing for 60 minutes after a service, and keep protestors at least 500 feet away from mourners during any demonstration. It also includes a sense of Congress that all 50 states should adopt similar legislation affecting military funeral and burial sites. The bill passed 408-3.

As a veteran of the Vietnam War and a member of the House Armed Services Committee, I was more than willing to cosponsor this bill and delighted to see it pass the House overwhelmingly.

It is my firm belief that anyone who risks their life for our country deserves our highest esteem and utmost respect, especially those who fall in the line of duty. A protest at a military funeral is a cruel and ridiculous stunt that puts unnecessary stress and hardship on the families and friends mourning their loss. The least we in Congress can do is protect our military families during this difficult time and ensure that they are not subjected to this abuse.

The House passed the Tax Increase Prevention and Reconciliation Act of 2005, [HR:4297], on May 10 with my support. This bill extends the reduced 15 percent tax rate for capital gains and dividends for two more years, and extends recent changes to the alternative minimum tax (AMT) for this year. These changes will save investors $70 billion and protect 15 million taxpayers from being hurt by the AMT. The bill passed 244 - 185.

This bill will encourage more economic growth while protecting shareholders and families, and it will also provide some relief for the overburdened taxpayers in our country. This tax relief legislation, however, will not save the economy by itself. Congress needs to stop overspending, reduce burdensome regulations, and encourage more math and science education.

After two days of debate, the House passed the Defense Authorization bill, [HR:5122], with my support, on May 11. The bill passed 396-31. This bill authorizes $512.9 billion for defense programs in FY07. This funding includes $50 billion in emergency spending for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan; increased funding for force protection needs including up-armored Humvees, Humvee IED protection kits and gunner protection kits, improvised explosive device (IED) jammers, and state-of-the-art body armor; and a 2.7% pay raise for all members of the armed forces.

I successfully sought an increase to the authorized funding for the Michigan STARBASE program, a Department of Defense program that immerses at-risk students in a highly technical math and science environment at a military bases or installation for five weeks. The program began at Selfridge Air National Guard Base in 1991 with support from a grant by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. STARBASE was so successful, the Department of Defense adopted the program and now provides its funding. Today, the program operates in fifty locations, training 50,000 students annually at military bases across the United States. The Battle Creek Air National Guard Base could realize a STARBASE program of their own benefiting students in Calhoun, Kalamazoo Branch, Jackson, and Eaton counties.

I was also an ardent supporter of a $6.8 million increase in the procurement technical assistance center (PTAC) budget. There are PTACs in Jackson and Livonia that service my constituents. PTACs train and educate the small business community on how to bid for federal procurement contracts so that the federal government has a broader, more competitive supplier base. PTACs help increase small business revenue, create jobs, and provide a boost to the local economy.

Legislation Addressing U.S. Competitiveness in the Global Economy

Our nation is facing a true crisis of competitiveness. Our workforce is not dominant in the global economy. Our primary and secondary schools are lagging behind the rest of the world. Countries like China and India are graduating millions more math, science, and engineering students than the United States. We cannot afford to sit idly by or we face a realistic chance of a decline in our standard of living.

In this year's State of the Union address, President Bush announced the American Competitiveness Initiative and the Advanced Energy Initiative, which together would strengthen the economic position of the U.S. by doubling the budgets of key science agencies, renewing our nation's focus on K-12 math and science education, and developing new fuel sources that will help break the U.S. addition to foreign oil.

Part of the solution to this problem is improving our education system. We need highly qualified individuals teaching our students at all levels,especially in the fields of math, science, and engineering.

Last week, I introduced [HR:5358], a bill that will strengthen and expand existing K-12 and undergraduate education programs at the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Department of Energy (DOE). It will provide the financial incentive to create the necessary teacher workforce, and get our nation back on track to being the technological leader in the global economy.

Please visit the "U.S. Innovation and Competitiveness" page on the House Science Committee website to learn more about what the Science Committee has been doing as an active leader in addressing our economic competitiveness challenges and promoting energy independence.