Defense Bill Represents Achievement and Disappointment

These are difficult times, and we are asking our military to do difficult things. With this bill, we continue to support them by providing equipment, training, resources and peace of mind for their families. I am disappointed that many good Democratic amendments were not made in order. Our servicemembers and the overall Department of Defense would have benefited greatly from their inclusion. One significant provision that was rejected on a near party-line vote would have eliminated the Widow's Tax paid by the spouses of servicemembers who either are killed in combat or lose their lives as a result of combat wounds. It is unfortunate that an amendment to correct this unjust offset was not agreed to.

While we would always like to do more, this bill does a lot of good things for our troops, their families and the national security of our nation.


Call on Bush to Hear the Pleas of America's Seniors

Implementation of the unnecessarily complex Medicare prescription drug program has been fraught with problems. As a result, nine million of the 17.7 million people who either lacked or had limited prescription drug coverage before Part D continue to lack coverage.

Yet the Bush Administration has to date refused to take a simple action that is guaranteed to increase enrollment. According to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, delaying the May 15th enrollment deadline and waiving the corresponding late enrollment penalty would enable an additional one million people to sign up this year – and lower premiums for millions of Medicare beneficiaries for the rest of their lives.

My legislation to extend the deadline, The Medicare Informed Choice Act, H.R. 3861, has the bipartisan support of more than 160 Members of Congress. According to a recent Washington Post-ABC News poll, seniors and people with disabilities overwhelmingly support an extension of the deadline.

I sincerely hope that on or before Monday, May 15th, the Bush Administration hears and acts upon the pleas of America’s seniors. 


Boyle Hearing Essential in Preserving Nomination Process

The Gang of 14 isn’t a rogue group out to change the process of judicial nominations—our role instead is to ensure the judicial nomination process works. And our letter today to the Judiciary Committee requesting another hearing on Judge Boyle is the first step in upholding this process.


Extend The Support to US Troops

Overall, the 2007 National Defense Authorization Act is a good bill, but authorizing only 6 months of funding for the troops in the field at $50 billion, as opposed to a full year at $92 billion, says to them, "Congress supports you 100 percent for 50 percent of the year."


US Will Not Abandon Currency Issue with China

The continued practice of the Chinese manipulating their currency is devastating to American manufacturers.  We had good meetings with the Chinese on our visit in March, but if that's mistaken for an abandonment of the issue that would be a mistake on their part. 

Army Should Study Decreasing Troop Deployment Time

Soldiers from Tennessee tell me these year-long deployments can be very tough on them and their families and ask whether it's possible to switch to a six-month deployment schedule. The Navy, Air Force and Marines use the six-month deployment schedule, and the Army has used six-month deployments in past missions. Army leaders at the Pentagon have discussed this issue both privately and publicly since at least 2004, and we believe the Secretary of the Army should bring to Congress a full report on the pros and cons of such a change, including how it could affect troop morale.


Peterson Drilling Proposal is Misguided

Rep. Peterson just doesn’t get it. We can’t drill our way to energy independence. Peterson’s amendment will reverse a long standing Congressional moratorium that has always enjoyed strong bi-partisan, bi-cameral support. This Congressional moratorium has effectively protected coastal areas from new oil and gas drilling on the West Coast, the entire East Coast, and the Eastern Gulf of Mexico for 25 years.

Last year I successfully led the effort to protect the bipartisan moratorium on new offshore drilling by defeating Rep. Peterson's attempts to remove the protections from the Fiscal Year 2006 Interior Appropriations bill. Earlier this year I sent a letter, cosigned by 114 of my House colleagues, to the Appropriations Committee urging them to maintain these protections against off shore oil and gas drilling. It’s a shame that the Appropriations Committee is wasting time pursuing another failed energy policy that won’t solve our nation’s energy needs and has been repeatedly and resoundingly been rejected by the House and the American public.

Unfortunately, Rep. Peterson’s renewed proposal to allow new oil and gas drilling off of our economically and environmentally priceless coastline is as misguided as it was last year. So called "gas only" drilling has been dismissed by the Administration and even the oil industry as a fool’s errand that is risky and not appealing to producers. To be perfectly clear drilling for gas means drilling for oil. To pretend otherwise is just folly. I will fight this terrible proposal and work with my colleagues to continue to protect the ban on new oil and gas drilling off of our coasts.


A Step Towards Domestic Gas Production

Congress took an important first step yesterday toward fixing an energy supply problem it created more than a generation ago. With the Appropriations Committee going on record in support of safe natural gas production, the burden has now shifted onto those who oppose the safe production of domestic natural gas to explain to the American people why this country should continue to lock up vast reserves of energy while home-grown industries and the American consumer class continue to pay the highest prices in the world.

I look forward to leading that debate on the House floor. I don't believe it's an overstatement to suggest the future of the American economy may be riding on it.


GOP Imposing Drug Tax on Seniors

House Republicans are prepared to go along with the Bush administration and begin financially penalizing millions of American seniors who don't choose a drug plan by May 15th.

Imagine that----we still have millions of seniors surviving on fixed incomes, often making such desperate decisions between medicine and food. And now, House Republicans are prepared to add to that financial burden by instituting a tax they will be forced to pay every month for the rest of their lives.

If this Congress does not step in this week, more than five million seniors will face a Bush prescription drug tax when they finally decide to sign up for a drug plan after the May 15th deadline.

What is so magical about May 15th? The Bush administration made numerous mistakes during the first months of implementation that made choosing the right plan even more burdensome. Those mistakes have not yet been corrected. A GAO report released last week shows that 60-percent of the information from 1-800-MEDICARE or from the Medicare website is still incorrect. Why wouldn't the president and his Congressional friends want to help confused seniors out by giving them seven more months to pick the plan that is best for them?



FEMA Out Of Homeland Security Is Not the Answer

Simply moving FEMA out of the Department of Homeland Security won’t solve its problems.

We’ve done our homework on this and with the input of local authorities and first-responders, it’s clear that putting preparedness back with response, as we do in our bill, will greatly enhance the federal government’s ability to respond to any crisis.