Politics

Amendment Shows Awareness of Threats Against U.S.

Our amendment would have adopted a CBO alternative proposal that reorganized the missile defense program in such a way as to eliminate programs that, quite simply, are wasteful and do not work. The amendment sought to chart a more responsible strategy for missile defense, focusing on research and development and the testing of current systems. Further, our amendment still provided for more than $4 billion in funding for Missile Defense Agency to accomplish this purpose.
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Tierney Amendment Wrong For Current Climate

The Tierney Amendment would have had a negative impact on national security by severely curtailing or terminating programs that protect our country against rogue nation missile attack. Simply put, now is not the time to gut our missile defense programs by slashing the Missile Defense Agency's budget in half, given the threats posed by such countries as North Korea and Iran. Frankly, I was surprised to see that amendment offered by members of the Intelligence Committee who should be aware of the threats facing this country.

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Providing Tax Relief for Middle-Income Americans

The tax bill is about strengthening the economy and protecting millions of families from higher tax bills because of the Alternative Minimum Tax. It will help small businesses, encourage the kind of investment that creates jobs and makes our economy grow, and ensure more fair tax treatment for middle-income families who would otherwise have to pay a tax intended for wealthy individuals.

Some Democrats have accused Republicans of abandoning popular tax breaks like the college tuition deduction, which will expire if we don’t extend it. That’s not the case. A second tax bill is in the works that will include relief for college students paying tuition, teachers buying supplies for their classrooms, and the research and development of innovative ideas that benefit our society. These items are popular with both Republicans and Democrats in Congress. Look for the second bill in the coming weeks.

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Improving Telecommuting in the Face of Pandemic

Much to my frustration, the federal government has long lagged behind the private sector in promoting telework-despite the traffic, energy, cost, productivity, and employee morale benefits it can provide. Perhaps the threat of pandemic flu will finally be the push the federal government needs to take serious strides in getting more employees to be teleworkers. During an outbreak, it may not be possible, or advisable, for employees to report to work and be in close quarters. Any worthwhile continuity of government plan must include the ability for employees to work off-site during emergencies, and telework can be such a simple solution in that regard.

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Russia Needs to Play By Rules Before Trading with U.S.

The letter we sent to President Bush reinforces our position that access into the World Trade Organization shouldn't be taken for granted. We want to welcome Russia as a trading partner, but they need to demonstrate their ability to abide by the established rules, especially intellectual property standards.

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American Firms Should Develop Energy Sources in Neighboring Waters

Congress has kicked around a lot of silly ideas about how best to ease our energy crunch. There needs to be a compelling reason why American firms are barred from exploring energy resources so close to home when other countries, like China, are doing so, and I’m not sure that a 45-year-old failed embargo qualifies as a compelling reason.

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Congress Must Wake Up After Its Long Slumber

With news reports of even broader NSA surveillance activities involving Americans on American soil with no court approval, Congress must step up its oversight of the NSA. Until now, the Congress has largely abdicated its responsibility -- perhaps this latest disclosure will finally prompt Congress to wake up to its duty after a four-year long slumber.

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Investigating Health Effects Related to Military Chemical Disposal

There is a growing concern that the United States military disposal of over 64 million pounds of chemical munitions since the 1940's at ocean disposal sites around the globe may lead to deleterious heath problems for people living and working near these sites. Despite the military's assurances to the contrary, no one really knows what effect these weapons will have on people that come in contact with these sites. My amendment will compel the Secretary of Defense to evaluate the long term consequences of these disposal sites and ultimately, we will work to proactively address any issues that may affect public health.

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Tax Relief Must Be Extended, With Changes

The tax relief passed by Congress and signed by President Bush in 2001 and 2003 have spurred remarkable economic growth, so we must extend - not end - this success story.

Having said that, there are some provisions that were inserted in conference negotiations that are counterproductive, and I'm not too happy about them. Thankfully, the new mandatory withholding requirements for federal, state, and local contractors, which I oppose, will not go into effect until 2011, and I'll be working to make sure they never do.

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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.

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