It's Time For American Troops To Come Home

I hope the President will deliver a clear message in Baghdad: now that a democratic government has been elected and the Al Qaeda leader in Iraq has been killed, it's time for American troops to begin to come home.

We need to view disengagement as part of the solution in Iraq. Our overwhelming military presence and our open-ended military commitment have fueled the insurgency and made America a crutch for the Iraqi government.

If America really wants the new Iraqi government to succeed, we must begin to disengage from Iraq, and they from us. The Iraqi government must begin to make its own decisions, make necessary compromises to avoid full-scale civil war, and take responsibility for its own future.


Protecting Those Who Contribute to Science

I introduced the Protection for Participants in Research Act of 2006, to provide clear and consistent protections for human subjects who take part in clinical trials. This act provides clear guidelines to researchers and ensures that the United States can continue to lead the way in medical research.


I Will Vote No On Mr. Stickler

Now more than ever, our nation’s miners need and deserve a strong leader at the head of the Mine Safety Health Administration. Mr. Stickler has an abysmal record on mine safety and he is not the right person for the job. During his career as a coal industry executive, he focused on profits and production, not on worker safety With the recent passage of the mine safety legislation, it is even more important that we have an Assistant Secretary who will vigorously lead the agency and put these new protections in place quickly. I will vote no on Mr. Stickler’s nomination and I will urge my colleagues to do the same.


Undermining Academic Freedom and the Path to Peace

Israel is one of the United States strongest allies in the Middle East. The British National Association of Teachers in Furtherance of Higher Education's (NATFHE) resolution is highly objectionable in the face of the shared democratic history of the U.S., England, and Israel. Such boycotts undermine academic freedom and open exchange and completely disregard the courageous strides towards peace that Israel has made, including the difficult Gaza withdrawal and recognition of a two-state solution. Congressman Pence and I, in the strongest terms, want to prevent further attack of Israel via its academia institutions and we object to any comparison to that of an apartheid regime. This latest movement by NATFHE furthers existing tensions already present between Israelis and Palestinians. NATFHE's resolution will do nothing but intensify and continue discriminatory measures within the academic world in which the traditional open dialogue between colleagues has been compromised.


Gitmo Only Brings Bush Political Points

I think that the American people are quite relieved that the terrorists are interned in Guantanamo, not in the United States. I do not think the suicides will generate any sympathy for them and I think that this is one of the issues which works in Bush's favor. Iraq is costing him votes. But anything about homeland security, including Guantanamo, gains him support.


We Are Further Away From A Nuclear Waste Repository

In 2002, Yucca Mountain was certified as the site for the nation's repository for spent nuclear fuel; however, currently, there is no projected date on which the facility's operations will commence. The Nuclear Waste Act set an original goal of 1998 for opening a repository, and by missing that date, the Department of Energy (DOE) was found in breach of that obligation. More recently, the Department had indicated that it hoped to file a license application with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) by December 2004 and to begin accepting waste in 2010. The target for the license application was missed and the Department no longer believes that the facility will be open in 2010.In addition, the long standing issue of funding for the Yucca Mountain project continues to be of concern. While the balance in the Nuclear Waste Fund is currently $19 billion, annual appropriations are only a fraction of the amount contributed by ratepayers.


As a strong supporter of the Yucca Mountain program, I am concerned about these issues which are affecting the filing of the license application and the ultimate opening of the facility.


Security, Decency, Refineries Lead Week in Congress

Last week on the House Floor...[HR:5441], the Fiscal Year 2007 Homeland Security Appropriations bill.This bill would provide $33.1 billion for the Homeland Security Department and related activities. The bill includes $7.7 billion for customs and border protection; $6.4 billion for the Transportation Security Administration, including fees; $8.1 billion for the Coast Guard; $1.3 billion for the Secret Service; and $2.6 billion for response and recovery efforts conducted by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. H.R. 5441 passed the House, with my support, 389-9.

[HR:5521], the Fiscal Year 2007 Legislative Branch bill.

This bill would appropriate $3 billion for legislative branch operations, excluding Senate operation. It would provide $1.1 billion for operations of the House of Representative, $570 million for the Library of Congress, $488 milllion for the Government Accountability Office (GAO), $259 million for the Capitol Police, and $131 million for the Government Printing Office. It would abolish the office of Architect of the Capitol and transfer its functions to the GAO. H.R. 5521 passed the House, with my support, 361-53.


Preventing Medical Errors From Becoming Fatal Flaws

With tens of thousands of patients dying every year from preventable medical errors, it is imperative that we embrace available technologies and drastically improve the way medical records are handled and processed. The success of my bill, The Federal Family Health Information Technology Act of 2006, will set the stage for Health Information Technology implementation nationwide.

The Death Tax--Irrelevant and Incomprehensible

The death tax is the only tax we have which has nothing to do with economic events. It just has to do with an unfortunate luck of the draw. It's you're crossing the street, and you get run over by a postal truck and die, which is enough action to upset your day, then the IRS comes by and they run over you again. So you end up not only having your day ruined. You end up having your day totally ruined because you got run over by the postal truck to begin with, and then your family has their day ruined because they have not only lost you, now they suddenly have to pay this huge tax if you're a entrepreneur. The problem is that it hits the small entrepreneurs in our society who basically create jobs, the small business person or the person who has made an investment and built assets throughout their life– people who go out and start a restaurant and maybe employ ten, 15, 20 people; people who go out and start a printing business or maybe make an investment in some real estate, an apartment, build housing for people. They're just getting going and they don't have a whole lot of assets. They're not very liquid usually. In fact, these folks aren't liquid at all because it's mostly tied up in real estate usually, and suddenly they have this traumatic event of the key person in the family dying who has maybe built this business, and then they get hit with a tax.

And not only is it a tax which has nothing to do with economic activity, it is actually tax that has the ironic and unintended consequence- I presume but it's exactly what happens- of actually crushing economic activity and reducing economic activity and in many cases costing jobs because the small family business or the farm which was being operated by this sole proprietor in most instances or this small family unit suddenly can't find itself capable of meeting the costs of paying the estate tax.

They didn't ever plan for that, and if they did plan for that, the cost of planning for that was pretty high. So they have to sell their assets, which usually means that the people who they employ are at risk or maybe they have to just close the whole thing down. And so the economic activity contracts instead of having a business that might have been growing, you end up with a forced sale, the practical effect of which is you contract economic activity.

So first you have this really incomprehensible concept that you're going to tax people not for economic gain, not because they've made economic gain, but simply because they've had a terrible thing happen, which is that they died, maybe accidentally, and then you're going to say that instead of encouraging economic activity, which is what the purpose of our tax laws should be, you're actually going to create a tax which contracts economic activity.

And so it's discriminatory and inappropriate and irrational, and on top of that, to make things worse, the United States has the third highest estate tax, death tax rate, of the industrialized world. In fact, our rate is so high that we're even above, and this is hard to believe, we're even above France. Now, when you get above France in an area of taxation, you have really started to suffocate economic activity, entrepreneurship and creativity because they're sort of the poster child for how you basically make an economy nonproductive and encourage people to work and basically be a socialist state.

We need to put in place a clear statement of what the tax policy is going to be if you have the unfortunate experience of being run over by a postal truck. And it should be a clear statement that if you're a small entrepreneur with a family-type business or a farmer that you're not going to be wiped out. Your family is not going to be wiped out by the IRS coming in on top of this terrible event and taking basically a disproportionate and inappropriate share of your assets and basically contracting and eliminating your business and putting your family's livelihood at risk.

The reason we need to do it now, even though most of this won't take effect until 2010, I can tell you as an estate tax planner before I took this job, before I got into public service, you need that sort of lead time to do it right. You know, you just can't overnight plan for tax policy. You have to have lead time. You have to have a clear statement of what the tax policy is going to be and consistency is critical here. So putting this in place now so that it will be effective in 2011, which most of the proposals are, is absolutely essential if we're going to have an effective reform of this death tax law, which we presently have.