Re:Stickler Nomination--Politics Influencing A Vote For Safety

With the President set to sign into law the first sweeping reforms to mine safety in 28 years, reforms that will better protect the nation’s miners, MSHA needs a leader who understands mining and mine safety first hand. I am disappointed that some Senators have allowed politics to influence their vote for a permanent director of this vitally important agency.


Getting A Start On The Season Ahead

Yesterday, Floridians faced the first storm of the 2006 Hurricane Season. In 2005, four hurricanes slammed Florida: Dennis, Katrina, Rita, and Wilma. Many areas in our community were impacted at a time when the damage from 2004 was still lingering. This year, 4-6 major hurricanes are expected to make landfall from the Atlantic or Gulf of Mexico. All Americans need to learn from the tragedy that followed Hurricane Katrina and be well prepared in 2006.

Unfortunately, many are still not prepared. A recent mass-email poll sent from my office reveals that 46% of respondents are not fully prepared for this hurricane season.

Fortunately, Tropical Storm Alberto weakened and never gained hurricane strength. By yesterday morning, winds had dropped to about 65 mph but still caused 21,000 homes and businesses to lose power by 10 a.m.

It seems that as a whole, we may have dodged a bullet with Alberto. I hope this "warm-up" gets us all prepared for the long storm-filled summer that is ahead of us.

Our office stands with Governor Jeb Bush and state and local authorities to serve Central Floridians during any disaster.


Re: House Iraq Debate--Dems Mantra Is Retreat and Defeat

After witnessing Democrats struggle for years to propose positive plans for victory in the Global War on Terrorism, it's not surprising to hear them criticize a valuable opportunity to debate the path forward.

Since 2001, House Republicans have supported policies that enable our troops to protect American families and prevent terror attacks from occurring again in the United States. Last week's targeting of the number one terrorist in Iraq was yet another demonstration of the tremendous success our troops are having in Iraq and throughout the Global War on Terrorism. But instead of praising this important victory and encouraging our troops to complete their mission, Democrats continue to call for retreat and defeat. While their defeatism may please the liberal base of the Democratic Party, it does not help our troops protect American families.

Thursday will provide us with an additional chance to thoroughly debate important security issues that affect the lives of all Americans. I would encourage my Democratic colleagues to seize this opportunity and join House Republicans in expressing our strong resolve for victory in the Global War on Terrorism


Saving Amtrak, Saving Commuters

More than 850,000 commuters a day rely on Amtrak or its infrastructure to get to and from work, and it simply makes no sense to reduce funding so severely that it threatens the very existence of the system.

The funding we secured today only represents about two percent of the Department of Transportation budget, while 50 percent of the Department's spending will continue to go for highways, and nearly $20 billion will go for air travel.


Time to Reopen Medicare Enrollment and Make the Penalties Fair

In May, while I was doing meetings around my Ohio district, I realized that the penalty system in the Medicare Prescription Drug plan was pretty misleading.  We have been telling seniors that if they chose not to enroll before May 15th, they would face a 1% per month late penalty.  But seniors actually can't sign up until the open enrollment in November.  So, even if you wanted to enroll in June and pay a 1% penalty, you have to wait until November and pay 7%.  That seemed unfair to me so I introduced the TIME Act yesterday which opens enrollment again for the remainder of 2006 and charges a true 1% per month penalty.

I know there are over 100 proposals to change Medicare and I'm not here to add another log to the fire.  My bill is a compromise to the proposals to waive the late penalty altogether.  Because the program is brand new and the penalty stays with you for the rest of your life, we need to make sure seniors understand the late penalty and get a fair shake at participating.

Will The GOP Stand In The Way Of A Living Wage?

Unless the Republican leadership gets in the way, the House is now poised to vote to increase the national minimum wage for the first time in a decade, after a crucial vote in the Appropriations Committee yesterday on an amendment offered by Congressman Steny Hoyer to increase the minimum wage from $5.15 to $7.25. For the almost 8 million American workers who struggle to survive on minimum wages, this potential raise is long overdue.

Congress has not raised the national minimum wage from $5.15 per hour since 1997, despite Democrats’ repeated efforts to do so. But the price of basic goods, like food and gasoline, have been rising, making it even harder for minimum wage workers to meet even the most basic needs. In fact, the national minimum wage is now at its lowest level in 50 years when adjusted for inflation, according to the Center for Economic and Policy Research.

At $5.15 per hour – which comes to about $10,712 per year for a full-time worker – it is impossible to afford health care, enough nutritious food to eat, or safe and decent housing.

All Americans should get a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work. It would be immoral for any members of Congress to stand in the way of this important vote.  



Incentives Will Ensure Necessary Training for New Military

Defense operations are moving into a new era using smaller, highly-trained units to complete missions, making our Special Forces troops more essential and in greater demand than ever before. Recent recommendations from the Quadrennial Defense Review call for a 15% increase in our Special Forces. Unfortunately, you cannot train a Special Operator overnight. The best way to grow our Special Forces is to retain current forces while we initiate new recruits in their extensive training requirements. I am introducing the Special Operations Forces Retention Improvement Act to provide incentives for current SOF to stay in military service because their experience is essential to our success. My legislation will allow special pays including, hazard duty pay, to be computed into an increase in retirement compensation.


Congress Must Push For Global Religious Freedom

Now, while we can, Congress must intrusively and decisively take a stand on behalf of Chinese Catholics and all others who wish to worship God in a manner and through a confession of their own choosing. We must insist that all members of the community of nations respect individual religious freedoms as the condition for mutual respect. Any nation that interferes with individual religious freedoms and the freedom of spiritual communities to order their own affairs, to the degree that the Chinese government has intervened in Catholicism, can aspire to no place of leadership in the modern world.


Transportation,Treasury HUD Bill, Reflects Real Reform

This is a fiscally responsible bill, funding high priority programs and eliminating Federal funds for other programs that are duplicative or ineffective.

To continue my committee's commitment to reform, this bill funds member projects at $986 billion - $2.1 billion below last year's level. This is a 70 percent reduction from the previous year. In addition, for the first time ever, the bill requires a 40 percent matching requirement for grantees receiving Economic Development Initiative funding.

All in all, after much hard work and discussion, I believe we have a balanced bill before us. No, we didn't fund every program, but we did fund the higher priorities under our jurisdiction that will deliver the best results to the most people, and that is our responsibility.


I Will Not Pay For Bush's Stay-The-Course Policy

Our troops in Iraq continue to serve with courage and bravery and I remain proud of them. Their successful mission to eliminate the terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was a great victory. However, al-Zarqawi's death does not change the fact that the President's failed policy in Iraq has cost too many American lives, tarnished America's image abroad, nearly exhausted our military, and taken our attention away from the Global War on Terrorism.

Today, I again sent a clear message to President Bush that he cannot count on me to continue paying for his stay-the-course policy in Iraq. We must re-deploy all our troops out of Iraq, returning most of them home and leaving a quick-reaction force in the region. It is time to change course and bring our troops home within six months.

U.S. involvement in Iraq has now claimed 2,497 lives and cost nearly $350 billion dollars. Our people would willingly bear the human and economic cost of the war in Iraq if it would actually save American lives in the long-run. It will not. Given the President's lost credibility and ever-changing excuses for taking our country to war, we can no longer justify the egregious loss of American life and hundreds of billions of U.S. taxpayer dollars spent in Iraq.