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Rep. Greg Walden: Oregon Congressional Connection


 

April 08, 2011

US Representative Greg Walden, Representing the 2nd   District of Oregon 

Good morning — I hope this newsletter finds you well wherever you may be.

As I write this on Friday morning, we are coming down to the final hours of negotiations to keep the government open. An agreement must be reached and signed into law before midnight tonight to prevent a government shutdown.

It’s been 48 days since the House sent the Senate a plan to cut $61 billion in government spending for the rest of the fiscal year. As you’ll notice from the budget discussion a bit later in this newsletter, that’s a pretty minor amount in the grand scheme of our total debt; nonetheless, it would represent a down payment toward the serious debt cutting that we must tackle in the coming months.

The House proposal — reasonable as it is — has been rejected time and again by the Senate and the President.

Yesterday, in an attempt to buy more time to negotiate and keep the government open, the House passed with my support a one-week extension that cuts $12 billion and funds the troops for the rest of the year.

The Senate rejected that too. Senate Democrats have rejected the long term solution and the short term solution, putting us right on track for a shutdown at midnight tonight.

Remember, we’re only in this position because Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid failed to pass a budget last year.  In fact, the House under Speaker Pelosi did not even vote on a budget.  That hasn’t happened since the 1974 Budget Act became law, and it represented a total abdication of congressional responsibility. So this year, the Congress is faced with cleaning up that mess with stopgap measures until the new fiscal year begins on October 1.

FAQs on a government shutdown

I don’t want to see the government shut down, but you deserve as much information as possible in case it occurs.

The executive branch, not Congress, determines which executive branch activities are carried out during a lapse in appropriations, and therefore the information linked below is subject to change. Here are links to my website that answer frequently asked questions regarding a federal government shutdown:

Murphy’s Law lurking again…

Remember when I told you about Murphy’s Law causing me to miss the St. Patrick’s Day festivities in Heppner because of a cancelled flight?

Well, due to the budget negotiations in the nation’s capital, I’ve had to cancel my plans to be in southern and central Oregon tomorrow for a slew of public events and meetings.

I was planning to be in the Pear Blossom Parade in Medford before touring La Clinica del Valle and meeting with the clinic’s administrators to talk about health care access and delivery. Then it would have been on to the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation annual banquets in both Medford and Redmond.

The Path to Prosperity: Restoring America’s Promise

I’ve relayed many times in this newsletter that the country is facing massive runaway deficits year after year — on the order of about $1.5 trillion each year — that dwarf the $61 billion in savings that the House spending proposal for the rest of the year would provide.

Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, the chairman of the House Budget Committee, on Tuesday released the House GOP budget plan that would cut $6.2 trillion in government spending over the next ten years.

The American people have the right to a fact-based conversation on the budget, free of gimmicks and accounting tricks that have been used by both parties in the past to make reckless budgets look responsible, when in fact they add to the debt.

This budget moves the conversation to the next level and will force both parties to look at the difficult decisions to get our runaway debt under control.

At the end of the day, cutting spending is about ending waste, making the government more efficient, showing respect to hardworking taxpayers, and making the tough choices today that save our children from even tougher choices tomorrow.

One thing is clear: We don’t have deficits because Americans are taxed too little; we have deficits because Washington spends too much. We have got to stop spending money we don’t have.

I encourage you to explore more of the budget proposal here.

Saving taxpayer money: this week’s YouCut winner

Meanwhile, the weekly YouCut effortcontinues in the House. YouCut allows you to vote, both online and on your cell phone, on spending cuts that you want to see the House enact.

The cut that receives the most votes from the public each week gets an up-or-down vote on the House floor for elimination.

This week’s winner is a proposal to cut 10 percent from the $357 million printing and reproduction budget for the Department of Defense. The idea was offered by Rep. Allen West, a freshman Republican from Florida who served in the U.S. Army for 21 years.

While printing on paper is necessary to accomplish critical missions, it’s obvious the Department of Defense can reduce its spending on high quality, glossy color prints (such as the ones accompanying their budget rollout and other reports and briefings to Congress).

As a small business owner for nearly 22 years, I learned a lot of the tricks that are out there to save a few dollars here and there. Printing in black and white and on both sides of the paper still gets the message across. Besides, this is 2011 — there are lots of ways to communicate electronically without the use of paper printing. Paper has its place, of course, but tell me that they can’t get by with a 10 percent cut out of a $357 million printing budget.

The proposal passed unanimously in the House.

This small reduction would generate $35.7 million in savings in the next year, reaching nearly $180 million in savings through fiscal year 2016. While this alone won’t solve the budget crisis, these weekly votes serve as a good reminder that there are so many places we can save money in the federal government – and we need to keep looking.

The next three items are already up on the YouCut website; click here to cast your vote.

County payments in the Republican budget

There was some very positive news in the effort to renew the county payments commitment from the federal government this week.

The House Republican Budget proposal – which I talked about earlier in the newsletter – makes county payments a priority in the federal budget should the bipartisan and bicameral effort to reauthorize the important program identify funds to pay for the program.

That means the Budget Committee has acknowledged in these very difficult and lean economic times that county timber payments are an important lifeline for rural forested communities.

This is a small but very important first step toward keeping the federal government’s commitment to rural Oregon. We have a lot of work before us in the House and Senate and I look forward to our delegation continuing our bipartisan outreach across Capitol Hill to maintain support for forested communities throughout the federal budget process.

On March 22, I was joined by the rest of the Oregon House delegation — Reps. Peter DeFazio (D-Springfield), Kurt Schrader (D-Canby), Earl Blumenauer (D-Portland), and David Wu (D-Hillsdale), in sending a letter to the House Budget Committee asking them to accommodate a reauthorization of county payments in the budget.

The continuing effort to review, reform and repeal the federal health care law

You may recall that on January 19, the House of Representatives voted to repeal last year’s health care reform law. The Senate has not taken up that measure.

Meanwhile, the Energy and Commerce Committee on Tuesday, approved five pieces of legislation that remove the Department of Health and Human Services’ unprecedented power to spend billions of dollars without appropriate Congressional oversight.

In other positive news, the Senate overwhelmingly passed the House measure to repeal of the burdensome 1099 tax-reporting requirement that was stuffed into last year’s enormous health care bill. This job-killing requirement would have cost employers as much to implement as it was intended to raise in taxes.  Even the President conceded it was a mistake and needed to get repealed.  I expect he will sign the measure any time.

I’m very happy that Congress was able to work out this bipartisan, commonsense solution to remove this crushing and unnecessary paperwork burden on small business owners in Oregon. Having owned and managed a small business in Oregon for nearly 22 years, rest assured that I’ll continue to work in Washington to cut red tape and remove barriers to job creation.

Strong stand in support of American jobs and lower energy prices

Yesterday, the House voted in a bipartisan fashion to support domestic jobs and fight higher gasoline and energy costs by approving H.R. 910, the Energy Tax Prevention Act of 2011.

The bill prevents the administration from using the Clean Air Act as a vehicle to impose costly greenhouse gas regulations that would make the cost of energy and doing business in this country higher. If the administration were to implement these rules, it would mean shipping jobs overseas, increased utility rates, and a slower economic recovery.

The legislation is written narrowly to clarify the authority of the Environmental Protection Agency under the Clean Air Act. To be clear, the legislation preserves the Clean Air Act’s successful and longstanding mandate to reduce air pollution.

But what the EPA is trying to do now goes just too far. Their actions would cost jobs and hurt the economy.

That’s all for now.  I’ll keep you posted as we work to cut spending and to create a better, more certain environment to create private sector jobs.

Best regards,
Greg Walden

 

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