I started this year with a 571-mile, five-day swing with eight town hall meetings in eight counties in the Gorge and northeastern Oregon. Then after the inaugural week in Washington, D.C. I’m back on a nine-days-in-a-row trip through other parts of our district. I enjoy working with our local communities to find solutions to local problems, and these town hall meetings help me keep my “to do” list fresh.
As you can imagine, I heard about practically everything under the sun in these eight counties, from reducing our debt and growing our economy to boosting our farm and ranch economies to improving management of our federal forests to taking care of those who wear—or have worn—our nation’s uniform.
The week began with a town hall meeting in The Dalles. Before the meeting, Columbia Gorge Community College President Dr. Frank Toda gave me a tour of the site for the new Readiness Center where construction is well under way. I can’t think of a project I worked harder on for many years, and we finally secured approval for construction in December 2011.
When completed, the Readiness Center will be a great training center for members of the Oregon Guard—we owe the very best training and equipment possible to the men and women who volunteer to serve the nation in uniform (more on my work on that a little further down).
Here’s a picture of our snowy tour of the site:
From The Dalles, we drove on some very snowy roads for town hall meetings in Moro, Condon, Fossil, Mt. Vernon, Hermiston, Boardman and, finally, my hometown of Hood River. Click here to check out my Facebook page for pictures of some of these meetings.
This week, I’m holding eight town hall meetings in central, eastern, and southern Oregon. I’ll cover more than 1,500 miles, hold a total of 35 meetings in 10 counties. We began with three town halls in Deschutes, Crook, and Jefferson counties before heading up to Union and Wallowa counties then down to southern Oregon today for town hall meetings in Josephine, Jackson, Klamath counties. Click here for details on the eight town hall meetings.
I’m working on setting up others in Lake, Baker, Malheur, and Harney counties… and will have visited at least eighteen of the twenty counties in the Second District by the end of February.
When the House reconvenes in a week, my subcommittee on Commerce and Technology will hold a hearing in conjunction with two subcommittees from the Foreign Affairs Committee on legislation we’re drafting to make American policy clear that we don’t want foreign governments via the United Nations regulating the Internet. The UN hosted a conference at the end of last year that considered a treaty—rejected by the United States and 55 other nations—but agreed to by 89 countries that would have changed how the Internet is managed.
This is a dangerous move—led by countries like Russia—to allow oppressive regimes to have power over the privacy, content and management of one of the world’s greatest sources of free speech, democracy and information. You can watch our hearing on February 5th by visiting http://energycommerce.house.gov/
No budget, no pay
These town hall meetings give me great feedback to take back to Washington, D.C. In Fossil, the issue of what penalty applied to Congress when a budget isn’t passed came up. The House has passed a budget each of the last two years, but the Senate hasn’t passed one in nearly four years. When they last passed one, the iPad hadn’t even been invented yet!
I agreed that when hardworking taxpayers all over America don’t do their job, they don’t get paid—the same rule should apply to Congress.
I took this message from Fossil back to my colleagues in the U.S. House. This week, the House passed a plan to withhold pay from members of the House and the Senate if their chamber does not pass a budget by April 15, the deadline set into law. The idea is simple: no budget, no pay.
Writing a budget is one of the most basic functions of government. Every day, families throughout Oregon and the country sit down around their kitchen tables to balance their budgets. It’s time for Washington, D.C. to do the same. The first step towards getting our fiscal house in order is passing a budget to serve as a guide.
Sadly, some in Washington have proposed phony gimmicks to get around our spending problems, instead of actually working on the issue. Have you heard about that some in Congress are proposing that the U.S. Treasury mint a trillion dollar platinum coin to help the federal government pay its bills? Only in Washington—you can’t make this stuff up!
People are trying to come up with phony solutions to real problems our nation is facing. The federal government is drowning in debt, and it’s immoral to stick our children and grandchildren with the bill. Did you know that for every child born in the U.S. today, they are immediately saddled with over $50,000 in debt?
I introduced a bill to stop this ridiculous coin scheme, and twenty of my colleagues have joined me in this effort. It’s time to take all the phony solutions off the table so that we can do the real work of reducing the debt and growing our economy. Our efforts resulted in the Treasury Department backing off on the concept of minting a trillion dollar coin. But it took them more than a week to come to that decision!
Protecting health care options for those who’ve served
For the past few months, I’ve told you about reports that the Pentagon has planned to do away with TRICARE Prime, a popular health insurance option for many military retirees, including several thousand in Oregon. I teamed up with fellow Oregon Rep. Suzanne Bonamici to pass legislation to force the Pentagon to detail and address these changed publically.
This month, the Pentagon officially announced that the TRICARE Prime option would be eliminated for 171,000 military retirees nationwide beginning on October 1. While it is good news they have delayed the changes for six months, I remain concerned about the effect this change could have on military retirees and their families in Oregon. Thousands could lose access to their health care provider, which could mean higher out of pocket costs and longer drives for many in Oregon.
Don’t just take my word for it. The Mail-Tribune in Medford reported that one retired Marine Corps colonel, Dave Dotterrer, is concerned about the lack of options for him and his family with the elimination of the program. Click here to read the Mail-Tribune’s article.
The Pentagon has to provide more information about these proposed changed, and ensure health care access for military retirees in Oregon. These heroes have put their lives on the line for our freedom. They deserve the very best care our nation has to offer.
I can also help our veterans and active duty military on an individual basis. I recently heard from a former Army staff sergeant in southern Oregon who was honorably discharged from the Army and awarded a service connected disability by the Veterans Administration (VA) in early 2012.
Due to several moves around the country, several of his benefit checks were returned as undeliverable. He was having trouble recovering the benefits he was promised, and contacted my office. Within a few days, the veteran received word that the VA had reactivated the disability benefits he has earned. If you or a loved one are having a problem with the VA or another federal agency, call my office in Oregon toll free at 800-533-3303. I’ll do everything I can to get results for you.
That’s all for this week. I hope to see you at one of the town hall meetings coming up. Remember, even if you can’t make one of the meetings, you can always keep in touch with me by visiting my website or following me on Facebook or Twitter.