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Rokita Report 2-21-12
Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to update you on my work in the 112th Congress. I trust this finds you and your family well.
Before my normal report on the current happenings in Congress, I wanted to commemorate Presidents Day. I hope you were able to enjoy time with your family and friends this weekend.
In celebration of Presidents Day, I wanted to share with you a couple of thoughts on one of our greatest Presidents, and a hero of mine, Abraham Lincoln.
President Lincoln once said, "you cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today." That statement is quite timely today.
We are at a crossroads in our country's journey. We face an unprecedented level of debt and millions of Americans are out of work. If we do not face up to these facts, and move forcefully and honestly to deal with them today, we will be forced to face even more difficult choices in the future.
Last week (2/12 - 2/18/12)
On the House Floor
Two important pieces of legislation were voted on in the House last week.
Update on H.R. 7 energy and transportation legislation
Originally, I had hoped that the American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act, H.R. 7, would come before the House for a vote last week. Instead, the bill was split into separate pieces of legislation. On Thursday, February 16, the House passed the Protecting Investment in Oil Shale and the Next Generation of Environmental, Energy, and Resource Security Act (PIONEERS), H.R. 3408. This bill would expand offshore drilling, open up a small part of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), increase oil shale production, and approve the Keystone XL pipeline project. All of these provisions would help decrease U.S. dependence on foreign oil and promote job creation.
Conference Report to H.R. 3630 (Payroll Tax Holiday and Unemployment Insurance Extension)
On the third anniversary of the President's failed "stimulus" law, the House voted for more borrowing, more debt and more failed, empty economic stimulus.
Over the past three years, Washington has been throwing away Hoosiers' hard-earned money on stimulus programs that have not worked. H.R. 3630 extended Unemployment Insurance and the Social Security Payroll Tax Holiday for the rest of 2012. The original version of this legislation was voted on in December 2011, and was paid for. The revised bill, passed last week, did contain some cost-cutting measures, but these extensions are largely unfunded.
I opposed this bill because it is time to stop borrowing money, especially to fund another short term stimulus plan. The Payroll Tax Holiday, alone, is another raid of the Social Security Trust Fund, simply to give Americans, at most $40 per month. The federal government simply cannot afford to keep spending money it does not have.
At the Committee
The Budget Committee heard testimony from two top Obama Administration representatives regarding the President's Fiscal Year 2013 Budget.
On Wednesday, February 15, Acting Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), Jeffrey Zients testified. You can view my remarks on his testimony here. In short, Mr. Zients failed to break from the President's campaign talking points.
You can watch both full hearings via the Budget Committee website.
This week (2/19 - 2/25/12)
I will be home, traveling across Indiana this week. While in Indiana, I will be meeting with many 4th District Hoosiers, speaking with military academy nominees, attending Lincoln Day dinners and visiting with the Hoosier Veterans' Assistance Foundation. I look forward to speaking with many of you this week.
When the House returns, there will be continued debate on the other pieces of the transportation bill, as well as education legislation debate, and the Budget Committee will hear the testimony of Defense Secretary Leon Panetta regarding the President's submitted FY 2013 Defense Budget Proposal.
One possible "pay-for" for the Payroll Tax Holiday extension, was to require federal employees to contribute more toward the cost of their retirement benefits. National Review Online's Kevin Williamson takes tax cuts and federal pensions to task in his February 16 column, "Who Won the Payroll-Tax Fight?". Much of his critique on the Payroll Tax Holiday legislation underscores my reasoning for voting against this extension. The two important takeaways from Mr. Williamson's column are that tax cuts must be paid for and we must give serious thought to what public service means and reevaluate the compact between taxpayers and federal employees.
Changing course, I also wanted to point out a Wall Street Journal opinion column by J.D. Kleinke, "The Myth of Runaway Health Spending." In the debate over healthcare, a steadying of healthcare costs is largely ignored in the media. Kleinke argues, and I agree, that consumer choice and free market principles have had a significant impact on healthcare costs in the last decade. The federal government should trust in the decision making capabilities of the American consumer to drive down health care costs.
You can review previous postings on my blog.
I appreciate your continued interest in Congress and for supporting my efforts in Washington. Take care.