Congressman Greg Walden's Oregon Congressional
Dear fellow Oregonian,
Here is a brief update on the latest happenings in Washington,
D.C. as we near the end of the legislative year in Congress. Read
on for some new legislative efforts to create rural jobs and some
troubling news on yet more government spending and takeovers.
A bipartisan push for rural jobs and healthier forests
If you’re anything like me, you’re tired of watching Oregon’s
national forests be eaten alive by beetles or burn
catastrophically in the summer while our rural communities lead
the nation with some of the highest unemployment rates in the
There’s a bipartisan coalition in the House that feels similarly,
and we joined together on Tuesday to introduce bills to reduce the
incidence of catastrophic wildfire and promote the use of
clean-burning renewable woody biomass, which holds so much
economic potential for our great state.
Perhaps it’s how I was brought up on a cherry orchard or owning a
small business for over 21 years, but one thing I learned is that
you don’t solve a problem by ignoring it. We’ve ignored federal
forests long enough to take stock of the results: staggering
unemployment in rural Oregon, catastrophic wildfire, massive bug
kill, and threatened habitat and watersheds.
Our federal forests are a national treasure…but they’re a national
treasure in peril. It’s time to act and get our rural communities
working and taking care of the forests again.
So in that spirit, I helped introduce along with Reps. Kurt
Schrader (D-Ore…who is also my fellow co-chair on the Healthy
Forests Caucus), Brian Baird (D-Wash.), Cathy McMorris Rodgers
(R-Wash.), and Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (D-S.D.) two important
pieces of legislation:
1. The Healthy Forests Restoration Amendments Act of 2009 (HR
4233) would amend the original bipartisan and successful Healthy
Forests Restoration Act (HFRA), which was signed into law in 2003.
Where implemented, it has reduced the incidence and severity of
Since HFRA was signed into law, however, wildfires have burned
more than 40 million acres in the United States, an area larger
than North Dakota, and have devastated habitat, water sources, and
communities in rural America. The new legislation would give
federal foresters and scientists the clear authority to use the
proven-to-work tools in HFRA to address areas of the forests at
highest risk of catastrophic wildfire.
2. The bipartisan group also introduced a second bill, the
Incentives to Increase Use of Renewable Biomass Act of 2009 (HR
4227), which would encourage the renewable biomass energy industry
to take firm roots by encouraging universities, public schools,
hospitals, local governments, and Tribes at non-gaming facilities
to use clean biomass energy, heating, or cooling systems.
Where does the spending end?
Democratic House leadership announced this week that they plan to
increase the country’s debt limit by $1.8 trillion to accommodate
the increase in runaway government spending this year. The current
debt limit stands at $12.1 trillion.
That increase is nearly double what was expected earlier in the
Our yearly deficit has topped $1.4 trillion after the $787 billion
so-called stimulus that hasn’t created the jobs we were promised,
and a year-long runaway congressional spending spree that has the
country swimming in red ink.
And now this week the House passed (but I did not support) a
massive, 2,500-page pork-laden spending bill that only adds more
debt to future generations, and brings the new spending total for
non-defense, non-veterans discretionary programs to a level 85
percent higher than just two years ago.
Honestly, where does it stop?
Today the House passed what I’ve dubbed around here as “TARP II,”
a financial regulation bill from the majority that creates a
permanent TARP-like bailout authority for Wall Street. If this
1,300-page bill is supposed to fix what’s broken in Wall Street,
why do we need to tax investors hundreds of billions of dollars
for a permanent bailout fund?
I’m concerned that the bill will increase the risk of catastrophic
failure of financial firms by concentrating responsibility for
overseeing “systemically risky” firms in the Federal Reserve,
whose inability to identify and address systemic risk helped cause
the financial crisis in the first place.
Worse yet, a new study by professors from the University of
Chicago and George Mason University found that the bill could
reduce net new jobs by at least 4.3 percent. That’s not progress.
I plan to vote for the Republican alternative plan that ends the
government bailouts – and creates a new chapter in the bankruptcy
code to make it more efficient and better suited for resolving
large financial institutions. Main Street doesn’t deserve to be
perpetually put on the hook for the mistakes of Wall Street.
The Republican plan would also protect consumers without limiting
access to credit, creating a huge government bureaucracy, or
undermining safety and soundness regulation, and we would
strengthen anti-fraud enforcement to get ahead of the bad guys.
You can read more on the financial reform I’m supporting here.
The next government takeover: inland waterways
The government takeovers of the banks, the auto industry, energy,
and healthcare may have grabbed big headlines, but the next target
for government takeover may not be getting the same attention.
A Senate bill called the Clean Water Restoration Act (CWRA – S.
787) would greatly expand federal government authority over all
U.S. waterways. Most notably, the bill removes the requirement
that the federal government only have authority over waterways
that are “navigable.”
The deletion of that word is incredibly significant. For example,
an irrigation lateral, ephemeral stream, or small creeks and ponds
would now become subject to new regulation. Currently, the federal
government can only regulate bodies of water large enough for ship
Quite simply, this bill attempts to trump state’s rights and
pre-empt state and local governments from making local land and
water use decisions. It also would build an even more expensive,
cumbersome bureaucracy which will increase delays in securing
permits and will slow or stop vital economic activities all across
Commercial and residential real estate development, agriculture,
electric transmission, transportation and mining will all be
effected. Thousands of jobs could be lost.
I joined 16 of my Western House colleagues and 11 Western Senators
in a letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Majority Leader Harry Reid
to note our strong objections to the contents of the bill.
I’ll keep you updated if the situation develops further.
Something of interest to maybe 400,000 Oregonians
Like me, you may have heard stories from friends or family members
of cleaning out attics, closets or any old storage space and
coming across old U.S. Savings Bonds. In fact, according to the
U.S. Department of Treasury, as many as 400,000 Oregonians may
hold U.S. Savings Bonds, totaling as much as $160 million. That’s
a $400 stimulus per bondholder, with no cost to the taxpayer (a
And some bondholders don’t even know it. That’s why I’ve
co-sponsored the introduction of the bipartisan Unclaimed Savings
Bond Act of 2009 (H.R. 4198), with the support of State Treasurer
Ben Westlund. In fact, Treasurer Westlund brought this effort,
which is also cosponsored by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), to my
attention and deserves much credit for backing the program.
This bill attempts to reunite matured savings bonds with their
rightful owners, who may have lost or forgotten them over the
years. Currently, the federal government has no way to match
bondholders to unclaimed savings bonds. This pilot program, which
will not cost the taxpayers any money, would work similar to how
Oregon’s Unclaimed Property Division reconnects Oregonians with
the contents of valuables left behind in safety deposit boxes,
Oregon tax refund and utility rebate checks and uncashed payroll.
This bill has been referred to the House Committee Ways and Means,
where it awaits action. It is my hope that the full House soon
takes up and passes this bill, so Oregonians can reclaim the money
that is rightfully theirs.
That’s all for now. Remember to join me on YouTube, friend me on
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Best regards, Greg Walden