We have had an eventful couple of weeks here in
Washington, D.C., from improving the safety of the
nationís food supply to putting the executives of GM and
Chrysler under oath to get answers on how they chose
which dealerships to keep and which to close.
Before I head back to the airport this afternoon to
complete my 371st round trip between Oregon
and Washington, D.C., I wanted to give you a quick
update on the recent events in the nationís capital.
GM: For $50
billion, we deserve transparency
You likely know that since the government bailouts of
Chrysler and GM, the companies and the administrationís
unelected Auto Task Force have made the unprecedented
decision to end their relationships with thousands of
dealerships across the country, with basically no
These are your typical neighborhood dealerships Ė the
ones that sponsor Little League and have been dependable
and profitable pillars in the community for decades.
I visited one such dealership, Cascade Auto, in Klamath
Falls to find out first hand what kinds of explanations
GM gave general manager Clint Thompson for taking away
his GM cars.
Turns out, not much. And thatís a big problem, because
as taxpayers we own a full 60 percent of GM after the
administration dropped $50 billion on the struggling
automaker. The closest option for service for GM owners
in Klamath Falls is clear over the mountains in Medford,
a two-hour trip away. We understand how difficult and
onerous a trip that is, but folks here on the east coast
ó and apparently in the GM offices and on the Auto Task
Force ó donít get it. Then you tell them that itís like
asking a GM owner in Philadelphia to hike all the way up
to New York City for service, and they start to
understand a little more.
Thatís not even the most egregious example. The only GM
dealership in Burns, Ruel Teague Motors, was stripped of
its GM lines, also with little explanation. So now the
GM truck owners out in Burns have to travel 136 miles to
the next closest dealership in Payette, Idaho ó a
As the top Republican on the Energy and Commerce
Committeeís Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee, I
helped lead a hearing last Friday where we brought the
heads of GM and Chrysler in, put them under oath, and
demanded some answers about the secretive nature of how
they shut down dealerships across the country.
Click here or on the photo above to watch my opening
statement from the hearing.
I invited Bob
Thomas, owner of Bob Thomas Chevrolet-Cadillac in Bend,
to testify. Like the dealerships in Klamath Falls and
Burns (and others in Redmond, Hermiston, Enterprise and
more), his dealership was cut off from GM. The
dealership has been in business since 1918, and now,
with no GM service in all of Deschutes County, Bend
residents will need to travel 40 miles to Madras to find
a GM presence.
Click here or on the photo above to watch Bob Thomasí
All of this
begs the point: private businesses should be allowed to
make decisions that they think are in the best interest
of their company. But when the government gets involved
with your tax dollars and unelected officials are making
the call to eliminate service to put people out of
business and reduce consumer choice and service,
somethingís gotten terribly off track. This week I
cosponsored legislation to keep the federal government
from owning even more businesses. Oregon, and several
other states, have such prohibitions in their state
constitutions. Given whatís happening in Washington,
D.C., I think Americans need a similar prohibition at
the federal level.
against the original automaker bailout and am
aggressively pushing for more oversight into how theyíre
spending our money and making these decisions. Iíve
asked the Democratic chair of our committee to hold
another hearing, this time with representatives of the
Presidentís Auto Task Force so that we can hear first
hand from the people pulling the strings. So far, that
request has fallen on deaf ears.
I walked away
from last weekís hearing feeling no better about the
situation that taxpayers are in thanks to the Auto Task
Force. Maybe thereís a rationale for cutting off service
to rural Oregonians and dealing serious blows to near
century-old dealerships, but I never heard it during the
hearing. And for $50 billion, we deserve an explanation.
A safer food supply
Here I am meeting with Jake Hurley of Wilsonville, and
his family, in the U.S. Capitol on February 12, one day
after Peter Hurley testified about his sonís battle with
three-year old Wilsonville native Jake Hurley visited
Washington, D.C. in February,
energetically waved and beamed at the cameras and
members of Congress who gathered to
listen to his father, Peter, describe Jakeís harrowing
bought with salmonella just one month earlier.
In January, Jake began battling diarrhea and an upset
stomach. Trying to get him to keep something down, his
doctor suggested to his parents that he eat his favorite
foodsóincluding Austin brand peanut butter
crackersówhich we now know carried a salmonella strain
linked to the Peanut Corporation of America (PCA) in
Georgia. The crackers Jake ate to feel better only
prolonged his sickness.
Luckily, Jake recovered and was well enough to travel to
the nationís capital in February, where I and the other
members of the House investigative panel who listened to
Jakeís story vowed to change the law to protect families
like the Hurleys in the future from negligent food
producers. You may recall that in that same hearing,
challenged the executives at PCA to consume their own
products, which they distributed
despite knowing they could contain salmonella. Fifteen
confirmed cases of salmonella poisoning in Oregon have
been linked to PCA by the state epidemiologistís office.
For every confirmed case, about 20 go unreported.
As a result of our investigations into food safety
issues, the Committee on Energy and Commerce unanimously
approved legislation this week to safeguard the nationís
food supply by modernizing the Food and Drug
Administrationís authorities to inspect food suppliers,
trace products back to their source and recall
contaminated food items.
The measure would require FDA to inspect high-risk
facilities as often as every six months. Currently,
there is no mandate for those inspections to take place,
and there is no legal requirement for producers to draw
up food safety plans to safeguard their facilities from
an outbreak. It will give FDA the authority to quickly
recall foods and establish a system to trace foods back
through the entire food chain to its source so we can
tackle and isolate problems more quickly and make the
nationís food supply safer. Once the House passes this
bill, itís imperative for the Senate to take action as
soon as possible so these important safeguards can be
put in place quickly.
This really should be called ĎJakeís Law.í If PCA had in
place a fully functioning food safety plan, as this bill
would mandate, there is a good chance that the
salmonella outbreak could have been avoided and Jake and
hundreds of others never would have been poisoned.
How much debt can
this country handle?
At meetings all around our district over the last
several weeks, one theme that is constant is a concern
about the historic deficit spending that is occurring in
Washington, D.C. People are rightly concerned about
record borrowing and spending and who will pay back this
debt and at what cost. Many economists predict high
inflation and interest rates will chase this high debt,
causing long-term economic hardship for Americans.
The Washington Post
graphic in Sundayís newspaper that really put the debt
load our country is assuming into perspective:
source: Washington Post
The amount the government is planning to borrow in the
next ten years dwarfs, in todayís dollars, the cost of
World War II, the Korean War, the interstate highway
system, the Vietnam War, the race to the moon, and the
Iraq War, combined. That is stunning.
Families across the country have tightened their belts.
Yet Congress doesnít get it.
For example, this week the House passed a nearly 12
percent annual increase in spending in the Commerce,
Justice, Science appropriations bill totaling $64.4
When Republicans offered about 100 amendments to this
huge measure to mostly reduce spending, the Democrats
used their power to change the rules and prevent all but
a handful from even being considered by the House. Then
they defeated most of those, including one to reduce the
rate of spending growth in the bill to 7 percent next
year, instead of 12 percent.
Weíve got to get this spending under control;
unfortunately, without any real check and balance, itís
just a runaway.
On the Road Again
Early Saturday morning Iíll hit the road for meetings
and events in Oregonís three least populated counties,
Sherman, Gilliam and Wheeler. This follows two
Saturdays ago when I held meetings in Josephine, Jackson
and Klamath counties.
Then itís back to Washington, D.C. again early next
week, where the House will likely take up the national
energy tax legislation. I read recently where the
federal government is spending millions in Oregonís
federal forests to reduce biomass and use it to produce
renewable, green electricity. Too bad the climate change
bill says that electricity generated from woody biomass
from federal forests wonít count as renewable! Iíve not
given up the fight to fix that definition in the
this is the same bill that PacifiCorp estimates will
drive up electricity rates for its 553,000 customers by
nearly 18 percent in the measureís first year.
I welcome your comments on these and the many other
issues before Congress. And feel free to forward this
newsletter to your friends or associates.
Iíll be sure to let you know in the next e-newsletter if
we make any progress in bringing some sort of sanity to
the level of government spending here in the nationís
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