Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
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Congressman Greg Walden's Oregon
Dear fellow Oregonian:
Before recapping recent Oregon meetings and events, let me comment on legislative actions.
I can’t recall a time when such sweeping legislation as that affecting the environment, energy and health care has moved with such speed and so little time to read—let alone, amend or comprehend. Americans are rightly concerned. Many plan protests Friday at the local offices of members of Congress, calling on their representatives to not vote for the health care reform measure unless they’ve read it.
The Energy and Commerce Committee, of which I’m a member, is slated to take up health care reform legislation this week. We were promised a copy of the bill last Friday, but that didn’t happen. And while the Committee’s work is delayed for a day, or two, it’s unlikely I will see a copy of the legislation much before we start voting on it and any amendments.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the rest of the congressional leadership have made it pretty clear that they’d like to complete a government takeover of healthcare by the end of July.
With only three weeks left and not a single committee hearing held in the Energy and Commerce Committee, that doesn’t leave a lot of time for an open, bipartisan process.
They rammed the stimulus bill through with only 12 hours to review its 1,073 pages. We never even had available a complete text of the national energy tax before being asked to cast our votes. (I voted against both bills)
I would hope that Speaker Pelosi gives us more time to review the plan for healthcare reform, considering it’ll be the most important policy change to the country’s healthcare system since the creation of Medicare and Medicaid in 1965.
We’re slowly finding out what’s included in the plans being floated in both the House and Senate: incredibly, they may be using it as a vehicle for billions of dollars of earmarks for walking paths, streetlights, jungle gyms, and farmers’ markets, according to the Boston Globe. If the bill’s authors want those things, they should find a different place for it and debate them on their merits, instead of tacking them onto a giant healthcare bill.
Here in the United States, we’re starting to hear more and more about the horror stories abroad in countries that have already performed a government takeover of healthcare: record wait times in Canada for surgery and medical treatments, disabled children in the UK waiting up to two years for wheelchairs, and waiting times of over two years for life-saving heart surgery in New Zealand.
House Republicans have been working on a plan that will make quality healthcare affordable and accessible, and let those who like their health coverage keep it. It would protect the more than 100 million Americans who receive coverage through their current job from being forced off that care by a government takeover.
I’ll be sure to keep you updated on this most important issue as it progresses through the month of July.
CBO: “The federal budget is on an unsustainable path”
The House passed three appropriations bills last week, all of which devote significant increases in spending. One of the appropriations bills, the “State and Foreign Operations” bill was between a 7 and 33 percent increase ($12.22 billion increase) over last year, depending on who was describing the bill.
That includes a 112 percent increase (or $3.36 billion increase) in our Economic Support Fund for other countries. It may sound a bit cynical, but aren’t we borrowing money from foreign countries to turn around and give it to other foreign countries?
Outside of defense and veterans programs, federal discretionary spending is up 85 percent over the last two years. Consider what we’ve gotten in return for the massive, nearly $1 trillion stimulus rushed through Congress in February – another 1.96 million lost jobs since the bill was signed into law.
The debt load the federal government is amassing for our children, grandchildren, and beyond is getting out of hand. In the history of the country, the Congress never incurred an annual deficit of more than $459 billion. Under the President’s plan, the yearly deficit in the next ten years will never dip below $523 billion.
The end result is massive debt. A new report issued by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) concluded that on the current track, the country’s federal debt will equal our GDP in 2023. The only time that has ever happened in the history of the country is World War II. The first line of CBO’s report says it all: “Under current law, the federal budget is on an unsustainable path.”
HEALTHY FORESTS CAUCUS
As part of my continuous effort to fix broken federal forest policy, I’ve teamed up with Democratic Rep. Kurt Schrader of Oregon’s fifth district to start the bipartisan Healthy Forests Caucus.
Flawed federal forest policies have exacted an incredibly steep price on Oregonians, in terms of degraded environmental quality, lost jobs, and decreased economic opportunity. I coauthored the successful Healthy Forests Restoration Act, and have led efforts to fix policies that prevent the professional foresters from doing the prevention and post-fire rehabilitation work that the forests and rural communities so badly need done.
We’ve already started recruiting members of both parties who are similarly interested in doing what right for the environment and Oregon’s forested communities. Click here to read more about the goals of the caucus.
“ON THE ROAD AGAIN”
It’s probably not an overstatement to say I’ve driven more than a thousand miles attending meetings and events in eastern Oregon during the last couple of weeks.
In central Oregon, I met with Warm Springs Tribal leaders and members as they participated in the annual Pi Ume Sha event. It’s impressive to see the traditional tribal clothing—some passed down multiple generations—and to hear the stories of their ancestors.
I organized a roundtable in Madras with area business and community leaders to hear how the economy is affecting them locally, and to get their input on federal initiatives. As I have heard in communities across the district, they’re very concerned about the rate of federal government spending and impact that a rushed cap and trade energy tax will have on their businesses.
After helping celebrate the opening of Mid-America Credit Union in Madras, I attended the “Tough Enough to Wear Pink” night at the Crooked River Round-Up in Prineville. Rodeos across the nation are holding “Tough Enough To Wear Pink” nights to raise money for breast cancer research. Here I am in my pink shirt in support of the cause with rodeo announcer Curt Robinson as we acknowledged the Oregon National Guard troops, and our other men and women in uniform, and their families. There’s such a sense of patriotism on display at a rodeo.
In eastern Oregon, I participated in a community forum organized by the Heppner Chamber of Commerce. The discussion focused on recent federal legislation, the growing national debt and deficit spending, and the economy.
In Hermiston I met with city officials to tour the wastewater treatment plant and discuss legislation I’ve authored, H.R. 2741, which would lend federal help in building a new water recycling plant for the city. A new plant would do a lot of great things for the area – help the city comply with federal pollution standards for over the next 20 years, allow the water supply to keep up with the growing population, and return water into the Umatilla River to benefit threatened salmon species. The measure is scheduled for a hearing on July21. Ed Brookshire, Hermiston City manager, will testify.
I also participated in the centennial celebration for the Hermiston Agricultural Research and Extension Center (where I delivered a Congressional Record statement on the center’s history and achievements), which has undeniably played a major role in the development of the agricultural industry in the Northwest and beyond. This research and experiment center has played a vital role in helping eastern Oregon farmers, ranchers and agricultural communities thrive on the sandy soils that have presented many challenges over the past 100 years.
I completed yet another round of meetings in eastern Oregon in La Grande and Enterprise, where the main topic and concern was federal spending and debt. Nearly 60 people turned out in the early morning in La Grande. Following the meeting, I was on hand when Ron Nash and his employees rolled out the first new travel trailer from Outdoor RV. It was great to see this accomplishment that is keeping nearly 100 people employed in Union County.
At the Wallowa Rotary in Enterprise, the energy tax and federal spending were top concerns, although several folks spoke up in support of the stimulus spending and downplayed the level of deficit spending.
This weekend, I visited Columbia Gorge Community College and their wind energy training facility. They’re leading the nation in training those who will keep the wind turbines running for years to come.
I also attended a memorial service in La Grande for longtime community leader Jeanette Baum. Hundreds of people turned out to support her family and celebrate her life.
She was quite a positive force in the lives of many.
Next weekend my travels will take me to Nyssa, Baker City, Burns and John Day, before returning to the nation’s capital on Monday.
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Page Updated: Wednesday July 15, 2009 01:54 AM Pacific
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