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Congressman Greg Walden newsletter 12/14/10
I am back in the nation’s capital this week for the resumption of the “lame duck” session, and I wanted to give you an update on some of the important work the Transition Team is leading, and also on some news from around Oregon.
Cut-as-you-go, an end to time-consuming honorary resolutions, and more updates on the transition
We are continuing to put the pieces in place to bring balance and transparency to the 112th Congress when it convenes on January 5.
The transition team that I am leading proposed last week a number of reforms to how the Congress will operate next year.
In recent years, bills that have been coming to the floor of the House have represented an abuse of process and an abuse of the American people’s trust in us to solve problems.
As incoming Speaker Boehner said, spending has become too easy around here. Growing government has become too easy. So, we’re going to prohibit bills considered on the suspension calendar from creating a new program unless it eliminates or reduces a program of equal or greater size. It’s called “Cut-Go,” short for “cut-as-you-go.”
And if you want to increase the authorization for a program, you need to reduce authorizations elsewhere in government.
We’re also proposing significant restrictions on the scheduling of commemorative resolutions. Here are just a couple such pieces of legislation the House took time to “debate” last week:
The American people sent Congress a message: focus on creating jobs and cutting spending.
These changes will allow us to free up time on the floor to do the people’s business.
The moratorium on earmarks
As another part of this historic transition, House and Senate Republicans have agreed to a moratorium on earmarks for the next Congress, which convenes on January 5, 2011.
Before that happens, however, Congress must pass a bill to continue funding the federal government. This is because the House failed to even pass a budget or a single appropriations bill this year, both marking historic lows for an institution that has become unable to even carry out its most basic functions as a legislative body.
Bills like this one are often a popular vehicle for members of Congress to attach their unvetted pet projects that cost millions or even billions of dollars – these are earmarks.
I voted against it when it came through the House last week. And I signed a letter written by Rep. Jeff Flake to President Obama that asks him to veto any legislation to fund the government that has earmarks attached to it.
Business as usual when it comes to federal spending has to end – the voters were very clear about that.
The EPA listens to us and delays a job-killing federal regulation
Last week, the EPA announced it will delay the implementation of controversial job-killing rules that would impose tens of billions of dollars in new capital costs at thousands of facilities with boilers across the country, including in Oregon. The EPA, which originally wanted the new rules to take effect in January 2011, is now signaling it wants until April 2012 to implement the new rules.
When the EPA announced their new rule on June 4, 2010, it drew bipartisan criticism from myself and other members of Congress from across the country. The plan would impose unreasonably strict new emission limits on industrial, commercial and institutional boilers using fossil fuels and renewable forest biomass.
Impacting around 55,000 boilers nationwide, the EPA rules would require more than 99 percent of boilers to meet standards that only the top 12 percent of boilers can meet. The cost to the forest products industry alone is estimated at $7 billion, and the cost to the manufacturing economy would be between $20 billion and $50 billion.
This is the worst possible time for new job-killing regulations that make it harder for business to grow and for the economy to recover. Now that the EPA has realized the negative impacts of moving forward, I hope they work with the bipartisan coalition in Congress that is ready and willing to help identify solutions that protect the environment and public health while not destroying jobs at the same time.
Potential for more jobs and revenue surrounding the Oregon potato industry
Here’s an issue that is of particular importance to the fresh potato growing regions of Klamath County and Umatilla County, among other places: nearly 96 percent of Mexico is off-limits to American potato exports.
The result, according to experts, is that Oregon farmers are losing out on at least $7 million in revenue each year, and rural Oregon is losing out on new jobs too.
Last week, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack met with Mexico’s Secretary of Agriculture. I organized a bipartisan letter with 11 other members of Congress from the Northwest urging Secretary Vilsack to press his Mexican counterpart to lift their ban on American fresh potatoes.
Despite a 2003 agreement to the contrary, Mexico continues to bar American potatoes from crossing an arbitrary buffer zone 26 kilometers into Mexican territory. If lifted, it would easily be the largest fresh export market for Oregon growers and could generate $100 million annually for the entire U.S. fresh potato industry.
VA Center pilot project in Portland
The Department of Veterans Affairs Regional Office in Portland has been selected as one of seven regional offices to pilot a program that is estimated to reduce the processing time for certain claims by up to 30 days.
These VA offices will be using a private contractor to assist the VA in collecting health care records from private physicians and medical facilities. In an area such as the Second District, where veterans do not have easy access to a VA hospital, this program becomes significant as veterans rely on local doctor visits for many of their initial diagnoses. These records are then needed to help substantiate a veteran’s claim for benefits.
In the pilot program, the contractors will retrieve the records from the local physicians and scan them into the VA records system so that the VA officials will have that information right at their fingertips. Of course, in all cases veterans must sign documents approving the release of their medical records to the VA from private health-care providers.
New office location in Washington, D.C.
As a routine part of the transition during the lame duck session of Congress, I have a new office location in the Rayburn House Office Building in Washington, D.C.
The details of the new location — 2182 Rayburn House Office Building — have been updated at the bottom of this email. Only the room number has changed; the rest of the contact information remain the same, as do the location and details for the three offices in the Second District.
Of course, if you're ever in Washington, D.C., don't hesitate to stop by and say hello. My staff can help with setting up tours for many of the sights around town, along with leading you through the U.S. Capitol itself. Just head to this page here and let us know when you're coming, and we can help you set things up.
Recreation as a priority in the national forests
For everyone who enjoys recreating in our national forests — camping, hiking, horseback riding, hunting, fishing, mountain biking, and off road and other motorized recreation…listen up: the U.S. Forest Service is in the middle of drafting new management rules for recreation on public lands.
On the bright side, the USFS has recognized the importance and value of recreation and created a standalone issue for it in the rule drafting process.
However, I have concerns with the draft approach the USFS posted online. In particular, the drafting contains vague and ambiguous terms that could lead to reduced recreation opportunities on federal forest lands.
For example, the draft specifies that recreation must be “(environmentally and fiscally) sustainable.” These broad concepts are difficult to define, and would likely lead to endless litigation of the rule itself or individual land management plans.
Besides, environmental laws like NEPA and the Endangered Species Act already guide how national forests are managed from an environmental perspective.
I joined 32 of my colleagues to send a letter to USFS Chief Tom Tidwell to point out that the Multiple-Use Sustained Yield Act of 1960 and the National Forest Management Act both require that federal forest lands be managed for a variety of purposes, with “outdoor recreation” listed first.
Millions of Americans each year enjoy the recreational opportunities available in our national forests, and we need to make sure they can continue doing so while still preserving the natural wonders in the forests.
I’ll keep you updated as we hear more.
Oregon lost a prominent citizen recently; with the passing of D.R. Johnson, Oregon's timbered communities have lost one of their strongest advocates. And I have lost a good friend.
D.R. cared deeply about the people who worked in his mills, their families and the rural communities of Oregon. He fought hard for their jobs and for active management of forest land. He was principled and tough, hardworking and unpretentious, and he gave back generously to the towns of our state.
My prayers are with his family during this difficult time of loss.
Internship opportunities in Washington, D.C.
My office in the nation’s capital is accepting applications for internships in the spring semester. The program is open to college or graduate students (or recent graduates of either) who are interested in spending some time learning about the inner-workings of a congressional office while gaining valuable professional work experience as well.
Opportunities also occur throughout the year and the office can be flexible regarding start and end dates.
If you are interested in applying for an internship in, please fax or email a completed application with your resume and cover letter, as well as any questions you might have, to Sarah Demaree:
Phone: (202) 225-6730
Congrats to the Baker Bulldogs!
Finally, a quick note of congratulations to the Baker High School football team, which recently captured its first Class 4A state football title! They beat Douglas High last weekend in Hillsboro, and are the only football team from the Second District to win a state title this year.
The headline in the Baker City Herald says all you need to know: “We’re No. 1!”
Let’s hope it’s a signal of good things to come for Oregon football (yes, I’m talking about the Ducks!).
That’s all for now. I hope you have a great rest of the week.
Page Updated: Friday December 17, 2010 03:03 AM Pacific
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