As the Fourth District was working hard to dig its way out of the historic snowstorm, Washington was facing the dangerous storm known as sequestration. I am very concerned the President’s sequester will have a disastrous impact on our country’s national defense as it requires the military to absorb the brunt of the reductions, taking a severe toll on military readiness.
I had the chance to appear on two national broadcasts to discuss the sequester: Bloomberg News and Fox News DefCon 3 with K.T. McFarland. In both interviews, I called for common sense reforms to save money while, at the same time, prioritizing our national defense.
With the President’s sequester taking effect, a total of almost $1 trillion in drastic cuts to our military is set to be realized over the next 10 years. Former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta warned of a ‘hollowing’ of our armed forces if they were forced to suffer additional cuts. Army Chief of Staff General Ray Odierno has cautioned that if we do not have the resources to adequately train and equip our men and women in uniform, they will pay the price – potentially with their lives. It didn’t have to be this way.
This is President Obama’s sequester, hatched by his then-Office of Management and Budget Director Jack Lew, and was included in the final version of the Budget Control Act of 2011 – which I voted against. My House colleagues and I later passed two bills to replace the sequester with sensible spending cuts and reforms that do not raise taxes on hard-working Americans. Unfortunately, the Senate refused to take up the bills and its inaction has created this artificial crisis.
Now that the sequester is taking effect, I urge President Obama to work with Congress to implement common-sense reforms and cutting alternatives to roll back the harmful impact of the sequester. We can do it if we get our priorities right. Examples of waste abound: The IRS has its own TV station that costs taxpayers $4 million a year; the EPA gave $100 million to foreign countries, including China, over the last 10 years; and the federal government owns $1.7 billion of excess or unused federal property that could be sold.
Let’s cut where it matters and prioritize our national security. It is time for the President to stop the campaign-style rallies, roll up his sleeves, and join those of us who are working hard to keep our country’s armed forces strong and ready.
On another note, I supported legislation this week protecting women against violence when I voted to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) – legislation that provides vital protection for vulnerable women and children. VAWA supports assistance to adult and youth victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking. Violence against women, in all its forms, is unacceptable. I support efforts to prosecute to the full extent of the law all those who engage in these deplorable acts of abuse and violence, and commend the domestic violence shelters in our district that do so much for those in need.
The House version of the Violence Against Women Act protects women, provides funding for the Rural Grant Program and reauthorizes the Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) program. As a former board member of CASA, I support this important program and appreciate what it means to children who benefit from having a friend come alongside them during the court proceedings meant to put these children on a path of safety and security after having been abused.
The House version failed, however, and the more controversial Senate version passed. It contains provisions which many view as unconstitutional regarding tribal jurisdictions, which could jeopardize Indian women’s safety by overturning convictions against those who committed violence against these women. It excludes Catholic Charities from providing services to victims of sexual trafficking, even though this organization has been one of the premier providers of services and has helped thousands of young victims. It also doesn’t contain the accouontability provisions of the House version to ensure domestic violence grants go to the victims, not bureaucrats. For these reasons, I could not support the Senate version. It did pass, however, and is being sent to the President’s desk. While I opposed the controversial new sections, I am glad the other positive provisions are being renewed and that continued help will be sent to women and children in need.
Finally, I hope everyone’s power has been restored and life is getting back to normal for your family after the big snowstorm. My staff and I are in contact with emergency officials as they attempt to restore electricity to all citizens and stand ready to be helpful. I commend the hardworking employees of the electric coops and city utilities who have worked day and night to restore our power. “Thank you” to each of them.
In the meantime, if you or someone you know might still be in need of temporary shelter due to the winter storm, the State Emergency Management Agency and the United Way are working together to help. You can learn of assistance available by dialing 2-1-1 or by going to www.sema.dps.mo.gov. I pray this situation will be resolved quickly and all citizens of the Fourth can return to the comfort of their homes.
Have a good week … and enjoy a cup of steaming, hot cocoa while enjoying the beauty of the snow and the gleeful laughter of your children playing in it. Snowy wonderlands don’t come around very often. Be safe!