First, let me begin by thanking those of you who participated in our nation's electoral process this week. I have often observed that the Constitution is the greatest invention of humans because it gives us a resilient, self-correcting mechanism for balancing our competing interest. Tuesday gave us a reminder that the citizenry can make course corrections. When the 110th Congress convenes in January 2007, I will be working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to address the key issues before our nation. Among our first actions will be to increase the minimum wage as a reminder of the necessity of achieving economic fairness in America; to make college tuition costs tax deductible; and to enact lobbying and ethics reform, as a reminder that we are sent to Congress to promote the general interest, not special or selfish interest. I welcome your ideas and suggestions on issues you believe I should take up in 2007.
Change of Command at the Pentagon
The President's decision this week to replace Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was long overdue. Our men and women fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan deserve leadership worthy of their sacrifice and service. Whether Rumsfeld's replacementformer CIA Director Robert Gateswill be more open to the advice of our military leaders, and to new ways of thinking about how to extricate ourselves from Iraq, is unclear at the moment. What is clear is that our continued, large-scale military presence is counter-productive, and that it is well past time for the Iraqi government to assume responsibility for Iraq's security. I remain convinced that the sooner we announce a schedule for an orderly withdrawal of the bulk of our military forces, the sooner we will see a willingness on the part of the nationalist insurgents to return to the political process. If he is confirmed as defense secretary, I hope Mr. Gates will urge the President to begin such a responsible withdrawal to help facilitate a political settlement in Iraq.
Want To Honor Our Veterans? Hire One!
Earlier this year, the Labor Department noted that America's youngest veteransmen 18 to 24 years oldhad a higher jobless rate than non-veterans in the same age range (17.2 versus 10.4 percent). Just think: a service man or woman returning home from an often-harrowing experience in Iraq or Afghanistan, with all of the skills and maturity gained, has a harder time finding a job than someone who never served. To help address this and other employment problems affecting veterans, I introduced a bill calling on the President to create a permanent "Hire A Veteran Week" to encourage employers to make hiring veterans a priority. The House passed the bill on July 24, and it now awaits action in the Senate. On November 9, I held a press conference in Eatontown with a local company that hires many veterans. The company, Phacil Corporation, provides information technology services, acquisition support, facilities management, security, and intelligence services to the civilian and defense sectors, and it does so with a workforce that is 25% veterans. If every employer made hiring veterans a specific goal (I have two working for me) and if government hiring goals were enforced, we would get the benefits of their skills and experience and we would give the veterans some of what we owe them.
Member of Congress