Kline's Corner: Selection to a top committee position
As we continue to organize the 110th Congress, committee assignments are being issued and I am pleased to have been selected to once again serve on the two committees for which I have worked the previous four years - the House Armed Services Committee and the Education and Labor Committee.
The Education and Labor Committee is still being formally organized. However, I was honored to be named the senior ranking Republican member to the Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor and Pensions (previously called the Employer-Employee Relations Subcommittee).
As a member of this committee last year, I helped to write the most comprehensive pension reform in more than a generation that protects the pensions of 44 million Americans, including 441,000 Teamsters. It also protects the interests of workers, retirees and taxpayers while ensuring that employers will continue to offer retirement benefits. The pension reform also included an airline provision that provides security to 9,100 Northwest Airlines pension plan participants in the Second District.
The Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor and Pensions is responsible for pension, health, and other employee benefits, including the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA); all matters dealing with relationships between employers and employees, to include the National Labor Relations Act and Bureau of Labor Statistics; all matters related to equal employment opportunity and civil rights in employment.
The new Congress faces exciting and difficult issues, and I look forward to working in a bipartisan manner to pass even more fiscally responsible reforms for students, workers, retirees and employers.
My top priority - our military personnel
I look forward to returning to the Subcommittee on Military Personnel, and the Subcommittee on Terrorism, Unconventional Threats, and Capabilities as I serve a third term on the House Armed Services Committee (HASC).
As a member of HASC, I remain committed to supporting our most valuable national security asset - our military personnel. The primary responsibility of HASC is the protection of our nation and the American people. The current war against Islamist extremists serves as a daily reminder that we must remain vigilant. It is imperative that we work together, and with the President, to ensure our men and women in the military have every resource they need to defend our freedom.
A brief summary of the two HASC subcommittees on which I serve:
* Military Personnel Subcommittee: Responsible for military personnel policy, reserve component integration and employment issues, military health care, military education, and POW/MIA issues. In addition, the subcommittee is responsible for Morale, Welfare and Recreation issues and programs.
* Terrorism, Unconventional Threats, and Capabilities Subcommittee: Responsible for Department of Defense (DoD) counter-proliferation and counter-terrorism programs and initiatives. In addition, the subcommittee is responsible for Special Operations Forces, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, information technology policy and programs, force protection policy and oversight, and related intelligence support.
Reducing aircraft noise over Burnsville
When the new east-west runway at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport opened in the fall of 2005, one of the unfortunate effects was increased airport noise from air traffic heard by many residents of Burnsville and nearby areas located in the heart of the Second District.
For six months, I have been meeting and communicating with Burnsville city officials, the Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC), and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in an effort to reach a compromise that would help reduce the airline traffic noise over Burnsville while enabling air traffic to maintain the high safety standards set by the FAA.
Most recently, a senior member of my staff attended a meeting Wednesday of the MAC Noise Oversight Committee. I spoke with FAA officials that same day in Washington and was pleased to learn that a temporary agreement has been reached. The FAA agreed to test a 60-day trial plan in which aircraft departing the new runway will slightly alter their flight paths to reduce aircraft noise over Burnsville.
Putting a stamp on major postal reform
As Americans increasingly communicate and do business through e-mail, cell phones, fax machines and the Internet, it has become clear that the U.S. Postal Service was in need of change. I was pleased last month to support the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act, a bipartisan bill that will overhaul the U.S. Postal Service for the first time since 1970.
This bill the President recently signed into law will help the U.S. Postal Service operate more like a business and ensure its solvency by streamlining its operations, reducing its costs and increasing its ability to compete. Under the new law, stamp prices won't increase faster than inflation rates for the next 10 years. The U.S. Postal Service will also compete better by offering discounts and promotional rates.
The delivery and courier service industry involves more than 9 million jobs and $90 billion in commerce. This major postal reform should renew the U.S. Postal Service and give it the tools needed to remain viable in the 21st century.
Deficit falls to lowest level in four years
The Office of Management and Budget recently announced that the federal deficit is continuing to decline. From October through December, 2006, the deficit was the smallest it has been for the first three months of the year since 2002. This is the latest in a line of encouraging economic reports that show that strong economic growth from lowering taxes and fiscal discipline are helping to reduce our national debt.