The Week Just Past
"While all Americans should be thanking members of our armed forces and their families for their service each and every day, I respectfully ask that you make a special effort to support service members, their spouses and their children during the holidays. They all serve us proudly and we stand in awe of their sacrifices and their resolve.
"They may be stationed at Picatinny Arsenal. Their base may be Ft. Monmouth or Ft. Dix or McGuire Air Force Base. They may be from Navy Lakehurst or Earle. They could be members of our hometown National Guard. Or they could be in transit to or through our state from the war zones far away.
"From wherever they come, I ask all New Jersey residents to take a moment to say "thank you' to any service members they may encounter. I know from personal experience that they deeply appreciate hearing some quick acknowledgment or small expression of gratitude.
"From the earliest days of our Republic, brave men and women have stepped forward to protect their fellow Americans. This year, let's make sure that they know that we appreciate their sacrifices and those of their families."
More and More Washington Spending
On Wednesday Rodney voted "no" on Speaker Nancy Pelosi's second massive round of so-called "stimulus" spending. The $150 billion legislation passed the House by a narrow vote of 217-212.
"History is repeating itself in this bill. This "Stimulus II' bill repeats the mistakes of its predecessor -- more spending with very few private sector jobs and very little recovery to show for it," Rodney said. "Just minutes earlier, Speaker Pelosi's House Majority voted to increase our national debt limit by a whopping $290 billion! Now they have already burned through more than half of that borrowed money on this latest so-called "stimulus.'"
The "Stimulus II" package pours billions of dollars into the same programs funded under the original "Stimulus." In several cases, most of the money from the first bill has not yet been spent. For example, "Stimulus I" allocated more than $27 billion for highways, of which only 18 percent has been spent. This "Stimulus II" pours yet another $27.5 billion into highway funding.
"Americans are hurting. They need private sector jobs and recovery now, not more debt and more government spending and more taxes. President Obama said his original stimulus package would keep unemployment below eight percent. But unemployment has exceeded ten percent and the unemployment/underemployment rate is closer to 17%! And the President still hasn't told us how spending billions of tax dollars is going to turn that around."
Recommended Reading: N. Gregory Mankiw in the Sunday New York Times: "Tax Cuts Might Accomplish What Spending Hasn't":
Recommended Reading II: An amusing piece by Dana Milbank in the Thursday Washington Post: "Liberals Pass the Tea to the Left":
Recommended Reading III: "4 Big Mortgage Backers Swim in Ocean of Debt" in Thursday's New York Times:
Funding for our Warfighters Approved
The House passed the final Defense appropriations bill Wednesday by a vote of 395--34. The legislation would provide $636 billion in funding for the Department of Defense, including a 3.4 percent pay raise for the troops and funding for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Rodney supported the bill but warned, "I am concerned that the Administration is not making the necessary investments today to ensure that we are prepared to defend our nation from ALL threats tomorrow. In the years ahead, I will be working to ensure that the Administration does not "under-resource' our military, especially in light the larger and more complex mission we are undertaking in Afghanistan."
Recommended Reading IV: From Thursday's Washington Post: "Pelosi says rallying votes for troop surge in Afghanistan will be Obama's job":
Good Presentation of the Week:
Rodney had the opportunity this week to join other members of Congress for a confidential briefing on our efforts in Afghanistan. The briefers were Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Joint Chief of Staff Vice-Chairman, General James Cartwright.
While he is not a liberty to disclose the content of the discussions, Rodney reported, "I was most impressed by Secretary Clinton's knowledge of both Afghanistan and Pakistan. Her remarks and her responses to some very tough questions about the President's new strategy were very focused. It is clear that she possesses a great command of the recent political and military history and has a clear view of how the Afghans and Pakistanis view us."
Recommended Reading V: From the November 16 Washington Times; "U.S. troops battle both Taliban and their own rules":
"Guantanamo North": P.R. Above National Security
Less than a month ago, the Obama Administration announced it would bring Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and other 9/11 conspirators to New York City to be tried in civilian federal court. Since then, the reaction of the American people has been clear: they do not want dangerous terrorists imported onto U.S. soil.
This week the Obama Administration settled on a site on U.S. soil to hold the remaining detainees at the naval facility on Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The federal government will spend $150 million purchase and renovate a 1,600-bed state prison in northern Illinois to hold approximately 100 dangerous, committed terrorists.
Beyond fulfilling a campaign promise and wasting precious federal money to rebuild a state-of-the-art detention facility, transferring these terrorists to the American Midwest will have important legal ramifications.
We know that constitutional rights are enhanced when detainees come to U.S. soil. In fact, a federal judge may order the government to release a detainee based upon a violation of his constitutional rights.
Americans are entitled to know what additional rights these terrorists will receive simply by virtue of their transfer from Cuba to Illinois. They have the right to know where these terrorists will be tried and whether they will be released into American communities if their detention is held to be illegal or they are acquitted on a legal technicality.
The decision to try the September 11, 2001 plotters in New York is not based on any legal precedent or grounded in national security considerations. It appears that the Administration is intent on making that bad decision worse by opening "Guantanamo North" in our own American heartland.
It appears that these days, international public relations trumps national security.
Backing the SEALs
A week after writing to Defense Secretary Gates on behalf of three Navy SEALs charged with misconduct in the capture of an accused terrorist in Iraq, Rodney has cosponsored a House resolution pledging "continued support for members of the United States Armed Forces serving in harm's way."
People wishing to register their opinion on the prosecution of the three SEALs can write:
Honorable Robert Gates
Secretary of Defense
1400 Defense Pentagon
Washington DC 20301-1400
House Votes on Iran Sanctions
On the same day Iran test-fired an upgraded version of its most advanced missile, which is capable of hitting Israel and parts of Europe, the House passed another set of tougher sanctions in response to Iran's rejection of diplomatic overtures and Tehran's blatant threats to expand its nuclear program.
* Here are some recent developments that call into question, Iran's seriousness with respect to ongoing diplomatic discussions:
Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has expressed opposition to holding negotiations with the U.S., saying such a move would be "naïve and perverted."
* Iran announced plans to build 10 uranium enrichment sites throughout the country, a serious expansion of its enrichment efforts and a sign of the non-civilian nature of Teheran's nuclear program. By the way, the United States has just one enrichment facility for 65 operational nuclear power plants. Iran's lone nuclear plant is not yet operational.
* Iran continues to use talks with the international community to distract attention from its refusal to suspend its enrichment of uranium, as mandated by five U.N. Security Council resolutions.
Iran's rejection of U.S. and international engagement efforts combined with Tehran's refusal for more than three years to meet the requirements of the U.N. Security Council leaves the international community no option but to implement stringent new sanctions on the Iranian regime.
Passage by Congress of legislation that sanctions the sale and export to Iran of refined petroleum products and other similar legislation is critical. With Iran forced to import up to 40 percent of its gasoline and diesel, limiting the country's access to such products would have a dramatic economic effect and could force the regime to change course.
Recommended Reading VI: Kimberly A. Strassel in Friday's Wall Street Journal: "The EPA's Carbon Bomb Fizzles":
International Trade = American Jobs
With unemployment hovering in the vicinity of 10 percent, there is a high level of job-related anxiety in America today. And Rodney believes that the government has an obligation, without new government spending and borrowing, to promote job private sector creation while and protecting current jobs.
One of the best ways to protect current jobs and laying the foundation for job growth is through robust international trade.
To this end, Rodney has introduced House Resolution 987, which urges Congress to debate and ratify the pending Colombia, Panama and South Korean free trade agreements.
Since 2005, 64 trade pacts have taken effect across the globe. The U.S. is a party to only five --with Australia, Bahrain, Morocco, Oman and Peru. During the same time frame, Japan has signed nine and the European Union (EU), which already has liberalized trade practices among its 27 member states, has signed eight.
Pending free trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea that will tear down barriers to our products languish in the United States Congress. Unfortunately, Speaker Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Reid, with the apparent approval of President Obama, have refused to bring these agreements before Congress for approval.
As the U.S. stalls, the EU is moving to fill the void. It is actively negotiating with South Korea, using many of the same principles and goals that our trade officials used years ago. In fact, there are credible estimates that the U.S. will lose 345,000 jobs if it fails to implement the Korean FTA!
Likewise, it has been over 1,100 days since President Bush sent a final U.S.-Colombia free trade agreement to Congress for implementation. In the meantime, the Canadians have completed their own deal with Colombia which will ultimately disadvantage our manufacturers and farmers.
This is not some dry, theoretical debate for New Jersey. Our businesses, large and small, and their workers, have a great deal riding on these agreements and others yet to be reached. They will create private sector jobs here in America, in general, and in New Jersey, specifically.
In fact, the latest data has shown that over 130,000 jobs in New Jersey depend on trade. Of these, 50,500 are manufacturing jobs. Indeed, approximately one of every six manufacturing jobs in New Jersey is directly connected to trade. In addition, small businesses, America's job creators, would be among the major beneficiaries of U.S. initiatives to reduce foreign barriers to our exports.