As I head back home to Georgia for Memorial Day Weekend, my thoughts have been focused on the brave men and women that this holiday honors. We are blessed in this nation to have the most professional, most courageous, and most dedicated military in the world. Our service members, and their families, have been stalwart defenders of freedom here at home and across the globe since our nation was founded, and we are forever in their debt. Memorial Day honors those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for their country, and I know I will be spending time this weekend reflecting on that sacrifice -- and the accompanying loss experienced by the families of those who have given all.
Outside of my office in Washington, DC hangs a poster with the names and photos of those soldiers, marines, airmen, and sailors from the 11th District who have lost their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan. I often pause as I leave my office, and spend some time studying their photos. I see many people who walk by my office do the same. Each name on that poster has a story and a family left behind, and that poster reminds me that every day I am fortunate enough to serve the 11th District of Georgia in the House of Representatives, I will do my best to support our military, their families, and to provide them the resources they need and deserve as they continue to defend our liberty.
In political news, it was ironic that the Democratic Majority chose this week to bring the annual Defense Authorization bill to the floor as a vehicle for advancing their liberal activist agenda. The Defense Authorization bill is an annual piece of legislation that lays out the priorities and funding for the Department of Defense and normally is passed by an almost unanimous vote. Unfortunately, this year, Democrats attached a repeal of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy to the bill. Whatever your feelings on whether or not the policy should be changed, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Secretary of Defense had asked Congress to delay voting on the Don't Ask Don't Tell repeal until the completion of a study on the impact of the repeal and the best ways to implement a new policy. This is a fundamental policy change, and we must know what impact repealing the law will have on unit cohesion, readiness, recruiting, and retention before making any permanent decisions -- especially since we are in the midst of two wars. But rather than wait for the results, the Democratic Majority chose to substitute their judgment for the collective findings of our military, and attach the controversial amendment to the Defense bill. Furthermore, they allotted only 10 minutes of time to debate this change, which in my opinion, is absolutely unjustifiable.
I voted against repealing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," and I am especially opposed to changing it solely to placate a liberal constituency rather than taking the time to weigh the input of the 2.5 million men and women -- and their families -- of our military. Unfortunately, the Democrats didn't agree and attached the amendment to the Defense bill anyway -- which left me no choice but to vote against the entire bill.
The Democratic Majority also pushed through another spending bill today -- a $54.2 billion deficit increasing, tax-hiking, job-killing package that thankfully should not be able to make it through the Senate. The bill makes its clear that "PAYGO" -- which is the Democrats' claim to pay for legislation as it is passed -- is a mockery given its deficit implication. The legislation also includes taxes on small business income, discourages entrepreneurial risk-taking, and includes more than a half-dozen complex changes to our international tax rules. However, what the bill does not include is a permanent fix to the Medicare Physician Reimbursement rate -- which sets the level at which the government pays physicians for treating seniors on Medicare. Instead of fixing the problem, they passed another short term solution that expands the deficit by $22.9 billion without providing a permanent fix.
I also joined with some of my fellow Republicans on the Health Care Solutions Group as a sponsor of the Reform Americans Can Afford Act. The legislation would repeal the government takeover of health care and replace it with commonsense solutions to keep Washington out of the doctor's office and, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, would lower health care premiums by up to 20 percent compared to the Democrats' law. It would also repeal the one-half trillion dollar tax increase and the one-half trillion dollar Medicare cut that the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services' actuaries said could jeopardize access to care for Medicare beneficiaries. Given that the newest Rasmussen Poll found that 63 percent of Americans want Obamacare repealed, it is a top priority of mine, and all Republicans, to make this happen.
House Republicans launched a new effort this week to involve every American in reshaping the policy priorities of Washington. Called America Speaking Out, all Americans will have a hands-on opportunity to influence policy-making in Washington through the different features such as town hall meetings, an innovative website, mobile applications, and other communication tools. You can start participating now at www.AmericaSpeakingOut.com and I'll also be holding an America Speaking Out Town Hall on Monday, June 7th, in Kennesaw, GA. This town hall will start with a blank white board, and be filled in with the ideas of my constituents. Details on time and location are below.
Thank you for everyone who has signed up for my Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube pages, which helped me make it to the Championship of the House GOP New Media Challenge. Today I answered some questions that people have posted on my Facebook wall, which you can view here: http://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=947097936030&ref=mf.
As always, please contact me if I or my staff can be helpful, and please have a safe Memorial Day Weekend.
Phil Gingrey, M.D.