In this letter, I'll update you on both the meetings I held in the district this weekend and the work going on in Congress this week.
The Energy and Commerce Committee took up the issue of health care reform last week with the consideration of a 1,026 page rewrite of how health care is delivered and how insurance is provided in our country. We approved one amendment on Friday that gives the Secretary of Health and Human Services the power to identify and eliminate duplicative programs.
The Energy and Commerce Committee's consideration of the bill resumed Monday and went late into the night. The only amendments approved authorized hundreds of millions of dollars in new grant programs--which I opposed. I made the case that the money would be better spent providing home health care in rural areas, or assisting delivery of care to patients in community clinics.
Attempts to reauthorize the Ryan White HIV/AIDS program and the abstinence education law were defeated.
Meanwhile, at a meeting of the nation's governors this weekend, Democratic and Republican governors raised serious concerns about how the health care legislation will dump costly, unfunded Medicaid expansion onto states who cannot afford the new requirements.
The legislation also cuts Medicare and funding for home health care, which is already struggling to survive in states like ours. Oregon has a history of providing medical care efficiently and affordably, yet this legislation threatens an across-the-board cut in Medicare that would punish us and other states that provide efficient and affordable health care.
I plan to offer amendments to protect states like ours from unfair treatment under this measure.
You can track my view of our committee's work on Facebook and Twitter.
ON THE ROAD/AIR AGAIN
Friday night after we finished votes in the House, I flew to Boise, getting in around 11 p.m. and completing my 374th roundtrip.
Rep. Cliff Bentz picked up me and my regional office director, Colby Marshall, at 6:15 a.m. Saturday to head for a community meeting in Nyssa. The Nyssa Chamber of Commerce and Agriculture, managed by Susan Barton, helped get the word out and the room was filled! In fact the great staff at the Twilight Café had to add chairs and tables in order to get everyone a spot to sit. We had a lively discussion about the need for health care reform, without destroying the parts that work today.
We also discussed the stimulus, global warming legislation and the huge increase in deficit spending in the years ahead. I printed out a copy of the health care bill (1,026 pages), the cap and trade national energy tax bill (1,428 pages), and the stimulus bill (1,073 pages), which I had on display for people to see for themselves.
Many folks expressed concern about the growth in deficit spending and the lack of time for anyone--including Member of Congress--to actually read the legislation before it is voted upon.
From Nyssa, we traveled to Baker City to participate in the Miner's Jubilee, talk to folks around town and participate in the parade. Along the packed parade route several folks yelled out to stop deficit spending. Others I talked with raised issues ranging from wolf to grasshopper management. A special "thanks" to the Class of '74 float for the end-of-parade for cooling me off with their water cannons!
Ken Olson, Ralph Goodwin and the crew at Old West Federal Credit Union invited me to participate in a community lunch and forum. People expressed concern about deficit spending, the role of the Federal Reserve and the need to audit it (which I support), federal lands management, forest management, and the federal takeover of health care. Folks in Grant County, with one of the state's highest unemployment rates, argue that we should allow more use of federal resources, especially timber and biomass. I couldn't agree more.
There was also concern about the lack of movement on approving the resource advisory committees that work with communities and the Forest Service to undertake forest management projects. As I understand, these appointments are held up in the process and my office has already contacted the Department of Agriculture to try and break these appointments loose. With the need for work in the woods there is no reason to hold them up.
We had a room full of folks at the Harney County Courthouse. Discussion centered on health care reform, deficits/debt and the speed with which legislation is being pushed through Congress. Had good conversations with Commissioners Drinkwater and Nichols and Judge Grasty, among others. Several folks, including a local veterinarian, raised the issue of wild horse management and the negative impact recently approved legislation in the House will have on range management. I voted against the bill, which could cost taxpayers $700-million and result in the federal acquisition of 19 million acres of land--an area about the size of West Virginia. Presently, the taxpayers pay about $40 million a year to care for horses held in captivity that no one wants to adopt.
We also talked about federal forest management and that we don't need more arbitrary definitions hamstringing stewardship pertaining to age or size of trees. We need to rely on the expert forest managers, who are telling me that simply expanding the scope of the bipartisan Healthy Forests Restoration Act (HFRA) would do more good. This is an act I helped author and was supported by several other Oregon members of Congress.
We wrapped up the meeting around 5 p.m. and got a ride back to the airport with Peggy Asmussen, owner of Ruel Teague Motor Company, who continues on as a Chrysler dealership, but had their GM dealership taken away. It was a good opportunity to hear first-hand about the impacts of these government mandated decisions that resulted in the closure of GM dealerships all across the country.
HERMISTON WATER REUSE BILL
This morning, the House Natural Resources Water and Power Subcommittee held a hearing on my legislation to allow the City of Hermiston to participate in a wastewater reuse program that will help the city comply with federal pollution standards for over the next 20 years, allow the water supply to keep up with the growing population, and return water into the Umatilla River to benefit threatened salmon species. You can read my full statement here.
Hermiston City Manager Ed Brookshier made the trip back to Washington D.C. to testify at the hearing. He and his team have done a wonderful job of demonstrating to me the need for the project and why it's a worthwhile federal investment.
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