I want to take this opportunity to update you on some of my work over the last several months of the 112th Congress on several important issues facing the country and the 10th District.
THE ECONOMY AND FEDERAL BUDGET
For the past five years, I have been urging Congress and the past and present administration to address the issue of our mounting debt and unsustainable deficits. We are over $14 trillion in debt and we have been warned over and over again that we must get our fiscal house in order. The most recent of these warnings came in mid-April when Standard and Poor's downgraded its outlook for U.S. debt from "stable" to "negative." Moody's also has warned that our coveted AAA bond rating could be in jeopardy in less than a year. We've seen what a downgrade can do to foreign economies, and we must not let that happen here.
Last month, I supported a plan to cut nearly $40 billion - the largest single spending cut since WWII - from the FY 2011 budget. While this package to reduce spending did not include everything we hoped it would, it was a step in the right direction and necessary to prevent the government from shutting down. I also voted for the FY2012 budget proposal produced by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan that recommended a plan to cut nearly $6 trillion over the next 10 years. I see the Ryan proposal as an honest attempt to continue the conversation on our country's financial future.
I continue to believe the report produced by the president's deficit reduction commission, also known as the Bowles-Simpson commission, offers the most comprehensive and realistic solution to our nation's fiscal problems. Their plan would achieve significant debt reduction through a combination of major spending cuts and the elimination of earmarks in the tax code that allow companies like General Electric to pay no taxes. Bowles-Simpson also includes reforms to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security to further strengthen these programs so that they are solvent for future generations. Like other plans introduced over the last few months, there are provisions in the Bowles-Simpson report that I do not like, but I believe it is a bipartisan approach that could bring the country together. I am anxious to see the work of a bipartisan group of senators known as the "Gang of Six" who reportedly are drafting a proposal modeled after the Bowles-Simpson recommendations.
Our debt and the deficit crisis isn't just a simple exercise in rooting out waste, fraud and abuse. It is all well and good to eliminate earmarks, waste, fraud and abuse, and rein in discretionary spending, but these things alone don't come close to solving the debt and the deficit. If we don't deal with Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security we cannot solve this problem. We need to do it in a way that really fixes the problem - for us and for the next generation.
With unemployment hovering around 9 percent, this Congress must focus on new and innovative ways to create jobs in America. Reining in spending and reforming the tax code would show the world that America's government is serious about paying its debts and gaining control of its over spending. Such a step would send positive signals to global markets and give employers the confidence that America will be a good place to do business in the years to come. Many economists believe that this is the best way we can immediately create jobs.
While Congress must consider these major spending and tax reforms, there are other steps we can take to promote economic growth and job creation in America. I have been a long-time champion of job creation through export promotion, domestic manufacturing, and high-tech research and development. Now we have to find a ways to keep jobs in America by providing incentives to companies to create and expand job opportunities and to help bring jobs now overseas back to America.
I have introduced legislation to achieve these goals. My bill, the Bring Jobs Back To America Act, would comprehensively align existing federal funding - at no new cost - to support job repatriation and manufacturing growth, study new tax incentives to encourage repatriation and bolster intellectual property protection for America firms. I had introduced similar legislation in the last Congress.
The bill would create federal "Repatriation Task Forces" to identify American companies with manufacturing facilities, call centers, and other offshore operations abroad and work with states to facilitate the repatriation of jobs to the U.S.
Reducing the unemployment rate and restoring a vibrant economy will take new and creative ideas that allow us to compete in a global economy. This is a commonsense, first step toward reducing the competition gap that exists between the U.S. manufacturing industry and the rest of the world.
Ensuring that the project to bring Metrorail to the Dulles corridor is completed on time and on budget is one of my top priorities. I believe that we should do everything possible to minimize the cost of the project and prevent cost overruns. That is why I am absolutely opposed to the recent decision by the Washington Metropolitan Airports Authority (MWAA) to build an underground tunnel at the Dulles Airport station, a decision that would add at least an additional $300 million to construction costs. Each additional dollar spent on this project would be an extra burden on every user of the Dulles Toll Road and the Metro system, through higher tolls, taxes and fares.
I am equally concerned about preventing cost overruns for this project. That is why I have asked the inspector general for the U.S. Department of Transportation to conduct an ongoing audit of Phase 1 and Phase 2 of the project to ensure cost overruns do not occur. I have also asked the U.S. Government Accountability Office to conduct a comprehensive review of the operations of MWAA.
WINNING THE WAR IN AFGHANISTAN
We are 10 years into our nation's longest running war in Afghanistan and the American people and their elected representatives do not have a clear sense of what we are aiming to achieve, why it is necessary, and how far we are from attaining our goal. When faced with a similar situation in Iraq, I offered legislation that created the Iraq Study Group (ISG). Many experts believe the bipartisan ISG report issued in December 2006 played a pivotal role in helping the Bush administration re-focus the mission in Iraq and that implementing new strategies, such as "the surge," helped turn the tide of the war effort. I believe a similar effort is needed now in Afghanistan.
In April, I introduced legislation to establish what I am calling an "Afghanistan-Pakistan Study Group" (APSG) to evaluate U.S. strategy in Afghanistan and Pakistan and clarify the U.S. mission, goals and objectives for success. Similar to the ISG, the group would be tasked with conducting a forward looking assessment of the situation on the ground in Afghanistan and Pakistan, its impact on the surrounding region, and its consequences for U.S. interests. It would be required to issue a report to the president and Congress no later than 120 days after the legislation's enactment.
As we honor the excellent work done by our men and women in the armed services and the intelligence community that brought Osama bin Laden to justice, we must also remain vigilant as we continue to fight terrorists around the world. Bin Laden's death is a major victory in the fight against global terrorism but we know that others will undoubtedly try to take his place. We must continue to develop and hone our tactics and strategies for fighting these terrorists so that our country is not attacked again.
That is why I introduced legislation earlier this year to create a panel of outside experts to bring "fresh eyes" to U.S. counterterrorism strategy, including domestic radicalization. Creation of a "Team B" would provide the intelligence community and law enforcement agencies with objective evaluations of U.S. counterterrorism policy and offer recommendations to combat new and emerging threats. Historically the phrase "Team B" refers to a group of outside experts commissioned by the CIA in the 1970s to analyze threats posed by the former Soviet Union to the U.S. to counter the positions of intelligence officials within the CIA known as "Team A."
The "Team B" would also provide law enforcement agencies with new strategies to fight the ever-increasing threat of domestic radicalization. According to the Congressional Research Service, there have been 43 "homegrown jihadist terrorist plots and attacks since 9/11" in the U.S., including 22 plots or attacks since May 2009.
We need a strategy which focuses not just on connecting the dots of intelligence, but which seeks to stay a step ahead in understanding how to break the radicalization and recruitment cycle that sustains our enemy, how to disrupt their network globally and how to strategically isolate them.
HEALTH CARE REFORM
Earlier this year, I voted to repeal the health care "reform" legislation that President Obama signed into law last year. I have also supported measures to eliminate the burdensome new 1099 tax filing requirements and mandate that every dollar needed to implement the law come from discretionary spending accounts. This would force Congress to approve spending for the new law every year and prevent any automatic appropriations. I also have voted more than a dozen times to stop implementation of the new law.
Our nation's health care system is far from perfect. But I believe we need to implement reforms focused on lowering cost and expanding access to health care without increasing government spending.
SPEAKING OUT FOR RELIGIOUS FREEDOM
In the wake of increasing violence, targeted attacks and heightened discrimination against Christians in Iraq and Egypt, and persistent concerns in Afghanistan and Pakistan, among other nations, I introduced bipartisan legislation calling for the creation of a special envoy at the U.S. State Department for religious minorities in the Near East and South Central Asia.
The threats against religious minorities have been increasing in recent months and the United States has an obligation to speak out for the voiceless, to develop policies to protect and preserve these communities, and to prioritize these issues in our broader foreign policy. President Reagan once said that the U.S. Constitution is a "covenant that we have made not only with ourselves, but with all of mankind." If the international community fails to speak out, the prospects for religious pluralism and tolerance in these regions is bleak.
FIGHTING STINK BUGS
Whether you're a homeowner and see the brown marmorated stink bug as a household pest, or a farmer, grower or planter who knows the economic damage stink bugs are causing for the region's crops, I believe all would agree that we have to attack the stink bug infestation head on. As I travel the 10th District and talk with growers and vintners, I understand the devastation these insects are having, especially on apple and grape crops. One recent study by the U.S. Apple Association estimated that nearly $37 million has been lost by apple growers in four Mid Atlantic states - Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania - due to stink bug infestations.
My office is working with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and other researchers and scientists to find the best practices to combat the stink bug infestation. I held a forum in Purcellville on April 18 featuring presentations from Dr. Tracy Leskey and Dr. Chris Bergh, two of the most respected experts on this subject. Their presentations are available on my Web site. Just click on wolf.house.gov/stinkbugs. I hope you will check this site frequently as we continue to provide information on combating stink bugs, including the latest updates from researchers and scientists across the country.
I know this report is lengthy, but I hope you found it informative. And again, please do not hesitate to contact my office if we can be of assistance in any way.