Working to Support our Troops, Protect our Homeland, and Provide for Intelligence Reform
October 21 , 2004
Before adjourning for the November elections, the House took up several important pieces of legislation to support our military and help strengthen our nation's homeland security. I am proud to have supported these important measures and it is my pleasure to keep you updated of my work in Washington on behalf of the hardworking people of North Texas. It is both an honor and a privilege to represent you in Congress.
Member of Congress
Defense Bill Focuses on Force Protection & Personnel Benefits
The annual defense authorization bill is one of the most important bills the Congress considers and I was pleased to support a bill that included a number of successes for our soldiers and veterans. These include making the imminent danger pay increase permanent; ending the Survivor Benefit Penalty; funding vital North Texas defense projects like the F-22 and F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and increasing a 3.5% across-the-board pay raise for active duty personnel and reservists. Also, the bill provides $25 billion in supplemental funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to ensure that our troops have everything they need to successfully accomplish their mission and return home to their families safely. That includes force protection measures like additional body armor, countermeasures for improvised explosive devices, and armored Humvees. I am especially proud that the bill finally eliminates the Social Security offsets to the Survivor Benefits Plan payments over four years for the spouses of military retirees. I have been a strong opponent of this "Widow's Tax" and I'm glad military spouses finally receive the benefits they earned through a lifetime of service. This is a good defense bill that will improve the lives of our service men and women, veterans, and their families.
Protecting Our Homeland
The President signed into law the Homeland Security spending bill, appropriating $32.0 billion for operations and activities of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), an increase of $1.1 billion above the fiscal year 2004 enacted levels, and $496 million above the President's request. The Department of Homeland Security was created with one single overriding responsibility: to make America more secure. The bill provides $4.0 billion for first responders, including grants to high threat areas, firefighters, and emergency management. It's important to ensure that those who protect our communities everyday are provided with the equipment and training they need to perform their jobs effectively. The bill also enhances our transportation security by providing $2.0 billion for passenger screening and $662 million for Federal Air Marshals to ensure mission coverage on both domestic and international flights. For border security, the bill provides $9.8 billion for border protection, an increase of $700 million over fiscal year 2004 enacted levels. These funds support next generation technology to screen high-risk cargo coming through our land and seaports and surveillance equipment like unmanned aerial vehicles. We've seen some progress in making America more secure since September 11th, but there is still much more to be done. Homeland security has been one of my top priorities in Congress and I believe we must do whatever is necessary to ensure the safety of all Americans.
Congress recently passed legislation based upon the 9-11 Commission's recommendations designed to guard against future attacks. I voted for the House version (H.R. 10) because this bill includes a number of the 9-11 Commission's bipartisan recommendations that will strengthen our intelligence operations oversight, increase the number of border agents, and improve port security and air cargo inspection. This bill also creates a national counter-terrorism center, a vital recommendation of the 9-11 Commission that will improve our intelligence efforts. The House and the Senate will begin working to reconcile the differences between the two bills in conference committee. I urge Republicans and Democrats in Congress to follow the bipartisan lead of the Senate, whose bill passed 96-2, and work in good faith on this legislation, putting partisan politics and interest aside. National security affects all of us, and I believe that Congress should immediately return to Washington to reconcile the differences between the House and Senate passed versions of the legislation. It should be a priority to send a final bill to the White House for the President's signature by Election Day.
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