The 10th District has a history and tradition of a thoughtful global outlook and special appreciation for the positive role American leadership can, and must, play in the world. We expect strong leadership from our representatives in Washington on foreign affairs and national security, and this is a responsibility that I embrace. In Congress, among other critical international issues, I have focused on human rights, confronting Iran's nuclear weapons program, and standing up against the de-legitimization of Israel in the international community.
One of the Federal Government's primary responsibilities is to make sure our homeland remains safe and free. Central to this core obligation is a belief that the United States must maintain a strong national defense, provide clear leadership on the world stage, and not distance ourselves from traditional allies. As Congressman, I am committed to leading efforts in Congress which advance these critical principles.
The current regime in Iran and its pursuit of a nuclear weapon poses a historic security threat to the United States and to our allies. Iran is already the world's leading state-sponsor of terrorism, and I believe that we must do everything in our power to protect not only our security interests, but the safety and security of our greatest ally in the region, Israel.
In an effort to confront the Iranian threat, I have taken a number of actions, including the following:
* Called for and supported crippling sanctions on the Central Bank of Iran
* Introduced bipartisan legislation aimed at promoting democracy and human rights inside Iran
* Co-authored legislation to strengthen sanctions on Iran's energy sector
* Spoken out on the House floor to call for the rejection of any U.S. policy aimed at "containing" a nuclear Iran
* Worked with my colleagues to ensure that Congress continues to take the lead in ratcheting up the pressure on the Iranian regime.
Regarding the international talks (P5 +1) over Iran's nuclear program, I believe that we must not deceive ourselves about the desire of Iranian leaders to use these talks merely as a way to stall and buy the nuclear program more time to develop. While we of course remain open to diplomatic resolution, I will continue to push the Administration and hold it accountable for implementing sanctions aggressively, and I believe that all military options must remain credible and on the table.
With so much at stake, I will never lose focus on Iran's nuclear weapons program. A nuclear-weapons capable Iran is simply unacceptable, and we must press ahead with urgency and firmness until this threat is affirmatively and effectively dismantled.
(Click here for a downloadable PDF of my record in Congress advancing the U.S.-Israel relationship)
The national security of the United States is directly tied to the strength and security of the State of Israel. Israel is the preeminent, stable democracy in the Middle East as well as America's strongest and most-trusted ally in the region. Our two nations share a proud and vital strategic, military, economic, diplomatic, and humanitarian relationship, and yet we currently face together many historic challenges in the Middle East.
The tragic reality is that Israel lives in a dangerous neighborhood, surrounded by hostile neighbors who fail to recognize its right to exist and who openly seek the annihilation of the Jewish State. We know that Hamas and Hezbollah have over 50,000 rockets aimed squarely at the people of Israel; we know that Egypt is in a volatile transition period that could jeopardize the Camp David Peace Accords; and we know that the Palestinian Authority refuses to sit down at the negotiating table for direct talks, choosing instead the path of reuniting with Hamas and circumventing the prospects for peace by going to the United Nations to seek a unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state. And of course, there is Iran. Due to all of these threats, I understand the importance of and support fully funding U.S. security assistance to Israel, including for joint U.S.-Israeli systems such as the Iron Dome rocket defense system. Israel must be able to maintain the qualitative and quantitative military edge it needs to meet the growing threats to its security.
Whether it be delivering speeches from the floor of the House Chamber, drafting and introducing legislation, traveling to Israel, authoring letters that other Members sign on to in support, contacting officials in other countries, working with my colleagues in the halls of Congress, or cosponsoring critical legislation, I will continue to work to be more than just a vote, but an effective and strong leading voice advancing the U.S.-Israel relationship.
The American people have grown weary of the tremendous cost of the 11-year war in Afghanistan. While I will always support our military and ensure that our fighting forces have the resources that they need to achieve their objective, I believe that it is essential that we work with our military commanders on the ground to achieve our objectives as quickly as possible. We need to ensure that Afghanistan is never again used as a base from which to attack the U.S. homeland, but this must be matched with the reality that we cannot and should not remain fighting there forever.
International Human Rights
We must not stand idle as human rights abuses are being perpetrated on innocent people around the globe, and I have repeatedly worked to shine a spotlight on such abuses. Being a member of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission of the United States Congress -- a non-partisan commission devoted to promote defend and advocate internationally recognized human rights norms -- I have focused on important international religious freedom and human rights issues, particularly abuses in Africa, the Near-East, and South Central Asia, North Korea, Iran, Syria, Egypt, and Iraq. Whether it is through statements, votes, support for legislation, the writing of letters to the Administration, or other initiatives, I will continue to look for ways to draw attention to this issue.
Defense Spending and Debt Reduction
While I am confident that the American people understand the necessity of funding our national security priorities, we cannot ignore that our national debt crisis limits our flexibility to achieve our long-term security objectives. This is why the former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Navy Admiral Mike Mullen, has repeatedly called our debt the "single, biggest threat to our national security."
I have stated that everything must be on the table for discussion as part of our efforts to reduce the Federal debt -- and this includes defense spending. This is why I have promoted a number of efforts to identify and eliminate billions of dollars in wasteful spending in the defense budget, and why I voted for $487 billion in defense cuts as part of a larger deficit reduction package that has been signed into law.
However, I do not agree with those who would like to see the implementation of an additional $492 billion in defense cuts, on top of the $487 billion in cuts currently set to occur. I agree with Defense Secretary Leon Panetta that this proposed additional round of cuts would be devastating to our military's capabilities in an extraordinarily dangerous time. When testifying before Congress, Secretary Panetta has said that by making such deep cuts, "We'd be shooting ourselves in the head."
The issues and plight of the Armenian-American community should be supported by the United States and I will continue to be a champion on their behalf. I will continue to apply pressure to the Administration to recognize the Armenian Genocide, and have introduced House Resolution 304, an affirmation of the United States record that such genocide occurred. I will continue to support this effort until we are successful in changing U.S. policy. Further, I believe it is in the best interest of both the United States and Armenia to expand trade relations between our two countries, and I support a U.S. role in protecting the lives and basic human rights of the Armenian people of NagornoKarabagh. The people of NagornoKarabagh deserve better than their current mistreatment by the Azerbaijani government. Azerbaijan only makes the case stronger for Armenian self-determination and independence. At this point, I prefer reconciliation, but the people of NagornoKarabagh cannot be expected to wait forever for justice.
South Korea & North Korea
South Korea as an important ally and co-partner in the Asian region, and our alliance with South Korea should be strengthened. I have worked to increase economic ties between our two counties by promoting the passage of the trade agreement between the Republic of Korea and the United States. I also have sought to increase cultural ties between our two countries by serving as the congressional sponsor of a U.S. Congress -- Korean National Assembly youth leadership exchange program.
As for North Korea, the United States must not lose focus on the extraordinary threat still posed by this nation under its young leader, Kim Jong-un. North Korea has repeatedly demonstrated an overt and irrational will to defy the United Nations Security Council and international sanctions. The notion that North Korea will give up international leverage for inducements is faulty. Our efforts toward North Korea must be multi-dimensional: deterrence, counter-proliferation alliances, and financial initiatives to degrade the authority of the tyrannical regime.
Poland has been a trusted and important friend to the United States, and is an important ally. I support a firm U.S. commitment to the missile shield in Poland. I also am a leading supporter of legislation that would improve travel between the United States and Poland by reforming the Visa Waiver Program. Travel between our two countries has been made needlessly costly and burdensome by Poland not yet being accepted into the Visa Waiver Program. This is an important issue that I will continue to look to remedy while in Congress.