Last Wednesday, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee held a nearly six hour long hearing with three key whistle-blowers who shared critical information about what occurred before, during, and after the Benghazi terrorist attacks. These witnesses included Gregory Hicks, a Foreign Service Officer and former Deputy Chief of Mission in Libya; Eric Nordstrom, a Diplomatic Security Officer and former Regional Security Officer in Libya; and Mark Thompson, Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for Counterterrorism at the State Department.
Their testimony regarding the events in Benghazi called into question the Administration's account of the terrible attack on the U.S. Consulate. During his highly emotional testimony, Mr. Hicks recounted details of a phone conversation he had with Ambassador Chris Stevens shortly before the Ambassador was killed in the deadly attacks. According to Mr. Hicks, Ambassador Stevens immediately identified the events at the Consulate as an attack and never mentioned any demonstrations occurring prior to the attack. Mr. Thompson, a former Marine, also told the Committee that his requests to send a Foreign Emergency Support Team (FEST) made up of special operations personnel, specifically trained to deal with dangerous situations like the one in Benghazi, were not granted by the Administration.
The testimony of these witnesses once again discredits the Administration's claims about the Benghazi attack. Their accounts also highlighted the extreme courage of many American personnel who acted bravely in the face of grave danger. The American people, and especially the families of the victims of Benghazi, deserve to hear the truth about these events, and I assure you that House Republicans will not stop our efforts until we have achieved this important goal.
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Every week, I receive thousands of letters and phone calls from constituents all across Florida's First Congressional District. Without the input of hardworking Northwest Floridians, it would be nearly impossible for me to do my job. One topic that seemed to be on the minds of many constituents last week was the Senate's proposed Internet sales tax.
As you may know, the Marketplace Fairness Act, which would allow states to force online retailers to collect sales taxes from states in which they have no physical presence, passed the Senate last week. The bill has now been sent over to the House and referred to the House Judiciary Committee.
An interview I taped for the C-SPAN program Newsmakers aired last Sunday. I was glad to have the opportunity to discuss many important issues in the veterans' community, including the claims backlog, veteran employment, and VA executive bonuses with journalists from USA Today and the Military Times. To watch the full interview, go here: http://www.c-spanvideo.org/program/RepJef
GI Film Festival
I was pleased to be invited to introduce the film "The Real Inglorious Bastards" at the GI Film Festival in Washington, D.C. last week. This moving documentary tells the true story of a group of Jewish Americans who return to Nazi Germany to go undercover and gain intelligence to aid the Allied war effort.
Congressman Miller at the GI Film Festival
Atlanta VA Medical Center
I traveled to Georgia to conduct an oversight visit to the Atlanta Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center (VAMC) in Decatur, Georgia, on Monday, May 6, 2013. I was joined by Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA), Congressman John Barrow (D-GA-12), Congressman Paul Broun (R-GA-10), Congressman Phil Gingrey (R-GA-11), and Congressman David Scott (D-GA-13). Our oversight visit is a result of two recent reports issued by the VA Inspector General that linked three patient deaths to mismanagement at the Atlanta VAMC, as well as recent revelations that the center's former top administrator received $65,000 in performance bonuses over four years, despite the patient deaths. Until we have complete confidence that VA is holding executives accountable, rather than rewarding them for their mistakes, no one should get a performance bonus. I will continue to closely monitor the situation to hold VA officials accountable for their failures.
Congressman Miller (center) with Congressman Gingrey, Congressman Broun, Congressman Barrow, and Congressman Scott (from left to right) at the Atlanta VAMC
For many Americans working in the private sector, balancing the responsibilities of raising a family and fulfilling work commitments is particularly challenging. These challenges are exacerbated by the fact that outdated federal laws prevent these private sector employees from choosing to receive time off as compensation for working overtime hours. So, while many public sector employees enjoy the flexibility to choose between time off and overtime pay, hardworking families in the private sector are left with only one option.
To help these working families balance family life and work, the House passed H.R. 1406, the Working Families Flexibility Act of 2013. This commonsense bill, which I was proud to cosponsor and vote for, would allow workers in the private sector to voluntarily choose paid time off instead of additional overtime wages as compensation for working overtime hours. H.R. 1406 also includes many safeguards to ensure that workers can choose whichever option they prefer. All decisions on whether to choose paid time off or overtime wages are at the full discretion of employees and they are free to change their mind at any time. I was glad to support this important measure to provide hardworking American families with the flexibility they need to meet the demands of home and work.
As the world's preeminent economic power, the full faith and credit of the United States should never be in question. Yet, thanks to reckless spending from big government advocates in Washington, our nation is once again approaching the debt ceiling. I believe that we must make it clear that the U.S. will not default on its debt payments, and that is why I am a cosponsor and proud supporter of H.R. 807, the Full Faith and Credit Act. This commonsense bill completely removes the threat of default by requiring the Treasury to make good on our debt payments. Additionally, this bill would ensure that Social Security benefits are paid in full, on time and without interruption, while also requiring the Administration to provide a weekly accounting to Congress of the debt obligations they have paid out.
I was glad to vote for this bill when it passed the House last week. I was, however, very disappointed to see the President threaten to veto the Full Faith and Credit Act. The President continually accuses Republicans of "political gamesmanship." Yet, when a solution to take the threat of default completely out of the political arena is proposed, the President's response is a veto threat. The President's actions are simply another reminder that the Administration does not take our debt seriously.
Bryan/College Station Chamber of Commerce
I had the opportunity last week to speak with a group of small business owners from Texas that came to Washington to tell us about the regulatory challenges they are facing. I was glad to speak with them about the importance of hiring veterans, as well as the VA claims backlog and its effect on local communities.
Congressman Miller speaking at the Bryan/College Station Chamber of Commerce event in Washington, D.C.
In the District
Last week, Eglin Air Force Base received the first of its new shipment of F-35 Block 2 aircraft. This aircraft is the first of fourteen new F-35A's set to be delivered to the 58th Fighter Squadron at Eglin by the end of the year. These aircraft and the new personnel that will be coming to the area to operate and maintain them are a welcome addition to Northwest Florida.
As always, I welcome your comments. To share your thoughts on legislation, votes or issues, please visit http://jeffmiller.house.gov/ to send an e-mail or call any of my offices.
Finally, I would like to wish my Wife, Vicki; Mother, Peggy; Mother-In-Law, Winona, and all of the mothers in Northwest Florida a very happy Mother's Day.