E-Newsletter February 1, 2007: Reaction To State Of The Union Speech
Last week, the president expressed a willingness to achieve common ground with the new Congress. Now is the time for this president to prove that he's truly committed to results. Coloradans and Americans are hungry for leadership to bring a responsible end to the war in Iraq, for energy independence, health care reform, and fiscal responsibility.
Despite misgivings by respected Republican leaders like Senator John Warner, President Bush is still pursuing an escalation of military force in the Iraq. I am very skeptical that this late effort will work in the context of an emerging civil war and is also too little, too late. Our strategic goal should be to lighten the American footprint in Iraq, not make it heavier. Congress should not cut off funding for our troops in Iraq, but it has a duty to insist on oversight and accountability. There is a better strategy for ending the war in Iraq and that is to pursue the recommendations of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group. Although Congress cannot assume the constitutional role of commander-in-chief, we have a responsibility to argue for policy alternatives in Iraq, and as a member of the House Armed Service Committee, I will continue to do my part as vigorously as possible.
Last year, the president said that America is addicted to oil, yet today we are not closer to energy independence. Our addiction to foreign oil threatens our national security, our economy, our environment, and our way of life. The president needs to translate his words into action and he can start by fully funding renewable energy and energy efficiency programs, which will help the National Renewable Energy Lab in Golden, CO. It's admirable to set goals, but if the president doesn't set them high enough or provide the necessary resources, his words tonight will remain just what they have been through several State of the Union speeches - words.
We must do more to cover the uninsured, but we shouldn't do it by taxing families and individuals that have good coverage in order to provide incentives to those who don't have any coverage. It's like robbing Peter to pay Paul. If you talk to anyone in my district they will tell you that they are paying higher costs for fewer benefits and less choice. I support measures to cover every child in America, to provide coverage to people who have pre-existing conditions and meaningful tax credits to help the uninsured buy insurance. The biggest cost we'll have is if we don't act at all.
Udall Named Chairman Of Space Subcommittee
Also last week, I was named chairman of the Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee of the House Committee on Science and Technology. This subcommittee is well-positioned to address many issues facing our nation's space program, space policy, space and earth science, and research and development, all of which are important to our nation's economy and Colorado's economy. Colorado has the second largest space industry in the nation.
During my time on the committee, I have worked to: authorize and fund a servicing mission to save the Hubble Space Telescope; revitalize aeronautics and aviation research and development at NASA; create a grant program to give local governments better access to remote sensing data to deal with growth, homeland security, drought and forest fire management; and to create a math and science scholarship program for students who want to enter into math and science fields.
The subcommittee's primary jurisdiction includes: legislative, oversight and investigative authority on all matters relating to astronautical and aeronautical research and development and NASA and its contractors. Its jurisdiction also includes national space policy, international space cooperation, space commercialization, the National Space Council, space applications and space communications, including those related to Homeland Security, earth remote sensing policy, civil aviation research and development and demonstration programs of the Federal Aviation Administration and space law.
Air Force Academy Board Of Visitors Appointment
House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton has appointed me to the prestigious United States Air Force Academy's Board of Visitors. I am honored to accept this appointment to the Board of Visitors of the U.S. Air Force Academy because Colorado is the home of one of our finest service academies and institutions of higher learning. I'm eager to do my part to strengthen the Academy for a new generation of our nation's leaders, and to ensure that these future leaders continue to enjoy the best possible learning environment at the Academy.
Under its statutory charter, the Board provides the Secretary of Defense and members of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees independent advice and recommendations on matters relating to the Air Force Academy, to include but not limited to morale, discipline, and social climate; the curriculum; instruction; physical equipment; fiscal affairs; academic methods; and other matters relating to the Academy.
Slice Bill Aims To Rein In Wasteful Federal Spending
On January 24, I reintroduced legislation that would give the president the line-item veto authority to cut wasteful spending in the federal budget.
The bill, H.R. 595, the Stimulating Leadership in Cutting Expenditures (SLICE) Act of 2007, is similar to legislation Udall has championed for two years. It authorizes the president to identify specific items of federal spending that he thinks should be cut and requires Congress to vote on each of those items. Unlike the version of the line item veto that was struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1998, SLICE is constitutional because it maintains Congress' power of the purse by requiring congressional approval of all the president's proposed cuts.
The federal budget is awash in a sea of red ink and towering piles of debt. Since 2001, the budget surplus has been erased and our country in further in debt. I think it is immoral to pass this load of debt onto our children and grandchildren. My bill gives the president the power to cut wasteful spending from the federal budget and it would force Congress to debate those items on their merits. People in Colorado and across the country expect greater transparency and accountability from their public officials and our decisions on spending. That is the purpose of this bill. It will promote both transparency and accountability, and Congress should pass it soon.
Last June, the U.S. House passed H.R. 4890, The Legislative Line-Item Veto Act of 2006, by a vote of 247-172. I was the chief Democratic cosponsor of the bill and worked with the White House to garner bipartisan support for it. In the end, 35 Democratic Members of Congress voted for the bill. Also, earlier this year the U.S. House restored PAYGO rules which require that all tax cuts and programs to be paid for in order to stop any new deficit spending and it enacted earmark reform. I supported both measures but the line-item veto legislation is still necessary to erase wasteful spending.
Salazar, Udall Win More Time For Public To Comment On Pinon Canyon Expansion Proposal
U.S. Senator Ken Salazar (D-CO) and I announced last Friday that the Secretary of the Army will give Coloradans two more weeks to comment on the proposed expansion of the Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site. We sought the extension of the comment period because ranchers and farmers in the area have been dealing with the effects of two severe blizzards in Colorado and haven't had enough time to comment on the proposed expansion.
I'm pleased that the Army is giving Coloradans another two weeks to comment on the proposed expansion of the Pinon Canyon Maneuver Site. The Army has certain challenges it will face with the influx of soldiers who will be arriving at Fort Carson over the next few years, and we need to take into account their training and readiness, but it's critical that all voices are heard in an open and fair process.
According to the office of the Secretary of the Army, the Pinon Canyon Environment Impact Statement will be reopened for public comment from February 2 through February 16. Comments that they receive now, and have received to date, will be reviewed as well.
Congressman Mark Udall
Serving Colorado's Front Range and Western Slope