Congressman Bob Filner's Congressional Update
Applauding the Passage of House Budget Resolution that Increases Veterans' Funding
Today, the House of Representatives passed a budget resolution that puts veterans first. I am pleased the House of Representatives voted to support President Obama's budget for veterans - and included an additional $800 million above the Administration proposal. The Obama budget calls for the biggest increase for veterans programs ever requested by an Administration. The House Budget Resolution (H.Con.Res. 85) provides for a $5.5 billion increase over fiscal year 2009, an increase of 11.5% for veterans health care and other programs.
As Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs, I am committed to assisting the VA in its goal of becoming a model 21st Century organization. The Committee shares the Obama Administration's commitment to improving health care for all veterans, increasing access to mental health services, addressing and preventing homelessness among veterans, and honoring the veterans of previous generations. President Obama has proven that veterans are a top priority by requesting a record veterans' budget, and I am confident that under the leadership of VA Secretary Shinseki, we will restore and revitalize the services provided to veterans.
The First 100 Days:
Working For An American Recovery
The end of President Obama's first 100 days is time to take stock of the enormous progress we have made on jumpstarting the American economy and laying the foundation for prosperity for years to come.
Change has come to Washington with unprecedented speed since the election of Barack Obama and the 111th Congress. We have taken swift action in a New Direction to begin to get our economy on track and create and save jobs. But our challenges are, in many ways, unprecedented.
President Obama inherited a massive economic and budget mess from the Bush Administration. The last eight years have seen the slowest job creation in 75 years, with 4.4 million jobs lost in the last 14 months, and the longest recession since the Great Depression. Paychecks have remained flat in the face of rising prices. Millions of families are losing their homes because of irresponsible and predatory lending. The national debt has nearly doubled, with record $5.6 trillion surplus built under President Clinton turned into a record $5.8 trillion deficit under President Bush.
This economic crisis is impacting everyone. American families lost 18 percent of their net worth in 2008 alone, including home values and retirement savings. Businesses are having trouble getting loans because of the credit crunch, brought on by eight years of lax oversight and a failure to bring common‐sense rules to Wall Street. Now 12 million Americans are unemployed and many families are facing extraordinarily difficult choices about health care, child care, education, and housing.
AMERICAN RECOVERY AND REINVESTMENT ACT
Just three weeks after President Obama's inauguration, Congress enacted his historic economic recovery plan to create and save 3.5 million American jobs, including 396,000 here in California. It gives 95 percent of American workers, including 12,420,000 Californians - one of the fastest and broadest tax cuts in history - that is starting to show up in paychecks now.
This plan will begin to transform our economy for the 21st century and rebuild America with investments in roads, bridges, mass transit, flood control, clean water projects, and other essential infrastructure projects.
To lay the groundwork for long‐term economic growth, the plan invests in clean, renewable energy and energy efficiency, science and innovation, and lowering health care costs and improving care with electronic medical records.
To make sure our children are able to compete in the world economy, it also strengthens education from the preschool level to college.
Only by tackling these urgent national challenges, like our dependence on foreign oil and crippling health care costs, can we ensure that America's recovery will bring sustained economic growth and widespread prosperity for generations to come.
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act's job‐creating investments are starting to pay off - hatching entrepreneurial ideas for home weatherization and renewable energy companies, preventing the layoff of police officers and teachers, and repairing road and bridges.
To help ensure that taxpayer dollars are spent wisely and effectively, the Recovery Act also contains unprecedented accountability and transparency measures - no earmarks, new whistleblower protections, strong oversight, and a new www.recovery.gov website that, for the first time, allows Americans to track these investments online and contact elected officials about how it's working.
STABILIZING THE HOUSING AND FINANCIAL SECTORS
President Obama has launched a comprehensive housing plan to help stem home foreclosures that have reduced home values for all. Progress is underway with a financial stability plan to get credit flowing to businesses and families with tough accountability and transparency. Congress will also take up new common‐sense rules for our financial system, to keep the irresponsible actions of a few from jeopardizing American families and small businesses. In the coming weeks, we will also take up a Credit Cardholders' Bill of Rights and new legislation to fight predatory and abusive lending practices.
A BLUEPRINT FOR THE FUTURE
Building on the new direction for the economy in our Recovery Act, the House and Senate have passed a five-year budget blueprint, reflecting the priorities of President Obama. The budget is a road map for all the work we do. It lays the foundation for lasting prosperity and economic growth for America's workers and families. To begin to restore tax fairness, the budget cuts taxes for middle‐income families by at least $1.5 trillion. To create jobs, the budget will make targeted investments and reforms in affordable health care, clean energy, and education.
This budget begins to restore fiscal responsibility - cutting the deficit by nearly two‐thirds by 2013 - making serious progress after years of reckless economic policies. The budget reduces non‐defense discretionary spending to its lowest level as a percent of the economy in nearly half a century and - in Fiscal Year 2010 - by 1.5 percent below the President's budget blueprint.
It took years to get into this mess, and it will take time to get our country back on track, but the American people have always risen to the challenge in times of crisis. This Congress and President Obama plan to tackle historic reforms to make health care more affordable, to create millions of jobs in a clean, renewable energy market, and to make education more competitive for a 21st century economy.
Ultimately, our work will be measured by results. But at the 100‐day mark, President Obama and the 111th Congress are beginning to move America in a New Direction.
As your federal representative in Washington, I welcome your input. Please do not hesitate to contact me through my District Office at (619) 422-5963. Thank you for all the good work you do!
Announcing Emergency Food and Shelter Award for San Diego and Imperial County
I am proud to announce that $1,039,932 has been awarded to San Diego County and $181,460 has been awarded to Imperial County by the Emergency Food and Shelter Program (EFSP). Federal funds totaling $100 million were made available to the EFSP, through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), to bring immediate relief to communities to address unemployment and poverty in light of the economic climate faced by our country.
Funds will be distributed to support social service agencies in more than 2,500 cities and counties across the country. EFSP grant funds are used to supplement food, shelter, rent, mortgage and utility assistance programs for people with non-disaster related emergencies.
Additional jurisdictions in California may be selected at a later date by the EFSP State Set-Aside Committee. The EFSP National Board, chaired by the Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and composed of representatives from American Red Cross; Catholic Charities, USA; United Jewish Communities; National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A.; The Salvation Army; and United Way of America, provides supplemental funding to shelters, soup kitchens, and food banks. One-month awards for rent, mortgage, and utility assistance are also available. The funds are used to help individuals and families with non-disaster, temporary emergency needs.
In each funded jurisdiction, a Local Board advertises the availability of the funds, establishes local priorities, selects local non-profit and government agencies to receive supplemental funding, and monitors program compliance. The Local Board's composition mirrors the EFSP National Board, with a local government official replacing FEMA and board members voting to select their chair.
The EFSP has been in existence since 1983 and was authorized under the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act of 1987. With the ARRA funding, more than $3.404 billion in federal aid will have been disbursed through the EFSP since its inception to communities nationwide, and has accounted for millions of additional meals and nights of shelter to the hungry and homeless most in need across the nation.
Supporting Early Breast Cancer Education and Awareness
I recently joined more than 200 of my colleagues in co-sponsoring the Breast Cancer Education and Awareness Requires Learning Young (EARLY) Act, H.R. 1740.
This legislation would create a national campaign to increase awareness of the threats of breast cancer for young women. The bill also provides guidance and support to young women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer.
We must provide women under 40 with the knowledge and tools to prevent, treat, and heal from this serious disease. We must also provide them with resources such as social support, fertility counseling, and training in ways to prevent the cancer's reoccurrence.
Breast cancer is the leading cause of death in women under 40; however, diagnoses are often delayed for these younger women because both young women and providers lack the knowledge to proactively fight against this disease.
The legislation was sponsored by Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL20), who recently announced that she successfully battled breast cancer last year after finding a lump during a routine self-examination.
Supporting Long-Term Economic Plan for America
Last month, I voted in favor of a long-term economic plan that puts America on a path towards renewed prosperity and growth. The plan cuts taxes, cuts the deficit, puts restraints on spending and makes targeted investments in health care, energy and education that will grow the economy and create jobs.
This budget is a long-term economic plan that includes targeted investments that will create new jobs, help transform our economy with clean American energy, prepare our students for the jobs of the 21st century and reform our health care system to make it affordable for families and help businesses compete.
The federal government is taking significant steps with this budget resolution to reduce health care costs - one of the largest contributors to the deficit and a drag on American businesses - improving the quality of care and expanding coverage, without adding to the deficit. This long-term economic plan also increases investments in new energy technologies made in America, and lays the groundwork for legislation that will cut pollution and reduce our dependence on foreign oil.
This plan will make America stronger and give our people more tools to achieve prosperity. It will take time to turn our economy around - President Obama inherited one of the worst financial disasters in generations - but this budget is a bold step in the right direction.
The plan approved by the House today ushers in a new era of honesty and accountability in budgeting. While the previous administration masked costs like the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and natural disasters to make the deficit appear smaller, President Obama and this Congress are including estimates of these costs for every year in the budget. The budget also reinforces a commitment to statutory pay-as-you-go (or PAYGO) rules, an important tool of fiscal discipline.
Our economic plan saves taxpayers billions of dollars with new initiatives to root out waste, fraud and abuse. We must make smart investments in our future, but review every taxpayer dollar spent as we go along to restore accountability after years of contractor abuses, no-bid contracts and irresponsible stewardship. The long-term economic plan we passed today is an unprecedented step towards securing America and getting us back on the road to prosperity.
Sgt. Peralta Deserves Medal of Honor!
On November 15, 2004, Sergeant Rafael Peralta, a 25 year old Marine from Chula Vista California, lost his life while on patrol in Fallujah, Iraq. Many Americans have heard the heroic story of Sgt. Peralta:
He and his team were assigned to clear houses as part of Operation Phantom Fury. Eye witness reports from fellow Marines assigned to Company A, 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, stated that Sergeant Peralta led his team through a series of house clearings that day before charging into the fourth house. The team found two rooms empty on the ground floor. However, when Sgt. Peralta opened a third door, he was hit multiple times with AK-47 fire, leaving him severely wounded. His team returned fire, prompting insurgents to toss a grenade at the Marines. To save his team, Sgt. Peralta grabbed the grenade to absorb the brunt of the blast, sacrificing himself to save his fellow Marines. Today, Sgt. Rafael Peralta is buried in Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery in San Diego, California.
While many Americans have heard this story, what they do not know is the strange tale of why Sgt. Rafael Peralta was awarded the Navy Cross, instead of the Medal of Honor, for his heroic, selfless action in Fallujah.
Following the events of November 2004 and in recognition of Sergeant Peralta's heroic efforts, his chain-of-command recommended him for the Medal of Honor in accordance with Department of Defense protocol. This nomination made its way through the Marine Corps to the Department of the Navy. Traditionally, once the Medal of Honor nomination is approved by the Department of the Navy, the Secretary of Defense signs the award and the Medal of Honor is presented by the President.
However, for some yet-to-be-determined reason, the Secretary of Defense chose to insert himself into the traditional process and create a special five member panel to investigate Sgt. Peralta's nomination. It was this five member panel that determined that the eye witness accounts conflicted with other evidence, resulting in the Secretary of Defense taking the unprecedented and unusual step of over-turning the Department of the Navy's recommendation that Sgt. Peralta be awarded the Medal of Honor. Instead, the Department of Defense awarded Sgt. Peralta the Navy Cross.
The decision raises several questions: Why did the Secretary of Defense deviate from the long established rules and processes and overturn the Department of the Navy recommendation? Is the Department of Defense going to use this "new" process to consider all future Medal of Honor nominations? What is the specific criteria that will be used by the Secretary of Defense to determine who should and who should not receive the Medal of Honor? And, finally, is the Department of Defense going to revisit all previously awarded medals and apply this new criteria? I think not!
The Medal of Honor is the highest military decoration awarded by the United States government. It is awarded to a service member who distinguishes himself "conspicuously by gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while engaged in an action against an enemy of the United States."
Sergeant Peralta's selfless performance of duty was indeed extraordinary and in keeping with the greatest traditions and warrior spirit of the few, the proud, the brave, the United States Marine Corps.' Sergeant Peralta's courageous sacrifice is truly deserving of this nation's highest award!
I have followed closely Sgt. Peralta's nomination for the Medal of Honor award from the original nomination, through the chain-of-command, to the Commandant of the Marine Corps, until its final approval by the Secretary of Navy. I do not understand why the Secretary of Defense felt the need to overturn the Medal of Honor nomination that Sgt. Peralta received from the Department of the Navy. However, I do know the solution to this problem: Sgt. Peralta should receive the duly-earned and greatly-deserved Medal of Honor. I look forward to the day when Sgt. Peralta's mother, Rosa Marie Peralta, can bring the Medal of Honor home to San Diego.
Introducing the Safety, Efficiency and Accountability in Transportation Projects through Public Inspection Act of 2009
Last month, I introduced the Safety, Efficiency and Accountability in Transportation Projects through Public Inspection Act of 2009, H.R. 2104.
This bill would require public employees to perform the inspection and related essential public functions on all state and local transportation projects, and is intended to ensure that public safety is protected, transportation funds are not wasted, and projects are delivered in a timely manner.
I am concerned that outsourcing of inspection work causes conflicts of interest that have led private inspectors to cut corners and overlook problems that threaten public safety, increase costs and delay projects.
On transportation projects, the construction inspector is the eyes, ears and voice of the public. Inspectors ensure that construction and seismic standards are met, that projects meet safety requirements and that the materials used will stand the test of time. In short, inspectors are there to ensure that the motoring public gets what they pay for and to protect the public's best interests and safety.
When the construction inspection function is outsourced to a private company, there is no longer a representative of the public on the job site. In this circumstance, one private company is charged with the task of inspecting the work of another private company. This creates multiple conflicts for the private inspector. First, the private inspectors' primary obligation and responsibility is not to the public, but to the success and profitability of his company. Because the private construction company whose work they are inspecting on one project may be a business partner on a future project, private inspectors are also may also feel pressure from the private contractor to take steps that ensure larger profits for both firms.
There are many examples in which public safety has been threatened by the use of private inspectors, including Boston's "Big Dig" (where a concrete slab from a tunnel ceiling fell and killed a woman), the L.A. Redline subway (Hollywood Boulevard collapsed), the I-8/I-805 Interchange in San Diego (10,000 defective welds on a seismic retrofit), the Connecticut I-84 project (hundreds of drains that lead nowhere).
Constituent Mail Bag
From San Ysidro:
As a constituent and a supporter of the League of Conservation Voters, I urge you to support The American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 (ACES).
The ACES bill would jumpstart a clean energy economy by creating millions of jobs, boosting energy efficiency and clean energy, and improving our national security. It will also protect our planet by reducing global warming pollution.
I also urge you to ensure that the bill auctions 100% of the pollution credits, rather than giving them to polluters for free, and limits the amount of offsets polluters are allowed to purchase.
President Obama has said that a plan for America's economic future begins with sound energy policy. Congress must heed those words and pass comprehensive legislation that will heal both the economy and our planet. Please do what you can to ensure that the ACES bill is passed.
Congressman Filner replies:
Thank you for contacting me about Chairman Waxman's American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009.
I wholeheartedly agree! We must take action to slow the effects of global warming and reduce our dependence on foreign oil. This can be done by increasing our nation's investment in alternative energy and energy efficient technology. Rest assured, I will continue to work with my colleagues to move our country towards a clean energy future.
I appreciate your advocacy on this issue.