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Lynn's Weekly Update - Congressional Transparency, Defending Attacks Against 1st Amendment, Streamlining Sale of Excess Federal Properties, Internship Deadline

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By Representative Lynn Jenkins

Demanding Congressional Transparency with the STOCK Act

The honor and privilege of representing folks in Congress or working for a Senator or Representative is one of public service not an opportunity for personal profit. No member of Congress or Congressional staffer should ever profit from non-public information shared in closed door meetings or briefings. Insider trading is illegal…period… and it should be illegal for all. That is why I am cosponsor of H.R. 1148, the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge (STOCK) Act, and why I was proud to support it this week when it passed the House. This commonsense bipartisan legislation would prohibit members of Congress and their staff from profiting from information obtained through their official position. Congress should abide by the same rules as everyone else, and I hope to see this important legislation immediately signed into law.

Defending Attacks Against the 1st Amendment in Obamacare

As you may know, I voted against the President's health care reform package last Congress and since then have voted to repeal this job-killing, government takeover of our health care system in its entirety as well as piece by piece repeal measures. Rather than bringing down health care costs for Americans, helping job creators provide coverage for their employees, and preserving Medicare for our nation's seniors, this law raises premiums for families, hits states and businesses with costly unfunded mandates, adds additional job-killing taxes, and cuts Medicare by more than half a trillion dollars.

One especially troubling provision of this overhaul, which we have seen implemented over the last week, was giving Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius wide discretion over what preventive services all health care plans must provide free of co-pays or out-of-pocket expenses. On January 20th, Secretary Sebelius issued a final rule requiring employers to provide contraception in their health care coverage. This new government mandate is an attack on the religious freedoms guaranteed to all Americans by the Bill of Rights. Forcing religious organizations to pay for contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs is an offensive example of Obamacare's violation of the conscience rights of American employers and an outright affront to the 1st Amendment to our Constitution.

I have sent a letter to Secretary Sebelius calling on her to reverse this unconstitutional mandate until she can ensure that the conscience rights of our employers and individuals are protected under this rule. In addition, I am a cosponsor of H.R. 1179, the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act, which ensures conscience protections are protected under all aspects of the President's health care overhaul and would extend to this new mandate as well. While there have been some reports that a "compromise" may be coming from the White House, I don't believe that an accounting gimmick amounts to much of a compromise. If reports are true, religious organizations are still required to pay for insurance that violates the tenets of their faith. Please be assured I will continue fighting to get these organizations fully and completely exempt from this rule before it takes affect on August 1, 2013.

Streamlining the Sale of Excess Federal Properties

Early this week, the House, with my support, passed H.R. 1734, the Civilian Property Realignment Act. This bill, which I co-sponsored, is designed as another small step in reducing our trillion dollar deficit by streamlining the Federal property disposal and realignment process. The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has estimated this bill will save taxpayers $15 billion over three years.

The Federal Government has roughly 45,000 buildings and structures it has designated as "excess property," and hardworking taxpayers shell out nearly $190 million every year to maintain these unnecessary holdings. If we were to sell off these facilities to willing private investors, in one fell swoop, we could cut wasteful federal spending, reduce our growing deficit, and stimulate jobs in the private sector.

Yet, as Kansas has seen in the ongoing attempt by the Army to sell the land from the former Kansas Army Ammunition Plant in Parsons, getting federally owned property off the government's books and into the hands of private investors can be a drawn-out, burdensome, bureaucratic nightmare. The bill passed this week aims to streamline this process by getting big government out of its own way, and making it easier for all parties to do business. I was proud to support this bi-partisan measure on the House floor, and I hope this attempt to cut spending, create jobs, and build a smarter, leaner government sees quick action in the Senate.

March 1st Deadline for Summer Internships Coming Up

Congressional internships offer college students a valuable opportunity to work with my staff and me either in Washington or in our district offices as we work on the challenges facing our state and our country and represent the people of Eastern Kansas in Congress. My office is currently accepting applications for college students who are interested in an internship for the summer of 2012. We have seen folks become more involved in their government lately, and I think it is very important for our young people to be involved and understand their federal government.

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