In this issue:
· Justice for Underwater Mortgage Holders
· House Passes the STOCK Act
· El Centro Air Service Will Continue
· Navy Ship to be Named After Sgt. Rafael Peralta
· Voting "No" on the So-Called Payroll Tax Compromise Bill
· Reading to Students at Porter Elementary School
· Constituent Mail Bag
· Useful Website: Women's History Month
Justice for Underwater Mortgage Holders
I joined advocates in New York, Washington, D.C. and Southern California in calling on Edward DeMarco, the Acting Director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, which oversees Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, to write down principal amounts for struggling homeowners.
It's time for the Federal Housing Finance Agency to step up and take care of our homeowners. By writing down principals for underwater homeowners, we can keep families in their homes and prevent the foreclosure crisis from dragging down the economy.
Combined, Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae own or guarantee more than half of all mortgages in the country. DeMarco has faced calls for his resignation for refusing principal reduction, sometimes called "debt forgiveness," for Freddie and Fannie mortgage holders.
A coalition of organizations and families struggling to keep their homes recently protested at regional Freddie Mac offices demanding fair negotiations for themselves and other Americans who have been evicted from their homes.
House Passes the STOCK Act
The American people sent us to Washington to serve them, not to take advantage of our positions. The STOCK Act, which passed the House of Representatives last month, is an important step in restoring Americans' trust in their government and public officials. It will ensure Members of Congress, congressional staff, Executive Branch officials, and judicial officers are held to the same standards as everyone else when it comes to insider trading.
El Centro Air Service Will Continue
As a senior member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, I have ensured that El Centro remains eligible to participate in the Essential Air Service (EAS) program.
For many years, El Centro has received subsidized air service through the EAS Program, because airlines have repeatedly declined to serve the Imperial Valley without these subsidies. The El Centro airport is critical to sustaining local jobs, and we must keep commercial airline service in the Imperial Valley. I am pleased that the FAA conference committee agreed to allow El Centro to continue to participate in the EAS program.
The EAS program, created as part of the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978, distributes Federal subsidies to air carriers for providing air service to and from many small communities that would not receive air service without the subsidies. This air service is necessary to link smaller cities to the larger airline system.
The House-passed FAA reauthorization bill would have eliminated the EAS program progressively through 2013, after which the program would have been eliminated everywhere except Alaska and Hawaii. The Senate bill would have extended the EAS program, but added certain restrictions to the program.
At my urging, the joint House-Senate conference committee agreed that communities currently participating in the EAS program would continue to be eligible. However, in the future, new entrants will need to meet more strict eligibility criteria.
Navy Ship to be Named After Sgt. Rafael Peralta
I applaud the naming of an Arleigh Burke class guided-missile destroyer after Sgt. Rafael Peralta. The USS Rafael Peralta (DDG 115) was announced last month by Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus.
The naming of the USS Rafael Peralta is a well deserved honor for a man who is a great role model for future servicemembers, people across our country and across the globe. He served his country and gave his life to protect others from harm.
Peralta was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross for selflessly covering a grenade with his body to save his fellow Marines from the blast during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
We have been fighting for years to make sure that Sgt. Peralta was given the recognition he deserved for his bravery in combat. This is a great day for Sgt. Peralta's family and all the men and women who served with him.
Congressman Filner fought for Sgt. Peralta to receive the Medal of Honor since his death in 2004 in Fallujah, Iraq. In 2008, Sgt. Peralta received the Navy Cross, however Congressman Filner has continued to fight for the Medal of Honor on behalf of Sgt. Peralta's family. Sgt. Peralta is buried in Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery.
Voting "No" on the So-Called Payroll Tax Compromise Bill
I support extending unemployment benefits, the "doc fix,' and the payroll tax cut. However, I am appalled that Congress chose to pay for the so-called compromise payroll tax measure by attacking middle-class federal employees and unemployed workers who are struggling to make ends meet.
Unemployed workers and federal employees continue to be blamed for problems they did not cause. Meanwhile, the people who did cause the crash of 2008, from which our economy is still slowly recovering, have largely gotten off scot free. Shared sacrifice should start at the top, with a surtax on millionaires, not with unemployed workers or middle class working families who provide vital services to the federal government.
Federal employees are not nameless bureaucrats. They are the CBP and ICE agents who put their lives on the line defending our borders; they are the intelligence agency officials at NSA and CIA who helped bring Osama Bin Laden to justice; and they are the doctors and nurses caring for our veterans and wounded warriors at VA and DOD health care facilities. Cutting their pensions is no way to treat these hardworking civil servants.
I am also opposed to the provision of this bill that reduces the maximum time individuals in high-unemployment states, like California, can receive unemployment benefits from 99 to 73 weeks. This cut will make it harder for struggling families to put food on the table, and exacerbate foreclosures and homelessness in our communities.
Finally, I voted "NO' because the bill will harm California's hospitals and public health. The bill cuts the Prevention and Public Health Trust Fund; it reduces the percentage of uncollected health care debts that Medicare will pay to hospitals and skilled nursing facilities; and it reduces Disproportionate Share Hospital (DSH) payments to hospitals that treat large numbers of patients with little or no health insurance.
Instead of making these harmful cuts, Congress should have closed off-shore corporate tax loopholes that reward corporations for outsourcing jobs and closed the "carried interest' loophole that allows Wall Street hedge fund managers to avoid paying federal income taxes.
Reading to Students at Porter Elementary School
In honor of Black History Month, Congressman Bob Filner read "Child of the Civil Rights Movement" by Paula Young Shelton to students at Porter Elementary School. The book was written by the daughter of Civil Rights activist and former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Andrew Young, a close friend of Congressman Filner. The reading was part of the Rolling Readers' "Share Your Love of Reading" project.
Constituent Mail Bag
From Chula Vista:
Oppose Speculative Funding for the Transportation Bill. As a constituent and supporter of Defender of Wildlife Action Fund, I am writing today to urge you to oppose a fiscally irresponsible plan to fund the Transportation Bill with highly speculative revenue from opening America's Arctic to drilling.
The House leadership is pushing for a plan to use oil and gas drilling revenues from the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and offshore drilling in Arctic waters to close the funding gap for the reauthorization of the Transportation Bill.
This is a terrible idea that relies on highly speculative future revenues to fund very real transportation projects today.
Even the most generous revenue estimates from drilling will not be enough to fund proposed transportation projects in the bill, especially since any revenue from drilling in the Arctic Refuge will be reduced by as much as 90% through state-revenue sharing agreements already in place. In addition, any real revenue generation will likely not start for at least five years as oil companies will still need to explore, apply for drilling permits and start development. That's too late for today's transportation needs.
Relying on speculative revenue that may or may not materialize for years is no way to fund the bricks and mortar projects of next year.
Even the Competitive Enterprise Institute goes as far as to label this irresponsible plan "myopic political gimmickry."
America's Arctic is a place of pristine wilderness and waters and is home to some of our most iconic species, including polar bears, bowhead whales, arctic foxes, walruses. It is also the nesting ground of hundreds of thousands of migratory birds.
Any proposal to include revenue from oil and gas drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge or in arctic waters in the transportation bill is bad fiscal policy and bad public policy. It will provide too little too late for the transportation bill and it threatens majestic wildlife and America's pristine arctic.
I hope that you will work with your colleagues to oppose any efforts to rely on questionable revenue from destructive drilling in the Arctic that will not close the funding gap in the Transportation Bill.
I look forward to hearing from you on this important matter.
Congressman Filner replies:
Thank you for contacting me to express your concerns with the so-called American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act (H.R. 7).
I wholeheartedly agree! This bill fails to make the necessary investments in our nation's surface transportation infrastructure. It will harm the environment by gutting our environmental laws and increasing drilling in sensitive off-shore areas. It diverts dedicated revenues from the Mass Transit account. Finally, it eliminates dedicated funding for bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure programs.
You can count on my opposition to this harmful bill!
Useful Website: Women's History Month
March is Women's History Month. The Library of Congress, National Archives and Records Administration, National Endowment for the Humanities, National Gallery of Art, National Park Service, Smithsonian Institution and United States Holocaust Memorial Museum join in paying tribute to the generations of women whose commitment to nature and the planet have proved invaluable to society.