February 15, 2013
This week, the Senate finished work on the Violence Against Women Act, S.47, reauthorizing the legislation for five years. As a husband, a father of a daughter, and a grandfather of five granddaughters, I voted in favor of the Violence Against Women Act so that local law enforcement and shelters that assist victims of domestic violence will continue to receive the support they need.
State of the Union Address
On Tuesday night, President Obama delivered the annual State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress.
The president said that he is pivoting to jobs. While I agree that creating jobs is a top priority, I believe that the most important jobs are private sector jobs. We need to empower the private sector by having more predictable and less burdensome regulations. We addressed taxes in January, but now it's time to cut spending and get our fiscal house in order. We have too many government jobs and not enough private sector jobs. If we are serious about turning the economy around, we must focus on this area.
Sequestration is going to happen, and it is going to happen because the president has failed to lead on this issue. I hope that the president will lead and demonstrate the places where we can make meaningful cuts, the places where we can find savings and the places that we can have greater efficiency. He's the president, he needs to lead.
The president also talked about the need to improve our education system and to that end, I am glad that he came to Atlanta on Thursday to visit Georgia's pre-K program as a shining example of state education improvement in this country. However, I emphasize "state education' because the main role of government is at the local level and at the state level, not at the federal level. With the exception of our poorest kids and those with disabilities, there are really no federal roles in education, except to ensure the education of our children. Georgia's program works because it was started here, is funded in the state and doesn't receive federal money.
Balanced Budget Amendment
This week, I joined with Sen. Saxby Chambliss and 42 of my other Senate colleagues in introducing a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution to bring much-needed fiscal discipline back to Washington.
Sen. John Cornyn, R-Tex., sponsored the bill, and all 44 Senate Republicans are co-sponsors. It is supported by Americans for Prosperity, Americans for Tax Reform, Council for Citizens Against Government Waste, National Taxpayers Union, National Federation of Independent Business, and the 60 Plus Association.
The federal government cannot continue to go down the dangerous path of trillion dollar deficits that threaten our children's and grandchildren's futures. Families and small businesses in every corner of our country have had to make tough decisions to prioritize their spending and live within their means, and the federal government should have to do the same. I'm proud to join my colleagues again in co-sponsoring this critically important amendment to help address our country's current fiscal crisis.
Qualified Residential Mortgage Rule
In 2010, Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C., Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., and I included a commonsense, bipartisan provision in the Dodd-Frank Act to ensure new regulations would protect the ability of well-qualified, middle-class families to secure a mortgage. However, in drafting the proposed "Qualified Residential Mortgage" rule, banking regulators said it would require a 20 percent down payment -- a misinterpretation of the intent of the provision in the law that could needlessly slow the housing market's recovery and price well-qualified Americans out of the market.
This week, we sent a letter to banking regulators and housing officials urging them to act quickly to revise the Qualified Residential Mortgage (QRM) rule. Action on the rule is needed to ensure that responsible borrowers are not denied the opportunity to purchase a home under reasonable terms.
We wrote, "For the U.S. housing market to continue on its path to recovery, consumers, lenders and investors need greater certainty regarding the boundaries of mortgage lending The QRM rule published over a year ago proposed an overly rigid, narrow standard that will result in many responsible borrowers being denied the opportunity to purchase a home with sustainable terms and pricing they can afford. We respectfully urge you to act quickly to revise the rule to accurately reflect the language--and intent--of Dodd-Frank."
This week, I was pleased to again be named Republican subcommittee leader for the Subcommittee on Employment and Workplace Safety in the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, also known as "HELP."
Additionally, through my new position on the Senate Committee on Finance, I participated in the hearing of Jacob "Jack" Lew, President Obama's nominee for secretary of the Treasury. I asked him tough but important questions on subjects such as Qualified Residential Mortgages and biennial budgeting. I plan to introduce legislation again to switch our appropriations system to a system of biennial budgeting because I feel strongly that it would have a positive impact on the way we allocate your tax dollars and conduct oversight on federal programs.
In Other News
This week, I appeared on CNBC on Tuesday to preview of the State of the Union address to discuss the debt and spending. You can watch the video here or tune in to CNN on Saturday at 1 p.m. or Sunday at 3 p.m. for my appearance on "Your Money" with host Ali Velshi, where we also discuss these critical issues.
What's on Tap?
The Senate is not in session next week. On Feb. 25, 2013, the chamber will continue the debate on Sen. Chuck Hagel's nomination for Secretary of Defense. Additionally, two more executive nominations, John O. Brennan to be director of the CIA and Jack Lew to be Treasury secretary, are expected to come to the Senate floor soon after the recess. We will also likely begin debate on how to avoid $85 billion in budget cuts that are scheduled to take effect on March 1, 2013, known as sequestration.