SAVE THE DATE: Parsons Listening Session on Wednesday, March 27, from 2:00 p.m. -- 3:00 p.m. at the Parsons Public Library. I have several events coming up, so please visit my website to see if any are in your area.
House Budget: The Path to Prosperity
On Thursday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a plan to balance the budget without raising taxes by a vote of 221-207. Everyone agrees spending is driving our fiscal mess in this country, but instead of cutting spending, folks on the other side of the aisle have proposed raising taxes by $1.5 trillion in order to continue to spend more, and have even suggested spending an extra $100 billion on stimulus.
I am proud House Republicans have the courage to balance the budget, but our plan is about so much more than balance. Our budget is about increasing opportunities for all hardworking Americans, so they can provide a brighter future for their kids and grandkids. This is the American Dream, and we must protect it for future generations by addressing our nation's challenges today. The budget I supported does exactly this. It would return the economy to an engine of growth, create jobs, protect seniors' retirement benefits, and finally do something to address our nation's long-term debt problem. In a statement signed by 180 economists, they agreed that by reducing spending and putting us on a firmer fiscal path, we will give confidence to the economy and help it grow and create jobs.
At a time when Washington is spending more than it did last year, and collecting more in taxes than ever before, the House Republican budget merely returns spending and taxes back to historical, stable levels that this country operated under for nearly 60 years. Instead of raising taxes, our plan implements comprehensive, pro-growth tax reform, which would close loopholes that distort economic activity. It would also boost economic growth that would provide an extra $1,500 for each U.S. household next year, and more than $4,000 per household in the next 10 years. This is the kind of help folks need and deserve.
Preventing Furloughs, Protecting Veterans, and Supporting Our Military
The same day the House passed a responsible budget plan for 2014, we also gave final approval to the Senate-amended Continuing Resolution (CR) to fund the government through Sept. 30 by a broad bipartisan vote of 318-109. The CR will keep the sequester spending levels, but allow the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs flexibility to support troops and veterans in the best way possible, mitigating furlough effects and any reduction in military readiness. The CR also prevents the furlough of meat inspectors and it does not increase funding for the president's healthcare law.
The CR is also good news because it included language that requires the continuation of tuition assistance for members of the Armed Forces for the rest of the year. The Military Tuition Assistance Program pays for active-duty service members to attend high school completion classes, vocational classes or associate, bachelor, master or doctorate degree programs on their own time. This provision was necessary because on March 5, the Department of Defense (DOD) sent a memo to each service branch on how to handle budget cutbacks due to sequestration, and stated that all services should consider significant reductions in funding new tuition assistance applicants until further notice. In response to this situation, I immediately signed a letter to Secretary of Defense, Chuck Hagel, asking the Department of Defense to continue to fund service members' tuition assistance at the level allocated in the continuing resolution. I also cosponsored H.R. 1093, a bill that will rescind funds for military assistance to Egypt ($500 million) and put it into the Military Tuition Assistance Program. I believe it is ridiculous to continue to send money to countries such as Egypt and at the same time cut a widely-utilized benefit for the men and women honorably serving and sacrificing for our country.
Strengthening and Protecting Medicare
Many Kansans are concerned about what the House Republican budget plan would mean for their Medicare benefits. I, like many Kansans, am concerned about the security of Medicare benefits, and to be clear, I supported the House Republican budget plan precisely because it protects Medicare. It strengthens Medicare, and not just for those in or near retirement, but also for future generations.
Medicare is on track to bankruptcy in a little more than 10 years. If you plan to live past 2024, Medicare as you know it, will end. The plan I support saves retirees from an uncertain future by making zero changes for those seniors in or near retirement age--those 55 and older-- and saving it for future retirees. Starting in 2024, it would allow new retirees to choose the kind of coverage that best suits their needs. Just like the health insurance offered to federal employees and Members of Congress, there will be a large variety of plans to choose from, including traditional Medicare. Depending on your income, a portion of the cost will be paid for by the federal government. Those with little means will have no cost at all, and the very rich will receive no support from federal taxpayers. This is a guaranteed benefit, not a voucher, as our political opponents have sometimes attempted to describe it. Those who use the term "voucher" are either intentionally deceiving the American public, or do not know how the program would actually work.
Happy National Agriculture Week
It was great to meet with members of the Kansas Farm Bureau and students from the Kansas State University College of Agriculture during National Agriculture Week. As someone who grew up on a dairy farm in Jackson County, I understand agriculture does not only affect farmers and ranchers, but all people across the country. I would particularly like to recognize the folks in the Kansas agriculture industry and community for their contribution to not only what we eat, but to the clothes we wear on our backs, the fuel we use to get around, and the jobs that are helping drive this economy. Did you know America's farmers support 24 million jobs or that one in five Kansans, rural and urban, work in jobs related to agriculture and food production? This is why we celebrate National Agriculture Week to spread awareness of where our food comes from, and the role agriculture plays in our lives today, providing safe, abundant and affordable products.