Straight Talk: Congressional Priorities
Washington, Jan 31 - Now that President Bush has been inaugurated for another term, it is time for us in the Congress to roll up our sleeves and work on the nation's business. I wanted to share with you my legislative priorities for this session.
As we enter the 109th Congress I will work to insure that our Senior Citizens have continued access to their Social Security benefits while studying changes so that younger workers can have confidence in the system. We must protect Social Security for our seniors because our seniors, like my own parents have no choice. They can't go back to work and they are the ones that I will vote to protect first.
I am opposed to extending the retirement years or cutting Social Security benefits and I am opposed to changing the basic Social Security formula.
More must be done to create and bring more jobs to New Mexico so that young people will have incentives to stay here. I will push Congress to pass more business friendly legislation so our businesses can thrive and expand and create more jobs.
Governor Richardson said it best in his State of the State speech last year "We must continue to cut taxes, reform the tax code and invest in infrastructure by fully implementing the personal income tax cuts." I am in wholehearted agreement with the Governor.
Our tax laws have become increasingly complex and expensive for both businesses and individuals to comply with. Congress must reduce business tax rates, tax rates that have become a choke collar on American workers, restricting our ability to compete with other workers in the world market. I just returned from China and witnessed first hand what the competition is going to be in the future and we must be prepared to defend American jobs.
We must make permanent the tax cuts Congress has passed the last couple of years because they support the American worker and help business create more jobs. Tax cuts stimulate even more economic growth and, in turn, increase the funds in consumers' pockets, which ultimately will mean more dollars for the treasury of the United States.
The United States tax code must be simplified. The current tax system has become a nightmare for Americans. Uncle Sam should stay out of people's wallets. People should be able to keep more of what they earn. Simply stated, I trust people to spend their money better than the federal government.
Besides tax cuts, Congress must pass legislation to curb lawsuit abuse because frivolous lawsuits cost business huge amounts of money and are forcing companies to move jobs out of America. We heard testimony in Congress from injured people who often receive less than one dollar in class action suits while trial lawyers make millions. Frivolous lawsuits have added about $500 to the cost of every new car. A lawsuit over hot coffee, originating right here in the state of New Mexico, cost an American company millions of dollars in court and lawyer fees.
Americans should have our day in court to seek damages arising from legitimate claims, but frivolous lawsuits cause doctors to pay higher medical malpractice premiums and that is driving them out of the state. So it is time to make a change.
I will continue to work to make sure the children of New Mexico's Second Congressional District receive a world class education.
We have made tremendous progress in education reform-approving measures to have highly qualified teachers in every classroom, strengthen special education, expand education choice for low-income families, improve the Head Start early childhood program, help states and schools recruit highly-qualified teachers, and help states and communities meet the President's call for high standards and accountability in our schools.
Examples of stunning progress caused by No Child Left Behind exist.While visiting the Oregon Elementary School in Alamogordo last year, I was pleased to learn that students achieved higher statewide assessment scores for math, science and reading. The school as a whole improved 26 % in math, 29.9% in reading. But the real story was low income students who actually scored 30 percent higher in math. The school principal said the reason for the improvement was No Child Left Behind.
While significant progress has been made to strengthen America's schools, more work remains. I will continue that work to expand access to higher education for low and middle income students, improve vocational and technical education, and complete action on measures to strengthen special education and support school teachers. And I will work to ensure that no child is left behind.
We will closely monitor activities of the Base Realignment and Closure Commission known as "BRAC" this year. BRAC will decide, in May of this year, to close 25 percent of bases around the country but New Mexico stands ready to grow and expand on our service to the country and I will do all I can to see that are bases are stronger than ever.
Our military is transforming and modernizing into a more agile force which will benefit America in the war against terrorism. People said we could not win militarily in Afghanistan and we did. People said we could not have elections in Afghanistan and we did. People said we could not win militarily in Iraq and we did. People said we could not establish a coalition government in Iraq and we did. While I deeply regret the loss of life that took place during the elections, it proved again that the skeptics were wrong. The skeptics said we couldn't have free elections in Iraq and we did, with a heavier than expected voter turnout. I believe freedom is a basic human right and I will continue supporting efforts to bring that basic right to any place on the globe that desires it. If we maintain our resolve, we will win the war against terrorism.
We need a good, solid energy policy here in America. The House and Senate passed an Energy Bill last year but were unable to agree on a final product. America needs to enhance domestic oil and gas exploration in order to decrease our reliance on foreign sources of energy. Our dependence on imports has more than doubled to 53 percent. This must end.
America needs a balanced energy plan, including a healthy renewable energy industry, to guard against wild price fluctuations and secure our nation's power for the future. Too much of America's energy-the fuel that keeps our cars running, our lights on and our homes heated-is in the hands of unstable nations, which threatens our national security.
In addition, we have not built an oil refinery in this country in over two decades, and the ones we have all operate at or near capacity. Simple logic tells us that if gasoline demand increases and production does not then you, the consumer, will pay more at the pump.
Finally, we have the chance today to do more than ever before in our history to make life better in New Mexico-where everyone has a chance to get a higher paying job and everyone and their children will have a better education, better health, better housing and better transportation. We will work hard to improve life for New Mexico's families, while making sure individuals will be allowed to fully use their talents without Government determining their success or failure. The people of the Second Congressional District expect no less. I ask you to join me in this mission.