The IRS, the AP and Benghazi
It has been a challenging week for the Obama Administration as questions are raised about Benghazi, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the Associated Press (AP). I think it is important for you to know my thinking on each of these matters.
Congress has held hearings on the terrorist attack in Benghazi that took four American lives, including our Ambassador's. Many questions have been raised about the "talking points" Administration officials used to describe the attack in the immediate aftermath. These tragic circumstances deserve scrutiny and questions should be asked. Nonetheless, I am troubled by the way some Members of Congress seem to be politicizing this whole issue. The focus should be on understanding what happened, why it happened, and on how to prevent future occurrences, not on scoring political points. I think it's important to note that one of the most respected, non-partisan, professional diplomats in America, former Ambassador Tom Pickering, and one of the most respected, non-partisan retired military commanders, Admiral Mullen, have both thoroughly reviewed the matter. Both stated they believe the Administration acted professionally and appropriately. That does not mean there are no lessons to be learned; but the inquiry should not be politicized.
The fact that some employees at the IRS were deliberately targeting conservative groups seeking tax exempt status should be of concern to all of us and the Inspector General's (IG) report identifies practices that are plainly indefensible. The President has said that the report's findings are "intolerable and inexcusable". The Treasury Secretary is reviewing the IG's report and will act on it. A congressional hearing was held today on this matter and the IRS commissioner has resigned. I am encouraged by the steps taken so far. We will all be closely watching to ensure that those responsible are held accountable.
I am very concerned that home, cell and work phone calls for certain bureaus and employees of the Associated Press were apparently collected as part of an investigation into leaks of classified information related to national security. I fully understand the gravity of leaking classified information and those who do it should be held accountable. I also cherish the Constitution, and value the free press and free speech that it protects. I know all the facts aren't as yet publicly available but this certainly feels like a significant overreach to me by the federal government. I look forward to learning more.
The Heritage Foundation, a powerful right-wing organization, actually wrote to Speaker Boehner and Majority Leader Cantor, urging them to keep the House's focus on recent controversies instead of important legislation. Such an approach should concern every citizen. Congress needs to be focused on improving the economy, creating jobs, managing student debt, stabilizing the housing market, preventing war and so many issues that it is unconscionable to even suggest focusing on political advantage rather than the needs of Americans. Congress certainly should investigate all these matters, but we cannot use them as an excuse to avoid other important responsibilities.
The Affordable Care Act
Yesterday, for the 37th time, the House voted to repeal all or part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) by passing H.R. 45. Yesterday's vote was nothing more than a political exercise. Even though H.R. 45 is going nowhere, new House members haven't had the opportunity to vote for repeal and that's why this vote was scheduled. So instead of trying to do something about the many serious issues facing our country, the House instead wasted time on something that has already been debated three dozen times. By voting for repeal, Members are voting to eliminate a number of important protections such as preventing insurance companies from denying coverage based on a pre-existing condition, allowing young people to stay on their parents' insurance until they are 26 and eliminating the lifetime coverage limit. I voted NO. H.R. 45 passed and the entire vote is recorded below:
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SEC Regulatory Accountability Act
Today the House considered H.R. 1062: the SEC Regulatory Accountability Act. This legislation requires the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to conduct duplicative and expensive cost benefit analysis on all new regulatory proposals and explain why they are necessary before implementation can occur. It also requires a cost benefit analysis of all current SEC rules. The SEC already conducts stringent cost benefit procedures. It's pretty clear what this bill is all about. The additional analysis will delay rule implementation and require significant resources. Yet H.R. 1062 does not provide a single dollar of new revenue for the SEC to conduct the reviews. The money will have to come from other areas of the SEC budget, such as enforcement. It is nothing more than an effort to weaken the Wall Street Reform bill. I voted NO. H.R. 1062 passed and the entire vote is recorded below:
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What's Up Next Week
Next week the House is expected to consider several bills, including H.R. 3, the Northern Route Approval Act, to approve the Keystone XL pipeline.