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View From the Capitol - Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler's Newsletter for the Week of November 11-15, 2013


Location: Unknown

Good Day,

This week, the U.S. House approved H.R. 3350 -- the Keep Your Health Plan Act -- to provide Americans the option of keeping the health plans they currently have. This is needed because, after the Affordable Care Act went into effect, more than 3.5 million Americans, according to the Associated Press, received health plan cancellation notices. Studies estimate up to 15 million Americans could lose their coverage over the next year due to the new law. This is devastating to the hundreds of families in our district who no longer have health insurance. Clearly, the promise of "If you like your health care plan, you can keep it" has proven to be unfounded.

Furthermore, the website, when it works, presents security risks for many users. And many of those who have been able to obtain quotes on replacement policies are getting "sticker shock' as they learn the costs of their premiums will rise more than 100 percent in some cases. Many of the policy cancellations or exorbitant increases are due to the bill's mandates that force consumers to purchase coverage they don't need and don't want. Our bill will allow plans currently available on the individual market to be offered next year. I urge the Senate to quickly follow the lead of the House in serving the American people by passing this critical piece of legislation and sending it to the President.

The House also approved H.R. 2655, the Lawsuit Abuse Reduction Act of 2013, which would require courts to impose appropriate sanctions on attorneys, law firms, or parties filing frivolous lawsuits and to require them to compensate parties injured by these frivolous lawsuits. Under current law, courts may, but are not required to impose such sanctions. Too many family businesses are subjected to frivolous lawsuits that result in layoffs or company closings. No legitimate action would be prevented by this legislation, but it would help to limit the frivolous lawsuits that have the effect of greatly benefitting trial attorneys at the expense of job creators and American workers.

On another matter, I had the privilege of leading my colleagues in a Special Order -- a series of short speeches from the House floor on a given topic -- on religious freedom in the U.S. military. Members of the United States Armed Forces, like other Americans, enjoy a First Amendment right to religious freedom. But these rights are slowly being eroded. Some recent examples of religious intolerance include:

- Army Reserve Equal Opportunity trainers referencing "Evangelical Christianity" and "Catholicism" as examples of religious extremism along with the KKK, Al Qaeda, and Hamas;

- A Christian chaplain being ordered to remove a religious column he had written which simply detailed the history of the phrase "there are no atheists in foxholes;"
- An Air Force officer being told that, after 18 years, he could no longer keep a Bible on his desk because it might "offend" someone;

- The Air Force Academy removing a poster portraying the words of the Academy oath because it ends with the phrase "so help me God" and announcing the final phrase will now be optional for cadets, even though the phrase has been a part of oaths since the Continental Congress instituted it in 1776; and

- Soldiers like Sergeant Phillip Monk being relieved of their duties because of their support of traditional marriage.

This coercion, intimidation, and outright assault on our military's freedom of religion has got to stop! Religious freedom includes not only a service member's beliefs; his or her action and speech are also protected by the First Amendment. An individual's faith is inseparable from the way in which he or she lives and acts. Service members must be permitted to express, share, and act upon their faith without repercussions. Rest assured, I will continue to be a strong voice on behalf of this vital right.

Have a great week.


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