Last week in Washington, House Republicans took major steps towards addressing three major issues: VA reform, executive overreach, and the crisis on our southern border. On each of these issues, I am happy to report that I voted to support the position best reflects the values and beliefs of the people of the Fifth Congressional District.
While much work remains to clean out the culture of corruption that has long festered in the VA, the Joint House-Senate Conference legislation is an important and necessary first step. In my position as one of the chief negotiators in the Conference Committee, I made sure that VA leadership was given the power to fire failing employees and that veterans had access to expanded private sector care options. These two provisions should lead to fewer entitled employees and lower wait time and increased care options for our veterans.
It was a serious, but necessary, vote to bring a lawsuit against President Obama. For too long, administrations of both parties have been too expansive with their use and interpretation of the power of Executive Orders. Congress is a coequal branch of government that has the power to make laws. The Constitution limits a president to faithfully executing the laws. The time has come for the people’s Representatives in Congress to stand up and ensure that we have standing and a voice in our judicial system, in order to begin paring back abuses of power by the executive branch.
The situation on our southern border is a humanitarian crisis and a grave national security concern. The legislation passed late last week will increase the National Guard presence, adds immigrations and customs officials, on a temporary basis, to speed up the return of illegal immigrants to their home countries, and stops President Obama from expanding his executive orders encouraging illegals to flood the border.
It is an honor to serve you in Congress.
What’s Happening in Washington DC
Following my service on the Joint House-Senate VA Reform Conference Committee, I was honored to support legislation instituting important reforms to the Veterans Administration. The bill passed the House by an overwhelming vote of 420 to 5. Nothing is more important than providing our veterans with the care and respect that they have earned. It was a privilege to serve as a chief negotiator on the VA Reform Conference Committee. I am pleased that we were able to come to a bipartisan solution. These reforms expand the private sector care options available to our veterans, ensuring that wait times are lower, and convenience is increased. However, this alone will not fix the cultural problems that plague the department so as to guarantee quality care for our veterans in the long run. That’s why I worked hard to ensure that the bill included measures that will hold bureaucrats accountable for failing to put our veterans first. These are important steps in the process of rebuilding the trust that has been broken between our brave veterans and the VA that should serve them. The corrupt culture at the VA won’t be purged overnight and there is still a lot of work to do. I will continue to work with local veterans on individual cases and on the Veterans Affairs Committee to address systemic problems that remain.
I also sent a letter last week to the new VA Secretary Robert McDonald. The letter highlights local issues and concerns of vital importance here in the Fifth Congressional District.
I voted for H.R. 676, the Authority to Initiate Litigation Against the Executive Act. The bill passed the House by a vote of 225 to 201. The People’s House cannot turn a blind eye to the lawlessness of this President. We cannot pretend rampant illegalities aren’t taking place. We must make it clear that the U.S. Congress is a coequal branch of government representing we the people.
SOUTHERN BORDER CRISIS
The crisis at our southern border, where Central American children have fled to by the thousands, is the direct result of the Obama administration’s reckless actions in an effort to circumvent Congress to provide amnesty to illegal immigrants. These pieces of legislation are critical steps towards turning off the magnet that has drawn thousands across our southern border.
House-passed legislation accomplishes many things including: providing funding to place the National Guard at the border, cuts back President Obama’s original funding request and specifically targets all funding to fixing immediate problems at the southern border, Provides additional funding for Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials, Increases the number of temporary immigration judges and officials to expedite the return of illegal immigrants to their home countries, Expresses the Sense of Congress that illegal immigrants should not be held on military facilities, prevents the President from taking executive action to expand his deferred action for illegal immigrants DACA plan, and is fully paid for by taking back unspent funds from various agencies.
DEVELOPMENTS IN ISRAEL
I partnered with my Democrat colleague, Congressman Brad Schneider (IL-10), in leading a bipartisan group of 149 lawmakers on a letter calling on the United Nations to make the removal of Hamas’s rocket arsenal a top priority. The U.N’s purpose is to save mankind from the scourge of war and to defend fundamental human rights, but it is failing to do just that. For some time now, the U.N has wrongfully and instinctively condemned Israel. While Israel practices the greatest caution trying to prevent civilian casualties, Hamas uses civilians to protect the rockets it launches at Israel. It is time for Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to take the necessary steps to remove these rockets, and to support Israel in the effort to destroy the deadly tunnels.
Text of Letter
Dear Mr. Secretary General,
The Palestinian terrorist group Hamas has embarked on its third campaign in six years of terrorizing a civilian population by indiscriminately firing nearly two thousand rockets into Israeli airspace. As well, Hamas has built a network of underground tunnels from Gaza into Israel with the express intent of killing and capturing Israelis. There has been enough suffering in both Israel and Gaza as a direct result of Hamas’s rocket arsenal. We, the elected representatives of the American people, call on the United Nations to formally recognize Gaza’s rockets as an impenetrable barrier to regional peace, and to make their immediate removal a top priority.
After ten days of unrelenting, indiscriminate attacks—from rockets, through the tunnels, and from the sea—Israel entered Gaza on July 17 with the mission of eliminating the tunnels and ending the rocket fire. Meanwhile, rocket sirens continue to sound all across Israel, with over 75% of Israel’s civilian population living within range of Hamas’ fire.
More than 9,000 rockets have been fired out of Gaza since 2001. Once considered to be short-range threats with minimal payloads, Hamas has continuously improved the range and lethality of these rockets to ensure a maximum threat to Israel. Hamas can now reach virtually every major population center in Israel, with deadly effect. Today, every rocket fired puts the long-sought peace between Israel and the Palestinians further out of reach.
But rather than respond in kind to each and every rocket attack, Israel has countered the rocket threat by developing a rocket defense system known as Iron Dome. The Iron Dome system has saved countless Israeli lives, including in this most recent conflict.
After more than a decade of deadly attacks, it is now absolutely clear that the international community cannot tolerate the rocket stockpiles in Gaza. While the rockets terrorize Israelis, they also endanger Gaza’s children, women, and men. Hamas embeds its rockets and rocket launchers among civilian populations and publicly declares it the duty of every Palestinian to put his or her life on the line to protect them. The firing of rockets intentionally targeting Israeli civilians and the use of Palestinian civilians as human shields are both war crimes.
Israel continues to warn the population in Gaza before striking weapons caches and rocket launchers. These advanced warnings seek to save the lives of innocent Palestinians, and do so at grave risk to Israel Defense Forces troops. Yet, in spite of these efforts, many innocent civilians have lost their lives in the crossfire and collateral damage to property still occurs. Tragically, this is exactly what Hamas’ leadership is counting on.
We urge the United Nations to take the steps necessary to make the removal of Hamas’s rockets a top priority. Doing so will bring much needed stability to a region that has been plagued by terror and suffering for too long and is imperative to any effort to bring a lasting peace to the people of Israel and Gaza.
SAYING “THANK YOU” TO AN EXCEPTIONAL LOCAL MILITARY LEADER
I paid tribute to Air Force Space Command Commander, General William Shelton with a speech on the House Floor. General Shelton is coming to the end of a career spanning four decades in the United States Air Force that began at the Air Force Academy and ended at Air Force Space Command, both located here in the Fifth Congressional District. Please join me in congratulating General Shelton and his family on his retirement!
Text of Speech
Mister Speaker, I rise today to recognize General William L. Shelton, Commander of Air Force Space Command, on the occasion of his retirement from the United States Air Force.
Over the course of his 38-year career in the United States Air Force, General Shelton has served with great distinction and made countless sacrifices for our country. We commend his service; the sacrifices of his family in support of his service, including his wife Linda and their two children Sara and Joel; and must express our great appreciation for his leadership and devotion to our Nation’s security.
A graduate of the United States Air Force Academy, General Shelton’s selection as the Commander of Air Force Space Command in January 2011 culminates a distinguished career that began in 1976 at the Space and Missile Test Center at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. In a career dedicated to the space enterprise, he commanded units at Falcon/Schriever, F.E. Warren, Offutt, Vandenberg, and Peterson Air Force Bases. He also provided valuable leadership and counsel to the Secretary of the Air Force, Chief of Staff of the Air Force and Joint Staff community during multiple Headquarters U.S. Air Force assignments. His positive leadership directly influenced countless men and women in our Armed Forces, and the enduring effects of his service to our country will be felt for years to come.
General Shelton has been a vigilant advocate for national security space programs. As the Commander of Air Force Space Command, he was responsible for organizing, training and equipping more than 40,000 military and civilian personnel to assure space and cyberspace capabilities for the Combatant Commands and for the Nation. While space and cyberspace capabilities clearly contribute to making our military unmatched in combat operations, they also have become essential in humanitarian and disaster relief efforts and are now vital assets for the global community and world economy.
Through his leadership, we enjoy unprecedented success in the areas of space launch and acquisition which have led to greater mission assurance and cost savings across the Department of Defense. Further, his vision on future space capabilities will position us to make the changes necessary to provide resilient, capable and affordable space capabilities for the joint force and the Nation well into the future.
General Shelton established an unmatched and sustained level of success during a time of increasing challenges. He has worked closely with the House Armed Services Committee, and it has been my great pleasure to work with him in that important capacity. His frank and informed discussions on our space systems, particularly the Global Positioning Satellite system, have helped leaders and citizens around the world appreciate the value and need to protect our Nation’s foundational space capabilities. As a member of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Strategic Forces, I am grateful for General Shelton’s wise counsel and firm resolve to always do what is best for the Nation and for the Airmen he has led.
With nearly four decades of exemplary service to our Nation, General William L. Shelton deserves our most heartfelt gratitude and praise. Thank you, General Shelton – and best wishes to you and your family.
Integrity in Leadership