2011 Year-End Report
Congressman Jeff Fortenberry
Dear Friends, Nebraska’s First District is, literally and figuratively, a breath of fresh air from the tumultuous and frenzied world of Washington. We call it the “good life” in Nebraska – the majestic terrain of farm and ranchlands, expansive prairies, rolling Sandhills, and the vast Ogallala Aquifer, and a Heartland culture of hard work, personal responsibility, and neighbor helping neighbor that has helped Nebraska remain stable, peaceful and secure in the midst of a very difficult period for our nation. And what works in Nebraska could work for America: a focus first on the values that give rise to sound thinking, good governance, and economic diversity. Nebraska today has the second lowest unemployment rate in the nation and consistently ranks at or near the top of national surveys evaluating economic strength and opportunity. This, matched with a resolve to do good work and preserve opportunities for the next generation, is a “Nebraska model” that would serve Washington well. For the Nebraska model to take effect in Washington, and for lawmakers to begin to work collaboratively to address the needs of the country, the continued input and encouragement of engaged citizens will be critical. I have been honored this year to represent some of the most civically engaged constituents in this country, as
countless Nebraskans have told me Washington needs the Nebraska approach to solving big problems: be smart, be resourceful, and work until the job is done. Clearly, and rightfully so, economic recovery has been the dominant theme for the year, and Congress will continue to work on this critical area. Inside this end-of-the-year newsletter, you will find information about key actions and legislative measures I have undertaken spanning areas from agriculture to veterans affairs. As always, I appreciate knowing your thoughts and ideas on our work, and remain honored to represent you in Congress. Sincerly, Jeff
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In Nebraska an update on our work at home
IN WASHINGTON an update on my new responsibilities in Congress
Economy and Jobs getting our nationâ€™s fiscal house in order
Agriculture and Energy exploring new opportunities for farmers and protecting our natural resources
National Security and Veterans understanding responsible defense, development, and democracy
Health Care driving down costs and protecting the vulnerable
Family Life, Rights, and Culture the strength of the nation
an update on how I’ve been working to serve you at home Constituent service My office can help you in a variety of ways with federal issues. If you need assistance or have questions, please contact us: Lincoln District Office
Norfolk District Office
301 South 13th Street, Suite 100
125 S. 4th Street, Suite 101
Lincoln, NE 68508
Norfolk, NE 68701
Fremont District Office
Washington, D.C. Office
P.O. Box 377
1514 Longworth HOB
629 Broad Street
Washington, D.C. 20515
Fremont, NE 68026
(402) 727-0888 Here is an overview of some of our work in Nebraska in 2011:
• Reviewed safety operations at nuclear power facilities in Brownville and Fort Calhoun.
• Conducted 10 town hall meetings with hundreds of constituents in Lincoln, Norfolk, Fremont, Schuyler, Wahoo, Blair, and West Point
• Addressed more than 600 Nebraska business leaders and entrepreneurs at a federal policy summit near Ashland
• Hosted a town hall meeting in Lincoln with former U.S. Comptroller General David Walker to examine the challenges of our national debt and
• Discussed policy changes with health care professionals and reviewed
latest in rehabilitative technology at Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital in Lincoln
• Helped resolve more than 600 individual cases for constituents dealing with federal agencies
• Reviewed energy operations training program at Southeast Community College’s Milford campus, where students learn technical skills in nuclear,
• Addressed nearly 60,000 letters, e-mails, and calls from constituents
natural gas, biofuels, wind, and other energy generation systems
regarding federal legislation • Visited farmer education and growing site of Community CROPS, a • Organized “Military and Service Academy Day,” an opportunity
Lincoln organization that provides technical help for people engaging in
for Nebraska students and their parents to learn more about military
opportunities and the nomination process for U.S. Service Academies • Spoke with students about current affairs and the civic process in • Helped welcome home hundreds of Nebraska National Guard members
numerous schools across the First District
from deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan • Hosted Library of Congress exhibit “Gateway to Knowledge” – a • Presented the Bronze Star Medal to Mr. Donald Wedberg of Lincoln for
collection of important American and world history documents - at
his time of service in the U.S. Army in World War II
campus of Midland University in Fremont
• Assessed flooding damage and flood control efforts in communities
• Conducted business operations reviews at manufacturing and
along the Missouri River, consulted with community leaders regarding
agricultural sites across the First District
response and recovery.
an update on my new responsibilities in Congress
In 2011, I was pleased to serve on the House Agriculture and Foreign
global human rights, and various other issues related to U.S. foreign
Affairs Committees, and hold leadership positions on two of their
policy interests. The Committee conducts ongoing meetings with foreign
political leaders and United States government Administration officials. These meetings allow Committee Members the opportunity to explore the
effectiveness of the Administration’s implementation of foreign policy. On
The work of the Agriculture Committee affects the lives of every American,
the House Foreign Affairs Committee, I serve as the Vice-Chairman of the
and is particularly important for our home state of Nebraska. Agriculture’s
Africa, Global Health, and Human Rights Subcommittee.
benefits to our nation go far beyond food security; it stabilizes and strengthens our economy, increases our energy independence, and builds
House Democracy Partnership
new opportunities in rural America. It is critical that our farm policies and
I am currently second in seniority on the House Democracy Partnership,
programs fairly and efficiently serve America’s farm and ranch families
a bipartisan 20-member commission established by the House of
and the Americans who depend on them. On the House Agriculture
Representatives in 2005 to support the development of independent
Committee, I serve as the Chairman of the Department Operations,
democratic legislatures. I have continued to work with parliamentarians in
Oversight, and Credit Subcommittee, which oversees the United States
developing nations, particularly on matters of oversight and government
Department of Agriculture (USDA). The USDA is one of the federal
reform and agricultural assistance. Strong international democracies are
government’s largest agencies, and my responsibilities involve program
essential to our national security.
review and analysis, special investigations, and agricultural credit. The Nebraska Breakfast Foreign Affairs Committee
I was honored to serve as chairman of the 2011 Nebraska Breakfasts, a
The House Committee on Foreign Affairs has oversight and legislative
privilege that rotates among members of the Nebraska congressional
responsibility for international security, non-proliferation and disarmament
delegation from year to year.
issues, international crime, narcotics, terrorism and espionage issues, U.S. Department of State and related agency operations, U.S. foreign assistance,
Caucuses Caucuses are official groups of the House of Representatives that allow for intensive education of Members of Congress and their staff in certain specialized topics. This year, I co-chaired three Caucuses: the Congressional Nuclear Security Caucus, Congressional Caucus on Beef,
• House Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Caucus
and Malaria and Neglected Tropical Diseases Caucus.
• Congressional Down Syndrome Caucus • Congressional Military Family Caucus
Some of the other Caucuses I serve on include:
• House International Conservation Caucus
• Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus
• House Army Caucus
• Congressional Farmer Cooperative Caucus
• Congressional Humanities Caucus
• Coalition on Autism Research and Education
• House Library of Congress Caucus
• House Rural Health Care Coalition
• Native American Caucus
• Congressional Children’s Health Care Caucus
• Congressional Rural Caucus
• Rural Veterans Caucus
• Congressional Scouting Caucus
Economy and Jobs Getting Our Nations Fiscal House in Order
“I believe it is necessary... to protect our children and future generations from economic collapse”
America’s economy continues to suffer. The reasons are multiple: a decade of government overspending, recklessness on Wall Street, increasing debt, an uncertain regulatory and tax environment, the shipment of manufacturing jobs overseas, financial globalization, and suppressed consumer demand have converged to create an oppressive business environment. Confidence is down among our nation’s small business owners. I believe getting our nation’s fiscal house in order will strengthen economic recovery. Hard Decisions The reasons for our staggering national debt are multiple but underscored
I have both voted for and helped lead the call for deeper, longer-term
by one simple reality: Washington has spent much more money than it
reductions, which many economists suggest is necessary for economic
has. The national debt now totals more than $47,000 for every man,
stability. The Senate, however, has not passed a budget in more than 900
woman, and child in America. Since 2000, federal government spending
days. We’re now in a very deep hole. As I write, the second phase of the
has doubled, accelerated by the high costs associated with the wars in Iraq
debt ceiling deal passed this summer has failed. The team of Members
and Afghanistan, bailout measures, stimulus spending, and health care
called the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction shockingly made
costs. Alarmingly, about 31 percent of total U.S. debt is owed to other
no progress for further debt reduction. It is unclear whether the rest of
countries, which creates significant foreign policy entanglements. While
Congress will leverage this moment for long-term structural spending
revenues have also increased, the federal government is unable to meet
changes in Washington.
its obligations without significant borrowing—amounting to 42 cents of every dollar it spends.
Balanced budget amendment Prepared by the Office of Congressman Jeff Fortenberry
Twenty Years of Spending Growth FY 1990
Deficit or Surplus
$221 Billion Deficit
$235 Billion Surplus*
$1.3 Trillion Deficit
In November, the House of Representatives failed to pass a measure that I have long supported—a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution. I don’t take lightly the issue of amending our Constitution, which has endured through strife and dramatic historical shifts with very few amendments. Constitutional amendments should be exceedingly rare, as they have the power to spur sweeping change—but I believe it is necessary that the same process that guaranteed our hallmark freedoms of speech and religion, and freedom from slavery, be used protect our children
and future generations from economic collapse. Most states, including Nebraska, have already enacted balanced budget requirements—it is time
Debt Per Capita
*Deficit in 2005 was $318 Billion
for the federal government to do the same. As I told my colleagues on the House Floor, we are standing at history’s
The American people are rightly cynical about the federal government’s
door. We can either lead and be bold, making the hard decisions necessary
lack of progress on this serious fiscal matter. But some progress is being
to correct our fiscal trajectory—or stay in our timeworn political lanes,
made in the House of Representatives. This fiscal year, the President laid
continuing with the status quo that has given our nation this unsustainable
out $3.8 trillion in spending. The House led the way to reduce actual
spending by nearly $250 billion below the President’s request this year. This number is in no way enough, but it is still an accomplishment to be noted.
“Reviving our nation’s economy will require a more certain business climate. “
Getting Our Nations Fiscal House in Order
In the interim, I have helped lead a bipartisan group of 99 of my colleagues in calling for all options to be on the table to reduce the federal deficit by at least $4 trillion over the next 10 years. We can do something big for this country and our future, and make deficit spending a thing of the past. I
will continue to work in earnest to get our fiscal house in order.
disproportionately, and oppresses entrepreneurial growth. Reviving our
nation’s economy will require a more certain business climate. One bill in This summer, I invited former U.S. Comptroller General and director of
Congress that I supported this year is called the REINS Act, which would
the Government Accountability Office, David Walker, to Lincoln for a
require any regulatory measure having a cumulative impact of more than
community discussion on America’s debt challenges and fiscal policies.
$100 million annually to the economy to have congressional approval.
Walker, one of America’s leading voices on budgetary reform, laid out some very hard facts on American’s fiscal realities. I agree that Washington’s
Earlier this year, I also supported the Small Business Paperwork Mandate
fiscal trajectory is unsustainable. Our borrow-and-spend philosophy
Elimination Act of 2011, to repeal a portion of last year’s health care law
leaves an unfair debt burden to our children and grandchildren. The bill for
that subjects small businesses to burdensome tax reporting requirements.
our excess will eventually come due in one of three ways: increased taxes
I heard from numerous Nebraskans that this onerous mandate, requiring
on the next generation, increased inflation, and/or further dependence on
businesses to issue a Form 1099 in a variety of new circumstances, was
foreign ownership of our public debt. None of these scenarios is healthy
creating unnecessary paperwork and costing jobs.
for the American people. Tax Reform Restoring Economic Confidence
Related to this is the need for a fairer and simpler tax code. When a variety
Small business entrepreneurship creates a majority of new jobs in America.
of large corporations pay no taxes because they can hire an army of lawyers
This is true especially in the Heartland. In Lincoln, nearly 80 percent of
and accountants to leverage tax code loopholes, the tax burden is passed
private sector employees work in businesses with 25 or fewer employees.
disproportionately onto small business owners and entrepreneurs. This
But many small businesses have questions about future opportunities for
year, I have made clear to my colleagues in the House and Senate that any
plan to restore our economy must include comprehensive tax reform, and making the tax code simpler and fairer for all Americans.
Burdensome regulations and tax policies have created a sense of economic uncertainty. From larger manufacturers to Main Street banks, from
A reasonable and measured regulatory and tax approach should consider
farming operations to small business contractors, these regulations and
American businesses partners in achieving appropriate protections, rather
policies are impacting businesses of all sizes. While ordinary regulation is
than adversaries. More “Made in America” enterprises can help strengthen
an important extension of law for a well functioning society -- protecting
local economies, create jobs, and revitalize our nation.
public health, worker safety, and a fair and stable business climate --
11 Nebraska’s Resilience While our state is not immune to the ill effects of the national downturn and some families are experiencing hardship, our state’s economy has remained resilient, thanks in large part to a stable ag economy, small business diversification, and Nebraskans’ practical sense regarding responsible lending, finance, and governance.
As I mentioned in my
Welcome Letter, this is the Nebraska Model at work: a focus first on the values that give rise to sound thinking, good governance, and economic diversity. Nebraska’s economy is seen by many as a relative bright spot in a nation working to rebound from recession. Our jobless rate is half the national unemployment rate. We consistently are at or near the top of national surveys of states’ financial health and environment for jobs and family life. It is difficult for us Nebraskans to see the degree of discord and brokenness in Washington that has caused the overspending and has prohibited the federal government from working together to enact the bold, creative reforms necessary to get our nation’s fiscal house in order. For me, one related bright spot has been the continuation of a Washington tradition that was created by Nebraskans for Nebraskans, in which all members of Nebraska’s delegation gather together to talk with eachother, and with visiting Nebraskans, about the national debt and other pressing issues facing Congress. The “Nebraska Breakfast” is a six decade-old tradition that welcomes visiting Nebraskans to the nation’s capital on the Wednesdays in which both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives are in session. The practice started in 1943 when Senator Hugh Butler began meeting informally with the other members of Nebraska’s Congressional delegation and their guests. I was honored to serve as chairman of the 2011 Nebraska Breakfasts, a privilege that rotates among members of the Nebraska congressional delegation from year to year. Reflecting Nebraskans’ independence and neighborly spirit, the Nebraska Breakfast is only state gathering of its kind, welcoming hundreds of constituents to the U.S. Capitol each year. While some state delegations may never meet as a whole throughout the year, ours makes it a point to does so each week. For the elected officials, it is a unique opportunity for us to share thoughts and ideas about specific policies and proposals. For Nebraskans visiting our nation’s Capitol, we hope it is a worthwhile occasion to interact with your federal representatives. You are always welcome to come when you are in Washington.
Agriculture and Energy exploring new opportunities for farmers and protecting our natural resources
new agreements as they hold great potential for Nebraska grain, beef, and pork producers, and represent growing demand for American-raised food in world markets. These partnerships, particularly with our southern neighbors where we have complimentary economies, will enhance economic opportunities for all involved. AG AND ENERGY SECURITY Rural America can help lead the way to a new chapter of Americanproduced energy production. New domestic energy development from renewables like biofuels, biogas, geothermal and wind is increasingly important in light of high fuel prices.
Ag-based, renewable energy
decreases our reliance on foreign oil, conserves natural resources, and creates new economic opportunities for farmers and rural entrepreneurs. Not only is agriculture one of the few bright spots in our national economy,
One way we can help advance rural energy development is by using
in Nebraska it is a way of life. Lessons learned on the family farm help shape
existing resources to support worthy energy projects. Earlier this year,
the foundations of our character: hard work, personal responsibility, and
I successfully amended the House Agriculture Appropriations Act for the
neighbor helping neighbor. But agriculture today is not well understood
Rural Energy for America Program (REAP). REAP assists self-sufficiency
by a majority of Americans, who have no proximity to farm life. I have
efforts through worthwhile, proven energy projects that create energy and
spent considerable time this year telling the story of agriculture’s benefits
jobs and address environmental concerns.
to our nation, not only in terms of food security, but also agriculture’s importance to economic, energy, national, and environmental security.
America continues to spend staggering amounts of money, as much as
Understanding this critical role is essential to crafting sound farm policies
$1 billion per day, on imported oil. This creates drastic trade imbalances
for the benefit of agriculture’s future.
and undermines our economic and national security. Early this year, I introduced the Renewable Fuels for America’s Future Act, to help redesign
AG AND ECONOMIC SECURITY
our national renewable fuels strategy, create incentives for increased
Despite national economic difficulties, Nebraska has remained
biofuels production while saving taxpayer money, and develop much-
economically strong due to our agricultural economy. In our state, where
needed biofuels transportation infrastructure. It’s a winner for farmers, for
the unemployment rate is second lowest in the nation, one in three jobs is
the environment, and for the American taxpayer.
related to agriculture. We are a leading producer of biofuels in the country. One in five hamburgers and steaks in the U.S. come from Nebraska.
The bill would extend the ethanol blenders’ tax credit (or Volumetric Ethanol Excise Tax Credit) only for ethanol produced beyond required
Even TIME magazine this year marked the strength of agriculture in
levels. Currently, the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) mandates a certain
Nebraska in an article entitled, “Want to Make More Than a Banker?
amount of ethanol that gasoline manufacturers must use in their fuel.
Become a Farmer!” featuring two Nebraska farm operations. The article
Oil companies now receive the 45 cent per gallon tax credit for doing
highlighted the recent trend of strong commodity prices, high production
what they are already required by law to do—we should discontinue
yields, and the resulting benefits for farmers and some rural economies.
this tax loophole to save funds and create new opportunity. Economists Dr. Ernie Goss of Creighton University and Dr. Bruce Babcock of Iowa
Increased demand for ag products, both domestically and globally, have
State University analyzed my bill, concluding, “in 2011, this would save
led to the recent successes. Recently, Congress finalized important trade
taxpayers $5.67 billion.”
agreements with Columbia, Panama, and South Korea. I supported these
While we continue identifying ways to reduce costs across all programs and departments, it is important agriculture is not disproportionately affected by reductions.
Agriculture and Energy exploring new opportunities for farmers and protecting our natural resources AG AND NATIONAL SECURITY
A reliable, affordable and safe food supply empowers a nation’s stability
Farmers in Nebraska and across the country are good Americans; they
and capacity for progress.
understand our nation’s fiscal challenges and the shared sacrifices
The efficiencies of America’s production
agriculture operations contribute to our strength as a nation.
necessary to climb out of the hole. The Agriculture Committee earlier
places in the world, we look to help increase stability by improving food
this year recommended a farm budget reduced by $23 billion, most of the
systems. Afghanistan is a good example. A team of Nebraska National
cost savings coming from the elimination of direct payments (about $15
Guard members has been instrumental in helping Afghan farmers develop
billion). It was clear, in this time of strong commodity prices and serious
more efficient and effective ways of growing food, creating stability in
budgetary constraints, direct farm payments would likely be dramatically
anticipation of our military departure.
reduced or eliminated. Furthermore, many farm programs will need to be rewritten to function properly with these reductions.
AG AND ENVIRONMENTAL SECURITY Over the past year, Nebraska has received national attention regarding the
In conjunction with this emphasis on agricultural reform to benefit the
proposed TransCanada Keystone XL pipeline, which was planned to run
economy, I held an audit hearing to provide oversight of current spending
through an environmentally delicate area of our state.
in the USDA Farm Loan Programs. The findings of this hearing can help us prioritize the farm loan programs that are most valuable to America’s
As details of the proposal emerged, many Nebraskans were rightly
farmers and ranchers while making the most efficient use of taxpayer
concerned regarding the siting of the pipeline. The Ogallala Aquifer
dollars. In preparation for writing the next Farm Bill, I led a number of
and the Nebraska Sandhills demand the highest level of environmental
other similar audit hearings, including hearings that investigated fraud
protection. The Ogallala Aquifer is the primary source of groundwater for
within the nutrition program known as SNAP, to ensure taxpayer funds
approximately 20 percent of our nation’s agricultural production, and the
are being used properly.
final environmental impact statement was too dismissive of the potential long-term effects that a sizeable spill could have on our water supply.
While we continue identifying ways to reduce costs, it is important agriculture is not disproportionately affected.
Agriculture has been
Over the past year, I expressed these concerns with State Department
critically important to the economic well-being of the Heartland and
and Administration officials, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton,
our rural communities, and I want to ensure that our basic stabilization
and met with TransCanada and Canadian officials to push for support for
policies remain an important part of public policy for our farmers and
rerouting the pipeline around the Sandhills. On November 10, the State
Department announced alternative routing for the pipeline will now be explored, and TransCanada subsequently agreed to move the pipeline. As a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and its Subcommittee on the Middle East, I keenly recognize the need to develop additional energy sources for our long-term national and economic security. We need a strategic energy partnership with Canada that respects our natural resources and upholds environmental stewardship. I look forward to a thorough review of alternative, safe routing that will allow for proper stewardship of our natural resources as we expand domestic energy sources.
AG OPPORTUNITIES: THE NEXT GENERATION
MISSOURI RIVER FLOODING
Agriculture as an occupation and industry faces some stiff challenges.
This year the Missouri River Basin experienced flooding of historic
Primary among these is demographics: the average age of the American
proportions. Nebraskans were hit hard. Some lost homes. Others lost
farmer is now 57 years. In Nebraska, the average age is 56.
farms and businesses. A recent analysis estimated the total economic impacts of the flood related to agriculture in Nebraska to be nearly $190
This year, I introduced the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity
million dollars. Millions of dollars more are estimated in damages to
Act, H.R. 3236, to ready a new generation of American ag producers by
public infrastructure and private property.
modifying and building upon existing farm programs to help overcome the steep financial burdens of setting up an agricultural business. It improves
During and after the flooding events, many constituents questioned river
access to farm credit for young producers, encourages participation in
management decisions made by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and
innovative and cost-saving conservation practices, increases technical
these decisionsâ€™ impacts on the severity of the flooding. While it is clear
training and educational opportunities, and gives priority to beginning
that certain areas affecting the Missouri River experienced record amounts
farmers who pursue grant support for value-added initiatives. In doing
of snowmelt and precipitation this year, creating record levels of runoff,
so, it also recognizes the importance and promise of emerging market
it is necessary that Congress thoroughly examine how existing river
opportunities, such as locally and organically raised foods within regional
management policies may have played a role in the flooding and its
foods systems, to young ag entrepreneurs.
dramatic impacts. The 2011 flood and its extraordinary consequences necessitate a reevaluation of river management.
Many young people possess the entrepreneurial drive necessary to establish and maintain successful farm operations. Bringing new participants
I joined several Missouri River Basin members of Congress in supporting
and landowners into agriculture will help address the trend of increased
legislative efforts to compel a reassessment of upstream management
consolidation and concentration in farm markets, which has long been
for the purpose of preventing catastrophic flooding events. One of these
a factor in rural depopulation. It is important that our farm policies
proposals, H.R. 2942, would direct the Chief of the Army Corps of
recognize the critical need to encourage new interest in agriculture and
Engineers to revise the Missouri River Mainstem Reservoir System Master
develop a new generation of American farmers and ranchers. I believe
Water Control Manual to ensure greater storage capacity to prevent serious
the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act is a good first step in
downstream flooding. Upstream reservoirs would be required to remain
low enough to accommodate high levels of runoff and prevent devastating downstream floods. I also introduced H.R. 3347 to exempt any road, highway, or bridge damaged by a natural disaster, including a flood, from duplicative environmental document reviews if the road, highway, or bridge is reconstructed in the same location.
understanding responsible defense, development, and democracy 2011 was a dramatic year for foreign affairs. As the Iraq War drew to a
and disorder, were put down. Space was created to allow Iraqis the time
close, our military efforts in Afghanistan continued to be intense and
necessary to build the foundations of a representative government and an
dangerous. As a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and
Vice-Chairman of the Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, and Human Rights, I was closely involved in our nation’s response to the numerous
There are still challenges and significant obstacles. The way forward will
revolutions, widespread instability, and serious electoral violence across
not be easy, but today Iraqis determine Iraq’s future. No longer constricted
the Middle East, Africa, and Southeast Asia this year.
by the dictates of a despot, they have held elections, they have written a constitution, and hopefully they will build a culture that respects the rights and dignity of all people. America’s soldiers, our modern-day heroes, helped stabilize that country and strengthen America’s security. In Afghanistan, our military’s work remains very dangerous. As in Iraq, we have suffered great losses. More than 1,800 American troops have been killed in Afghanistan, including 13 Nebraskans As we gradually draw down our troops from this area, we seek to provide a path for a more stable Afghan society that supports responsible leaders, does not tolerate terroristic elements, and upholds the basic rights of all its citizens. Like Iraq, a more orderly Afghanistan will strengthen America’s security and global stability. Many American service members have gone to great effort to help accomplish this goal. I am extremely proud our Nebraska service members who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan. It was my honor and pleasure this year to welcome hundreds of them home this year as they returned from deployments to their families and careers.
IRAQ AND AFGHANISTAN U.S. service members in Iraq are coming home by year’s end. The Iraq war
BIN LADEN AND PAKISTAN
was a difficult, painful time, extraordinarily costly in terms of American
The May death of Osama bin Laden captured America’s attention. Bin
lives and resources. Nearly 4,500 Americans, including 45 Nebraskans,
Laden, the terrorist mastermind responsible for the deaths of nearly 3,000
were killed in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Two hundred twenty-seven Nebraskans were wounded in combat. Tens of thousands of Iraqis lost their lives. We are extremely proud of the tremendous efforts of our fallen heroes, and our returning veterans. Their work, steadily done in the midst of extensive public debate about the war and the strategy, was the strength of this mission. They achieved what was set before them. The victories are theirs. Their unwavering commitment, skill, and bravery got the job done. Our troops helped unloose an Iraqi people held hostage for decades by an egomaniacal tyrant. Insurgencies, led by terrorists seeking to wreak havoc
also passed a very broad bill to help combat human trafficking—a modern day form of slavery—both here and abroad.”
Americans on September 11, 2001, led Al Qaeda through more than two
East. The uprisings intensified in January, when a highly complex and
decades of indiscriminate violence against innocent persons. America and
dangerous situation emerged in the streets of Egypt.
much of the world waited for the day when Osama bin Laden would be stopped. This was an impactful day for Americans and for all of humanity,
Countless Egyptians packed Tahrir Square, where I once lived in my
but it does not put an end to terrorist threats and violence.
youth, to air their grievances with their government and depose Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak. Mubarak fled, and resigned on February 11,
Having searched for bin Laden for ten years, our military and intelligence
and power was transferred over to the Egyptian military. It is essential now
agencies found him in an expansive compound in the middle of a modern
that democratic reforms in Egypt are inclusive of minorities, particularly
city in northern Pakistan, not far from the nation’s capital and home to top
women and Christians. A just and peaceful outcome will respect the
military and educational institutions. Bin Laden’s hiding in Pakistan is
rights of democratic participation for all citizens.
another major concern with that country, which we have supported with billions of dollars in assistance in recent years. This year, I called upon
The unrest in Egypt began causing uncertainty in world markets,
President Obama to form an Afghanistan-Pakistan Study Group to further
particularly regarding oil prices. As unrest in the Middle East spread
explore this relationship and clarify America’s goals and strategy in the
to more countries, such as Yemen, Djibouti, and Bahrain, and Kuwait,
region. This Group would be modeled after the Iraq Study Group, which
Americans saw the impact in their wallets as oil prices shot past $100 a
was formed by Congress in 2006 and helped change the course of the Iraq
barrel. The situation worsened severely in February, when Libya, a key oil-
War. The proposed Afghanistan-Pakistan Study Group would conduct a
producing country, made half of its oil inaccessible in response to large
forward-looking, independent assessment of the current and prospective
protests that began in the city of Benghazi.
situation on the ground in Afghanistan and Pakistan, its impact on the surrounding region, and its consequences for the United States and global
Libya’s dictator Muammar Gaddafi, responded to the protests by ordering
his security forces to fire upon protesters. The Libyan ambassador to the United States resigned, and came to me and said: ‘I can no longer serve a
MIDDLE EAST TURMOIL
government that kills its own people.’
One of the most important foreign affairs developments this year is the rise of the Arab Spring. Beginning in December 2010, the world saw
To prevent mass murder and protect the Libyan people, the United States
popular uprisings of various strengths across North Africa and the Middle
joined several members of the international community in a military
understanding responsible defense, development, and democracy campaign. As the campaign began, I stressed that the response to Gaddafi
lessons for the world to learn: people have the right to express their
must be regional, supported by international bodies, such as the Arab
concerns with the government, and there must be space within civil
League, African Union, and European Union. I believed the campaign
society for the highest aspirations of the people. Peaceful and pragmatic
should be limited, and intended to immediately protect innocent Libyans
dialogue is a necessary hallmark of democratic change. But democracy
while showing the Gaddafi regime that the U.S. stands with people across
cannot bring about the values upon which it rests. The philosophical
the world who demand their rights against oppressive force. I supported
underpinnings of just and free societies are respect for human rights and
continuing efforts aimed at controlling the supply of arms, freezing
the rule of law, and building these foundations will take a great degree of
Gaddafi’s assets, and providing humanitarian relief.
courage, self-sacrifice, and innumerable years of hard work.
As the military campaign wore on for months and the strategy became
INDEPENDENCE FOR SOUTH SUDAN
increasingly unclear, I called for efforts to be scaled down, believing that
On July 9, the world welcomed the new nation of Southern Sudan, born
since the threat of imminent slaughter had passed, North Africa must
out of tyranny, violent oppression, and decades of imperialist injustice.
ultimately be in the hands of North Africans, and regional bodies more
This development followed a large-scale referendum that notably involved
proximate to the conflict, such as the Arab League and African Union,
Nebraska. Nebraska has generously welcomed the largest number of
must be given the space to work for a successful outcome.
southern Sudanese refugees in the United States, many of whom live in Omaha and Lincoln, and have suffered and sacrificed so much to have the
Seven months later, in October, Gaddafi was killed. Many unanswered
chance to realize their democratic hopes manifest in an independent state.
questions remain about the capacity for the Libyan National Transitional
Thousands of Southern Sudanese refugees flocked to Nebraska to cast
Council to assume leadership, but it is my hope that Libya can develop a
their votes for independence of their former homeland.
society that respects democratic ideals. THE RISE OF CHINA DEMOCRACY
To fuel its expansive growth in recent years, China is searching the world
As the second-most senior Member of the House Democracy Partnership,
for reliable sources of energy and raw materials. Over the last several
charged with fostering relationships with developing democracies
years, China has become the world’s largest investor in Africa. Bilateral
worldwide, I believe these foreign affairs developments hold important
trade deals have been signed between China and 45 African countries, and direct Chinese investments in Africa have been projected to rise by 70 percent, to $50 billion by 2015. China also continues to be criticized by human rights observers for supplying weapons in violation of the United Nations weapons embargoes, and is is trending toward increasing influence and control in the most high-conflict areas of Africa, exploiting natural resource-rich regions for its own mercantilist agenda. With the prevalence of geopolitical conflict in this area of the world, we must have a firm understanding of China’s rapid expansion in natural resource-rich, high-conflict areas of Africa. I authored a measure to further investigate China’s ambitions in this regard. Complicating this situation is the fact that China holds massive amounts of U.S. debt.
“Nebraska has generously welcomed the largest number of southern Sudanese refugees in the United States”
National Security and Veterans understanding responsible defense, development, and democracy OUR VETERANS Perhaps the most gratifying part of serving in Congress is my opportunity to interact with members of the military and their families, and especially, welcome them home. As more of our nation’s military members return from deployments, it is important that we continue to serve those who have served our country. Our veterans face serious economic challenges, and a primary way we can serve them is by creating new economic opportunities to help them transition back into civilian life. This year, I introduced legislation to help accomplish this goal. The Veterans Entrepreneurial Transition (VET) Act of 2011 builds upon the traditional GI Bill, a very important benefit program for American veterans. Historically, we have seen that only a third of all veterans use their earned educational benefits and only eight percent take full advantage of their entire eligibility. Instead, some veterans are interested in using the skills they developed in the military to operate a business. This commonsense legislation will permit any eligible veteran to elect to use benefits to establish and operate a business that he or she will own as a primary source of income,. The Veterans Business Institute estimates the policy initiative could lead to tens of thousands of new veteranowned small business and hundreds of thousands of new jobs. The VET Act is not only a value-added step toward increasing the diversity of opportunities for veterans to use their earned benefits, but also strengthens local communities, which have a demonstrated record of support for veteran-owned small businesses. According to the Small Business Administration, prior military service is a strong predictor of small business success. Because of numerous factors, including inherent professional discipline and work ethic, veteran-owned businesses are more than twice as likely to succeed as other small business start-ups. I believe the bill has the potential to gain broad, bipartisan support, and I am hopeful that Congress will quickly move it forward as a creative approach to both supporting those who have sacrificed on America’s behalf and being part of the solution to advancing America’s economic revival.
“it is important that we continue to serve those who have served our country.”
21 â€œdemocracy cannot bring about the values upon which it rests. The philosophical underpinnings of just and free societies are respect for human rights and the rule of law, and building these foundations will take a great degree of courage, self-sacrifice, and innumerable years of hard workâ€?
driving down costs and protecting the vulnerable
HEALTH CARE REFORM Nebraska is home to some of the top health care providers in the United
type of reform will reduce costs, improve health care outcomes, and
States. Highly skilled medical professionals and research scientists are on
protect persons in vulnerable circumstances. Unfortunately, the health
the cutting edge of health care reform in developing new patient-centered
care bill that was signed into law last year shifts costs to the government —
approaches to treatment and technological innovations in record-keeping
increasing unsustainable government spending — and erodes health care
and medical equipment. At Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital in Lincoln,
liberties, without addressing the causes of the escalating costs.
state-of-the art equipment (such as in the photo above) provides patients with the opportunity to achieve the best possible outcomes currently
I supported a measure earlier this year that would repeal the health care
available. I met several patients whose lives were dramatically improved
law. We must replace this Washington-centric plan and work on creating
through the progressive and innovative approaches offered at these
the right type of health care reform for the benefit of all Americans. This
facilities. Talented providers are implementing these ideas and are at
includes crafting new insurance models for families, farmers, and small
the forefront of patient care. Nebraska’s medical community has made
businesses, building a culture of health and wellness, allowing newly-
significant achievements, and is recognized nationally for its comparatively
insured persons to keep their coverage, and retaining protections for pre-
low costs and good outcomes. One of these analyses comes from the
existing conditions. I also believe an expansion of health savings accounts
Commonwealth Fund, which placed Nebraska in its top quartile of states
is sound public policy. I will continue to work toward a solution that
in terms of affordability of health care, wellness and prevention initiatives,
focuses on making insurance affordable.
and healthy lifestyles. Click here to view this national health survey. RURAL HEALTH SERVICES Despite these successes, many Nebraskans continue to share deep concerns
An important part of health care reform is improving health care delivery
about their access to quality and affordable health care. I believe the right
systems for vulnerable and underserved populations. Nebraska’s rural
23 hospitals provide critical access to care for those in smaller and more
a measure I authored to define and support our global health policy on
remote communities, especially for the elderly, and often perform other
ending malaria deaths worldwide.
social services and outreach. I recently urged my colleagues to protect these important rural hospitals from disproportionate budget reductions.
Conscience Rights and individual liberties
Similarly, community pharmacies are where people go to receive needed
As a result of the new health care law, the government is attempting to
medications from pharmacists they know and trust to provide helpful
mandate that every American pay for coverage for abortifacient drugs,
guidance on their prescriptions.
The number of these pharmacies
sterilizations, and other ethically divisive procedures that have traditionally
has declined in recent years. I have co-sponsored the Preserving Our
been considered electives. This mandate affects doctors, nurses, hospitals,
Hometown Independent Pharmacies Act to allow independent pharmacies
insurance carriers, small businesses that provide insurance for their
to band together and negotiate prices on a more level playing field with
employees, and individuals with health insurance.
insurance companies to keep these drug stores in our communities. Please be assured that I remain very engaged in health care reform as
The problem is threefold: 1) Americans should not be forced by the
Congress evaluates and makes necessary changes to the current health
strong arm of government to pay for drugs and procedures that are not
medical necessities and unrelated to America’s health care challenges; 2) this mandate drives up health care costs; and 3) this rule most seems
INTERNATIONAL DISEASE CONTROL: MALARIA
perniciously targeted at religious providers, who are the backstop of
This year, I was pleased to assume the co-chairmanship of the
compassionate care for the poor and most vulnerable. To qualify for an
Congressional Malaria and Neglected Tropical Diseases Caucus. Malaria
exemption, religiously-affiliated medical providers would have to employ
is a life-threatening, but preventable, disease passed on by the bite of an
and serve persons primarily of their own faith in order to uphold their own
infected mosquito. The majority of those killed are pregnant women and
deeply-held beliefs, and religiously-affiliated hospitals caring for the poor
children under five years old, and 98 percent of all malaria deaths occur in
may have to close their doors rather than violate tenets of their religion
just 35 countries, the majority of which are in Sub-Saharan Africa.
to meet the 2014 government mandate—which is forced discrimination. This is wrong. No American should be forced to choose between their
I was very happy to meet with members of the Lincoln United Methodist
faith and their job.
Church, who are working here in Nebraska to combat malaria. Our state doesn’t face the challenges of malaria; it was eradicated in the United States
To help fix this, I authored the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act.
in the 1950’s. But a child dies every 45 seconds from malaria, along with
This bipartisan piece of legislation amends the 2010 health care law to
nearly one million people around the world each year. The efforts of these
preserve conscience rights for health care professionals, their patients,
Nebraskans, along with the promising research work at the University of
and the institutional health care providers that serve them. I believe you
Nebraska Medical Center to find a cure, may help to change that. I believe
should be able to freely exercise your right of conscience in the health
that ending this disease is a good diplomatic and humanitarian
insurance and health care marketplace. If you have a deeply-
policy important for the future of humanity as well as global stability, and
held objection to specific items or services, you should not be required by
was pleased that the House Foreign Affairs Committee this year passed
the federal government to pay for them—for yourself, or for anyone else.
“I was very happy to meet with members of the Lincoln United Methodist Church, who are aorking in our backyard to help combat malaria.”
Family Life, Rights, and Culture the strength of the nation
leaders in education through my Educators Working Group. I will continue to work to enhance local control of Nebraska’s schools. Safeguarding Human Rights As we work to further strengthen our own communities, we also recognize the critical need in many areas of the world to build societies that uphold basic human rights and liberties. This year, the House Foreign Affairs Committee, on which I serve, passed a measure designed to end US taxpayers’ complicity in China’s campaign against women and girls, known as the One Child policy. The Chinese government employs a The strength of our nation depends upon the strength of our families and
barbaric practice of having families and women subjected to a barrage of
communities. The First District of Nebraska is home to numerous close-
personal indignities that are criminal in most places of the world. The
knit communities bound together by active families, churches, schools,
result is severe gender imbalance and a host of socioeconomic problems.
and civic organizations. These institutions advance the ideals of neighbor helping neighbor and respect for the rights and dignity of all.
It has also resulted in an epidemic of female suicide, the likes of which have never been seen in the world. This needs to be closely examined regarding
One of my greatest privileges is interacting with young people, who I find
its pernicious effects not only on the lives of men and women who have
to be impressively civically engaged. I often visit schools and meet with
the strong arm of government forcing abortion and sterilization, but also
4-H groups visiting our nation’s capital. Hundreds of Nebraska youth
as to how it affects Chinese society overall and the entire international
come to Washington each January for the annual March for Life. I am
community. U.S. taxpayers unwittingly contribute to this abuse through
also frequently invited to attend the ceremonies of Boy Scouts who have
funding an organization known as the United Nations Population Fund.
earned the rank of Eagle Scout. This year, I hosted three teen Girl Scouts
In October, I joined my colleagues in voting to advance a measure to end
in my Washington, D.C. office through the Girl Scouts Congressional Aide
U.S. involvement with that organization.
program. Related to this is the terrible international practice of sex-selective As a young man said recently during his Eagle Scout ceremony, “America
abortion, where pre-born female children are aborted because they are
depends upon the quality of her citizens.” Government cannot solve all
girls. While sex-selective abortion is most pervasive in countries such as
problems; a free and good society relies on the health and vibrancy of
China and India, recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau has indicated
institutions of good formation in our culture.
that sex-selective abortion is underway in the United States as well. To help combat the spread of this social ill and form of violence against
Education An important debate ongoing in Washington centers on the proper role of the federal government in children’s education. I have long stated that local control of education and parental involvement are the source and summit of academic success. Nebraska has benefitted greatly from its comparatively strong focus on these values. As Congress evaluates sweeping education reform measures like No Child Left Behind, I remain committed to empowering states and local school districts so they may implement education policies that give every child access to a high-quality education. I have dialogued with many of our local and state education officials and have worked with some of our brightest and most dedicated
women, I have joined in introducing the Prenatal Non-Discrimination Act.
25 Child Soldiers In 2008, Congress did something very courageous: we passed a law I introduced saying it was the policy of our nation that children — all children, no matter where they are from -- belong on playgrounds, not battlegrounds. This is the law of the land. We are obligated to stop underwriting this form of human trafficking, child conscription. However, this year, the Obama Administration announced it would again continue assistance to major international violators of the child soldiers prohibition, including Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen. The House of Representatives followed by passing a measure I authored earlier this year to prohibit military assistance to the country of Chad until it began to take real action to stop the use of child soldiers. At my request, the Foreign Affairs Committee also passed several other child soldiers-related measures this year, including an amendment to the Human Trafficking Victims Protection Act to strengthen U.S. child soldiers policy. I believe it is important to remove the US from any complicity in this assault against the world’s children. We also passed a very broad bill to help combat human trafficking—a modern day form of slavery—both here and abroad.
“ I believe you should be able to freely exercise your right of conscience in the health insurance and health care marketplace. “
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