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2011 Year-End Report

Congressman Jeff Fortenberry


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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

http://Facebook.com/JeffFortenberry http://Twitter.com/JeffFortenberry http://YouTube.com/JeffFortenberry


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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 nation’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


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In Nebraska

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

(402) 438-1598

(402) 379-2064

Fremont District Office

Washington, D.C. Office

P.O. Box 377

1514 Longworth HOB

629 Broad Street

Washington, D.C. 20515

Fremont, NE 68026

(202) 225-4806

(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

budgetary reform

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

agricultural entrepreneurship

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.


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In Washington

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

subcommittees.

political leaders and United States government Administration officials. These meetings allow Committee Members the opportunity to explore the

Agriculture Committee

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,


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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


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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

FY 2000

FY 2011

Spending

$1.25 Trillion

$1.79 Trillion

$3.601 Trillion

Deficit or Surplus

$221 Billion Deficit

$235 Billion Surplus*

$1.3 Trillion Deficit

$5.67 Trillion

$14.790 Trillion

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

Debt

$3.23 Trillion

and future generations from economic collapse. Most states, including Nebraska, have already enacted balanced budget requirements—it is time

Debt Per Capita

$12,987

$20,148

$47,448

*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

debt burden.

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.


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“Reviving our nation’s economy will require a more certain business climate. “


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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

excessive

will continue to work in earnest to get our fiscal house in order.

disproportionately, and oppresses entrepreneurial growth. Reviving our

regulation

drives

up

costs,

hurts

small

businesses

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

growth.

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.


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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


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While we continue identifying ways to reduce costs across all programs and departments, it is important agriculture is not disproportionately affected by reductions.


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Agriculture and Energy exploring new opportunities for farmers and protecting our natural resources AG AND NATIONAL SECURITY

BUDGET REDUCTIONS

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.

In other

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

ranchers.

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.


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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 decisions’ 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

this direction.

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.


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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

open society.

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


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“With

my

measure,

we

also passed a very broad bill to help combat human trafficking—a modern day form of slavery—both here and abroad.”


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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

stability.

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


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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”


20

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 “democracy 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 work�


22

Health care

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

care law.

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.”


24

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. “


Stay in Touch

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Lincoln 301 South 13th Street, Suite 100 Lincoln, NE 68508 (402) 438-1598 Norfolk 125 S. 4th Street, Suite 101 Norfolk, NE 68701 (402) 379-2064 Fremont 629 N. Broad Street Fremont, NE 68025 (402) 727-9130 Washington, DC 1514 Longworth House Office Washington, DC 20515 (202) 225-4806

Sign up for the Fort Report I periodically write informative regular e-newsletters called the “Fort Report� to cover the latest happenings in Washington, D.C., as well as other local and national topics. To sign-up for my Fort Report, please visit http://fortenberry.house.gov

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2011 Year-End Report  

Congressman Jeff Fortenberry's 2011 Year-End Report

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