Peter Cavanaugh asked a series of questions in recent columns (For your Consideration) that I'm happy to answer.
He begins by blaming last year's government shutdown on House Republicans, but ignores the fact that the House passed three bills in the days leading up to the shutdown, proposing to fund the entire government, but asking for a delay in implementing Obamacare.
Each time, the Senate killed the bills and refused to negotiate. There have been 19 government shutdowns in the last 37 years; 15 when Democrats controlled the House. Never before has a President barricaded open-air parks and memorials or forced businesses on public land to close their doors.
Next, Cavanaugh lists a series of bills with appealing titles over the last six years and asked why I voted against them. Here's why:
Children's Health Care (HR 2/2009): This bill expanded SCHIP to families with six-figure incomes funded by a big increase in the tobacco tax. This set in motion conditions for employers to drop children of employees from their plans, creating an expanding program with declining revenue.
Violence Against Women Act (HR 4970/2012): This bill places American citizens under the jurisdiction of tribal courts if accused of harassment while visiting Indian casinos, in flagrant violation of the due process clause of the Constitution. In addition, it removes a judge's discretion to account for extenuating circumstances. Similar Florida legislation recently required a judge to sentence a woman to 20 years for firing a warning shot at her abusive husband.
Food Safety (HR 2749/2009): This bill raised billions of dollars of new taxes on small businesses and imposed an avalanche of operational restrictions on farms, particularly food and vegetable growers.
Campaign Disclosure (HR 5175/2010): This bill would have interfered with the First Amendment right of Americans to join together, pool their resources, and express their opinions in an election unless, of course they were a labor union. Even the Sierra Club opposed it.
Employment Discrimination (HR 12/2009): This is the so-called Equal Pay Act. I object to any measure that interferes with the free negotiations between an employer and employee. This bill makes it more difficult for people who most need and want jobs to negotiate competitively to get them.
Transportation and Jobs (HR 4348/2012): This continued the practice of bleeding off highway tax revenues for purposes unrelated to our highways. I believe that our highway taxes should pay for our highways period.
Rural Development Funding (HR 2112/2011): Mr. Cavanaugh refers to one provision in the annual agriculture appropriations bill. My objections were to other provisions that continued massive subsidies for marketing promotion that should have been paid by the corporations involved.
Science and Technology Funding (HR 5116/2010): This bill cost every family an average of $400 all to underwrite the research and development expenses of corporations. Once again, I oppose corporate welfare in all its forms.
Mr. Cavanaugh accuses me of giving lavish salary increases to my staff and particularly my Chief of Staff, Igor Birman. In fact, Igor began earning $9,000 less than the House average, and has received annual salary increases averaging 3.6%. Our overall staff salaries track a similar trajectory. These funds come from an annual allocation for each office, from which I have always returned a sizable surplus.
He asks why my house is slightly outside the district. Like many families, my current home's value plunged in 2008 and has not yet recovered enough for me to redeem my mortgage and recover my down-payment. As soon as I can, I will. In the meantime, I return to the district every working day the House is not in session.
He accuses me of misleading voters regarding my state pension during my years in the legislature. In fact, I did not participate in the state pension system during those years, and when asked, I said so. As I left the legislature, I was offered the opportunity to purchase into the system, and liquidated my savings to do so.
Mr. Cavanaugh excoriates the House for declining a further extension in long-term unemployment payments. There is mounting evidence that extending benefits for two years keeps people from taking lower-paying jobs that at least keeps them in the work force. And being in the work force even at entry level wages is a huge advantage in moving up again. Protracted unemployment makes the unemployed unemployable.
I invite your readers to contact my office, sign up for my newsletters and district conference calls, read the vote explanations that I regularly publish on my website after votes, and attend my town hall meetings throughout the district.
Here's the short-hand version to understand my votes: they will always defend the American principles of individual liberty, constitutionally limited government and personal responsibility that built this country.