This week, we were busy in the House of Representatives debating and voting on the Agriculture, Rural Development, and Food and Drug Administration Appropriations Act for FY2012, H.R. 2112. I supported this bill because it provides for the agricultural needs of California's Central Valley at a cost savings to taxpayers of $2.9 billion compared to last year's spending. The bill provides roughly $17 billion for essential Agriculture, Rural Development, and FDA programs.
I have always been a supporter of specialty crop producers, whose products make up a large portion of California's farm exports. H.R. 2112 provides $147 million to the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services to protect against invasive species and pests that ruin specialty crops. Additionally, the bill provides $3.1 billion for Federal Crop Insurance, which protects growers against catastrophic losses in the event of natural disasters, such as freezes and floods. I also fought off amendments that would have stripped funding for foreign market access programs and posed threats to livestock operations. Coupled with the work I am doing to restore full water flow to the Valley, this funding bill will go far to bring jobs back to our struggling communities, and allow us to continue the great tradition of being the breadbasket for the world.
I spoke on the House Floor Wednesday morning about other ways we can create jobs in the Central Valley. We must utilize our abundant source of natural resources and put Americans back to work. Watch my floor speech here.
At a legislative hearing earlier this week I discussed the benefits my bill, H.R. 869, will have for the Valley. My bill will increase water storage in the Valley while helping to grow the struggling economy and create jobs. H.R. 869 would make approximately 70,000 acre feet of additional water available, enough to supply the needs of about 160,000 homes. The project would also generate an additional 10,000 megawatt hours per year of clean, renewable energy for the Central Valley. Read more on my website.
I talked with radio show host Chris Daniels on KMJ580 earlier this week about the 18.4% unemployment in parts of the Valley. We both agreed: we must utilize the abundance of natural resources in our country and create American jobs at the same time. In our district we must create a reliable source of water for the Valley and increase the timber harvest in order to get people back to work.
I'm proud to say that last week, my House Republican colleagues and I introduced our Plan for America's Job Creators. The plan addresses the big challenges facing our country head-on by bringing down our total debt, reducing burdens on families and businesses, taking away the uncertainty and impediments of job creation so that people can get back to work. We must reduce burdensome regulations and eliminate waste in our government or our economy will continue to sputter along.
I led a subcommittee hearing yesterday to examine the Security Exchange Commission's (SEC) mismanagement of its independent leasing authority. The SEC signed a lease in only a few days for 900,000 square feet of space it did not need. The lease turned out to be hundreds of thousands of square feet more than was necessary, costing taxpayers over $500 million, and an SEC Inspector General report appears to show a potential cover-up.
Someone must be held accountable for this type of cavalier spending of taxpayer dollars. My Subcommittee has been working to cut waste in federal buildings since my first days in office. Billions of taxpayer dollars are wasted in underused property, the overbuilding of federal facilities and in our overreliance on costly leases to meet long-term space needs. You can read more about the hearing in this Wall Street Journal article. You can find more information about my effort to find ways to increase efficiency in our government on my facebook and twitter pages.
While dealing with our economic troubles, we must not forget about those serving our country overseas. Yesterday, I introduced a resolution encouraging flight benefits for service members returning from or being deployed for battle. The resolution, which quickly gained 37 bipartisan co-sponsors, expresses the sense of Congress that service members being deployed or coming back from overseas should be provided with priority boarding, waivers of all baggage fees, and priority seat preferences when available.
After hearing of a story of about 34 US Soldiers returning from Afghanistan who were charged a combined total of $2,800 in checked bag fees, I decided to draft the resolution. After serving in Desert Storm, I was welcomed home with open arms and did not have to go through any hoops or pay any extra fees; our soldiers today deserve the same appreciation. Read more about my efforts on this important issue here.
During one of my town hall events last week I was asked about Medicare and our Republican budget plan that will secure its future for generations to come. Congress must make responsible changes to Medicare today to preserve it now and for future generations. So you can imagine I was pleased to read the Wall Street Journal article titled, "Key Seniors Association Pivots on Benefit Cut," which reported that even AARP is shifting their thoughts on Medicare and other entitlement programs. They realize that we need to make thoughtful and constructive change to these programs so funding is available for everyone in the future.
My staff will be holding mobile office hours in Mariposa, Oakhurst and Oakdale this week. They are there to answer any questions you may have, so please stop by!
Remember to tell your friends and family to sign up for this newsletter on my website. Tell them what a great way it is to stay up to date with my activities and to see photos and videos from my activities. You can also follow me on my social media sites: @RepDenham on Twitter and Representative Jeff Denham on Facebook.
Have a great father's day weekend!
United States Representative