Doc Hastings

Doc Hastings

WASHINGTON's 4th DISTRICT

Holding the Department of Veterans' Affairs Accountable

2014/09/19

Throughout our country’s history, millions of Americans have served in the Armed Forces to keep our country safe. We can never truly repay these brave men and women for their sacrifice, but we can uphold our commitment to provide care for our veterans.

Like all Americans, I was appalled when stories began surfacing last Spring about veterans dying from treatable illnesses while waiting for care from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).  Initial reports of manipulated waitlists and wait times of more than 90 days for over 57,000 veterans were outrageous.

In the months since, more disturbing information has surfaced, both about the extent of the negligence of the VA and the effort by the agency to cover it up. On August 26th, the VA Office of the Inspector General (OIG) released a report that identified 40 patients who died while waiting for appointments in Phoenix and an additional 28 patients who experienced “clinically significant delays in care” that had negative effects on their health.

Equally shocking is the VA’s deliberate efforts to cover up their egregious acts. The VA’s Inspector General Richard Griffin testified in a Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs hearing on September 9th that their ongoing investigation into allegations of wrongdoing at 93 VA sites across the nation has already found that managers at 13 facilities have outright lied to federal investigators and officials at 42 of the 93 sites engaged in manipulating the scheduling system. At 19 of these sites, managers deliberately cancelled and then rescheduled appointments for the same day to meet performance goals.  I am pleased that the Justice Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation have joined the OIG in this ongoing investigation.

Since the final report was released, concerns have been raised regarding improper influences on the OIG from those within the VA.  In a hearing held by the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee on September 17th, it was pointed out that a statement in the final report saying, “we are unable to conclusively assert that the absence of timely quality care caused the death of these veterans” was added after a draft report was provided to both the Committee and the VA prior to its release to the public.   The final report also failed to include concrete data that the OIG received from numerous sources and shared with Committee staff stating that 44 veterans on the electronic waiting list and a shocking 293 veterans on all of the waiting lists died before receiving care.

This raises serious questions about the influence that the VA had on the final report. I am pleased that both the House and Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committees are conducting rigorous oversight of the VA to find out exactly how deep these problems go and hold those responsible accountable.

In order to ensure our veterans receive care when they need it, I supported legislation, which was signed into law on August 7th, to allow any veteran who cannot secure an appointment at a VA medical facility within 30 days or who lives more than 40 miles from a VA facility to receive care from their local health care provider. The law also provides funding to hire additional doctors and other medical staff.

The law also addresses the need to hold the VA accountable for fulfilling their responsibilities to veterans by requiring an independent assessment of VA medical care and establishes a Congressional Commission to evaluate access to care throughout the VA system. And it gives the VA authority to fire or demote senior level employees for poor performance or misconduct.

Living up to our commitment to those that have served our country must be a top priority. Read More

Constitution Day on September 17th

2014/09/12

While we celebrate our nation’s independence on the Fourth of July, the document that actually created the United States of America was adopted 227 years ago this month. On September 17, 1787, the United States Constitution was signed at Independence Hall in Philadelphia.

In a time when kings, monarchs, czars, and emperors ruled the nations of the world, the United States Constitution represented a novel and revolutionary idea – a living document creating a government of “We the People” that was composed to guarantee the natural rights of its citizens.

Even how the Constitution was written was revolutionary. Elected state legislatures appointed delegates to attend the Constitutional Convention. The delegates, who were the soldiers, farmers, educators, ministers, physicians and merchants that these laws would be applied to, then elected George Washington to serve as President of the Convention. Once the Constitution was drafted and signed, it went back to the state legislatures where they voted to ratify the governing document.

Much has changed in more than two centuries since the Constitution was signed. According to the first census in 1790, less than 4 million people lived in 13 states bordering the East Coast. Today, the population is more than 317 million spread over a geographic area of 3.71 million square miles. The ingenuity of our nation’s founders has survived a British invasion in its early years, civil war, and the industrial revolution. The 13th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks is yet another sobering reminder of what our nation – and its founding document – has successfully persevered.

Like every other member that has served in the United States Congress, I swore an oath to support and defend the Constitution upon taking office – similar to the oath taken by every president, military officer, and Supreme Court judge. That oath has guided my actions throughout my years serving Central Washington in the halls of our nation’s Capitol. Since Republicans regained control of the House of Representatives in January of 2011, Members of Congress have been required to provide a statement with each bill they introduced indicating what part of the Constitution gives Congress the authority to take that action.

Through the decades, activist judges and some in government have moved away from the Constitutional principles of a limited federal government to pursue their individual agendas. In my view, some of these judges have violated the separation of powers clause of the Constitution by legislating from the bench. Fighting back against these abuses of power is one of my primary responsibilities as a Member of Congress.

I firmly believe that we have the best system of government in the world, which was established by the Constitution. However, as I think back on 9/11 and the world conflicts that exist today, I am reminded that the fight to preserve the basic rights and freedoms on which our nation was founded is far from over. I would encourage all Americans to remember Dr. Benjamin Franklin’s words when asked by a fellow delegate whether they had created a republic or a monarchy: “A Republic, if we can keep it.”

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Hastings Honored by United Fresh Produce Association

2014/09/09

Washington, D.C. – Congressman Doc Hastings was awarded the Congressional Leadership Award from President and CEO Tom Stenzel of the United Fresh Produce Association this morning at its annual meeting. This award was given for his work on behalf of specialty crop growers.

“It is fitting and proper that Representative Doc Hastings be given special recognition by the United Fresh Produce Association,” said Christian Schlect, who serves as President of the Northwest Horticultural Council based out of Yakima, Washington and as a member of the United Fresh Government Relations Council. “His legislative work – ranging from that devoted to environmental policy, to the Farm Bill, to immigration reform, to food safety – has been consistently in strong support of the growers and shippers of fruits, vegetables, and other specialty crops. Representative Hastings, a staunch friend of agriculture, has exerted a positive influence on Capitol Hill over the past two decades, an influence that has been keenly felt not only within our own state, but throughout the nation."

Hastings has been a leader on agriculture policies that impacted the growers of fruits and vegetables throughout his two decades in Congress. Highlights include:

·Authoring legislation in 2002 to expand the Market Access Program, which helps growers find new markets for their products overseas

·Authoring legislation in 2003 to expand the fresh fruit and vegetable snack program to schools throughout the United States

·Supporting the creation of the Specialty Crop Research Initiative and other programs that provide matching research dollars to specialty crop growers to conduct important research that helps them remain competitive in the global marketplace

·Leading the fight to end the tariffs imposed by Mexico on apples, potatoes, pears, and cherries in 2011

·Fighting against the implementation of unworkable, one-size-fits-all, food safety regulations fresh produce growers

 Hastings has also served as the co-chairman of the House Specialty Crop Caucus since 2011 to help shape policy related to specialty crops, which include fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, horticulture and nursery crops.

 “I am proud to represent the world-class growers that reside in Central Washington, who have proven time and again that they can continue to succeed in spite of endless challenges ranging from bad weather to bad government policies,” said Hastings. “I have been pleased to fight for common sense policies throughout my years in Congress that help – instead of make it more difficult – for our growers to continue to compete in the global marketplace, and I am honored to receive this award from the United Fresh Produce Association.”

The United Fresh Produce Association, which was founded in 1904, represents growers and other businesses involved with the growing and distribution of fresh produce throughout the United States. The Association has a number of members in Central Washington.  Hastings last received the United Fresh Congressional Leadership Award in 2003.

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Time for the Commander-in-Chief to Lead

2014/09/05

From a passenger airplane being shot down over Ukraine to violence spreading at an alarming rate in the Middle East, newspaper headlines in recent months have become increasingly disturbing.  Unfortunately, in a time when the world is becoming more insecure, President Obama’s foreign policy strategy can be boiled down to three words: to be determined.

The recent murder by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) of two American journalists in Syria has served as a sobering realization that President Obama’s response, or lack thereof, to rising terrorist activities has failed.  We have learned that President Obama has been receiving detailed intelligence on the rise of the ISIS for more than a year.  And yet, as recently as August 29th, the President has been saying that the United States does not “have a strategy yet” to respond to this terrorist organization.

With ISIS recruiting heavily in Western nations like the United Kingdom and Canada, the threat is clearly not isolated to our allies across the Middle East, but also to Americans here at home.  We cannot afford for the President to sit on the sidelines while ISIS gains ground.

We have already seen how President Obama’s inability to commit to a comprehensive course of action in Iraq has led to serious deterioration of security on the ground, and now the same indecisiveness has shaped the strategy towards Syria.  While Iraq must step up and take responsibility for its own security, I believe that the President must show strong leadership, and work with our partners in the region to defeat attempts by terrorist organizations like al-Qaeda and ISIS to gain influence in the area.

Unfortunately, the turmoil doesn’t end there.  In Ukraine, the unrest continues to escalate with recent reports of Russia sending troops and armor to assist rebels in eastern Ukraine.  The President’s lack of a strong response – or leadership in the global community in general – has empowered Russia to continue its pursuits in Ukraine.

It is past time for our Commander-in-Chief to serve as a leader on international security issues and develop a comprehensive strategy that brings together a coalition of countries and includes diplomatic, political and military efforts.  I urge the President to explain to the American people what is at stake, what our objectives are, lay out a strategy, and engage Congress in order to best protect American interests.

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Back to School

2014/08/29

As the fun-filled days of summer vacation draw to close, teachers and students across Central Washington are heading back into the classroom for a new school year.

Throughout my years in Congress, I have often met with local teachers, administrators, parents, and students to discuss ways we can improve our educational system so that it better serves our students. The resounding message that I hear is the need for more local control and less interference from the federal government.

More than a decade has passed since Congress first passed the bipartisan No Child Left Behind Act. While there is no doubt this law is far from perfect, it established a level of accountability for the first time by insisting on results for the billions of federal dollars spent on education. However, many improvements can and must be made.

It is clear that a one-size-fits-all approach to education is not in the best interest of our students. Education programs that work well for students in Seattle may not be the best fit for those in Ephrata or the Tri-Cities.

In my view, students in Central Washington and all across the country are best served when decisions about education are made by local school districts and parents – not the federal government.

Last year, the House of Representatives passed, with my support, the Student Success Act. This important legislation is aimed at restoring flexibility and local control of public education programs by putting decisions about students’ education back where it should be – in the hands of parents and local school districts.

There is no question that we must continue to make sure that schools are held accountable for educating the next generation, and I am pleased that this bill would replace the existing federal one-size-fits-all student progress requirement with state-determined accountability systems.

The Student Success Act would also save taxpayer dollars by eliminating more than 70 duplicative and unnecessary federal education programs that further create bureaucratic red tape for local schools. Unfortunately, the Senate has failed to act on this bill or present its own plan to reform our public schools. With students headed back to school, time is of the essence and I urge the Senate to act swiftly and pass the Student Success Act to ensure that American students have access to the quality education they deserve.

I will continue working to restore local control and decision-making, and ensure taxpayer dollars are spent wisely. I wish all the teachers, students, and parents in Central Washington a safe and successful 2014-2015 school year.

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Agriculture Research is Vital to Central Washington

2014/08/22

I am proud to represent one of the most diverse agricultural regions in the world. From apples to cherries, potatoes to asparagus, and beef to wheat – our region is known for producing a wide variety of top-quality agricultural products that are enjoyed by consumers worldwide.

However, agriculture is one of the most volatile industries to work in. Regardless of the crop, I recognize it is a never-ending task to stay ahead of evolving pests, diseases, and even the unpredictable weather. This is why agricultural research plays a critical role in ensuring our growers have the tools they need to continue to provide high-quality products and remain competitive in the global marketplace.

Every year, groundbreaking research conducted at Agriculture Research Service (ARS) sites and land-grant colleges around the nation help our growers improve the quality of their products, fight off pests and diseases, control weed growth, and enhance crop productivity. This research also has benefits beyond traditional threats, such as improving the nutritional value of foods and making farming methods more environmentally friendly.

Central Washington is home to three Agriculture Research Service centers, located in Prosser, Wapato, and Wenatchee. Over the last nearly 100 years, agriculture has grown exponentially both in volume and contribution to the economy throughout the Pacific Northwest. The research conducted at these ARS sites, many times in partnership with Washington State University (WSU), has been a critical component in this success.

It is the close partnership between ARS scientists, WSU, and growers that make this research so successful. It goes without saying that growers know what the biggest threat to their crops are and their input should play a large part in setting the priorities of how limited federal and state dollars are spent. As they should, growers also put their money where their mouth is by contributing a significant amount of their own funds to these research efforts.

Recently, the ARS facility in Prosser has been the focus of some media attention because of a proposal to reorganize the unit. It is essential for the Prosser facility to continue its longstanding tradition of providing growers with the tools they need to be successful, which means continuing this research on site, where the conditions will be as similar as possible to those faced by farmers in the region.

While we have received verbal assurance that this is the case, I have joined other members of the Washington delegation to seek written assurances from the U.S. Department of Agriculture that the critical research being conducted at the Prosser facility will continue on-site without further reductions, and that the longstanding relationship between ARS and the growers in setting research priorities will be maintained.

The high-quality research conducted at our Agriculture Research Service centers and land grant universities help safeguard our food supply and preserve thousands of jobs nationwide. I am pleased that the Farm Bill signed into law earlier this year recognizes the importance of federal contributions to agricultural research by continuing funding for ARS and reauthorizing important programs like the Specialty Crop Research Initiative. These programs allow our farmers to continue to do what they do best – support our local economy and provide high-quality food to people worldwide.

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WA WILDFIRES: Murray, Cantwell, Hastings, Reichert Push FEMA to Reconsider Denial of Individual Assistance for Okanogan County Families Impacted by Wildfires

2014/08/20

Today, the federal delegation representing impacted areas in Washington state sent a letter to the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), expressing their disappointment in the denial of Gov. Inslee’s request for individual assistance for families impacted by wildfires in Okanogan County and public assistance in Chelan County. The letter requests that FEMA provide the Washington State Emergency Management Division assistance in appealing the decision and asks FEMA Administrator W. Craig Fugate to reconsider the decision to deny housing support, disaster crisis counseling, and disaster unemployment in Okanogan County and public assistance in Chelan County. The letter was sent by U.S. Senators Patty Murray (D-WA) and Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and U.S. Representatives Doc Hastings (WA-4) and Dave Reichert (WA-8).

 “While we write to express our disappointment in the denial of Governor Inslee’s request for individual assistance in Okanogan County and public assistance in Chelan County, we request that you and your staff at FEMA Headquarters and in Region X provide assistance to the Washington State Emergency Management Division to ensure any appeal filed by Governor Inslee includes the necessary data and information to be given full and due consideration,” the Members wrote in the letter.  “We also ask you to reconsider the decision to deny individual assistance with housing support, disaster crisis counseling, and disaster unemployment in Okanogan County and public assistance in Chelan County.”

The full text of the letter follows: 

The Honorable W. Craig Fugate
Administrator
Federal Emergency Management Agency
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
500 C Street Southwest
Washington, DC  20472

 Dear Administrator Fugate:

We write to express our disappointment in the denial of Washington Governor Jay Inslee’s request for individual assistance in Okanogan County and public assistance in Chelan County.

While the Washington State Emergency Management Division (EMD) works with Chelan County and Okanogan County to gather additional data on the damage to infrastructure and to improve the fidelity of cost estimates, we request you and your staff at Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Headquarters and in Region X provide assistance to EMD to ensure any appeal filed by Governor Inslee includes the necessary data and information to be given full and due consideration. We also ask you to reconsider the decision to deny individual assistance for housing support, disaster crisis counseling, and disaster unemployment in Okanogan County and public assistance in Chelan County.

As you know, Washington state is having one of the worst wildfire seasons in its history. Lightning storms in the region sparked more than 150 fires in mid-July, and new starts have continued to occur through August. To date, wildfires in Washington state have consumed more than 350,000 acres of land, five times the annual average of acres burned. Wildfires this season have broken nearly every state record –more acres scorched, more homes and businesses burned, and more critical infrastructure damaged or destroyed than in any previous season.

The Carlton Complex wildfire across Okanogan and Chelan Counties and the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation exemplifies the intensity and concentrated nature of these firestorms. This wildfire was ignited on July 14, 2014, and has grown to become the largest in Washington state history – scorching more than 400 square miles. The Carlton Complex alone has forced the evacuation of more than 1,000 Okanogan County residents, and destroyed more than 450 structures, including more than 300 family homes. The estimated assessed value of these home losses is $28 million. Additionally, the Washington Insurance Commissioner estimates that 45-percent of these homes are uninsured losses. Without assistance, these losses will financially devastate hundreds of families.

Compounding the loss of these houses is the lack of unoccupied housing in Okanogan County. While local hotels are normally relied upon to address disaster-triggered housing shortages, the County’s thriving summer and fall tourism industry has significantly diminished the number of rooms available to displaced Okanogan County households. Combined, this has created an acute housing shortage. Given that many of the families and individuals displaced by these fires work within the agricultural and tourism industries, their potential relocation out of Okanogan County threatens the long-term economic outlook of their communities. As you can see, federal assistance is needed immediately to stem this housing shortage and protect the region’s future economic health.

We are proud that Washington state is home to a strong agriculture economy, with farmers, ranchers, and agriculture businesses located throughout our state. Okanogan County is no exception. The County supported more than 1,440 farms in 2012 and is a major producer of apples, cherries, pears, forage, wheat, and cattle with a market value of $287 million. Of the Washingtonians living in Okanogan County, approximately 45-percent of the total workforce is tied to the agriculture sector. However, as the Carlton Complex wildfire moved through Okanogan County it killed an estimated 1,000 cattle, blackened thousands of acres of grazing land, scorched more than 100 acres of orchard, and destroyed critical farming equipment, including at least 30 miles of orchard fencing used to protect the tree fruit from deer and other pests. Despite these losses, the harvest must continue. However, because of the housing shortage our orchards are struggling to find enough labor to harvest crops.

Lastly, we would like to address the issue of whether losses were scattered or concentrated in a particular geographic area. Okanogan County is an extremely rural area of Washington state – composed of 5,315 square miles and an estimated population of 41,000 people. The more than 300 homes that were burned were either in unincorporated areas of the county or very small towns that are ill-equipped to deal with such monumental losses. For instance, losses were especially concentrated in the small town of Pateros, where 87 homes were destroyed. This town has 276 housing units and an estimated population of 660, of which more than a quarter are below the federal poverty level. In Pateros the fire devastated two square blocks when destroying 12 businesses and significantly damaging 10 more. In the Alta Lake neighborhood of Pateros alone, the fire destroyed more than 40 homes. In total, more than 30-percent of all housing units were destroyed in this small town. While this is one example, you can see the damage caused by these wildfires is significant and in spite of the large, rural geographic area the damage is in most cases highly concentrated.

Local communities and state agencies have responded admirably, but a disaster of this magnitude requires long-term federal assistance to help these communities respond, rebuild, and cope with this tragedy. Because there are no comparable Washington state programs, FEMA assistance with housing and household goods is necessary. As Governor Inslee indicated by making his request for assistance, the state does not have housing or a disaster program able to meet the needs of those impacted by the fire and is simply unable to address these losses without federal assistance.  

While we write to express our disappointment in the denial of Governor Inslee’s request for individual assistance in Okanogan County and public assistance in Chelan County, we request that you and your staff at FEMA Headquarters and in Region X provide assistance to the Washington State Emergency Management Division to ensure any appeal filed by Governor Inslee includes the necessary data and information to be given full and due consideration. We also ask you to reconsider the decision to deny individual assistance with housing support, disaster crisis counseling, and disaster unemployment in Okanogan County and public assistance in Chelan County.

Thank you in advance for your quick attention to this matter.

Sincerely,

Patty Murray - United States Senator
Maria Cantwell - United States Senator
Doc Hastings - Member of Congress
Dave Reichert - Member of Congress

 

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What I Saw During My Visit to the Carlton Complex Fire

2014/08/18

Wildfires in our national forests damage or destroy an average of nearly 4 million acres across the United States each year. Over the last month, eight fires spanning nine counties in Central Washington have and are continuing to ravage more than 355,000 acres of land, including private property. The Carlton Complex fire alone consumed over 260,000 acres in Okanogan County and is recorded as the largest wildfire in our state’s history. This means more than half a million acres in Central Washington have been burned in just the past two years.

I recently toured the devastating damage caused by the Carlton Complex fire, which has left over 300 families without homes and cost local, state, and federal agencies an estimated $74 million. I had the opportunity to meet with local residents, the U.S. Forest Service, firefighters, and other first responders on the ground in Okanogan County and hear firsthand the firefighting and rebuilding challenges these rural communities are facing.


Click on the photos to download in high resolution.

Sadly, poor management of federal forestland was a major contributor to the expansion of the Carlton Complex fire. Each year, Washington’s national forests grow three times faster than they die. Recently, the threat of lawsuits have prevented the U.S. Forest Service from conducting reasonable projects to salvage valuable timber, remove dead or diseased trees, and get rid of ash and sediment that destroy habitats for endangered species. Without these responsible activities to remove excess growth, our national forests have become increasingly susceptible to catastrophic wildfires that threaten our homes, public safety, water supply, and the economic livelihood of our communities.

As we have seen so tragically in Okanogan County, the lack of proper land management by the federal government has serious implications for nearby communities. The most effective way to keep our forests healthy is by active management of our federal forests. In May, the House of Representatives took action to reduce the risk of these catastrophic wildfires by passing the Restoring Healthy Forests for Healthy Communities Act,” a bill I authored that would restore active and responsible management in federal forests.

Our forests, communities, and species deserve better than being placed at continual and increasing risk of catastrophic wildfires. I urge federal land managers to work with local officials, tribes, and interest groups to find better solutions that will improve forest health, including harvesting timber to protect these lands and local economies.

My staff and I are in close communication with the federal, state, and local authorities on the ground in Okanogan County. I joined Senators Murray and Cantwell and Congressman Dave Reichert in sending a letter to President Obama requesting long-term federal assistance to help these communities respond, rebuild, and cope with this tragedy. We are committed to ensuring the necessary resources are available to respond to this devastating fire. Furthermore, a thorough review must be conducted, once the Carlton Complex fire is fully contained, to learn how this fire grew so rapidly and what can be done differently to protect us from these devastating wildfires in the future.

Our hearts go out to the victims of the recent wildfires in our area. The outpouring of support for these communities does not go unnoticed. There is no question that the rebuilding process will be a long one. We extend our deepest gratitude to the thousands of firefighters, first responders, volunteers, and local officials that are helping residents recover and get back on their feet. Anyone interested in helping wildfire relief efforts is encouraged to contact the American Red Cross at 1-800-REDCROSS or by going to redcross.org/donate.

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Hastings: EPA Final Agreement is Just Another Example of Closed-Door Settlements Driving Bad Policy Decisions

2014/08/14

Washington, D.C. – Congressman Doc Hastings released the following statement today after reports of a final settlement agreement that would impose buffer zones for crop protection tools from any body of water in the Pacific Northwest and California:

 

“Once again, the Obama Administration is utilizing ‘sue and settle’ tactics to impose baseless regulations on growers that would seriously restrict the ability to farm thousands of acres of prime Central Washington farmland. The National Academy of Sciences, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, a bipartisan group of lawmakers, and four federal agencies – including the Environmental Protection Agency – have concluded that the National Marine Fisheries Service’s biological opinion was flawed. Still, the Obama Administration today chose to shove these new regulations down the throats of Pacific Northwest growers while they go back to the drawing board to determine if these vital crop protection tools even have an impact on endangered salmon,” said Congressman Doc Hastings.

 

“This is yet another example of closed-door settlements – and not sound science – driving policy decisions. I fully intend to look further into the Obama Administration’s decision today, which punishes our job creators and sets a terrible and potentially sweeping precedent that could impact thousands more acres of farmland in Central Washington and across the nation.”

 

Hastings authored language, included in the Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations Bill for Fiscal Year 2015 that passed the House of Representatives on May 30th, which would prevent this agreement from being implemented.

 

Background:

 

In 2002, a coalition of environmental groups sued the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for failure to adequately consult with the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) on the potential impact of 54 pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides on endangered salmon species. In 2006, a federal court ruled in favor of the environmental groups and directed NMFS to conduct biological opinions to determine whether the EPA had missed any impacts that these products may have on endangered salmon species.

 

On July 31, 2008, NMFS released biological opinion #1, which would impose buffer zones around all bodies of water in salmon habitat regions, impacting 112 million acres in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and California.

 

On September 15, 2008, the Director of EPA’s Office of Pesticide Programs wrote a letter questioning the science that NMFS used in determining their biological opinions and challenged its conclusions.

 

In April of 2009, NMFS released a second biological opinion (bi-op) using the same process and coming to the same conclusions.

 

In May of 2010, a bipartisan group of 13 members wrote to EPA asking them to re-evaluate the science used in the bi-op decision-making process and to provide an opportunity for public comment. EPA released a third bi-op with no changes on August 31st.

 

In January of 2011, a bipartisan group of 18 members wrote to the Council on Environmental Quality requesting that they intervene to prevent implementation of the three pending biological opinions and to force NMFS to re-draft them using more credible science.

 

In April of 2011, EPA, NMFS, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services (FWS), and the Department of Agriculture (USDA) contracted with the National Academies of Science (NAS) for a limited study of some minor scientific questions related to the impact of crop protection tools on endangered species.

 

On May 3, 2011, the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committees held a joint hearing where a bipartisan group of Members asked that this study be expanded to include a comprehensive peer review of these bi-ops.

 

A June 23, 2011 follow-up letter to the various agencies from Hastings, House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, and Chairman Mike Simpson of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies, outlined a number of questions that the NAS study must include for the work to be of value in this policy debate.

On July 12, 2012, the House Committee on Agriculture reported out legislation that would prohibit the EPA from enforcing these biological opinions. A bipartisan group of 27 members wrote a letter to the Appropriations Committee in September in support of this language.

 

On February 21, 2013, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a landmark ruling that reaffirmed decision-making by the federal government must be based on science and not the misguided agenda of activist groups.

 

On April 30, 2013, the National Research Council released its report, which raised concerns about the federal government’s methods in developing these bi-ops.

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Congressional Mailbag

2014/08/08

Each month I receive thousands of e-mails, phone calls, letters, tweets, and Facebook messages on a variety of topics.  I wanted to share a few questions that I’ve recently received.

 

What’s Congress doing to improve our veterans’ health care?

Ensuring our veterans have access to quality care is not an issue I take lightly.  I, like all Americans, was appalled when stories began surfacing about veterans dying from treatable illnesses while still waiting for care from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and an internal audit confirmed there were widespread problems throughout the VA system. 

 

I’m pleased that with my support, the House and Senate passed bipartisan legislation that President Obama recently signed into law ensuring that VA employees are held accountable for their actions, and addressing long wait times for veterans. Specifically, the law gives veterans who live more than 40 miles from a VA medical facility or who have been subject to lengthy wait times access to local non-VA medical facilities.  By partnering with existing hospitals in rural communities, we can help make it possible for veterans to find the care they need when they need it.

 

What can be done to improve the Child Tax Credit?

It is no secret that the cost of living, including gas, food and costs associated with raising children continues to rise.  According to the Department of Agriculture, the cost of raising a child has increased by 4.4 percent each year since 1960. The Child Tax Credit helps ease some of this burden by providing a $1,000 tax credit for each child in a family, but since its creation in the 1990’s, it has not kept pace with inflation.

 

Last month, I supported the “Child Tax Improvement Act” to provide much needed relief to millions of American families.  Not only does this bill adjust the current formula to account for the rising costs of raising a child, but it also eliminates the marriage penalty within the Child Tax Credit and contains strong anti-fraud provisions to ensure the Child Tax Credit goes to families who need it.  I will continue working to help families in Central Washington keep more of their hard earned money and encourage the Senate to act quickly on this pro-family, bipartisan bill.

 

What can be done to preserve Social Security and Medicare?

America’s health and retirement programs make up more than half of the federal budget and continue to grow each year. Congress must enact real reforms to ensure these programs will be there for generations to come. Improving these programs must be guided by a few basic principles: First, I will never support proposals that reduce benefits for those in or near retirement. America must honor its commitment to those who have worked a lifetime and earned the right to a secure retirement. Second, these programs must be made permanently sound. Finally, we must strengthen these programs by taking the federal government out of the picture and empowering citizens with control over their own care and retirement investments.

 

If you have contacted my office recently, I thank you for taking the time to share your views with me. You can also follow me on Facebook and Twitter for additional updates.

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Contact Information

1203 Longworth HOB
Washington, DC 20515
Phone 202-225-5816
Fax 202-225-3251
hastings.house.gov

Doc Hastings first joined the U.S. House of Representatives in 1995 to serve Washington’s Fourth Congressional District. He brought with him solid legislative experience and a strong work ethic, coupled with the desire to bring the common sense traditional values of Central Washington back to Washington, D.C.

After graduating from Pasco High School, Doc studied business administration at Columbia Basin College and at Central Washington University. Later, while running his family’s small business, Columbia Basin Paper and Supply, Doc established himself as a leader in the local business community. Before being elected to Congress, Doc served eight years in the Washington State Legislature.

During his tenure in the House of Representatives, Doc has established a long record of serving the people, communities, and priorities of Central Washington. He supported ongoing efforts for new water storage in the Yakima Basin; passed a law to protect the survivor benefits for families of soldiers killed in action; worked to enact fair trade agreements that benefit Washington state; and fought attempts to ban local doctor-owned hospitals. He continues to lead efforts to open new markets for local farmers and remains a strong defender of dams and a proponent of nuclear power.

In 2011, at the start of the 112th Congress, Doc was selected by his colleagues to serve as the Chairman of the House Committee on Natural Resources. The Committee has jurisdiction over most federal land use and water policies, including national forests, national parks and monuments, wilderness areas, national scenic areas, Indian reservations, and Bureau of Land Management lands. Of importance to Central Washington and the Pacific Northwest, the Committee oversees the Bonneville Power Administration, Bureau of Reclamation irrigation projects (Columbia Basin Project and Yakima Project), endangered species recovery, federal hydropower projects, Payment-In-Lieu-Of-Taxes (PILT) payments, and wildfire prevention on federal lands.

Under Doc’s leadership, the Committee is dedicated to pursuing policies that both strengthen our economy and protect our nation’s treasured lands, oceans, and wildlife. Specifically, Doc’s priorities include increasing American energy production, ensuring U.S. offshore drilling is the safest in the world, guaranteeing access to public lands for recreation and job creation, effective management of our nation’s oceans, and fighting for water rights in the West.

Doc is the founder and Chairman of the House Nuclear Clean-Up Caucus. He also serves as a Co-Chairman of the Northwest Energy Caucus and is a member of the Rural Health Care Coalition and the Specialty Crop Caucus.

Doc and his wife Claire live in Pasco, Washington. They have three children and eight grandchildren.


Serving With

Jaime Herrera Beutler

WASHINGTON's 3rd DISTRICT

Cathy McMorris Rodgers

WASHINGTON's 5th DISTRICT

Dave Reichert

WASHINGTON's 8th DISTRICT

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