Weekly Column by Congressman Doc Hastings
November 21, 2014
As I complete my final weeks in Congress, it is only natural to reflect on the past 20 years. It has truly been my honor and privilege to serve you and represent those who call Central Washington home in Congress.
Whether it’s helping seniors with their Social Security benefits, ensuring that veterans are awarded the medals they earned but never received, or cutting through bureaucratic red tape to support local families and small businesses – the opportunity to make a difference in people’s lives is something that I will always be grateful for. And, it’s one of the things I will miss most about this job.
Throughout the years, I’ve appreciated your support and your input on ways to strengthen Central Washington and our nation. I have had the opportunity to tour local businesses, family farms and hospitals, talk with students in their classrooms, visit dams, take tours of Hanford, irrigation projects, national forests and PNNL, and host countless town hall meetings in communities throughout our region.
I’ve received over 800,000 letters, emails and phone calls from Central Washington residents during my time in Congress on a wide variety of issues – gasoline prices, homeland security, taxes, immigration, the national debt, the Second Amendment, Social Security, health care and more.
Regardless of whether there was agreement on the individual issue at hand, I’ve always benefited from these communications. The House of Representatives is colloquially known as “The People’s House.” In our form of democracy it’s imperative that Members of Congress hear from those they were elected to represent. Our American system of government, as established by the Constitution, still works over 200 years later. This achievement is largely due to the participation of the American people in their government.
Together, we have been able to achieve some real successes for our communities. We have opened up new markets for our agriculture economy and lowered taxes for families and small businesses. We have sought and made real progress on cleanup at Hanford and water solutions for the Yakima and Columbia River Basins. We have advanced much-needed reform of the Endangered Species Act, protected our dams from threats posed by extreme environmentalists, and held federal land and water management agencies accountable for working with their Central Washington neighbors and partners, allowing public access, and actually taking care of the land and waters they have been tasked to steward.
When I retire at the end of the year, I will no longer be your voice in Congress, but Central Washington is still my home. I look forward to spending less time on airplanes traveling back and forth to Washington, D.C. and more time here at home in the real Washington with my family and friends.
This is my final weekly message to you as your Congressman, and in closing I would like to simply say thank you and wish you health and happiness.
As my time representing you in Congress winds down, I wanted to take this opportunity to provide answer to some questions that I have been hearing from my constituents.
What issue important to Central Washington has evolved during your years in Congress?
When I was first elected in 1994, the listing of the Spotted Owl under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and the resulting adoption of the Northwest Forest Plan decimated the timber industry in the Pacific Northwest. This cost thousands of jobs in small communities throughout the region. Environmental activists were also using ESA and the courts to try to force the removal of the four Lower Snake River dams to supposedly save endangered salmon. This would have been devastating to our entire economy.
I knew then that the ESA needed to be reformed to base federal action on the best available science and refocus the law on species recovery, instead of being a tool for extremists to achieve their political agendas. And I have been proven right. Federal agencies have recently admitted that it’s the Barred Owl, and not responsible logging practices in historic habitats, that is largely responsible for the Spotted Owl’s threatened status. And for several consecutive years, we are seeing record and near-record salmon runs on the Columbia and Snake Rivers – with the dams still in place.
While I was a member of the ESA Task Force during my first term and sponsored legislation to reform the law, there was little appetite within Congress to act because only those in the Pacific Northwest were feeling the effects of its abuses. This has changed. This term, I led a new ESA working group – with members from around the country whose districts have now felt the unintended impacts of this law – and shepherded through legislation to make ESA decisions more transparent, involve state and local governments, and focus on recovery over litigation. This passed the House by a strong bipartisan vote. While the Senate is not expected to take this bill up before the end of the year, I am hopeful it will strengthen chances for future ESA reform.
What is the toughest vote you have ever taken?
Without question, the most difficult votes I’ve cast are those that put our troops in harm’s way. While I believed it was necessary for the United States to enter certain conflicts, it is not easy to cast votes to send our brave men and women into danger. I had the opportunity to visit troops serving in Iraq, Afghanistan and Kosovo and I am grateful for their service to our nation. Every American owes our veterans and active duty military a debt that can never truly be repaid.
What do you think Congress and President will be able to accomplish in the next two years?
With Republicans now in control of both the House and Senate, I believe Congress will send policy solutions to President Obama on many of the serious issues facing our country, ranging from job creation to reining in our national debt, and reforming the tax code so that it is fairer for American families and small businesses. The President will have the choice of signing these bills into law – which I believe would be good for our country – or issuing a veto and showing the American people the true contrast between his ideas and what a Republican President could accomplish.
Honoring Our Veterans
Weekly Column by Congressman Doc Hastings
November 7, 2014
On the eleventh hour, of the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918, World War I drew to a close when the armistice agreement was signed. First observed as Armistice Day, more than 95 years later, November 11th, or Veterans Day, is a day for Americans to honor and thank those whose selfless service has protected the freedoms we all too often take for granted.
The work of those in uniform is dangerous and difficult – requiring personal commitment and sacrifice, as well as the patience and support of their families. Veterans have given us the comforts of peace and freedom that we enjoy every day.
How best can we honor these American heroes? We must work hard to uphold the freedoms our men and women in uniform have fought to protect. On an individual basis, we must carry out the civic responsibilities of free citizens living in a free country. And, keeping our nation’s commitment to those who served and fought must be a national priority. Promises were made to our veterans and those promises must be kept.
Veterans’ health care is an area in which significant improvements have been made, but where reform is still needed. I was appalled when stories came to light earlier this year that veterans were dying from treatable illnesses, waiting lists were being manipulated by bureaucrats, and thousands of veterans who requested doctor appointments were not even on the department’s waiting list.
In order to ensure our veterans receive care when they need it, Congress passed, and President Obama signed into law, legislation 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.
Despite the new law and increased funding, many veterans in Central Washington must still wait months and travel hours for the most basic care. Congress must continue to look at ways to make the health care system for our veterans work better for those who live far from existing VA medical centers.
The contributions of our veterans to this great nation are immeasurable. On Veterans Day, and every day, let us never forget the debt of gratitude we owe them for protecting and defending their fellow citizens and the freedoms we cherish.Read More
Hanford Cleanup Success Critical to the Northwest
Dams, agriculture products, the Pacific Northwest National Lab and abundant natural resources are just a few things that make Central Washington unique. Hanford is another.
Hanford began in the 1940’s with nuclear production that played a pivotal role in our defense for decades. An integral part of the Manhattan Project, the work done at Hanford helped end World War II and the Cold War. Today, Hanford is the world’s largest environmental cleanup project.
Since I was first elected to Congress in 1994, a lot has changed at Hanford for the betterment of our region and our environment.
In 1994, there was no overriding plan for the cleanup of our defense nuclear waste sites like Hanford. Within Congress, the prevailing attitude about Hanford was to put a fence around it and let it sit there.
Today the attitude about cleanup is much different. There is recognition of the federal government’s legal obligation to clean up this waste and focus on getting the job done safely, quickly and efficiently. On the ground, very real, measurable progress has been made.
In 1998, I created the Office of River Protection to ensure that the safety and treatment of the waste stored in Hanford’s underground tanks receives the focus and attention it deserves.
The bipartisan Nuclear Cleanup Caucus was formed, and as the Chairman, I’ve utilized it to empower advocates of defense nuclear cleanup to speak loudly and with one voice.
Plans to expensively and wastefully shutter Hanford’s historic B Reactor have been reversed, with the facility being preserved and protected for the public.
Twenty tons of plutonium has been safely shipped out of our state.
Cleanup along the Columbia River is largely complete.
The Waste Treatment Plant which will treat Hanford’s tank waste and turn it to glass for permanent storage at Yucca Mountain is over 60 percent complete.
Nuclear fuel has been moved away from the Columbia River.
The largest groundwater treatment facility in the country has been built.
More than 650 shipments of transuranic waste has been shipped out of Hanford.
Because of the volume and the nature of the wastes at Hanford, cleanup is critical to the entire Northwest. The sooner these wastes are cleaned up, the better off all our communities and our environment will be. Given the accomplishments of the past 20 years, I’m hopeful for the future.
Looking Back: The Contract with America
Twenty years ago, I joined Republican candidates for Congress from across the nation in signing the “Contract with America,” a commitment to the American people for sweeping changes in Washington, DC.
When I took office in January of 1995, House Republicans’ motto was “no more business as usual,” and our goal was productive change. This included the passage of the first balanced budget in 26 years, genuine reform of our nation’s welfare program, tax relief for American families, dramatic reform of how Congress operated, and overall a smaller, more efficient and less intrusive federal government.
I was proud to join my House colleagues in voting to fulfill all of the commitments included in the “Contract with America” within the first 93 days of session. On my first day representing those who call Central Washington home, I voted to apply to Members of Congress all laws imposed on other Americans, cut the size of committee staffs by one-third, open committee meetings to the public and press, and authorize the first-ever comprehensive audit of the finances of the House of Representatives. I also became one of the only members of Congress to decline my federal pension.
As the year progressed, I was proud to serve as a member of the House welfare task force that helped shepherd through one of the most sweeping and successful reforms to this safety net program in our nation’s history. Keep in mind that this was done by a Republican congress and a Democrat president.
We acted to allow hardworking families to keep more of their hard-earned money by creating the child tax credit, providing marriage penalty tax relief, and reducing the capital gains tax.
We cut the costs associated with federal mandates by passing legislation that became law to require federal agencies to perform a cost-benefit analysis before imposing new regulations on employers or local governments. We also acted to reduce the paperwork burdens on small businesses.
Both the House and Senate approved plans to balance the budget within seven years. And, while it fell one vote short in the Senate, we voted for the first time in history to add a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution.
I was proud to be a part of the Congress that upheld the “Contract with America.” In the years since, we have had additional successes at reducing the size and intrusiveness of the federal government on our everyday lives – like the tax cuts enacted under President Bush in 2001 and 2003, most of which were made permanent in 2013, and enactment of legislation in 2011 to cut $2 trillion in federal spending.
There is no question that more still needs to be done. I look forward to continuing to support efforts in my last days representing Central Washington to restore fiscal sanity and reduce the size and scope of the federal government.
Upholding the Constitutional Right to Bear Arms
It is surprising that in the 21st Century, there are still places in the world where people don’t have the freedom to voice their opinion on an issue or to practice the religion of their choosing, without fear of retribution from their government.
In the late 1700s, when the U.S. Constitution was written, the idea of a government that preserved these rights was revolutionary. Our nation had just finished fighting a war against a tyrannical government, and our Founding Fathers drafted the Bill of Rights to ensure that the new government they were creating would not be able to commit the same abuses. There were specific reasons for each of the amendments included in the Bill of Rights, including the right of Americans to keep and bear arms.
I took an oath to protect all of the freedoms and rights guaranteed by our Constitution – whether it is freedom of speech, freedom from unreasonable search and seizure, or the Second Amendment right to bear arms. The right to bear arms is no less sacred of a Constitutional right than freedom of speech, religion, or of the press. In 2009, the Supreme Court made their most important decision on gun rights in decades by ruling that states and municipalities, as well as the federal government, must uphold the individual right to bear arms.
Unfortunately, in recent years a number of tragic shootings have occurred at schools, movie theaters, and shopping malls. My heart goes out to all victims of gun violence and their loved ones. However, I do not believe these tragic events should be used as an excuse to enact additional gun restrictions and weaken Americans’ Second Amendment rights. There are currently thousands of federal, state, and local gun laws in place to prevent criminals from obtaining firearms. I do not believe that the answer to preventing future shootings is to enact further restrictions on law-abiding citizens who legally own guns or who wish to obtain them through legal means.
Make no mistake, we all want our communities to be safe places to live, work, learn, and play. That is why I firmly believe we must better understand the role that mental illness plays in gun-related violent crimes and look for ways to help and support individuals suffering from mental illness and their families.
When any of our Constitutional rights are called into question, all Americans should be concerned. From supporting the end of the Clinton gun ban in my first term to fighting against more recent efforts to impose unnecessary gun control measures, I have been proud to support efforts to preserve our Second Amendment rights throughout my two decades in Congress.
An Opportunity for Students to Apply for Military Academy Nominations
Our nation owes a debt of gratitude to all of those who choose to serve in the armed services. It’s the sacrifices of our veterans and active duty military that have kept Americans safe – and preserved our freedoms – since our nation was founded. One of the keys to maintaining the best military in the world is attracting the highest caliber individuals to enroll in our nation’s military academies each year.
September 27th marks the beginning of the 181st Oktoberfest celebration in Germany. What started as a five-day celebration honoring the marriage of Prince Ludwig to Princess Therese in Munich is now a celebration of Bavarian culture – primarily the brewing of beer – in communities around the globe. Today, the United States trails only Germany in world production of beer.
The Yakima Valley plays a key role in these celebrations. Over 73 percent of U.S. hops, which are a key ingredient in flavoring beers, are grown in the Yakima Valley. This means that from Coors Light to your favorite microbrew, it is likely that Central Washington hops growers play a big role in your beer of choice.
Over 100 years ago, local farmers and brewers discovered that the Yakima Valley is a prime location for growing hops. Much like the American Viticultural Areas that define specific growing conditions that lend unique flavors to wine grapes, there are three unique growing regions within the Yakima Valley that brewers seek – the Moxee Valley, the Yakama Indian Reservation, and the Lower Yakima Valley.
While all within a 50 mile area, each region has certain attributes that make it desirable for brewers. For instance, the Yakama Indian Reservation is known for high yields of alpha hops, which are responsible for a bitter flavoring in beer. The slightly cooler climate in the Moxee Valley makes it a prime location to grow aroma hops, which contribute to non-bitter flavors for beer varieties.
As with many Central Washington agricultural products, much of the hops grown in the Yakima Valley are enjoyed by people in other countries. Approximately two-thirds of the hops grown in Central Washington are exported.
The hops that stay within the United States also provide economic benefits in Central Washington and beyond. Our Yakima Valley hops have helped bolster the microbreweries that are growing both locally and nationwide. Many are small, family-owned businesses that are the backbone of local economies.
Like all farmers and ranchers, Central Washington hops growers have faced many challenges over the years. However, through their hard work and dedication to producing a quality product, they have kept Central Washington on the map as a leader in hops production.
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
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.”
1203 Longworth HOB
Washington, DC 20515
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.
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Click here to read my last weekly column as Central Washington's congressman. http://hastings.house.gov/news/documentsingle.aspx?DocumentID=397516
Official portrait unveiling of House Committee on Natural Resources Chairman Doc Hastings (WA-04)
I was pleased to support H.R. 5078 on the House floor today, which would prevent the Obama Administration from drastically expanding the federal
In a letter sent Wednesday to FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate, Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell and Reps. Doc Hastings and Dave Reichert
Please take a moment to read about my recent tour of the devastating Carlton Complex fire. All of us extend our deepest gratitude to the thousands