(Washington, D.C.) – Congressman Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) today issued the following statement after meeting Malawi’s Ambassador to the United States:
“Congratulations to Norfolk and their sister city Blantyre, Malawi! I was honored to welcome the Malawi Ambassador, His Excellency Edward Yakobe Sawerengera, and the Mayor of Blantyre, the Honorable Wild Ndipo, to my office today. We had a good discussion about education, agriculture, and conservation practices. We found that we shared similar thoughts on many of these issues.
The Ambassador also told me that everyone in Malawi smiles – I like that! I look forward to continuing our cultural and economic relationship with this smiling African nation.”
In the opening chapter of the book I Am a Man: Chief Standing Bear’s Journey for Justice, author Joe Starita vividly describes the heroic, harrowing story of Standing Bear and the forced relocation of his Ponca Tribe from their Nebraska homeland to “Indian Territory” (present-day Oklahoma). The degradation and disease endured by the Ponca in extreme conditions makes for a heart-wrenching saga. Along the way, tribal elders die, children die—Standing Bear’s own children die. And just think: merely walking this route today, even under kinder skies, is no easy task.
The most famous parts of Chief Standing Bear’s life merit retelling. In the 1800s, the Ponca tribe, which had settled in the Niobrara River valley in northeast Nebraska, was pressured by the United States Government to relocate to Indian Territory. In 1877, not wanting to subject his people to a brutal confrontation with the government, Standing Bear led them on a forced march to the new and inhospitable land. Starvation and illnesses killed nearly a third of the tribe, including Standing Bear's daughter Prairie Flower, and, later, his son Bear Shield.
In the winter of 1878, Standing Bear fulfilled a promise he made to Bear Shield: returning to bury him in his homeland in the Niobrara River Valley. When Standing Bear reached the Omaha Reservation, where the people welcomed him as one of their own, during this return journey, the United States Army arrested him for leaving Indian Territory without permission. His plight attracted the attention of the Omaha Daily Herald, the predecessor of today’s Omaha World-Herald, during his pre-trial imprisonment at Fort Omaha. At the conclusion of the two-day trial, Standing Bear raised his hand and said:
"That hand is not the color of yours, but if I pierce it, I shall feel pain. If you pierce your hand, you will feel pain. The blood that will flow from mine will be the same color as yours. I am a man. God made us both."
By expressing the ideal of the inherent dignity and rights of all people, regardless of color or ethnicity, Standing Bear convinced U.S. District Court Judge Elmer S. Dundy, in an unprecedented move, to rule that “an Indian is a person” within the meaning of habeas corpus. Standing Bear had won his right, and the right of all Native Americans, to be recognized as "persons" under the law. That such a glaring injustice could exist is almost unimaginable to us today. The Ponca chief had prevailed in one of the most important civil rights court cases in the history of our nation.
Many years later, blind and in declining health, attorney Andrew J. Poppleton, who worked pro bono on behalf of the Ponca Chief, reflected on his final court plea for Standing Bear: “I cannot recall any two hours' work of my life with which I feel better satisfied.”
In Congress, we continue to recognize Standing Bear’s remarkable life and achievement on behalf of his people. The House of Representatives passed legislation in the past two congresses to start a process for declaring a historic trail in his memory. In addition, I am in conversation with the Department of the Interior regarding the best way to realize the potential of this project.
In a little over a week, from April 29 to May 11, many persons will follow Chief Standing Bear's footsteps on the Ponca Remembrance Walk. Present-day Ponca elders will begin the trek from Niobrara to south of Beatrice, retracing an epic journey that set an initial marker for justice and the possibility of a more humane future for Native Americans and all people.
If you are interested in joining the Ponca Remembrance Walk or for more information, please click on the following link: http://sgiz.mobi/s3/Ponca-Remembrance-Walk-Registration-Site
A nonprofit backed by influential Omaha business leaders has committed $30 million to a partnership with the Department of Veterans Affairs to build an ambulatory care clinic on the grounds of the Omaha VA hospital.
Heritage Services — which developed local landmarks such as the Holland Performing Arts Center and TD Ameritrade Park — voted late Tuesday to back the clinic through a new nonprofit called the Veterans Ambulatory Center Development Corporation.
The project would pool $56 million previously appropriated by Congress with the $30 million raised locally to build the complex for the VA Nebraska/Western Iowa Health Care System on its campus near 42nd Street and Woolworth Avenue. VA officials have said it would offer primary, specialty and ambulatory care as well as radiology and surgery suites. It would be built on the site of the employee parking lot, to the northwest of the current hospital entrance.
“This project is born out of duty to help those who have risked so much to save our country,” said Walter Scott Jr., co-founder of Heritage Services and chairman of the new nonprofit, in a press release. “Our main goal is to make sure this facility gets built and becomes a model for other Veterans Affairs medical facilities across the country.”
Scott, former CEO of Peter Kiewit Sons Inc., is one of Omaha heavy hitters behind Heritage Services, along with Mike Yanney, chairman emeritus of Burlington Capital, and Mike McCarthy, of the investment firm McCarthy Capital.
VA officials had earlier estimated the cost of building the clinic at $136 million, of which $80 million would be raised locally. Spokesmen for the VA Omaha and Heritage Services declined to address questions about the scope of the project or explain the lower pricetag — though in an interview a year ago, Yanney said he thought the clinic could be built for less than the projected amount.
Nebraska’s congressional delegation had fought for years for a replacement for the aging Omaha VA hospital, which was built in 1950. Then Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb, had secured Senate approval of a $56 million down payment to design the facility in 2011, but the project foundered because of cost overruns on other VA construction projects.
During the past two years, Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Neb, and former U.S. Rep. Brad Ashford, D-Neb, pushed the idea of a public-private partnership to break the logjam. Legislation allowing such a partnership, called the CHIP IN for Vets Act, was signed into law late last year.
“The agreement announced today sets the stage for a new ambulatory care clinic to meet the medical needs of Nebraska veterans,” Fischer said in a statement. “Omaha is the first community in the country to utilize this innovative partnership.”
Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, R-Neb, described the concept as “transformative and extraordinary” and “a real tribute to a partnership between the Omaha community and our government to finally get things moving for our veterans.”
The Omaha facility is the first of five pilot construction projects authorized under the law, according to a press release from the Omaha VA.
“This trailblazing project represents another example of the bold changes happening at VA,” Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin said in the statement.
Rep. Don Bacon, R-Neb, described the partnership as “out-of-the-box thinking (that) reflects government reform and fiscal responsibility.”
Ashford, who Bacon defeated last fall in a close race, thanked Fischer and the rest of the Nebraska delegation, health care system administrator Don Burman and local veterans for their efforts to get the bill passsed.
“I am so honored and proud that after 27 months of hard work in Congress and here at home, an agreement has been reached . . . to commence work on the new medical facility,” Ashford said. “This innovative new model for a public-private partnership is a first of its kind for any department in the federal government.”
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An important religious figure in Syria once asked to see me and other members of an American delegation. I assumed we were in for a strident lecture about America’s role in the Syrian conflict. It was quite the opposite. He humbly asked us to understand the circumstances of the vulnerable persons he represented. He pleaded with us to be aware of the complexities and dangers they live with. Not one lawmaker walked away from that meeting without a deeper empathy, and what was at stake for innocent people in Syria.
I often use the phrase “Foreign Policy Realism” to describe how the United States should best exercise its strength and authority in international affairs. Last week, when writing to you about rising tensions around North Korea, I pointed to the end of “Strategic Patience” regarding reckless, ruthless leaders abroad. There are limits—as when a dictator positions to use gravely destructive weaponry.
As Chinese President Xi met with President Trump to discuss the challenges of North Korea, a decision was made to retaliate against Syria for using chemical weapons on helpless civilians. The precise, targeted action clearly answered this crime against humanity. I support President Trump’s decision. The responsible nations of the world cannot remain idle while children are gassed. Moreover, to simply ignore or merely decry the crime creates the conditions for carnage to worsen and for chemical weapons to be used with impunity.
At the same time, there are no easy solutions to resolving this intractable conflict. Foreign Policy Realism cannot be reduced to quick answers amid longstanding chaos and discord. In this instance, and in service of the principles of civilization itself, the United States' response was measured and proportionate. However, the road ahead will not be so clear. What’s needed is a consistent, determined sequence of actions to resolving the Syrian nightmare that neither commits us to a long-term dynamic in which our young people are put in harm’s way, nor a dynamic where we create a vacuum allowing nefarious players to move in. The responsibility is international in scope, and not America’s alone.
Our goal should be to create stability for all people in the region, destroy ISIS, elevate the conditions for a negotiated settlement, and assure the right of refugees to return to their ancestral homelands. Foreign Policy Realism demands that this mechanism include Russia and other nations in the region.
While the kinetics of our defense is in motion, we must be mindful of the risk to religious minorities that a sudden rupture in Syria could engender. It is a little known fact that Christians constituted roughly ten percent of Syria’s pre-war population. Syria’s President Assad must be replaced; however, if he is too swiftly removed, he could be replaced by something even worse: genocidal barbarians with every intention of exterminating Christians and other minority groups from the territory they seize. Innocent Muslims may fare no better.
One option to help persecuted communities is to create “interim zones of stability,” so that those who have been forced to flee can remain proximate to their ancestral homelands, with the hope of one day returning to them in safety. Last fall, I introduced a resolution in the House of Representatives encouraging the Iraq government to follow its own initiative in 2014 to establish a province in the Nineveh Plain, a once-rich tapestry of ethnic and religious stability in the northern part of that war-torn country, where Christians, Yazidis, and minority Muslim communities once lived in a spirit of general pluralism, but now have been ravaged by ISIS genocide. The creation of such a province could provide a model for Syria and elsewhere in the region.
In Damascus, there is a street called Straight Street, where the Apostle Paul resided after he was blinded during a religious experience. The street’s origins are inextricably intertwined with the existence of the West. Perhaps in this Easter season, in addition to the hard necessity of military might, the absolute necessity of smart diplomacy, and the essential humanitarian effort to alleviate suffering, we can once again hope for some wholesale conversion to peace.
I once met a young man who had escaped from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), commonly known as North Korea. He shared his harrowing tale of fleeing, capture, jail, and, ultimately, freedom. He is grateful for his new life and shares the enthusiasm of liberation. To this day, for reasons of safety, he has to keep his identity and whereabouts quiet. He lives with the fear of retaliation. His plight is indicative of an entire nation.
The people of North Korea live in a harsh and insular climate marked by fear, desperation, and depravity. The country is defined by a psychological construct of belligerent nationalism, marked by the cult of leadership worship. North Korea has the fourth largest army in the world, and its leader, Kim Jong-un, has repeatedly threatened us. He is paranoid, young, and he has nuclear weapons. The world has a very serious problem.
While the Korean War is an increasingly distant memory for our nation, perhaps there is no more vivid example of the gift of American leadership than on the Korean Peninsula. The sacrifice of American troops enabled the people of South Korea to build a flourishing economy, a governing system that adheres to democratic values, and a population that enjoy the general liberties we have in America. That sacrifice continues today as we have 28,500 troops remaining as a guardian force. While to the North it is a dark scene.
The key to understanding North Korea's power revolves around its neighbor China. The People’s Republic of China claims to be troubled by North Korea's behavior, yet, in many ways, it plays a double game. China likely cooperates with the North Korean regime in subtle ways below the public radar, possibly lending technology that North Korea could not advance on its own. North Korea’s wild and provocative actions also further Chinese interests by keeping the international eye off of Chinese transgressions: China’s contradictory capitalistic-communistic model, its militarization of the South China Sea, its belligerent attitude toward transportation in the East China Sea, and its mercantilist maneuvering throughout the world in the name of “progress.”
From China's viewpoint, it has a legitimate worry about a destabilized North Korea, lest a refugee crisis appear on its doorstep. Moreover, China has a long history of victimization by its neighbors. And it has a long memory. United States troops nearby trouble them. China has plowed its newfound economic largesse into a large military buildup.
Days before a high-profile United States visit by Chinese President Xi, North Korea test-fired a ballistic missile, an entirely predictable response to the Trump-Xi meeting. What is less predictable is where the situation goes from here. As the Administration has stated, the time for "strategic patience" has ended. A central goal of the United States has been to encourage stable and just economic, governing, and social systems around the world in the interest of international stability. It is the right thing to do and it is smart public policy. Strategic patience allows time for next-generation leaders to understand and seek a new direction. When necessary, enhanced economic pressure and a robust defensive posture are used to incentivize new directions. However, with North Korea accelerating its destructive technology and threats, strategic patience has reached its limits.
In foreign affairs, we optimally assume that others will behave rationally and according to commonly accepted values. The case of North Korea sadly illustrates the danger when lethal technology is combined with reckless motivation. China's leverage could help deescalate this situation, and we need them to do so. Just as we saw in a missile strike on Syria for gassing children, now we enter into a new phase of strategic impatience.
(Washington, D.C.) – Congressman Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) today issued the following statement on the bombings of Coptic Christians in Egypt:
“On Palm Sunday, when Christians cry ‘Hosanna to the King’ around the world, we watch with grief as our brothers and sisters in the Coptic community of Egypt suffer senseless violence. Innocent persons must never be subjected to such assaults on account of their faith. We stand in solidarity with the Egyptian people, Christian and Muslim, in their shock and sorrow.”
Fortenberry serves on the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations. He is Co-Chair of the Religious Minorities in the Middle East Caucus.
(Washington, D.C.) – Congressman Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) today issued the following statement on the confirmation of Neil M. Gorsuch to the Supreme Court:
“I congratulate Neil M. Gorsuch on his confirmation as the 113th Justice of the United States Supreme Court. A worthy successor to my friend Justice Scalia, Judge Gorsuch will interpret the Constitution in a fair and objective manner.”
Fortenberry serves on the House Appropriations Committee.
Rep. Fortenberry Introduced HR1221 to Foster Peace between the Israeli – Palestinian People
On February 27, 2017, Congressman Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) introduced HR 1221, seeking to establish an International Fund for Israeli - Palestinian Peace. This bipartisan Bill is co-sponsored by Congressman Joseph Crowley (D-NY), and is seeking the signatures of both Republicans and Democrats in the U.S. Congress interested in shaping a peaceful solution to a conflict fueling rising tensions in the Middle East.
The Alliance for Middle East Peace, The Organization of the Jewish Federations of North America, the American Jewish Council, and the Anti-Defamation League are already applauding the initiative. While creating such a different story in the hearts and minds of the the international community, Former Prime British Prime Minister Tony Blair endorsed the effort, comparing it to the International Irish Peace Fund that “helped build vital people-to-people contacts” and created conditions for a lasting peace in the region.
The proposed bill creates a bilateral board of advisors who will manage the expenditures of the fund in order to support economic, social, and cultural engagement, in which both Israeli and Palestinian people will participate. As Tzipi Livni says, “this will help create a culture of peace.”
The board will include recognized leaders appointed by the Palestinian Authority and Israeli government who will join members from donor countries, including two representatives from the US with each party from the United States Congress naming one. USAID will administer the fund and guide the board, and activities will be measured to assure economic and social development. The goal of the initiative will be to build trust and a spirit of shared possibility among neighbors, adjacent towns, and settlements.
The requested US investment is $50 million stemming from existing funds, and the overall effort is aimed to create conditions for a lasting peace and to support international leaders’ diplomatic efforts to reach a final political agreement between Israelis and Palestinians.
The years long overdue visit by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to the White House last week, signals a change in the administration’s overall Middle East policy as they are shaping up. President Trump suggested the Israel-Palestinian diplomatic initiative requires a “regional effort,” in which Egypt will also play a prominent role.
If the H.R. 1221 becomes law, this commitment to “soft power” can contribute a much needed boost to the administration’s Israeli – Palestinian upcoming peace effort and support platforms to bring Israeli and Palestinian people closer together.
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Washington, D.C.– Congressman Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) today issued the following statement on the United States strike in Syria:
“I support the President's decision. The responsible nations of the world cannot remain idle while children are gassed. The carnage in Syria must end, but there are no easy solutions to resolving this bloody conflict. Foreign policy realism cannot be reduced to quick answers amid longstanding chaos and discord.”
Fortenberry serves on the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations.
Reps. Adrian Smith and Jeff Fortenberry spoke Wednesday on the House floor in memory of Ambassador Clayton Yeutter.
Here are their remarks:
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
I rise in memory of Ambassador Clayton Yeutter, a native of Eustis, Nebraska, who recently passed away after a hard-fought battle with cancer.
Mr. Yeutter was a true statesman who generously shared his time and expertise throughout his very remarkable career.
On top of his numerous professional accomplishments, Mr. Yeutter was known as a humble, kind, and respected leader who never lost sight of his commitment to rural America.
No one understood the importance of trade to American agriculture better than he did, and his work has benefited generations of Nebraska agriculture producers as well as others across the country.
Mr. Yeutter grew up on a cattle and corn operation in central Nebraska during the Great Depression.
He attended the University of Nebraska, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in Animal Husbandry, and later a J.D. and a Ph.D in Agricultural Economics.
After serving in the Air Force in the 1950s and returning home to work on his farm, he got his start in politics as Chief of Staff for Nebraska Governor Norbert Tiemann in the mid-1960s.
Soon, he was named director of the Nebraska Mission to Colombia, which led him to the USDA and decades of distinguished public service.
His extensive resume included serving as U.S. Trade Representative under President Ronald Reagan and Agriculture Secretary under President George H.W. Bush.
He also ran the Chicago Mercantile Exchange for eight years and served as chairman of the Republican National Committee.
As we mourn the loss of this influential Nebraskan, I extend my condolences to Mr. Yeutter’s wife, Cristena, and his children, grandchildren, and great-granddaughter as well.
At this time, I’d like to yield to my colleague from Nebraska, Mr. Fortenberry.
I thank my friend Congressman Adrian Smith for the time, and I thank him, more importantly, for honoring the life and memory of our mutual good friend, Clayton Yeutter.
In my desk in my office, there’s a letter. It was written to me by Clayton Yeutter, former Secretary of Agriculture, a couple years ago.
Of course, we all receive a lot of letters, but sometimes you get one that you just want to keep close to you.
Clayton Yeutter was a gentleman, he was a farmer from Nebraska, and he was a true statesman.
In that letter, he basically kindly and gently encouraged me in public service. He was the ideal public servant. He expressed his sentiments to me personally, and in his public life, with a great nobility, a great yearning and care for our country.
He committed himself in multiple ways to serving our institutions of governance, but he never forgot his humble roots back in Nebraska.
So, I simply wanted to say well done, good and faithful servant Clayton Yeutter, my friend, and thank you Congressman Smith for honoring his life.
Thank you. I can’t say enough to honor a true giant in public service as Secretary Yeutter, Ambassador Yeutter, the list goes on of his many titles.
An incredible man, his humility did so much for our country.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
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1514 Longworth HOB
Washington, DC 20515
Jeff Fortenberry was elected to the United States House of Representatives in 2004 to serve Nebraska’s First Congressional District. His work in Congress is rooted in the belief that the strength of our nation depends on the strength of our families and communities. Jeff is a member of the House Appropriations Committee, which appropriates United States government expenditures. He serves on three subcommittees with importance for Nebraska: Agriculture, Energy and Water, and Military Construction and Veterans Affairs.
Jeff previously served on the House Foreign Affairs Committee where he placed particular focus on human rights concerns, Middle Eastern affairs, and nuclear weapons non-proliferation. He also represented Nebraska on the Agriculture Committee, where his work on two Farm Bills advanced opportunities for young and beginning farmers and promoted agricultural entrepreneurship.
Prior to serving in Congress, Jeff worked as a publishing industry executive in Lincoln, where he also served on the Lincoln City Council from 1997-2001. Jeff also has significant personal experience in small business, and early in his career he worked as a policy analyst for the United States Senate Subcommittee on Intergovernmental Relations. Jeff earned a bachelor’s degree in economics and two master’s degrees, one in public policy. He and his wife Celeste live in Lincoln and have five daughters.