More than 40 Panhandle veterans, family members, and volunteers traveled to Washington this week to tour Congress and the memorials that commemorate their service and sacrifice. U.S. Congressman Mac Thornberry (R-Clarendon) hosted the group today for a special tour of the Capitol where he had the opportunity to speak to them on the Floor of the House.
“I consider it a great privilege each year to meet with veterans from our area that visit Washington as a part of the Texas Panhandle Honor Flight,” Thornberry said. “It’s an opportunity for us to show them around the very democratic institutions that they sacrificed so much to protect. We were happy to welcome these veterans, their family members, and many other wonderful volunteers who made the Flight possible.”
The Texas Panhandle Honor Flight is organized and sponsored by the local chapter of America Supports You Texas (ASYT), which is headquartered in Amarillo. The Honor Flights are part of ASYT’s efforts to promote awareness and support for our U.S. military service members and veterans, as well as their families. The group also organizes care boxes for active duty personnel, sponsors an annual Armed Forces Day banquet, and organizes welcome home and return to duty rallies.“Organizations like America Supports You Texas help remind us that our country remains strong because of what these veterans sacrificed. Groups like this play an important role in ensuring our veterans receive our deepest gratitude and thanks,” Thornberry says.
The first National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to be passed during U.S. Congressman Mac Thornberry’s (R-Clarendon) chairmanship of the House Armed Services Committee is headed to the Senate for approval and then to the President’s desk. The bill includes funding for Sheppard Air Force Base, the Pantex Plant, and the V-22 Osprey program at Bell Helicopter’s Military Aircraft Assembly Center in Amarillo. The bipartisan legislation passed the House 270-156.
“This year’s NDAA provides the resources our troops need for a strong national defense and does so in a fiscally-responsible way, while also reforming the way the military does business and cares for the troops,” said Thornberry.
The bill authorizes nearly $612 billion in spending for national defense. The funding in the bill is consistent with the House Budget Resolution that balances the federal budget and reduces government spending by $5.5 trillion over the next 10 years. President Obama has threatened to veto the defense bill if Congress does not agree to increase federal spending on domestic programs, such as the Environmental Protection Agency.
“It would be irresponsible for the President to veto this bill, especially while the Taliban is retaking Afghan cities, ISIS is marching across the Middle East, and Russia is on the ground in Ukraine and now in Syria,” Thornberry continued. “The men and women who are protecting America and American interests across the world deserve better from their Commander-in-Chief.”
Locally, the bill authorizes funding for national security facilities and programs such as training missions at Sheppard Air Force Base in Wichita Falls. In addition, about $2.8 billion total is authorized for Bell’s V-22 Osprey and helicopter programs, including the procurement of 19 new Ospreys and 28 new AH-1Z / UH-1Y helicopters for the Marine Corps. Much of the work for those aircraft will be performed in Amarillo. The NDAA also empowers military commanders to permit a member of the Armed Forces to carry appropriate firearms, including personal firearms, at Department of Defense (DoD) installations, reserve centers, and recruiting centers by the end of the year.
The legislation provides $8.8 billion in funding for nuclear weapons activities—like those performed at Pantex. To help address the severe backlog of maintenance on physical infrastructure across the National Nuclear Security Agency, the bill authorizes $50 million specifically for recapitalization projects and an additional $25 million for preventive maintenance. Another $645 million for defense nuclear security with an additional $12 million to reinvigorate efforts to recapitalize aging physical security infrastructure and $234 million to provide for much needed efforts to improve emergency response at Pantex and other nuclear weapons facilities.
The NDAA implements major reforms to the DoD's broken acquisition system to make it more efficient and agile. Thornberry, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain (R-AZ), and other members of the Armed Services Committees engaged with experts at the DoD, in the defense industry, and within Congress with a focus on reforming the DoD.
A key compensation reform in the bill will provide a new retirement system for future military service members. The system would allow new service members to contribute to a portable 401(k)-style retirement plan with matching contributions from the government of up to five percent of basic pay. Eighty-three percent of service members leave the military before the current 20-year mark to qualify for retirement. Current members will have the option of being grandfathered into the old system or choosing the new system, and the provision would not affect veterans who have already retired.
The bill reauthorizes bipartisan prohibitions against transferring Guantanamo Bay detainees to the U.S. and against building detention facilities in the U.S. Thornberry has expressed serious concerns about the circumstances of those transfers and of former detainees returning to the battlefield.
U.S. Congressman Mac Thornberry (R-Clarendon) issued the following statement after voting for a government funding measure that passed the House by a vote of 277-151 and the Senate 78-20:
"This afternoon, I voted in support of a temporary funding bill that will allow the federal government to meet its fiscal responsibilities – including funding our military and pay for the troops. We simply cannot ask men and women to risk their lives on behalf of our nation all around the world while they wonder whether they will get their paychecks and be able to pay their bills. I also voted in support of several measures in recent weeks that would strip federal funding from Planned Parenthood, and we will continue to work on legislative options that can get such legislation to the President’s desk."
The federal government’s fiscal year ends on September 30, and, as usual, there are a number of controversial issues related to federal spending. The following chart summarizes how the federal government spent your money during the last fiscal year.
Here is another look at the different categories of spending over time.
As you can see, a large majority of federal spending – about two-thirds – is spent in mandatory programs, also known as entitlements and interest on our national debt. About one-third of spending is spent on those programs that Congress must vote on each year, known as discretionary spending, and about one-half of discretionary spending (16-17 percent of total federal spending) funds our military.
Discretionary spending funds most of the operations of government, which is the reason that when those programs are not renewed, it is called a “government shutdown.” Government offices and national parks are closed, while salaries of federal employees, including the salaries of our service members, are not paid during a shutdown.
Meanwhile, the two-thirds of spending in mandatory programs are unaffected even if there is no funding for government operations. Social Security checks will continue to be sent, Medicaid and Medicare reimbursements are paid, and food stamps are still distributed.
I believe that it is essential to continue government funding, especially of our military, and avoid a shutdown. We simply cannot ask men and women to risk their lives on behalf of our nation all around the world while they wonder whether they will get their paychecks and be able to pay their bills. The world is too dangerous, and we owe them better than that.
Planned Parenthood funding
As you know, the recent release of videos involving employees of Planned Parenthood casually discussing the sale of body parts from aborted babies has been shocking for many people, including me, regardless of their views on abortion. Planned Parenthood does receive taxpayer funding. The vast majority of that funding, around 75 percent, is through the Medicaid program, which as an entitlement is not affected by a government shutdown or the failure to approve discretionary spending bills.
I supported and the House has passed a bill to end all taxpayer funding for Planned Parenthood, including all Medicaid funding, and to redirect that money to other women’s health organizations that are not involved in abortion. Because of Democratic opposition, the Senate has not been able to get the 60 votes necessary to even vote on the House-passed bill.
This week the House will begin to use a special procedure known as reconciliation under which a bill cannot be filibustered in the Senate. In other words, under reconciliation, certain bills can pass the Senate with a majority of 51 votes rather than the 60 votes normally required to overcome a filibuster. This reconciliation bill will end all federal funding for Planned Parenthood and also dismantle key provisions of Obamacare. With a majority vote in the House and the Senate, that legislation can be sent to the President.
In addition, some states have taken action. Medicaid is a program that is funded by both the federal government and the individual states, and some states have prohibited Planned Parenthood from receiving any Medicaid funding. Texas is one of those states.
Other funding issues
Other funding issues must be addressed in the next few weeks. For example, highway funding expires at the end of October and must be renewed in order for construction and repair of highways and bridges to continue. At some point soon, the federal government will reach the debt limit, which means it can borrow no more money even to pay the interest on debt it has already incurred.
Finally, the following chart provides an update on the federal deficit.
Despite the serious differences between President Obama and Republicans in Congress on spending and tax issues, you can see that the federal deficit has been shrinking since Republicans became the majority party in the House in 2011. But for this progress to continue, we must address the two-thirds of the federal spending that is in the mandatory programs.
I invite you to learn more about this issue and others by visiting my website here. Have a question you would like answered? Please contact me by phone, letter, e-mail,on Facebook, or on Twitter.
As always, I appreciate hearing from you.
A bill to protect private property along the Red River was approved by the U.S. House Natural Resources Committee Thursday, moving the legislation one step closer toward full consideration by the House of Representatives. The “Red River Private Property Protection Act,” H.R. 2130, introduced by U.S. Congressman Mac Thornberry (R-Clarendon), seeks to settle all federal ownership claims by providing legal certainty to landowners along the Red River.
“I’m very pleased that the Natural Resources Committee agreed to consider my bill and passed it out of the Committee today. This is an important step toward our ultimate goal of getting this bill signed into law,” Thornberry said. “I will continue working with my colleagues in the House and Senator Cornyn (R-TX), who has introduced similar legislation in the Senate, to resolve this issue once and for all.”
Many landowners and other public officials are alarmed that Bureau of Land Management (BLM) actions might result in disputed claims of ownership. Since concern first arose in December 2013, Thornberry’s office has held multiple meetings, phone calls, and other correspondence with landowners, as well as local and state officials, to coordinate action. Thornberry’s bill reflects the input they received by listening to landowners, the Texas General Land Office, and many others.
The legislation will provide legal certainty to property owners along the Red River by:
• Commissioning a survey of the entire 116-mile stretch of contested area along the Red River using the gradient boundary survey method developed and backed by the Supreme Court to find the proper boundary between private and federally owned land.
• Ordering that the survey be conducted within 2 years by Licensed State Land Surveyors and approved by the Texas General Land Office in consultation with The Commissioners of the Land Office in Oklahoma.
• Allowing landowners who hold the proper right, title, and/or interest in the contested area to appeal the determination of the survey to an administrative law judge. Landowners are also able to file for a modified Color-of-Title Act land patent request for public land that has been held in good faith and in peaceful adverse possession for $1.25 per acre.
• Preventing any contested land from being included in the Resource Management Plan outside of the provisions in the bill.
• Requiring the BLM to sell the remaining federal lands along the Red River at no less than market value and setting forth procedures for offering adjacent landowners the first rights of refusal. The bill also explicitly states that nothing in the Act shall be construed to modify the Red River Boundary Compact and that the interest of Texas and Oklahoma and the sovereignty rights of the federally recognized Indian tribes north of the South Bank boundary line will not be affected.
The President has signed in to law legislation that included a provision that makes the excise tax on liquefied natural gas (LNG) and diesel comparable on an energy-equivalent basis. The provision was introduced earlier this year by U.S. Congressmen Mac Thornberry (TX-13) and John Larson (CT-01) as the “LNG Excise Tax Equalization Act of 2015,” H.R. 905.The federal excise tax on LNG and diesel has been set at 24.3 cents per gallon. Because it takes 1.7 gallons of LNG to produce the same amount of energy as a gallon of diesel fuel, LNG is being taxed 70 percent higher than diesel. The new law that will take effect in 2016 levels the playing field by applying the excise tax to LNG and diesel based on the amount of energy each produces, which is how it is applied to Compressed Natural Gas and gasoline.
U.S. Congressman Mac Thornberry (R-Clarendon) introduced legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives that will help law enforcement officials combat the growing problem of synthetic drugs. The “SALTS Act,” H.R. 1186, would make it easier for law enforcement officials to take action against synthetic drug manufacturers, distributors, and sellers by closing a loophole that makes it difficult to prosecute them because they label packages as “not intended for human consumption.”
Current law allows the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) to prosecute the sale of drugs similar to controlled substances, but it does not cover substances with that label. Yet, the abusers who purchase these substances all know exactly what to do with them – ingest or snort them to get a dangerous and unpredictable high.
“I have spoken with law enforcement, doctors, and educators from our area about increasing awareness of these synthetic drugs, which really are just poisons,” Thornberry said. “A big part of the problem is that young people and parents are not aware of the serious side effects of these poisons. These drugs invoke dangerous behavior and cause irreparable damage to the health of those who ingest them. I want to make sure our law enforcement agencies can keep up with the changing formulas and take down synthetic drug producers and sellers.”
The bill was crafted with the feedback from local law enforcement and health officials who struggle to contain these drugs. Synthetic drugs – often called “K2,” “spice,” “bath salts,” or “synthetic marijuana” – are laced with man-made chemicals that mimic the effects of THC and amphetamines. The harmful effects of synthetic drugs include violent behavior and health issues that are sometimes fatal. TIME magazine featured the story of Ms. Roni Cannon, an Amarillo resident whose son died after ingesting K2 in 2013. In 2015, almost 5,000 exposures to synthetic drugs have been reported to poison control centers. That number has nearly doubled in the past year.### Read More
2329 Rayburn HOB
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A fifth generation Texan, Mac Thornberry has strong ties to the people he serves in the U.S. House of Representatives. Mac is a lifelong resident of the 13th District of Texas. His family has been ranching in the area since 1881 – a family business in which Mac remains actively involved.
Mac shares the values of the people he represents and continues to fight for the things that are important to them. He is a longtime advocate of lower taxes and limited government. Boosting domestic energy production, protecting private property rights, and reforming health care are top priorities for Mac. He strongly supports cutting government spending and creating the kind of policies that encourage economic growth, rather than suffocating it. Additionally, as one of the few Members of Congress personally involved in agriculture, Mac understands the challenges agricultural producers face and has been a key player in efforts to support producers in the 13th District.
Mac’s wife, Sally, is also a native Texan. They have two children.
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