Mac Thornberry

Mac Thornberry


Thornberry votes to fill VA funding gap


U.S. Congressman Mac Thornberry (R-Clarendon) voted yesterday in support of a bill that included a provision to fill shortfalls in the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) budget and make significant changes to the Choice Program. The “Surface Transportation and Veterans Health Care Choice Improvement Act of 2015,” H.R. 3236, passed the House by a vote of 385-34.

Hospital operations were at risk unless the VA was authorized to transfer funds to pay for non-VA care from the Choice Program, which is underutilized due to its restrictive eligibility criteria. Specifically, the provision authorizes the VA to use $3.35 billion from the Choice Program to pay for non-VA care from May 1 to Oct. 1, 2015, and requires reports every 14 days on how these funds are used and for what programs.

“This bill provides the VA flexibility to move funds that will ensure that facilities remain open, as well as improve access to quality care,” said Thornberry. “These men and women have put their lives on the line to keep our country safe, and they deserve our best in return. Meeting our commitments to our veterans is essential.”

In addition to authorizing these funds, the provision would expand veterans' access to the current Choice Program and require the VA to devise a plan consolidating all non-VA provider programs into a single "Veterans Choice Program." Consolidating the non-VA programs would simplify the eligibility requirements, authorization processes, billing and reimbursement, and access to VA medical records.

The bill would expand the Choice Program by:

  • Eliminating  the requirement that veterans be enrolled by Aug. 1, 2014;
  • Allowing more non-VA providers to participate;
  • Waiving the 30-day wait time requirement for clinical necessity;
  • Granting veterans who live within 40 miles of a VA community-based outpatient clinic (CBOC) to use the program for primary care if the CBOC does not have a full-time physician on staff.

This bill also amends the tax code to exclude any employee with TRICARE or VA healthcare from the Affordable Care Act’s employer mandate.

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Thornberry votes to end 'sanctuary city' policies


U.S. Congressman Mac Thornberry (R-Clarendon) voted today in support of a bill that would remove key federal funding from sanctuary cities that ignore federal immigration law. The “Enforce the Law for Sanctuary Cities Act,” H.R. 3009, passed the House by a vote of 241-179.

The bill would block specific federal grants from cities that prevent law enforcement officials from gathering information or communicating with the Department of Homeland Security about an individual’s citizenship or immigration status. According to federal law, states and local governments cannot “prohibit, or in any way restrict,” law enforcement officials from sending or receiving such information, but some municipalities, known as “sanctuary cities,” do not comply with this statute. Thornberry has voted for three similar provisions regarding sanctuary cities in the past two years.

“America is a nation of immigrants and a nation of laws. And while I believe our immigration system is broken and must be fixed, that does not mean state and local governments – including these so called ‘sanctuary cities’ – can ignore federal law,” said Thornberry. “Anyone who disagrees with current immigration law should work with Congress to pass new laws, and that includes the President.”

The Department of Justice offers grants to cover some of the costs of incarcerating illegal immigrants and to provide personnel, training, and other support for criminal justice purposes. This bill would make the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program grants, Community Oriented Policing Services grants, and the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant unavailable to state and local governments that refuse to comply with current federal immigration law. 

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Thornberry Calls On President To Lower Flags


Today, Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Clarendon), Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, called on President Obama to order flags flown at half staff in honor of the fallen service members in Chattanooga, TN: 

"Last week, America lost five service members. They did not fall on a foreign battlefield, but were deliberately targeted and cruelly murdered here at home. Today, Speaker Boehner has ordered the flags at the Capitol to be flown at half staff. He follows the Governors of Tennessee and other states who are doing the right thing to honor those casualties. The President should follow suit and order flags flown at half staff across the country, and he should do so immediately." Read More

An act of cowardice and terror


Dear Friends,

Sally and I are praying for the families of the Marines who were gunned down yesterday in Chattanooga and for the citizens of Tennessee. We ask our service members to risk their lives on our behalf when we deploy them to foreign lands to fight our enemies. They understand the inherent risks that come with the jobs they do, and that is part of what makes their voluntary service so incredible. They should not have to fear for their safety when they come home to their families.

The FBI and military are actively investigating what happened yesterday, the shooter’s history, and the motivations behind this cowardly act of terror. My committee has been working on a bill that would require the Secretary of Defense to come up with procedures to allow our service members to carry their weapons on military installations. That is not the only solution to prevent attacks like this one from happening in the future, but our service members should be allowed to defend themselves. 

FBI Director Comey recently told Congress that we cannot stop every act of terror. He is right, but we can do more to give our intelligence and national security agencies the tools they need to protect us. Unfortunately, because of leaked national security information containing fragments, inaccuracies, and speculation, we have been taking steps backwards and tying our hands from gathering intelligence that can help stop attacks like this one. We must also do more to combat the ideological war that groups like ISIS are waging and winning right now.

I believe the first job of the federal government is to defend the country and protect our citizens within the framework of the Constitution, and I will continue to do all I can to contribute to that effort. 

I spoke with Martha MacCallum about this attack recently on Fox News. You can watch the interview by clicking the image below.

Click here to watch my interview.


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Thornberry votes for education overhaul


U.S. Congressman Mac Thornberry (R-Clarendon) voted yesterday in support of a bill that would return many of the decision-making responsibilities in education back to the states by reauthorizing and reforming the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, currently known as No Child Left Behind (NCLB). The Student Success Act, H.R. 5, passed the House by a vote of 218-213.

The bill would remove one-size-fits-all federal education standards, eliminate a number of federal mandates, empower local schools and officials, and enhance school accountability. It gives local schools more flexibility in using the federal funds they receive for the district’s individual needs.

“Bureaucrats in Washington cannot replace the first-hand experience and understanding that our local teachers and parents have of the needs of students throughout our area,” said Thornberry. “Education standards should be determined by the individual states and school districts to ensure that the academic standards are best tailored to local schools and their students. Too often, Washington thinks it can and should dictate policy at all levels of government, and those policies often come at the expense of our communities and the American people.”

The Student Success Act improves K-12 education by:
  • Returning responsibility for measuring student and school performance to the states and school districts rather than using the current national system based on high stakes tests;
  • Repealing more than 65 ineffective, duplicative, and unnecessary programs and replacing them with a Local Academic Flexible Grant for schools to better support students;
  • Prohibiting the Secretary of Education from coercing states into adopting Common Core or any other common standards or assessments, as well as reining in the Secretary’s regulatory authority; and
  • Strengthening existing efforts to improve student performance among targeted student populations, including English learners and homeless children.
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Thornberry on Army Reductions


Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-TX), Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, made the following statement on Army plans to reduce the force by 40,000 Soldiers.  

“People who believe the world is safer, that we can do with less defense spending and 40,000 fewer Soldiers, will take this as good news. I am not one of those people.”

Planned reductions in Army force levels have been public for some time and are a result of hundreds of billions of dollars in defense cuts since President Obama took office. During this time, Army end strength has been reduced from 556,000 to this new low of 450,000. Personnel reductions are one of the few places where the military can achieve the savings mandated by defense cuts in the time required. The House Armed Services Committee has consistently warned about the size and pace of reductions in both end strength and defense spending and the negative impact on the country’s national security. 

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Thornberry introduces bill to rein in EPA overreach


U.S. Congressman Mac Thornberry (R-Clarendon) introduced the Federal Regulatory Certainty for Water Act, H.R. 2705, to clarify the definition of “navigable waters” in the Clean Water Act (CWA) to help protect private property owners from regulatory expansion by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps). 

“Those who live and work in our part of Texas, especially the farmers and ranchers, understand the importance of clean water and work hard to be good stewards of the environment, but we also understand that personal property and water rights are fundamental to the American way of life, a family’s business, and many people’s livelihoods,” said Thornberry.

For decades, the courts and the EPA have grappled over the scope of the CWA, which simply defines “navigable waters” as “the waters of the United States, including the territorial seas.” In May 2015, the EPA and Corps finalized the “Waters of the United States” (WOTUS) rule, which could allow the regulation of almost any wet area on private land that has some arbitrary connection to a navigable body of water. In addition to repealing the misguided EPA/Corps WOTUS rule, Thornberry’s bill redefines “navigable waters” in the CWA as waters that are navigable-in-fact or are permanently flowing bodies of water that physically connect to navigable waters. H.R. 2705 also clarifies what types of waters are excluded from federal jurisdiction. 

“This Administration, the EPA in particular, has shown total disregard for the rights of private citizens. No landowner should have to worry about whether the federal government will get in the way of their business because of the bar ditch behind their house. Since 2013, I have introduced and the House has passed two bills that offered simple, commonsense ways to protect private landowners from regulatory overreach by the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers,” said Thornberry.

Thornberry has recently supported and the House has passed three other bills that would help rein in EPA regulatory overreach:

H.R. 2028, the “FY 2016 Energy and Water Appropriations bill,” with a provision that would bar the Corps from developing, adopting, implementing, or enforcing any change to rules or guidance pertaining to the CWA definition of WOTUS.

H.R. 1732, the “Regulatory Integrity Protection Act,” which would require the EPA and the Corps to develop a new WOTUS rule by consulting with state and local officials and taking into actual consideration the public comments on the 2014 proposal and supporting documents.

H.R. 2042, the “Ratepayer Protection Act of 2015,” which would delay the compliance date of greenhouse gas (GHG) emission standards for existing power plants until all judicial and administrative reviews are final and no longer eligible for appeal. The bill would also allow states to opt out of compliance if the governor determines that the rule would have an adverse effect on rate-payers or have a significant adverse effect on the reliability of the state's electricity system. Read More

Thornberry supports full repeal of Country of Origin Labeling


U.S. Congressman Mac Thornberry (R-Clarendon) yesterday voted in favor of a bill to repeal mandatory country of origin labeling, also known as “COOL,” for beef, pork, and poultry.  Thornberry was an original cosponsor of the Country of Origin Labeling Amendments Act of 2015 (H.R. 2393) that passed the House by a vote of 300 to 131.

“After several years of implementation, this rule has done little more than increase costs and decrease profits for farmers, ranchers, and producers along the supply chain,” said Thornberry. “It has been ruled to be a trade violation against two important trading partners, Canada and Mexico.”

COOL was implemented in 2008 as a mandatory marketing program.  An economic study, mandated by the 2014 Farm Bill, found that it has had little effect on the demand for covered commodities. Yet, it has unnecessarily cost producers, packers, and processors hundreds of millions of dollars. 

In 2011, the World Trade Organization (WTO) ruled that the U.S. COOL requirement violated international trade obligations by discriminating against livestock from both Canada and Mexico, creating loses solely based on their origin. According to the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, Canada and Mexico are two of the top three export destinations for U.S. beef, accounting for more than $2 billion in sales and nearly one-third of total U.S. beef exports.

“If the U.S. does not comply with the WTO ruling, Canada and Mexico will have the authority to impose retaliatory tariffs on our agriculture and manufactured goods,” said Thornberry.  “These tariffs won’t just affect our farmers and ranchers who spend their lives providing safe food for people all around the world. They have the potential to severely harm our entire economy.”

Thornberry represents the 13th District of Texas, which encompasses the Texas Panhandle and parts of North Texas. The area is the largest cattle and pork-producing district in the State. His family has raised cattle for several generations.

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Thornberry Op-ed: We need trade agreements with American rules


Since mankind’s earliest days, we have traded.  Exchanging a goat for some wood or stone was an essential means of survival.  Some groups or individuals have always been better at some tasks than others. 
The same is true among nations today.  Whether it is differences in climate, natural resources, or stage of economic development, some countries are better able to produce certain goods than others.  Buying and selling goods among them helps raise the living standards of everyone.
In the U.S., we do a lot of things well.  Americans are getting more efficient at producing everything from agricultural commodities to manufactured goods.  Yet, over 90 percent of the world’s consumers live outside our shores.  To create jobs and improve our quality of life, we have to sell American products and services overseas.
Those sales are usually governed by trade agreements, and there has been a flurry of them in recent years.  The problem is that the U.S. has largely been left out.  In the first decade of this century, the countries of East Asia negotiated 48 trade agreements.  The U.S. was only involved in two.  Over that time, America’s share of exports to that region fell by 42 percent, the worst record of any major exporting country.
A big part of the reason we have been left behind is that the authority to negotiate trade agreements within congressional rules has been allowed to lapse.  A president can negotiate a trade deal at any time, but other countries, knowing how our system works, will not negotiate with us if Congress can go back in after the agreement is signed to change the individual provisions.  Instead of letting a president negotiate alone in secret, it is more beneficial for Congress to insert itself in the beginning of the process with the final approval authority.     
The House will soon vote to authorize and set the rules for presidents over the next five years to negotiate on trade, known as Trade Promotion Authority.  That authorization will require any agreement to meet certain conditions, and it will require that any agreement be made public for 60 days before being signed.  Congress will then have the chance to vote to approve or disapprove of it.
Two points to keep in mind:  Trade is very important to our part of Texas.  About 25 percent of the pork, 50 percent of the wheat, 90 percent of the cotton, and 90 percent of the harvested sorghum produced in our congressional district is sold overseas.  Many other kinds of businesses depend heavily on overseas sales as well.
Secondly, China is busily working to be a dominant power – militarily and economically.  They aim to write the rules for international affairs in a way that benefits them.  And they may well be successful if the U.S. continues to sit on the sidelines. We need trade agreements with American rules to hold other countries accountable to our standards and to sell American products and services to the world on a level playing field.  We have to get in the game.

U.S. Congressman Mac Thornberry, R-Clarendon, represents the 13th Congressional District of Texas in the U.S. House of Representatives.  He serves as the Chairman of the Armed Services Committee.U.S. Congressman Mac Thornberry, R-Clarendon, represents the 13th Congressional District of Texas in the U.S. House of Representatives.  He serves as the Chairman of the Armed Services Committee.

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Thornberry responds to EPA's final water regulation


U.S. Congressman Mac Thornberry (R-Clarendon) released the following statement after the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers finalized the “Waters of the United States” regulation, which may have serious consequences for private landowners:

“My staff is conducting a thorough review of the final rule, but I have little confidence that the EPA has addressed the concerns that many people, businesses, and other organizations have raised with this particular regulation. Folks who live and work in our part of Texas, especially the farmers and ranchers, understand the importance of clean water and work hard to be good stewards of the land, but we also understand that personal property and water rights are fundamental to the American way of life, a family’s business, and many people’s livelihoods.

“This Administration, the EPA in particular, has shown total disregard for the rights of private citizens. No landowner should have to worry about whether the federal government will get in the way of their business because of the bar ditch behind their house. Since 2013, I have introduced and the House has passed two bills that offered simple, commonsense ways to protect private landowners from regulatory overreach by the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers.” 

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Committee Assignments

Armed Services

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 has established himself as a leader in national security, an area in which he continues to be given new responsibilities and opportunities to help advance the security of our nation.  He serves as the Vice Chairman of the Armed Services Committee where he also leads the Subcommittee on Intelligence, Emerging Threats, and Capabilities.  He also continues to serve on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.
In early 2011, Mac was tapped by the Speaker of the House and Majority Leader to spearhead a Cybersecurity Task Force to guide House legislative action on this growing national security and economic threat. Well-respected by Members on both sides of the aisle for his insight and leadership, they asked Mac to chair a group of lawmakers representing nine major committees of jurisdiction. The charge was to make recommendations in a number of areas including updating existing laws, protecting critical infrastructure, and sharing cybersecurity information. On October 5, 2011, the Task Force released its recommendations, which have received a favorable response from Republicans and Democrats in the House and the Senate, as well as the White House, private businesses, and other outside organizations.
Mac is also widely respected as an innovator and strategic thinker.  He was one of the first in Congress to recognize the need to confront the threat of terrorism. Six months before the tragic events of September 11, 2001, Mac introduced a bill to create a new Department of Homeland Security, which formed the basis of legislation signed into law by President Bush 20 months later. He has also played a major role in shaping national policy on transformation of the military and strategic nuclear issues. In addition, he is at the forefront of efforts in Congress to protect the country from threats ranging from terrorist attacks to nuclear proliferation.
Born in Clarendon and raised on the family ranch in Donley County, Mac graduated from Clarendon High School before continuing his education at Texas Tech University. After obtaining a B.A. in history from Tech in 1980, he went on to the University of Texas Law School where he graduated in 1983. For the next several years, he worked in Washington, including serving as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Legislative Affairs in the State Department under President Reagan.In 1989, Mac joined his brothers in the cattle business and practiced law in Amarillo.  He was first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1994.

Mac’s wife, Sally, is also a native Texan. They have two children.

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