EPA Funds Anti-Farmer Billboards
Last week, I signed on to a letter to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy demanding answers on how taxpayer dollars could go to fund an anti-farmer campaign. This letter came in response to reports that the EPA gave out grant money to a group in Washington State to fund billboards, a website, radio advertisements, and electronic communications that were blatantly anti-agriculture. There is a strict prohibition in federal law of any funds being used by a federal agency for publicity or propaganda. The EPA Inspector General had already notified the Agency that there were problems with how those grants were being monitored after awards were distributed. Furthermore, this comes in the wake of similar EPA violations regarding their use of social media to advocate for the flawed Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule. Even beyond the violation of these publicity and propaganda prohibitions, it is unacceptable that a campaign funded by the EPA would target farmers, who are some of the most careful stewards of the land. I consider this behavior outrageous and irresponsible and I look forward to Administrator McCarthy’s response on how this was allowed to happen.
Introducing a Bill to Strengthen Our Economy
Last Thursday, I introduced H.R. 5027, which is a bill to help re-balance the interaction between banks, consumers, and the Federal Reserve (Fed). Over 100 years ago, the Federal Reserve System was created and at that time, banks agreed to own stock in the Fed two different ways. Half of the stock would be paid into an account and half of the stock would be held ready in case the Fed called it in due to a national need. Never in the history of the Fed has that money been called in. In return for not having access to the half of the stock money paid into that account, the Fed would pay a six percent return to the banks. This was not ideal, but it was a situation both institutions could accommodate. However, in December of 2015, Congress passed the FAST Act, or Highway bill, which fundamentally changed how financial institutions interact with the Fed by taking away that six percent fixed return. I opposed this change which caused the rate of return to float according to how U.S. Treasury bills do over a ten year span. The result is an artificial reduction in returns – in essence, a bank tax. It forced one sector of the economy to pay for spending in a completely unrelated sector of the economy. To help re-balance this relationship, my bill allows most of the money that is currently sitting “dead” in the Fed’s account – unable to be used by anyone except the Fed, and then only in times of need – to re-enter the economy and be used efficiently. It can go to consumers and small businesses as loans, make infrastructure payments, or strengthen the financial system by being held by the bank in reserve. The Fed, meanwhile, will continue to have access to the exact same tools it has now because the money being taken out of that account can still be called by the Fed in a time of need, just like the half the banks have held all along.
The Flooding in Houston
Dana and I continue to pray for those affected by the flooding in the Houston area. I have joined a bipartisan group of Texas Congressional leaders in lending our support to Governor Abbott’s request for a major disaster declaration on behalf of the counties impacted by these severe storms. Hopefully President Obama will move quickly to approve this request, and any subsequent requests we must make when more thorough damage assessments can be completed in the coming days.
WASHINGTON – Rep. Randy Neugebauer (R-TX) released the following statement today following the introduction of his bill to free capital currently held in limbo in the Federal Reserve System:
“Today, I introduced legislation to ensure capital in our financial system is allowed to be put to its most efficient use. Currently, financial institutions are required by the Federal Reserve Act to subscribe to stock in the Federal Reserve System. One half of their total stock subscription is required to be held at the Federal Reserve in a “paid-in” account. This account currently holds roughly $30 billion in idle capital. Historically, banks were paid a dividend of six percent on their paid-in capital. This ownership structure, giving banks a vested interest in the Federal Reserve System while also maintaining a stable return, is a remnant of legislation passed over 100 years ago.
“Last fall, Congress passed the long-term highway bill known as the FAST Act, which unfortunately decreased the dividend the Federal Reserve paid to stock subscribing banks. I opposed this dividend reduction, which forced one sector of the economy to pay for spending in a completely unrelated sector of the economy.
“As a result of this dividend reduction, banks experienced an artificial reduction in their return on investment – in essence, a bank tax. At a time when our economy continues to see tepid growth, it only makes sense to free up capital and allow it to be put to its most efficient use. Banks can use this newly free capital to lend to consumers and small businesses, make infrastructure investments, or hold it in reserve, which strengthens the financial system – the ultimate purpose of the Federal Reserve.
“Throughout the process of developing this legislation, I strived to ensure that the Federal Reserve retained the tools it has today with respect to regulation of banks and the safety of the financial system. Though they have never had to use it in the over 100 years the Federal Reserve has existed, the ability it has to call in capital in a time of economic stress and the level of capital it is able to call upon remains unchanged. My legislation in no way challenges the Federal Reserve’s authority to fulfill its responsibilities.
“At its essence, my legislation is a response to an action that fundamentally changed the way financial institutions interact with the Federal Reserve. Over 100 years ago, banks agreed to a system where they paid into an account and held ready to be called a portion of their holdings, and in return received a six percent dividend. Congress took that away. My bill helps rebalance the interaction between banks and the Federal Reserve by releasing capital from these accounts where it is ‘dead’ – unable to be used by anyone except the Federal Reserve in a time of need – and freeing it to improve our economy and overall stability.”
Congress to Vote on Bills Protecting Taxpayers
This week, Congress is going to vote on four bills aimed at stopping unacceptable behaviors by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) over the last few years. These bills are intended to protect the hard-working taxpayers from poor customer service and bad behavior by the IRS. This agency has handed out bonuses to their own tax delinquent employees and been notoriously difficult to reach for answers to important questions during tax season. To address these problems, we are going to vote on legislation which will ensure that every IRS employee pays their taxes, prohibit the IRS from re-hiring someone that was fired with cause, ban IRS bonuses until the agency can demonstrate improved customer service, and require fees collected by the IRS to be subject to Congressional appropriations. Each of these seems like a common sense idea, yet the IRS has managed to have problems in each area. I am especially concerned with the lack of oversight of how the money collected through fees is used by the IRS – this is the taxpayer’s money and it needs to be spent in accordance with American priorities through a transparent budget process.
Protecting Community Banks and Increasing Regulatory Accountability
Last week, I was proud to speak on the House floor in support of two bills that were voted out of the Subcommittee I chair, the Financial Institutions and Consumer Credit Subcommittee of the House Financial Services Committee. I spoke out and voted to protect the ability of community banks to continue to exist in the harsh regulatory environment created by the Dodd-Frank Act, which has caused the closing of over 1,000 community banks since its passage. H.R. 3791 seeks to support community banks by allowing bank holding companies to finance the transfer of ownership of a small bank to a small bank holding company through debt financing, something that the Federal Reserve generally discourages, but which is necessary to complete these transactions. I also voted to hold accountable some of these regulatory bodies that cause the environment of regulation that is so hostile to small banks. The Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC) and the Office of Financial Research (OFR) are both currently outside of the normal budget and appropriations process. This means that while heads of these bodies have appeared before Congress, it was not to make the case for what a good job they’ve been doing and to lay out the reasons why they ought to get the funding they request. Instead, they have been able to set their own budget without this Congressional oversight. H.R. 3340 would bring both FSOC and the OFR under the normal appropriations process, thereby improving their transparency and accountability.
Texas Tech Visits DC
This week, I look forward to seeing Chancellor Duncan, interim President Opperman, and other administrators from Texas Tech as they travel to Washington, DC. They are coming on their annual trip to update Texas lawmakers about the great things happening in Lubbock and to talk about the university’s federal priorities moving forward. I am constantly reminded what a wonderful institution Texas Tech University is and Dana and I are honored to be alumni. Of course, a favorite part of their visit to DC will be a taste of home – Red Raider Meats and COWamongus ice cream.
Congressional Art Competition
I’d like to invite all high school artists to participate in this year’s Congressional Art Competition. The competition is open to all high school students in Texas’ 19th District, and the lucky winner will have an original artwork on display in the Capitol Building for a full year. I walk through the hallway that displays each district’s winners almost every day that I’m in Washington on my way to vote. Visitors from across the country who come to tour the Capitol will see your work too. It’s a beautiful display of America’s young artists. You can learn more about how to submit your work here, and you can contact Joel Riedel at email@example.com or at (806) 763-1611 with any questions. Remember, the deadline for submissions is April 22nd.
WASHINGTON – Rep. Randy Neugebauer (R-TX) released the following statement today after the House of Representatives passed H.R. 3340, the Financial Stability Oversight Council Reform Act:
“One of the reasons I support bringing the Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC) and the Office of Financial Research (OFR) under the normal appropriation budget process, through H.R. 3340, is that it adds layers of transparency and accountability for these regulatory bodies. Both FSOC and OFR were created by the Dodd-Frank Act to provide oversight and accountability to the financial sector, yet they themselves have been operating without sufficient oversight. This bill simply asks these two regulatory bodies to come to Congress and give reports on what they have been doing to justify the money they are requesting for their budget, just like every other Federal agency. This might rein in the uncontrolled behavior FSOC exhibited in designating MetLife as a non-bank Systemically Important Financial Institution (SIFI), a decision that was recently struck down in Federal court. The judge observed in that ruling that FSOC did not even follow its own internal policies. Removing FSOC and OFR from the ability to establish their own budgets and instead come under true Congressional oversight is an important step in protecting our economy from opaque and unaccountable government regulation.”
Examining the Financial Pressure on the Agriculture Industry
This Thursday, the House Committee on Agriculture’s Subcommittee on General Farm Commodities and Risk Management will hold a hearing on the national farm economy, focusing specifically on the growing financial pressure many producers are facing. With today’s low commodity prices for cotton, I continue to hear from producers throughout the 19th District that they are struggling to keep their operations going. This situation has been made worse by Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack’s decision to not designate cottonseed as an oilseed under the Farm Bill. This hearing will once again bring attention to the financial pressure facing the agriculture economy. I hope that these discussions help paint a clear picture of what our producers are facing so that Secretary Vilsack and other Members of Congress, who may not directly represent agriculture interests, truly understand the seriousness of the situation. Cotton makes up the backbone of our local economy and we must continue to focus on this issue to ensure the industry not only survives, but is able to thrive.
More Executive Overreach
The United States Department of Labor (DOL) released their final fiduciary rule last Wednesday. This rule seeks to change how financial advisors give advice about retirement savings. Despite the serious concerns raised by many during the comment period of the proposed rule, the DOL moved forward. Though I agree with the DOL’s objective, to ensure that financial professionals are serving their customers’ best interests, it is frustrating that the requirements of the rule will likely make it hard or impossible for many advisors to provide retirement guidance to clients who have lower account balances. This is because they are being forced toward a fee based transaction system. Furthermore, this rule is being issued by the DOL, whose area of regulation only touches on retirement law. It is not being issued by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), who specifically and regularly oversees complex securities transactions. Unfortunately, I believe this rule will significantly limit the access to and choice of retirement products for American consumers. If it weren’t enough to have one DOL rule overreaching its authority, the DOL is also considering another rule that would disproportionately impact small businesses and the middle class. The overtime rule would force companies to pay employees who make less than $50,440 annually to pay them overtime under some circumstances. This hurts the businesses that have to restructure salaries and hourly wages. It also hurts the employees who lose the freedom to have flexible hours or work remotely without as much oversight.
At Home in the 19th District
As always, it was nice to be home last week and have a chance to talk to constituents in Texas’s 19th District. I most especially enjoyed the opportunity to welcome the Lubbock Christian University Lady Chaps home to Lubbock with their National Championship trophy. I could not have been more proud of these young women as they returned victorious! The Lady Chaps are wonderful role models for young girls in West Texas. Additionally, the State Champion Brownfield Cubs were gracious enough to host me at their school where I presented them with a flag that I had flown over the United States Capitol in honor of their victory.
WASHINGTON – Rep. Randy Neugebauer (R-TX) released the following statement today in response to the United States Department of Labor’s (DOL) release of their final fiduciary rule, which imposes burdensome new standards on retirement advice:
“Despite the serious concerns raised by many during the comment period of the proposed fiduciary rule, the DOL has moved forward with finalizing this rule. Though I agree with the DOL’s objective, to ensure that financial professionals are serving their customers’ best interests, it is frustrating that this rule will have a disproportionate impact on Americans with more modest retirement account balances. In order to comply with the DOL’s fiduciary rule, onerous requirements will be placed on financial advisors and the likely result is that many advisors will not find it feasible to provide retirement guidance to clients who have lower account balances. Unfortunately, I believe this rule will significantly limit access to and choice of retirement products for American consumers.”
Department of Labor’s “Persuader Rule”
Last week, the Lubbock Chamber of Commerce joined four national and state business groups in filing a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Labor to challenge their new Persuader Advice Exemption Rule or “persuader rule.” The rule would require businesses who seek advice from attorneys or consultants at the prospect of workers unionizing to report that to the Department of Labor and to the employees contemplating becoming a union. Hence, the name “persuader rule” because these outside consultants often help the business formulate a strategy to try and persuade their employees not to form a union. This rule presents a number of problems. While the business would be forced to inform the employees about seeking outside advice, the same reporting would not be required of the union. Clearly this presents a double standard that puts the business owner at a disadvantage. Specifically, groups like the Lubbock Chamber of Commerce object to this rule because they sometimes provide advice to businesses regarding union organizing activities. This rule would therefore threaten the ability of any business facing unionization to join or maintain membership in organizations such as the Chamber of Commerce. It is my sincere hope that the Department of Labor avoids the need for the courts to intervene and rethinks this rule which would harm businesses, especially the small and midsize businesses that are some of our biggest job creators.
Visiting Schools Across the 19th District
One of my great joys as a United States Congressman is having the opportunity to speak to and interact with the young people who represent our future as a nation. The preamble to the U.S. Constitution makes it clear that what we do as lawmakers is not only for nation’s current needs but also for “our Posterity.” As such, I’m excited to visit several schools across the 19th District of Texas this coming week. On Tuesday, I will have the pleasure of congratulating in person the Brownfield High School Boys Basketball team on their first ever State Championship. I will also be spending time with the students at Rush Elementary School in Lubbock. Finally, on Wednesday, I will speak to Second Graders at Lubbock-Cooper Elementary School about the functions of government.
Supporting Texas Landowners
I joined Representative Mac Thornberry (R – Clarendon) and 18 fellow Texas Congressmen, along with both Texas Senators, in an amicus brief supporting Texas private property owners along the Red River border with Oklahoma. The dispute revolves around the official border the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has been using on the Texas side of the Red River. Back in 1923, the U.S. Supreme Court established the border between Texas and Oklahoma as the center of the Red River, even as the river changes its course. So over the years, the border between the two states has changed slightly due to normal erosion and sediment deposits. However, BLM wants to claim as federal land parts of privately owned land in Texas that extend well beyond the sandy bank area of the river that the Supreme Court intended. This decision by BLM has prevented some Texas landowners from being able to sell, improve, or otherwise change their private property in the disputed area. While we wait for the findings of the court, the House of Representatives has passed a bill (H.R. 2130) with my support, reinforcing the Supreme Court’s decision, and I hope the Senate will consider it soon.
WASHINGTON – Rep. Randy Neugebauer (R-TX) released the following statement today in response to United States District Judge Rosemary Collyer rescinding the Financial Stability Oversight Council’s ‘systemically important’ designation of insurance company MetLife:
“Today’s ruling in MetLife’s financial stability case affirms what we have known for some time. Since its creation, the Financial Stability Oversight Council has failed to live up to basic principles of responsible government, including transparency and accountability. It makes arbitrary decisions, fails to adequately respond to Congressional oversight, and acts politically for the interests of this Administration. When you act in secret and without public dialogue, you will eventually be held accountable for your actions. That is what happened with today’s Court ruling.”
Supreme Court Hears Little Sisters of the Poor Case
In a challenge to the contraception mandate of Affordable Care Act, a group of Catholic nuns named the Little Sisters of the Poor took on the Federal government last week before the Supreme Court. At issue was whether the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) could mandate that the health insurance offered by the Little Sisters provide no cost contraception – a provision that is against their moral and religious beliefs. HHS proved unwilling to give the Little Sisters, and other religious groups, the same accommodation it gave large corporations, like Pepsi, and large government plans, including the U.S. military family plan. The accommodation those plans were “grandfathered” into allow those employees seeking no cost birth control to obtain coverage through the government exchanges, thereby not forcing the employer to in any way cover it. I look forward to hearing the Court’s determination on this subject and sincerely hope that they uphold one of the founding ideals of this country: the freedom to practice your religion and sincerely follow your conscience. For that reason, I signed on as an Amicus Curiae, or friend-of-the-court, with 206 fellow Members of Congress to support the defense of religious liberty.
The Terrorist Attacks in Brussels, Belgium
Dana and I continue to send our thoughts and prayers to the people of Brussels. The terrorist attacks on the airport and public transportation were a senseless loss of life, including at least 4 Americans. Just four days before the assaults, one of the ISIS terrorists suspected of being a ringleader in the Paris attacks of November 2015 was captured by Belgian law enforcement. These attacks seek to break us apart and inspire fear, but we refuse to allow that. We stand united to oppose terrorism.
The EPA’s Regional Haze Program
Last Wednesday, I had the chance to question Mr. William Yeatman of the Competitive Enterprise Institute on how the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is implementing its Regional Haze Program in Texas. I was struck by the fact that Texas submitted its plan to comply with the EPA’s program in a timely manner, yet the EPA did not abide by its own 18 month review policy. Instead, the agency waited six years to inform Texas that its plan was unacceptable and put in place a Federal Implementation Plan (FIP). That FIP imposes measures that just cannot be met. That is one of the reasons why the state of Texas filed a lawsuit against the EPA earlier this month. The EPA is attempting to force Texas to spend over $2 billion to achieve aesthetic benefits. Furthermore, Texas has already achieved the goal the EPA set for 2018 via the FIP process, but the EPA still seeks to force Texas to comply with further measures.
Dana and I hope you all had a wonderful Easter full of faith, family, and friends. God has abundantly blessed us to serve the 19th District of Texas and we appreciate the opportunities we have to reflect on all our blessings. I hope your day was filled with the joy and the renewal of Easter. He is risen!
President Obama Visits Cuba
In the wake of reopening the U.S. Embassy in Havana, President Obama travelled to Cuba this weekend in an effort to thaw diplomatic relations with the island nation. This makes him the first sitting U.S. President to visit Cuba since Calvin Coolidge in 1928. However President Obama’s attempts to improve relations have not encouraged any dramatic economic changes for either country, nor have the President’s policies changed the Castro regime’s continued violations of human rights. By easing the diplomatic and some economic sanctions on Cuba, the authoritarian government there is being rewarded without being required to reform. I will continue to fight to maintain the trade embargo on Cuba. Without Congressional action, President Obama cannot unilaterally lift this embargo.
Questioning Secretary Lew on the State of the International Financial System
Tomorrow, I will have the opportunity to question Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew on the State of the International Financial System. As the world economy becomes increasingly interconnected, it is key for decision makers at all levels and branches of government to have a good understanding of the health of the global capital markets. I will welcome the testimony of Secretary Lew on this subject and appreciate the unique perspective he has as the head of the U.S. Department of the Treasury. One of the subjects I am most eager to question Secretary Lew about is his lack of leadership on trade issues facing our country. Particularly, the way in which the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) has been negotiated to preserve President Obama’s favored Dodd-Frank law while placing U.S. financial services companies at a global disadvantage. Similarly, I am looking forward to hearing from Secretary Lew about the Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC), which he chairs, and their application of arbitrary standards to designate companies as “systemically important.” This entrenches the idea of companies being “Too Big to Fail” in our economy and is done without the transparency needed for the companies to be able to change their practices. If companies do not know what they are doing to cause risks to the financial sector before being categorized as “systemically important,” how are they going to prevent these practices from becoming problems?
Neugebauer Receives ‘Spirit of Enterprise’ Award
I am honored to receive the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s ‘Spirit of Enterprise’ Award for supporting free enterprise in America during the first session of the 114th Congress on behalf of the 19th District of Texas and small businesses across the nation. The best way to grow our economy and keep our country strong is to support the small businesses that are the primary engine of job creation. Fostering an environment in which businesses have the opportunity to thrive is one of my top priorities in Congress. That is why I will continue to promote policies that encourage innovation and prevent over-regulation.
1424 Longworth HOB
Washington, DC 20515
Congressman Randy Neugebauer proudly represents the 19th Congressional District of Texas, which stretches across 29 counties. He has offices in the cities of Abilene, Big Spring and Lubbock.
As one of the most conservative Members of Congress, Randy works to keep Washington accountable to hardworking American taxpayers by requiring commonsense spending and borrowing limits.
Randy was raised in West Texas, and he is a voice for traditional Texan values in Washington. Randy graduated from Texas Tech in 1972 with a degree in accounting. He went on to work in real estate management, eventually starting his own land development company.
As a small business owner, Randy knows first-hand the dedication and commitment it takes to own and manage a successful company. He also knows how government regulations can quickly deplete the resources of a small business, causing hard times for families and communities. Randy brings this businessman’s perspective to Congress where he advocates for reduced spending, fiscal discipline, free markets, and limited government.
Randy serves on three committees in the House of Representatives, where he can work on legislation that directly benefits his constituents. He is a senior member of the House Agriculture Committee and the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee. Additionally, he serves as the Chairman of the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Housing and Insurance.
As Housing and Insurance Subcommittee Chairman, he’s working to reform the housing market, cut regulatory burdens, and shift risk away from American taxpayers and back into the private sector.
Randy’s legislative initiatives include eliminating wasteful federal spending, improving crop insurance, and supporting diverse domestic energy sources. He continues to work on legislation that will empower the constituents of the 19th Congressional District.
Randy’s support of conservative principles has been recognized by many groups and organizations. He has received the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Spirit of Enterprise Award, the Club for Growth Defender of Economic Freedom Award, and the Taxpayer’s Friend Award from the National Taxpayers Union. He has earned a 100% lifetime rating by National Right to Life. He has been recognized by National Journal as one of the six most conservative members of the U.S. House of Representatives. In addition, Randy serves as an Assistant Republican Whip to House Republican Whip Kevin McCarthy.
Randy is married to his high school sweetheart, Dana, who is a Ropesville native. Together they have two sons, two daughters-in-law, and are the proud grandparents of three boys and one girl.
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Today I questioned EPA Regional Admin McLerran about flawed processs & refusal to reassess Pebble Mine decision https://t.co/jAwh1HjgPn
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On this day 180 years ago, Texas won its independence at the Battle of San Jacinto. I'm proud to be a Texan! https://t.co/lsqPyp6Ujl
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GAO confirms the FDIC and Fed 'living will' process for banks w/ over $50 bil in assets must be more transparent. https://t.co/43pvrsGtrm
Today, I questioned Dennis McLerran, EPA Administrator for Region 10, on the Pebble Mine in Alaska. Despite sworn testimony and a GAO report
It was great seeing so many fellow Texans today as I spoke to the Independent Bankers Association of Texas on the challenges facing our community
On this day 180 years ago, Texas won its independence at the Battle of San Jacinto. I'm proud to be a Texan!
Remember that all entries for the District 19 Congressional Art Competition are due one week from today, April 22, 2016. See my website for more
Loved seeing fellow Red Raider Josh Abbott Band while he was at the Capitol today!