Couple of happy updates to share with you all this week. You may remember that earlier this year I wrote about a small, but nonetheless significant issue facing many of our residents in southern Spring Hill. This problem concerns the lack of sidewalk on Quality Drive. Combined with the absence of a cross walk, handicap and elderly residents are prevented from having safe access to the hospital and local shopping center.
This problem was originally brought to my attention by Ms. Arlene Sollis, a heroic octogenarian who has battled a severe cerebral palsy condition her entire life. She wasn’t supposed to live into her teenage years. And yet, eight decades later she is still fighting the good fight for safety and access, for herself and others.
So back in February the prospects of the Quality Drive sidewalk project were questionable at best. We didn’t really know how long it was going to take to complete. We didn’t even know if there would be adequate funding. And we certainly didn’t know whether the County would view it as a priority.
But now, just a few months later, we are many steps closer to making this project a much needed reality. I am extremely pleased that the Hernando County Commissioners recently voted to single out, amplify and expedite the 1,000 foot strip on Quality Drive as its own independent project. Adding to the great news, the Commission was also able to approve an ample public-private partnership funding mechanism thanks to some good folks at Cemex who swooped in last minute to push it over the top.
We are looking at a quicker completion timeframe, and there are the resources to make it happen.
This is a win for those with accessibility needs. This is a win for everyone who uses Quality Drive, both pedestrians and drivers. And perhaps most importantly, this is a win for our beloved community.
And this brings me to an inspiring meeting I had in my Washington office with Ian Britt. This 26-year-old is also from Spring Hill and suffers from an extremely rare degenerative terminal illness called Cockayne Syndrome (CS). It’s estimated that there are only 50 living children in the United States with this condition. Heroically, many traveled with their families to Capitol Hill to meet with their Representatives. Ian was joined by his mother and two brothers, one whom is in the Army and the other who will be shortly their spirit was undeniable and unbreakable. Wendy and I were extremely touched by their love, positivity and perseverance as a family unit. Even in the face of prolonged hardship that comes with supporting a child with a condition that requires constant attention, dedication and sacrifice, they showed tremendous strength, vision and optimism.
Ian as well was not meant to live long after his birth, and the family is incredibly honest about his ever-worsening health. The truth is he doesn’t have much time left on this earth. There is no known treatment for Cockayne Syndrome. The condition is mired by premature aging, microcephaly, sensitivity to sunlight and neurological delays. And still, he was in full spirit, smiling, fist-bumping and excited as could be to visit our Nation’s capital.
The reason they came was not to ask for anything in particular. They just simply want to raise awareness awareness for the fact that rare diseases are just that, rare. And as such, they receive much less attention, much less dedicated funding and much less scientific research.
You see, the free market is a fantastic system and it’s responsible for this incredibly prosperous society that we’ve built. And limited government is absolutely part of the secret sauce in America’s amazing experiment. But there are blind spots that markets can’t reach. Pharmaceutical companies simply can’t justify spending the large amounts of R&D dollars to create a cure for something that only affects a few dozen people every year. They’d never make that money back. So if the government is going to invest in basic scientific research, the pursuit of treatments for rare diseases seems a sensible place to allocate those resources. Who knows what else we may discover along the way. Frequently, some of our greatest breakthroughs have been surprises in pursuit of something very different.
In closing, these are two perfect examples of why it’s so important to take the time to reach out to your representatives. While American’s have an understandable belief that “Washington doesn’t listen”, the truth is, many individual representatives do. It’s how we learn, it’s how we grow, and it’s how we become more effective advocates for the people we represent. You would be amazed at what a difference it might make. So on that note, please keep me posted as things come up and as always, have a safe and restful weekend.
Member of Congress
I spent 38 years in law enforcement. From patrolling the night shift in a police department in a Chicago suburb to serving as Sheriff of Hernando County in Florida, I have been witness to unimaginable acts by horrendous criminals. I’ve been held at gun point by a deranged individual. I’ve had to bury my friends that I went through the police academy with. I’ve had to tell children that their parent was never coming home. I know first-hand what so many people in the law enforcement community are feeling right now; a somber combination of frustration, anger, pride, fellowship, conviction, sorrow and loss.
It’s not an easy job and it’s only getting harder. Many times situations arise where judgement and action need to be weighed in an agonizing split second. Do cops always make the right decision 100% of the time? Absolutely not. Does all the amazing work that cops do on a daily basis go unreported and underappreciated? Absolutely. The hard truth is that perfection is impossible while safeguarding the public, protecting oneself and subduing a criminal all in the heat of an intense moment.
No matter one's station in life, an innocent person, badge or no badge, doesn't deserve to be a target for violence. Period. And the perpetrators of such violence, no matter who they may be or what they claim to represent, deserve to be met with the full weight and force of the law.
This is why Dallas is such an unspeakable tragedy. It appears this mass murder was a planned, coordinated and executed attack on officers of the law simply for wearing the uniform of their community. At least five officers are dead, with even more seriously wounded. This tragedy is the worst attack on the police community since September 11th.
And so I leave with what that means to me personally. As we all enjoy precious time with friends and family over the coming days, think about the fact that a handful of police officers in Texas will never get that privilege ever again. Slain by someone with a heart of pure evil, these heroes will never again step foot in their homes, never see their kid’s next little league game, never get to share a meal with those they love ever, ever, ever again.
Give some time and thought to what the families and the Dallas Police Department are going through at this very moment. Something of this scale is as unexpected as it is unimaginable. And to the families most especially, we need to let them know that not a day goes by that we don't think of the officers who died in the line of duty and this tragedy will be added to that ever growing prayer.
Criminals and murderers and terrorists will never divide us. They may try to kill and shoot and intimidate, but their method of evil will not break our country or our communities. Ever.
Member of Congress
I think it is important that we address something that happened last week Around lunchtime on Wednesday (June 22), the Democrats decided to hold a protest in the House. A handful of them took a seat on the floor (literally on the floor) in an unprecedented effort to block the House’s proceedings until they got the gun control votes they wanted. They yelled and chanted and sang songs and spoke solemnly about the victims of gun violence. And when they thought the cameras were away, they smiled and laughed with each other and sent out fundraising emails. There are many ways to get your point across and move legislation forward. This wasn’t one of them.
I believe there are ways that we can step up our game from a security standpoint while still protecting the rights of innocent Americans all over the country. Many of my colleagues feel this same way as well. I look forward to this upcoming week when the House will take up the Homeland Safety and Security Act. This legislation will bring new and expanded authority to the Department of Homeland Security to pursue and prioritize radical Islamist terrorism threats within the U.S. It will also place an increased emphasis on weeding out those traveling to and from the States with an affiliation to terrorist networks. Additionally, this bill will revoke U.S. passports of individuals who belong to designated foreign terrorist organizations or have aided, abetted, or provided material support to such an organization.
Last but not least, the final bucket of this legislation states that if you have been on the terror watch list and attempt to buy a gun, law enforcement will be notified. At which point the Attorney General would have the ability to delay the purchase so there is an ability to prevent the firearm transfer if deemed appropriate. In such a case, that individual could petition the decision in court and if they win, the government will be on the hook for any legal feels. That provides the due process component that I think most can agree is needed.
This process may well have been able to prevent the Orlando shooting.
Any longtime readers of this newsletter will know that I don’t mince words when I’m unimpressed with the Republican leadership of the House. But in this sit-in case, I think they handled it just right. They patiently let the Democrats have their stunt and after ten hours of shenanigans, they quickly reminded the Democrats that the House is an institution where the majority rules and the majority is elected by the American people. The House went right on ahead with the pressing business of the day we passed the remaining Zika funding and the budget bill for the VA and Military Construction. We brought the bills up and voted them right on through right over top of the childish screaming from our Democrat colleagues.
Rules, order, system the House is where democracy is supposed to work its way up in a respectful way. This publicity stunt tried to set a dangerous precedent and we showed them that the precedent wouldn’t stand. We’re not going to negotiate with hostage takers. We’re not going to roll over to a slogan. We’re going to tell people the truth and then we’re going to keep moving forward.
Reasonable people can and will disagree. But there’s a way to do it respectfully and with a fair and open mind. They picked the disruptive, disrespectful and disingenuous way. And credit to my colleagues in leadership for directly taking the high road and not surrendering principle while offering a workable solution for the week ahead.
As always, feel free to reach out to me with your thoughts on this or any other issue.
To close, I just want to wish everyone a very happy and safe Independence Day weekend. Monday marks the 240th anniversary of our nation's liberty and freedom. Let's all take a moment to reflect on the fathers and mothers, scholars and scientists, farmers and fighters who got us here. The United States of America is the greatest country in the history of the world. God bless.Read More
A week ago, our neighbors to the east suffered a homegrown terrorist attack. The shooter was an American citizen. His father (from Afghanistan) is an open and vocal supporter of the Taliban. As more information trickled out, it became clear that the shooter had been investigated multiple times by the FBI, had been placed on the terrorist watch list and had been removed. Had the shooter remained on that list, his weapons purchases would’ve flagged him for increased surveillance. Instead, 49 civilians were killed and dozens more wounded.
For me, as the former head of a law enforcement agency, it’s hard not to focus on how things could’ve been handled differently. The FBI held a press conference with their staff laughing on camera before the Director came out to announce they’d done everything right. In the days since, we haven’t been having a serious, somber conversation about what we’re going to do differently to stop this threat. Instead, way too many people have started treating this as a political opportunity. Some Democrats in the House actually protested a moment of silence for the victims saying that instead of offering a prayer for the victims, we should be taking up their gun-banning legislation. No matter how strongly one may feel about a legislative issue, I don’t think that’s appropriate.
In the days since, nobody has been talking about what we could or should be doing to stop ISIS abroad so they stop being able to inspire and facilitate attacks at home. Nobody is talking about the steady trickle of refugees from Syria and elsewhere still coming into this country with insufficient background checks. Nobody is talking about the sorry state of readiness in our military that cripples our capabilities and puts our people in danger. And nobody seemingly, is asking tough questions about how the son of a Taliban cheerleader who just shot a hundred Americans after being reported to the FBI by two separate sets of people was not deemed to be a threat.
You’ve heard plenty from me over the last few months about ISIS and our military. You’ve heard me talk about the half-hearted and unauthorized air war we’re relying on to stop this threat. We also need to focus on how we’re going to stop the lone attackers the ones who aren’t communicating their intentions. It’s an extremely tough question. But the terrorist watch list is a mess. Senator Ted Kennedy was famously on it and couldn’t get off. There are little kids and grandmothers who can’t get off it. And yet the son of a Taliban supporter who bragged about his own association with terrorist groups is cleared to do as he pleases without anyone checking after him. That’s crazy. We also don’t have any kind of system in place to notify us if somebody who’s been investigated for terror-related activities tries to buy weapons. That seems like a good place to focus some bipartisan attention.
If we restrict this debate to taking away Americans’ constitutional rights without any judicial review I think we’ll remain at loggerheads with no progress made. This threat isn’t going away. There will be more attacks. This one has shown just how close to home the threat can be. In the weeks ahead, I hope you’ll reach out with your views on what steps the government should be taking. Reasonable people can and will disagree, but I think we owe it to the victims of terror past, present and future to try and reach a consensus about what we can be doing better. I don’t accept the FBI Directors comments that this nation or their agency did everything possible. This is the strongest country on earth and we shouldn’t let anybody forget it.
Thank you as always for your time and please let me know what’s on your mind.
Member of Congress
This past weekend Wendy and I were helping one of our sons, who is now a Major in the Army, and his young family move into a new house.
During the move, we stopped by the base’s commissary to pick up a few essentials when we noticed a recent copy of ArmyTimes with the following headline, “Congress is Targeting Military Housing Stipends, and it Could Cost Troops Thousands.” The article is of course talking about the Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) and how the system currently assigns a determined stipend based on rank, family and zip code.
First, this news that Congress was considering reducing the BAH was shocking and scary to our daughter-in-law (and rightfully so). She told us that many others in the military community were apparently already expressing concern over the potential that their already-low housing stipends could be further cut.
Second, she looked at me as a sitting member of said Congress with a terrified look hoping I had an update and answers from Capitol Hill.
Frankly, I was certain there was no cut in the House version of the bill we just passed, so the breaking news headline caught me a bit off guard as well. Turns out, it’s actually the Senate who has quietly planted this potential bombshell in their version of the National Defense Authorization Act (the House completed ours a few weeks ago, they are now reviewing their version this past week and next).
Proponents of this harmful measure argue that service members who live off-base are taking advantaged of their housing allowance by living in smaller, less expensive dwellings or group-sharing scenarios and then pocketing the difference.
I argue that many of these folks are deliberately choosing to live in restricted housing situations because the cost of living combined with their relatively low salaries are forcing them to make tough decisions in order to survive.
But to harm service members and their families at large who are already struggling to make ends meet and are trying to make the most of their situation is reckless and insulting.
This is not the place to make cuts.
Look, the truth is that service members on and off of bases are not living a lifestyle of glitz and glamour they earn just enough to get by, provide for their family and hopefully save a little in the process.
On paper a reduction of the Basic Allowance for Housing program may seem like a good thing legislators love to make hypothetical and macro level percentage cuts in a show of reduced federal spending. And in general, trimming real fat is obviously a good and necessary idea. But in this instance, the hurt would come at a very micro and personal level, targeting the men and women and their families who sacrifice to defend our country.
Freedom isn’t free. Making sure that the troops can afford to house their families is part of that cost. And there is no way we won’t combat this provision, should it be included in the Senate’s final version of the NDAA and on to the conference discussion table.
To that end, I’d love to hear from you on this topic. Do you have any family members or friends in the service who are hearing murmurs about the Senate cutting their BAH? And feel free to pass along anything else that may be on your mind.
Enjoy the weekend.
Member of Congress
Not much to report this week that you haven’t already heard. The House was set to consider the annual Energy and Water Appropriations bill, but between increased spending levels over last year and a poison pill amendment successfully inserted by a House Democrat, the bill went down in flames (112-305). It’s unclear whether or not the Appropriations Committee will make the necessary changes and try again. It’s probably just as likely that they give up on the rest of the individual appropriations bills and instead roll all of them into a giant package once again. I’m not sure how many times over the last five years I’ve had to write you all lamenting these massive single spending bills, but it’s far too many. It’s a sorry way to do business, but it’s the status quo / path of least resistance in DC. Hopefully it will change for the better next year.
In the meantime, I just want to take a moment to recognize what Memorial Day means for this nation. For many people it’s the beginning of summer. A trip to the beach. Some hot dogs on the grill. For military families though, especially those who have lost a loved one, it is a solemn occasion as well. It’s a time when we recognize and memorialize those who have fallen. So if you know a family who has lost somebody in service to this nation or even if you only find a quiet moment by yourself, please keep those soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines in mind. Bow a head and remember that our military is an all-volunteer force and that it isn’t just those individuals who wear the uniform who sacrifice for us. It’s their children, their spouses, their parents, their siblings and their friends as well.
Thank you all again and have a safe and restful Memorial Day weekend.
Member of Congress
We’ve got a few big items for you this week: House passage of the National Defense Authorization Act, the Military Construction/VA appropriations bill and a significant federal resource package to combat the impending Zika threat.
I’ve talked plenty in recent weeks about the Defense Authorization, so I won’t take up your time with it this morning. For the most part, the big top line details about the MilCon / VA approps bill is a substantial increase in resources for VA over last year’s level. That’s a positive and I sincerely hopeCongress keeps after them about some lingering accountability issues.
The real news of the week that I think merits some consideration is Zika and how we should be responding to it. As I am sure you are aware by this point, the mosquito-borne virus causes serious birth defects and has already created a rolling emergency in the countries to our south. The sheer prevalence of Zika is so great in Brazil that it stands a serious health threat to those attending and competing in the upcoming Olympics. In fact, many athletes have already stated they will not attend for fear of contracting the virus. Needless to say, Zika is very serious.
Given that Zika can be spread through contact with both mosquitoes and humans, it’s easy to understand why Americans are beginning to worry Zika is only a short flight away from becoming a widespread issue on our soil and we are already seeing traces of this evolving health threat. To date, there are 503 cases of Zika in the United States and 701 more cases reported in American territories. A total of 113 pregnant women have been infected. If we break it down by state, Florida leads the confirmed Zika cases with 103, closely followed by New York (98), California (40) and Texas (32). The point is, Zika is exploding in slow motion and if we don’t do something soon especially with the height of the mosquito season upon us our expectant mothers and unborn babies are in grave danger (if you’ve ever seen a picture of the devastating effects of Zika, you know exactly what I am talking about).
In any case, the House had a contentious vote this week over how the federal government should proceed with funding how much for vaccines, how much for education, how much for mosquito control, how much to spend here, how much to spend there. In short, there is broad agreement about the top line number that the administration requested. The main dispute came over whether to provide the full amount all at once or in stages. The bill we passed provides $622 million in immediate Zika combat funding for the HHS, State Department and USAID. There is another $600 million or so we’re reallocating from an unused Ebola account. These are emergency “supplemental” dollars. Supplemental, of course, indicating that it’s outside of the normal budget for these agencies. The final tranche of funds will come in a few months during the normal budgeting process.
Every penny is paid for by cuts or reprogramming elsewhere, not a single new taxpayer dollar is needed. And the reason why the funding has a hard stop at the end of September is because October 1 marks the beginning of appropriation disbursement for 2017. This dual approach gives us more time to carefully consider what the federal government’s next step and additional support should be. Think of it as a tiered roll out, a significant down payment to eradicating Zika for good.
If it were solely up to me, we’d be doing this a little differently - a little more consensus building and a little less partisan shot-taking. We all agree on the urgency and the top line total amount. We agree more or less on where it needs to go. It seems like we should be able to figure it out from there. Frankly, given the urgency for Florida, I would like to go ahead and knock it out. It doesn’t need to take 5 extra weeks to get the resources into the field because we disagree on timing. Some of my colleagues voted against this 2/3 package because they wanted the final 1/3 to be included now as well. I understand where everybody is coming from, but this is classic Washington on both sides.
What worries me now is the potential inability to find a compromise. Zika is not some imaginary sci-fi threat, it’s a real life-damaging virus that is devastating families at an ever-increasing rate right here at home. If it’s allowed to get out of hand, we’re going to be looking at significantly more money later.
Everyone believes that something needs to get done. Everyone pretty much agrees on what needs to get done. It’s a sign of the times that even on something so widely supported, we can’t get to a solution without pulling our hair out.
End of the the day, this is about mothers and babies to me. I look forward to a quick compromise and I remain ready to work to make that happen.
I’d love to hear from you on this issue. Is this something your family is watching? Do you feel like you’re getting the information you need on Zika? Is there more we could be doing there?
Thanks as always and please let me know if there’s anything else on your mind as well.
Member of Congress
Well, this marks another week that we actually got something done in Washington (trying not to let arms tire from patting selves on back). In yet another moment of bipartisan and bicameral support, the Senate and the House came together to pass meaningful legislation aimed at addressing the ever-growing opioid epidemic. Even the President is on board with our plan.
Sadly, it’s a testament to the scale and severity of the problem that so many of us were able to get on the same page about changes we could make to help (the House passed the Opioid package by a vote of 400-5). Opioid abuse is truly crippling communities and destroying families across this Nation. Chances are you may know someone struggling with this fight. As a cop, I saw opioid abuse on a near daily basis – it’s a highly addictive substance that sometimes stems from very innocent beginnings – a prescription. And it’s not just criminals or youths that succumb to the damaging power of opioids, many of our senior citizens and veterans are also affected as well.
From helping babies born with a dependency and approving grants for overdose reversal drug programs to assisting police in curbing illegal trafficking and requiring the VA to improve its painkiller disbursement procedures – we passed 18 different bills this week that will absolutely make a difference in the opioid fight. This is another example of good legislation that returns oversight and control to state and local agencies as they know what’s best for their own communities.
As it happens, it’s also National Police Week this week. As you might expect, this is always a very moving time for me in Washington. Every year, thousands of police officers, troopers and deputies from all over the country travel to the nation’s capital to memorialize the officers who have fallen in the line of duty during the previous year. Given my many years in law enforcement, I have known far too many friends and colleagues who were struck down out in the field. A few of us went down to the House floor and spoke for a bit to bring some awareness about what it’s like to wear that uniform or to have a family member wear the uniform. If you’re interested, you can watch it by clicking here.
Finally, we also passed a piece of legislation this week that will enable members of the House and Senate to have a flag flown over the Capitol building to be given to the families of fallen first responders. It’s a small gesture, but I think it’s an important gesture. They asked me at the last minute to usher the bill through on the floor and it was a genuine honor to do so.
In any case, that’s the news of the week from Congress. If you ever need anything or have any questions, please let me know. Thanks again.
Member of Congress
I’ve got a rare bright spot to tell you all about this week. In the midst of an extraordinarily unproductive time in Washington, one vital piece of legislation is still being thoughtfully crafted, carefully deliberated, and overwhelmingly approved. That bill, my friends, is the annual National Defense Authorization Act. Any longtime readers of this newsletter will know how this process works, but for the sake of any new readers, I’ll give you the basic overview.
Most committees in Congress approve dozens of bills over the course of the year. Some are partisan, some are unanimous. Some are single page and some are massive. The House Armed Services Committee (which I am a very proud member of) only passes one single bill a year – the “NDAA”.
A year’s worth of work goes into it. We pour over every line item in the military’s budget. We consider policy changes, resource allocation, new programs, old programs, regional issues, global issues. We break everything down into subcommittees so we can specialize in various aspects of defense – personnel matters, sea power, emerging threats, nuclear deterrence, and so forth.
By and large, it works. The committee has a long and distinguished record of consensus building and genuine cooperation. We’ve passed our bill with bipartisan support and had it signed into law 54 years in a row. There is nothing comparable anywhere else in Congress.
Politics largely stops when it comes to the defense of this nation and that’s exactly as it should be. Of course there are some cheap shot amendments along the way and always a few gotcha votes, but compared to the rest of what goes on in Washington, it’s nothing short of a miracle each and every year.
On Wednesday morning at 10:00 AM, we began the marathon markup of the 794 page bill. We kept right on going, page by page, issue by issue until 2:45 am Thursday morning. We stopped only for votes on the House floor.
By the time the committee was done, having considered over three hundred separate amendments whittled down from 2,000 plus initial proposals, we voted on the bill as a whole and sent it to the full House for consideration by a vote of 60-2.
It may not seem it, but when you consider how divisive politics tends to get, how scarce the resources are, how big the budget is, how different the philosophies tend to be, to get that many people on the same page is pretty extraordinary. By and large, as I reflect on what I’ve seen during my time in Congress, I think it’s a pretty good model for how things should work.
We spend an entire year slowly and carefully moving through the weeds. When we hit a snag, we either work it out or we table it and revisit later. We build consensus one person at a time and one issue at a time. Everybody gets to have their voice heard and their suggestions considered. In many cases, including some policy provisions of my own, you spend years building that consensus. The first year you take a small step, perhaps asking the DOD to conduct a study on the feasibility of something. The next year, you ask some questions in committee hearings start to raise awareness and general knowledge. You spot the flaws and refine your own idea. The next year, having earned some support, you establish a pilot program and spend the year watching carefully to see how it goes. You make some tweaks, you talk to your colleagues, you talk to DOD and you see where things stand. Sometimes the support is there to move forward, sometimes you realize what you set out to do just isn’t feasible. Either way, because the process is so deliberate and careful, you tend to arrive at the correct conclusion and pretty much everybody is in agreement.
Too often in Congress, bills are written by a small group of insiders and the text is released at the very last minute. The bill then gets promptly rammed through without much input and with very little effort made to reach a real point of agreement. Nobody likes being on the receiving end of that. It’s basic human nature.
In addition, the more eyes you have on something, the more likely it is that you’ll spot the weaknesses. When you allow your critics to weigh in, instead of limiting input to a bunch of yes men, you’re going to end up with a better work product. It’s as simple as that.
The Armed Services Committee has a long history of working this way and that’s a huge part of the reason why it has continued to be successful – even in the midst of highly partisan spats over the wars we may be fighting or the commander in chief overseeing them.
Congress as a whole used to have that kind of collegial respect. We may fight like hell over just about everything (that’s what the Founders intended), but there was at least a real effort to build some trust and respect. I don’t think anybody in Washington feels that’s the case now. People are either intractable or left out of the process. They hate each other on TV and in real life. There is no sense of greater purpose for a lot of people. It’s all about winning the news cycle in an effort to win the election cycle. And while it would be unrealistic to think politicians will ever ignore such basic realities, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect some actual results along the way.
In any case, the institution had a good week. By extension, the nation it represents also had a good week. I’ve always been very proud to be a member of the House Armed Services Committee, but this week more than most.
Member of Congress
Over the past five years I have received countless letters from constituents expressing a general distaste for the Internal Revenue Service. And let me tell you, I share in the frustration. Although another tax day has come and gone, the IRS is always lurking.
Let’s recap some highlights (rather, lowlights) briefly. I think we all remember when the IRS deliberately targeted and audited groups based on their political beliefs. How about when they distributed nearly $50 million in fraudulent tax returns? Just last year, hundreds of IRS employees were found to have neglected the agency’s own guidelines when filing their own taxes. What’s worse, a handful of IRS employees failed to even file their taxes in the first place! To top it all off, the IRS recently issued millions in bonuses to its employees.
Give me a break.
The American people shouldn’t be afraid of their government. The government should be focused on serving the people. When bureaucratic agencies continue to abuse taxpayer dollars (and their power), it's no wonder that we the people distrust an agency like the IRS.
In light of all this, I am happy to report that your United States House of Representatives went to bat for you this week. Among other things, we passed a bill prohibiting the IRS from rehiring employees who have been fired for misconduct (probably shouldn’t have been necessary in the first place). We voted to eliminate the agency’s internal slush fund that was being filled by taxpayer user fees. We blocked the IRS from issuing employee bonuses. We’ve also passed legislation creating real incentives for the IRS to turn around its horrendous customer service record. Finally, if the Senate passes our bills and the President signs them, the IRS will be forbidden from hiring any new employee until it can certify that no IRS employees are delinquent on their own taxes.
While all of these measures are helpful, I’d really prefer to just get rid of the IRS in its entirety. I am one of the dedicated sponsors of a bill to do just that. The FairTax (which I think many of you already know) is an idea that I have been championing since the day I stepped into Congress. Frankly, I think it’s about time for our country to see taxation in a more sensible, just and transparent way.
As policymakers, our aim should be to make paying taxes as painless as possible, the burden as low as possible, and the efficiency as great as possible. The tax code we’re operating under now achieves none of those goals. Instead, it supports an agency vulnerable to bad actors, abuse and mismanagement. It’s time we scrapped the current code and started over with something better. The FairTax is that solution.
Taxes ensure a strong national defense and a robust infrastructure system along with the well-being of Social Security and Medicare programs. Taxes are a civic duty and the reality of a safe and secure country. As Benjamin Franklin once quipped, “in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” But the latter should not have to feel like the former.
Usually at this point I would ask to hear your thoughts about how you feel about the IRS – but, let’s be honest, it’s an agency that has little fanfare. Even though we may disagree from time to time, I think we can all stand in a shared disdain for the Tax Man.
And to that end, if you are having trouble with the IRS or any other federal entity, feel free to reach out to my office. We are here to help.
Member of Congress
1727 Longworth HOB
Washington, DC 20515
First, let me say what an honor it is to be your representative in Congress. While this may be a “digital” introduction, I really look forward to having a chance to meet with you in person and to hear your views on where this country should be headed. In the meantime, let me take just a minute to tell you bit about who I am and where I come from.
I was born and raised in a suburb of Chicago. My father was a steel worker and my mother, a dedicated homemaker. And while not without its ups and downs, I was mighty lucky to grow up in a time when America was at her best.
Right out of high school, I joined the Illinois Air National Guard. And as anybody who has spent time in America’s military can tell you, young people inevitably learn the value of leadership, teamwork, discipline, and self-reliance. My experience as a young man was no different. Honorably discharged after six years, I decided to continue serving as a police officer in the city of Romeoville, Illinois.
After twelve years, having achieved the rank of sergeant, my wife Wendy and I moved with our young son Ryan to beautiful Hernando County. I joined the Sheriff’s Office as a deputy and have been with them ever since. Over the years, I worked hard and rose through the ranks – eventually becoming Sheriff in 2000.
It’s hard to believe that it’s been almost thirty years since we came to Florida. All three of our boys, Ryan, Kyle, and Casey are now grown and as a Dad, I couldn’t be prouder of them. Ryan, our oldest, graduated West Point in 2004. Having spent a year in South Korea before a 15 month combat deployment in Afghanistan, he is now a Captain assigned to the Joint Multinational Readiness Center at Hohenfels Training Area in Germany. Before finishing his tour in Afghanistan, he signed up for three more years.
Kyle, his younger brother, is an Army ROTC graduate of the University of Tampa and is now assigned to the Florida National Guard as a Blackhawk pilot. And Casey, our youngest, is also following in his brothers’ footsteps. He graduated from West Point and is now a Lieutenant with the 1st Infantry Division out of Fort Riley.
As parents, it means the world to us to see our children putting service before self. Wendy and I have always emphasized the importance of service – to whom much is given, much is expected. We believe that as Americans, we owe it to future generations to make the sacrifices necessary so that this country will always be the greatest on earth.
Throughout my career as a police officer, I have seen the best and worst in our community. I know the great potential that lies there. My wife Wendy, as a school teacher, believes the same. Our experiences have shown us that the best solutions in our communities will come from small business owners, local leaders, and private citizens – all working together; not, as some believe, from the politicians and bureaucrats in Washington.
In my view, a government for the people and by the people, must be made up of the people. The best representative is a member of the community first, and a Member of Congress second. In keeping with that ideal, I promise you that I will always be available and ready to listen. I will always come back to the District because it’s my home and that’s where my family is. I hope that you will always feel free to reach out to me if you have questions or concerns, or even just to say hello. In the meantime, I wish you all the best and I hope to meet you soon.
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Chatted w/ Fraternal Order of Police, too often those who protect & serve us have their needs heard the least https://t.co/CJWfYD1SV2
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Thx for support, but Jobs & Keystone is more important to me than a committee slot. I’m voting Yes on Rule. http://t.co/X8uMfoiofu
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ICYMI - My take on the payroll tax situation: http://t.co/oqtz8fL4
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