e-News May 22, 2009

1. Memorial Day: Take Time to Remember
2. The Week Just Past
3. Frelinghuysen raises aircraft noise in Congress
4. Blasts Administration Plan for the Port
5. Bad idea of the Week
6. House Approves Defense Acquisition Reform
7. Probing Report that “Warned” America about Veterans
8. Spread the eNews
9. Contact Rep. Frelinghuysen

Memorial Day: Take Time to Remember

"This weekend, I will be participating in numerous Memorial Day observances across the region as we remember the 651,000 Americans who have died in the service to our country. 

“Despite the fact that some 200,000 of our fellow citizens are today serving in uniform in hostile regions very far from home, far too many Americans see Memorial Day weekend only as a long weekend marking the end of the school year, the opening of pools, and the beginning of summer.

“It is easy to forget that in faraway lands, Americans in hot, dusty uniforms patrol dangerous streets mined by our enemies.  It is easy to forget that our freedoms are paid for with the lives of others few of us actually knew.

“They died at Concord, Gettysburg, in Flanders Fields, near Midway Island, at Chosin Reservoir or Khe San, or in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“Whether their graves date from this century or those that came before, on this weekend, I hope that all Americans will set aside a few quiet moments to remember, and honor, the men and women who have lost their lives in the service of the Nation.

“In those quiet moments, I also hope that the Nation will say a prayer for the families they left behind.”

The Week Just Past

A key House Committee this week moved toward approval of controversial climate change legislation.   The bill, proposed by Rep. Henry Waxman (CA) and Edward Markey (MA), may be debated by the full House soon.

Over 900 pages long, the Waxman-Markey bill contains four sections outlining new government mandates for renewable energy, mandates for energy efficiency, a “cap-and-tax” proposal, and a “transitioning” section focused on forestalling expected job loss. 

Higher Energy Prices:  The bill imposes a national “cap-and-tax” regime that will ultimately cost every consumer in America.  Independent researchers, CBO, and the President all agree that this cost will be passed to consumers.  Furthermore, almost every provision in the bill either increases the cost of energy directly or tried to keep it from increasing too much—such as a new federal renewable electricity standard that will likely cause electricity prices to spike. 

Fewer Jobs:  The bill does little to address the enormous loss of jobs that will ensue when U.S. industries absorb the cost of the “cap-and-tax” plan and other provisions.  This measure will probably send millions of American jobs overseas.  In addition, the bill mandates undeveloped technologies for coal-fired plants, causing these plants to close when they cannot comply with federal regulation.   

More Government Intrusion:  The bill creates a host of new federal requirements on everything from outdoor light bulbs and table lamps to water dispensers, commercial hot food cabinets, and Jacuzzis.  The bill will also increase the demand for electricity (to fuel plug-in vehicles via new hybrid incentives) at the same time as the other portions of the bill cause consumer electricity costs to spike. 

This legislation will have serious impacts on the U.S. economy and consumers.  According to one study (Heritage Foundation), by 2035 the Waxman-Markey bill would:

? Reduce aggregate economic activity by $9.6 trillion;
? Destroy 1,105,000 jobs per year on average, with peak years seeing unemployment rise by over 2,479,000 jobs;
? Increase the average per-family-of-four costs by $4,800/year;
? Raise electricity rates 90 percent;
? Raise gasoline prices by 74 percent;
? Raise residential natural gas prices by 55 percent;
? Increase inflation-adjusted federal debt by 26 percent.

Recommended Reading: Steven Pearlstein in today’s Washington Post: “Climate-Change Bill Hits Some of the Right Notes but Botches the Refrain”

Frelinghuysen raises aircraft noise in Congress

Charging that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is “tone deaf to the tremendous impact that aircraft noise has” on the residents of northern New Jersey, Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen used debate on legislation reauthorizing the programs of the FAA to bring the issue to the attention of Congressional leaders.

“Lately, there has been considerable discussion about increasing transparency in our government.  I offered this amendment because there have been conflicting reports about proposed changes by the FAA to the “Class B” airspace in the New York-New Jersey metropolitan area,” said Frelinghuysen as he offered an amendment to H.R. 915, the FAA Authorization Act of 2009. 

However, it has been extremely difficult to obtain information from the FAA about proposals that will have significant impacts on my constituents. This study I am seeking would require the FAA to take into consideration the noise and environmental impact of further airspace changes in this region.”

The amendment Frelinghuysen offered, and then withdrew from consideration, sought additional reporting from the FAA on potential changes to the ‘Class B’ airspace outside major airports in the New York and New Jersey metropolitan area. 

In an "on-the-record" discussion on the floor of the House of Representatives, the Chairman of the House Transportation Committee thanked Frelinghuysen for drawing attention to this issue.  “I share your concern about the FAA’s inability to sufficiently respond to inquiries from Members of Congress and their constituents,” said Chairman James Oberstar (MN).  “The issue of aircraft noise is very real and while I have been informed that the FAA has been working to take this issue into consideration, we must ensure that the FAA properly responds to Congress.” 

The FAA Authorization bill was approved by the House by a vote of 277 to 136.

Blasts Administration Plan for the Port of New York-New Jersey

Rep. Frelinghuysen today expressed his “strong objection” to the Obama Administration’s latest budget request for the Port of New York and New Jersey harbor deepening project.  

He was reacting to documents released this week which indicate the Administration’s budget proposal for the project is $64 million dollars, well below the approximately $119 million needed to keep the project completion date on track and significantly lower than last year’s funding level of $86 million.  For years, the Army Corps of Engineers has been working to dredge the main shipping channel of the Port to a depth of 50 feet, allowing the largest ocean-going vessels to use the port’s facilities.

In a letter today to President Obama’s Budget Director, Peter Orzag, Frelinghuysen urged the Administration to reconsider its proposal, noting that the New York and New Jersey Harbor deepening has been a project of ‘National Significance’ since the events of September 11, 2001.

He wrote, “The Port of New York and New Jersey, the third largest port in the nation, has been the engine that has kept our region’s economy moving providing almost 300,000 jobs and over 70 billion dollars of commerce a year.  Increasing the depth of our harbor has opened doors for more goods to be moved in and out.”

“As it has for centuries…our port provides for the continued economic growth of our region and the nation by creating jobs, reducing the costs of doing business and raising the standard of living for millions in the Metropolitan Area and beyond.”

“In light of the Administration’s stated desire to stimulate and sustain our economy through ‘shovel ready’ projects, this critically important dredging work should be one of highest priorities.” 

Frelinghuysen, the Ranking Member on the House Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development, pledged to “do everything I can to restore these funds.”

Bad Idea of the Week

President Obama said on Thursday some terrorists held at Guantanamo would be sent to U.S. prisons despite strong, bipartisan Congressional opposition, as he defended his plan to close the detention center.  The President made his case a day after the U.S. Senate, controlled by fellow Democrats, blocked funds to shutter the facility until he presents a detailed plan on what to do with the 240 terrorism suspects held there.

Congress Approves Defense Acquisition Reform

Congress on Thursday passed a final version of legislation aimed at changing the way the Pentagon buys weapons.  The Weapons Acquisition System Reform Through Enhancing Technical Knowledge and Oversight Act of 2009 is focused heavily on tracking weapons during their early development stages to prevent significant cost increases before a system’s price tag spirals out of control.

“There can be no doubt that cost overruns and schedule delays on weapons systems damage our national security,” said Frelinghuysen.   “They dilute our military’s cutting edge and waste taxpayer dollars.”

The General Accounting Office reported last year that the Defense Department's 96 largest weapons programs had exceeded their original costs estimates by a combined total of $296 billion and were, on average, two years behind schedule.

Probing Report that “Warned” America about Veterans

A key House Committee this week voted to begin a formal inquiry into the development and distribution of a contentious Homeland Security Department report that described military veterans as possible recruits for extremists.  The House Homeland Security Committee unanimously approved a resolution of inquiry that calls for Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to turn over all documents used to draft the report "Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment."

“When this assessment surfaced in April, I was disturbed by its content and the suggestion that returning war veterans posed a potential threat to the homeland,” said Frelinghuysen, a veteran of the Vietnam conflict.  “Many Americans shared my view and I am pleased the Committee voted in a bipartisan way to get to the bottom on this insulting report.”

The full House must now approve the resolution of inquiry.
Congress Fails to Pass Funding bill for Afghanistan and Iraq
With the Army and the Marine Corps beginning to run short of money to carry out their missions in Afghanistan and Iraq, Congress has failed to finalize a Supplemental Appropriation bill.  

"This is the legislation that provides our deployed soldiers, Marines, sailors and airmen the support they need to protect themselves and do their jobs,” said Frelinghuysen.  “Passing this funding expeditiously and getting it to our commanders in the field must remain a priority.”

The House and Senate have each passed different versions of the same bill.  However, there was agreement on one major point:  the House and the Senate have both rejected the Administration’s request for $80 million to close the terrorist detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.  The President had asked for the funding as part of the Afghanistan Iraq Supplemental Appropriations bill.  The final version of the bill to fund operations in southwest Asia will be considered in early June.

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