E-News 3/25/11

1) This Week: Working with our Latin American Partners

2) New Intel Responsibilities for Rodney

3) Obamacare’s Anniversary


This Week: Working with our Latin American Partners

“I just concluded an official Congressional visit to four Latin American nations.  Traveling with several colleagues from the House Appropriations Committee, we met with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos Calderon, Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli Berrocal, Guatemalan President Alvaro Colom Caballeros and Mexican President Felipe de Jesus Calderon to discuss a wider range of issues, including national security, counter-narcotic operations and our mutual efforts to identify and defeat violent international terrorists. 

“While these issues are critically important, I recognize that the center of our efforts must be economic growth and the creation of private sector jobs here at home.  In this context, the focus of our discussion was the pending free trade agreements (FTA) that President Obama has refused to submit to Congress for approval.  The agreements with Colombia and Panama were finalized during the Bush Administration and have languished ever since.  These agreements, which will create thousands and thousands of jobs in New Jersey, must be ratified now!

“Why the sense of urgency?  The answer is simple.  While the Administration delays, America is being left behind. 

“Consider the case of Colombia.  We concluded our FTA with Colombia in June 2007 – nearly four years ago!  While the agreement waits for the President to act, other countries are taking advantage of our delay.  They have moved aggressively to sign trade agreements with Colombia. 

“As a result, many U.S. exporters now operate at a competitive disadvantage.  They’re forced to pay higher tariffs on exports to Colombia than do exporters from some of our key competitors. 

“And it will only get worse if we delay further: The Canada-Colombia trade agreement is expected to enter into force by July 1.  Colombia’s agreement with the EU is also expected to enter into force this year.  Colombia’s rapidly concluding its negotiations with South Korea.  Implementation of agreements by these other countries, and continued inaction on our agreement, will result in further missed opportunities to create U.S. jobs.  In fact, it will result in a decline in existing U.S. jobs. 

“I would point out that China’s investment in Latin America doubled from 2008 to 2009 alone, and Latin American exports to China increased by 900 percent from 2000 to 2009.  While China is now the largest trading partner of Brazil and Chile, the United States continues to be Colombia’s largest trading partner.  However, U.S. exporters’ share of Colombian imports fell 17 percent between 2001 and 2009, while Chinese exporters’ share nearly tripled!

“Let’s face it: our role in this hemisphere is at stake.  Colombia is a strategic ally in the war on drugs.  It is also a steadfast, democratic friend in a region that includes several increasingly undemocratic and anti-American leaders – like Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. 

“We need to stand with our friends. 

“The choice is ours. We either move forward, or we move backward.   ‘Holding in place’ is just not an option. American jobs and businesses will lose.”

Recommended Reading: Tim Padgett writing inTime Magazine, “Obama Goes to Rio: A Nod to Brazil's Growing Power.”

More Recommended Reading:  Roger Noriega, writing in the Sunday Washington Post, “Is there a Chavez Terror Network on American’s doorstep?

New Intel Responsibilities for Rodney

The Chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI), Mike Rogers (MI), announced this week an agreement that will more closely tie the Intelligence Committee overseers with the Congressional appropriators who provide the funding for the Intelligence Community.

The move means Rodney will participate in House Intelligence Committee hearings and briefings, in addition to his other Appropriations Committee duties.  This new arrangement replaces the former Select Intelligence Oversight Panel (SIOP) which was disbanded earlier this year.

 “This partnership will knit together the Intelligence Committee with the Appropriators and will allow key appropriators important insights into the intelligence community which they fund,” said Chairman Mike Rogers.  “The 9/11 Commission recommended that the Congressional authorization and appropriation committees work more closely on intelligence matters.  I am looking forward to working closely with Congressmen Frelinghuysen to eliminate the ‘daylight’ that existed between our intelligence bills in the past,” said Rogers.

HPSCI Ranking Member Ruppersburger (MD) said, “We must ensure our committees are coordinating and communicating to make certain we are giving our intelligence professionals the resources, tools and capabilities they need to keep our country safe.”

Further Recommended Reading: Charles Krauthammer, writing in today’s Washington Post, “Obama and Libya: The professor’s war:”

Obamacare’s Anniversary

This week marked the first anniversary of the enactment of the President’s government takeover of America’s healthcare system. 

Not surprisingly, just one year after being signed into law, the cost of Obamacare has spiked.  According to estimates of the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the cost of Obamacare has increased by $500 billion.  Meaning, in only one year, the cost has increased from a staggering $938 billion price tag to $1.445 trillion.

According to the Joint Economic Committee, back when Mr. Obama was running for President in 2008, he promised his health-care overhaul would cost no more than $65 billion a year “when fully phased in.” Now we hear the cost is going to be more than three times that much. The new health-care spending is on top of the deluge of Medicare spending, which will nearly double over the next decade, exhausting the Medicare Part A trust fund by 2020. 

“The past year has been one filled with broken promises,” Rodney said. “When President Obama signed into law the health care package, he promised it would create jobs, lower costs, and proclaimed, 'if you like your health care plan, you can keep your health care plan.' One year later, we understand the law actually stifles job creation, increases costs for all taxpayers, businesses, and states, and 2.6 million people thus far need a special waiver just to keep their current plans.”

“That’s why the Senate should join the House and take steps toward replacing Obamacare, bill by bill, with reforms that will bring down costs and expand health care accessibility. This is an opportunity to ensure that our families remain in control of their own health care through a system that is patient-centered and provides health care choices, not Washington-imposed mandates.”