|Congressman Griffith's Weekly E-Newsletter 3.25.13
Monday, March 25, 2013 ‚Äď
Budgets and Brackets
The House recently passed its budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2014. This proposal lays out a blueprint that, if followed, will balance the budget in 10 years. We did not develop our spending addiction and trillions in national debt in just a couple of years. In order to make necessary cuts without inflicting unnecessary pain, we must make adjustments over time. The government must learn to live within its means and not spend money it doesn‚Äôt have.
In the wee hours of Saturday March 23, the Senate passed its first budget proposal in nearly four years by a margin of 50 ‚Äď 49. The Republicans and several Democrats opposed the Senate budget and stated that it did not go far enough to seriously address our fiscal crisis. Virginia‚Äôs Senators voted for it.
Meanwhile, both the House and the Senate continue to wait for President Obama to submit his budget plan, which was due February 4. Despite finding time to fill out his March Madness basketball bracket, President Obama is nearly two months past the deadline to submit his budget plan to Congress ‚Äď a deadline he has met just once in the last five years.
The Senate budget takes a different approach than we took in the House ‚Äď the Senate-passed budget proposal increases taxes by nearly $1 trillion, increases spending, and never balances. In fact, the Senate budget is projected to add trillions to our debt because it lacked meaningful cuts and actually had additional new spending.
I am pleased that the House has passed a balanced plan, and am encouraged that the Senate has finally returned to the regular budgeting process. The President‚Äôs long-overdue budget proposal would have been helpful, and is supposed to be submitted before the House and Senate have done their plans so that some of the President‚Äôs preferences can be included. The President‚Äôs lack of leadership means that neither the House or the Senate has incorporated his thoughts or preferences.
Technology Meets FDA
As we approached the third ‚Äúbirthday‚ÄĚ of the President‚Äôs health care reform law commonly known as Obamacare, the House Energy and Commerce Committee held a series of hearings focused on health information technologies and potential regulations on smartphones, tablets, mobile apps, and similar health information technologies. Fellow Committee members and I heard testimony from doctors, health professionals, and patients on these innovative technologies and their impact on advancements in medical care.
For example, scientists recently used an iPhone 4s, an $8 ball lens, a flashlight, and double-sided tape to create a sort of microscope that was then used to diagnose intestinal worm infections in students in rural Tanzania. This innovative thinking could potentially help the estimated two billion people throughout the world affected by intestinal worms. Despite saying they weren‚Äôt going to regulate iPhones etc., when I asked Christy Foreman, an official at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), if they would regulate this $8 hack on the iPhone used to diagnose intestinal parasites, she responded in essence ‚Äėif it‚Äôs a diagnostic tool, yes.‚Äô
This debate is important. Why? Because if the FDA deems an item to be a ‚Äúmedical device,‚ÄĚ the IRS then comes in to tax it 2.3 percent under the Obamacare medical device tax.
We must be careful to avoid regulations and taxes that could hurt this sort of advancement and unnecessarily raise the cost of health care.
Cutting our own Budgets
On top of having already cut each Congressional office by 18 percent, recently we also cut Congressional committee budgets on average 11 percent. These cuts will limit Congressional trips and make each Committee be more efficient.
For example, the Energy and Commerce Committee, on which I serve, among other cuts is not only watching its travel budget but also has gone to paperless hearings. Previously, a Committee hearing might produce thousands of pages of material for the members. And now that material can be accessed over the internet instead of being placed at each members‚Äô desk. These reasonable cuts were approved by Congress with bipartisan support.
As always, if you have questions, concerns, or comments, feel free to call my Abingdon office at 276-525-1405 or my Christiansburg office at 540-381-5671. To reach my office by email, please visit my website at