Washington Update - Championed a bill providing near-term benefits for patients, Questioned Secretary of Defense on religious freedom in the military, Opposed change in broadcast decency standards

Congressman J. Randy Forbes
2013-05-04 13:33:57
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Championed a bill providing near-term benefits to patients
Congressman Forbes, along with Congressman Lipinski (D-IL) reintroduced the Patients First Act, , to direct the National Institutes of Health to prioritize stem cell research that has the greatest potential for near-term clinical benefits by directing both basic and clinical research towards what is currently showing benefits in treating patients. Considering the progress that has been made in adult stem cell research, including the successful treatment of spinal cord injury, Type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and heart disease, it is increasingly important that we continue to focus our resources to encourage scientific development that does not involve the creation or destruction of human embryos.

Questioned Defense Secretary on religious freedom in the military

Congressman Forbes questioned Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel on the growing pattern of restrictions on religious freedom in the Defense Department during a hearing of the House Armed Services Committee.  Under last year’s National Defense Authorization Act, the Secretary is required to implement regulations to protect the conscience rights of our nation’s servicemembers and chaplains; however, these regulations have yet to be finalized.


Opposed change in broadcast decency standards

Congressman Forbes led a bipartisan group of 20 Members in sending a

Defense

Discussed the Navy’s future composition with senior Navy and Marine Corps leadership: Congressman Forbes attended a House Armed Services Committee hearing on the Navy’s FY 2014 budget submission, where he raised concerns about the composition of the Navy’s carrier air wings (CVW) with Navy Secretary Ray Mabus and Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert. Congressman Forbes asked questions about the Navy’s future plans for the CVW and the emerging technologies that will be needed to anchor the Air Wing for decades to come.

Chaired a Subcommittee hearing on Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force acquisition programs. Congressman Forbes chaired a hearing of the Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee to examine the overall decline in Navy shipbuilding and the trajectory of specific programs. The Navy’s top acquisition official, Assistant Secretary Sean Stackley, appeared before Mr. Forbes’ Subcommittee along with uniformed representatives of the Navy, Marines and Air Force. 

Received an award from the Shipbuilders Council of America: Congressman Forbes was honored with the Maritime Leadership Award from the Shipbuilders Council of America (SCA) for his work on behalf of a strong shipbuilding industrial base. In his remarks to accept the award, Congressman Forbes spoke about the importance of a vibrant industrial base capable of supporting a powerful Navy.

Veterans
Increased academic opportunities for veterans. Congressman Forbes cosponsored the GI Bill Tuition Fairness Act, , which requires that public schools enroll veterans at in-state tuition and fee rates to be eligible for attendance under the GI Bill. The bill ensures that veterans can attend an institution of higher learning that meets their specific needs without worrying about inflated costs that non-residents often face. Opportunities of this kind are currently offered in 13 states, including Virginia, and every state provides some type of tuition discount to a number of classes or groups of students. This bill guarantees increased options for servicemembers, regardless of their residency.

Supported elimination of the “Widow’s Tax” on military spouses. Congressman Forbes cosponsored the Military Surviving Spouses Equity Act, , which would repeal the dollar-for-dollar offset of payments between the Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) and the Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) program.  The Survivor Benefit Plan provides an annuity to the surviving spouse or children of servicemembers killed on active duty, as well as the survivors of retirees who die of a service-connected cause. The Dependency and Indemnity Compensation Program pays survivors of veterans who die from injuries or disease incurred in the line of duty or disabilities compensable under laws administered by the Veterans Administration. Currently, such offsets eliminate most of the SBP entitlement and affect nearly 60,000 widows and widowers.

Increased veteran opportunities for WWII-era Merchant Marines. Congressman Forbes cosponsored the World War II Merchant Mariner Service Act, , which would expand the options for World War II-era Merchant Marines to prove their service and become eligible for veteran’s status. Though Merchant Marines have been awarded such status through previous legislation, the lack of proper documentation still prevents many from receiving the recognition they deserve. Current required records include discharge logs, much of which were destroyed by the Coast Guard several decades ago. The bill directs the Secretary of Homeland Security to accept additional documentation when considering the application for veteran’s status, including Social Security Administration Records, a validated testimony by the applicant, and other forms.

Received the AMVET's Silver Helmet Award. On April 10, 2013 AMVETS presented its prestigious Congressional Silver Helmet Award to Congressman Forbes during a public reception on Capitol Hill. AMVETS is honoring him for his efforts to shield America’s military men and women from the effects of sequestration, and for his extensive legislative efforts in support of the veterans’ community.  Commonly referred to as “The Veterans’ Oscar,” the Silver Helmet is a unique silver replica of a WWII GI’s helmet. The first Silver Hemet was presented to Gen. George C. Marshall in 1954 at the AMVETS 10th Anniversary Dinner in recognition of his contributions as a soldier, statesman, and American. Today, the award recognizes excellence and outstanding accomplishment in the fields of Americanism, defense, rehabilitation, congressional service, and civil service.

Honored the Doolittle Raiders. Congressman Forbes cosponsored a bill,
, to award a Congressional Gold Medal to the Doolittle Tokyo Raiders. The Doolittle raid occurred on April 18, 1942, when Lt. Col. Jimmy Doolittle led 79 airmen and sixteen B-25 bombers on an unprecedented attack on the Japanese mainland to avenge the strike on Pearl Harbor four months prior. The raid was the first time since the 13th century that the enemy had touched Japanese soil, permanently erasing the Japanese aura of invincibility. It also boosted morale of the Allied Forces and the American people. The Medal will be available for display at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force.

Healthcare
Continued efforts to preserve access to vital medical equipment and services.  Congressman Forbes cosponsored the Medicare DMEPOS Market Pricing Program Act, , to replace the current Medicare DMEPOS competitive bidding program with a sustainable market pricing program, utilizing an auction system to establish market-based reimbursement rates that focus on competition and maintain critical access to quality equipment and services. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) uses a competitive bidding based price system for the procurement of durable medical equipment, prosthetics and orthotics supplies (DMEPOS). To date, no significant improvements have been made to the existing program or the bidding process, leaving a system that produced fewer competitors, fewer homecare services, and substantial decreases in the quality of care for seniors and those with disabilities.

Requested information on cuts to Medicare under sequestration.  Congressman Forbes joined over 50 Members in sending a

Energy
Called for action on the Keystone XL Pipeline. Congressman Forbes cosponsored the Keystone For a Secure Tomorrow Act, , to approve a specified project permit regarding certain energy-related facilities and land transportation crossings on the international boundaries of the United States for the Keystone XL pipeline. The permit is granted with several key stipulations, including measures to prevent or mitigate any adverse environmental impact or disruption of historic properties in connection with the construction, operation, and maintenance of the United States facilities. The permit also includes the Nebraska reroute evaluated in the Final Evaluation Report issued by the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality in January 2013. Congressman Forbes also cosponsored the Northern Route Approval Act, , declaring that no presidential permit shall be required for the pipeline application filed by TransCanada Corporation for the northern portion of the Keystone XL pipeline. This bill considers the Nebraska re-route evaluated in August 26, 2011 State Department’s Final Environmental Impact Statement to satisfy all requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, and takes measures to comply with both the Endangered Species Act and the National Historic Preservation Act. Lastly, a Judicial Review section is included to limit the potential for claims brought against the project to delay its completion.                                                               

Labor
Opposed unconstitutional NLRB activities.  Congressman Forbes supported the Preventing Greater Uncertainty in Labor-Management Relations Act, , to prohibit the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) from taking any further actions that require the board’s approval.  On January 25, 2013, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia issued a unanimous decision in Noel Canning v. NLRB, holding that President Obama’s January 2012 “recess appointments” to the NLRB were constitutionally invalid. This bill prevents the NLRB from enforcing any actions ordered since January 2012 until: a quorum of NLRB board members are confirmed by the Senate; the Supreme Court rules on the constitutionality of those recess appointments; or the term of those recess appointees expire at the end of this year.  The Preventing Greater Uncertainly in Labor-Management Relations Act protects the right of workers to petition for union elections and does not prevent the NLRB regional offices from accepting and processing unfair labor practice charges filed by an injured party – worker, employer, or union. This bill passed by a vote of 219-209.

Cybersecurity

Supported a voluntary program to protect our nation’s private sector from costly cyber-threats. Congressman Forbes supported the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act,   The bill does not require anyone to provide any information to the government; all sharing of information with the government is completely voluntary.  This bill passed by a vote of 288-127. 

Called for monitoring of cyberthreats. Congressman Forbes supported the Federal Information Security Amendments Act, This bill passed by a vote of 416-0.

Encouraged development in cybersecurity fields. Congressman Forbes supported the Cybersecurity Enhancement Act, This bill passed by a vote of 402-16.

Required a strategic plan on cybersecurity. Congressman Forbes supported the Advancing America’s Networking and Information Technology Research and Development Act, This bill passed by a vote of 406-11.

Foreign Affairs                               
Called attention to potential violations of sanctions on Iran. Congressman Forbes joined his colleagues in sending a Improved U.S.-Israeli cooperation on key defense issues. Congressman Forbes cosponsored the United States-Israel Strategic Partnership Act, , to enhance cooperation between the United States and Israel by designating Israel a “major strategic partner.” Under this improved partnership, the President may provide assistance for cooperation in the fields of energy, water, homeland security, agriculture, and alternative fuel technologies. The President is also encouraged to provide assistance for enhancement of the David's Sling Weapon System, the joint United States-Israel Arrow Weapon System, and the Iron Dome short-range rocket defense system. The bill amends the Israel Enhanced Security Cooperation Act of 2012 to extend authority to: (1) make additions to foreign-based defense stockpiles, and (2) transfer certain obsolete or surplus Department of Defense (DOD) items to Israel.  It also amends the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 to extend the grant program on research, development, and commercialization of renewable energy or energy efficiency. Finally, it establishes policy to include Israel in the visa waiver program when Israel satisfies such program’s inclusion requirements.

Proposed military tribunals for terrorist suspects. Congressman Forbes cosponsored the Military Tribunals for Terrorists Act, ,requiring that all foreign terrorists with links to terrorist networks who attack the United States or its Government be considered enemy combatants to be tried by military tribunals instead of civilian courts. More specifically, the bill requires trial only by a military commission for any foreign national who: (1) engages or has engaged in an offense relating to a terrorist attack against persons or property in the United States or U.S. government property or personnel outside the United States; and (2) is subject to trial for that offense by a military commission under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

Renewed demand for the immediate release of Pastor Abedini. Congressman Forbes has continued an urgent plea for the release of Pastor Saeed Abedini, who has been detained in Iran since last summer. In concurrence with a

Called for justice for American hostages. Congressman Forbes cosponsored the Justice for the American Diplomats Held Hostage in Tehran Act , establishing a common fund to pay claims to the American hostages held in Iran for 444 days after the U.S. embassy in Tehran was seized in 1979. The Algiers Accords, the final agreement that ended the hostage situation, barred the hostages from prosecuting any claim against Iran in U.S. courts. This bill would assert that Congress has determined that compensation to the hostages and their families through funds obtained by liquidating property held by Iran is fully consistent with the Algiers Accords.  The fund will stem from fines and penalties collected for violations of activities with respect to any government or person by reason of a connection with Iran, and seized or frozen Iranian assets or assets from persons or entities subject to Iran-related sanctions.

Family Values

Urged protection for health and safety of children. Congressman Forbes joined his colleagues in sending a Fought for conscience protections for business owners and health care providers. Congressman Forbes joined 91 Members in sending a Defended the lives of unborn children who are capable of feeling extreme pain.  Congressman Forbes cosponsored the DC Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, , which prohibits abortions in the District of Columbia on unborn children that are beyond twenty weeks gestation, on the basis that children at this stage of development can feel pain; however, the bill contains an exception for situations in which the life of the mother is endangered.        

Government Reform

Opposed awarding federal contracts to those delinquent on taxes.  Congressman Forbes supported the Contracting and Tax Accountability Act, This bill passed by a vote of 407-0.  

Agriculture

Supported job growth and opposed burdensome regulations.  Congressman Forbes cosponsored the Sugar Reform Act, , to reform outdated quota and import regulations that cost consumers and businesses an estimated $3.5 billion and 20,000 jobs each year.  The Sugar Reform Act authorizes the Secretary of Agriculture to suspend or modify marketing allotments, taking into account: (1) the interests of consumers, food industry workers, businesses, and agricultural producers; and (2) the competitiveness of domestically produced and imported foods containing sugar, revising sugar tariff-rate quota provisions to ease import restrictions from foreign sugar suppliers.

About Washington Update

Washington Update serves as a resource to the constituents of the Fourth Congressional District of Virginia on the work of Congressman Forbes. It is published weekly while Congress is in session. Hyperlinks to bill information are provided if the information disseminated by the House of Representatives is available at the time of distribution.

As always, Congressman Forbes welcomes your comments. To share your thoughts on legislation, votes or issues, please visit
http://randyforbes.house.gov to send an e-mail or call any of Congressman Forbes' three district offices.

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