Congressional Update from Rep. Bill Flores
The past two weeks have been eventful in Washington as we have started the second session of the 113th Congress. The House passed a bill to appropriate funds to operate the federal government for the remainder of fiscal year (FY) 2014 as well as two bills that continue to try and correct more Obamacare problems. Additionally, I have announced that my office will begin holding Mobile Office Hours throughout the district.
Transparency & Security Notifications for Obamacare
The House has passed two bills to help protect Americans from the damage of failed Obamacare policies. The first is the Exchange Information Disclosure Act. This measure requires the Administration be more transparent regarding their enrollment figures reports and transparent on problems that occur with Obamacare. The second is the Health Exchange Security and Transparency Act, which requires that consumers be made aware if their personal information, supplied while enrolling in Obamacare, has been compromised.
With the bipartisan passage of both the Exchange Information Disclosure Act and the Health Exchange Security and Transparency Act, the House has taken steps to ensure the American people can finally receive the true metrics regarding enrollment numbers and reports of technical or security issues that could place consumers at risk. The Health Exchange Security and Transparency Act will help give Americans some piece of mind that, by law, they will be notified if the website or exchanges are breached and any of their personal information is compromised.
Since its inception and throughout its troubled implementation, Obamacare has been riddled with failures. This Administration has not been forthcoming in reporting issues that arise nor how the Administration is working to correct these serious problems, including the failure to fully secure the healthcare.gov website. That is what the Health Exchange Security and Transparency Act is designed to address. Obamacare exchanges have created a massive collection of personal information, which the federal government has a duty to protect. As Americans continue to grapple with the routine failures and ever-increasing costs of Obamacare, American’s deserve to know that their personal information is safe and secure. In the event that their personal information is improperly released, the government should promptly notify the affected individuals.
Time continues to show that the president’s ill-conceived health care law fails in its primary goals. It does not: control costs, allow Americans to keep their current health care coverage, nor provide greater access to health care. As the implementation continues, it is no wonder that a large and growing majority of Americans oppose Obamacare.
I remain committed to repealing and replacing Obamacare with reforms that increase access to health care, lower costs, and improve the stability of this important segment of our economy. Americans deserve health care reforms that strengthen the doctor-patient relationship and give American consumers a say in their health care.
2014 Omnibus Appropriations Bill
The House also passed the Consolidated Appropriations Act, which funds the federal government through September 2014.
Last December, the House and Senate reached a bipartisan budget agreement to put our nation on a fiscal path that reduces economic uncertainty during FY 2014 and FY 2015. The House has now taken the next step by appropriating funds to operate the federal government through FY 2014. This bill was far from perfect, but by supporting, it we restore much needed order to the government funding process. In particular, it provides much needed stability to our nation’s military operations.
Some individuals and groups have concerns with various provisions of the bill. I share those concerns; however, on balance I believe that a “yes” vote was better for our country and our Texas constituents than a “no” vote. My reading and analysis of the bill reveals that the favorable provisions of the bill outweigh the provisions that were unfavorable and/or the conservative provisions that were missing from the bill.
When I ran for Congress in 2010, I had the privilege of having former Senator Phil Gramm as a trusted advisor and mentor. One of his principles, which we often discussed, is that if a piece of legislation moves us in the right direction, we should support it — even if it only moves us an inch or two toward our goals. In today’s environment, where conservatives control one-half of one-third of the federal government, we will sometimes only be able to move an inch or two. While certainly I would always prefer to be able to vote on bills that completely fulfill my conservative principles, these are not always available for consideration when voting on key issues like funding federal government operations and avoiding government shutdowns.
This omnibus appropriations bill represents a key promise kept by House Republicans to the American people: taking important steps to restore fiscal sanity in Washington. Accordingly, I was pleased to see that this bill continues to reduce federal spending by $21.4 billion below last year’s post-sequester spending levels. In fact, since conservatives regained the House majority in 2011, total discretionary spending has been cut by a cumulative total of $165 billion. This performance represents a stark contrast to the $210 billion in spending increases that occurred between 2007 and 2010 when Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid controlled Congress. It is also important to note that this bill reduces discretionary appropriations below the level spent during the final months of George W. Bush’s presidency. Since 2010, the conservative majority in the House has been able to cut spending for four years in a row – something that has not been done since the Korean War.
While this bill may not contain all of the spending reforms that I feel are needed, it is a step in the right direction, especially given the necessity for bipartisanship to get funding legislation passed through both chambers of Congress. This bill provides tough oversight of federal agencies, reduces regulatory burdens, provides for a strong national security, and promotes domestic energy production. The agreement protects our military from bearing the brunt of indiscriminate spending cuts, and moves those spending reductions to curtail certain mandatory spending programs. These changes represent small, but necessary, steps that allow us to begin making real reforms to these entitlement programs that are the true drivers of our deficits.
Some key points: the bill keeps Obamacare funding at post-sequester levels and does not allow for any new funding; it prohibits the IRS from using funds to target groups based on ideology; it bolsters oversight and increases transparency at the GSA; and it prohibits the NSA from using funds to acquire, store or monitor American citizens’ communications from public service providers.
In an area of significant importance to Texas District 17, the bill restores funding for basic research to more appropriate levels. This is an issue critical to the success the research activities of the three major research and educational institutions that have footprints in our district – Texas A&M University, Baylor University, The University of Texas. These institutions conduct important research activities that become the “seed corn” of knowledge and discovery for future economic growth.
When House Republicans passed our first “Path to Prosperity” budget in 2011, we pledged to put an end to budget gimmicks, accounting tricks, and needless waste. We have now passed an appropriations bill that includes no earmarks. By comparison, the March 2009 spending bill President Obama signed into law included approximately 9,000 earmarks.
Additionally, in response to concerns related to a provision regarding retirement pay for disabled military retirees that was included in the recent bi-partisan budget bill – this bill reverses that provision.
Most importantly, the omnibus appropriations bill eliminates the “Continuing Resolutions” (CR) that Congress has used to fund the federal government over the past few years. These CR’s, which contain little detail as to how taxpayer dollars are spent, essentially give a blank check to the Obama Administration and constrains Congress’ ability to force the Administration to follow the law. The just passed omnibus appropriations bill restores Congress’ Constitutional role as the branch of government, which is to set spending priorities, and thereby, places Congress in a stronger position to require the Obama Administration to follow the Constitution and the law. In addition, passage of this appropriations bill moves us into a direction to follow the process known as “Regular Order” where Congress to carries out the annual appropriations process in a fair, open, and transparent manner.
In summary, this funding bill is imperfect. Nonetheless, House conservatives understand that our current path is unsustainable and that we have a moral obligation to reset our nation’s fiscal course to restore America’s promise, prosperity, and security for future generations. We have aspired to achieve this goal since I was elected to Congress and this vote is another step to puts that talk into action.
Mobile Office Hours
My team and I are dedicated to working for the constituents of the 17th Congressional District of Texas. We are here to listen to our constituents’ comments and concerns and be available to assist them with problems they may be experiencing in dealing with federal agencies. By establishing Mobile Office Hours, my team will be more widely available to assist our smaller communities in the district. This will help us in keeping with our mission to provide excellent services to our constituents.
Members of my team will regularly host Mobile Office Hours throughout the district. They will be available to offer assistance with problems regarding federal issues or agencies, such as Medicare, Veterans’ Affairs, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, Social Security Administration, Internal Revenue Service, or other federal agencies. Constituents are also invited to share any comments or ask questions regarding other federal matters.
Mobile Office Hours are open to the public and no appointment is needed. For more information about hours and locations, CLICK HERE.
This session, I am hopeful that the House will continue to focus on creating more jobs and better paychecks for hardworking American families in order to help foster a growing economy. We also need to address our country’s broken immigration system. Additionally, we need to reform our tax code to make it simpler and fairer, and we should continue to develop solutions for American energy security. Last, but not least, I remain committed to repealing Obamacare and replacing it with better alternatives, based upon free-market principles and focused upon restoring the doctor-patient relationship.
As always, I encourage each of you to continue praying for our country during these challenging times, for our brave military men and women, and for our first responder personnel, all of whom selflessly serve and protect us each day.
With great respect,
Member of Congress