In January, President Obama delivered the State of the Union (SOTU) Address to the country. He put forward a renewed call for economic growth, job creation, and greater opportunity for all Americans, which I welcomed. Unfortunately, his record over the past five years offers every indication the President remains unwilling to work across the aisle to achieve these ends.
Despite his appeal for new spending restraints, the President has fought against House-led efforts to balance the budget. Despite his call for more jobs, the President has fought House-led efforts to take action on job-creating initiatives such as completion of the Keystone XL Pipeline project. Despite assurances from the President that he is working to repair the damage being done to the economy by his health care law, his Administration has fought against House-led efforts to replace the law with reforms that actually lower costs and expand access for American families.
While Washington can seem broken at times, I remain committed to working on your behalf to advancing solutions to the challenges we face as a country. The purpose of this newsletter is to offer you an update on this work and a snapshot of legislative and constituent service accomplishments over the past year.
We've made some good progress in the halls of Congress and across the 5th District, working on behalf of individuals, families, businesses, seniors, veterans, and those with disabilities. Until we cross paths again, I hope you find this update helpful and informative.
Congressman Glenn 'GT' Thompson
Constituent Casework: The most rewarding part of serving the people of the 5th District is being able to help individuals and families. From accessing a federal agency like the Social Security Administration to navigating the often complicated process of applying for grant funding, my office prides itself on offering the best possible constituent services. During 2013, our office managed 968 cases throughout the year.
- Casework County-by-County: The following is a breakdown of the work handled by our office county-by-county: Cameron- 12; Centre - 176; Clearfield- 84; Clinton - 72; Clarion - 32; Crawford - 30; Elk - 34; Erie - 75; Forest - 14; Huntingdon - 36; Jefferson- 78; McKean - 41; Potter - 28; Tioga - 3; Venango - 48; Warren - 61.
Picture: Thompson working on constituent casework.
- Active Duty Personnel: Our office helped 105 constituents with Defense related issues. Success stories include working with the Defense Finance and Accounting Services agency to help active duty personnel resolve payment errors, obtain wage statements, and expedite discharge resolutions.
- Veterans Affairs: Our office helped 208 constituents with Veterans Affairs issues. Success stories include working with the National Personnel Records Center to help Veterans, widows and family of veterans obtain certified copies of military records so that individuals and families may apply for veterans benefits.
- Social Security: Our office helped 247 constituents with Social Security related issues. Notable success stories include our office working with the Social Security Administration to help a constituent who was critically ill with End Stage Renal Disease receive disability benefits that were wrongfully terminated.
Constituent Correspondence: Our office places a top priority on answering constituents’ questions and concerns about pending federal legislation, thoughts on current issues, or my work in particular policy areas.
- Correspondence County-by-County: During 2013, our office responded to 72,189 constituent letters and emails. The following is a breakdown county-by-county: Cameron–546; Centre–19,706; Clarion–2,683; Clearfield–6,077; Clinton– 2,468; Crawford–916; Elk–2,554; Erie–7,887; Forest–617; Huntingdon–2,290; Jefferson–4,133; McKean–4,101; Potter–1,841; Tioga–1,528; Venango–4,795; Warren–3,383.
Constituent Outreach: As you may know, the 5th District spans 16 counties and over 10,711 square miles, and covers 23.3 percent of Pennsylvania’s total land mass. To put this in perspective, the 5th is larger than the land mass of nine states. For this reason, travel is absolutely critical for me and the office staff as part of outreach to communities.
- Outreach by The Numbers: During 2013, I traveled 33,432 miles to towns and municipalities across the 5th District. While not in Washington, I spent 109 days traveling on 287 trips to all 16 counties. Our office staff traveled on 1,030 trips to all 16 counties in 2013. We held over 100 constituent office hours in locations across the 5th District.
Ending Washington's Habit of Spending Beyond Our Means: Passing a budget is something Washington has been incapable of achieving for too long, which is one reason why our national debt is 18 trillion dollars and growing.
- First Bipartisan Budget in 27 Years: In December of 2013, the House and Senate passed the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 (H.J.Res.59), which represents the first bipartisan budget produced by a divided Congress in 27 years. The bill prevented the Senate’s push for new tax and spending increases and continued my commitment to deficit reduction. This is a notable shift, especially given the Senate has failed to even consider its own budget for the past 4 years. I’m proud to say the House has considered and passed a budget for the last 4 consecutive years.
Leading on Job Creation, Economic Growth: Agriculture is a bright spot for Pennsylvania’s economy. The industry supports close to 100,000 farmers and hundreds of thousands of job in the Commonwealth, and over 16 million jobs nationally. For the past two terms, the House Agriculture Committee has been working to reauthorize the Farm Bill, which governs our nation’s agriculture programs.
- Most Significant Reforms To Agriculture Programs in Decades: On February 7, 2014, the President signed into law a new Farm Bill, which represents the most significant reforms to agriculture programs in decades. As a Subcommittee Chairman on the House Agriculture Committee, I am proud of the hard work put forward by members from both parties. This bill is proof that when Congress works hard to build consensus, we can find ways to improve the economy, but at the same time, reform government and reduce spending.
- Farm Bill Support Job Growth, Deficit Reduction: This bill supports job growth while reducing our deficits and improving key programs that support our family farms, foresters, agribusinesses, and the host of industries that are related to Pennsylvania’s number one industry, agriculture. The farm bill also includes the Forest Products Fairness Act, which I introduced. This measure will open new market opportunities for forestry producers and help to promote healthy, well managed forests. Overall, the Farm Bill reduces deficits by $16.6 billion over 10 years.
Leading on Education: Working to ensure access to high quality and affordable education for more students, including those in our rural communities, has been a fundamental priority of mine in Congress. During the past year, I continued this fight.
- Named National Education Policymaker of the Year: On March 6, 2013, I had the honor of being named the National Policymaker of the Year by the National Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE). The award is presented annually to a federal lawmaker who has made a significant impact on policy related to career and technical education programs. For the past two terms, I have served as the Co-Chairman of the bipartisan Career and Technical Education (CTE) Caucus. My fellow Co-Chairman, Rep. Jim Langevin (D-RI), was the other policymaker to receive this award for 2013.
- Education Reforms Advance: On July 19, 2013, the House passed H.R. 5, the Student Success Act, which would reform and reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), also known as No Child Left Behind (NCLB). The bill included language based on a bill I introduced, “The Education for Tomorrow’s Jobs Act,” which would provide new flexibility for school districts to integrate academic and technical instruction, and encourage the creation of educational partnerships among school districts, institutes of higher education, local industry, and other stakeholders.
Picture above: Thompson meets with students from Penn State University.
Supporting Our Men And Women in Uniform: Our military must remain strong and adequately equipped, in order to enforce the peace. My promise is to serve and advocate for those who serve this country in uniform – both during and following service.
- Military Transition Support Amendment Signed into Law: On December 26, 2013, President Obama signed into law the 2014 National Defense Authorization Act. The bill included an amendment I introduced that will expand and improve the Transitional Assistance Management Program (TAMP). TAMP offers health care coverage for service members transitioning into civilian life. The amendment extends TAMP by an additional 180 days for all services rendered through telemedicine, to ensure that coverage is available for those with Post Traumatic Stress, the symptoms of which often do not appear until 8 to 10 months following deployment. The amendment builds on the 2011 STEP Act, a bill I sponsored, now Public Law 112-81, Section 713, which expanded service member health care services and the use of telemedicine at the Department of Defense. (Click here).
- Military Community Praises Thompson STEP Law: From the Stars & Stripes Military Newspaper: “The Defense Department is in the process of implementing the Service member Telemedicine eHealth Portability Act (STEP), which will make it easier for service members to get more virtual medical care, particularly mental health counseling. The act cuts through legal red tape and allows DOD-contracted healthcare providers to treat patients in other states and countries…Rep. Glenn Thompson, R-Pa., father of an Army staff sergeant deployed in Afghanistan, sponsored the bill…The STEP Act will increase the number of doctors and counselors available to active-duty service members, when the military’s dense medical manual is changed to reflect the new law…” (Stars & Stripes Newspaper, 4/26/2013)
The President's Health Care Law: The Affordable Care Act (ACA) is weighing heavy on the minds of Americans, including so many across the 5th District. The law’s estimated $1.5 trillion in new spending is unsustainable and its burdensome new regulatory regime of mandates and taxes is harming families and small businesses. I have voted to fully repeal the ACA and have advocated for reforms that actually lower cost and expand access. In the meantime, we have a responsibility to prevent even more economic harm from being imposed upon hard working Americans.
- Protecting Americans from the ACA: Although the Healthcare.gov website launch was a severe disappointment, an even greater concern has been expressed regarding the website’s security vulnerabilities - including the security of personal and medical information. Unfortunately, it has become very clear that the rushed implementation of the launch has affected the site’s ability to perform on both accounts. For this reason, in early January, the House passed H.R. 3811, the Health Exchange Security and Transparency Act, to ensure that individuals are notified if their personal information has been compromised through the website. Despite the Obama administration’s vocal opposition to the effort to boost transparency and consumer protections, a veto-proof majority of Republicans and Democrats voted, 291-122, to pass H.R. 3811.
- Protecting our Volunteer Firefighters: Under the ACA’s employer mandate, volunteer organizations with 50 or more employees could be forced to provide health insurance or pay penalties, which could potentially devastate these organizations. On December 11, 2013, I joined with fellow House colleagues in introducing the Protecting Volunteer Firefighters and Emergency Responders Act (H.R. 3685), which will ensure that emergency services volunteers are not counted as full-time employees under the ACA’s employer mandate. As a result of these efforts, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) recently announced they will not treat volunteer firefighters as employees under the ACA, which is a huge win for these local volunteer organizations and the populations they protect.
Energy Security: Since the early seventies our country has been spending hundreds of billions of dollars a year on energy imports to fulfill our energy needs – money that could otherwise be used to invest in our kids and pay down the debt. It’s time for us to get serious about ending our reliance on foreign sources of energy, which begins by developing more energy here at home. Over the past year, I’ve advanced these principles.
- Expanding Domestic Energy Resources: The Republican-led House has kept its focus on promoting energy policies that lower energy costs, grow jobs, and increase our energy security. Most recently, in November, the House acted on a package of bills that will expand domestic energy production, improve energy transport, and ultimately increase energy affordability for consumers and American families across the country (Click here to learn more).
Picture: Thompson interviews with local television before the President's SOTU Address.
American Competitiveness: The recent economic downturn is a reminder of how critically important education and job training opportunities are to students and workers in an increasingly competitive global economy. That's why I have worked to strengthen and expand our skilled workforce, in order to preserve our nation’s technical job base and remain globally competitive.
- Supporting Our Skilled Workforce: The President in his 2012 SOTU Address called for an overhaul of the nation’s workforce and investment programs. During the past year, the U.S. House passed legislation known as the Supporting Knowledge and Investing in Lifelong Skills (SKILLS) Act, which would to reauthorize the Workforce Investment Act (WIA). The Senate has failed to act on this critical bill that supports job training and a strong American workforce. As a member of the House Education Committee and Co-Chairman of the CTE Caucus, I will continue my push to strengthen our workforce training programs.
- Thompson Special Needs Trust Fairness Act Advances (click here).
- Thompson Calls for Subpoenas Over Obama Administration’s Handling of Secure Rural Schools Funds (click here).
- Thompson Takes to Floor to Call for Action to Protect Constituents from Dramatic Flood Insurance Rate Increases (click here).
- Statement on the “Keep Your Health Plan Act,” Measure Passes House with Bipartisan Support (click here).
- Thompson Supports Bill to End Dragnet Collection of Americans' Phone Data, Add Meaningful Oversight of Surveillance Programs (click here).
- Inspector General investigating medical supply contracts under Medicare following request by Rep. Thompson (click here).