Thompson Times April Newsletter (2011)

Mar 23, 2011

Hi Everyone,

As you know, Congress changed hands after the last election cycle giving Republicans the majority in the House of Representatives.  This change has brought new opportunities for the 5th District and new responsibilities for me in Congress.  One issue that I’m sure you’ve been hearing a lot about is Congress’s effort to deal with the federal budget, our growing deficit and America’s cumulative $14 trillion debt.  There is a lot of misinformation and name-calling regarding some of the tough but necessary choices being made to deal responsibly with this issue.  Despite the heated rhetoric over this debate, there is one simple truth we should all take away from this debate:  Washington can no longer fail to rein-in runaway spending as Americans continue to tighten their belts and make ends meet. Reducing out-of-control spending will require both discipline and sacrifice by all Americans to prevent the bankruptcy of America's future.
 
Tough But Necessary Decisions: Dealing with our National Debt, Deficit - Despite America’s worsening fiscal position, federal programs have received funding increases over the last several years that outpaced both inflation and the growth of the American family budget.  At a time when the federal government is borrowing 40 cents of every dollar that it spends and our debt is more than $14 trillion, in February the House passed a budget that represents tough but necessary choices we must take to protect the future of our country and economic security.  With an alarming $1.6 trillion deficit under the current fiscal year due in clear part to uncontrolled spending at almost every level of the federal government, we scrutinized every department and agency during this budget process.
 
Even with House passage of a long-term budget, these efforts have been stalled due to inaction in the Senate.  In the meantime, Congress has passed several short-term funding bills, through what’s called a “continuing resolution,” until the House and Senate can agree to a long-term budget. While short-term continuing resolutions are no way to run the federal government, we still have a government to run, and we certainly can’t afford the economic cost of shutting down the government.  Even if we all agree a program is efficient and needed, we can’t spend money we don’t have.

Healthcare Update:Having been a health care professional for 28 years, my  initial concerns with the health care bill passed in March of 2009 have now become a reality as this law continues to raise premiums, add to our debt and force more Americans out of work.  While I support parts of the bill such as children being able to remain on their parents insurance plan until the age of 26 and ensuring affordable coverage for those with pre-existing conditions, the law as a whole imposes more harm than good.  Ultimately, we must repeal this law and replace it with commonsense reforms that lower health care costs, expand access, preserve quality, and foster economic growth.  That’s why in January, I voted in favor of H.R. 2, a measure repealing this flawed law.  

 
Since that vote, I’ve continued to push to repeal some of the more destructive provisions of the law such as the burdensome 1099 tax reporting requirement, whereby businesses must report every expense they incur over $600.  Any typical small business in a given year may have hundreds of vendors and be faced with thousands of transactions, and these burdensome regulations would be death by a 1000 paper cuts for Pennsylvania’s economy.  In February, the full House passed H.R. 4, a bill repealing the 1099 requirement.  I was an original cosponsor to this legislation and proudly offered my vote in support of final passage.

Improving Medicare and Healthcare Delivery: Improving health care delivery continues to be a top priority for me in Congress.  This last week, I formally introduced H.R. 1041, the Fairness in Medicare Bidding Act, deficit neutral legislation to fix the Medicare Durable Medical Equipment Prosthetics, Orthotics, and Supplies (DMEPOS) competitive bidding program.  Created under the Medicare Modernization Act of 2003, the DMEPOS program’s goal is to create cost savings.  However, both provider and consumer groups have illustrated problems with the program, which will force smaller suppliers from the market, threaten Medicare beneficiaries’ quality of care and ultimately drive up costs.  We must allow for a marketplace where seniors have quality and choice and smaller, local providers are competing to deliver these supplies.

On March 17th in Washington, before a standing-room-only audience of reporters, small businesses owners and consumer advocates, I, along with Rep. Jason Altmire (PA-D), formally introduced H.R. 1041.  The level of support for the legislation has been astounding.  Within the last few weeks, more than 30 Members of Congress have joined in cosponsoring the legislation.  Medicare beneficiaries are entitled to high-quality, low-cost medical equipment and I intend to deliver on this promise by leading the effort to reform the current bidding program.

Named Co-Chair of Career and Technical Education (CTE) Caucus: During the last Congress I served on the Congressional Career and Technical Education (CTE) Caucus, to advocate one of the most important and effective ways for our communities to produce a well-educated and skilled workforce in the United States.  This year I was named co-chairman  of the CTE Caucus, and during the 112th Congress our goals remain the same – to enhance awareness in Congress of the importance of career and technical education and advance policies that improve skilled labor education and support tech-related small business job growth.

The latest reports show that almost 14.5 million students and displaced workers were actively participating in career and technical education programs during the 2007-2008 school year, and this number has grown significantly, including in the 5th District, as more individuals seek retraining during the current economic slowdown.  CTE programs play a vital part in ensuring that competitive, skilled workers are capable of holding jobs in high-wage, high-skill, high-demand career fields, and I look forward to this role as co-chairman of the CTE Caucus.

From the Association for Career And Technical Education’s Legislative Update:
 
Despite all the efforts to undermine CTE programs, on February 15, Congressional CTE Caucus Co-chair Rep. Glenn Thompson (R-PA) made a statement on the floor asking his colleagues to join the caucus and support CTE.  Rep. Thompson spoke about the importance of CTE and reminded members that these programs exist in every congressional district. He highlighted the importance of having trained, skilled workers and emphasized that CTE is the way to ensure we have a competitive, successful workforce. Reps. Thompson and Jim Langevin (D-RI) co-chair the caucus and have been circulating a letter asking other representatives to join...

Agriculture Subcommittee Holds Hearing on EPA Regulations:  I was recently appointed Chairman of the Energy, Conservation and Forestry Subcommittee on the House Agriculture Committee.  This appointment is a huge win for the people of Pennsylvania’s 5th District, where as Chairman I will have the opportunity to advance the best interests of agriculture communities in Pennsylvania and across the nation.

This past week the subcommittee held a public hearing to review the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL), a program administered by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to set mandated caps on nutrient and sediment runoff entering the Bay.  The Chesapeake Bay TMDL is a combination of 92 smaller TMDLs for individual tidal segments across the watershed and is the largest and most complex TMDL program that the EPA has ever administered.  Should implementation occur as EPA intends, the TMDL will have major impacts on the Bay states, including Pennsylvania.  This includes mandated upgrades on our farms and municipalities to meet this sediment “diet.”  Considering the scope and magnitude of the Chesapeake Bay watershed, there are concerns that the EPA is not recognizing the contribution the agriculture community has made to ensuring a healthy bay.  During the hearing, Republicans and Democrats voiced substantial and warranted concerns that the EPA is reaching far beyond its statutory authority granted by Congress through the Clean Water Act and continually fails to comprehend the financial hardship these regulations will impose on our rural communities.

It is important that the EPA begin to work with farmers and ranchers, who have always been the best advocates for resource conservation, and hearings like this will get us headed in the right direction.  Farmers are, after all, the original caretakers of the land.  Through current investments and a focus on improved management practices at the state level, we can restore the Chesapeake Bay while also maintaining the economic livelihood of these communities.
 
Don’t hesitate to be in touch if you’re a farmer, small business owner, or local official and interested in federal policy impacting Pennsylvania’s agriculture community, or just want to know more about the work of the committee.

Greeting the President at Penn State, Advocating Expanded Domestic Energy Production: President Obama recently traveled to the 5th District to deliver remarks on America’s energy policy and the work being done at Penn State University through the Energy Innovation Hub.  It was an honor to have the President visit the Commonwealth and highlight the tremendous research being done at Penn State University.

With rising gas prices and continued turmoil in the Middle East, I was hopeful the President would also touch on the importance of domestic energy production, especially oil, coal, and natural gas – each just as critical to any credible energy plan.  Unfortunately, after greeting the President and attending his remarks, I remain convinced that America continues to lack a comprehensive energy plan.  Without making better use of existing resources and expanding our domestic production, situations like those in Egypt and Libya will continue to underscore the need to cease America’s reliance on foreign energy.  I will continue to push for a comprehensive energy plan that meets these demands, promotes American energy, and builds a foundation for long-term economic growth and security. My comprehensive energy plan is three-fold: increase energy efficiency, utilize America's domestic energy resources, and lead the research for future energy innovation.

Joining Fellow Pennsylvanians in Washington, D.C. for March for Life Rally: The March for Life Rally is an important day for many in the 5th Congressional District, this year’s rally was on January 24, 2011.  This is my second term and third straight year speaking at the March for Life Rally.  This event is just one more way to show our support for the right to life and recognize the sanctity of human life.  I want to give a special thanks to all of those from the 5th District and Commonwealth for participating in this special day.