View From the Capitol - Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler's Newsletter for the Week of May 13-17, 2013
Almost daily, it seems, we are learning more about the unacceptable actions of the Internal Revenue Service which abused its power to target conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status. We first heard that groups with the words “tea party” or “patriot” in their names were being singled out. We later learned from the IRS inspector general that the scrutiny extended to other non-profit groups that criticized the government or sought to educate Americans about the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights.
The IRS has apologized for this behavior that infringes on the free speech rights of Americans - but that apology is not enough! As Americans, we have a right to know how high in the chain of command this wrongdoing went.
The improper and possibly illegal actions of the Internal Revenue Service demand that President Obama, as this country's leader, take responsibility. The forced resignations of scapegoated IRS Acting Commissioner Steven Miller and officials in the tax-exempt division are not sufficient. Groups which were inappropriately targeted by the IRS and, in fact, all Americans deserve more. All individuals who were involved in this thuggery should be held to account.
The Administration has stonewalled efforts to learn why the Internal Revenue Service - an agency that is supposed to serve the American people - was used for political purposes. It is clear that an environment which created these egregious actions existed within the Obama Administration. The President has an obligation to take ownership of this scandal by borrowing a page from Missouri's own President Harry Truman who exemplified true leadership when he said, “The buck stops here.”
An assault on the free speech liberties of one group or individual is an assault on the free speech liberties of all groups and individuals. I will be working with my colleagues to get to the bottom of this outrage and – if necessary – to reform the IRS to protect the 1st Amendment rights of all Americans.
On another matter, the House voted this week to stand with American families by approving repeal of the scourge of ObamaCare.
When ObamaCare was being pushed through Congress, the American people were promised the legislation would lower costs for families and businesses. But that has turned into a broken promise. The Kaiser Family Foundation’s 2012 Employer Health Benefit Survey found that despite President Obama’s repeated promises that families could save $2,500, the average family premium has instead risen by more than $3,000 since 2008.
The President also promised that any American who liked his or her health plan could keep it, but that turned out to be another broken promise as ObamaCare incentivizes employers to drop coverage to be a part of subsidized insurance in the new exchanges. A new economic report from the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office concludes 7 million people will lose their employer-sponsored coverage. Another broken promise was made when the American people were told ObamaCare would create 4 million jobs. The Congressional Budget Office reports ObamaCare will reduce the labor force by 800,000 over the next decade and the cost to American business due to inability or failure to comply is estimated to be $52 billion.
I stand with citizens of Missouri’s Fourth District in opposition to this expensive and unworkable broken promise. I call on the Senate to follow the responsible lead of the House in voting to end this health care nightmare and to work with the House to find solutions to our health care problems – solutions that put power back in the hands of the people to make their own health care choices.”
Finally, I was joined by my colleagues on the House Agriculture Committee in approving a bipartisan Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management (FARRM) Bill that saves taxpayers, reduces deficit spending, and repeals outdated government programs while ensuring a safe, affordable food supply. In fact, this bill eliminates or consolidates more than 100 programs and ends subsidies that went to farmers regardless of market conditions. And, it includes my amendment to end the duplicative U.S. Department of Agriculture catfish inspection program – something I have been working on for more than a year – preventing the waste of $170 million in taxpayer dollars over the next 10 years.
This FARRM Bill is the product of a multi-year process that included auditing for effectiveness and efficiency of every policy under the jurisdiction of the House Agriculture Committee. Every part of this bill contributes fairly to deficit reduction.
The bill also ushers in the first reforms to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) – or food stamps – since the welfare reforms of 1996, saving more than $20 billion. While not perfect, the bill is a ‘win-win’ for consumers, food producers, and taxpayers.
I look forward to this bill being debated and voted on in the full House in June.
Have a good week.