Federal deficit, EPA, national defense topics for Rep. Hartzler
U.S. Rep. Vicky Hartzler joined Missouri State Rep. Patricia Pike for an informational hour-long meeting with constituents at the Franklin P. Norman City/County Community Center.
Hartzler touched on the deficit, the EPA and specifically the "Waters of the U.S." Act, regulatory "burdens" required for water and wastewater systems in rural communities, Obamacare, and the national defense, before answering questions from the audience.
Those questions spanned topics from military rules of engagement and veterans benefits, the separation of Constitutional powers, and Guantanamo Bay and the terrorists being held there, to the impact of budget cuts for housing agencies and infrastructure needs.
Hartzler, who represents 24 counties in Missouri, including Vernon, referenced a handout she distributed titled "Reining in Runaway Spending."
"In 2010, we borrowed $4.2 billion a day to keep the government running," she said.
"That number is down to $1.3 billion a day. We've got more to do obviously.
"We need to reform programs, and also preserve Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, make [them] more efficient so they will be there."
The remainder of the spending comes in the areas of "other discretionary areas, items such as education, transportation, and the state department," and national defense.
National defense spending is down too, something that Hartzler said she wasn't in favor of.
"I hope to replace the cuts to our defense," she said, noting her position on the House Armed Services Committee.
Her brochure notes her support of the FY 2016 National Defense Authorization Act and appropriations, including funding for a new Consolidated Stealth Operations and Nuclear Alert Facility at Whiteman Air Force Base, funding for the Growler and Super Hornet aircraft to be built in Missouri, a 1.3 percent pay raise for the troops, and a prohibition against transferring Guantanamo detainees to the U.S.
"Vets are a high priority," she added. Her brochure also lists legislation that speeds up VA claims processing, prioritizes modernizing the VA's electronic healthcare record system, and tightens oversight of construction projects.
The military and veterans were common themes among several of the questioners.
Two said they believe American soldiers aren't able to defend themselves properly because of present rules of engagement.
With that, "If we don't stop them there (the Middle East), they'll be on our front doorstep."
"It's frustrating for me," said Hartzler. "When we hear things like this, we check them out. It's hard to get to the truth, about whether the soldiers aren't able to fire," to defend themselves.
"I will continue to advocate for our troops. I will make the calls and the inquiries. They may tell me one thing, but I believe the soldiers on the ground."
Another questioner stated, "It's a disgrace the way our veterans are treated."
Hartzler noted that her office has a specially designated person to help veterans and urged those in attendance to contact her office when they know of instances of veterans having trouble getting their benefits, services or help.
"I've visited vets' clinics and I think the one in Columbia (Mo.) does a pretty good job, others though, not so much.
"I know suicide prevention is huge problem for our military. And I've backed legislation to put in extra funds" for that.
Hartzler told of meeting with a veterans' group in Sedalia that was petitioning for those injured or killed in the Fort Hood, Texas shooting to receive the Purple Heart so they would get their benefits. The shooting had been classified as workplace violence.
"I co-sponsored a bill to give them the Purple Heart," she said.
That took place in April 2015, with the medal awarded to dozens of survivors and the relatives of the 13 soldiers who were killed in November 2009.
Switching subjects, Hartzler said she was "fighting to get government out of our lives."
She cited the Environmental Protection Agency, saying the EPA was "out of control."
The congresswoman noted she had co-sponsored legislation opposing "burdensome rules" like the proposed "Waters of the U.S." that would further broadly define which bodies of water fall under EPA's Clean Water Act jurisdiction.
According to the website, sustainableagriculture.net, the Clean Water Act prohibits the discharge of any pollutants, including dredged or fill material, into "navigable waters," also defined as "waters of the U.S.," unless the activity is done in compliance with an authorized permitting scheme. The Act ultimately leaves it to EPA to define which bodies of water fall within the "waters of the U.S." category.
Before the proposed rule, EPA's regulations defined waters of the U.S. as:
* Traditional navigable waters;
* Interstate waters; and
* All other waters that could affect interstate or foreign commerce, impoundments of waters of the U.S., tributaries, the territorial seas, and adjacent wetlands.
All other waters were "left up to the state," Hartzler said.
Now said Hartzler, EPA has broadened that jurisdiction over water bodies.
This particularly impacts farming, she said.
She noted she "supported a budget that protected farmers from having to get a permit to dredge farm ponds and irrigation ditches as a result of the Clean Water Act."
"If you don't get a permit, a farmer could be fined," for as long as they didn't comply, " she said, adding farmers could be facing fines back multiple years.
"This is a property rights issue," she said. "This is just wrong."
Hartzler said legislation to address this passed in the House but not in the Senate.
"We'll keep fighting," she said.
The congresswoman also handed out a packet of information on resources for rural communities in dealing with "regulatory burdens required for water and wastewater systems."
"Small cities just don't have this kind of money to do," all of the requirements, and within the allotted time.
In her information, she said she "shared the long-term vision of sustainable, efficient water and wastewater treatment for each community in my district. I understand that continuing to invest in water supply infrastructure can be expensive and technically difficult."
She said her office compiled this guide to local non-profit, state, and federal resources for these water development projects.
Additional questions from the audience focused on the power of the executive branch and "restricting the power of the federal government to override states' rights."
"I'd like to get states back their power," said the resident.
Hartzler responded by saying, "It's a constitutional crisis. There are to be three equal branches of government but the judicial and executive have far more power than the legislative, and the legislative is where the power of the people resides.
It's the most frustrating thing I've faced.
"We've got three options," she said.
"We pass a law, but that law must pass the House and Senate and even then, the president can still veto.
"Second, we can defund it but there are the same problems.
"Third, we can go to the courts.
"That's actually happening now with the House suing the president," for overstepping the powers of the presidency.
In July 2014, according to the New York Times, in a 225-to-201 party-line vote, Republicans authorized the House to move forward with a lawsuit against Obama for his application of the Affordable Care Act.
"But courts take time and money, and with the president, you have someone who can get appoint the judges on the court," that agree with the president's policies, said Hartzler.
"And they can overstep their bounds.
"The final answer is the election. You can put in a new president who can undo this, which can be done on the first day in office."
Another member of the audience said he felt the Republican Congress needed to take a stronger position in reining in the president.
Hartzler noted that there was a new Speaker of the House (Paul Ryan) and that's been a very positive change."
Another stood up and pointed out the size and length of some of the legislation, with bills at 2,700 pages, and little to no time to digest.
"It would be good to have a longer time," said Hartzler. "The new speaker committed to getting financial bills one at a time, rather than all in one. That is the way it should be."
Another questioner asked if more prisoners were going to be released from Guantanamo, and would the country give Guantanamo back to Cuba.
"I visited Gitmo," said Hartzler, adding that she supported the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act that would keep the ban on transferring any detainees.
The Nov. 5 congressional passing of the FY16 National Defense Authorization Act, once again prohibits the U.S. defense secretary from using any funds to close the facility, modify or build facilities in the United States to house Guantanamo detainees, or transfer detainees into the U.S. for incarceration or trial. That legislation passed the House by a 370-58 margin.
Hartzler noted that those prisoners who are to be released "are to certify they're not going to re-engage. We put guidelines into place so that the 48 most dangerous wouldn't be let out.
"I prefer to keep them all there. The president wants to close it but we keep passing as part of the NDA not to close."
Nevada Housing Authority Executive Director Carol Branham was the next to speak. She told Hartzler that small housing agencies "need regulatory relief. We've had 10 years of budget cuts. This occurs every year.
"We need to allow for small housing agencies, which are totally different than those in the big cities."
Another attendee expressed a concern over the country's infrastructure, saying, "It needs a lot of work."
"I'm very disappointed in using one industry to fund another," said Hartzler of efforts to take appropriated monies for one area and use them in others.
In preparing to leave the center to address school students, the congresswoman closed by expressing her appreciation for law enforcement, singling out those in attendance from the Nevada Police Department and Vernon County Sheriff's Office.