VICKY'S VIEW: Around the World in 11 Days
Around the World in 11 Days
Last week I had the tremendous honor of traveling to Europe and Southeast Asia on an important defense mission, as part of my role as House Armed Services Oversight & Investigations Subcommittee Chairwoman. Here are some of the photos from my meetings.
First on our trip, we stopped at the Belleau Wood Battlefield and the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery in Belleau, France. Sadly, 2,289 U.S. soldiers are buried here.This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Armistice which ended “The War to End All Wars”. It was a privilege to pay tribute to all those who gave their all in this epic struggle.
I joined (L-R) Rep. Carol-Shea Porter, House Armed Services Chairman Thornberry, and Rep. Henry Cuellar in laying a wreath in honor of the servicemen we lost in the Battle of Belleau in 1918. It was a sober reminder that freedom is not free and we should never forget.
Next, we stopped in New Dehli to meet with senior government officials and parliamentarians. India is an important strategic partner and the world’s largest democracy. We have much in common and can benefit as military and economic partners. We had very productive discussions on how we can move forward with the India Minister of Defense, Nirmala Sitharaman.
Our bi-partisan delegation went next to Sri Lanka, where we were honored to meet with the President of Sri Lanka, Maithripala Sirisena (on the right). Pictured with us is (L-R) U.S. Ambassador Atul Keshap and House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry. Sri Lanka is located in a strategic location on the Indian Ocean and is making advances in reconciliation after its 26-year Civil War ended in 2009. We hope to expand our friendship with the country and support its efforts to grow as a nation upholding the rule of law and human rights.
Next we went to the Philippines where I had the chance to meet with soldiers at Camp Navarro in the southern portion of the country. On the right I am pictured with Jordan Stotler, who hailed from the Show Me State! We are so proud of the work he and the other Marines are doing for our nation. These Special Forces are carrying out an important advisory role to Philippine armed forces who are battling ISIS forces that have established a foothold on the island of Mindanao. This terrorist organization captured the city of Marawi last year. It took the Philippine Army several months to regain control. We want to support efforts of our key partner to stop the spread of ISIS into Southeast Asia.
Next, I joined the delegation in laying a wreath at the Manila American Cemetery (also in the Philippines), which contains the largest number of graves of American military from WWII. So many have given so much for the cause of freedom. We owe them all a debt of gratitude we will never be able to repay. It is our task to see that the flame of freedom never goes out for future generations.
Lastly, we went to Singapore where we participated in the Shangri-La Dialogue, a conference attended by delegations from across the world focused on the security of the Indo-Pacific region. Above we participated in a press conference articulating the United States’ commitment to peace, free navigation of the region’s shipping lanes, and support of our allies.
At the conference, our delegation (including Rep. Mike Conaway who joined us) had the opportunity to meet with Secretary Jim Mattis in Singapore before we headed back to the United States. He spoke at the Conference giving a clear vision of our strategic goals in the region. You can access his remarks here.
It was an honor to represent the United States on this trip and I believe our engagements were productive in supporting our allies and our shared goals for a free and secure world.
Important Bills in Washington this Week
The House was busy this week! We passed multiple bills that will positively impact Missouri and our district. Here’s a brief outline.
H.R. 5895 Energy and Water, Legislative Branch, and Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Act
Provides highest funding in history for the Veteran Affairs Administration including $71.2 billion for medical care including:
$589M for Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) treatment
$387M for opioid abuse prevention
$270M for rural veterans’ health
$196M for suicide prevention outreach
Modernize VA’s electronic health record system & provide seamless care to vets transitioning from military service ($1.2 billion)
Provides $45 billion for the Army Corp of Engineers, Department of Energy, and our nation’s nuclear weapons security programs
Invests in our nation’s infrastructure and increases American competitiveness - including $7 billion for Army Corps of Engineers projects at our nation’s ports, waterways, and flood protection infrastructure
Repeals the Waters of the United States rule, which is a massive federal land grab affecting nearly all Missouri landowners
H.R. 3 - Spending Cuts to Expired and Unnecessary Programs Act
Rescinds (de-obligates) $15 billion in funding for various programs that were unable to use their previous appropriations as requested by President Trump
Affects programs at the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Energy, Health and Human Services, Justice, Labor, State, Transportation and the Treasury, as well as the Railroad Retirement Board.
Funding proposed to be rescinded have in many cases been left unspent by agencies for years
H.R. 3249 - Project Safe Neighborhoods Grant Program Authorization Act
Establishes a grant program to provide resources to state and local entities to curb the rise in gang activity and violence
Allows for localities receiving grant funding the broad autonomy to use in ways best suited for their communities
H.R. 801 - Route 66 National Historic Trail Designation Act
Designates Route 66 – which winds through Missouri from St. Louis to Joplin – as a National Historic Trail
Allows for federal funding to be utilized to go towards projects that preserve and promote the historical significance of Route 66
The designation as a National Historic Trail will likely increase the profile of Route 66 and boost tourism along its path
Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Religious Freedom
Speaking at a rally for Jack Phillips in 2017.
The United States Supreme Court delivered a major victory this week for our First Amendment rights as it ruled in favor of baker Jack Phillips in the Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission case.
Mr. Phillips, who runs his business according to his sincerely held religious beliefs, felt that a government directive to create a personalized wedding cake for a same-sex couple was an intrusion and a violation of his First Amendment rights. By a vote of 7-2, the justices agreed with Mr. Phillips.
Jack Phillips believes in the sanctity of traditional marriage - and the First Amendment protects his right to not be forced to do something contrary to your deeply held beliefs. I led an effort in which 88 Members of Congress submitted an amicus or “friend of the court” brief last year to the U.S. Supreme Court to affirm the importance of protecting Mr. Phillips’ right of conscience. We were pleased with the outcome.
This Supreme Court ruling solidifies religious liberty, which is protected under our Bill of Rights, for all men and women of all faiths across the country. In so-doing, it makes clear that government cannot force any American to violate his or her religious convictions. It was a great outcome!
Holding Planned Parenthood Accountable
On Thursday I was honored to speak along Lila Rose of Live Action and my colleagues in Congress to expose Planned Parenthood’s longstanding failure to report the sexual abuse of minors.
This week I led a press conference with several of my Congressional colleagues to discuss concerns over revelations that Planned Parenthood has repeatedly failed to report the suspected sexual abuse of minors. A report was released last week from Live Action detailing multiple instances in which Planned Parenthood failed to report these atrocities to the appropriate authorities.
In response to this very disturbing report, my colleagues and I sent a letter to Health & Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex M. Azar II to express our concern and to ask the agency to investigate recipients of federal family planning money – particularly Planned Parenthood – to determine how widespread this reporting failure is. Our goal is also to determine if there are other instances in which Planned Parenthood was neglectful in its duty to report suspected child abuse.
Planned Parenthood receives approximately $60 million each year in family planning dollars. In exchange for these taxpayer dollars, Planned Parenthood is required to comply with state laws regarding the reporting of suspected cases of child abuse to the authorities. Clearly, this is not the case. HHS needs to ensure this doesn’t happen again.
Calling Attention to North Korea’s Human Rights Abuses
As President Trump plans his meetings with North Korea leader Kim Jong-un, several of my colleagues and I are calling on the President – in those upcoming talks – to raise the issues of human rights violations and religious freedom violations in North Korea.
In a letter sent to President Trump, we acknowledge the main focus of the meeting will be the elimination of North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, but we urge him to also demand the dismantlement of North Korea’s prison camps and end human and religious rights abuses.
These injustices include the deliberate starvation, malnutrition and overwork of prisoners in prison camps, resulting in countless deaths. In addition, multiple witnesses have told of prisoners being tortured and killed on account of their religious beliefs. It is my hope that President Trump will put maximum pressure on the North Korean regime to address and end this barbarity!
Remembering Our Troops Who Saved the World from Tyranny
On Wednesday, the United States and the free world commemorated the 74th anniversary of perhaps the most consequential military operation ever launched. It was on June 6, 1944 that troops from the United States, Britain, and Canada stormed the beaches at Normandy in what was known as Operation Overlord – better known as D-Day. This invasion of Nazi-occupied Europe gave the Allied forces a foothold in France and set the stage for ending World War II in the European Theater.
General Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Supreme Commander of Operation Overlord, issued a passionate message to the soldiers, sailors, and airmen of the Allied Expeditionary Force as they prepared for this historic endeavor:
“You are about to embark upon the Great Crusade, toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you. In company with our brave Allies and brothers-in-arms on other Fronts, you will bring about the destruction of the German war machine, the elimination of Nazi tyranny over the oppressed peoples of Europe, and security for ourselves in a free world.”
The following May, Germany surrendered and Victory in Europe was celebrated. In August of 1945, Japan surrendered. And in September, World War II formally came to an end.
While we praise and thank all Americans who fought in all our wars, we owe a special debt of gratitude to those who were a part of this great invasion into hostile territory. They were, literally, a force that saved the world!
Photos of the Week
I was thankful to talk to the Missouri Hospital Association on Tuesday about ways to combat the opioid epidemic that has been infecting our nation.
On Wednesday I had the opportunity to speak at an event hosted by the Long Range Strike Caucus, which I co-chair. The Air Force bomber fleet provides a unique ability for the United States to rapidly strike any target in the world; however, this fleet is rapidly aging. The Long Range Strike Caucus educates members on our bomber fleet’s current capabilities and how they need to be improved to continue to be a compelling deterrent to our enemies.
On Thursday it was a pleasure to meet with Lakeland High School FFA at my office in Washington.
A Dose of Good News
The New York Times ran out of words to describe how good the job numbers are!
“The real question is analyzing the May jobs numbers released Friday is whether there are enough synonyms for ‘good’ in an online thesaurus to describe then adequately. So, for example, ‘splendid’ and ‘excellent’ fit the bill. Those are the kinds of terms that are appropriate when the United States economy adds 223,000 jobs in a month, despite being nine years into an expansion, and when the unemployment rate falls to 3.8 percent, a new 18-year low.”
The Good News about Tax Reform
Employees of yet another major company are benefitting from tax reform. Costco announced an increase in starting wages to $14 an hour, a $1 increase for entry level positions. The company will also raise wages for other hourly workers by up to 50 cents an hour. This change, which takes effect June 11, will affect 130,000 employees. MarketWatch reports Costco expects the change to cost it between $110 and $120 million annually, but it will be offset with an expected 7 percent drop in the company’s tax rate.