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Posted by Randy | July 02, 2015
 
On Tuesday, June 30th, the U.S. State Department announced that negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program have been extended until July 7th. This Tuesday marked what had previously been the final deadline for reaching a long-term solution to Iran’s effort to obtain nuclear capability.

The goal of the negotiations between the United States, the United Kingdom, China, France, Germany, and Russia (collectively known as the P5+1), and Iran is to restrict Tehran’s nuclear program in exchange for relief from currently imposed economic sanctions.  Iranian negotiators, however, have pushed back strongly over the level of access the international community would have into any facility in Iran suspected of non-commercial nuclear activity, and there remain difficulties resolving fundamental differences. Previously, a four-month extension to the first of two original agreement deadlines was declared on July 18, 2014, followed by another seven-month extension, which was enacted when the November 24, 2014 deadline was missed and the yearlong effort to reach a deal failed to come to fruition.

This new deadline is intended to allow for a final deal to be submitted to the U.S. Congress before July 9th, giving Congress 30 days to review the agreement and vote over whether or not it will lift Congressionally mandated sanctions on Iran. If, however, the deal is submitted after the July 9th deadline, Congress would have an additional 30 days to review the agreement.

Opponents of the negotiations continue to be concerned that the agreement is too lenient and that Iran, a U.S. designated state-sponsor of terrorism and the developer of a robust ballistic missile capability, cannot be trusted to uphold their end of the agreement. Former CIA Director Michael Hayden has stated he is fearful of what might come out of continued talks because he believes that Iran has the “upper hand” in negotiations. The Administration, however, has declared the deal to be a national security priority.


Question of the Week: Are you concerned that the Administration’s continued nuclear negotiations with Iran put the U.S. in a position of weakness?


(  ) Yes.
(  ) No.
(  ) I don’t know.
(  ) Other.


Take the Poll here

Find the results of last week’s InstaPoll here.
Posted by Randy | June 25, 2015
In April, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) first detected an intrusion affecting their systems. On June 4, 2015, OPM officially announced the cyber intrusion compromising personnel records. This sweeping cyber breach has impacted the personal data of current, former, and prospective federal employees, potentially exposing and putting at risk their personal and financial information. OPM has reported that an estimated 4 million were impacted by the data breach, while U.S. officials briefed on the investigation say the number could be closer to 18 million people affected. However, the full extent of the data breach, including who was affected and what information was accessed, is still unknown.

On Tuesday, the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government hosted a hearing with OPM Director Katherine Archuleta and OPM Assistant Inspector General Michael Esser to discuss the cause of the massive breach. Director Archuleta stated that she does not believe, “anyone is personally responsible” for the breach and that the majority of the blame should be placed on old computer systems. Alternatively, Assistant Inspector General Esser stated the computer systems were modern and the source of the weakness was rather a lack of follow-through to improve the computers’ security systems. On Wednesday, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform also held a hearing investigating the OPM data breach.

U.S. investigators believe there is evidence that the Chinese government could be behind the cyber-attack, which some consider to be the worst and most widespread cyber-attack ever carried out against the U.S. government. In the aftermath of the breach, many have raised concerns that U.S. security practices have not kept up with the latest hacking tactics and capabilities, leaving the United States exposed to potential attacks.


Question of the Week: In light of the recent OPM hack, are you concerned that the U.S. government is dangerously vulnerable to cyber-attacks?


(  ) Yes.
(  ) No.
(  ) I don’t know.
(  ) Other.


Take the Poll here


Find the results of last week’s InstaPoll here.
Posted by Randy | June 23, 2015

I want to tell you a story.


It’s about a gentleman from Suffolk, Virginia, named LeOtis Williams, and 16,000 turkeys.

Every year, around Thanksgiving, folks come from all around the Hampton Roads area and Northeast North Carolina to line up and receive a turkey from LeOtis Williams. Last year, Mr. Williams gave away a total of 2,000 turkeys and 200 bushels each of collard greens and cabbage to families who could not afford a Thanksgiving dinner. And that’s not counting the 1,300 hotdogs and 400 hamburgers cooked onsite, as well as cases and cases of water and juice given away, according to the Suffolk News Herald. This past year, 38 organizations participated and there were many more volunteers. Mr. Williams says that in total, he has handed out about 16,000 turkeys to date, benefiting 64,000 individuals.

If you ask LeOtis how this all started, he will tell you about growing up in Suffolk and how, even as his family sometimes struggled to make ends meet, his mother would unfailingly welcome guests to their dinner table and share generously what they had. That memory inspired Mr. Williams to do the same thing in his community. When asked about his motivation for giving, Mr. William talks about his faith, quoting Colossians 1:16, “For everything, absolutely everything, above and below, visible and invisible, everything got started in Him and finds its purpose in Him.”

“Being a contributor to the community allows me to integrate my personal values of loyalty, dignity, optimism, and compassion as the cornerstone of my interactions with others,” says Mr. Williams. “You know that you are doing the right thing, when it feels good to your soul.”


While we can count turkeys and bushels of collard greens, who can say the countless number of lives that have been touched by LeOtis Williams’ ministry? Who can say how many people felt loved and cared for, because of one man’s decision to meet a need he saw in our community?

Mr. William’s story is just one of many. Countless individuals and organizations throughout our communities and the country are motivated by their faith to help others, advocate for change, and aspire for a world where everyone is treated with dignity and compassion. It is important to tell these stories.  Policies are often generated because of real life stories of how those policies impact the lives and direction of a nation.  However, amidst the policy debates, we sometimes lose sight of the stories. That’s why, as the Founder and Co-Chairman of the Congressional Prayer Caucus, I am joining with Members of Congress across the country to tell these inspiring stories of how people of faith are making a positive impact on their communities. We’re calling the initiative “Faith it Forward,” and hope it will help unite the nation around celebrating the hope and inspiration that comes from helping others.

You can visit www.facebook.com/faithitforward to see these stories in one central place, or to join us in sharing your own story (just click on “tell your story” and fill out the quick form). Faith motivated by compassion and love moves us forward and unites us  - whatever our backgrounds, experiences, or station in life are individually. As Mr. Williams says, “We are each a part of this world, not the center of this world. By taking a more humble view, we are better able to be in harmony with all around us.” People of faith often serve tirelessly behind-the-scenes to better our communities. I hope you’ll join us as together we recognize their hard work and faithful acts of service. Let’s #FaithitForward.


Do you know an individual or organization in our community that makes a difference because of their faith? If so, share the story here: http://goo.gl/forms/9egvjDE395 and click “like” on the #FaithitForward Facebook page to read other stories of faith: www.facebook.com/faithitforward.

Posted by Randy | June 19, 2015
This month, the Supreme Court is expected to issue a major decision in the case King v. Burwell on the subsidies for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The case considers the question of whether the over 30 states that decided not to establish healthcare exchanges—and instead let the federal government set up their exchanges for them—are legally allowed to continue to accept the federal tax credits that subsidize those eligible in state-run exchanges. The Administration is arguing that the broader intent of the statute implies that subsidies should be available to plans on all exchanges. Plaintiffs, however, argue that that is contrary to the plain text of the ACA.

Meanwhile, as the nation awaits the Supreme Court’s decision, two bipartisan bills passed the House of Representatives this week to reverse some of the most harmful elements of the ACA. First, the Medical Device Tax Elimination Act (H.R. 1533), repeals the ACA’s tax on medical devices that has been criticized for eliminating jobs and reducing investment in research. Additionally, the House is voting on The Protecting Seniors' Access to Medicare Act of 2015 (H.R. 1190) to repeal the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB) established under the ACA, more commonly referred to as a Medicare rationing board or “death panel.”


Question of the Week: Do you support measures in the legislative and judicial branches to roll back Obamacare? 


(  ) Yes.
(  ) No.
(  ) I don’t know.
(  ) Other.


Take the Poll here

Find the results of last week’s InstaPoll here.                    
Posted by Randy | June 19, 2015
In case you missed it, I’m proud to be an original cosponsor on an important bill prohibiting the federal government (or any state receiving certain federal funding) from discriminating against child protective service providers who adhere to sincerely held religious beliefs or moral convictions. Take a look at H.R. 1299.

Faith-based providers and organizations play a big role in administering adoption, foster care, and other services that provide care for some of our community’s most vulnerable children. These organizations' valuable contributions, and the families and children who benefit from them, should not be limited because of their beliefs. Additionally, all participants in both the foster care and adoption systems gain from having variety of service options to choose from to best accommodate their financial, spiritual, and emotional needs.

That's why I am working to make sure faith-based providers and individuals are able to continue to serve along with other agencies and organizations, to care for children and provide adoptive and foster parents with access to a diversity of providers.
Posted by Randy | June 19, 2015

The President has threatened to veto the annual defense policy bill, which provides critical resources for our men and women in uniform, unless Congress increases funding for domestic agencies like the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). This threat comes even as 450 additional troops have been sent to Iraq to oppose ISIS. 

I think it is simply unconscionable to play politics with our national security in order to promote the Administration’s political agenda. See my recent questioning of Defense Secretary Ash Carter on this subject here or by clicking on the photo below.

Posted by Randy | June 18, 2015

Over this past weekend, the Obama Administration quietly released six more terrorists from the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, sending them to the country of Oman. This is just the latest step in the President’s dangerous and short-sighted plan to close down GITMO – a plan that puts politics above national security and personal priorities above the interests of the American people.

Who were the six terrorists that were released this weekend? Well, let’s take a look:

  • Emad Abdullah Hassan, who is suspected of being one of many bodyguards to al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden and of being part of a group planning to attack NATO and American troops after the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan.
  • Idris Ahmad 'Abd Al Qadir Idris and Jalal Salam Awad Awad, both alleged bodyguards to bin Laden.
  • Sharaf Ahmad Muhammad Mas'ud, whom the U.S. said fought American soldiers at Tora Bora, Afghanistan, before his capture in Pakistan.
  • Saa'd Nasser Moqbil Al Azani, a religious teacher whom the U.S. believes had ties to bin Laden's religious adviser; and
  • Muhammad Ali Salem Al Zarnuki, who allegedly arrived in Afghanistan as early as 1998 to fight and support the Taliban.

Given former GITMO detainees’ propensity for returning to the battlefield against Americans, I believe their release presents a grave national security concern. Yet, according to recent reports, the Administration intends to move forward with transferring up to 10 detainees from the Guantanamo detention center this month alone, which means an additional four prisoners could be turned loose within the next two weeks. This is what Administration officials are reported to be saying:

  • “We are working feverishly to transfer each of the 51 detainees [at Gitmo] currently approved for transfer,” said one official.
  • “We are taking all possible steps to reduce the detainee population at Guantanamo and to close the detention facility,” said another.
 If only the President was this zeroed in on addressing the extended wait times and delays that our veterans face at the VA. If only the Administration was “working feverishly” and “taking all possible steps” to provide our heroes with the care they deserve and have earned.

Terrorists at GITMO? Put them on a wait list. The men and women who have sacrificed and served this nation? That is who our government should be “working feverishly” to care for and support.


Defending our defenders has long been one of my top priorities in Congress. Click here to read about some recent bills I supported that put our troops before politics, and ensure their best interests are looked after.
Posted by Randy | June 10, 2015
I believe access to the Internet should never be taxed. And yet, many states and localities are looking to do just this. Pull out your most recent phone bill -- look closely, and you'll notice a list of access taxes tacked onto your bill each month. If you look at the bill from your Internet service provider, those same taxes are not there.

In case you missed it, a bipartisan bill that I have been championing to permanently ensure that citizens cannot be taxed for Internet access passed the House of Representatives last night with my support. Take a look at H.R.235. Let's keep access to the Internet tax-free.

 I will keep you posted on this bill’s progress as it moves to the Senate.
 
Posted by Randy | June 09, 2015
Many people are surprised when they learn that – even though over half of the 50 states have adopted English as their official language, it has not been adopted as the official language of the United States as a whole. In fact, the U.S. is one of a relatively few number of countries around the world that does not have an official language.

Our nation is undeniably unique because of the diversity of its people.  At the same time, there are things that unify our country, like the American flag and our national anthem.

For years, there has been a debate as to whether or not English should also be one of the things that unites our nation, by requiring official functions of the United States be conducted in English. Not too long ago, I cosponsored the English Language Unity Act (H.R. 997), to do just that and declare English as the official language of the United States. It’s a commonsense step, and also serves to promote the idea of unifying our country around a common language. I will keep you posted on the progress of this bill.
Posted by Randy | June 08, 2015

I firmly believe limited government is effective government. And a government that spends billions in duplicative programs every year is neither.

That’s why I think that, when Congress proposes the creation of a new program or initiative, lawmakers should be required to justify to the American people why the program is necessary and how it adds value, ensuring that it's not duplicative to programs already in place. I cosponsored a bill to do just that. Take a look at H.RES.45.