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Posted by Randy | April 24, 2015

Recently, the Director of Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE), Sarah Saldana, testified before the House Judiciary Committee on the involvement of illegal immigrants in criminal gang activities.

According to information provided by ICE, the agency released 30,558 criminal aliens with a total of 79,059 convictions in Fiscal Year 2014. I questioned Director Saldana about this during the recent hearing. Her response? She is unable to confirm for the American people how ICE is determining if the illegal immigrants they are releasing are criminal gang members, or even whether the illegal immigrants the Administration is releasing are criminal gang members.

In fact, Director Saldana cannot even confirm that illegal immigrants are asked about criminal gang activity before being released. Watch the full questioning here, or by clicking the image below.

This has to stop. That’s why I introduced legislation to deport any illegal alien in our nation who is a member of a violent criminal gang. The language in my bill was included in this year’s updated version of the SAFE Act, now titled The Michael Davis, Jr. In Honor of State and Local Law Enforcement Act (H.R. 1148).
This is a no-brainer -- we shouldn’t have to wait for a gang member to commit a crime, or worse, commit a violent crime, and simply be released.  Membership alone in a violent criminal gang must be grounds for deportation and inadmissibility into this country.

This is an issue the Administration has continued to ignore for too long. Last year, I questioned DHS Secretary Johnson about the Administration’s release of illegal immigrants convicted of violent crimes. His answer to whether those released were gang members? He said he didn’t know.

Posted by Randy | April 23, 2015
Just a quick note – wanted to let you know I recently sent a letter to Secretary of Defense Carter, requesting that he publicly outline his plan to make the Department of Defense auditable by 2017, and submit audit results to Congress by 2019 (as required by the Financial Improvement and Audit Readiness Plan).

Action needs to be taken. Not only because auditing the DOD will help ensure taxpayer dollars are used in the most efficient, effective means possible, but also because it will create an even stronger national defense, allowing us to better ensure the agency is meeting its core goal of protecting our national security.

Posted by Randy | April 23, 2015
The Mortgage Choice Act (H.R. 685) passed the House last week, with my support, by a bipartisan vote of 286-140 – it’s a bipartisan piece of legislation that would amend and clarify the definition of a qualified mortgage under the Dodd-Frank Act to promote access to affordable mortgage credit while maintaining strong consumer protections from bad loans. It is now headed over to the Senate for consideration.

I cosponsored this bill and supported it when it passed the House of Representatives in the 113th Congress by a bipartisan voice-vote.  I will keep you updated as it moves through the Senate.
Posted by | April 23, 2015

Currently, the United States is involved in negotiating two regional free trade agreements – one with partners in Europe and one involving Japan, Australia, and nine other nations in the Asia-Pacific – to help eliminate barriers to U.S. exports, support U.S. jobs, and set rules that level the playing field for American companies, farmers, and workers.

According to the latest data from the International Trade Administration (ITA), the U.S. has set a record $2.34 trillion of goods and services exports in 2014, which supported 11.7 million jobs across the U.S. More importantly, 47% of the current goods the U.S. sells abroad go to current free trade partners.  In fact, according to the ITA, U.S. goods exports to countries negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) with the U.S. accounted for 62% of total U.S. goods exports in 2014, and supported approximately 4.2 million U.S. jobs in 2013.

In order to conclude free trade agreements, Congress has historically established partnerships with the president through a process called Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), which establishes negotiating benchmarks for the U.S. Trade Representative. TPA also establishes the procedural mechanism for Congress to consider a free trade agreement, and lays out high transparency standards that the Administration must meet, including consulting regularly with Congress, the private sector, and the public during negotiations. However, if the benchmarks outlined in TPA are not met and Congress isn’t satisfied by the final agreement, both the House of Representatives and the Senate has the full right to reject the final text of any free trade agreement, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).

Supporters of TPA argue it will ensure the conclusion of ongoing free trade agreements under Congress’ supervision; therefore, preventing the U.S. from being left behind and hindering job growth.  Opponents of TPA argue that negotiations will still lack transparency and Congressional oversight, and that it does not do enough to establish strong trade provisions in free trade agreements.

Question of the Week
: Do you support trade promotion authority that establishes the negotiating objectives to expand U.S. exports through free trade agreements, while retaining Congress’ Constitutional approval?

 (  ) Yes.
 (  ) No.
 (  ) I am unsure.
(  ) Other.

Take the Poll here.

Find the results of last week’s InstaPoll here.

Posted by Randy | April 22, 2015

Over the last few weeks, we have heard story after story about China’s provocative actions in the disputed waters of the East and South China Seas.  Many of these actions are being taken by China’s Coast Guard, which now outnumbers the coast guards of all of China’s neighbors combined.

At a House Armed Services Committee hearing recently, I asked Admiral Samuel Locklear, Commander of U.S. Pacific Command, what strategies, concepts, forces, and capabilities we need to counter aggression by China’s paramilitary forces.  While I am fully committed to maintaining U.S. superiority at the “high end” of the conflict spectrum, I believe it is critically important that we be able to counter and deter this sort of “gray zone” aggression as well.

You can watch my question and ADM Locklear’s response here, or by clicking the image below.

Posted by Randy | April 22, 2015

With all that has been in the news recently, I was reminded of a piece I wrote a while back about why religious freedom is crucial to so many aspects of our society. This piece may be even more relevant today than when I wrote it.

We live in a country whose laws have historically sought to respect freedom and diversity, and our Constitution has always had robust protections for all Americans to live and work by their convictions. Yet we now are facing another test of how seriously we take these freedoms.

The question is, will we rise as a nation to this challenge, or will we shrink from protecting these rights for everyone because our stand may come with an unpopular cost? Are these rights the prize of citizenship, or will we be asked to surrender them as the price of citizenship?

The Gritty Reality of Freedom
Baptist Press
By Congressman Randy Forbes
November 19, 2014

WASHINGTON (BP) -- The American government is rooted in the fundamental truth that all are created equal, endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights, among which are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Our Constitution was uniquely crafted as a democracy designed to protect us from the natural human impulse to crowd out those with whom we disagree.

Freedom was won with blood and sacrifice and has been continually defended with the same, but preserving it for future generations requires more than just physical defense. Each generation must be taught anew what our freedoms cost and why we must defend them for everyone.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.

The first clause of the First Amendment was born out of a deeply divided approach to religious freedom in the American colonies. Some colonies, like Pennsylvania, were founded with an open invitation to people from all religious traditions to be free to live out their faith without restraint.

Others had government-established churches consistent with many European traditions. In Virginia, citizens who were not members of the Anglican church could not hold public office, and religious leaders who dissented were required to notify the government and obtain a license before they could preach. The government held complete power over the amount and degree of religious toleration for dissenters.

This changed in Virginia in 1786, when the Virginia Assembly passed the Statute for Religious Freedom. Authored by Thomas Jefferson, this legislation protected the rights of citizens to freely profess and maintain their religious beliefs, and it became the model for the free exercise clause of the First Amendment.

Since the ratification of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, the government has been prohibited from interfering with what is taught in churches. It has also been prohibited from restricting an individual's ability to fully participate in public life simply because of what he or she believes.

Congress shall make no law ... abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press.

The founding of the American colonies brought with it the heritage of government censorship through the use of licensing orders for publications -- censorship which poet John Milton opposed in his famous publication, "Areopagitica." Early Americans knew all too well the dangers of a government empowered with the ability to silence speech, so special protection was provided to restrain such censorship.

Protections for speech on issues of public concern, including religious, social and political commentary, have been historically robust. Yet each generation has been tested in their commitment to protecting even the unpopular speech amid arguments that a social good would be achieved through silencing it.

Congress shall make no law ... abridging ... the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

The ability to express an idea is virtually useless without the freedom to associate with others who share that view. As the Supreme Court reinforced in 1984, protecting personal bonds that cultivate shared ideals and beliefs from "unwarranted state interference therefore safeguards the ability independently to define one's identity that is central to any concept of liberty."

Whether through churches, nonprofits, businesses, organizations or political parties, our ability to organize around and act on shared beliefs and ideas is fundamental.

Though each clause of the First Amendment protects a different freedom, there is a common denominator. Each clause protects the ability to act, reflecting that our exercise of these freedoms cannot reasonably be limited to an idea but must also encompass the way in which each American lives their lives in step with those ideas. The Constitution does not protect the right not to be offended by the expression or exercise of another point of view.

The government is obviously and explicitly restrained from infringing on our freedoms of religion, speech, press and assembly -- restrictions as obvious as the historical examples laid out here would have a difficult time surviving in modern American courts.

But attacks on our First Amendment rights are likely to be much more subtle, and restrictions on these freedoms in the name of tolerance or social benefit, while less obvious, are no more constitutional than their 18th-century ancestors.

The gritty reality of protecting freedom is this: It is hard work because a true commitment to defending these freedoms for all means you will need to defend the rights of others to express and live by views with which you may greatly disagree. Americans do not check their freedom at the door when they leave their home or place of worship and enter the public sphere.

We live in a country whose laws have historically sought to respect freedom and diversity, and our Constitution has always had robust protections for all Americans to live and work by their convictions. Yet we now are facing another test of how seriously we take these freedoms.

The question is, Will we rise as a nation to this challenge, or will we shrink from protecting these rights for everyone because our stand may come with an unpopular cost? Are these rights the prize of citizenship, or will we be asked to surrender them as the price of citizenship? To succeed, we must first accept the gritty reality of protecting freedom.

Published online, here: http://www.bpnews.net/43771/firstperson-the-gritty-reality-of-freedom


Posted by Randy | April 21, 2015

Just a quick note – I wanted to share with you the story of an inspiring young man from the Fourth District who I met last week.

Meeting Caleb for the first time, I was immediately impressed by his bright smile, firm handshake, and blend of humility and quiet confidence. This year, Caleb Parsons of Suffolk, Virginia, was named Coast Guard Military Child of the Year – but that is not why he is such a remarkable young man. Caleb stands out because of the faithfulness and integrity he lives with day after day, when no one is watching.

At only 18-years-old, Caleb holds down the home front with his three younger siblings while both parents are deployed. With the help of grandparents and family friends, Caleb juggles caring for his siblings with continued involvement in leadership roles, maintaining high academic standards, and completing his application to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. Caleb is a Senior Patrol Leader in Boy Scouts of America as well as an Eagle Scout. He’s active in Air Force JROTC, achieving the highest rank authorized in the program, earning the Daedalian Award for patriotism, and being named Outstanding Cadet three times. Caleb is also involved in the Swim Team and Cross Country Track team at Kings Fork High School, where he’s been awarded the Co-Captain Varsity Award, Junior Varsity Award, and Sportsmanship Award. While accomplishing all of this, Caleb maintains a 4.21 GPA and pursues Advanced Placement Courses. If you ask Caleb what his goal for the future is, he will tell you he wants to serve his country as a Special Forces Officer.

I think, as parents, most of us have no happier moment than when we look into our child’s eyes and say, “I’m proud of you.”

For Caleb, that is not just something his parents can say. It is something his teachers, coaches, mentors, friends, and entire community can say. It is something his nation can say: We are grateful for your service, energized by your passion, and inspired by your example. Caleb, your country is proud of you.
Posted by Randy | April 21, 2015
Recently, I joined my Virginia colleagues in sending a letter to the Hampton Veterans Affairs Medical Center demanding decisive action to address the unacceptable claims backlog. Specifically, we are requesting to know the immediate steps being taken to bring down wait times to the Department’s standards – including a detailed explanation of what is being done to increase responsiveness to patient inquiries and the timetable for resolving the backlog.

As the Congressional delegation representing nearly 368,000 veterans, we have an obligation to ensure our men and women in uniform are receiving the benefits they have earned in a timely manner. Our veterans did not wait to answer the call of duty; they should not have to wait to receive timely, quality medical care. They deserve the best this country can offer – not backlogs, bureaucracy, and blunders.

There is no higher purpose of our government than to protect those who sacrificed to preserve our freedom. Read the text of the letter, here.

I will keep you posted as we look for a reply from the VA. We made a promise to care for our men and women in uniform, and their families, long after their service is complete, and it is our duty to meet those obligations. 
Posted by Randy | April 20, 2015
We must stand with our brothers and sisters in the Middle East who are being persecuted for their faith.

Recently, I cosponsored H.Res. 139 to condemn violence against minorities in the Middle East, and any actions limiting the free expression and practice of faith. The resolution also reaffirms the U.S. commitment to promoting religious freedom and tolerance, and urges President Obama to appoint a Special Envoy to Promote Religious Freedom of Religious Minorities in the Middle East (a position which Congress created last year, and the Administration has yet to fill).

I will keep you posted on the Resolution’s progress in the House.
Posted by Randy | April 17, 2015

Accountability and the IRS shouldn’t be an oxymoron. 

I believe the American people have a right to expect better from the government that serves them. Below are seven actions the House took this week to protect taxpayers, hold the IRS to a higher standard, and reintroduce a little common sense to our tax system:

1.       Forcing the IRS to recognize the rights of taxpayers. The Taxpayer Bill of Rights Act of 2015 (H.R. 1058) codifies the rights that American taxpayers have to quality, privacy, fairness, and appeal as core responsibilities of the IRS Commissioner and all agency employees. 

2.       Prohibiting IRS officers and employees from using personal email accounts for official business. The IRS Email Transparency Act (H.R. 1152) increases accountability and protects taxpayers’ confidential information by preventing IRS employees from using personal email accounts for official government business.

3.       Stopping IRS abuse of taxpayer privacy protections. The Taxpayer Knowledge of IRS Investigations Act (H.R. 1026) ends the misuse of the tax code that has allowed IRS employees to violate privacy rights of American citizens – and stops the IRS from using protections designed to protect taxpayer information, to instead protect government employees who need to be held responsible for misusing confidential taxpayer information. 

4.       Ensuring organizations can appeal denied requests for tax-exempt status. Ensuring Tax Exempt Organizations the Right to Appeal Act (H.R. 1314) protects the right of organizations to appeal determinations by the IRS, in order to ensure a fair, impartial review process of requests for tax-exempt status.

5.       Cutting back on IRS bureaucracy.  The IRS Bureaucracy Reduction and Judicial Review Act (H.R. 1295) streamlines the IRS’ burdensome review process and allows groups to declare their tax-exempt status rather than waiting extended and often indefinite periods of time to gain approval.

6.       Firing employees who targeted Americans for political purposes. The Prevent Targeting at the IRS Act (H.R. 709) provides for the termination of any IRS employee who takes official actions for political purposes.

7.       Preventing the IRS from targeting donors to non-profits. The Fair Treatment for All Gifts Act (H.R. 1104) permanently ensures donations to 501(c)4, (c)5, and (c)6 organizations are not subject to the gift tax. The IRS has been investigated in the past for threatening to subject contributions to conservative organizations to the gift tax, in what many saw as a direct targeting based off of political beliefs.

I want to know your thoughts on the action steps the House took this week to improve the integrity of the IRS. Weigh in on my facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/randyforbes.