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Posted by Randy | March 06, 2013
Last month, I asked whether you supported sequestration or an alternative plan to reduce spending.  After nearly 80% responded that they preferred alternative spending cuts, I asked which alternatives to sequestration you support.  Finally, I asked which legislative proposals voted on in the House or Senate you supported to avert sequestration.

This week we take a look at a far narrower bill designed to reign in government spending by increasing accountability for federal spending on conferences.  Recently introduced, the Agency Conferences and Conventions Operating Under Necessary Transparency (ACCOUNT) Act, or H.R.283, seeks to control spending by requiring that conferences costing more than $25,000 must be approved by the head of the particular federal agency, and must have details posted on the agency website within 30 days of the conference, including the purpose, total cost and cost per employee attending. Each agency would be required to submit a report on their conferences to the relevant Congressional committee for the fiscal year. Under the ACCOUNT Act, conference spending would be public and federal agencies would use taxpayer money more wisely with the American people watching. This bill aims to crack down on wasteful practices and bring conference spending – such as the $823,000 spent by the U.S. General Services Administration in Las Vegas last year – into the light of day.

Question of the week: Do you support the ACCOUNT Act as a means of reining in federal spending?

( ) Yes.
( ) No. 
( ) I don’t know.
( ) Other (share your thoughts below).

Take the Poll here.

Find the results of last week’s InstaPoll here
Posted by Randy | February 27, 2013
Tomorrow, the U.S. Senate is expected to vote on two alternatives to address sequestration.  The vote will come one day before sequestration takes effect.

Senate Democrats have proposed replacing $110 billion in cuts - $85 billion through September 30th (the end of fiscal year 2013) and another $25 billion through the end of December.  One half would come from tax increases, while the other half would come from spending cuts equally divided between eliminating direct payments to farmers and cuts to national defense.

Senate Republicans are expected to offer a plan to grant the Defense Department and other agencies flexibility to prioritize their own funding, rather than implementing the arbitrary cuts to each program called for under sequestration.   For the $85 billion in cuts under sequestration for 2013, agencies would be able to reprogram spending cuts at their discretion; however, a balance must remain between defense and non-defense spending cuts. 

In May (H.R.5652) and December (H.R.6684) of 2012, the House voted to replace sequestration with recommendations from six committees – Agriculture, Energy and Commerce, Financial Services, Judiciary, Oversight and Government Reform, and Ways and Means - to cancel $98 billion in cuts to discretionary funding. Both of these bills passed with Congressman Forbes’ support.

Question of the week: Which of these three legislative proposals do you support to avert sequestration?

( ) I support the bills passed in the House that provide alternative spending cuts.
( ) I support the plan offered by Senate Democrats to raise taxes.
( ) I support the plan offered by Senate Republicans to allow agencies to prioritize spending.
( ) I support sequestration.
( ) I support another solution (share your thoughts below).
( ) I don’t know.

Take the Poll here.

Find the results of last week’s InstaPoll here.
Posted by Randy | February 21, 2013
Earlier this month, I asked whether you support sequestration or an alternative plan to reduce federal spending. Over 77% of constituents responded that they support an alternative plan.

It has been 568 days since the Budget Control Act, which set up the process of sequestration, was signed into law. I voted against this legislation because I believed that it would make dangerous cuts to our military. Since then, I have launched two initiatives: Strong Defense, Strong America and Defending our Defenders, to warn about the dangers of slashing defense spending. Now that we are just days away from sequestration taking effect, several legislative proposals have been introduced to delay or replace the arbitrary, across-the-board sequestration cuts.

Please note: These solutions are not mutually exclusive – implementing one would not necessarily exclude another.

Solution 1: Alternative spending cuts:
In May (H.R.5652) and December (H.R.6684) of 2012, the House voted to replace sequestration with recommendations from six committees – Agriculture, Energy and Commerce, Financial Services, Judiciary, Oversight and Government Reform, and Ways and Means - to cancel $98 billion in cuts to discretionary funding. Both of these bills passed with my support.

Solution 2: Protect defense from sequestration:
Last week, I introduced a bill (H.R.773) to remove the Department of Defense from sequestration. Under sequestration, defense spending will be disproportionately cut, absorbing 50% of the cuts. Spending cuts of this magnitude will not only cripple the economy, but will decimate the military. This bill would reduce the amount of the sequester to $600 billion.

Solution 3: Federal employee attrition:
Representative McKeon (R-CA) and Senator Ayotte (R-NH) introduced a bill (H.R.593 and S.263) that would pay for one year of cuts by requiring a reduction in the federal workforce through attrition and a pay freeze for Members of Congress.

Solution 4: Delay implementation of the healthcare law to avert sequestration:
Representative Thornberry (R-TX) introduced a bill (H.R.607) to delay all provisions of the health care law that are set to take effect in 2014 and 2015 until January 1, 2016. I am a cosponsor of this bill.

Solution 5: Tax increases:
Senator Whitehouse (D-RI) introduced two alternative plans to delay sequestration for one-year (S.278) or in the alternative, replace it for the full 9 years (S.277). Both plans are completely achieved through tax increases.

Solution 6: Increase taxes and cuts to national defense:
Representative Ellison (D-MN) introduced a bill (H.R.505) to replace sequestration with $960 billion in tax increases, and cutting $278 billion from defense spending.

Question of the week:
Which alternatives to sequestration do you support? (Multi-answer)

( ) Solution 1: Alternative spending cuts
( ) Solution 2: Protect defense from sequestration
( ) Solution 3: Federal employee attrition
( ) Solution 4: Delay implementation of the healthcare law to avert sequestration
( ) Solution 5: Tax increases
( ) Solution 6: Increase taxes and cuts to national defense
( ) I support sequestration.
( ) I support another solution. (Leave your comments below)
( ) I don’t know.

Take the Poll here.

Find the results of last week’s InstaPoll here.
Posted by Randy | February 08, 2013

In 2011, the Budget Control Act (BCA) was introduced, calling for arbitrary and sharp spending reductions as a means of reducing the deficit. The BCA, which Congressman Forbes voted against but was passed and signed into law, calls for $984 billion in automatic, largely across-the-board spending reductions composed of $492 billion from national security and $492 billion from programs such as education, law enforcement, Medicare, housing, and medical research. These cuts, through the process of sequestration, are scheduled to take place on March 1, 2013, unless Congress and the President act.

The U.S. House of Representatives has voted twice to replace the sequestration; however, the Senate has failed to act.  It has now been eighteen months since the Budget Control Act was signed into law and our nation has just weeks until sequestration takes effect. This week, the President delivered a speech, calling on Congress to avert sequestration.  According to The Washington Post, “Obama did not outline a specific proposal,” but indicated his support for tax increases and some spending cuts as a means of postponing or replacing sequestration.

Today, our national debt stands at over $16 trillion, and we have annually run a deficit of $1 trillion for the past four years.  Congressman Forbes has taken steps to champion real, effective solutions to address overspending, such as consistently supporting a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution, voting against $800 billion instimulus spending, and introducing the Congressional Accountability Pay (CAP) Act to tie the salaries of Members of Congress directly to federal spending. 

Further, since 2011, Congressman Forbes has continuously warned against dangerous cuts under sequestration, and has taken steps to prevent it:

July 2011 --- Launched an initiative called Strong Defense, Strong America to warn about the dangers of slashing defense to pay for stimulus spending
August 2011 ---- Voted against the Budget Control Act, which set up the process of sequestration
October 2011­­ ­­­­­­---- Introduced Strong Defense, Strong America Resolution
May 2012 ---- Supported legislation to replace sequestration
May 2012 ---- Launched ‘Defending our Defenders,’ a series of 7 listening sessions around the country
December 2012 -----Again supported legislation to replace sequestration

Question of the week:
Do you support sequestration or an alternative spending reduction plan?

( ) I support sequestration called for under the Budget Control Act.
( ) I support an alternative plan to reduce the deficit and control spending. 
( ) I don’t know.
( ) Other.

Take the Poll here.

Find the results of last week’s InstaPoll here

Posted by Randy | January 31, 2013

I want to share with you a recent CNBC article  showing that GDP in the United States fell for the first time since 2009.  Both the article and the chart below, indicate that the 0.1 percent decline is due in large part to the largest cuts to defense spending our nation has seen in 40 years. 

Since 2011, when sequestration was introduced as a means to reduce spending, I have been warming against drastic and dangerous cuts to our military.  I opposed the Budget Control Act, which will implement sequestration and slash defense spending on March 1, 2013, and have consistently supported alternative plans to address the debt and reign in spending in Washington.  Given this latest economic report, do you agree that a strong defense is necessary to maintain a strong America?

GDP Shows Surprise Drop for US in Fourth Quarter
Published: Wednesday, 30 Jan 2013 | 8:11 AM ET

The U.S. economy posted a stunning drop of 0.1 percent in the fourth quarter, defying expectations for slow growth and possibly providing incentive for more Federal Reserve stimulus.

The economy shrank from October through December for the first time since the recession ended, hurt by the biggest cut in defense spending in 40 years, fewer exports and sluggish growth in company stockpiles.

The Commerce Department said Wednesday that the economy contracted at an annual rate of 0.1 percent in the fourth quarter. That's a sharp slowdown from the 3.1 percent growth rate in the July-September quarter.

The surprise contraction could raise fears about the economy's ability to handle tax increases that took effect in January and looming spending cuts.

Still, the weakness may be because of one-time factors. Government spending cuts and slower inventory growth subtracted a total of 2.6 percentage points from growth.

And those volatile categories offset faster growth in consumer spending, business investment and housing -- the economy's core drivers of growth.

Another positive aspect of the report: For all of 2012, the economy expanded 2.2 percent, better than 2011's growth of 1.8 percent.

The economy may stay weak at the start of the year because Americans are coming to grips with an increase in Social Security taxes that has left them with less take-home pay.

Subpar growth has held back hiring. The economy has created about 150,000 jobs a month, on average, for the past two years. That's barely enough to reduce the unemployment rate, which has been 7.8 percent for the past two months.

Economists forecast that unemployment stayed at the still-high rate again this month. The government releases the January jobs report Friday.

The slower growth in stockpiles comes after a big jump in the third quarter. Companies frequently cut back on inventories if they anticipate a slowdown in sales. Slower inventory growth means factories likely produced less.

Heavy equipment maker Caterpillar, Inc. said this week that it reduced its inventories by $2 billion in the fourth quarter as global sales declined from a year earlier.

The biggest question going forward is how consumers react to the expiration of a Social Security tax cut. Congress and the White House allowed the temporary tax cut to expire in January, but reached a deal to keep income taxes from rising on most Americans.

The tax increase will lower take home pay this year by about 2 percent. That means a household earning $50,000 a year will have about $1,000 less to spend. A household with two high-paid workers will have up to $4,500 less.

Already, a key measure of consumer confidence plummeted this month after Americans noticed the reduction in their paychecks, the Conference Board reported Tuesday.

Economists expected the first reading on gross domestic product to show growth of 1 percent, down from the third quarter's reading of 3.1 percent.

Posted by Randy | January 18, 2013
In January of 1995, a constitutional amendment that mandated a balanced budget passed the U.S House of Representatives.  Two months later, the balanced budget amendment was brought to the floor of the U.S. Senate where it failed by one vote. Since then, federal debt has more than tripled in size from $5.1 trillion to $16.4 trillion today.  Additionally, since 2007, the debt ceiling has been increased nine times - three of which were a result of the Budget Control Act - without Congressman Forbes’ support.

Article I, Section 8 of the United States Constitution gives Congress the sole power “to borrow money on the credit of the United States.”  The United States reached its $16.4 trillion debt ceiling or borrowing limit at the end of 2012.  As a result, U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner began a “debt issuance period”, in which the U.S. suspended investments in a pair of government retirement funds through February 28, 2013 to tap into approximately $200 billion of emergency borrowing authority.

The Heritage Foundation has argued that the government should use this opportunity to engage in “real-time budgeting” and prioritize federal spending to allocate incoming funds to the government’s highest priorities - interest on the debt, national security, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid – and then applying the rest to remaining mandatory and discretionary accounts. 

The Center for New American Progress made the case that Congress has an obligation to raise the debt ceiling as, voting to increase the debt limit is “not a vote on how much we will spend or whether we will raise the money to pay for it but rather a vote on whether we will pay our bills.”

Congressman Forbes believes that we must make it a priority to put our nation back on a path of fiscal prosperity.  We need to address the deficit and federal spending, but we also need to reform the way in which Congress acts in addressing the fiscal state of our nation.  

Question of the week: Which viewpoint best represents your views on the debt ceiling?

( ) I would support a proposal to raise the debt ceiling if it included significant spending cuts.

( ) Congress should oppose an increase in the debt ceiling and allocate incoming funds to the government’s highest priorities allowing for default on lower priority obligations.

( ) The U.S. must pay their bills and the debt ceiling should be raised without any negotiations.

( ) I don’t know.

( ) Other.

Take the poll here.

Find out the results of last week’s instaPoll here.
Posted by Randy | January 16, 2013

Called for under the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, and in response to the recent housing crisis, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau issued a new rule implementing a requirement that creditors make a good faith effort to determine whether a consumer has the ability to repay before issuing a loan. I want to share with you a recent Wall Street Journal article which discusses this new qualified mortgage rule and provides different industry perspectives and opinions.  What are your thoughts on the rule? 

New Mortgage Rules: The Reviews Come In
By Alan Zibel

The day the lending industry has been nervously anticipating has finally come.

The federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has rolled out new rules that reshape the U.S. mortgage industry, and are designed to ensure that lenders don’t return to the lax standards that fueled the housing market’s boom and bust.

The rules implement what seems to be a logical proposition—that lenders consider borrowers’ ability to repay the loans they are given. But given the complexity of the issue, it took months of work for the consumer bureau to arrive at a definition of a “qualified mortgage” that would meet standards spelled out in the Dodd-Frank financial law of 2010.

The consumer bureau decided that lenders could satisfy this requirement in two ways: by making loans where the borrower is spending up to 43% of their income on debt payments –or by satisfying the lending standards of Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the Federal Housing Administration.

Some “jumbo” loans that can’t be sold to Fannie or Freddie might not be able to meet these requirements. That could dampen the availability of loans to jumbo borrowers with high debt levels, potentially putting a squeeze on sales in parts of the country where the housing market is still weak.

The rule contains key protection from consumer lawsuits sought by the lending industry. This “safe harbor” against litigation from foreclosed homeowners will only apply for loans that meet the qualified mortgage standards and are issued at interest rates that are no more than 1.5 percentage points above a national average.

Consumer advocates are unhappy with this move, as they had pushed for fewer protections from legal challenges.

Overall, the rule is a big change from last spring, when there were widespread fears in the real estate world that the rule would seriously impact the availability of loans. The rule “is far less onerous than what banks expected just six months ago,” wrote Jaret Seiberg, a senior policy analyst with Guggenheim Securities, in a note to clients.

Here’s a sampling from statements in response to the rule:

Julia Gordon, director of housing finance and policy at the Center for American Progress: “This new rule is a crucial step in protecting consumers against the predatory lending practices that crashed our housing market and stripped trillions of dollars from families. At the core of the rule lies a common-sense business principle: If a borrower can’t afford to pay back the loan in full, the lender has no business making that loan in the first place. Unfortunately, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau shielded lenders from liability for a large subset of loans, making it more difficult for consumers to enforce this rule than was originally envisioned by lawmakers.”

Rep. Jeb Hensarling, chairman of House Financial Services Committee: “These types of ‘one size fits all’ solutions always—always—are fraught with unintended consequences. After all, government regulations and policies that strong-armed, incented and cajoled financial institutions into loaning money to people to buy homes they couldn’t afford are a major reason why we had the financial crisis to begin with. Ironically, now we have government regulations attempting to tell financial institutions not to do what the government was telling them to do before.”

Debra Still, chairman of the Mortgage Bankers Association: “This approach should allow lenders to offer sustainable mortgage credit to a great number of qualified borrowers without having to risk unreasonable and overly punitive litigation and penalties…We remain concerned that certain aspects of it could curb competition, increase costs and tighten credit availability for borrowers. In particular, the 3% cap on points and fees appears to be overly inclusive as it relates to compensation and affiliates. Loans with the same interest rate, terms and out of pocket costs should be treated the same under the rule regardless of the organizational structure or business model of the lender.”

Alys Cohen, staff attorney, National Consumer Law Center: “Congress’ mandate in Dodd-Frank is clear. Lenders must take reasonable steps to ensure that every mortgage loan is affordable when made, and homeowners whose lenders overreach have recourse. Unfortunately, and with potentially significant, negative consumer protection consequences, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s new regulations fail to deliver those protections.”

Marc Savitt, president, National Association of Independent Housing Professionals: “Although the CFPB promised to create a level playing field and competition with their rules and regulations, once again we see a strong bias against licensed mortgage brokers when it comes to their ability to serve borrowers. We need a rule that treats all originators the same, instead of one that picks winners and losers.”

Gary Thomas, president, National Association of Realtors: “We are pleased that the rule encompasses the vast majority of the safe, high quality lending being done today. We will continue to work closely with the CFPB to ensure that the cap on fees doesn’t restrict consumers’ mortgage options, but believe (the) rule is a positive step to bringing certainty to the housing finance system.”

Posted by Randy | November 19, 2012
The term “fiscal cliff” was coined by Ben Bernanke, Chairman of the Federal Reserve, in early 2012, when he testified before Congress saying, “Under current law, on January 1st, 2013, there is going to be a massive fiscal cliff of large spending cuts and tax increases.”  The phrase quickly gained popularity as a useful catch-all to describe a combination of year-end policy events including significant impending tax increases, sharp sequestration budget cuts, and the expiration of several stop-gap provisions ranging from doctor reimbursements to unemployment benefits.

Today, the term “fiscal cliff” dominates the local headlines, national news, and blogosphere.  But what exactly is the fiscal cliff and how does it impact you? I have put together this primer to break down the fiscal cliff, to share facts on how these policies might impact you and your job, and to offer my views on how we can avert our nation’s most pressing and significant challenge.

Please share this primer with others that might find it informative.  Then, weigh in below, take my instapoll, join the discussion on Facebook or e-mail me via my webform.  Your voice is important.  I look forward to hearing from you.
Posted by Randy | November 16, 2012

Rolls-Royce announced this week that they are investing $136 million for a second manufacturing plant at their Crosspointe facility in Prince George County, resulting in 140 new, highly skilled jobs. They will manufacture turbine blades for jet engines, including the Boeing 787 Dreamliner and Airbus A380. Sitework is scheduled to begin in December and construction is expected to be complete by the end of 2013.

Rolls Royce’s investment and expansion at Crosspointe is a great model for job growth in Virginia. By combining a mix of manufacturing and technology-based research facilities, secondary suppliers will follow to create more employment opportunities.

The construction of the second plant achieves two-thirds of its phased employment and investment agreement at Crosspointe, which runs through 2022.  Rolls Royce invested $170 million, opening its Commonwealth Center for Advanced Manufacturing earlier this year, which created 130 new jobs.  

Read more case studies for job growth in my memo on jobs in the 4th District here.


Posted by Randy | November 09, 2012
As the end of the year approaches, so does the “fiscal cliff”: expiration of the Bush tax cuts and automatic spending cuts of $1.2 trillion known as sequestration are scheduled to take place.

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released a report today: Economic Effects of Policies Contributing to Fiscal Tightening in 2013, estimating that significant tax increases and spending cuts scheduled to take effect in January will sharply reduce the federal budget deficit, but also cause “a decline in the nation’s economic output and an increase in unemployment. “   Essentially, the fiscal cliff could drive the U.S. economy back into recession next year and result in a jump in the jobless rate to 9.1% by the end of 2013.

Question of the week: Which “Fiscal Cliff” issues are you most concerned about? (multi-answer)

(  ) Rising income tax rates to 15, 28, 31, 36 and 39.6% from 10, 15, 25, 28, 33 and 35%
(  ) Capital Gains rate rises from 15 to 20% for most people
(  ) Automatic spending cuts to defense budget of $55 billion in 2013
(   ) Reduction in the child tax credit from $1,000 per child under 17, to $500 per child under 17
(  ) Automatic spending cuts of $55 billion to non-defense discretionary spending in 2013
(  ) I am not concerned. These are all appropriate tax increases and spending cuts.
(  ) Other (share your thoughts on my blog here.)

Take the poll here.