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Posted by Randy | June 05, 2015
Exactly one year ago this month, the President ordered the release of five Taliban commanders – one a deputy defense minister, another head of intelligence-- from Guantanamo Bay in exchange for Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who had been held hostage by the Taliban since 2009.  Sgt. Bergdahl has now been charged with desertion and misbehavior before the enemy that endangered his unit; he faces a preliminary hearing on those charges on September 17th. The Taliban detainees, all deemed ‘high risk’ in a 2008 Pentagon report, have been under the supervision of the government of Qatar and subject to a one-year travel ban. This travel ban was due to expire this past Monday.

However, U.S. officials confirmed on Monday that Qatar has agreed to temporarily extend the travel ban on the five Taliban leaders, while discussions for a longer term solution continue. This news comes in the aftermath of reports, which U.S. officials substantiated in January, that one of the five commanders was suspected of re-engaging in terrorist or insurgent activities. More recently, media reports have circulated that three of the five Taliban members have tried to make contact with terrorist networks.

During the last Congress, the House passed a bipartisan resolution formally condemning the President’s actions exchanging Sgt. Bergdahl for the five Taliban commanders without providing Congress with the required 30-day notice before transferring detainees out of Guantanamo Bay.
 

Question of the Week:
Do you believe a temporary extension to the travel ban on the Taliban five is sufficient to protect national security?


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


Take the Poll here

Find the results of last week’s InstaPoll here.
Posted by Randy | June 05, 2015
Wanted to be sure you were aware of some important bills that passed the House recently, to support our heroes:

Helping homeless veterans get back on their feet. I voted in support of the Homeless Veterans Reintegration Programs Reauthorization Act of 2015, H.R. 474, which helps homeless veterans participate in job-training programs and empowers them with resources to better their lives as part of a long-term sustainable solution to veteran homelessness and unemployment.

Providing ID cards to any honorably discharged veteran who requests one. Currently, only retired or medically discharged veterans receive an ID card from the VA. I voted for a bill (the Veterans ID Card Act, H.R. 91) to direct the VA to provide ID cards to any honorably discharged veteran who requests one. This would allow veterans to utilize goods, services, and activities offered by public and private institutions to those who demonstrate proof of military service – without having to always carry their official DD-214 discharge papers, which can be both inconvenient and impractical.

Holding VA employees accountable. The Ensuring VA Employee Accountability Act, H.R. 1038, requires the VA to keep records of all reprimands received by an employee for the entire duration of their employment at the VA. This is in contrast to the current policy, which only requires these misdemeanors to stay on the record for two years.  This gives managers a comprehensive look at the employee while hiring and requires that all employees are held to the high standards for performing their jobs effectively.

Preserving veterans’ small businesses.   Currently, small businesses owned by service disabled veterans have a “preferred status,” which helps ease some of the hurdles of starting a small business.  I voted in support of the Service Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business Relief Act, H.R. 1313, which allows the spouse of a deceased veteran with service related disability to retain that status for between three to ten years (contingent upon their spouses disability rating) in order to support the growth of the business.

Ensuring veterans can stay in their homes. I supported the Vulnerable Veterans Housing Reform Act, H.R. 1816, which exempts veterans from reporting in-home health aid benefits as part of their gross income when determining low-income housing eligibility so that they can stay in their homes while maintaining the health care they need.

Hiring our heroes. I supported the Boosting Rates of American Veteran Employment (BRAVE) Act, H.R. 1382, which prioritizes contractors who hire veterans full-time when selecting government projects through the VA.  It also holds contractors accountable — punishing those who falsify veteran employment numbers for personal gain.

Our servicemembers served our nation with honor. It is our honor to serve them now that they are safely home.
Posted by Randy | June 04, 2015
Wanted to let you know that I am supporting a new bill called The Recreational Fishing and Hunting Heritage and Opportunities Act (H.R. 528), which protects Americans’ ability to hunt and fish on federal land.  Currently, there are no guarantees in place to direct U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to either facilitate hunting opportunities or to assess the impacts of other activities on existing hunting opportunities.

This bill changes that by requiring USFS and BLM officials to facilitate opportunities and access on their lands for hunting, fishing, and recreational shooting. It also requires them to evaluate the land and resource planning documents in regards to the impacts of proposed actions on hunting opportunities.

To further support Americans’ Second Amendment rights, I have cosponsored The Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act (H.R. 986) to strengthen law abiding citizens’ rights who have concealed carry permits in their home states to legally bring their firearms into any other state with concealed carry laws. Under the bill, gun owners would still be required to comply with any concealed carry laws in any state they are visiting.

Posted by Randy | June 03, 2015
Recently, I joined over 250 Members of Congress in signing a letter to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), requesting a delay in the enforcement period of the new mortgage disclosure rules that are set to go into effect on August 1st. You can read a copy of the letter, here.

The requested grace period would allow the mortgage and housing industry time to adjust to all the changes, and to evaluate and ensure they are able to comply with the new regulations. In turn, this will help the industry better serve their consumers without tangling them in any potential confusion surrounding these new regulations. I will keep you posted.
Posted by Randy | May 29, 2015
This month, the House passed the annual defense policy bill (H.R. 1735), which seeks to maintain current capabilities, prepare for future threats, sustain America’s technological advantage in the years ahead, and maintain a stable military balance to deter conflict and secure the interests of the United States and its allies. This bill was overwhelmingly passed by the House Armed Services Committee and later passed by a bipartisan vote on the House floor.

Defense Secretary Ash Carter, however, openly rejected the proposal, calling it a “road to nowhere” at a Senate hearing. Despite the fact that Secretary Carter acknowledged sequestration would be “devastating” for the military and cause a crisis in national defense, he stated his support of the Administration’s determination to veto any bill that lifts sequestration from defense, if it does not also lift it from the IRS, EPA, and other federal agencies that are not related to national security. Watch Congressman Forbes questioning Secretary Carter about the impacts of sequestration on national security, here.

Congressman Forbes has warned Secretary Carter that his primary objective, as Secretary of Defense, must be providing our men and women in uniform the resources they need to execute their missions and return home safely – not funding domestic agencies.


Question of the Week: Do you believe it is appropriate for the Secretary of Defense to tie national security funding to funding for agencies like the EPA and IRS?


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


Take the Poll here

Find the results of last week’s InstaPoll here.
Posted by Randy | May 28, 2015
In case you missed it, today marked a critical next step in the House of Representatives’ lawsuit challenging the President’s healthcare law, as the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia heard arguments on the “motion to dismiss” filed by the Administration.

The arguments today addressed the threshold question of whether the House has a right to have its claims heard in federal court. The Administration is arguing that it does not. Why is this is so important? Because if the executive branch is able to spend public funds without an appropriation from Congress – as the Administration is doing – while Congress is excluded from challenging this action in federal court, then Congress’ “power of the purse” is all but meaningless. Congress’ decision making authority over funding federal programs is foundational to Congress’s ability to serve as a check to the powers of the executive branch and crucial to our government’s trisected division of power.

At the end of the day, the protection of the American peoples’ rights depends on the three branches of government’s ability to effectively check and balance one another. That is why this fight matters.

I will keep you posted.

Posted by Randy | May 27, 2015
I am pleased to share that I’ve been selected as a Co-Chairman of the new bipartisan Congressional Historically Black Colleges and Universities Caucus, which I wrote to you about earlier this year. It’s an honor to serve in this capacity, and I look forward to utilizing this leadership role within the Caucus to continue to represent the interests of the five Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) located in and around the 4th District, as well as universities across the country.

As you know, the Congressional HBCU Caucus was created to further the national dialogue on HBCUs, and bring their needs and interests into appropriate legislation. I am excited to share the progress of our work through the Caucus to support HBCUs around Virginia and in the 4th District – I will keep you posted.
Posted by Randy | May 26, 2015
Recently, I was honored to join the Congressional EMS Caucus, which was created to raise awareness for the needs of EMS providers and practitioners, and to ensure they are represented in relevant legislation.

I am so grateful for all that our Fourth District first responders – and those across the country – contribute to our communities, and I will keep you updated with my work to support them through my new role in this Caucus.
Posted by Randy | May 22, 2015
Every year, the government spends billions in duplicative programs. In the first four annual reports issued by The Government Accountability Office (GAO) from 2011 through 2014, 188 areas were identified where opportunities existed for executive branch agencies or Congress to reduce, eliminate, or better manage fragmentation, overlap, or duplication; achieve cost savings; or enhance revenue. Most recently, the GAO’s 2015 Annual Report identified 12 new areas of fragmentation, overlap, or duplication in federal programs and activities.

This year, a resolution has been introduced in the House of Representatives aimed at cutting down on duplicative, underutilized, and unnecessary government programs. H.RES.45 requires that, when Congress proposes the creation of a new program or initiative, lawmakers must 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.

Congressman Randy Forbes is a cosponsor of this bill.


Question of the Week
: Do you support H.RES. 45 as a means of cutting down on duplicative government programs?


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


Take the Poll here

Find the results of last week’s InstaPoll here.
Posted by Randy | May 19, 2015

Law enforcement officers put duty before self, working on the front lines to protect our homes, our communities, our children, and our lives.

While it is hard to convey our gratitude for such sacrifice, uniting as a country to recognize National Police Week this week affords us an opportunity to commemorate the dedication of these special patriots. We are truly grateful.


Recently, a bill I cosponsored called the National Blue Alert Act of 2015 (S. 665) passed the House of Representatives and the Senate, and is now headed to the President’s desk to become law. This bill will create a national Blue Alert communications network within the Justice Department, tasked with integrating existing and future Blue Alert systems throughout the United States. I’m pleased that this legislation passed, and I will continue working to increase public safety and ensure proper protection for our law enforcement officers and first responders.