As I write this on Friday afternoon, Congress is still debating a special appropriations bill to fund military operations in Iraq and strengthen homeland security. As a member of the Appropriations Committee, I'm focused right now on keeping the wartime spending bill free of special interest riders that could delay its passage. Ensuring our troops have all the resources they need to complete their mission decisively is simply too important a priority to bog down with unnecessary provisions. While we fully equip our soldiers with the tools they need to wage war, we must also ensure they are not discriminated against financially for their service. On Tuesday, the House passed the Armed Forces Tax Fairness Act, which makes several commonsense changes to ease the tax burden on military families. For example, it extends deadlines for filing tax returns for individuals who become involved in U.S. military operations and allows military families to receive the entire $6,000 soldiers death gratuity benefit tax-free. Currently, only half the benefit is tax-free. Also on Tuesday, I voted for a bill authorizing free, confidential services to help small businesses comply with government regulations. Since small firms pay a larger share of their income dealing with government red tape than large companies, it only makes sense to level the playing field and allow small businesses to invest more and create new jobs. Later in the week, the House approved a comprehensive energy security bill. America needs a balanced energy plan to guard against wild price fluctuations and secure our nation's power for the future. Higher energy costs are squeezing family budgets, undermining small businesses, and threatening the long-term health of our economy. The energy bill now goes to the Senate for consideration and you can bet I will do my best to get a bill to the President that provides for the dependable, affordable, and clean production of energy for our future. Finally, two other important bills cleared their last hurdles to becoming law. The House passed a budget framework that targets spending for a jobs and growth package, a Medicare prescription drug benefit for seniors, and improvements in homeland security and transportation infrastructure. We also approved the final version of legislation to create a nationwide Amber Alert system to improve recovery efforts of abducted children. What's on Tap for Next Week? Next week, the House of Representatives will not be in session for the annual spring district work period. I hope to see you back home.
With kind regards,
April 11, 2003