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Private Property Protections and Veterans Transportation - Mac's Video Mailbox
Posted by on May 21, 2015

Dear Friends,

I’d like to update you on two important pieces of legislation that will greatly impact many folks in our area.

Private property rights are vital to our American way of life. It is the foundation for our homes, our livelihoods, and our opportunity to provide a better future for coming generations. That is why alarms sounded when rights to Texas land were called into question by the federal government. Senator Cornyn and I introduced legislation to help protect the property rights of landowners who own property along the Red River that was claimed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Many of these land owners possess deeds and have been paying taxes on this property for decades. 

Originally claiming 90,000 acres along a 116-mile stretch of the Red River, the BLM has now lowered its estimates of land it may own to 30,000 acres. Only 6,402 of those acres have actually been surveyed by the federal government. 

“The Red River Private Property Protection Act” (H.R. 2130) seeks to eliminate any cloud of uncertainty for landowners once and for all. For more detailed information, click here

Recently, I cosponsored another bill, the “Rural Veterans Travel Enhancement Act of 2015,” (H.R. 2291), that would permanently authorize the VA’s ability to transport veterans to and from their healthcare appointments. It is a cost-effective program to help veterans access healthcare by saving on ambulance costs and offering mileage reimbursements.  This program allowed the Amarillo VA to transport 6,047 veterans to and from appointments between October 1, 2014, and March 31, 2015.

This bill also reauthorizes a grant program for five years to support Veterans Services Organizations that transport veterans in highly rural areas who are seeking medical care, like many in our area. I also adds new mileage reimbursement for veterans traveling to Vet Centers, where they can receive post-war readjustment counseling.

Improving veteran access to healthcare does not only mean having enough providers. It requires us to ensure that veterans are able to get to their appointments with those providers. We owe it to those who faithfully served our country. For more detailed information, click here.

I will continue to keep you updated on these bills and other legislation as the year progresses. You can watch my latest video mailbox about them by following the link below.

Click here for Mac's Video Mailbox



Thank you for watching my latest video mailbox.  Have a question you would like answered?  Please contact me by phone, letter, e-mail, on Facebook, or on Twitter. 
 
As always, I appreciate hearing from you. 

Sincerely,
Mac
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Remember the Past to Shape the Future
Posted by on September 11, 2014
Thirteen years ago today, 19 men boarded commercial airplanes with box cutters, and nearly 3,000 innocent Americans lost their lives.  It was a day that altered the course of our history and shaped the American conscience forever.
 
With the recent state of events in Iraq and Syria, we are reminded yet again that the threat of terrorism is real and spreading.  In fact, our country faces a greater number and a wider array of threats to our security today than ever before.
 
The news headlines of today, not to mention our history books, also remind us that we can never afford to pretend that conflicts overseas do not affect us here at home.
 
Last night the President spoke of his plan to deal with the terrorist group, ISIL.  While the President sounded more resolute than in the past, we cannot defeat ISIL and other terrorists with a speech.  It takes action, and it takes perseverance.

With the large number and diversity of threats, it is now more critical than ever that we maintain the strongest, best-equipped, and best-trained military in the world.  In many ways we are far better prepared than we were pre-9/11.  But in my opinion, after the defense cuts and intelligence disclosures of the last few years, we are not as well positioned to prevent terrorist attacks as we were three to four years ago.  To keep Americans safe and maintain global leadership, Congress and President Obama must work together to develop a long-term national security strategy and then stick with it.
 
Now is the time to allow the lessons of the past to shape our present and future.  9/11 is, and ought to be, a day of remembrance for the victims, of honor for those who have fought the terrorists over the last 13 years, and also a day that reminds us of how important it is that we commit to defeating terrorism together.  
 
May God bless you and may He continue to bless America.
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World in Crisis
Posted by on September 01, 2014
Each day the headlines bring an escalation of some world crisis into our homes.  Just yesterday, a front page story in the Washington Post began with the sentence, “Short of world war, it’s rare that a chief executive goes through a foreign policy month like President Obama’s August.”

It is rare – and very disturbing.  The perception around the world is that the United States is in retreat and being forced to respond to events rather than shaping them.  With weakened U.S. leadership, the world becomes a more dangerous place for Americans and for freedom-loving people everywhere.

In Ukraine, President Putin continues to push more brazenly in his invasion of Ukraine.  The U.S. has yet to provide the Ukrainian military with the adequate non-lethal equipment, like body armor and night vision goggles, that was recommended months ago, much less the weapons they need to repel the Russian advance.

In Iraq and Syria, nothing has significantly reversed the momentum that ISIS has built as the best equipped, best financed, and most capable terrorist organization the world has seen.  Of particular concern are the estimates that 2,000 - 3,000 people with Western passports have trained with ISIS and can easily return to Europe and the United States to carry out attacks.  

As the President admitted in his press conference last week, he does not yet have a strategy for dealing with this threat.  Consulting with military and intelligence professionals, the President must develop such a strategy, explain it to Congress and the American people, and then, if it involves sustained military action, request from Congress an authorization to use military force.

Because so much attention has been given to Ukraine and ISIS, a number of other world hot spots have not been in the headlines but are heating up.  From North Korea and China to Yemen, Afghanistan, and West Africa, dangers are growing.  And yet the Administration shows little leadership in strengthening our defenses.

The basic truth was expressed by President Reagan in a speech to the nation in March 1983.  He said, “We maintain the peace through our strength; weakness only invites aggression.”  That is what is happening now in many places around the world.  Aggressors are taking advantage of perceived American weakness.  The solution starts with the United States regaining our strength.  

Below are links to some recent media interviews I have done on these events.
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A Step Forward for Landowners - Mac's Video Mailbox
Posted by on July 25, 2014
Private property rights are vital to our American way of life.  It is the foundation for our homes, our livelihoods, and our opportunity to provide a better future for coming generations.  That is why alarms sounded when rights to Texas land were called into question by the federal government.  Last December, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) announced it was reviewing and updating its management plan for any land the federal government might own along the Red River – land that has been in families for decades.

To help settle the issue, I recently introduced legislation with Senator John Cornyn that would legally settle the question of ownership once and for all.  The “Red River Private Property Protection Act (H.R. 4979)” requires the BLM to provide quit claim deeds to any property owner who can demonstrate his or her ownership through a county deed and tax records.  It would also prevent the BLM from including any private property in its management plans now and in the future.  Landowners deserve the certainty that their land will be protected and their ownership secure.

Upon introduction, the bill was sent to the House Natural Resources Committee to await further review.  I am pleased that the Committee announced a hearing on the bill will be held next Tuesday, moving it one more step closer to hopefully getting to the House floor for a vote.  At the hearing, one of our local landowners will give his perspective on how the issue directly affects him and his land.  Listen below to learn more.

If interested, you can tune into the hearing live from your computer by clicking here. To learn more about the history of the issue and my most recent actions to protect Texas landowners, please visit my website.

Click here for Mac's Video Mailbox: July 25, 2014
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Getting Americans Back to Work
Posted by on July 15, 2014
In 49 of the past 50 months, more Americans have dropped out of the labor force than have found jobs.  Although the June jobs report claimed that the unemployment rate dropped from 6.3 percent to 6.1 percent, those numbers fail to tell the whole story.  It does not include the “missing workers,” those people who have given up looking for work.  Currently, there are over 5 million missing workers in this country, which, if accounted for, would cause the unemployment rate to rise to 11.1 percent.

Putting people back to work in good jobs is the key to getting our economy moving again.  It is an issue that touches the lives of so many Americans – from our moms and dads who have been laid off to our college graduates who cannot find their first jobs.  The House has acted.  In fact, the House has passed nearly 300 bills that have yet to get even a vote in the Senate.

Among the bills collecting dust in the Senate is a tax-relief bill that passed the House last week.  H.R. 4718 amends the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to make 50-percent bonus depreciation permanent.  This bill would enable businesses to immediately expense half of their investment in equipment, allowing them to expand their products at a greater rate, grow their businesses, and stimulate the economy.  The Tax Foundation found that this single change in the tax code would add $182 billion to the economy and create 212,000 jobs.  

The House also passed the final version of the SKILLS Act last week after it had been sitting in the Senate for over a year.  H.R. 803, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (SKILLS Act), consolidates 15 duplicative and ineffective federal workforce programs into one improved program.  It requires states to submit one unified four-year workforce plan to address core programs, reduce administrative costs, and ensure programs are actually helping people as intended.  And it targets both youth and adults who face barriers to employment by providing occupational skills training for specific careers.  The bill is now headed to the President’s desk.  

In addition to job bills, the House has passed multiple energy bills that would expand U.S. energy production, cut costs, and create thousands of more jobs.  You can read more about those bills here.

There is so much potential around the country for jobs, for economic growth, and for the higher quality of life that growth provides.  Even small steps can make a big difference, and the House will keep pushing for commonsense reforms and encourage the Senate and the White House to join those efforts.
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Crisis on the Border - Mac's Video Mailbox
Posted by on July 11, 2014

Thousands of unaccompanied children and other migrants are flooding our southern border.  As Texans, this is an issue that hits close to home and one that requires immediate attention and decisive action.  It is the topic of this week's video mailbox.

The first job of the federal government is to protect the country and part of that means knowing who and what comes across our borders.  If we are unable to control the border, we put the safety of our own people at risk.  Tens of thousands of children from Central America – particularly Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador – are flooding our borders unaccompanied.  In fact, the Border Patrol has apprehended more unaccompanied children in the past six months than it has in any of the past five years.  The current number apprehended has nearly doubled that of 2012.  And without question, the Obama Administration’s immigration policies – and failure to enforce the law – have contributed to the problem.

The facts show that increases of migrating children and adults are connected to the Administration’s announcement of DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) in June 2012.   DACA provides certain children temporary protection from deportation, which helps fuel the misconception that if people send their children to America, they can come and stay.  This perception must be changed, and the Administration must make it clear that no one can enter our country illegally and hope to stay.  That is done by enforcing the law.  Until we communicate the message strongly and clearly with action, the flow will continue.

Not only is this massive flow of children crossing the border a humanitarian disaster for these children who have to travel long distances in life-threatening conditions, but it is also a national security threat to the United States.  With these children come the threat of disease and the danger that drug gangs or even terrorists could enter the country.  When so much of our time and resources is focused along one section of the border, other areas are not getting the attention they need.    

The bottom line is this crisis must be handled quickly and strongly.  Therefore, I urge the President to do his job, enforce the laws, and protect our borders.  The children must be returned as quickly as possible.  America’s health and safety are at stake.

You can click here to see a letter I sent to the President with my House colleagues calling for his immediate action.

Click here for Mac's Video Mailbox: July 11, 2014

 

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D-Day Reflections
Posted by on June 09, 2014

So much has been written about D-Day over the last 70 years – and rightfully so.  Many historians contend it was the decisive moment of World War II, the costliest war the world has ever known.  The biggest battles took place in the East between the Soviets and the Nazis.  But if Hitler had been able to repel the invasion of France, he believed that he could make another deal with Stalin and turn all of his forces back against Great Britain and the United States.

Being part of the delegation attending the 70th anniversary remembrances at Normandy, one is struck by several things.  One is how young the soldiers were.  The fate of nations and civilizations fell on the backs of men whose average age was 26.

Another is the tremendous cost.  Estimates are that 4,413 American and Allied personnel died on that one day.  A similar number of Nazis and some French civilians also perished.  Looking down the rows of white crosses at the cemetery above Omaha beach (pictured), one cannot help but think of the young lives prematurely cut short.  Of course, the individual cost was not limited to those who died that day.  Visiting with veterans who participated in the landings, one senses pain, as well as pride in returning to the scene of their heroics.  D-Day should always remind us how short-sighted it can be to fail to confront evil in a timely way, for the cost of overcoming it later is much higher.

Finally, one is struck by how important it is to remember.  Some day we will have no more D-Day or World War II veterans among us.  The significance of June 6, 1944 may fade in our collective memory.  Yet remembering and honoring their courage, their sacrifice, and their achievement is important, not just for them but also for us.   For we will need those qualities again and again in different circumstances.                        

Dr. Craig Barnes has said that as he read the stories of World War II in Tom Brokow’s book, The Greatest Generation, he was struck by the fact that none of the men was born a hero.  But they were able to reach down and find something heroic inside themselves when circumstances demanded.  That is certainly what happened that day 70 years ago on those French beaches.  For America, may it always be so.

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Root Out VA Abuse - Mac's Video Mailbox
Posted by on May 30, 2014

Across the political spectrum, there has been outrage at the mismanagement and coverup at the Veterans Administration (VA).  These problems must be fixed – whatever it takes. 

Across party lines, we can agree that our country owes a debt to the men and women who risk their lives to keep us safe.  After serving our country, our veterans deserve a government that will serve them when they come home.  Stories of extended wait times and veterans failing to receive care – or, in some cases, even dying because they failed to receive care – shocks us all.  Congress, as well as the Administration, has a responsibility to root out the problem and reverse this travesty.

Last week, the House passed a bill to give the Secretary of the VA the authority to fire senior level employees who fail to put the treatment of our veterans first.  This week, the House passed another series of bills to improve conditions for our veterans.  Read more information here.  And today, VA Secretary Shinseki resigned his post.  Before doing so, he removed senior leaders at the Phoenix facility and canceled bonuses for senior VA executives across the Department. 

Although these are steps in the right direction, I’m afraid the problems at the VA run deeper.  I believe a major cultural shift in the VA must take place, and that will take major reform.  Funding is not the problem – funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs has grown faster than any other government department in recent years.  In fact, since 2000, annual spending has nearly tripled to meet increases in demand for health-care and other costs.  Funding has increased far faster than the number of veterans served.
 
Listen below to this week's video mailbox to hear how I hope to get to the bottom of this systemic problem.
Click here for Mac's Video Mailbox: May 30, 2014
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The Call to Remember is an Active One
Posted by on May 23, 2014
Memorial Day, this coming Monday, marks what I would argue is one of the most important days of the year.  It’s a day that calls for us to remember how our nation came to be and why we can still call America the land of the free.  Memorial Day, formerly known as Decoration Day, originated because of men and women who took the time to decorate the graves of Civil War soldiers back in the late 1860s.  Now, years later, the tradition still remains.  Every Memorial Day, many Americans still take the time to lay a flag or flowers over the graves of the fallen to show that we acknowledge and honor his or her sacrifice. 

Without the men and women who have laid down their lives for our country, you and I would not enjoy the daily blessings of freedom.  Freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of assembly are privileges afforded to us – bought with a price, as is the quality of life those freedoms enable.

I believe that each of us who enjoy the benefits of being an American owe those who gave their lives at least two things.  One is to honor their memory and look after their families.  But that is not enough.

A dear friend, who went on to be in the newspaper business and to win a Pulitzer Prize for Journalism, after being captured at Corregidor and spending 3 years in a Japanese prison camp, put it this way in one of his columns:

As we have said many times in these columns, not all men are called upon to respond to battlefield conditions.  But all men and women will face many, many situations where courage and duty and responsibility are required, and where the true measure of their worth is how well they respond to those challenges.

That puts part of the responsibility back on our shoulders and on the decisions we make every day.  We owe it to those who sacrificed everything to live our lives in a way that is worthy of what they fought for.

This past week, the House voted on two key bills to help strengthen and support our Armed Forces and veterans.

Yesterday, the House passed the "National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2015" (H.R. 4435) to authorize military spending and to set policies for the coming year.  The bill increases pay for the troops by 1.8 percent, and it rejects the Administration’s proposals to have another round of base realignment and closures (BRAC) as well as the Administration's proposals for increased out-of-pocket costs for health care and other benefits to military families.   Locally, it provides funding for programs at Bell Helicopter, Pantex, and Sheppard Air Force Base.  Even as we are faced with tight budgets, this bill strives to give our war fighters the resources and the tools they need to face increasing threats and keep America strong.  You can learn more here.

When it comes to our veterans, I believe serious steps need to be taken to fix the broken VA system, especially in light of the investigation into the VA hospitals around the country.  Last week, I joined with other members of the Texas delegation to call for an Inspector General investigation into allegations that Veterans Affairs officials in Central Texas manipulated medical appointment data in order to conceal long wait times for veterans seeking care.  You can read more here.

Also, on Wednesday, the House passed H.R. 4031, the "Department of Veterans Affairs Management Accountability Act."  This bill makes it easier for the VA to fire or demote Senior Executive Service employees if they fail to meet the acceptable standard in order to prevent abuse like that reported in Phoenix from happening again.  But I am afraid that the problems in the VA run deep and will require more than personnel changes to correct.  The House must continue to make taking care of our veterans a priority.

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Building a safer, stronger America - Mac's Video Mailbox
Posted by on May 13, 2014
In this edition of my video mailbox, I will update you on two important issues — our nation's security and government regulations.

Last week the House Armed Services Committee approved the FY 2015 National Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 4435) to allocate funding for our troops and other national security priorities.  Specifically, the bill would authorize $521.3 billion for the Department of Defense and the nuclear weapons programs at the Department of Energy, plus $79.4 billion for the war in Afghanistan and other overseas operations.

When any of us turn on the news, we can see that the threats to our security are growing and getting more complex all around the world.  This strong, bipartisan bill tries to meet these threats within a constrained budget and helps lay the groundwork for our efforts to get more defense for our dollars in the years to come.  The brave men and women who fight for our freedom deserve to have the resources they need to keep our people safe and our nation strong. 

Locally, the defense policy bill authorizes funding for programs at Sheppard Air Force Base, Bell Helicopter, and Pantex.  Here are some of the highlights:

  • Bell Helicopter projects funded at $1.845 billion for the V-22 Osprey program, including 19 new aircraft, and $904 million for the Huey and Cobra (UH-1Y/AH-1Z) helicopters, including 26 new H-1 series helicopters.

  • Bill increases funding for nuclear weapons activities—much of which is performed at Pantex—by $143.7 million.  

  • Increases funding for recapitalizing deferred maintenance programs by $39 million to help address the backlog of deferred maintenance on physical infrastructure in the nuclear weapons facilities, including Pantex.

The defense policy bill is expected to be considered by the full House before Memorial Day.  For more information on the bill, please click here.

Much of our country's potential for economic growth and progress is hindered by overbearing federal regulations.  More regulations do not produce a better quality of life for Americans, but actually the reverse.  Federal regulations make it harder for business to keep their doors open, stunting the growth our economy needs.  In addition, our farmers and ranchers should never have to worry about the federal government infringing upon their personal property or harming industries vital to their livelihoods, like the oil and gas industry and coal industry for example.

Tune in to my video mailbox to hear more about our efforts to combat overbearing regulations and build a better, safer, and stronger America.
 
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