Constituents help define the priorities

Published 8:06 pm Saturday, November 27, 2010

Last week, I wrote on the importance of the open exchange of ideas and the importance of collectively determining a priority list for Congress as we head into a new year and a new Congress. I asked for feedback from you? What are your top priorities for the new Congress?

I received an overwhelming response to the column, with individuals from across the Fourth Congressional District sharing their thoughts and ideas with me. I have spent the past few days reading over those responses that have come into my office through email, as comments to my blog, and as posts on Facebook.

There were several common ideas that individuals believed must be on Congress’ priority list. I want to share with you some of those ideas that I received and share my thoughts and plans on the ideas.

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Get spending under control

John from Chesterfield said “[T]he number one priority should be implementing the Deficit Reduction Plan… is essential that we act immediately, with courage” and Fikisha said on my blog that we must “Get the deficit down….spend my money like it is your own.”

I agree that we must make it our chief priority to get federal spending under control. National debt undermines the ability of our nation to act in our own interest, and we need mechanisms in place to force Congress to enact fiscally responsible spending measures. Some pieces of legislation that I support to get spending under control are:

• Cutting spending by 40 percent over five years. I introduced this bill to cut federal discretionary spending by 10 percent each year for the next five years.

• Balancing the federal budget. I have cosponsored H. J.Res.1, which would create a constitutional amendment to require a balanced budget each year.

Reduce federal government

Joe from Chester said we should “reduce governmental imposed regulations on industry and reduce the impact various agencies can have on private citizens and industry. Absolutely minimize the number and impact Presidential Czars have on this country and provide Congressional oversight on their activities.”

I believe Americans have a natural skepticism for any government official who has the ability to exercise great power or authority, especially if unchecked. In its day, czarist Russia had just 18 czars in 300 years. In the first seven months of its term, the Administration nearly doubled that number.

The “czar” mentality represents a frustration Americans have with the growing, unchecked reach of the federal government into their daily lives. There are several steps we could take to begin to reduce the size and scope of the federal government, including:

• Eliminating taxpayer funding for “czars” who hold senior policy-making decisions and are appointed without the consent of the Senate. I have cosponsored a bill to do just that.

• Prohibiting the expansion of agencies like the Internal Revenue Service. I have cosponsored a bill that would prohibit the largest expansion of the IRS since World War II.

Work towards energy independence

Debra from Smithfield pointed out that we should make energy independence a priority, because “energy independence equals American prosperity.”

I could not agree more. Achieving energy independence would help create lasting economic security for our nation and its families and secure our global competitiveness for years to come. Taking aggressive steps towards achieving energy independence must be a priority for our nation if we want to remain competitive for years to come.

However, any energy plan should be rooted in innovation, not taxation. I introduced a bill, the New Manhattan Project for Energy Independence, which is a bold, lasting solution that will change the trajectory of our nation. The project calls on the United States to reach 50% energy independence in 10 years and 100% in 20 years.

Create accountability in Congress

Rodney from Suffolk pointed out “How about Congressmen picking up the tab for their medical, contribute to their retirement, pay Social Security taxes and agree to a pay freeze. Yes you and the rest of the elected elite should LEAD the way.”

I believe that Congressman should lead the way, which is why I have:

• Voted against Member pay raises and cosponsored a bill to prevent automatic pay raises for members of Congress.

• Cosponsored a bill to require all legislative branch employees receive their healthcare coverage through new exchanges.

• Introduced a bill to tie congressional salaries to federal spending. The more they spend, the less they make.

Leash partisanship

Richard from Carrollton urged, “Don’t let partisan ideals get in the way of progress. It is time to work together to fix this country.”

I believe we need an open marketplace of ideas to truly address the challenges our nation faces today. We have to take the hatred and rhetoric off the shelf, and we must exchange them for rational and reasonable discussions. One of the ways we can do this is by creating minimum time periods for bills to be posted to the Internet so that members and the public can read the bills and voice their support or opposition.

I have cosponsored a bill that would prevent any House rule from waiving the “3-day rule” where bills are required to be made available for at least three days before a vote. The bill also requires that legislation be made available to the general public on the Internet.

Rep. J. Randy Forbes (R-VA-04th) can be reached through his website,