WASHINGTON — A local congressman took exception to a recently released memo outlining the plans of the Obama administration to block the national defense bill.
U.S. House of Representatives
Rep. Robert Latta, R-Bowling Green: On Tuesday, Latta issued a statement responding to the memo, prepared in May, which outlined a plan to “play hardball” with Congress over the legislation, threatening to veto bill unless concessions were made.
“While there is plenty of disagreement in Washington, our country’s national defense is one area where politics should not take precedence over our nation’s troops and safety,” Latta said. “That’s why this brazenly political memo from the administration is so troublesome. Support for our military shouldn’t be reliant on playing political ‘hardball’ or using annual defense legislation as a ‘weapon’ to extract concessions. It’s beyond disappointing to see a bill that normally has such broad support become the target of petty politics.”
On Wednesday, Latta, along with Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Urbana, voted to pass the Stop Settlement Slush Funds Act, which passed by a 241-174 vote. The bill aims to cease the practice of directing U.S. Department of Justice settlements to special-interest groups rather than to affected victims or the U.S. Treasury’s general fund.
“The money obtained from bad actors as part of these settlements should be going to affected victims or into the Treasury to be appropriated by Congress,” Latta said. “Instead, we’re seeing these funds continue to be diverted to well-connected special interests that share the goals of the Obama administration, often with very little transparency. It’s not fair to the victims, and it’s not fair to the hardworking taxpayers to allow the diversion of this money to continue.”
On Thursday, Latta laid out his energy priorities at the initial meeting of the House and Senate Energy Conference Committee. Latta would like to see the existing Environmental Protection Agency oversight process for warranties and the Energy Star program codified, along with creating an advisory board to counsel the U.S. Departments of the Interior and Agriculture on policies benefiting hunting and wildlife resources.
Latta will also hold an informational session at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Findlay High School cafeteria for high school students and their families interested in attending one of the military branch academies and going through the nomination and appointment process.
Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio: On Wednesday, Brown outlined plans to reach out to ITT Tech students after the institution decided to close its doors. The U.S. Department of Education had moved last month to ban the institution from federal student aid after it found questionable practices at ITT.
ITT has 3,000 students in Ohio at nine campuses in the state.
Brown said students enrolled at ITT may be eligible to have federal student loans discharged, if they have been enrolled in the past 120 days. Credits earned at the institution may also be transferable.
“By taking action to hold ITT accountable, the Department of Education sent a clear signal that ripping off students and taxpayers will not be tolerated — no matter how big the school or how many lobbyists it employs. Putting an end to ITT’s unacceptable behavior was the right thing to do. At the same time, we have a responsibility to assist ITT’s current students who have done nothing wrong.”
On Thursday, Brown also held a rally with Ohio coal miners in Washington, D.C., calling for passage of the Miner’s Protection Act, which would set out to protect health care and pension benefits for those in the coal industry.
“These miners are facing crippling cuts to the health care and retirement security they earned,” he said. “Congress shouldn’t leave Washington until we keep the promises we’ve made to miners and their families.”
Brown was joined by Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, who also called on passage of the bill.
“There are about 20,000 miners who at the end of this year, right now, could lose their health benefits if we don’t get this legislation passed,” he said. “It’s time to get [the Miner’s Protection Act] passed.”
Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio: On Wednesday, Portman, along with Sens. Rob Johnson, R-Wis., and Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., introduced the Synthetics Trafficking and Overdose Prevention Act. This legislation aims to prevent synthetic drugs such as fentanyl and carfentanil from being shipped across borders and into the hands of drug traffickers. These synthetic opiates are often used with heroin, causing a spike in fatal overdoses.
“The vast majority of these synthetic drugs are trafficked in places like China and India, often through the mail,” Portman said. “If we require mail shipped through foreign postal services to send the same electronic advance data as private carriers like UPS or FedEx, we could save thousands of lives across the country. The STOP Act will close a gaping loophole in our mail security, and it will help stop dangerous synthetic drugs like fentanyl and carfentanil from being shipped across our borders.”
On Thursday, Portman called for the passage of the Senior Tax Hike Prevention Act, which he had introduced with Brown and which had received the endorsement of the AARP. The bill would call for the prevention of an increase in the threshold to claim the medical expense tax deduction for seniors, with the current rate of 7.5 percent set to increase to 10 percent the end of the year.
“To have medical expenses above the threshold means you either have to have low income, high out-of-pocket medical expenses or both,” Portman said. “These are not folks we should be raising taxes on, especially not now.”
Reach Craig Kelly at 567-242-0390 or on Twitter @Lima_CKelly.