End Automatic Pay Raises for Congress

Do you work in a job where you get an automatic pay raise every year? In this economy, a lot of Louisianians I talk to say they feel lucky to have a good paying job, and getting a raise every year would be lagniappe. That’s because most folks across Louisiana can’t count on getting a raise every year.

In fact, too many folks across the country have lost their jobs or have been forced to accept pay freezes or lower paying jobs. All the while, Congress continues to automatically receive annual pay raises. That’s absurd and insulting. What’s even more ridiculous is that this is done behind closed doors; the pay raises are automatic, so Congress doesn’t even have to publicly vote on it.

This makes no sense, and it’s clear that it needs to be reformed. We can start by flatly requiring any member of Congress who wants a raise each year to publicly ask for, defend it, and explain it to their constituents by putting it to a public vote.

Since 2009, I’ve been introducing legislation to end automatic annual pay raises for members of Congress and require that any increase must be publicly voted on. This would increase transparency and accountability in Congress. Folks across the country deserve to know when their representatives in Congress give themselves a raise.

Since then we’ve been doing temporary blocks for pay raises – which is obviously a great start – but that is a backwards way to go about it. If Congress wants a raise, they should vote on a raise. We should not have to consider legislation just to block the raise, because an automatic raise shouldn’t exist to start with. That’s why I’ll keep pushing my legislation to completely end the process.

As you could probably guess, this has been an uphill battle. The Senate, led by Harry Reid (D-Las Vegas), isn’t exactly clearing its calendar to vote to end its own automatic pay raises. Even though this legislation is unpopular with my colleagues in Washington, I’m going to keep pushing for it. If Americans across the country can’t count on an automatic pay raise each year, their representatives in Congress shouldn’t either.

20 New Taxes from Obamacare

Today, April 15, is always one of the most painful days of the year – because you see just how much of your hard earned income is taken by the federal government.

And if they aren’t already taking enough as it is, they want more – and guess where most of the federal government’s newest taxes are coming from? You guessed it: Obamacare.

Literally there are 20 new taxes from Obamacare. That’s outrageous and exactly the reason we need to repeal it. But let me highlight a few of the more egregious taxes from Obamacare for you.

The Medicine Cabinet Tax: Because of Obamacare, you are longer able to use health savings account (HSA), flexible spending account (FSA), or health reimbursement account (HRA) pre-tax dollars to purchase non-prescription, over-the-counter medicines (thankfully insulin is exempted).

The “Special Needs Kids Tax”: Parents of special needs children often rely on flexible spending accounts (FSA) to pay for special needs education. Obamacare significantly cuts the amount a family can use, resulting in a major tax on those and other families who use FSAs.

The Employer Mandate Tax: If an employer does not offer health coverage, they’re forced to pay an additional non-deductible tax of $2000 or more for each full-time employee. Our economy is not exactly strong enough for employers to take on that hefty expense.

And of course, the granddaddy of them all…

The Individual Mandate Tax: Simply a tax on you if you don’t have insurance and you don’t buy the unwanted Obamacare.

Congress recently pulled a fast one and exempted themselves and staff from Obamacare. I’m fighting to have Congress live under the same Obamacare rules as everyone else, and I’ve refused the lucrative health care subsidy members of Congress currently receive. If you can’t get exempted from Obamacare, Congress absolutely shouldn’t either.

Partnering with Steve Gleason to help disabled Louisianians

Sometimes it’s hard to find common ground on important issues in Washington. However, helping folks with physical limitations to live more independently is something we should all agree on.

I’ve been working with Steve Gleason, a former NFL player with the New Orleans Saints, and some of my Senate colleagues on legislation that would make certain specialized medical equipment more affordable. An example of this type of equipment is the speech device that Steve himself uses, or a power chair.

Steve, a former safety for the New Orleans Saints, was diagnosed with an Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), a neuro-muscular disease, in 2011. He formed Team Gleason to raise awareness and support for ALS and other neuro-muscular diseases.

Steve and the rest of Team Gleason have been super advocates for this legislation, and I’ll continue working on a policy fix. But in the meantime, the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services needs to revisit their current rule which makes certain equipment like speech devices far too expensive for a lot of folks. Click here to read a letter I wrote on this issue.

Keeping Rural Energy Costs Low

Flipping on your light switch or adjusting the thermostat are things we often take for granted. But when it comes time to pay the bill – we are forced to realize that it’s not free. But imagine if that monthly energy bill increased – that could create a real financial hardship.

In your part of the state, many rural homes are serviced by a pipeline known as the Midla pipeline. It runs from a gas field near Monroe down to near Baton Rouge and brings affordable energy to thousands of customers in between.

Recently that pipeline was purchased by a new company, Arclight Capital Partners, LLC, based out of Boston, MA, who is now threatening to abandon it. I think that’s absolutely appalling by that company, and don’t believe they have a good reason. After a town hall meeting I had in East Feliciana recently, the Mayor of Slaughter, Robbie Jackson, approached me and explained the story. I immediately intervened calling on federal energy regulators to investigate the company’s reasons behind their threat.

I am confident that the federal agency, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), will thoroughly investigate, and I will definitely keep you posted. In the meantime, if you hear anything or have any questions, please contact any of my state offices or in my Washington office.

Baton Rouge: 225-383-0331
Alexandria: 318-448-0169
Monroe: 318-325-8120

Fighting for Fort Polk and Barksdale

Earlier this month, the Defense Department released its five-year plan and 2015 budget proposal. As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, I had the opportunity to ask Defense Department leadership specifically about their plans for Louisiana’s military bases, including Fort Polk and Barksdale Air Force Base. This week I also met with Gen. Raymond Odierno, the Chief of Staff of the Army, to stress the same points.

The Army currently is currently drawing down to an end strength of 490,000 and because of the president’s new budget it will be taken down to a force of no more than 450,000 soldiers. In fact, it almost certainly will need to drop even further and will be forced to eliminate even more of its Brigade Combat Teams.

Defense Department officials have committed to keeping a strong force presence at Fort Polk and to improving capabilities at the base.

However, our commitment to our military needs to remain steadfast. Cuts to our military are often on the negotiating table – even this month during negotiations on America’s response to the crisis in Ukraine. Fort Polk and Barksdale continue to be huge priorities both for our national security and for communities in Louisiana. I’ll continue to fight to make sure our troops have the support they need.