From David's Desk: February Recap

It seems like the month of February has come and gone within the blink of an eye: Mardi Gras season became the season of Lent, and a lot happened in the Senate. For one, it’s been tough fighting against President Obama’s plan to grant amnesty to 5 million illegal immigrants, which has no basis in law. After the Senate’s unnecessary recess, funding for the Department of Homeland Security, which was set to expire at the end of this month, passed late last week. DHS is vital to our security, but this funding bill didn’t include a provision I fought for to prohibit any funding for President Obama’s unconstitutional executive amnesty. That’s why I voted against it.

Learn more about my effort to stop Obama’s amnesty, help folks recover from disasters, and other issues below.

Sincerely,

David Vitter 
United States Senator

Highlights from February (click the hyperlinks for more information):

Blocking President Obama’s Budget

Earlier this month, President Obama presented to Congress a $4 trillion budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2016—which I believe is absolutely ludicrous. Not only would the President’s irresponsible budget raise taxes $2.1 trillion, it would direct payments for oil and gas leases away from energy-producing states. What we really need to help folks in Louisiana and across the country is a budget that decreases taxes for families, pays down our debt for future generations, and encourages small businesses to create jobs. In Louisiana, we also particularly need our offshore energy revenue, which goes straight to fund the restoration of our coasts. However, this budget has zero percent chance of becoming law. It’s just another example of the fact that we can’t trust the President to create a smart and efficient budget plan.

Opposing President Obama’s Attorney General Nominee

I’ve been fighting against any type of amnesty since first elected. I think it’s just plain wrong to award United States citizenship to people who enter the country illegally. That’s why I’ve been working tirelessly to block the President’s nominee for Attorney General, Loretta Lynch. Her record shows she’s in lockstep with his illegal executive actions, especially in regard to amnesty for those who have unlawfully entered the country. Moreover, Ms. Lynch is suspected of playing a role in mega-bank HSBC’s money-laundering scheme. She’s simply unfit to be Attorney General, our country’s top law enforcement authority. 

Continuing the Push for the Keystone Pipeline

It’s been six years since I originally authored the first legislation to authorize the Keystone XL Pipeline, and this month, a bipartisan bill to start its construction finally passed both the Senate and the House. But when it came to President Obama’s desk this past week, he vetoed it out of political spite. Congress passed the Keystone Pipeline because it will obviously create good-paying jobs and increase our energy independence. The President’s veto just doesn’t make sense. If he really wants to promote ‘middle-class economics’, he needs to put aside his political agenda and sign off on the Keystone XL pipeline. It’s a common sense energy policy with broad-based support that will create jobs and boost our economy. I’ll keep fighting until it’s built. 

Investigating Washington’s Obamacare Exemption

Folks across the country have lost access to healthcare plans they liked and paying a lot more out of pocket. But Congress has created a special exemption to shield itself from some of these problems. Congress did this by designating itself a “small business” which makes it eligible for subsidies unavailable to other Americans. But allowing Congress – which employs nearly 16,000 individuals – to determine itself as a ‘small business’ just doesn’t make sense. We need to know exactly how and why this was allowed to happen, so we can fix this injustice and eliminate Washington’s Obamacare Exemption. Washington insiders should be forced to live under Obamacare just like the rest of America without a special taxpayer funded subsidy.

Protecting and Assisting Hurricane Victims

On February 19th, Congressman Cedric Richmond (D-La.) and I sent a bipartisan letter to the Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Julian Castro, urging him to move forward with a bipartisan plan to defend hurricane victims who made home repairs using grants from the Department’s Road Home program. HUD’s Road Home program intended that these grants be used to elevate homes, but some Louisianians used the grants instead to rebuild their homes from the ground up after these natural disasters. I don’t think it is right that HUD is now asking homeowners who lost everything to repay these grants unless they are able to provide expense documentation for their repairs. Not everyone saves their physical receipts, and there are plenty of files available with calculations proving the damage. Congressman Richmond and I are working to find a solution, and in the meantime pushing HUD to calculate the damage that disaster assistance funds did not cover for each applicant’s home based on individual files contained in a third party Estimated Cost of Damage (ECD).

Obama Keystone Veto is Political Spite

It’s been six years since I originally authored the first legislation to authorize the Keystone XL Pipeline. Since then, bipartisan support has grown and coalesced around a path forward. But when a bipartisan bill to begin its construction finally passed both the Senate and the House and came to President Obama’s desk two days ago, he vetoed it. Congress passed the Keystone Pipeline because it will obviously create good-paying jobs and increase our energy independence. That’s why the President’s veto doesn’t make sense—it was out of sheer political spite.

The Keystone XL pipeline is expected to carry 1,000,000 barrels of North American oil supplies per day to U.S. refineries. Its construction will create over 20,000 direct jobs and over 100,000 indirect jobs. There is no other single project that has the same positive jobs benefit, the same positive energy security benefit, and five clean environmental impact statements.

However, President Obama has been committed to undermining domestic energy production and major energy projects since the start. It’s unfortunate that he put his personal political agenda ahead of the good of the country.

Keystone has broad-based support and President Obama needs to stop getting in the way of our economic recovery. It’s long past time that we start building the Keystone XL pipeline. I’ve worked with colleagues in the Senate for years to push this forward, and I’ll continue to fight until it’s complete.

DHS funding set to expire

Funding for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) expires at the end of this month. But guess what? Last week, the Senate took a recess. Instead of addressing this issue, the Senate went home for a break.

We should have voted on this funding bill weeks ago. DHS is a vital part of our government, especially given increasing terror threats from abroad. But this funding bill also gives us the opportunity to debate President Obama’s illegal, unconstitutional executive amnesty for illegal immigrants head-on – and hopefully overturn it.

At the end of last year, President Obama announced a plan to grant amnesty to 5 million illegal immigrants. This action has no basis whatsoever in law.

The House of Representatives already passed a bill to fund DHS. And it has some important provisions that would defund any illegal, unconstitutional executive amnesty.

It’s time for the Senate to do our job. It’s our responsibility to vote on the country’s business and finally act. There’s more work to do.

Protecting Louisianians from Terrorist Threats

One of our government’s most important responsibilities is to protect our citizens from national security threats. This week President Obama submitted a request to Congress to use military force in the Middle East, and it’s an appropriate time to review what’s going on in the world.

With the rise of terrorist groups like ISIS, it’s important that we have a clear, comprehensive national security strategy to address these kinds of threats. And according to our Constitution, the President must submit a formal request to Congress in order to authorize the use of military force, known as an AUMF.

The U.S. has already launched airstrikes in Syria to combat ISIS, but an AUMF is constitutionally necessary whenever our troops enter a new country. It’s also the right thing to do to properly engage Congress and the American people.

President Obama’s passive leadership has invigorated terror threats around the world. For example, just this week, the White House completely downplayed the recent terrorist attack in Paris, calling it a ‘random’ shooting.

An AUMF alone is insufficient. It’s important – but what’s more important is a clear, cohesive strategy from the President. I’ll keep working to hold his feet to the fire until we get one.

Fighting for Veterans Benefits and Care

When our American citizens serve in our military, we make a promise to support them when they complete their service and return home. Unfortunately, there are a number of instances where the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has failed on that promise.

Over the last year, we’ve heard appalling reports of mismanagement at the Veterans Administration and VA hospitals across the country. Many of the issues that were brought to light on a national level continue to persist in Louisiana. That’s not good enough.

Congressman Charles Boustany and I are working together to urge the VA Secretary Robert McDonald to come down to Louisiana and witness first hand where they are missing the mark.

In our letter to him, we raised questions about the Department’s procedures regarding emergency medical care for veterans and the construction deadlines for veterans’ health clinics in Lafayette and Lake Charles. Our veterans should have the opportunity to directly express their concerns to the VA’s highest authority and hear his plans to improve VA operations in Louisiana.

It’s been folks like you sharing stories that will continue leading to reforms at the VA. If you’ve had any issues, please click here to share your story.

I’m also looking forward to working together with you to make sure that Louisiana veterans are granted the proper medical care they deserve, and to get the VA clinics in Lafayette and Lakes Charles built and operational as soon as possible.

From our nation’s “Greatest Generation,” to those currently serving, my wife Wendy and I thank you from the bottom of our hearts.