Friday, March 28, 2008

Boehner Column: Congress Should Work in Bipartisan Manner to Find Solutions

Over the next eight weeks, Congress will have an opportunity to show the American people that it can work in a bipartisan manner rather than engaging in partisan sniping and political games. There are real challenges facing our nation, and it’s my hope that we can work together to solve these challenges. I’ve outlined in this column some of the critical issues we will face in the coming weeks.

The Economy and the Housing Market: The housing market is slumping as costs of living – gas prices, food, tuition for example – continue to rise. What we’ve seen from the Democrat-controlled Congress so far have been budget gimmicks, attempts to raise your taxes and plans to make government bigger and more intrusive than it already is. Congress must enact responsible reforms that will empower individuals to make the best choices for themselves. We need to create an environment in which businesses can grow, thereby creating jobs, and working families can afford their living costs while saving for the future.

Project Lifelife, an outreach program to seriously delinquent homeowners who want to remain in their homes but currently face the greatest risk of losing the house, is available through an agreement among the major home-lending companies. This is an effort to “pause” foreclosure through a single phone call. If you have received a letter from your mortgage lender indicating that you may qualify for relief, please call the number in the letter. If you would like to talk with a mortgage counselor to learn what options might be available, call the HOPE NOW Alliance at 888-995-HOPE.

Winning the Global War on Terror: Soon after Congress returns, Gen. David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker will again brief lawmakers on the progress of the troop surge, the conditions on the ground in Iraq, and the political progress that has been made by the Iraqi people over the past year. I sincerely hope that Gen. Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker will have the opportunity to present his findings in an environment completely different from their previous visit. Last fall, they were greeted by the radical anti-war group publishing a full page ad in the New York Times calling Gen. Petraeus “Gen. Betray Us” and Sen. Hillary Clinton claiming that their report of progress in Iraq required a “willing suspension of disbelief.”

Our troops continue to make remarkable progress against terrorist groups like al Qaeda that want to see our way of life destroyed. Our troops continue to believe in their mission, and they are constantly looking for ways to improve. Recently, a first-of-its kind graduation ceremony took place at Walter Reed Army Medical Center for six soldiers enrolled in the hospital’s Basic Noncommissioned Officers Course. Four of the soldiers are recovering from injuries sustained in the war; the other two are assigned to Walter Reed. The two-phase course teaches leadership traits and skill sets to enlisted soldiers who will assume responsibility for soldiers working under them. This course is grueling in its own right – imagine completing it and graduating as a wounded warrior.

Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA): Until midnight on Feb. 17, our nation's intelligence officials were able to freely monitor foreign communications of suspected terrorists overseas, such as key al-Qaeda leaders in Iraq and Afghanistan, to protect our nation and our interests. But today, they cannot monitor new terrorist threats in the same way - and they will not be able to until Congress returns to them all the tools they need to gain critical new surveillance information that could save American lives.

It doesn't have to be this way. Congress returns to session this week, and every day we don’t pass the critical legislation, our nation is placed at further risk. Attorney General Michael Mukasey and Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell explained that "our ability to gather information concerning the intentions and planning of terrorists and other foreign intelligence targets will continue to degrade" without congressional action.

Likewise, the Democratic chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), said recently on the Senate floor that unless Congress acts, "People have to understand around here that the quality of the intelligence that we're going to be receiving is going to be degraded.” Rockefeller is not alone. In a letter written directly to Pelosi in January, 21 of her fellow House Democrats urged her to schedule the Senate bill for a House vote because the "consequences of not passing such a measure could place our national security at undue risk."

This strong, bipartisan call for action makes the majority's decision to block passage of this much-needed legislation all the more troubling. Good information is the lifeblood of the intelligence community.

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