Recently, I voted against a bill not only because of what it contained but what it DID NOT contain: The bill did not put a stop to the automatic annual increases in congressional salaries. I think most people would agree with me that members of Congress should not get a raise when many of the people we work for -- the people of the United States -- do not.
In addition, Congress does not deserve a raise today because spending remains out of control. Since January, the new Democrat majority has authorized billions of dollars in new spending. With all that new spending -- much of it on new programs or existing programs that don't work -- your taxes are sure to go up. It will likely be the biggest tax increase in the history of our country -- more than $400 billion. I'm doing everything I can to stop this tax increase, but as you can tell, there's a tough fight ahead.
I'm also concerned about the toll current economic conditions are having on you and your wallet in the 1st Congressional District. Gas prices are up. Food prices are up. Despite boom economic times generally, many middle-income families are fighting their own budget battles every week. Because I believe Congress must be fiscally responsible, my "no" vote was an easy one for me to make. Government must live within its means, and there is no better place for your Congress to start than by keeping its own salaries where they are.
What's more, most Americans believe Congress collectively is not doing a very good job. I too want Congress to do a better job for our country. Here are some ways I believe Congress has come up short:
* Congress has failed to cut the role and size of government in the lives of Americans. This Congress has only continued to increase spending and authorizing new programs.
* Congress has failed to address the immigration problem. In fact, today we have Homeland Security Director Michael Chertoff telling us that he has a "gut feeling" that a terrorist attack is imminent here in America this summer. The Administration has taken significant yet still insufficient steps to better secure our borders. Still, there are 12-20 million illegal aliens in America today. We don't know where they are or what they're doing - whether they are here to work or whether they're here to commit crimes that put our friends and families in harm's way. Of course, the great majority are here to earn income for their families. But some are not - they mean us ill. That makes securing our borders all the more critical.
* Congress has failed to address America's energy problems. In fact, Congress is gearing up to pass an energy bill I believe is a "no-energy" bill and, in some cases, even penalizes the use of our own domestic energy resources. This legislation will likely result in fuel shortages and higher prices the likes of which we haven't seen since the 1970s. We will be left importing more than 60 percent of our crude oil and essentially letting OPEC set the price we pay at the pump.
* Congress has failed to do a good job supporting our troops, fighting the war on terror and providing the resources to end the war in Iraq. It took Congress far too long to approve the money needed to get the job done in Iraq and fight against the jihadists who want us dead. Additionally, Congress decided that foreign policy is a horse-trading affair; in one instance, in order for me to vote to protect the troops and win the war, I also had to vote to raise the minimum wage. What does the minimum wage have to do with the war in Iraq?
Many of my colleagues voted in favor of the legislation which will result in the annual pay increase for Congress.
I bear them no ill. Many of them have families; most all of them maintain a home in their district and in Washington, D.C. U.S. Representatives often sacrifice a lot to be in Congress. But I believe my constituents hired me to represent their interests and do what's right for our country and the state of Idaho. What's right for Idaho and America is a smaller government and lower taxes. That means Congress needs to cut spending, and Congress is the perfect place to start the cuts.