Congratulations, Speaker Boehner, to you and the members of your new majority in the U.S. House of Representatives. The gracious humility of your acceptance remarks was a vivid contrast to your predecessor's ill-mannered comments as she handed over the speaker's gavel. She clearly does not intend to be held accountable for the disastrous performance of her party in last November's elections.
Though former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's long-winded rudeness is an indication of the challenges you and other responsible members of the 112th Congress will face in the days ahead, your arrival on Capitol Hill is already having a positive effect in Washington. Shortly before you became speaker of the House, the Obama administration announced it is withdrawing its new regulation requiring "end-of-life counseling" for Medicare recipients. In short, there will be no "death panels." Then, just hours after you gaveled the new House to order, President Barack Obama's confrontational spokesman, Robert Gibbs, announced his resignation as White House press secretary. Now the hard work begins.
You already have received much advice in the month since we last spoke. Most Americans are aware you and your new 242-193 majority intend to vote next week on repealing "Obamacare." We also know Republican priorities include holding the line on tax increases, cutting federal spending, decreasing the deficit, and regulatory reform to stimulate the U.S. economy. All of those are important -- but none more so than protecting our nation's people and territory.
Though the president is the commander in chief of our armed forces and the day-to-day conduct of our foreign policy is the purview of the executive branch, there is much that must be done by Congress to protect our homeland and our people better. Here are five national security issues in urgent need of congressional attention:
--Secure America's borders. American citizens on our southern frontier say they are "under siege" from drug cartels and contraband traffickers. They are. Last year, the 111th Congress allocated $600 million to federal agencies for improved border security -- but not one cent went to state and local officials. New Drug Enforcement Administration agents, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers and Border Patrol personnel and equipment, such as unmanned aerial vehicles and sophisticated surveillance devices, are essential. But so is state and local law enforcement -- now going broke -- because many illegal entrants commit serious crimes once they have crossed the border. State and local officials need the resources and means to coordinate with federal agencies for the protection of our citizens. President Obama refuses to visit the Arizonan border. You should.
--Maintain America's military strength. The O-Team plans to make dramatic cuts in military spending based on the anticipated departure of all U.S. troops from Iraq and a cut in U.S. forces in Afghanistan -- even with 1,400 additional Marines being dispatched in the coming days to Kandahar province. Obama says withdrawals will be "conditions-based," but the only condition that makes sense in Afghanistan is winning. The 112th Congress should define victory as a representative government in Kabul that respects the human rights of the Afghan people, can defend itself against internal and external threats, and is a friend to the West.
Though "earmark" is now a four-letter word in Washington, Congress must prevent the Obama Pentagon from defunding new weapons systems, such as the Marines' Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle and the vertical takeoff and land variant of the F-35 strike aircraft. If we lose our ability to project military power, we invite attack.
--Counter terror. Obama insists on describing radical Islamic terrorists as "extremists" and treating them as common criminals. They are not. Radical Islamists are enemy combatants. Congress already is using the power of the purse to prevent the O-Team from transferring terror suspects from the detention center at Guantanamo Bay to the U.S. for trial in civilian courtrooms. The 112th Congress should vote to make this restriction a permanent matter of law. Let Obama veto the bill if he dares.
--Make energy independence a national priority. The Obama administration is abusing its regulatory authority to increase the price of hydrocarbon fuel. By making it nearly impossible to build nuclear power plants and refineries or exploit our own reserves, the O-Team has increased our reliance on foreign energy, making us more vulnerable to adversaries like Venezuela's Hugo Chavez and Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad while sending billions of petrodollars to places that fund radical Islam. Freeing up America's energy reserves is crucial to our national security and essential to economic recovery.
--Support democracy movements. The Obama administration purports to be concerned about Iranian efforts to acquire nuclear weapons, North Korean aggression, Somali piracy, slavery in Sudan, and Yemen's harboring terrorists. Though Obama has traveled around the world apologizing for America, he has shamefully abandoned support for democracy movements and human rights organizations. The 112th Congress must restore funding for democratic institutions overseas. This pillar of U.S. national security policy is much less expensive than other forms of foreign aid -- and far more effective than contrition.
Oliver North is a nationally syndicated columnist, the host of War Stories on the Fox News Channel, the author of the new novel Heroes Proved and the co-founder of Freedom Alliance, an organization that provides college scholarships to the children of U.S. military personnel killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty. Join Oliver North in Israel by going to www.olivernorthisrael.com.