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The Risch Report
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111th Congress
Vol. 1, Issue 2: July 24, 2009

Fellow Idahoans,

Our nation just celebrated its 233rd year of independence, and it is clear the tyranny faced by our Founding Fathers is still present today. If Congress passes proposed legislation under discussion, our taxes will skyrocket. They will tax our electricity, tax our health care benefits and tax our soda.

Just like when our great nation was founded, those proposed taxes will be met with great resistance. Americans will not stand for more transfers of their income to be spent on bigger government programs. I will oppose these and other taxes and will work to bring our bloated federal budget under control. Together, we will stand for less government, lower spending and fewer taxes.

I hope you will find this newsletter insightful about my work to return Congress to fiscal responsibility and accountability. As always, I welcome your comments.

Risch Report Signature

New Website Launched

There is a new web site for my office at and I hope you take the time to visit. This new site should make it easier for you to contact me with your comments, get information on Senate issues, and help when you need assistance. A banner at the bottom of the page provides information for locating my regional office nearest you. My staff there can assist you when you are having a problem with a federal agency.

In the Action Center, the Contact Me button allows you to send an e-mail to my office. Another feature is the Idahoans in D.C. tab that displays photos of Idahoans who have met with me on Capitol Hill.

I encourage you to explore my website and pass along any suggestions you might have to make it better.

Getting Health Care Reform Right

Congress continues to work toward drafting health care reform legislation with the goal of providing an opportunity for affordable and quality health care to all Americans.

Many of the proposals being discussed include a significant expansion of government. I am absolutely opposed to government-run health care. A government-run system would:

  • Negatively affect the quality and availability of care;
  • Add to the massive debt that already burdens the federal government;
  • Likely require the taxing of health care benefits and other sizeable tax increases; and
  • Reduce funding currently covering Medicare and Medicaid cuts.

We already have Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid systems that are not financially sustainable in their current forms. We just cannot saddle our children and grandchildren with more debt.

To gain my support, any proposed health care bill must control costs while at the same time protect patients. This can be achieved in a number of ways, some of which include:

  • Implenting prevention and wellness programs;
  • Discouraging obviously frivolous medical liability lawsuits; and
  • Addressing the needs of small businesses without imposing mandates or taxes that would make it harder for American businesses to compete in the world marketplace by adding to their costs.

One of the many factors leading to health care reform has been a concern for the uninsured. While it is important we find ways to help those who need and want health insurance but cannot afford it, we must take our time to engage in deliberate and careful discussions to ensure any plan we develop covers them and meets a host of other priorities as well.

The national news reminds us daily that there are some 47 million uninsured people or about 15-16% of our population, but what they do not tell you is who these people really are. uninsured breakdown The chart here shows there are many who choose not to be covered, those not legally eligible and some who have other available options. The percentage of the truly uninsured is far smaller and we should focus our attention on their needs.

Although no bill has passed either house of Congress, any changes to our health care system will impact every American and, therefore, it is essential we get it right. We must address this serious issue, but it must not be rushed through or result in a government takeover that delays treatment, denies medication or reduces quality of care. It is much more important that this is done right rather than quickly.

Sotomayor Confirmation Hearings

sotomayor_062509The confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor have wrapped up in the Senate Judiciary Committee. While I am not a member of that committee, I did attend portions of those hearings and closely monitored those events.

I also met with Judge Sotomayor last month to learn more about her background, judicial philosophy and where she stands on issues important to Idaho. During our 30 minute conversation we talked about our state, water rights and Second Amendment gun rights.

Despite our pleasant meeting, I still have strong reservations about appointing her to the Supreme Court for life. As a former prosecutor, I value a judge who interprets the law and does not try to legislate from the bench. My conversations with Judge Sotomayor and what I heard during her confirmation hearing did not convince me yet she meets that criteria.

I will continue to review her writings and speeches as well as her answers to questions from the Judiciary Committee until I make a final decision on how I will vote.

One Reason (of Many) to Oppose the Energy Bill

When the House of Representatives passed their version of the energy bill that included a cap-and-trade provision, many of you contacted my office opposing the plan, and I agree. As the name suggests, the federal government is proposing a "cap" on the amount of emissions, primarily carbon dioxide, from a facility, plant or building. Their goal is to reduce carbon emissions by 20 percent by 2020. It is part of the Administration's plan to reverse climate change.

If a particular facility exceeds its cap, it can reduce its carbon output by upgrading to energy efficient equipment, purchase renewable energy, buy "pollution credits," invest in companies or organizations that are nonpolluting to offset their emissions, or a combination of these. Companies that are below their emissions cap can in turn sell or trade their excess allotment to businesses that need to exceed their cap. This is the "trade" part of the proposal.

A manufacturing business uses a great deal of energy. When you increase costs for a business, they must either pass that cost on, cut costs (jobs) to make up for lower returns on investment, leave the U.S., or go out of business. All of these options cost the citizen-taxpayer.

For companies that generate electricity using coal, the cost to the consumer will be enormous. Over 50 percent of our electricity comes from coal and it is one of the largest carbon emitters. Even the Administration acknowledges the energy cost to consumers, so they want to sell pollution credits and use the money to offset increased utility bills for some low-income individuals. But what about other entities, like businesses and organizations that must pay these much higher energy costs? Again, they are faced with passing costs on, cutting costs (jobs), leaving, or going out of business.

An idea has surfaced in the Senate that if a certain percentage of pollution credits are given away to electric utilities, then energy costs would be reduced for consumers. But it would require another federal bureaucracy to monitor utilities to keep them from passing costs along.

We have no idea what the economic impacts of a cap-and-trade system will be to the U.S. I do know it will not only hurt us in the pocketbook, it will affect our ability to compete with companies in China and India. At this time those other countries are not going to restrict their emissions, which will likely cause companies to leave the U.S. along with badly needed jobs.

I oppose this rush to impose a cap-and-trade scheme. Until we know the true overall economic costs of this proposal, along with a real plan on how to capture carbon emissions, I cannot increase energy costs on individuals and businesses, and ship jobs overseas.

The bottom line is cap and trade is a tax on the American people.  It is not an effective way to reduce carbon emissions and it will raise costs with no real benefits.  To make real progress in reducing emissions we need to build more nuclear power plants, not pass a cap and trade scheme that is an invisible tax on our economy.

Yes, we must keep working to develop our renewable energy resources and provide for our energy security by building emission-free nuclear power plants that can deliver baseload electricity. We must continue investment in clean coal technology that will allow us to use this vast resource within our borders. We must also work to become more energy efficient and reduce the growing demand for energy.

We can do this, but it has to be done thoughtfully and carefully. If we don't, Congress could deliver an economic body blow to our country that will ripple for decades to come with soaring energy costs. We must get this right.

Idahoans Bring Home the Gold

I recently took part in a ceremony recognizing 15 young Idahoans for their years of service dedicated to community and self improvement. Each was awarded a Congressional Gold Medal for their efforts.

To qualify for this highest level in the program these students completed more than 400 hours of public service at hospitals, schools and public safety departments in communities throughout Idaho. They also spent an additional 200 hours on both personal development and physical fitness activities.

It truly was an honor to meet some of our state's best and brightest and I congratulate them on setting and achieving the highest goals of the program.