A new year is well under way and, I dare say, this will be a critical year for our country. The Congressional Budget Office, the non-partisan number crunchers, noted that for the fourth consecutive year we will have a $1 trillion-plus deficit.
That means we will have spent $1 trillion more than we receive in revenue. This pushes our overall debt above the $15 trillion mark as we have added $4.61 trillion to our debt since January of 2009, the fastest growth of peacetime debt in our nation's history.
Our country cannot sustain this spending and Congress must do something to bring this enormous debt level down. At the same time, the American people will need to determine who will lead our country beginning next year.
As I said, it will be a critical year and the American people will have their say.
I firmly believe the president's appointments in early January to the National Labor Relations Board and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau were unconstitutional.
In fact, I have joined 30 others senators in signing a letter to Majority Leader Reid, asking why he is allowing the Senate's constitutional authority to be undermined. In the letter, we point out to him that in 2007 he used pro forma sessions to prevent President Bush from making similar recess appointments. (You can read the complete letter here.)
Under the U.S. Constitution, a president must submit certain positions within their administration to the U.S. Senate for their "advice and consent." This power to confirm officials and judges is very important in the separation of powers and was put into place by our Founding Fathers.
But in early January, the president ignored this requirement and appointed four people to his administration. He called them "recess appointments," which a president can do when the Senate is in recess. However, the Senate did not go on recess in January.
Furthermore, the president officially sent the three nominees for the National Labor Relations Board to the Senate just two days before the Senate left for Christmas. The lack of notice meant there was no opportunity for the normal background checks and hearings that all nominees go through.
Clearly, the president is ignoring constitutional precedent and the checks and balances in place. I will continue to press this issue and watch closely the legal challenges initiated by different groups also concerned about this abuse of power.
In the last Risch Report, I wrote about my interview with Lou Dobbs and how federal regulations are hampering job growth and creation right here in Idaho. I heard from many of you in response, encouraging me to continue the fight against these burdensome regulations. One Idaho company even told me their "biggest competition is government regulations."
Here are more examples of the negative impacts federal regulations are having on businesses in Idaho.
My regional offices have staff available to assist you with problems related to federal agencies. If you have been having difficulties in resolving an issue with Social Security, Medicare, veteran benefits, etc., call my nearest regional office and they may be able to assist you.
In mid-January, the president rejected plans for an oil pipeline, called the Keystone XL that would run from Canada all the way to refineries on the Gulf Coast. In my opinion, the decision to reject it is flat wrong. Recently, I sent a guest editorial to all of the newspapers in Idaho arguing why that pipeline is necessary for energy security, among other reasons. If you did not see my op-ed piece, you can read it here.
Last year, I questioned Energy Secretary Chu on the adminstration's plan to address the climbing gas prices we now face. As you can see from this video, the answer then was also less than satisfactory.
Recently, the Department of Health and Human Services issued a final rule requiring insurance plans to cover all FDA-approved contraceptive and sterilization treatments with no cost-sharing (i.e. no copays).
Catholic hospitals and other faith-based organizations that offer health insurance plans to their employees have asked for an exemption from the rule so they may continue to offer health insurance coverage not in conflict with their religious beliefs. However, late last month, the president denied their requests and announced it would only grant them a year delay before requiring them to comply with this mandate.
It is not the government's role to dictate to health care providers, health insurers and others how to serve their patients and employees. Nor is it the government's role to dictate when groups must abandon their religious or moral beliefs to ensure certain services are provided.
I have co-sponsored S. 1467, the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act of 2011. This legislation would ensure health care providers, insurers and others do not have to violate their personal moral and ethical principles while providing health care mandated by the federal government.
This is an issue I am closely monitoring to help ensure the federal government does not overstep its bounds.
Meeting with the Idaho Juvenile Diabetes Foundation
Visiting Boise State's Greenspeed at the Washington Auto Show
Listening to Students with the Drug Free Idaho Coalition