Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Then and now: President Obama on spending freezes

NOW: President Obama Proposes A “Hard Freeze” On Discretionary Spending. ….Obama will announce that the budget blueprint he files next week will contain a "hard freeze" on discretionary spending that lasts through 2013. The Los Angeles Times

THEN: During The Campaign, Then Senator Obama Said Spending Freezes “Sound Good”, But Don’t Work. “Well, look, I think that we do have a disagreement about an across-the-board spending freeze. It sounds good. It's proposed periodically. It doesn't happen.” – Sen. Barack Obama The Los Angeles Times

  • NOTE: Just 41 days ago, the President himself signed an omnibus bill with a 12% spending increase into law.

A look at the projected budget deficit

The Heritage Foundation has a breakdown of the federal budget deficit during the Bush administration and the Obama administration.

President Obama admits not airing healthcare talks was a mistake

...On this, the American people agree whole heartedly...

"After weeks of denials from the White House that the health care reform effort failed to exhibit the transparency President Barack Obama promised on the campaign trail, Obama is conceding that locking the public out of key discussions was a “mistake.”

“We had to make so many decisions quickly in a very difficult set of circumstances that after awhile, we started worrying more about getting the policy right than getting the process right,” Obama told ABC’s Diane Sawyer Monday. “But I had campaigned on process—part of what I had campaigned on was changing how Washington works, opening up, transparency. ...The health care debate as it unfolded legitimately raised concerns not just among my opponents, but also amongst supporters that we just don't know what's going on. And it's an ugly process and it looks like there are a bunch of back room deals.”

Read more at Politico

Then and now on a budgetary spending freeze

As we prepare for tomorrow’s State of the Union Speech, it is interesting to point out that during the campaign, President Obama took great lengths to express his opposition to an across the board spending freeze. He likened a freeze to using a hatchet while he wanted to take a scalpel to the federal budget.

During his first year in office, President Obama increased non-defense discretionary spending by 20% - the largest one year increase in over three decades. This is important because when he introduced his first budget a year ago, he promised to decrease discretionary spending.

Tomorrow night, we’ll see exactly how small a scalpel the president wants to use against the budget.

Monday, January 25, 2010

**COMMUNITY NOTICE** Shuster Staff to Hold Office Hours in Perry County on Thursday January 28th

Members of Congressman Bill Shuster’s district staff will hold two sessions of office hours on the 28th in Perry County.

• Morning Perry County Office Hours: On January 28th, staff will hold office hours from 10:00am to 11:00am at the Marysville Borough Building located at 200 Overcrest Road in Marysville, PA.

• Afternoon Perry County Office Hours: From 2:00 to 3:00pm on January 28th, Shuster’s staff will hold office hours at the Greenwood Township Building located at 44 N. High Street in Millerstown, PA.

These office hours are an opportunity for residents of Perry County to meet with members of Congressman Shuster’s district staff to discuss issues related to the federal government like social security and veterans affairs.

Constituents with questions about office hours are encouraged to call Congressman Shuster’s Hollidaysburg office toll-free at 1-800-854-3035.

50 minute interrogation of Christmas Day bomber

According to the AP and reported by the Washington Examiner, the Christmas Day bomber was interrogated for only 50 minutes before the FBI read him his rights and he stopped talking.

CNN Poll: 3 of 4 Americans Say Much of Stimulus Money Wasted

CNN Poll: 3 of 4 Americans Say Much of Stimulus Money Wasted
January 25, 2010 7:58 a.m. EST

Washington (CNN) -- Nearly three out of four Americans think that at least half of the money spent in the federal stimulus plan has been wasted, according to a new national poll.

A CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey released Monday morning also indicates that 63 percent of the public thinks that projects in the plan were included for purely political reasons and will have no economic benefit, with 36 percent saying those projects will benefit the economy.

Twenty-one percent of people questioned in the poll say nearly all the money in the stimulus has been wasted, with 24 percent feeling that most money has been wasted and an additional 29 percent saying that about half has been wasted. Twenty-one percent say only a little has been wasted and 4 percent think that no stimulus dollars have been wasted.

"One reason why the economic stimulus bill is no longer popular with the American public is the perception that a lot of the money has been wasted. Six in 10 believe that the projects in the stimulus bill were included for purely political reasons," said CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.

"Nearly three-quarters believe that at least half the stimulus money spent so far has been wasted, and one in five say nearly all of it has been a waste," Holland said.

According to a CNN poll released Sunday, 56 percent of the public opposes the stimulus, with 42 percent supportive of the plan. Last March, just weeks after the stimulus bill was signed into law by President Obama, a CNN survey indicated that 54 percent supported the program, with 44 percent opposed.

The program, formally known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, attempts to stimulate the country's economy by increasing federal spending and cutting taxes at a total cost to the government of $787 billion. No Republicans in the House of Representatives and only three in the Senate voted in favor of the bill.

The CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll was conducted January 8-10, with 1,021 adult Americans questioned by telephone. The survey's sampling error is plus or minus 3 percentage points.

CNN Deputy Political Director Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Congressman Shuster welcomes March for Life attendees

Congressman Shuster welcomes his constituents taking part in the annual March for Life in Washington, DC. Along with the marchers in the photo are Jamie Boone (left) and Maribeth Collins (right) who are both legislative assistants in the congressman's Washington office.

President Obama: Then and Now on GITMO Detainees


"The record is clear: Rather than keep us safer, the prison at Guantanamo has weakened American national security. It is a rallying cry for our enemies. It sets back the willingness of our allies to work with us in fighting an enemy that operates in scores of countries. By any measure, the costs of keeping it open far exceed the complications involved in closing it."
-President Obama, May 2009

“A Justice Department-led task force has concluded that nearly 50 of the 196 detainees at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, should be held indefinitely without trial under the laws of war, according to Obama administration officials.”
– The Washington Post January 22, 2010.

NOTE: Last May, Congressman Shuster signed on as an original cosponsor to the “Keep Terrorists out of America Act;” legislation that objects to the release of GITMO detainees into the United States and would require governors and state legislatures to pre-approve the transfer of GITMO detainees 60 days before their release.

Justice task force recommends about 50 Guantanamo detainees be held indefinitely

By Peter Finn
Friday, January 22, 2010; A01

A Justice Department-led task force has concluded that nearly 50 of the 196 detainees at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, should be held indefinitely without trial under the laws of war, according to Obama administration officials.

The task force's findings represent the first time that the administration has clarified how many detainees it considers too dangerous to release but unprosecutable because officials fear trials could compromise intelligence-gathering and because detainees could challenge evidence obtained through coercion.

Human rights advocates have bemoaned the administration's failure to fulfill President Obama's promise last January to close the Guantanamo Bay facility within a year as well as its reliance on indefinite detention, a mechanism devised during George W. Bush's administration that they deem unconstitutional.

"There is no statutory regime in America that allows us to hold people without charge or trial indefinitely," said Anthony D. Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union.

But the efforts of the task force, which this week completed its case-by-case review of the detainees still being held at Guantanamo Bay, allows the Obama administration to claim at least a small measure of progress toward closing the facility.

"We're still moving forward and in a much more deliberate and less haphazard manner than was the case before," said an administration official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the recommendations have not been made public. "All policies encounter reality, and it's painful, but this one holds up better than most."

The task force has recommended that Guantanamo Bay detainees be divided into three main groups: about 35 who should be prosecuted in federal or military courts; at least 110 who can be released, either immediately or eventually; and the nearly 50 who must be detained without trial.

Administration officials argue that detaining terrorism suspects under Congress's authorization of the use of force against al-Qaeda and the Taliban is legal and that each detainee has the right to challenge his incarceration in habeas corpus proceedings in federal court.

In a May speech, Obama said detention policies "cannot be unbounded" and promised to reshape standards. "We must have a thorough process of periodic review, so that any prolonged detention is carefully evaluated and justified," he said.

The group of at least 110 detainees cleared for release includes two categories. The task force deemed approximately 80 detainees, including about 30 Yemenis, eligible for immediate repatriation or resettlement in a third country. About 30 other Yemenis were placed in a category of their own, with their release contingent upon dramatically stabilized conditions in their home country, where the government has been battling a branch of al-Qaeda and fighting a civil war.

Obama suspended the transfer of any Guantanamo Bay detainees to Yemen in the wake of an attempted Christmas Day airliner attack, a plot that officials said originated in Yemen. Effectively, all Yemenis now held at Guantanamo have little prospect of being released anytime soon.

"The task force recommendations are based on all of the known information about each detainee, but there are variables that could change a detainee's status, such as being ordered released by the courts or a changed security situation in a proposed transfer state," an administration official said.

Moving a significant number of detainees to the United States remains key to the administration's now-delayed plan to empty the military facility. The federal government plans to acquire a state prison in Thomson, Ill., to house Guantanamo Bay detainees, but the plan faces major hurdles.

Congress has barred the transfer of the detainees to the United States except for prosecution. And a coalition of Republicans opposed to any transfers and some Democrats critical of detention without trial could derail the possibility of using the Thomson facility for anything other than military commissions, according to congressional staffers.

The task force comprised officials from the departments of Defense, State, Homeland Security and Justice, as well as agencies such as the CIA and the FBI. Officials said that the process of assessing the detainees was extremely challenging and occasionally contentious, but that consensus was reached on each case in the end.

Some European officials, who would like to see Guantanamo Bay closed without instituting indefinite detention, are advocating the creation of an internationally funded rehabilitation center for terrorism suspects in Yemen and possibly Afghanistan. They say such a facility would gradually allow the transfer of all detainees from those countries back to their homelands, according to two sources familiar with the plan.

A majority of the detainees slated for prolonged detention are either Yemeni or Afghan, and European officials think the others could eventually be resettled under close supervision.

European officials hope to raise the issue at an international conference in London next week that will address the situations in Yemen and Afghanistan.

"We are running out of options, and the administration needs to seriously consider this," said Sarah E. Mendelson, a fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and the author of a report on closing Guantanamo Bay. "There is lots of really good expertise on rehabilitation, and the administration needs to invest in it."

The Bush and Obama administrations considered helping Yemen formulate a rehabilitation program, but the idea foundered amid concerns about the Middle Eastern country's capacity to implement it, officials said.

Since Obama took office, 44 Guantanamo Bay detainees have been repatriated or resettled in third countries, including 11 in Europe.

The administration anticipates that about 20 detainees can be repatriated by this summer, and it has received firm commitments from countries willing to settle an additional 25 detainees who have been cleared for release, officials said.

Within a few days, sources said, four other detainees are slated to be transferred out.

Staff researcher Julie Tate contributed to this report.


Thursday, January 21, 2010

Shuster Cosponsors Bill to Scrutinize Terror Detainee Releases to Foreign Countries

Congressman Bill Shuster today became an original cosponsor of the “Detainee Transfer and Release Security Act;” legislation that would strengthen our national security and help prevent terror detainees from rejoining terrorist groups upon their transfer from Guantanamo Bay to foreign governments.

“The botched Christmas Day bomb plot should have erased any lingering doubts about al-Qaeda’s ability to conduct terrorist operations abroad and against our homeland,” Shuster said. “The plot also uncovered just how far al-Qaeda has spread throughout the Arabian Peninsula and beyond as well as the need for our government to be proactive in confronting this continuing threat.”

The decision by the Obama Administration to suspend the transfer of detainees to Yemen, the nation where the Christmas Day bomb plot was concocted, directly points to the need to certify that any country receiving GITMO detainees can prove they are not state sponsors of terrorist and that they are serious about rooting out terrorist safe-havens in their territory.

“I am a proud cosponsor of the ‘Detainee Transfer and Release Security Act’ because it will force the President to certify that GITMO detainees will not be transferred to governments that turn a blind eye to terrorism,” Shuster said. “The bill is even stronger, requiring the Administration to keep tabs on detainees to prove that they have not returned to terrorism after they leave our custody.”

According to a recent Defense Intelligence Report obtained by CNN, the number of GITMO detainees returning to terrorism upon their release has increased. While the exact number is classified, a similar report from last spring estimated that 14 percent of detainees conducted, or were suspected of conducting terrorist activities after their release. That means, out of the 530 detainees released from GITMO between 2002 and 2009, 27 were confirmed to have returned to terrorism and 47 were suspected recidivists.

Specifically, the “Detainee Transfer and Release Security Act” would require the President to certify to Congress that:

  • The county to which the individual is to be transferred or released is not a designated state sponsor of terrorism.
  • A certification that such country’s government can secure and exercise control over all of its territory.
  • A certification that no portion of such country’s territory serves as a safe haven for terrorist or insurgent group in the region, particularly al-Qaeda in which such a group may be able to plan, organize, and support terrorist operations.
  • A certification that there is no confirmed case of any individual who had been detained at Guantanamo who reengaged in terrorist activities subsequent to being transferred or released to such country.

Morning Must Reads

The Drudge Report: More Jobs Lost

The Los Angeles Times:President Obama and congressional Democrats are rethinking their healthcare strategy in the wake of a Republican victory in the Massachusetts Senate race, giving serious consideration to abandoning the comprehensive approach in favor of incremental steps that might salvage key elements of the package.”

The Hill: “President Barack Obama on Wednesday asked lawmakers to focus on the core elements of healthcare reform, with some interpreting his remarks as a call to scale back his top legislative priority.”

The Washington Post:A day after their embarrassing loss in Massachusetts, splintered Democrats pledged to refocus their attention on jobs and the economy, and to draw sharper contrasts with Republicans, as they scramble to find a strategy to quell the populist anger that threatens the party's standing in the November elections.”

The Washington Post:President Obama on Wednesday blamed the Democrats' stunning loss of their filibuster-proof majority in the Senate on his administration's failure to give voice to the economic frustrations of the middle class, a disconnect that White House aides vowed to quickly address as they continue to work to advance the president's agenda.”

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Morning Must Reads

Penn State Live: Lawmakers seek recognition for volleyball team
Chambersburg Public Opinion: Rails to trails money now available
Chambersburg Public Opinion: Shuster staff available for office hours

GOP Leader Boehner on the radio - "We can win this fight" on healthcare

From the GOP Leader's blog:

"During a national radio appearance yesterday afternoon on The Lars Larson Show, House Republican Leader John Boehner (R-OH) said “we can win this fight” to stop Democrats’ costly government takeover of health care, but only if the American people stay engaged. Boehner warned that Democrats in Washington would continue to look for “any and every way to shove this bill through,” regardless of the outcome in the Massachusetts special election. Boehner also cited Democrats’ backroom deal with union bosses as further evidence of the need for open and transparent health care negotiations."

Snippets of audio from the interview can he heard here.

Haiti Relief

Friday, January 15, 2010

Additional Office Hours Announced for the 9th District

In addition to the office hours held this week, Congressman Shuster's district staff will also be holding the following office hours next week across the 9th district:

Office Hours for Wednesday January 20th:

Fulton County Office Hours: On Wednesday January 20th, staff will hold office hours from 10:00 to 11:00am at the Hustontown Fire Department located at 426 Clear Ridge Road in Hustontown.

Franklin County Office Hours: From 2:00 to 3:00pm on January 20th, Shuster’s staff will hold office hours in Mercersburg at the Tuscarora Area Chamber of Commerce located at 19 North Main Street.

Office Hours for Thursday January 21st:

Morning Session in Bedford County: From 10:00 to 11:00am at the Hyndman Borough Office located at 3945 Center Street Suite 2 in Hyndman, PA 15545.

*Note on Directions: Borough Office is in the Standard Bank Building on the right side of the street which is on RT 96 (Center Street) that runs thru the center of town. You will cross some railroad tracks and the building is on the right with parking behind the building.

Afternoon Session in Bedford County: From 2:00 to 3:00pm in Schellsburg at the Schellsburg Borough Council Office located at 1702 Market Street.

*Note on Directions: In Schellsburg at the signal light on 30 coming from Hyndman or Bedford turn right at the light and go a block and a half to “The Zone” on the right side of the street. The Borough Council Office is in “The Zone’s” building. Enter the building and the council office is located in the last door on the left.

Somerset County Office Hours: From 3:00 to 4:00pm at the Rockwood Borough Building located at 358 Market Street.

Office Hours for Friday January 22nd:

From 3:00 to 4:00pm at the Central City Borough Building located at 314 Central Avenue.

These office hours are an opportunity for residents of the 9th district to meet with members of Congressman Shuster’s district staff to discuss issues related to the federal government like social security and veterans affairs.

Constituents with questions about office hours are encouraged to call Congressman Shuster’s Hollidaysburg office toll-free at 1-800-854-3035.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Republicans using Twitter more than Democrats

Interesting article from Forbes.com on the high number of Republicans using social media including Twitter to further their messages and communicate directly with the American people. Worth a read and remember, you can follow Congressman Shuster on Twitter @ RepBillShuster.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

House Republican Leader: ‘We Can Beat This Bill’


At a meeting of the House Republican conference on Wednesday morning, the Republican leader, Representative John A. Boehner of Ohio, told his colleagues that he believed they could defeat the Democrats’ health care legislation, according to officials who heard his remarks.

After paying tribute to his late chief of staff, Paula Nowakowski, who died suddenly over the weekend, Mr. Boehner thanked rank-and-file Republicans for pressing the opposition to the health care legislation over the holiday recess.

“The bottom line is, I believe we can beat this bill,” Mr. Boehner said. “The American people are with us.”

Mr. Boehner urged the Republicans to push for opening up the health care negotiations up to the public, and to continue to engage their constituents on the issue over the coming weeks.

The House approved its version of the health care legislation on Nov. 7 by a vote of 220 to 215, with just one Republican, Representative Anh Gao of Louisiana, joining 219 Democrats in support of the measure. Winning approval of the final measure will require at least 218 votes, giving Democrats little room for defections.

New Video from House Republican Leader John Boehner

Morning Must Reads

Congressman Shuster announces Fulton County office hours for Friday. The Chambersburg Public Opinion.

Construction on the Martin's Mill Bridge in Antrim Township, Franklin County is moving forward. The Herald-Mail.

$787 Billion Dollars Later … Stimulus Report Acknowledges It Is Impossible To Know What Might Have Happened Without Stimulus. The report acknowledged the difficulty of accurately gauging the stimulus program’s economic impact when it is impossible to know what would have happened without such action. The New York Times

The Stimulus Has Failed To Create An Environment That Promotes Job Creation. Even with the stimulus, the U.S. economy lost more than 4 million jobs last year, including 85,000 in December, according to the Labor Department. And the unemployment rate last month was 10% -- a figure that is widely expected to inch higher in the months ahead. … Even so, employers have been reluctant to create jobs. And economists widely expect GDP growth to slow this year… The Los Angeles Times

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Announcing Local Office Hours

Over the coming months, Congressman Shuster's district staff will hold a series of office hours for 9th district residents. These office hours are an opportunity for residents across the district to meet with members of Congressman Shuster’s district staff to discuss issues related to the federal government like social security and veterans affairs.

Upcoming office hours include:

Thursday January 14th in Blair County:

Staff will hold office hours in Williamsburg from 1:00 to 2:00pm in the Conference Room of the Williamsburg Borough Building located at 305 E. 2nd Street.

From 3:00 to 4:00pm on January 14th, Shuster’s staff will hold office hours in Martinsburg at the Morrison’s Cove Memorial Park located at 201 South Walnut Street.

Friday January 15th in Fulton County:

On Friday January 15th, staff will hold office hours in Big Cove Tannery from 10:00 to 11:00am at the Thompson Township Building located at 4526 Timber Ridge Road.

From 2:00 to 3:00pm on January 15th, Shuster’s staff will hold office hours in McConnellsburg in the Fulton County Library Community Room located at 227 North First Street in McConnellsburg.

Friday January 15th in Indiana County:

On Friday January 15, staff will hold office hours at the Brush Valley Municipal Building located at 5869 Route 56 from 10:00am to 11:00am.

From 1:00 to 2:00pm on January 15th, Shuster’s staff will hold office hours at the Homer City Borough Building located at 30 East Wiley Street.

Congressman Shuster will also have a booth on January 16th at the Indiana County Chamber Expo at the Indiana Mall from 10:00am until 4:00pm.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Shuster Announces $300,000 for Community Policing in Altoona

Earlier today, Congressman Shuster joined members of Operation Our Town to announce $300,000 in federal funding Shuster secured for the group’s efforts to reduce drug crime and revitalize sections of Altoona.

Shuster secured the $300,000 in the FY2010 appropriations process. The funding was finalized by the passage and enactment of the Omnibus Appropriations Act. The $300,000 will be used by Operation Our Town to facilitate partnerships between community and business leaders to fight drug use and crime through proven law enforcement, treatment, and prevention strategies.

Healthcare Reform in Peril?

Healthcare overhaul hanging by a thread? So says Senator Dodd.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

An open process

President Obama promised that healthcare debate should be held in a public forum, like CSPAN. He promised at least eight times that this should happen and there is video to prove it here. Will the Democrats in Congress agree to let CSPAN cover healthcare negotiations?

Behind Closed Doors - What are they trying to hide?

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Most Open and Honest Congress?

A reminder that not too long ago, incoming Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said that the newly elected Democrat majority in the House would preside over the most open and honest Congress in history. Something to remember as those same leaders decide to hold final negotiations on healthcare reform (a restructuring of one sixth of our economy) in secret, behind closed doors.

Healthcare Reform Behind Closed Doors

News that Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Reid are considering secret, closed door meetings to hammer out a final healthcare bill is rocking Capitol Hill this week and for good reason.

President Obama promised open and transparent debate on healthcare reform yet Democrats in Congress are bent on closing the doors and turning off the lights in Congress to obstruct the American people from seeing how the final bill is put together and what it will contain.

In addition, the closed-door conference will not include any House and Senate Republicans. That means a large block of the American electorate will have no voice in this critical national issue. The debate over healthcare and the legislative process to achieve healthcare reform is being transformed from an open democratic process into something that resembles an old style Politburo.

C-SPAN is taking issue with Pelosi and Reid's decision. They wrote a letter strongly urging congressional leaders to open the conference process to cameras so that the American people can see their government at work. Their request should be honored.

The entire process begs an important question - if the Democrats in Congress and President Obama are so convinced that their healthcare reform proposal is what the American people want, why are they doing everything they can to hide it from the American people?