Categorized | Government, News

Updates from Rep. Gabbard (Jan. 28-Feb. 25)

MEDIA RELEASE

Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard has announced her subcommittee assignments for the House Armed Services Committee and Foreign Affairs Committee.

On Armed Services, Gabbard will continue serving on the Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee and has joined the Readiness Subcommittee.

“Serving on both the Seapower and Readiness Subcommittees give me a solid platform to advocate for maintaining strategic readiness for our troops based in Hawaii,” said Gabbard. “Both of these committee assignments ensure that Hawaii has a voice when it comes to decisions regarding Navy and Marine Corps programs, as well as overall military construction, troop readiness, training, and logistics for all branches of the military in Hawaii and across the country.”

The Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee has jurisdiction over all Navy acquisition programs, Naval Reserve equipment, and Marine Corps amphibious assault vehicle programs. This committee assignment will allow Rep. Gabbard to engage on issues related to the Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, the long-term viability of Pacific Missile Range Facility, and the Marine Corps Base at Kaneohe Bay.

The Readiness Subcommittee has jurisdiction over key programs with a direct impact on the military’s presence in Hawaii. The subcommittee has jurisdiction over military readiness, training, logistics and maintenance issues and programs, and all military construction. The Readiness Subcommittee is also responsible for civilian personnel policy, depot policy, environmental policy, installations and family housing issues.

Gabbard also serves on two subcommittees on the House Foreign Affairs Committee: the Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia, and Emerging Threats and the Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific.

“With new threats emerging around the world, we must consider opportunities to constructively engage our partners and allies,” continued Gabbard. “The Europe, Eurasia, and Emerging Threats Subcommittee will play an important role in shaping America’s foreign policy and response to changing events abroad. Serving on the Asia and Pacific Subcommittee, I will continue to work on strengthening our positioning and relationships within East Asia and the Pacific Rim.”

The Europe, Eurasia, and Emerging Threats Subcommittee has jurisdiction over U.S. relations with Europe and Eurasia. The subcommittee may also conduct oversight related to emerging foreign threats to the national security and interests of the United States. Also, with Europe facing terror from returning foreign fighters, and the continued aggression of Russia, this subcommittee will work to ensure U.S. foreign policy falls within the parameters of what is in the best interest of keeping the American people safe.

Issues before the Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific include political relations between the U.S. and countries in the region, disaster assistance, regional activities of the United Nations, and more.

GABBARD OPPOSES AIR TRAVEL FEE

Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard testified before the House Committee on the Budget to state her opposition to a component of the Concurrent Resolution on the Budget for Fiscal Year 2016 that increases a travel fee which would adversely affect the residents of Hawaii.

“The increased fee would have a major negative impact upon the residents who work and live in Hawaii,” said Gabbard. “With no interisland railway, highway, or ferry system, our residents have no other choice but to fly between islands. Air transportation is an essential lifeline for people in finding a job, starting a small business, going to see a doctor, and visiting family and friends. The doubling of the security fee has already had a noticeable impact. For example, the lowest base fare for flying from Honolulu to Maui is $54.33. The taxes and increased security fees escalate the price of the ticket by 25%. Another increase would only heighten the burden on our residents as they carry out the everyday responsibilities of life.”

A full transcript of Gabbard’s testimony is below:

Chairman Price, Ranking Member Van Hollen, and Members of the House Budget Committee,

Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to testify today on the budget. I am here to bring two issues to your attention – first, the critical role of air travel for certain communities and the disparate impact of fee increases on these areas; and second, my serious concerns about the troubling consequences of sequestration cuts to our military and the security of our nation.

The Bipartisan Budget Agreement of 2013 more than doubled the passenger security fee less than a year ago. However, the Administration’s budget proposal for fiscal year 2016 includes another fee increase in order to raise another $195 million.

The growth of the fee would have a devastating impact upon the residents who work and live in Hawaii. With no interisland railway, highway, or ferry system, our residents have no other choice but to fly between islands. Thus, air transportation is an essential lifeline for conducting business, receiving healthcare, and visiting family and friends.

Moreover, our interisland fares are priced so that the doubling of the security fee has had a noticeable effect on the price of an airline ticket. For example, the lowest base fare for flying from Honolulu to Maui is $54.33. The taxes and increased security fees escalate the price of the ticket by 25%. Another increase would only heighten the burden our residents pay to carry out the everyday responsibilities of life.

Even more concerning, this fee increase is not meant to improve TSA operations; its purpose is to raise $195 million for deficit reduction. This relies on a small portion of the population, the flying public, to pay for government spending under the guise of higher ticket prices.

In reaction to this proposal, I am reintroducing the Passenger Fee Restructuring Exemptions Act. This legislation would limit the passenger security fee for Hawaii, Alaska, and rural areas serviced by the Essential Air Service program to $2.50 per one-way trip because of the reliance on air travel by these areas.

In the past, Congress has recognized Hawaii’s unique reliance on air travel and made accommodations in taxes and fees. For example, current law exempts intrastate flights in Hawaii from passenger facility fees. The air transportation tax on domestic flights departing from Hawaii is half that imposed on flights in the contiguous 48 states. Further, the newly doubled passenger security fee is only charged once in non-contiguous areas if the second part of the round-trip flight is less than 12 hours after the first segment.

For these reasons, I urge you to reject President Obama’s proposal to increase the passenger security fee again. This fee would magnify the unique hardships endured by our most isolated areas and target the flying public to pay for unrelated government spending. If you find that the passenger security fee has to be increased, then I would urge you to take past precedent into account and exempt our non-contiguous and isolated areas from any increase.

Moreover, considering the national security threats that we face today and the uncertain threats we will likely face tomorrow, Congress should not allow a dramatic reduction in the size and capability of our nation’s military due to sequestration. These arbitrary, across-the-board cuts undermine our ability to make strategic decisions about how we confront dynamic and complex security challenges. The impacts of BCA-level funding constraints weaken the military’s ability to be ready to respond to protect our people and interests at home and around the world. For example, if the budget caps are adopted, the Army would be forced to cut tens of thousands of Soldiers from its ranks, and the Navy would cancel plans to buy key ships – all while demand for these resources will likely increase.

In closing, I urge you to work towards a budget solution that will provide sequestration relief, and make this effort a priority of the committee’s work. We are already seeing negative consequences of BCA-level funding on how prepared our military is, and the world we face today is very different from the one we faced even two years ago.

Thank you for your time today.

GABBARD HONORED BY NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF COUNTIES

The National Association of Counties (NACo) has awarded Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard the 2015 NACo County Alumni Award for her “steadfast commitment to the nation’s counties.”

“It was an honor to serve the residents of Oahu as a City Councilmember,” said Gabbard. “The dedicated public servants who work hard every day getting results to keep our counties healthy and vibrant need allies in the halls of Congress who understand the needs of our counties. Our constituents depend on essential services from county government, and I will continue to advocate for providing our local governments with the resources they need.”

NACo, which represents 3,069 county governments in the United States, presents County Alumni Awards to honor Members of Congress who have previously served in county government.

HONOULIULI DESIGNATION RECOGNIZES PAST, SERVES FUTURE GENERATIONS

Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard praised President Obama for signing a presidential proclamation officially designating the Honouliuli Internment Camp site as a national historic monument.

“The Honouliuli camp is a reminder of a dark time in our nation’s history, but it also serves to educate future generations about the importance of standing up during times of conflict to protect civil rights,” said Gabbard. “Thanks to President Obama and Secretary Jewell, this structure will be preserved and maintain a place in our past.”

President Obama’s proclamation will afford Honouliuli National Monument with official visitor programs and services provided by the National Park Service.

GABBARD APPLAUDS CLAY HUNT SUICIDE PREVENTION FOR AMERICAN VETERANS ACT BECOMING LAW

Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard applauded President Obama for signing the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans (SAV) Act into law.

“This bipartisan and common-sense law will improve access to quality mental health care for those who have served our country with honor,” said Gabbard. “Our servicemembers selflessly risk their lives to protect our country and keep us safe, and when they return home, they should not be prevented from receiving the care they deserve because of bureaucratic red tape. As an Army National Guard Soldier and veteran, it breaks my heart to know that there is an average of 22 who take their own life, every day. This is a clear indication that the current system is failing our veterans. Today, we are taking one important step forward in improving care for our veterans.”

The Clay Hunt SAV Act aims to help veterans by:

Increasing Access to Mental Health Care and Capacity at VA to Meet Demand

· Requires the VA to create a one-stop, interactive website to serve as a centralized source of information regarding all VA mental health services for veterans.

· Addresses the shortage of mental health care professionals by authorizing the VA to conduct a student loan repayment pilot program aimed at recruiting and retaining psychiatrists.

Improving the Quality of Care and Boosting Accountability at VA

· Requires evaluations of all mental health care and suicide prevention practices and programs at the VA to find out what’s working and what’s not working and make recommendations to improve care.

Developing a Community Support System for Veterans

· Establishes a peer support and community outreach pilot program to assist transitioning servicemembers with accessing VA mental health care services.

The Clay Hunt SAV Act passed the House of Representatives unanimously on Jan. 12 and was approved by the Senate on Feb. 3.

STEWART, GABBARD INTRODUCE THE VETERANS TRICARE CHOICE ACT

Rep. Chris Stewart (R-Utah) and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii), both veterans, introduced the Veterans TRICARE Choice Act, giving TRICARE-eligible veterans the ability to contribute to a Health Savings Account (HSA) program.

Under current federal law, it is illegal for a TRICARE-eligible veteran to participate in an HSA program. The Veterans TRICARE Choice Act simply gives veterans the choice to voluntarily pause their TRICARE benefits in order to participate in an HSA program.

Health Savings Accounts have proven to be an effective way to pay for medical costs and proactively save for future medical expenses. Employees invest and save tax-free money in HSAs, which are then used to pay for qualified medical expenses. These have become increasingly popular healthcare plans in the private sector.

“As a former Air Force Officer, I know first hand about the sacrifices made by veterans and their families,” Congressman Chris Stewart said. “When they leave the military and enter the private workforce, they shouldn’t been denied opportunities given to non-veteran employees. This bill simply allows veterans to pause TRICARE benefits to participate in the same employer sponsored HSA programs that non-veteran employees are given. It’s important that we honor our veterans by ensuring that they have access to the best healthcare options for themselves and their families.”

“Veterans working in the private sector should have the same healthcare choices that their civilian co-workers have,” said Gabbard. “As an Army National Guard soldier and veteran who has used TRICARE, I understand the challenges current policy poses for our veterans. TRICARE-eligible veterans who served our country honorably are denied access to other health plans unless they permanently opt out of TRICARE. This outdated policy does not serve our veterans or their families, and must be fixed. I’m proud to join my friend and fellow veteran, Congressman Stewart, to introduce the Veterans TRICARE Choice Act to do just that.”

Last Congress the House of Representatives bill garnered the support of 83 bi-partisan co-sponsors, as well as support from the National Guard Association of the United States (NGAUS), the Retired Enlisted Association (TREA) and the Association of the United States Navy (AUSN).

Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) and Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) introduced an identical bill in the U.S. Senate.

GABBARD RECOGNIZED FOR SUPPORT OF NATIONAL SERVICE

In recognition of her support for national service, Congresswoman Gabbard has been awarded the Outstanding New Member Award by Voices for National Service.

Awards were formally presented earlier this month in Washington, D.C. at the 12th Annual Friends of National Service Awards sponsored by Comcast NBCUniversal, CSX, Bain Capital, Sankaty Advisors, and Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP.

Gabbard joins a bipartisan group of advocates who were honored, including Govs. Terry Branstad (R-IA) and Rick Snyder (R-MI), Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Patty Murray (D-WA), Rep. Hal Rogers (R-KY), Jonathan Lavine of Bain Capital, and Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson.

Voices for National Service President AnnMaura Connolly said, “Congresswoman Gabbard is passionate about civic engagement, and has consistently sought opportunities to serve the nation and ensure a brighter future for all citizens. We are thrilled to welcome Congresswoman Gabbard to Congress, and look forward to working with her for years to come.”

“It’s the greatest privilege to have an opportunity to be of service to the people of Hawaii and our nation,” said Gabbard. “I learned from a young age the importance of doing my best to be of service to others, and to live aloha – this is what motivates me every day. Every day, I am encouraged and inspired to see the many examples of people all across Hawaii and the country making a positive impact as they strive to be servant-leaders in their own work and lives.”

Honorees were selected based on recognition and support for national service as a solution to some of the nation’s most pressing challenges. Each award winner has helped to raise public awareness of national service and elevate national service as a legislative priority.

National service is a cost-effective strategy for engaging citizens, improving communities, and strengthening the nation. In communities across the country, national service members provide critical services to fulfill unmet needs. National service members tutor and mentor struggling students, help Americans lead healthier lives, provide job training and other services to returning veterans, preserve the nation’s parks and public lands, offer disaster relief and recovery assistance, and support independent living for seniors and Americans with disabilities. For every federal dollar invested in national service, there are returns to society of nearly four dollars in terms of higher earnings, increased output, and other community-wide benefits.

Voices for National Service is a diverse coalition of national service programs, state service commissions and individual champions, who work to ensure Americans of all ages have the opportunity to serve and volunteer in their community. Founded in 2003, Voices for National Service has built strong bipartisan support among our nation’s leaders and helped position national service as a viable policy solution to tackle unmet needs, expand opportunity, and leverage human capital.

GABBARD, ROBY WARN SEQUESTER CUTS THREATEN MILITARY READINESS

Reps. Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02) and Martha Roby (AL-02) have co-authored a bipartisan letter warning congressional colleagues of sequestration’s potential devastating impact to military readiness in Fiscal Year 2016.

The letter highlights a recent U.S. Army study that illustrates the effect of sequestration on 30 Army installations across the country, including Fort Rucker in Alabama and Schofield Barracks in Hawaii. Under the Budget Control Act of 2011, 50 percent of the across-the-board sequestration cuts must come from military accounts.

“Inaction will put us further down the path of undermining our national security, local economies, and the livelihoods of military families who have sacrificed so much over the last 13 years,” the Representatives wrote. “We encourage you to review the enclosed excerpt from the Army’s report to better understand the impact of the sequestration policy on the Army, and to help us make addressing sequestration a top priority moving forward.”

While Congress has mitigated the effect of sequester cuts by delaying implementation and allowing inter-branch spending flexibility, sequestration will go into full effect at the end of FY2016 absent an agreement to remedy the cuts.

“Considering the national security threats that we face today and the uncertain threats we will likely face tomorrow, Congress should not allow a dramatic reduction in the Army’s end strength or a similar reduction in the capabilities of the other service branches,” the letter continues. “We believe alleviating the impact of sequestration on the military must be a top priority of the 114th Congress, and that there is the will within the Congress to do so.”

The growing terrorist threat from the self-declared Islamic State is just one reason why the United States must fully fund the military, Congresswomen Gabbard and Roby argue.

“The world we face today is very different from the one we faced two years ago. We did not anticipate the requirement to send Soldiers to Europe to face a resurgent Russia, or back to Iraq to face the rising threat from Islamic State of Iraq and Levant, or to Africa to support the international effort to battle Ebola. The Army must maintain rotational presence in Korea and Europe to meet our security obligations and to surge around the world if needed. We must have a security debate in this country and decide what we want the Army to do in the next ten years before we consider further Army reductions.”

The full text of the letter is below

Dear Colleague:

We write to bring to your attention one of many negative consequences that across-the-board sequestration cuts are having, and will continue to have, on our nation’s military, and particularly the U.S. Army.

Sequestration is the result of the Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA), which the House of Representatives passed on August 1, 2011 by a vote of 269-161. Driven by the BCA, the Army announced it would reduce the number of active duty troops to meet constrained funding. The Army conducted and published two studies assessing potential end strength reductions at several bases. Excerpts from these studies, which are enclosed, paint a troubling picture of our military’s size and reduced capabilities if sequestration continues.

To put these potential troop cuts in perspective, here is the Army’s Active Duty end strength in recent years:

Date Army End Strength (Active Duty)

September 2001 482,400
September 2010 (Surge) 570,000
October 2015 490,000
October 2019 (Sequester) 420,000

We believe alleviating the impact of sequestration on the military must be a top priority of the 114th Congress, and that there is the will within the Congress to do so. Of note, 108 current Members of the House opposed the original Budget Control Act. Moreover, approximately 138 current Members were not in office at the time the BCA was considered in 2011, and therefore have not had the opportunity to cast judgment on the policy.

To date, military leaders have temporarily mitigated the effects of sequestration by making dangerous tradeoffs between investing in readiness and modernization. Some defense funding was restored in fiscal years 2014 and 2015 in the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013. However, this was only a temporary fix. Tradeoffs can only be made for so long without significantly weakening the force. Additionally, the relief provided by the Bipartisan Budget Act expires at the end of September. Accordingly, the full impact of sequestration, more harsh than anything we’ve seen so far, will hit the Pentagon in fiscal year 2016 unless Congress acts.

Considering the national security threats that we face today and the uncertain threats we will likely face tomorrow, Congress should not allow a dramatic reduction in the Army’s end strength or a similar reduction in the capabilities of the other service branches. The world we face today is very different from the one we faced two years ago. We did not anticipate the requirement to send soldiers to Europe to face a resurgent Russia, or back to Iraq to face the rising threat from Islamic State of Iraq and Levant, or to Africa to support the international effort to battle Ebola. The Army must maintain rotational presence in Korea and Europe to meet our security obligations and to surge around the world if needed. We must have a security debate in this country and decide what we want the Army to do in the next ten years before we consider further Army reductions.

Inaction will put us further down the path of undermining our national security, local economies, and the livelihoods of military families who have sacrificed so much over the last thirteen years. We encourage you to review the enclosed excerpt from the Army’s report to better understand the impact of the sequestration policy on the Army, and to help us make addressing sequestration a top priority moving forward.

Very truly yours,
Martha Roby (AL-02)
Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02)
Members of Congress

GABBARD CO-SPONSORS LEGISLATION PROTECTING ELECTRONIC PRIVACY RIGHTS

Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard has joined a bipartisan, bicameral group of legislators introducing a bill to modernize electronic privacy laws, the Electronic Communications Privacy Amendments Act of 2015.

The ECPA Amendments Act of 2015 would update the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986 to improve privacy protections for electronic communications stored or maintained by a third-party service provider. The legislation requires the government to obtain a search warrant, based on probable cause, to access citizens’ emails stored or maintained by third-party service providers.

Under current outdated law, the government is required to obtain a warrant to read mail, but it does not necessarily need a warrant to access email stored in a data cloud. In particular, emails are accessible without a warrant when those emails have been left within third-party servers more than 180 days. The bill repeals this authority.

“We live in a world where technology has changed every aspect of our lives since 1986,” said Gabbard. “The Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986 needs to be updated as it reflects a world of the past that does not resemble our current online landscape. Americans ought to have a reasonable expectation of privacy for their personal and professional content stored online, and laws protecting our Fourth Amendment and digital privacy rights must be updated to reflect advances in technology that have progressed rapidly in the last three decades.”

The legislation also preserves the legal tools necessary to conduct criminal investigations and protect the public and promote public safety.

“This is a bipartisan issue. No citizen should fear that their personal communications will be subject to unreasonable seizure or invasive searches,” Gabbard continued. “Technological innovation should strengthen consumer safety, not provide the government with an excuse to abuse its power by compelling disclosure of private, personal items.”

The ECPA Amendments Act of 2015 has 228 additional cosponsors in the House.

This legislation is also supported by: ACLU, Google, Microsoft, Facebook, the US Chamber of Commerce, Americans for Tax Reform, Adobe, Amazon, AOL, Council for Citizens Against Government Waste, Dropbox, eBay, Facebook, The Internet Association, Mozilla, Twitter, Yahoo!, and more.

GABBARD PUSHES FOR NAHASDA REAUTHORIZATION

Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard attended the National American Indian Housing Council Conference and spoke to attendees from Hawaii and across the country about reauthorizing the Native American Housing Assistance and Self Determination Act of 1996 (NAHASDA).

In the 18 years since its enactment, NAHASDA has strengthened indigenous self-determination by empowering low-income families and households by assisting with their housing needs. This legislation has been twice reauthorized, both times with broad congressional support.

Over 1,400 low-income families in Hawaii have benefited from NAHASDA. The Department of Hawaiian Home Lands (DHHL) is the sole recipient of the Native Hawaiian Housing Block Grant as provided for by the law. DHHL administers 203,000 acres of trust land; 99% of those lands are located in Hawaii’s Second Congressional District: from the southernmost tip of Hawaii Island to Kauai and Niihau; it includes every Hawaiian Island, but excludes urban Honolulu.

Last year, Gabbard co-sponsored H.R. 4329, the Native American Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Reauthorization Act of 2014. That legislation passed unanimously out of the House of Representatives, but did pass the Senate.

Congressman Takai (HI-01) has joined Gabbard this year in co-sponsoring H.R. 360, the Native American Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Reauthorization Act of 2015.

Full text of Rep. Gabbard’s remarks are below:

TULSI GABBARD: Good morning. It’s really wonderful to be here, to be able to share a little bit with you the voice of Hawaii and the gratitude of our state for your solidarity and support as each us come together representing our native communities standing, together on this very, very important issue. So on behalf of the 36,000 native Hawaiians who are served by the Hawaiian Home Lands Trust, I can’t express that gratitude in them, especially at this time where this critical piece of legislation continues to be challenged, where every year a fight is mounted. This unity and this solidarity by native people all across the country I think has never been more essential than now.

I want to say thank you to my colleagues who’ve been incredible leaders. You just heard from Congressman Pearce. Congressman Don Young, from Alaska has become a good friend and a strong partner in this. Congressman McCollum who’s here, I think you’ll be hearing from her shortly. There are so many people who have been champions of this effort and continue to fight every single day to make sure that this reauthorization moves forward.

Without this strong bipartisan coalition, this is something that can‘t pass. As Congressmen Pearce just talked about, with a divided Congress, there are very few issues that really gain strong bipartisan support, especially issues that have deep substance and deep impact in a way that transcends a lot of the divides that unfortunately exist here in Washington, but also in different parts of the country. This is one of those issues where there is that potential, and I think it’s rooted in the strong history of NAHASDA. When this legislation first passed, it began and has always been a bipartisan effort. That really impacts real people.

Since 1996, this legislation has twice been authorized, both times with broad congressional support involving leaders in both parties. In the 18 years since its enactment, NAHASDA has strengthened indigenous self-determination by empowering native nations to empower low-income families and really to give them that most sacred gift that’s essential to all of our families and that is a home. I want to talk to a little about Hawaii and the 1,400 low-income families there who’ve benefited from these services, in many cases because of the incredible high-cost of living that we have in our state. Where median price of home is $640,000 thousand dollars on Oahu, home ownership would not be possible otherwise. The Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, representatives who are here today, is the sole recipient to the native Hawaiian housing block grant as provided for by Title VIII, and they administer 203,000 acres of trust land, 99% percent of these lands are located within my congressional district. From the southernmost tip of Hawaii island to the islands of Kauai and Niihau, so it includes every island in our state but excludes the urban corridor of Honolulu.

There is a family that I spoke about on the House floor whose story touched me, that I want to share with you today and that’s the story of the Nakihei family on the island of Moloka‘i . Brent and Amber Nakihei could not have afforded to remain in the neighborhood where Brent grew up. But they partnered with Moloka‘i Habitat for Humanity and Hawaiian Homes to build a new three-bedroom, one-bath house in 2007. They invested seven hundred hours of work towards construction of that house and their four children will now learn the responsibility of home ownership and have that appreciation from a young age and be able to maintain that culture and that background that their parents have appreciated and are passing on now to this next generation and I think that’s really what this is all about: about preserving and maintaining our culture through our families as they pass this on to the next generation. NAHASDA has helped our department of Hawaiian Homelands to deliver good-quality, single-family homes for less than $300,000. It keeps our families in their homes and brings homeownership within reach for those who are either in the middle class or struggling to break into the middle class. So as we go forward this will continue to be a fight and I want to highlight how important the role is that each of you plays.

For our part in Congress, we will continue to speak up and to continue to share these stories of people within communities all across the country whose lives have literally been changed with this piece of legislation. But I want to highlight how strong and powerful your voices are in this. Your phone calls, your emails, your meetings, your voice on social media bring such a strong and beautiful face to this piece of legislation and the kind historic impact that it has made and that it will continue to make. As with so many other issues that we deal with, the more grassroots support there is for broad cross-sections of our community across the country, the greater chance of support that it gets from Members who may not be as directly connected to these communities as some who you’re hearing form today.

So, thank you for your advocacy and activism on this and for representing so many people who I know can’t be here, but whose voices you carry with you. Thank you very much. Aloha!

CHAFFETZ, GABBARD WORK TO RESTORE AMERICA’S WIRE ACT

In an effort to reverse the Department of Justice’s abrupt 2011 decision expanding online gaming, Congressman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) and Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) have introduced Restoration of America’s Wire Act.

This bipartisan legislation will restore the long-standing interpretation of the Wire Act and is a response to concerns expressed by many state Attorneys General about the impact of the DOJ decision on their states. Utah and Hawaii are the only two states in the U.S. to reject all forms of gambling.

“In yet another example of executive branch overreach, the DOJ crossed the line by making what amounts to a massive policy change without debate or input from the people or their representatives. We must restore the original interpretation of the Wire Act. If there is justification and support for a change, the Constitution designates Congress as the body to debate that change and set that policy,” said Chaffetz.

“Congress has the responsibility to debate these regulations openly and should not allow bureaucrats to unilaterally change the law behind closed doors. Until that debate takes place, Congress must restore the long-standing interpretation of the Wire Act. The FBI and state attorneys general from different parts of the country have raised multiple concerns about this new change. This bill restores protections against criminal activity which existed in the pre-2011 interpretation of the law,” said Gabbard.

On February 4th of 2014, Attorneys General from 16 states and territories wrote to Congress asking, “that Congress restore the decades-long interpretation of the Wire Act to allow Congress and the states to more fully consider the public policy ramifications of the DOJ’s reinterpretation of the Wire Act and to give federal and state law enforcement agencies time to fully assess and report on the implications Internet gambling has on our respective charges to protect the citizens of our states.” (View full letter here)

Additionally, in 2009 the FBI expressed similar concerns about fraud and money laundering by criminal elements. In 2014 the Governors of Texas and South Carolina also wrote to Congress expressing concerns about the Department of Justice’s decision. Identical legislation was introduced in the 113th Congress.

GABBARD QUESTIONS DIA DIRECTOR ON NECESSITY OF DEFINING ISLAMIC EXTREMIST THREAT

During a full House Armed Services Committee hearing on World Wide Threats, Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02) asked Defense Intelligence Agency Director Lieutenant General Vincent R. Stewart, USMC about the Obama Administration’s aversion to using the term “Islamic extremism.”

Regarding the term, Gabbard said: “There’s a debate right now…about how this ideology, how this motivation must be identified, in order to define our enemy and in order to defeat this threat. And I think it’s important as we look at dedication of resources in strategy and planning, that this identification of their motivation, of this radical Islamic ideology is made very distinctly.”
Full text of Rep. Gabbard’s questions below

TULSI GABBARD: General Stewart, you spoke briefly about your efforts particularly in the Middle East dealing with this Islamic extremist threat that we’re seeing growing there, and I wondered if you could speak to how critical your assessments are and the intelligence that you’re gathering, regarding the intent behind this extremist ideology, informing this strategy to defeat this enemy and what is that motivation, what is that intent?

LTG STEWART: ISIL, in this particular case, is a radical ideology that must be countered with a moderate ideology. I think they intend, if I were to try to ascribe intent, their intent is to the destabilize large countries in the region, force Western countries to depart the region, and then of course as they’ve already stated, to create this Islamic state. It is based on a violent extremist’s interpretation of Islam and it is not, I would argue, common throughout the entire region. So if I were to map out what ISIL would love to do, ISIL would love to have the United States and Western countries out of the region and slowly pick apart those other moderate nations who would counter their radical ideology, and if they could do that then they could have fairly easy opportunity to create this state that they think is appropriate for the region.

TULSI GABBARD: And what are the common elements that you find? While much of the action has been occurring in Iraq and Syria you listed a number of other countries in the Middle East, when we see what’s happening in Libya for example, what are the common elements that you see between these different actors, whether it be ISIL, Al Qaeda, AQAP, Boko Haram? The list goes on.

LTG STEWART: Ungoverned states, weak government institution, economic instability, poverty.

TULSI GABBARD: What are the common, you’re referring to the common elements between the different geographic locations, common elements between these groups specifically?

LTG STEWART: The common element really is just a radical approach and ideology I think that’s the common element. ISIL can create, create in quotes, regions, just by declaring that ISIL is in Libya. Doesn’t have to be anything substantive, it just has to create the impression that it is there and it is a different force to offer to the people in that region. So I don’t know that there’s anything more common than just the very extreme approach; very violent, very strict interpretation of the religion and finding opportunities in ungoverned spaces.

TULSI GABBARD: I think it’s important that we recognize this because as you’re well aware there’s a debate right now about whether, about how this ideology, how this motivation, must be identified in order to define our enemy and in order to defeat this threat. And I think it’s important as we look at dedication of resources in strategy and planning that this identification of their motivation, of this radical Islamic ideology, is made very distinctly, as we would with any other type of enemy. I know for the members here who’ve served in the military at one point or another, when we look at a basic thing like the five paragraph operations order, when we look at the situation, we look at and examine our enemy. We look what their capabilities are and what their motivations are. So as we look at this threat that exists both in the Middle East and in countries in the West that we recognize this and identify it clearly. Thank you I yield back.

CHAIRMAN MAC THORNBERRY: If I could just say amen to what the gentlelady just said. As matter of fact we’re going to have a hearing next week on this very topic and I think it’s very, very important.

GABBARD ANNOUNCES NEW CHIEF OF STAFF

Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard has announced the appointment of Kainoa Ramananda Penaroza as her Chief of Staff.

“I am pleased to welcome Kainoa to my office and know he will be a great asset to our team,” Gabbard said. “From his time as a an entrepreneur and small business owner, project manager, and campaign coordinator, to his service-oriented approach to life, Kainoa brings to the office a unique, down-to-earth, and results-driven style of leadership that matches up with my desire to be of service to the people of Hawaii and the United States. He will be an effective leader for my team, both in Hawaii and Washington.”

Born and raised in Honolulu, Penaroza has been a supporter of Gabbard since the first time she ran for elected office. He volunteered for Gabbard during her campaign for the Hawaii State House of Representatives in 2002, and later worked as a coordinator for her 2009-2010 campaign for the Honolulu City Council.

Penaroza was an event organizer and grassroots coordinator for her 2012 and 2014 campaigns for the U.S. Congress.

Among other things, he has worked as a national sales manager for a Hawaii company for six years, while simultaneously starting a successful small business of his own.

Penaroza said, “I am honored to serve as Congresswoman Gabbard’s Chief of Staff, working for the people of Hawaii. This is an exciting opportunity for me to help create a better future for my home state of Hawaii, under the strong leadership of Congresswoman Gabbard. She represents the same values and principles of aloha and servant leadership that I hold important in my own life, and I feel privileged to be asked to join her in serving Hawaii.”

Jessica Vanden Berg, the previous chief of staff, is currently working at her consulting firm Maverick Strategies and Mail.

She said, “It was an honor and privilege to work with Rep. Gabbard and to serve the people of Hawaii’s Second Congressional District.”

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