Job Creation and the Economy
Americans across the country are hurting. As Nevadans continue to struggle with high unemployment, my number one priority in Congress is to turn our economy around and get Nevadans back to work. Despite claims that the stimulus bill would provide an "immediate jolt" to our economy, our nation experienced record job loss after its passage. Businesses need stability to thrive and create jobs, and that starts with keeping taxes low and controlling government spending. Now it is time for Congress to focus on long-term economic policies that reform the tax code, rein in federal spending, support comprehensive energy policies, and stop overregulation. By doing this we will bolster recovery and provide businesses the certainty they need to create jobs.
Big government is not the answer to fixing our economy. Congress needs to control wasteful spending and shrink the size of government. Adopting pro-growth policies that expand tax relief across the board and allow Americans to keep more of what they earn will lead to job creation and economic prosperity in the future. Capitalism is the foundation of America's prosperity. We should embrace these principles, not run from them.
Federal Spending and the Deficit
As our national debt grows, the dollar is weakened and Americans have to work more so they can buy less. Curbing out-of-control spending and balancing the budget should be top priorities for Congress. This government has been on a massive spending spree for too long, and it is time for this reckless behavior to end. As an opponent of the stimulus and the only member of the Nevada delegation to vote against the bailout, I believe it is critical to rein in spending, address the yearly deficits, and get government debt under control.
Congress must immediately start to solve Washington’s out-of-control spending that has led to unprecedented debt and deficits. For too long, Members of Congress have failed to even pass a basic budget to rein in record spending, which is why I introduced the No Budget, No Pay Act. This bill would eliminate pay for Members of Congress unless they pass a budget. Cutting wasteful spending, reducing our national debt, and pushing for a Balanced Budget Amendment that will ultimately force Washington to live within its means are top priorities of mine.
It is time that more than lip service is paid to controlling government spending. Moving forward, Democrats and Republicans must commit to working together so that Congress can better serve the American people by getting Washington’s fiscal house in order.
I am a strong supporter of the State of Israel. For many decades, Israel has continually been a strong ally of the United States, has consistently promoted the ideals of democracy in the Middle East, and historically has provided invaluable international assistance, saving the lives of countless innocent civilians.
I am very concerned about the safety of Israel. I firmly believe the United States should continue to stand by its longtime friend and ally. Like most Americans and Israelis, I continue to be very alarmed by the reckless behavior of Iran's radical government. The Iranian government is an oppressive regime that withholds basic liberties from its citizens. It continues to be outspoken in its desire to see other nations - including the United States and Israel - utterly destroyed. I have traveled to Israel and have seen firsthand the threat that many Israelis face on a daily basis. I have advocated for U.S. assistance for Israel so that it has the ability to defend itself, and I support legislation that punishes Iran for its dangerous pursuit of weapons of mass destruction. Rest assured that I will continue supporting the State of Israel.
Housing and Foreclosures
With one of the highest rates of foreclosure in the nation, it is clear most current federal housing programs are not working for Nevada’s homeowners. Too many Nevadans are still struggling to pay their mortgage, face foreclosure, or have had to short sell their home just to make ends meet. In order to stabilize the housing market and provide relief to struggling homeowners, policies must not only promote responsible homeownership, but also job creation.
We need to re-establish a housing market that has long-term stability in which private capital, not the federal government, is the primary source of mortgage financing. Any financial regulatory reform bill in the future should stop taxpayer-funded bailouts, make further reforms to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and help address the struggling housing market.
Foreclosures don’t just affect individuals and families. They have a major impact on neighborhoods and entire communities due to declining property values, unpaid utility bills, and increases in crime. Congress must do everything within its power to fix the housing market because Nevada’s revitalization depends on it. I have proposed a number of ideas that will help families stay in their homes and streamline the short sale process.
Our nation’s healthcare system needs reform, but a government takeover is not the solution. I strongly opposed, argued against, and voted against this legislation both in the House Ways & Means Committee and on the House floor. Put bluntly, this Administration’s law is costing jobs and stifling economic growth in our nation. This $2.6 trillion legislation includes an unprecedented half-trillion dollar tax increase, including a penalty that will impact nearly half of families with incomes of less than $66,150.
The current composition of the U.S. Senate, coupled with this current Administration, presents significant impediments to efforts that would repeal the healthcare law and keep taxes low. The President who signed the healthcare bill into law has no interest in rolling back this legislation.
The reality is the cost of the President’s healthcare law will continue to rise. My hope is that reasonable Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle will come together and act to improve access, bring down the cost of medical care, and provide coverage for those with pre-existing conditions.
Real healthcare reform will lower the cost of care by including medical liability reform, reimporting prescription drugs, and promoting competition by allowing customers to purchase insurance across state lines. These steps would provide consumers with more choices at less cost.
Border Security and Immigration
America is a nation of immigrants and has greatly benefited from legal immigration. I support reforms that would enable a safe, orderly legal immigration process and discourage undocumented immigration. Congress needs to find sensible, compassionate, and bipartisan solutions to the immigration problem. Those who wish to contribute to our society and economy should have the opportunity to do so, and our legal immigration process should not be overly burdensome to these individuals. That’s why I have spent time discussing potential immigration reform proposals with Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) and like-minded colleagues.
Guest workers are an important part of Nevada’s economy. Unfortunately, the businesses that employ seasonal workers have faced more paperwork and bureaucracy for continuing programs they have operated for years. Congress should make sure that businesses and workers who are following the laws are not being penalized for doing so. Enhancing guest worker programs will encourage immigrants and businesses alike to abide by the established legal process. Greater review and oversight of these programs could go far in meeting the economic needs of our state and nation.
Our nation should also focus on enforcing existing immigration law. I support greater border security and the construction of a fence to help secure our borders. Businesses that knowingly break the law and hire undocumented immigrants should be fined. Employers should also have access to effective tools to determine whether a worker is in our country legally and eligible for work.
Economic opportunity is the foundation of the American dream, and my number one priority is to help create jobs and grow the economy. Those who come to this country want a better life for themselves and their children. Undergoing the immigration process helps individuals achieve stable employment, which helps immigrants achieve dreams like homeownership and saving for the future. That’s why I am proud to help Nevadans and their families with navigating the immigration bureaucracy and will continue working to improve our nation’s immigration policies.
Nevada is home to more than 228,000 veterans who have faithfully served our nation and defended freedom in America. These men, women and their families have dedicated their lives and made significant sacrifices to protect the United States, and deserve our debt and gratitude. As a member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee and the Senate Veterans Jobs Caucus, I am committed to making sure that America’s brave heroes receive the benefits and care they have earned and deserve.
Veterans, especially those in Nevada, face a number of challenges, including high unemployment, a struggling housing market, and too often, homelessness. Congress has a responsibility to enact policies that will help veterans overcome these difficulties and ensure that the Department of Defense and Department of Veterans’ Affairs have the resources necessary to meet the growing needs of Nevada and our nation’s veteran communities. I look forward to working with my colleagues on the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee to develop legislation that provides veterans the best care possible in gratitude for their service.
Our nation needs a comprehensive energy policy that allows us to develop our own resources as well as find ways to develop renewable resources efficiently and affordably. Middle class families across the state have already been forced to tighten their belts, and the last thing they need is to feel the squeeze of higher energy prices. The United States is blessed with abundant natural resources, and we have the ability to ensure an affordable, stable supply of the energy needed to power our economy by developing them responsibly. Democrats and Republicans must work together to develop concrete policies that will lower prices, expand domestic production, and reduce our dependence on foreign oil. In Nevada, we have tremendous opportunities for renewable energy development, as well as other important resource development. I will continue to promote responsible development on the nearly 87% of Nevada’s lands that are federally-controlled and support commonsense measures that will help our nation move toward alternative energy technologies to power our future. As a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, I am committed to championing responsible energy policies that serve the best interests of Nevadans and the nation.
Salary and Member Benefits
The U.S. Constitution, in Article I, Section 6, authorizes compensation for Members of Congress “ascertained by law, and paid out of the Treasury of the United States.” Currently, Members’ salary is $174,000 annually.
Senator Heller has never voted to increase his salary as a Member of Congress. In fact, he introduced legislation that requires Members of Congress to pass a concurrent budget resolution and related appropriations bills in order to receive pay. Pay is not awarded retroactively if Congress passes a budget after the deadline has passed.
Throughout its history, Congress has relied on two primary methods in adjusting salaries for Members. Stand-alone legislation, the most frequently used method, was last used to provide increases in 1990 and 1991. This was the only method used by Congress for many years.
The second method, under which annual adjustments took effect automatically unless disapproved by Congress, was established in 1975. Senator Heller supports changing this unfair system. As servants of the constituents who sent them to Washington, Members of Congress should have to explain to the American people why they deserve a pay raise. Congress must address the housing crisis, increase Americans’ consumer confidence, and balance the budget before it even considers giving itself a pay raise.
From 1975-1989, these annual adjustments were based on the rate of annual comparability increases given to federal employees. This method was changed by the 1989 Ethics Act to require that the annual adjustment be determined by a formula based on certain elements of the Employment Cost Index. Under this revised process, annual adjustments were accepted 13 times (scheduled for January 1991, 1992, 1993, 1998, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2008, and 2009) and denied seven times (scheduled for January 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1999, 2007, and 2010).
Under a provision in the fiscal year 2009 Omnibus Appropriations Act, Members did not receive a pay adjustment in 2010. Members were originally scheduled to receive a pay adjustment in January 2010 of 2.1 percent.
(CRS Report 97-615, Salaries on Members of Congress: Congressional Votes, 1990-2010, Ida Brudnick.)
Members of Congress can elect to participate in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP) and pay the same premiums and copays applicable to their plan as 2.7 million other federal employees do. For an additional fee, Members of Congress can receive healthcare services from the Office of the Attending Physician in the U.S. Capitol. Members may also purchase care from military hospitals using their FEHBP benefit.
Senator Heller believes that Members of Congress should have to live with the same healthcare laws it writes for the American people. In 2009, he offered amendments to the healthcare bills considered by the House Ways and Means Committee and on the House floor that would have required Members of Congress to participate in the government-run healthcare plan they were attempting to create for millions of Americans.
(CRS Report RS21982, Health Benefits for Members of Congress, Barbara English.)
Medicare and Social Seciruty
Contrary to many internet rumors, Members of Congress pay the same payroll taxes as all other workers for Medicare and Social Security.
Congressional pensions, like those of other federal employees, are financed through a combination of employee and employer contributions. Members of Congress are eligible for a pension at age 62 if they have completed at least five years of service. Members are eligible for a pension at age 50 if they have completed 20 years of service, or at any age after completing 25 years of service. The amount of the pension depends on years of service and the average of the highest three years of salary. By law, the starting amount of a Member’s retirement annuity may not exceed 80 percent of his or her final salary. The average annual pension for Members under the Federal Employee Retirement System (FERS) was $36,732 in 2007.
Retired Members can also participate in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP) under the same rules as other federal employees. Members meeting minimum enrollment period requirements who are also eligible for an immediate annuity may continue to participate in the health benefit program when they retire, and must continue paying the premiums and copays associated with their health plan.
(CRS Report RL30631, Retirement Benefits for Members of Congress, Patrick Purcell.)