Saturday, January 21, 2006

Coffee with Congresswoman Jean Schmidt

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Remember this famous line?
"Cowards cut and run. Marines never do."

Those words were spoken by *MY* Congresswoman, Jean Schmidt, in front of Congress and the world, after being in office less than 90 days. I've never been so proud of *MY* representative. Today, I got the chance to tell her just that in person.

I got an invitation to attend a town meeting with Schmidt- which I eagerly attended this morning. She spoke for about 45 minutes about her first 137 days in office, and then opened the floor to questions.

The first thing she got involved in once in Washington was new Eminent Domain legislation. She co-sponsored HR 4128 protecting our right to own property. She said it "frosts my cookies" (I loved that line!) to know that municipalities and states have allowed developers to use Eminent Domain to take over private property to build revenue-generating properties, like shopping centers. HR 4128, The Private Property Rights Protection Act, enhances penalties for states and local governments who abuse their eminent domain power. Under HR 4128, local governments which allow developers to claim eminent domain when taking over private property purely for the purpose of increasing tax revenue through economic development will forfeit ALL federal transportation funding for TWO YEARS. (APPLAUSE! APPLAUSE!)

She also wants to enhance federal guidelines for states to follow regarding sexual predator laws. HR 3132 will require known sexual predators to check in with their state of residence twice a year to report any employment or residence changes. It also requires them to notify their state of residence if they cross state lines for any reason. Under this proposal, parole violators will get mandatory, immediate jail sentences between 5-20 years. HOOAH! Go get 'em Jean!

Other than the Eminent Domain legislation she co-sponsored, I was most interested in hearing about her border protection proposals. The US government has allocated $250 MILLION DOLLARS to help border states pay for medical bills incurred by illegals. 29% of the prisoners held in federal prisons are NOT US citizens- they are illegals, costing the federal government nearly $900 MILLION DOLLARS in 2002 alone. HR 698, the Citizenship Reform Act will deny citizenship to children born to illegals within our borders. (YESSSSSSSSSSS) HR 3150 will impose mandatory minimum jail sentences for certain illegals who, after being deported, cross our borders again. These two pieces of legislation are pending approval, and I hope to GOD they pass.

She also detailed her recent trip to the Middle East. She drew loud applause when she told us that our soldiers in Afghanistan "are committed to finishing the job". Damn straight! She met with the president of Afghanistan, who told her he had "grave concerns" for the safety of their country when the UN is scheduled to take over security in 18 months. He wants *us* to stay. He knows who the Big Dog is, and knows the power of our forces. In Iraq she met more US soldiers who told her in no uncertain terms that they were well taken care of, didn't need any additional equipment or tools- all they kept asking for was SUPPORT in the fight. She again reiterated their dedication to finishing the mission, and noted the extreme patriotism displayed by our soldiers.

One thing she noticed about the people of Iraq was the abundance of communication devices. Nearly every house had a satellite dish, and most people had cell phones. Why is this important, you ask? Because outside communication is how the Iraqi people learn about what a true democracy can be like. It's how they know we aren't there just for the black gold under the sand- we truly do want them to succeed as an independent democratic society. In talking to the Iraqi's, she asked them what was the biggest difference they've noticed in their lives now that Saddam is gone. The overwhelming answer was "FREEDOM OF SPEECH". She noted that "a democracy without freedom of speech is NOT a democracy" and "when you have freedom of speech, you remove the veil of oppression". WOW. I was floored. She's right. Think about how many things we, as Americans, can say or do without fear of repercussion from our government. Hell, we can burn the flag without being arrested. It doesn't get much more UNpatriotic than that, but we have that freedom here, due to freedom of speech.

The Q&A period was dominated by people concerned with the new Medicare/Medicaid prescription drug program which went into affect on 1/1/06. It sounds like a real nightmare- I'm glad I don't have to worry about it right now. I took the opportunity to make a statement, rather than ask a question of Mrs. Schmidt. Here's what I told her:

"As a freshman Congresswoman, I wanted to let you know how proud I was to see you stand up in front of the world and let everyone know we would not "cut and run". (APPLAUSE! APPLAUSE!) That took a LOT of guts. I'm a huge supporter of Rob Portman, so when he took the cabinet post and left our district, I was pretty disappointed. When you were running against a war veteran, I had a hard time deciding who to vote for. I am now convinced I made the right choice." (APPLAUSE! APPLAUSE!)

Congresswoman Schmidt, I am VERY proud that you represent me in Washington.


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