A message from Senator Enzi
Happy new year from my family to yours. I hope you enjoyed a peaceful Christmas and a happy New Year with your loved ones and friends. 2008 marks an exciting year in the Senate, as it’s an opportunity to start fresh and take on everything we still need to accomplish in the 110th Congress. I look forward to sharing with you all the happenings in Washington in my newsletters over the coming year.
In this issue, my staff and I have summarized just a few of the issues I’ve been working on in the U.S. Senate over the past few weeks, including disabled veterans travel reimbursement, ensuring the safety of the U.S. beef supply, protecting second amendment rights and more. Thank you for subscribing to my newsletter. There is more information on my web page. We look forward to hearing from you if you have any questions or comments.
Headlines and Highlights
Disabled Veterans Travel Reimbursement
Enzi joined Senator Tester, D-Mont., in asking Veterans Affairs Secretary James Peake to enact a much-needed increase in the travel reimbursement provided to disabled veterans who must travel to a VA facility to receive care. The current reimbursement rate of 11 cents per mile is far below the present federal employee reimbursement rate of 48.5 cents per mile and has remained unchanged since 1977, despite rising gas prices. For disabled veterans in rural areas, the effects of this lower rate are felt most strongly due to the fact that many must travel greater distances to receive proper care and still be covered by the health care plan the government provides them.
Enzi has long supported improved reimbursement of travel expenses for those who have served our country and previously sponsored legislation to raise the rate. Recently, $125 million was designated to the reimbursement program as part of the Omnibus Appropriations Act of 2008, and with that allocation, the program is now equipped with the necessary funding to implement an increased rate of 28.5 cents. However, in order for the new rate to go into effect, the Veteran Affairs secretary must officially announce the increase, which Enzi and Tester hope Secretary Peake will do as soon as possible.
Senator Enzi continued his efforts to ensure the safety of American beef by joining Senator Dorgan, D-N.D., in urging the U.S. Department of Agriculture to suspend the importation of older Canadian cattle and beef taken from older Canadian cattle until the new Country-of-Origin Labeling (COOL) program is fully implemented. As part of the 2007 Farm Bill that passed the Senate in December, COOL will now be required on all beef products. However, until the new labeling is enacted, Canadian cattle that are over 30 months in age, as well as beef products taken from these older cattle, can still be imported into the United States without designation of an originating country—an allowance that could potentially affect the health and safety of American consumers.
Although the importation of older cattle is lawful as part of the Over Thirty Months rule, this beef is at a higher risk of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE), commonly known as mad-cow disease. In fact, on Dec. 18, 2007, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency confirmed the diagnosis of BSE in a 13-year-old beef cow in Alberta. Enzi firmly believes American consumers deserve to know whether the beef they buy comes from domestic herds or higher risk Canadian cattle. Enzi and Sen. Dorgan’s request for the suspension of the Over Thirty Months rule until COOL is implemented will help to further ensure the safety of the U.S. beef supply until these new measures are in place.
Improving Rural Health Care
Enzi extends his congratulations to the town of Midwest for being awarded a $42,200 grant from USDA Rural Development to outfit the town’s health clinic with state-of-the-art medical equipment and supplies. With this grant, Midwest and Edgerton residents will now have a fully equipped local clinic and will not have to travel to Casper to reach the nearest medical facility.
On the Horizon
The House of Representatives convened this week and the Senate is expected to begin the second half of the 110th Congress on Tuesday. Majority Leader Reid has stated the first item of business is likely to be debate on the Indian Health Care Act followed by the Federal Information Security Agency reauthorization.
Protecting the Second Amendment
*Enzi signed his name to an amicus or "friend of the court" brief to affirm the right of individual citizens to own and bear firearms in the pending Supreme Court case District of Columbia v. Heller. The amicus brief outlines Congress’s interpretation of the Second Amendment and demonstrates opposition to the District of Columbia’s gun laws, which prevent citizens from owning handguns and place tough restrictions on rifles and shotguns. As the most stringent firearms law in the country, the constitutionality of D.C.'s gun control restrictions will be under review by the Supreme Court in March, and it will be the first time since 1939 that the highest court in the land has ruled on a Second Amendment-related law. Enzi is committed to ensuring the protection of Second Amendment rights for all Americans.
Enzi Web site wins national award
*The Congressional Management Foundation recognized Enzi’s Senate Web site (www.enzi.senate.gov) as one of the "Best Web Sites on Capitol Hill" as part of the foundation’s 2007 Gold Mouse Awards. The awards recognize the top congressional Web sites based on how well the site provides for constituent needs and functions as an online office for the elected official. Enzi’s site received a Bronze Award for overall site quality and was also honored for its excellent press resources.
Recognizing God in the new Capitol Visitor Center
*Enzi is co-sponsoring the "Loyalty to Our Legacy Act," which would ensure that the Pledge of Allegiance and the national motto, "In God We Trust," are prominently displayed in the new Capitol Visitor Center slated to open later this year. "We are one nation under God. We always have been and either we always will be or we will have a government that has lost sight of what our country was founded on," said Enzi regarding the importance of this bill. "It’s good to be reminded that the founding fathers held the values of God, family and country so highly. We shouldn’t forget our history."