Monday, August 18, 2008

Roll Call - Revisited

Another installment of Roll Call. Get to know your Senators. Information on the senators was taken directly from their websites.

Pat Roberts (R) Kansas

Energy - In order to stabilize energy prices, we need to find new energy resources at home to increase our supply. With this in mind, I support the exploration and production of our oil and natural gas resources in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). Furthermore, I support additional exploration and production in the eastern Gulf of Mexico and off our shores.

In addition to finding new sources of fossil fuels, we need to look to renewable resources to help meet our energy needs. Kansas plays a vital role in the renewable energy industry. Kansas is home to 7 operating ethanol plants with many more in development. Currently ranked 7th in the nation, Kansas produces 170 million gallons of ethanol per year with an additional 40 million per year scheduled to come on line soon. As most Kansans know, the Great Plains and prairies provide a plentiful amount of wind. Several utility companies have come to realize this and have invested in wind energy in Kansas.

Environment - With my support, in 2005 and 2007 Congress passed and the president signed into law two bills (P.L.109-58 and P.L.110-140), which begin to decrease our dependence on foreign sources of energy and increase our supply of domestic energy resources. Among other things, the bills promote the development and use of renewable energy resources produced and harvested in Kansas, including ethanol and wind power. For example, the 2005 law provides incentives for Kansas oil and gas producers to explore resources within our own country.

Small Business - I have long supported efforts to help small businesses grow and expand. Small businesses are America's job creators. They create hope and opportunity for our entrepreneurs and workers, and are essential to our nation's economic prosperity. In the past decade, more than 60 percent of all jobs were created by small businesses. These businesses employ more than half of the nation's private-sector workforce. According to the Small Business Administration, 69,241 businesses with employees in Kansas, an estimated 96.6 percent, or 67,120, are small firms.

I support tax policies to encourage small business growth and to reduce the regulatory burden on these businesses.

Although most working Americans receive health insurance from their employers, small businesses find it particularly difficult to offer benefits because of the high cost. Small businesses should not have to choose between staying in business or offering health insurance to their employees. This is why I am a cosponsor of S. 1955, the Health Insurance Marketplace Modernization and Affordability Act. This legislation allows small businesses to pool together and purchase health insurance, giving these businesses better purchasing power, much like large businesses such as Microsoft or Ford have long enjoyed. These plans, known as Small Business Health Plans (SBHPs), will give small businesses an affordable choice for health care and will allow these businesses to choose a health plan that best fits their needs. (Blogger Comment: As long as it isn't socialized medicine and doesn't involve federal funds, we're for the Small Business Health Plans.)

Second Amendment - I am a strong supporter of congressional efforts to preserve our Second Amendment right to bear arms. Furthermore, I am opposed to actions that infringe on those rights and do not effectively reduce crime and violence. Firearm laws should only be enacted with the intent to punish criminal activity. Rather than chipping away at fundamental liberties backed by the Constitution, we should target the real problem-mainly crime. Attempts to reduce violent crime must focus on punishing criminals, not punishing law-abiding citizens and businesses.

Immigration - I have and will continue to support legislation that strengthens the security of our borders and reduces illegal immigration. I will carefully scrutinize proposals that affect our nation's immigration policies and will work to ensure that Americans are first in line for available jobs and that those remaining jobs go to a legal workforce.

With the growing diversity of our work force in Kansas, it is essential for our continued economic growth that official business is conducted in English. I have long supported declaring English as the national language of the United States. We have an obligation to ensure that non-English speaking citizens have an opportunity to learn English and fully share all the economic, social and political opportunities existing in Kansas and the rest of the nation.

Family - Throughout my years as a public servant I have consistently supported efforts that promote strong family values based on a strong moral foundation. I believe that every life is a precious gift that we all have a responsibility to protect. As my record clearly shows, I oppose abortion on demand and the federal funding of abortions. In addition, I continue to oppose the use of tax dollars to fund abortion services at home and overseas.

Along this line, I am a cosponsor of the Marriage Protection Act. The resolution proposes to amend the Constitution to define marriage as the union of a man and a woman. I support this legislation because I believe it is wrong for a select minority to impose their definition of marriage on the nation, as we have witnessed through the actions of some state supreme courts.

Kansas adheres to a longstanding policy that does not recognize same sex marriages. That policy was confirmed in April 2005 when seventy percent of Kansans voted overwhelmingly in favor to amend the state constitution to define marriage as between a man and a woman. I continue to support efforts that preserve the institution of marriage as a cornerstone of our society.

Carl Levin (D) Michigan

Education - Senator Levin has worked consistently to make the federal government an effective partner in helping Michigan communities meet new and growing challenges to our public education system.

In 1979, his first year in the Senate, (Blogger Comment: The people of Michigan need to consider replacing Senator Levin. Thirty years in one political office makes a career politician, which is never a good idea, regardless of how much the politician is liked. Career politicians eventually lose sight of the state and people they represent and get lost in their personal power and ambitions, and many times involve their politics in the political maneuverings of lobbyists. There may not be a term limit law, but the American people can impose term limits by voting the person out of office. We feel this way about all politicians, Republican or Democrat.) Senator Levin supported congressional efforts to create the U.S. Department of Education, making it a cabinet level agency, with a mission to ensure equal access to education and to promote educational excellence throughout our nation's schools (Blogger Comment: this is not the role of government, especially at the federal level). Today, the department's elementary and secondary programs serve over 15,000 school districts and more than 50 million students attending over 92,000 public schools (Blogger Comment: Yet, education is still not “equal” throughout the nation. That’s because equality can’t be achieved by an agency in Washington, D.C. There are stories across the nation of inner city schools not receiving the attention and funding that higher economic areas receive. The local communities, parents especially, need to be involved in the education of local youth. They are the ones who have the most to gain with educating their children.). The department also provides grants, loans and work-study assistance to more than eight million higher education students.

Senator Levin believes federal funds for education should be targeted to help recruit and train quality teachers, reduce class size, repair aging school buildings, integrate technology into the classroom, provide after-school activities for all children and help establish a system that holds schools (Blogger Comment: what about parents?) accountable for children's academic progress. (Blogger Comment: while these ideas sound good, federal funding for education is not the role of the federal government. Furthermore, part of the reason we have parents who are disconnected from their childrens’ education is because the federal government is trying to assume the parents' responsibility. First and foremost, family should be involved in education and next should be the local communities. Just because they hold public office doesn’t mean that the members of Congress or the President know anything about educating children.)

Minimum Wage - Senator Levin is an original cosponsor of the Fair Minimum Wage Act, which would raise the minimum wage by $0.70 in three increments, with an end result of a minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. On January 10, 2007, the House of Representatives passed the minimum wage increase. The Senate passed the minimum wage bill on February 1, 2007.

Senator Levin believes that a full-time minimum wage job should provide a minimum standard of living in addition to giving workers the dignity that comes with a paycheck. These lower paid workers, many of whom have entered the workforce due to the welfare reform, should be rewarded for going to work, not penalized by a poverty level wage.

A higher minimum wage has the potential to ensure that lower paid workers will be protected from falling into poverty and possibly back on the welfare rolls. (Blogger Comment: In addition to not being professional educators, elected officials are also not economists. It would be wonderful if everyone could live above the poverty level. It’s a shame that there are people who have to work so hard for so little. Unfortunately, significant minimum wage increases would shut down small businesses and lay off workers at larger businesses since neither could afford the pay increases. We would see a huge increase in inflation and joblessness. There is no quick or easy way to fix this problem. However, low wage jobs can be used to provide needed experience to move to more stable businesses with higher wages.)

Prescription Drugs - While prescription drugs hold the promise of healthier lives for the American people, the high cost of those drugs puts them out of the reach of too many. In the worst cases, our citizens go without these drugs; or they try to make their prescription last longer by only taking one pill when they should take two; or they skip a day. For many seniors, prescription medications are becoming increasingly difficult to obtain in the United States at affordable prices. Far too often, seniors must choose between paying their utility bill or paying for their prescription.

Senator Levin has traveled throughout Michigan and listened to the stories of citizens who are trying to pay for expensive prescriptions. They wonder why our neighbors in Canada are able to buy the exact same drug, manufactured in the United States, for half the price. Senator Levin's office conducted a survey in July 2003 of ten of the most commonly prescribed prescription drugs. In every case, the prescription cost significantly less in Canada than the same drug in the United States. A survey done by the Associated Press in November 2003 found that prices for ten of the most popular drugs are 33% to 80% less expensive in Canada than in the United States.

Senator Levin has long been a supporter of drug re-importation legislation, allowing Americans to buy U.S.-made drugs at Canadian prices. In 2005, he co-sponsored a bipartisan bill, the Pharmaceutical Market Access and Drug Safety Act (S.334), that would allow U.S. licensed pharmacists and drug wholesalers to import FDA-approved medications from Canada. (Blogger Comment: There are two issues here. The first is that Canada has socialized medicine which means that the Canadians are still paying high prices for their drugs; they are just paying the majority of it through their approximately 35% or more income tax, not to mention Canada’s 15% sales tax. It just appears that they are paying half price for prescriptions at the counter. The second issue is that America has a problem with insurance companies. Insurance companies monopolize and control American medicine. Before we entertain the idea of socializing our own medicine, we need to address the monopoly that insurance companies have on our health care.)

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