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Two Triumphs

June 23, 2008
Weekly Columns

Thomas Paine once said, "The harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph."  In the past few months two pieces of legislation have been the source of intense debate from both sides of the political aisle.  Finally, after months and months of negotiating, the U.S. House of Representatives passed both pieces of legislation on Thursday and Friday is an all-too-rare spirit of bipartisan cooperation. 

The first bill, H.R. 2642, the Iraq/Afghanistan Supplemental Appropriations Bill, passed Thursday evening.  The bill is a real victory for those who are serving in the military as well as those who have completed their service.  Fortunately the funding for our forces in Iraq passed without any political restrictions.  Artificial timelines and withdrawal dates would only threaten to jeopardize the progress our men and women are making in Iraq and Afghanistan.  This bill was also passed in a fiscally responsible way.   It passed without any of the tax increases some members had in mind for it and it was $8 billion less than the Senate's version of the bill.  Finally, this bill extends benefits for veterans returning from service.  Moreover, it allows veterans to transfer their education benefits to a member of their family.  I believe this is extremely important for members of our volunteer military to be able to choose how to utilize their benefits.  This bill is certainly a boon to our nation.

The second bill, H.R. 6304, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Amendments Act of 2008 will once again restore authority to our nation's intelligence officials to trace calls made between suspected terrorists overseas.  It's no secret that we live in a dangerous time when our enemies have access to dangerous technology that could be used against us.  Our intelligence officers need access to every tool available to monitor the communications of suspected foreign terrorists.  This bill ensures that can happen in a way that does not disturb the constitutional rights of American citizens.  One other important thing this legislation does is protect those companies from frivolous lawsuits who patriotically stepped in to help the government detect potential terror attacks after September 11.  I believe that those companies deserve to be commended, not sued by trial lawyers.  I am proud that both parties stood behind this legislation and I look forward to seeing it signed into law.

These bills are certainly two triumphs for our nation.  They are examples of what we can achieve for our country when we sit down and negotiate in good faith with our political opponents.  I hope, though, in the coming months Congress can address other critical issues in a bipartisan way.  Our nation is rightly demanding serious action to help solve the energy crisis.  Congress needs to come together to pass legislation that increases American-made energy, builds new refineries and encourages use of a variety of clean and efficient energy sources.  This needs to happen soon so that Americans can feel relief at the pump and celebrate even more triumphs like these two pieces of legislation.