Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Congressman Boehner, welcome to Mankato ... got time for a few questions?

When was the last time that Gil Gutknecht resorted to having outsiders campaign for him ?

When Newt Gingrich came to the First District, it was fair to ask who was doing the campaigning. Gingrich won the MN Republican Presidential straw poll at their convention, so he may have been motivated to meet, greet and grab favors for a 2008 run.

But Republican Majority Leader Boehner? I do not see a strong ideological relationship between Gutknecht and Boehner. The reality is that Gutknecht is a back bencher holding a seat as a RoveRobot. In his 12 year performance, he has no personal legislative accomplishments and no national prominence. Essentially, he is campaign for a lifetime appointment as a back bencher who takes the people’s paycheck to support corporate and party interests.
It is unknown who Gutknecht supported as DeLay’s replacement but based on his voting record, I suspect that he was more akin to ultra- conservative Rep. John Shadegg of Arizona than Boehner. When the party did break down and individuals voted their conscience, Gutknecht and Boehner did not always vote the same way.
Most interesting to me is the site of the meeting – Mankato State University. Boehner, was a prominent member of the Agriculture Committee, and I would have thought Austin or Blue Earth may have made more sense to appeal to the farm interests.

But that all stated, I do have a few questions for John Boehner and Gil Gutknecht.

Rule of Law
The President has expressed a belief that legislation is needed to reform the legal system so that it delivers swift justice for real victims of wrongdoing instead of enriching an elite class of lawyers. Would you comment on these areas where it appears there has been an effort to ignore contractual responsibilities and if legal action is warranted?

1. Both of you were proud endorsers of the Contract With America. One of the provisions was for term limits. You are both campaigning now to violate your commitment to that concept. If you could not get what needed to be accomplished during the past twelve years, why didn’t you give others in your party a chance?

2. Military families have experienced the emotional trauma of deployment on an unprecedented scale. These long separations are of increasing concern with two-thirds of soldiers now married and deployments to the Afghanistan / Iraq theatre entering a fifth year. About 3,500 troops with the Alaska-based 172nd Stryker Brigade were nearing the end of their 12-month combat tour in July when they were informed that they'd have to stay in Iraq for as long as four more months. This marks the third time that U.S. forces have been notified that they'd have to stay in Iraq beyond their original return date. The first time occurred in December 2004, when more than 12,000 soldiers and Marines were told that they would have stay for two additional months in order to bolster security for Iraq's first round of parliamentary elections. The second was the Stryker Brigade extension in July. Is the military violating the spirit of the deployment contract with the soldiers and their families? Since the military is now acknowledging that the current troop levels will be maintained in Iraq, why hasn’t Congress addressed increasing the size of the military?

3. The non partisan Congressional Research Service on September 20th issued a 27-page report written for lawmakers in which it said the Bush administration is using signing statements as a means to slowly condition Congress into accepting the White House's broad conception of presidential power, which includes a presidential right to ignore laws he believes are unconstitutional. http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/natsec/RL33667.pdf In June, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter held hearings on signing statements but these are still continually being issued by the Executive Branch. On October 4th, President Bush signed a homeland security bill that includes an overhaul of the Federal Emergency Management Agency and $1.2 billion for fencing along the U.S.-Mexico border to stem illegal immigration. Bush also issued a 1,078 word long signing statement objecting to a slew of the bill's provisions. Does this leave the Bush administration with authority to decide where, when and how long a fence will be built? Do you think that Congress has been effectively asserting its constitutional responsibilities to provide oversight of the Executive Branch? If so, how can you explain why there are no ongoing investigations on waste and incompetence at the Department of Homeland Security? Also, the House Government Reform Committee only held its first full committee meeting during the last week of September to review the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR) report that stated U.S. reconstruction efforts have been plagued by problems & fraud, and that projects will not be completed?

After considering these questions, would you concede that maybe lawyers could preform a valuable service to protect the American people and our Constitution?

Congressman Boehner, your were a prime sponsor of the No Child Left Behind Act which was passed despite the nay vote from a majority of Minnesota Congressmen (Republicans Mark Kennedy, Gil Gutknecht, Jim Ramstad, and Democrats Martin Sabo and Betty McCollum) as well as a number of prominent fiscal conservative Congressmen including Walter Jones (whom I believe you were campaigning for last week), Jeff Flake, Mike Pence, Dan Burton, and Tom Trancredo. http://clerk.house.gov/evs/2001/roll497.xml
Interestingly, this issue is one that Gutknecht and his Democratic challenger, Tim Walz, agree on … it has room for improvement. But they are not alone. A Commission on No Child Left Behind has been established to evaluate its effectiveness prior to the laws proposed renewal in 2007. As Tommy Thompson, the co-chairman of Commission said "ideas and motives were good, but the way it's implemented right now leaves a lot to be desired."
How do you evaluate the program considering that President Bush has proposed $3.2 billion in education cuts in his 2007 budget, just as NCLB's testing provisions are kicking in? And what is your opinion of Bush’s 2006 State of the Union proposal to train 70,000 high school teachers to lead courses in math and science ? If America is going to be a leader in nanotechnology, broadband and energy, don’t we need a workforce trained for the high-tech world? Lastly, being a product of a private secondary school and private college, how did you gain an understanding of public school operations?

Faith and Politics
Congressman Boehner being a Roman Catholic – as are Gil Gutknecht and Tim Walz – what was your reaction to the Pope John Paul II’s disapproval of the Iraq invasion and his comments on torture and Abu Ghraib prison ? Many Christians are also concerned about the issues of poverty and the responsibilities of environmental stewardship. How does your faith infect, or reflect, your political decisions – or conversely, does religion only matter in issues of abortion, stem cell research and same sex marriage ?

As Majority Leader, Congressman Boehner, you have access to many top secret items. When did you read the April, 2006 National Intelligence Estimate report? Did that report help you guide the other Congressman who did not read the report in your June votes on House Resolutions to support the Iraq War? Congressman Gutknecht emailed a report containing Key Declassified Comments from that report – but without reading the whole report, citizens do not know the context of how to interpret the comments ( Gutknecht wrote “Selective leaks (for political purposes) could lead people to the conclusion that the war has made terrorism worse.”) Some Congressmen who have read the complete report have stated that there is nothing in the report to prevent it from being released in its entirety. Tom Kean in his memoir Without Precedent described reading top secret files and made the comment “I knew all of this. There almost nothing in here that I couldn’t have known from reading the newspapers.” So, to eliminate the concerns of only declassifying portions of the report for political interpretation, should the entire report be declassified ( with agency names redacted) ? Have there been other Intelligence Reports that you have read since the April report that should be made available to all Congressman so that they can make informed decisions? Lastly, your bio does not indicate any military service even though you were of age during the Vietnam era, how did you gain an understanding of military operations and needs?

Local Issues
Congressman Gutknecht has been harping on two initiatives since the start of the Congressional term in January 2004 – Prescription Drug Re-importation and 10/10 Plan (ethanol). Both of these bills have languished in the House. Why haven’t you helped Gutknecht get theses bills to a vote? Are Gutknecht’s speeches just campaign fodder that he knows you and the other Republican leaders will never consider but make it seem like he is a hard working Congressman for seniors and farmers? Does the pharmaceutical and oil industries matter more to the Republican leadership than southern Minnesota issues?


Congressman Gutknecht in his campaign ad states that Tim Walz would “repeal the tax cuts…costing the average Minnesota family an extra $2,396 per year.”. Since the medium family income per the 2000 US Census is $40,941, that would be a significant tax impact. There is some concern that this campaign claim is just a scare tactic, but even so, would you assure us that you would remind President Bush that he can use the veto to make sure that working families do not pay greater unfair burden of taxes? And lastly, you and Congressman Gutknecht have preached the unfairness of the Estate Tax – or as you like to call it – the Death Tax. However, according to the same Census figures, only 1.4 % of your district residents (which is also the same percentage for the First District) earn more than $200,000 per year. I have to confess to you that I do not know anyone that would be paying an Estate Tax based on any of the proposals being offered. If the number of people affected by the Death Tax is so small, why are you so emphatic that it be eliminated? With the increases in the national debt that we have experienced under the past six years of Republican control, I do not understand why the rich need another tax break.

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