Like millions of Americans across the country, Hawaii’s seniors depend on Social Security and Medicare for economic security and affordable healthcare. However, during the recent debt ceiling debate that focused exclusively on cutting the federal budget, the Republican Majority along with President Obama insisted on looking for ways to reduce spending in these vital programs.
Through diligence and hard work, we managed to avoid those cuts in this round of budget negotiations, but the programs are far from safe. I joined over a hundred of my colleagues in signing a letter to President Obama asking him to keep Social Security and Medicare off the bargaining table in addition to cosponsoring five seprate pieces of legislation that would bar these cuts from taking place. These valuable programs should not be viewed as a piggybank that can be broken into to reduce the debt.
It is critical that we remember that although it is a large program benefitting millions in our community, Social Security does not contribute to the deficit; it has been paid for directly by hardworking Americans who have contributed to the fund with every paycheck. Hardworking seniors have paid into these accounts throughout their working lives. They have earned these benefits. I strongly support these vital safety net programs and will continue my work to protect the benefits they provide our kupuna.
Earlier this year the Republican Majority passed a budget plan that would end Medicare as we know it, converting it into a voucher program. As a voucher program it would force seniors and their families to pay higher deductibles, premiums and copays. Under the Republican Majority’s plan, the millions of seniors who require expensive long-term care and those with chronic conditions would asked to shoulder more of the burden at a time when they have less.
Colleen is proud to support H. Con. Res. 72, which stands up for Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid recipients by advocating that their benefits not be reduced as part of the Supercommittee’s deficit reduction package.
In Hawaii, we learn from an early age to treat our kupuna with respect and accept responsibility for their care. The Republican proposals would insult and abandon our kupuna, threatening their livelihoods by taking away vital sources of retirement income and stability. These short-term approaches will adversely affect all communities and families, asking us to simply ignore our long-established national promise to care for our retirees and the millions who depend on Social Security and Medicare. I will continue to work hard to ensure these programs remain accessible and financially solvent so these benefits will be available for our seniors and for future generations.
Hawaii is justifiably proud to have one of the highest rates of healthcare coverage in the nation. This is the product of our state’s commitment to ensuring that coverage remains strong for those who have it, and providing more to those who need it.
One of the first votes pushed through Congress this year would have eliminated the Affordable Care Act, which expands the federal commitment to making sure all Americans have healthcare coverage. Already, Americans are enjoying benefits of the Act as it has closed the gap in Medicare prescription drug coverage for those with very high drug costs, extended coverage of children on their parents’ plan up to age 27, and banned the denial of health insurance on the basis of pre-existing conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure.
Further, the budget blueprint passed by the Republican Majority would have changed Medicaid into a block grant program, requiring the federal government to pay a fixed share of a state’s Medicaid costs. States would be forced to contribute more of their own funds to the program, or cut back on benefits, payments and Medicaid eligibility in order to close the gap where funding falls short.
A healthy population contributes to a more productive economy. Healthy children perform better in school, and healthy seniors are able to stay in their homes and enjoy a higher quality of life. I will continue to be your advocate for high-quality, accessible, affordable healthcare, and protect it from damaging budget-cutting maneuvers.
In order to get our economy back on track, we must make smart, long-term investments in our state, in our country, and in our citizens. I support funding important infrastructure and transportation projects, small business investments, and innovative research and technology that will keep Hawaii and the United States competitive in the global marketplace, and achieve energy independence. I support the “Make it in America” agenda to help strengthen our country’s manufacturing industries, while creating well-paying jobs here at home. I cosponsored the Make It in America Block Grant Program Act of 2011, which would make grants available to eligible businesses in the U.S. manufacturing sector.
I support aggressively expanding education and training initiatives that will prepare our students to lead the way and compete with the best and brightest around the world.
With tourism remaining Hawaii’s largest private industry, we must ensure our economy is prepared for any uncertainty that may arise in the world economy. The Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit, which will be held in Hawaii this November, will give us the opportunity to develop and foster relationships with our international economic allies, while promoting the islands and not just a premier vacation destination, but also as a state ready to do business.
Hawaii is also home to the U.S. Pacific Command, bringing public and private jobs and investment in cutting-edge research. Our strategic location on the Asian rim is not only crucial to national security, but also to economic growth and development.
Education plays a primary role in helping students achieve the American dream. I have always believed that every child deserves the opportunity for a quality education. Investing in a child’s education is one of the greatest investments we can make—because in order to have a successful economy, we must have an educated workforce.
For fiscal year 2011, Hawaii’s congressional delegation helped secure more than $117 million in education funds to help strengthen Hawaii’s schools, provide more learning opportunities for our students, and modernize our classrooms. $13 million in funding was allocated to organizations and agencies that develop educational programs and services for Native Hawaiian students of all ages, and more than $39 million went to education programs for children with disabilities.
We must continue to support our students from early childhood education through secondary education, and work to make college affordable and accessible to all students, regardless of their financial situations. With the rising cost of a college education, I support providing more scholarships and increasing Pell Grants for students who are committed to furthering their educations—especially those whose plans focus on careers in science, technology, math and engineering.
Hawaii remains the most petroleum-dependent state in the nation, but we also possess a singularly diverse array of alternative energy resources. With our particular climate and geography, we have the unique opportunity to stand as leaders in the development and deployment of solar, wind, wave, geothermal, biofuel and other sustainable energy sources. These technologies would create much-needed jobs, and help move Hawaii’s Clean Energy Initiative (70% clean energy by 2030) forward. We must continue to invest in renewable energy technologies for our environment, our economy, and our long-term sustainability.
As a member of the House Committee on Natural Resources, I have the opportunity to address important environmental and energy issues. I joined the newly formed Defense Energy Security Caucus, a bipartisan group that focuses on educating Congress and the American people on the importance of utilizing sustainable and renewable energy solutions within the U.S. military. Because of the size of the Department of Defense’s research and development budget, our military can lead the way on sustainable energy initiatives. I am also a member of the Sustainable Energy and Environment Caucus, which focuses on protecting our environment and developing clean, renewable energy sources.
As an island state, we understand the importance of clean air and clean water. Visitors from all over the world travel to Hawaii to enjoy our world-class beaches. Our children and our families use the ocean for recreational and traditional activities. And the livelihoods of our farmers and fishermen depend on clean water. I have fought Republican legislation that limits federal oversight of clean water standards. Undermining the Clean Water Act would affect the health of our communities, our economy, and our precious natural environment.
After the United States experienced the worst oil spill in our history, I proposed two common sense amendments that would show the public that Congress is serious about preventing another disaster like the Deepwater Horizon.
Hanabusa Amendment to H.R. 1229 – Putting the Gulf of Mexico Back to Work Act
States that the Secretary of Interior will not issue an offshore drilling permit without certifying that the applicant has calculated a worst-case discharge scenario for the proposed drilling operations, and has demonstrated to the satisfaction of the Secretary that the applicant possesses the capability and technology to respond immediately and effectively to the spill.
Hanabusa Amendment to H.R. 1938 – North American-Made Security Act
Require that a Presidential Permit approving the construction and operation of the Keystone XL pipeline will not be issued unless the Secretary of Energy, in consultation with the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), certifies that the applicant has calculated a worst-case oil spill scenario for the proposed pipeline, and has demonstrated to the satisfaction of the Secretary and the PHMSA that it possesses the capability and technology to respond immediately and effectively.
The amendment also included a provision that allows the Secretary, working with PHMSA, to waive this requirement if they determine that the applicant has already completed both the worst-case spill analysis and has shown it can respond effectively.
Hawaii is also home to an abundance of endangered and threatened species. Our unique ecosystems provide these plants and animals with the habitats they need to survive, and it is critical that we give them the protection that ensures they will be available to future generations. I cosponsored an amendment that eliminated a dangerous provision in H.R. 2584, the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill for fiscal year 2012. This rider would have blocked the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from using funds to list new plants and animals under the Endangered Species Act, to designate habitat critical to the survival of listed species, or to increase protections for threatened and endangered species. Denying the power to add new species to the endangered list would move those species closer to extinction, making more difficult and more expensive to save them down the road.
My top priority as a member of the House Armed Services Committee is the safety and security of our nation. Since the 9/11, America has taken significant steps to strengthen our national security and protect our citizens from future attacks. As we reevaluate our new military strategy following the death of Osama bin Laden, it is critical that we bring home our men and women in uniform safely as we withdraw from Afghanistan and Iraq. We must preserve a ready and vigilant force at home and abroad, but we cannot continue to risk American lives.
I strongly support and stand behind our troops. As they put their lives on the line to fight for our country and our freedoms, we must ensure they have the appropriate equipment and resources to keep them safe in combat. We train and prepare these brave men and women for battle, but we must also be there to help them transition back to normal life when they return home. We must provide the benefits and care they’ve rightfully earned. I also support more dwell time for troops, giving them more time at home with their families, because I believe the strong foundation for a good service member is built upon the support of those around them.
In its National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2012, the House Armed Services Committee approved more than half a billion dollars in defense funding for Hawaii. This funding will be used for facility improvements and upgrades at installations throughout the state, reflecting our country’s continued commitment to the Pacific Theater. With the world’s three largest economic giants—the United States, Japan, and China—lining the Pacific, it is critical we remain competitive.
I will continue to fight for our veterans and ensure that the men and women who have made extraordinary sacrifices for our country receive the support and services they have rightfully earned.
I am committed to helping provide veterans with the quality care they require after battle, and any services they may need in order to transition back to civilian life. The GI Bill provides every returning service member with a chance to obtain a college education. I support legislation that strives to make our veterans career-ready—by providing businesses with tax credits for hiring unemployed or injured veterans and encouraging employers to provide free on-the-job training to veterans. We must do all we can to honor their service and commitment to our country.
Legislation I have cosponsored:
H.R. 333: Disabled Veterans Tax Termination Act
To amend title 10, United States Code, to permit retired members of the Armed Forces who have a service-connected disability rated less than 50 percent to receive concurrent payment of both retired pay and veterans’ disability compensation, to eliminate the phase-in period for concurrent receipt, to extend eligibility for concurrent receipt to chapter 61 disability retirees with less than 20 years of service, and for other purposes.
H.R. 210: Filipino Veterans Fairness Act of 2011
Filipino Veterans Fairness Act of 2011 - Deems certain service performed before July 1, 1946, in the organized military forces of the Philippines and the Philippine Scouts as active military service for purposes of eligibility for veterans’ benefits through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
Directs the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, in determining eligibility under this Act, to take into account any relevant service documentation, including documentation other than the Missouri List (the list of all discharged and deceased veterans from the 20th century).
H.R.719: To award a Congressional Gold Medal to the World War II members of the Civil Air Patrol.
Directs the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives to arrange for the award of a single Congressional Gold Medal to honor collectively the World War II members of the Civil Air Patrol (CAP) in recognition of their military service and exemplary record during World War II.
Requires the Medal’s display at the Smithsonian Institution. Expresses the sense of Congress that the Medal should be made available for display elsewhere, particularly at locations associated with the CAP.
Permits the Secretary of the Treasury to strike and sell duplicates in bronze of the gold medal, at a price sufficient to cover the costs of the medals
H.R.2115: Filipino Veterans of World War II Family Reunification Act
To exempt children of certain Filipino World War II veterans from the numerical limitations on immigrant visas and for other purposes.