Senator Webb sums up first year in office

-A A +A
By Senator Jim Webb

This month rounds out Senator Webb?s first full year in the U.S. Senate. Over the past 12 months, Webb has worked on issues that affect us internationally, nationally and here in Virginia. Senator Webb also serves on the Committee on Foreign Relations, Committee on Armed Services, Committee on Veterans Affairs, and the Joint Economic Committee.

National Security and our Armed Services. Senator Webb worked closely with colleagues on both sides of the aisle to forge consensus on our national security policies in Iraq and beyond. He remains committed to reinstating smart foreign policy?grounded in diplomacy?and providing the kind of leadership to our troops that they expect and deserve. Webb has introduced several pieces of legislation, ranging from attempts to provide our troops more sensible rotation policies in Iraq and Afghanistan, to legislation restricting the President?s authority to unilaterally attack Iran, to a meaningful GI Bill for those who have served since 9/11.

Promoting Economic Fairness and Social Justice. In the Senate, Senator Webb has consistently promoted greater economic fairness and social justice in our nation, based on the Jacksonian notion that true representative government exists to protect the well-being of those with little or no power, not those with the most. He has chaired hearings on our nation?s mass incarceration rate, supported increases in financial assistance for higher education and advocated fair labor policies that protect the American worker.

Government Accountability and Transparency. From passing sweeping ethics reform to creating an independent, bipartisan commission to investigate wartime contracting, Senator Webb has worked alongside his Senate colleagues to renew the kind of healthy oversight that is critical to accountability in government.

Virginia Issues and Constituent Service. With respect to the Commonwealth, Senator Webb has worked in a bipartisan fashion with Senator Warner to secure funds to clean up the Chesapeake Bay, expand broadband technology to the Eastern Shore, support BRAC-related construction projects and recapitalization of our military installations, improve safety in our communities and crack down on gang violence, alleviate traffic congestion, and ensure accessibility to health care in Virginia?s rural areas.

Here are some of the highlights of Senator Webb?s work in these areas:

National Security and our Armed Services

Challenging Long-Term Bases in Iraq. Senator Webb remains vigilantly committed to reducing our footprint in the region. With a number of his Senate colleagues, Webb sent a letter to President Bush in November, warning against committing the United States to a long-term security presence in Iraq without the full participation and consent of Congress.

Preventing Funds for Military Action in Iran. In March, Senator Webb introduced legislation to prohibit the use of funds for military operations in Iran without congressional authorization. The legislation aims to restore a proper balance between the executive and legislative branches when it comes to the commencement of military activities.

Adequately Funding Homeland Security. Senator Webb supported critical investments in the Department of Homeland Security to improve disaster preparedness programs and better secure American borders, ports, and transit systems against terrorist threats.

Providing for a Strong National Defense. Senator Webb worked closely with Senator Warner to maintain a strong national defense program and support military personnel with a 3.5 percent across-the-board pay raise. He supported provisions in defense authorization and appropriations bills to modernize and recapitalize the Army, Air Force, and Marine Corps.

Building a Strong, Viable Navy. Senator Webb believes the key to the Navy?s future?and to the business health of the more than 500 companies in the Commonwealth associated with ship construction and repair?is a stable and affordable shipbuilding plan. Webb has called for increasing the size of the Naval fleet.

Offering a Comprehensive GI Bill for Post-9/11 Veterans. On his first day in office, Senator Webb introduced a post-9/11 GI Bill that would provide those who have served on active duty since September 11, 2001 increased educational benefits similar to those provided to returning veterans at the end of World War II. The bill has 30 cosponsors in the Senate and 77 cosponsors in the House.

Ensuring Appropriate Dwell Time and Fairer Rotational Cycles. Repeated combat deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan with inadequate time at home between rotations are burning out our troops. Senator Webb offered legislation to put more responsible rotational cycles in place to protect the welfare of our troops and their families. Though his amendment received a 56-vote majority in the Senate, it fell 4 votes short of breaking the Republican filibuster. He succeeded in putting the well-being of our troops at the forefront of the national agenda and putting the Bush administration on notice regarding the urgent need to give the troops more time at home.

Improving Veterans? Health Care. The care and treatment of our nation?s veterans is one of Senator Webb?s top priorities and that is why he pursued additional funding to address the 600,000-claim backlog in the VA and provide for the long-term needs of veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Economic Fairness and Social Justice

Increasing the Minimum Wage. Senator Webb cosponsored legislation to increase the minimum wage from $5.15 to $7.25?the first minimum wage increase in 10 years.

Granting Relief from the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT). Senator Webb supported legislation to provide an AMT patch, protecting more than 650,000 Virginia families from unnecessary higher taxes in the 2007 tax year.

Reforming the U.S. Immigration System. When the Senate debated the Immigration Reform Act last summer, Senator Webb introduced an amendment that sought to create a fair and workable path to legalization for those who have put down roots in this country, protect the legitimate interests of all working Americans, and honor the rule of law. Until we find a workable middle-ground on immigration, Senator Webb believes it is even more important that the President enforce the laws that are already on the books.

Commitment to Fair Trade Agreements. Senator Webb believes that properly constructed trade agreements benefit our country and our workers. Trade agreements that truly focus on fair trade?as well as free trade?provide consumers with goods and services at more affordable prices, make our exports easier to sell abroad, and promote important foreign policy objectives.

Lowering America?s Mass Incarceration Rate. In October of last year, Senator Webb chaired a hearing of the Joint Economic Committee to examine the social and economic consequences of incarceration. Senator Webb wants to keep bad people off our streets. But he believes that the health and moral character of our nation is challenged when our country is locking up such a high percentage of our people, marking them at an early age and, in many cases, eliminating their chances for a productive life as full citizens.

Offering Relief from the Sub-Prime Crisis. Senator Webb supported legislation that offers tax relief to American families caught in the sub-prime mortgage crisis.

Ensuring Health Insurance for Low-Income Children. Senator Webb will continue his work to provide health coverage for more of Virginia?s children, building on the state government?s success in reaching out to low-income communities.

Increasing Access to Higher Education. In September, Senator Webb and his Senate colleagues passed legislation that addresses the rising cost of college education by making loan repayment more manageable and increasing college aid by $154 million in the next five years for Virginia students alone.

Supporting Internet Tax Relief. As we continue to expand high-speed Internet technology across the Commonwealth, from Southwest Virginia to the Eastern Shore, Senator Webb has supported legislation to ensure that Internet communication is available and accessible to all, without taxation or impediment.

Government Accountability and Transparency

Establishing a Commission on Wartime Contracting. In December, Congress voted to approve a measure by Senators Webb and McCaskill (D-MO) creating an independent, bipartisan Commission on Wartime Contracting. Much like the Truman Committee of WWII, this Commission is charged with addressing the systemic problems associated with the hundreds of billions of dollars in wartime-support contracts and reconstruction projects in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Strengthening Oversight and Accountability of Private Security Contractors. After stories like the Blackwater incident, Congress passed legislation that Senator Webb introduced designed to improve Department of Defense tracking of private security personnel, require the registration of contractor vehicles, and create a system to report incidents and ensure that they are independently reviewed.

Maintaining an Open and Interactive Earmarks Process. Senator Webb believes that Congress has a constitutional role to play in assembling the federal budget?and that this process should be conducted with proper transparency and input from Virginians. Senator Webb worked collaboratively with Senator Warner to consider all appropriations requests, and an application is available on the Senator?s website to ensure that the process is fair and accessible to all Virginians.

Monitoring Investments from Foreign Governments. Senator Webb has been working to ensure that foreign investment in the United States does not jeopardize our national security or the stability of our financial markets. Because governments may make investment decisions differently than private investors, he believes that we must ensure that our nation is protected from politically motivated investments that may cause us harm.

Virginia Issues

Improving Transportation. With increasing traffic congestion in Virginia?s main arteries, Senator Webb believes we must invest in long-term and diversified infrastructure projects. Last year, he worked to secure the appropriation of tens of millions of dollars for transportation infrastructure, including new rail cars for the Metro system, additional funds for the Dulles Corridor rail projects, and interchange improvements at 1-95 and the Fairfax County Parkway at Newington, U.S. Route 1 and 123 in Prince William.

Encouraging Alternative Energy & Reducing Gas Prices. This year, Senator Webb took multiple steps to help try to reduce skyrocketing gasoline prices and encourage alternative energy sources. Webb also cosponsored bill that would close tax loopholes for big oil and gas companies, who are making a fortune at the expense of consumers.

Funding Virginia?s Military Priorities. Virginia plays a pivotal role in the national defense of our country. Senators Warner and Webb worked together to secure millions of dollars for critical construction projects for Virginia?s military installations?including defense agencies, the Virginia Army National Guard, and the U.S. Joint Forces Command Headquarters in Norfolk.

Keeping Our Communities Safe. Senator Webb was proud to be an original cosponsor of legislation that provides more than $1 billion over five years to deter and prosecute violent crime and help protect Virginia?s communities from the growing threat of gangs.

Cleaning up Virginia?s Waterways and Increasing Conservation Efforts. Senator Webb understands that Virginia?s waterways and natural resources are critical to maintaining and growing Virginia?s economy and protecting our natural environment. This past year, he has worked diligently to secure funding for projects including new navigation and water infrastructure, environmental restoration in the Chesapeake Bay, the creation of new wilderness areas, and protection of lands within the Jefferson National Forest.

Expanding Access to Technology. Senator Webb has supported projects to advance technology in the Commonwealth from expanding broadband in our historically black colleges and universities to ensuring that communities on the Eastern Shore have high-speed Internet to increasing mine safety with wireless communications that operate deep underground.

Federal Recognition of Virginia Indian Tribes. After months of thorough investigation of the facts, Senator Webb concluded that six of Virginia?s tribes seeking federal recognition through legislation meet the established standards for proper recognition on a federal level and should be placed on equal footing with our nation?s 562 other federally recognized tribes. He plans to continue to work with Congressman Moran, Congressman Scott and other members of the Virginia delegation to pass this important legislation. He is also interested in finding ways to improve the BIA?s administrative recognition process to ensure a uniform and objective mechanism to recognize tribes.

Securing Federal Assistance for Drought-Affected Farmers. In an effort to secure federal assistance, Senator Webb wrote to then U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Johanns urging him to issue disaster designations, which nearly every county in the Commonwealth received in August.

Constituent Outreach & Resources

Official Senate Website. Senator Webb?s website provides immediate access to new press releases that highlight daily legislative matters before the Senate and our work across the Commonwealth. In addition, there is an extensive archive of past press statements, video clips of floor speeches and press conferences, transcripts of appearances on news programs and articles of interest highlighting his work in the Senate.

Six Offices in DC and Across the Commonwealth: Communicating with Over 70,000 Virginians in Just One Year. Since last January, Webb?s regional offices?in Arlington, Norton, Richmond, Roanoke, and Virginia Beach?helped more than 6,000 Virginians with diverse issues related to Social Security, Medicare/Medicare, veterans? benefits, legal immigration matters, federal student loans, and military service, among others. Additionally, Webb?s office has successfully responded to more than 65,000 pieces of mail since January.

?Webb Sites? Established for More Remote Constituents. To enhance constituent service, Senator Webb introduced his ?Webb Sites? program, which gives regional staff the opportunity to work with constituents who work and/or reside in communities located some distance away from the regional offices. Webb is proud to report that his staff held more than 70 Webb Sites in at least 30 communities across Virginia, serving hundreds of citizens.

Responding to the Passport Crisis. This year, Senator Webb?s office assisted nearly 1,000 Virginians obtain passports.