In this Rigell Report I want to update you on the three key topics:
• Sequestration: Where we are now and my continuing fight for a better alternative.
• Meeting with President Obama: Why I met with him and what we discussed.
• False and misleading Second Amendment attack ads: Setting the record straight.
Sequestration is now in effect and, unless action is taken by Congress and the President, its impact on jobs and military readiness will build in the coming months. I’ve been working for more than a year on this critical issue and that fight will not stop. I will continue to press House and Senate leadership, and the President, to stay at work in Washington until we replace sequestration with a better alternative.
Last week, in partnership with the Navy League of Hampton Roads and joined by Representatives Randy Forbes (VA-4) and Rob Wittman (VA-1), our office brought together more than 400 members of our community for a special briefing on sequestration. Though my efforts are focused on the days ahead, reviewing the past provides much needed perspective. Accordingly, to explain what action has been taken by Congress on sequestration, I held up the two bills I voted for and which passed the House, both of which if signed into law would have stopped sequestration.
I shared what the Senate has done to stop sequestration, which is nothing. It has not produced any legislation related to sequestration, nor has it passed a budget in more than four years. The Senate’s legislative paralysis, its persistent failure to follow what is referred to as “regular order” where legislation is passed and then negotiated by the two legislative bodies, is damaging our country.
I also shared my view that President Obama is not providing the leadership needed to advance an alternative to sequestration. Though the President is calling the nation’s attention to sequestration’s adverse effects, little substance follows. There is no legislation for the House and Senate to bring to the floor for a vote. There is only a continued appeal for a “balanced approach."
Shortly after the briefing concluded I received an unexpected phone call that would lead to a unique opportunity to meet with the President and to share with him directly those same concerns. It is unusual for a second-term Member of Congress to have an unrushed discussion with the President and I believe it’s important that I share with you why I asked for the meeting and what we discussed.
Meeting with the President
The call referenced above came from the Administration. A few days earlier I had asked to meet with the President so that I could share with him directly why it is so critical that we replace sequestration with a wiser alternative. The President’s representative was calling with the answer: “Yes." The President could meet with me the next day during his trip to Newport News Shipbuilding.
I had already made plans to drive back to Newport News in the unlikely event that the President agreed to meet with me. So it was decision time. If I traveled with President Obama, some would question and others would surely disagree with that decision, including friends and supporters. They would be concerned, understandably so, that the Administration would seek to leverage the meeting to its advantage.
As I reflect on the sad and troubling state of governance in Washington my core belief is that more communication, not less, is required. Those of us entrusted with guiding this great country must lead by example. We know with certainty the outcome of the bitter, divisive path we’re on now where opponents launch verbal howitzers at one another from podiums. Talking points trump genuine communication, facts give way to hyperbole and our nation’s greatest challenges fester. The future of every American, from every walk of life, dims.
I am unwilling to stay on this path because it threatens your family and mine. To put it bluntly, I’m over it.
My 52 years have taught me that to get a different result I must be willing to choose a different direction. I must be willing to accept the risk that comes with making a meaningful change in course. Applied here, it means meeting with and engaging in spirited, civil, and fact-based debate with those who hold views different than my own, like President Obama.
As the caller waited for my reply, I knew what I had to do. In the middle of a quick lunch at the Piccadilly cafeteria in Norfolk, I asked the caller to kindly relay this message to the President: I accept his invitation, with gratitude.
I accepted because I am mindful each day of the clear duty I have to be the strongest possible advocate for this incredible district which is home to more men and woman in uniform, active duty and retired, than any other congressional district in the country.
I accepted because I serve and represent thousands of hard working men and women who build and maintain our military, and their families which depend on their paychecks. They walk through the gates at our shipyards before first light, lunch buckets gripped by strong, calloused hands. They give a full day of effort that most in Washington could not fathom much less withstand. I accepted because it meant I could speak boldly on behalf of our district to the one person best able to advance a better alternative to sequestration: the President of the United States.
I went into the meeting with two specific goals. First, to make the case that sequestration must be addressed now. The toxic and in my view, un-American, consensus that seems to be building in Washington, on both sides of the aisle, that the pain level must sharply increase for us to act must be rejected. Second, to look President Obama in the eye and share with him the troubling concern that I have that he needs to be far bolder, and far more specific, in addressing our nation’s spending problem.
Our conversation and exchange of ideas was substantive. I said what needed to be said.
The goals I set for my time with the President were met.
The return trip to Washington was productive as well. Secretary of the Navy, Ray Mabus and I discussed the specific steps each of us are taking to strengthen and protect our Navy and Marine Corps in this challenging budgetary environment.
Though my concern and frustration with President Obama for his failure to lead in reducing federal spending remains, I appreciated his accepting my request. I know that meeting with him in service to our district was the right thing to do.
The Second Amendment
From reading this and previous Rigell Reports you know that my #1 priority is more jobs. But I need to take a moment to set the record straight on a false and deliberately misleading set of attack ads that were launched against me in the district last week. Funded by an outside special interest group, they deliberately misstated my position on protecting our Second Amendment rights.
Bottom line: What that special interest group said about me is false. As a gun owner, hunter and lifetime member of the NRA, I haven’t - and I won’t – support legislation which establishes a national registry of guns or gun owners.
I welcome and encourage you to read the bi-partisan bill I co-sponsored which triggered their media blitz. It is a simple bill, just two pages long and you can read it here
. I make no apology for supporting legislation that increases the penalties for gun traffickers and “straw purchasers,” i.e. those who buy a gun for unlawful recipients, like felons. That’s what the bill does. Nothing else.
It has become increasingly clear to me in this season of public service that for some special interest groups – on the left and the right - truth matters not. That’s the case here. For example, this group claims that I’m working with a Democratic Congresswoman whom, to my knowledge, I have never met.
It is clear that this group, and so many others, are more interested in raising money than in raising understanding on a critically important issue.
Special interest groups like that hurt our country.
This group has the freedom to express its views even if they’re flat out wrong. I’ll defend that right. But knowing the truth is important. When needed I’ll set the record straight. And I’ll continue to keep you informed through the Rigell Report so that you can continue to make a fully informed judgment on how I am serving you, our district, and our country.
This is an all-hands-on-deck moment in our country. So I ask that you continue to let me know what you think … and that you continue to hold me accountable. That makes me a better public servant. In turn, and God willing, I’ll continue my determined effort to put what is best for our country and our children’s future ahead of all else. We’re Americans. We can do this!
Mindful that I work for you, I remain
Yours in Freedom,