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2015-05-14

Congressman Smith's full day in Bandera

By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor

Congressman Lamar Smith spent most of Tuesday, May 5, in Bandera County giving elected officials, businessmen and constituents a bird's eye overview of current goings on inside the Washington DC beltway.
Accompanied by his Hill Country major domo, District Director Mike Asmus, Smith made the rounds, beginning with a working breakfast with local leaders prior to treading waters under the purview of the Bandera County River Authority and Groundwater District. Later that afternoon he met with members of the Bandera Electric Cooperative and principals of the Texas Hill Country Bank.
Smith also addressed an informal gathering, co-hosted by the Bandera County Republican Women and American Legion Post 157.
According to Smith, after Republicans took over the Senate, they nudged open a legislative logjam. As Senate majority leader, Harry Reid had sat on 300 bipartisan bills, never bringing them to a vote.
With Republicans now in control of both the House and Senate, Smith indicated everything is running more smoothly in DC. "We passed two major bills last week," he said. "We repealed the estate or death tax, which never paid for itself. This tax cost more to implement than revenue generated."
For Texans, dissolution of the estate tax would make it easier for ranches and farms to remain within a family after a death, Smith said. However, the president has indicated he would veto the bill.
Additionally, for the first time in five years, both the House and the Senate passed a budget - one that contains no new taxes and balances the budget in 10 years. Smith contrasted that with a budget proposed by President Barack Obama, which would raise taxes by $1.8 trillion and never achieve a balanced budget.
As Chairman of the Science, Space and Technology Committee, Smith was pleased that a reauthorization of NASA for the next two years had been approved. He indicated he would ensure that NASA funding earmarked for climate change be shifted back to space exploration.
"I want American astronauts to be flown to the International Space Station on American rockets, not Russian ones," he said.
Almost as an aside, he also confessed that he's looking forward to traveling in a rocket someday. "You only have to go up 62 miles to see the curvature of the earth," Smith said. "That's been a dream of mine."
After hearing this, one irreverent Legionnaire quipped, "For your information, a whole lot of people would like to see all of Congress go to the Moon." Smith shared in the resultant chuckle.
However, prior to blasting off to the Moon, Smith intends to see that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has its wings clipped. For those under a rock, the EPA - and its draconian rules and regulations - remains firmly in Smith's crosshairs.
"I am one of only three chairmen of House committees who has signature subpoena power, which means I don't have to convene the committee to issue a subpoena." As part of his oversight of "an out-of-control rogue agency," Smith became the only chairman in over 20 years to issue a subpoena to the EPA, insisting on obtaining the underlying data that supports EPA regulations. And, he added, that data must be subject to peer reviewed.
"Simply put, no EPA regulations should be able to take effect until the underlying data has been made available. Most scientists welcome peer reviews except those associated with climate change."
Some grants awarded by the National Science Foundation to social agencies, Smith said, appear to be a waste of taxpayers' money. Questionable grants might include:
• $220,000 in taxpayer dollars to study animal photos in National Geographic
• Nearly $350,000 to analyze early human-set fires in New Zealand.
• $487,049 to study the ancient Icelandic textile industry, which explored gender, textiles and society in Iceland from the Viking Age, c. 874-1050, until the early 19th century
• $199,088 to ask the question: Do Turkish women wear veils because they are fashionable?
• $425,000 to determine how local Indian politicians can improve their performance
• $50,000 to study lawsuits in Peru from 1600-1700,
• $233,141 to study Mayan architecture and the salt industry during the Maya Classic period, 250-900 AD
"These grants and others seem to be designed to fund college professors' free foreign vacations," Smith said. "So, we introduced the standard that all grants should be in the national interest. When that didn't get the EPA's attention, we published a social sciences grant of the week. That got their attention." He said that on Monday, May 4, the board of the National Science Foundation released a statement that recommended the adoption of a "national interest standard."
Assessing the recent successes, Smith said, "All in all, it hasn't been a bad 11 days."
On the topic of immigration, Smith said, "We found out that during the last several years, the Obama Administration has been quietly releasing 30,0000 illegal immigrants convicted of crimes back into the general population. A quarter of those being released have committed Level One crimes, such as murder and rape."
Smith continued, "When I questioned Sarah Saldaña, the new director of ICE (Immigration & Customs Enforcement), about the releases, she replied, 'I have concerns about it, too'."
Inevitably, Smith turned to the potential 2016 presidential candidates.
Speaking about the Loyal Opposition, Smith believed that the presumptive Democrat candidate, Hillary Clinton might not be her party's nominee. "I'm about the only person in the county who believes that," he said ruefully. His reasoning included new emerging scandals, personal health issues that have been downplayed and the Benghazi debacle.
Regarding the Republican presidential candidates, during his travels throughout District 21, Smith seemed surprised to see solid support for three people - Scott Walker, governor of Wisconsin; Florida Senator Marco Rubio; and Texas Senator Ted Cruz. "The support for Scott Walker has been consistent. He's a man of the people who stood up for his values," Smith said.
Potential GOP candidates garnering the least amount of interest are New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush.
"Bush doesn't seem to be getting a lot of traction," Smith said. "He has a good reputation here in Texas, but I think people are ready for a new face and new ideas."
After indicating he wouldn't endorse a candidate "any time soon," Smith also predicted, "We'll have quality people running for the nomination."