Archive for Miscellany

Reply from Representative Scott

(This is in reply to a Letter to My Representatives in Congress.)

Dear Rev. Millard:

Thank you for contacting me to express your concern regarding the effects of the automatic across-the-board spending cuts put in place by the Budget Control Act of 2011 and the furloughs that are now taking place due to this law.  I appreciate you apprising me of your views on this issue.  As you may know, the Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA) was signed into law on August 2, 2011.  In addition to including a mechanism to increase the nation’s debt ceiling, the BCA set annual caps on discretionary spending over the next decade, producing approximately $1 trillion in savings, and established the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction (commonly referred to as the “Super Committee”) tasked with finding an additional $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction.  If the Super Committee failed to submit a plan by November 2011, then automatic across-the-board spending cuts, totaling approximately $1.2 trillion over the next decade, would be implemented through a process known as “sequestration” beginning January 2, 2013.  The Super Committee ultimately failed to submit a plan which triggered the sequestration process, unless Congress canceled or delayed the sequester.

On January 1, 2013, Congress passed H.R. 8, the American Taxpayer Relief Act, also known as the “Fiscal Cliff Deal”, which extended tax cuts at a cost of $3.9 trillion, while regrettably only delaying sequestration until March 1, 2013.  Unfortunately Congress has not taken any further action to delay or cancel sequestration, and, as a result, these across-the-board spending cuts are now being implemented.  With few exceptions, sequestration impacts the budget of every federal department, agency and program, including the Department of Defense, NASA, job training programs, Head Start, the FBI, the Food and Drug Administration, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).  In order to implement the budget cuts, these federal entities essentially must either fire 10% of their workers or pay their workers 10% less through unpaid furloughs.  This obviously will severely disrupt the important work they do on behalf of the nation.

I voted against the Budget Control Act because I was concerned about the impact spending cuts of this magnitude would have on the nation.  I also voted against the American Taxpayer Relief Act because it both added $3.9 trillion to the deficit over the next decade by extending tax cuts and at the same time failed to address any of the $1.2 trillion sequester.  It is unfortunate that Congress placed a higher priority on extending tax cuts than on canceling the sequester.  Now the nation and the federal workforce are suffering because of this misplaced priority.  Unfortunately, this predicament was predictable, because Congress has repeatedly focused on extending costly tax cuts without addressing the federal budget as a whole.  I remain committed to urging my colleagues to revisit these ill advised policies, so that we can responsibly reduce our budget deficit without cutting investments in our nation’s future or dismantling the social safety net.  You can find my statement on the American Taxpayer Relief Act as well as additional statements and press releases on the federal budget by visiting my website,

Please be assured that I will keep your views in mind as this issue comes before me.  Please feel free to contact me in the future on other issues which may be of concern to you.

Very truly yours,
Robert C. “Bobby” Scott
Member of Congress

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Reply from Senator Kaine

(This is in reply to a Letter to My Representatives in Congress.)

Dear Reverend Millard:

Thank you for contacting me about our nation’s fiscal challenges and the sequestration cuts that went into effect March 1.  I appreciate hearing from you.

Our country faces an immense challenge and responsibility to address our country’s unsustainable long-term fiscal position.  We cannot continue to kick the can down the road with short-term solutions.  Neither should we continue “crisis-budgeting” — waiting until a crisis hits to spur legislative action on fiscal policy.

Sequestration — broad, misguided, and across-the-board spending cuts — will reduce federal spending by $85 billion in 2013 alone, ultimately reaching $1.2 trillion in cuts by 2021.  Allowing sequestration to continue is bad policy, bad budgeting and bad governance.  Sequestration will continue to harm our still fragile economy, just as we begin to emerge from a difficult recession and respond to unacceptably high unemployment.  Sequestration is also having a devastating impact on the defense industry, and on many other important priorities, from education and health care to law enforcement.

I strongly disagree with those who think inaction is a responsible policy. The economic uncertainty of sequestration started to negatively affect the economy months before it occurred, and people are feeling the effects in their communities right now. In Virginia alone, up to 90,000 Virginians are at risk of being furloughed.  Businesses and contractors are delaying, or even cancelling, hiring decisions and critical investments in research.  These furloughs and layoffs will have a ripple effect throughout the local economy, on shopkeepers and merchants in those areas.

The job losses alone will have an overwhelming impact in Virginia, especially on those in uniform who protect our nation and the civilians who are critical to our nation’s security.  Virginia is as connected to the military and federal government as any other state in the country.  Active duty personnel, Guard and Reserve members, veterans, civilian federal employees, defense contractors, and military families represent a significant segment of the Commonwealth.  We have a responsibility to protect these heroes and should not break faith with them in a time of economic challenges.

On February 28, 2013, the Senate debated legislation on sequestration.  I voted in favor of a bill to replace the first year of the sequester with a mix of targeted spending cuts and revenue.  This is the balanced approach I believe is a credible solution to this problem.  However, that bill did not pass the Senate and the issue of sequester is still unresolved.

The House and Senate passed an appropriations bill in late March that funds the government through the end of the fiscal year.  President Obama signed this bill into law on March 26.  This is a responsible decision that avoids a government shutdown and shows the resolve of the Senate to embrace an orderly budget process and stop governing by crisis.  This bill allows Virginia shipyards to resume delayed construction projects and repairs to facilities and ships, such as the USS Roosevelt and the USS Lincoln.  It also reinstates tuition assistance for servicemembers that was put in jeopardy by the sequester.

We still have time to replace the sequester.  On March 23, the Senate approved a budget for FY 2014 on a vote of 50-49.  I supported this budget, which is a balanced proposal that will bolster our economic recovery and boost job creation while seriously tackling our deficit and debt in a credible way.  The Senate budget, which calls for the replacement of the sequester, mixes smart and responsible spending cuts with new revenues from closing loopholes and wasteful spending in the tax code.

Congress and the Administration should stay at the table and find a compromise solution.  I will do all I can to replace sequestration, and to push for a normal budgeting process and a comprehensive and balanced deficit reduction plan.

Thank you again for contacting me about this important issue.


Tim Kaine

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A Letter to My Representatives in Congress

To Representative Scott, Senator Warner and Senator Kaine:

[Note: you can read Representative Scott’s response here and Senator Kaine’s response here.]

I write in regard to a number of my congregants who are being directly hurt by the effects of the 2013 budget “sequester”, and to request that Congress act to help them.

The congregation I serve is located in Hampton Roads, a region that benefits economically and culturally from the presence of the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility, NASA’s Langley Research Center, many military bases and facilities, and the shipyards and other industries that support both valuable scientific research and crucial national security operations.  During the last year or more, I have heard a number of my congregants — including civilians and veterans — express uncertainty about their future financial security, thanks to the sequester.  Well, those people are now being hurt by Congress’ (in)decision to allow that the sequester happen.

Jefferson Labs, for instance, is putting its staff on a 20% furlough, requiring them to reduce their hours by one day a week.  Thanks to on-going pay freezes, their families were already struggling to make ends meet.  This not only compounds the damage to those families, but also depresses the economy of the region — and the state — as a whole, hindering our economic recovery.  The irony is that there is money available in other places within the budget, but the sequester prevents it from being moved so that it can be used for salaries.

Congress has already acted to allow some government agencies the flexibility to fine-tune the effects of the sequester.  And we all noticed that when flight delays threatened to personally inconvenience members of Congress, they did just that for the FAA.  I write to ask you to allow that same flexibility as needed to mitigate the devastating effects of the sequester on the good people of Hampton Roads.

Yours, in faith,

Rev. Andrew C. Millard
Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of the Peninsula
Newport News, Virginia

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To Hunt with the Quorn

(I shared the following this time last year with the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of the Peninsula, a community that joins the individual in the collective search for truth and meaning and where we commit ourselves daily to honoring the inherent worth and dignity of all people.)

A number of years ago, Fly Fishing by J. R. Hartley became one of the most famous rare books in Great Britain.  Thanks to a single television advert, millions of Britons know of the book, though very few have actually read it.  So, what they don’t know is that the book is a travelogue of sorts, primarily intended to detail the author’s ramblings around the British countryside, taking note of good fishing spots along the way, but with extensive footnotes on other subjects — unrelated to fly fishing — that Hartley found of interest.  Indeed, while the book runs at about forty thousand words, well over thirty thousand of them are to be found in the footnotes.

For example, of the River Soar in Leicestershire, J. R. Hartley merely says this: “I found the shallower bends of the Soar between Quorndon to the west and Barrow-on-Soar to the east to be satisfactory.”  However, there’s a rather longer footnote that accompanies that sentence, as follows.

“Quorndon is, of course, most famous for the fox hunt known as the Quorn which goes out during the Autumn and Winter.  Stopping for lunch in the village, I happened to notice a rather old letter, framed under glass in one of the public houses.  I asked the barman what it was and, taking it off the wall, he showed it to me.  It appeared to be a letter of apology, returning some item to its owner after it had been stolen by someone else.  I didn’t know any of the names, but through conversation with the barman I was able to piece together the story.

“Many years before, the vicar of the church near Quorndon Hall was one Reverend Wirth.  His given name was Claude, but he rarely used it because, as a child, a school-teacher had mispronounced it ‘cloddy’ which led to teasing by the other children.  So, he chose to go by the initial ‘C’ and his middle name.  Now according to Wirth family tradition, middle names were chosen from Bible verses.  In Rev. Wirth’s case, the verse was Matthew 5:5 — ‘Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.’ — and his middle name was ‘Inherit’.  And so he was known to everyone in the parish as C. Inherit Wirth.

“On the other side of the village there was another church, and its vicar was the Reverend Joshua Digny.  Now the two vicars were amply cordial as colleagues, but there was one area where they simply could not make peace with one another.  For Rev. Digny believed that fox hunting was a cruel sport and should be banned, while Rev. Wirth enjoyed every chance he could to hunt with the Quorn.  Failing to sway anyone beyond his part of the parish, Rev. Digny took to playing tricks on the hunters in an effort to dissuade them from their pastime.  These practical jokes took many forms but most of them involved his late grandfather’s false teeth.

“For Digny senior had been a rather stern man, and often disapproved of his grandson’s seemingly foolish behavior, vocally and at length, so in his will he bequeathed his teeth to young Joshua.  Of course, this merely gave the now Rev. Digny a tool for his mischief.  For example, the hunters learnt to reach carefully into their saddlebags given the chance of being bitten by the spring-loaded teeth.  Still, they would always return Digny’s teeth, though some, such as Rev. Wirth, would grumble at the foolishness.

“One Winter, however, the late Digny senior’s false teeth disappeared.  Joshua asked everyone in the village if they had been seen, to no avail; come the Spring, he stopped asking.  Then, the next year, in the middle of a hunt, the Rev. Wirth was thrown from his horse and, striking his head, he died.  Soon after Claude Inherit Wirth had been laid to rest, his church sexton was clearing out the vicar’s desk, and there, at the back of one of the drawers, were Digny’s false teeth.  As the letter he wrote to accompany their return explained it, ‘Of all people, I would not have expected Rev. Wirth to have stolen your late grandfather’s teeth, but here they are, just as I found them.  I still cannot believe it: C. Inherit Wirth had Digny’s teeth, of all people!’”

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