Congressman Tom Rice

Representing the 7th District of South Carolina

Opinion Articles

Fox News: Make America competitive again

By U.S. Representative Tom Rice | August 17, 2016

One of my favorite nicknames for America is "Land of Opportunity."  However, after what Americans have experienced in recent years, that's become harder and harder to believe.

  • Since 2008, median household income has declined by 8.7 percent.
  • Since 2010, more small businesses have closed than have opened.  (Worst in 80 years)
  • Because so many Americans have simply given up on finding a job, the labor force participation rate is 62 percent. (Worst in 40 years)
  • The largest contributor to American wealth is home ownership. Only 63 percent of Americans now own a home.  (Worst in 50 years)
  • Two-thirds of Americans now believe their kids won’t have the same opportunities they’ve had. 

Eight years ago we were promised hope and change, and boy did we get it. Just not the kind of change we'd hoped for.

We have to recognize that these harrowing facts are signs of a still struggling economy that is hindering growth and limiting Americans. Our current economy is a direct result of the lack of American competitiveness, which is stifled under outdated, decades-old policies coupled with massive growth of government and the burdensome rules enacted by the Obama administration.

Under President Obama, big companies and small businesses alike have been inundated with regulations. When you look up the word regulation in the dictionary, synonyms include “control” and “supervision.”  With a VA nearly corrupt beyond repair, Social Security reaching bankruptcy, and welfare programs that don’t uplift people but instead trap them in poverty, how can we in good faith give the government more control over our country?

This administration has averaged 81 major regulations per year since 2008. Last year, these regulations cost the United States $1.89 trillion in lost growth and productivity.

Take, for example, the disastrous Dodd-Frank regulation law passed in 2010 after the financial crisis. This law is estimated to have created $24 billion in compliance costs and 61 million hours in paperwork for businesses. According to the Small Business Administration, the cost of federal regulations on a small business of less than 20 employees is $10,585 per employee, per year.

Another legacy of regulations enacted by this administration is ObamaCare. Fifty-nine percent of small business owners in America say ObamaCare costs have negatively impacted their business. The confusion of this law is a headache for owners and results in thousands of dollars in compliance fees. How are small business owners supposed to thrive if their already-limited resources are running dry trying to comply with a tangled mess of redundant government mandates?

Small businesses aren’t the only ones suffering from regulations that stifle competition. Under our current tax system, the corporate tax rate puts America at a competitive disadvantage with the rest of the world. Currently, our corporate tax rate is 35 percent -- the highest of any developed country on Earth. In 1960, 17 of the 20 largest global companies were headquartered in the United States. As of this year, that number has fallen to just six. Compare the U.S. corporate tax rate to Ireland’s 12.5 percent rate or even 17 percent in Singapore, and it’s no wonder corporations ship operations overseas and take jobs with them.

The solution to our problems is growing opportunity, not government. The way to grow opportunity is to focus on American competitiveness and roll back the absurd amount of regulations that are stifling economic growth.

This is not a Democrat versus Republican issue; this is an America versus the world issue. What we have to recognize is there are people around the world who get up every day in different countries with the sole goal of figuring out how to beat America economically. There’s nothing wrong with that, the only problem is President Obama refuses to compete. Other countries are winning because we have burdensome policies driving our country.

As a government official, I know everything we do should be viewed through the lens of restoring American competitiveness. When businesses and people are able to compete, our country is at its prime, our economy is stronger and the quality of life improves for all Americans.

Restoring American competitiveness is a priority for our country now more than ever. Congress will continue to work against this administration’s flawed proposals and instead focus on policy that helps restore America’s place in the world. But it’s up to voters to decide what kind of path America will travel the next four years. Will it be a path of more control or will it be a path of restoring America’s competitive spirit?

I think it’s time to make America competitive again.

 

The Morning News: Drug abuse is killing more than pain

By U.S. Representative Tom Rice | 

Heroin and prescription drug abuse is tearing families apart throughout South Carolina and across America. From 2013-2014 alone the Palmetto State saw a 118 percent rise in opioid-related deaths. In 2015 the Florence County Sheriff’s Office seized 3,339 percent more heroin than in 2012. In 2012 the Georgetown County Sheriff’s Office responded to 21 overdose calls; by 2015 that number more than tripled. Considered the most addictive substance in the world and cheaper than prescription narcotics, heroin is a plague on our communities that must be addressed.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the rate of heroin-related overdose deaths nearly quadrupled in the United States between 2002 and 2013. Research also shows that those who first abuse prescription drugs have a greater risk of trying and subsequently becoming addicted to heroin. Nearly 80 percent of heroin users reported using prescription opioids prior to heroin.

As too many families know, addiction does not discriminate. Each day, 46 Americans die from an overdose of prescription painkillers. To address this vicious cycle, I worked with my colleagues in Congress to pass 18 bills aimed at curbing prescription drug abuse.

Among the measures passed last week is the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery (CARA) Act, legislation I cosponsored that directs the Department of Health and Human Services to create an inter-agency task force to outline the best practices for pain management and develop a strategy to prevent the overprescription of pain medication.

Health care providers wrote 259 million prescriptions for painkillers in 2012 – the equivalent of a bottle of pills for every American adult. Worse, ten of the highest-prescribing states for painkillers are in the South, including South Carolina. This overprescribing has led to misuse of opioids and increased the likelihood these addictive drugs end up in the hands of children and teenagers. Already, we have seen heroin use in young adults more than double in the last decade. Heroin and prescription drug overdoses have surpassed car accidents and firearms as the leading cause of injury deaths. While South Carolina has taken actions at the state level to curb over-prescriptions, I am glad that this federal legislation seeks solutions with federal resources. Preventing youth from having easy access to prescription drugs is a necessary step in the fight against opioid abuse.

The CARA bill also expands educational efforts nationwide to create awareness about drug addiction and address the dangers associated with different types of medication. By implementing targeted education to everyone from veterans to young adults, we can spread awareness and help curb abuse for people in all walks of life.

In addition to the preventative measures included in this bill, Congress also acted to help save lives from heroin overdose before it’s too late. Naloxone is a life-saving drug administered to people during a narcotics overdose and has a very high success rate when used properly. CARA increases the amount of grants awarded for naloxone distribution to state and local law enforcement agencies so first responders can have access to this life-saving drug in times of emergencies.

I was pleased to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle in order to combat the opioid epidemic. Through increased education, a detailed plan on how to address and limit over-prescription of opioids, and increased access to life-saving naloxone, fewer lives will be cut short from drug overdose.

After passing with strong bipartisan support, these measures will now go to formal conference committee with the Senate. This is a step in the right direction, but we still have a long way to go.

 

The Sun News: Judge the tree by its fruit

By U.S. Representative Tom Rice | February 7, 2016

Hope and Change. Barack Obama offered an enticing message.

“I'm for the middle class. The government will take care of you. Free health care. Cash for clunkers. Free college. Business owners didn't build that, the government did. Successful people are greedy. Rein in the big banks, they are the enemy.”

It was easy to believe. We swallowed it hook, line and sinker. We handed over the government. In 2009 and 2010, the Democrats had something very, very rare. They had complete control of the government. They had a majority in the House of Representatives, a 60-vote majority in the Senate, and the Presidency. They could pass whatever they wanted, without compromise, and without a single Republican vote.

That has happened a few times since the Great Depression, and in most cases they have used the opportunity to move the country decidedly to the left. In the ‘30s, we got the New Deal. In the ‘60s, we got Johnson's war on poverty, which has cost trillions of dollars with little to no effect. And most recently, in 2009 and 2010, we got Obamacare and Dodd-Frank. Now, seven years later, what is the result?

Health care: Free health insurance really isn't so free. Turns out you couldn't keep your plan, and you couldn't keep your doctor. High cost, high deductible plans mandated by Obamacare are great for insurance companies, but unusable for many consumers. Even worse, small employers have been discouraged from hiring new workers, holding back our economy and stealing opportunity from our young people.

Banking: Dodd-Frank's expansive growth of regulation and government hasn't hurt the big banks. They are bigger than ever. But the community banks are being crushed. Before Dodd-Frank, we were forming 100 community banks per year. In the six years since Dodd-Frank passed, less than 20 have been formed nationwide. That's the lowest bank formation rate in 50 years.

Small business: Community banks fund small businesses. If community banks struggle, small business struggles, as well. So it should be no surprise that between 2009 and 2012 more small businesses in America closed than opened. That is the worst business formation rate in decades.

Employment: Almost half of all working Americans are employed by a small business. If small business struggles, you should expect that wages would be stagnant and unemployment would rise. President Obama's Department of Labor will tell you that the unemployment rate in America is around 5%. But not many people believe that. In fact, close to 90 million Americans have left the workforce or have given up looking for a job. That is the worst labor participation rate in close to 40 years.

Household income and GDP: Median household income has dropped 8.7% since President Obama took office. In fact, median household income dropped every year under this President until last year. Two-thirds of our economy is based upon consumer spending. Cash-strapped consumers can't spend what they don't have. Therefore, our economy grows at an anemic rate of 2% or less. That's just over half of the post-war average of 3.25%.

Homeownership: Folks that have left the workforce cannot buy a home. Homeownership has created more wealth for more Americans than any other investment. Homeownership now stands at its lowest level in close to 50 years.

Poverty: The President loves to say he is for the middle class. He touts his love of the middle class in every speech, at every opportunity. So do Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. Why then is the middle class disappearing? The number of Americans on food stamps has increased by 42% since President Obama took office.

My point is this. By almost any metric, President Obama's policies have been a dismal failure. Our country, our economy, and the American people are far worse off than when he took office. The truth is that whether we are Democrat or Republican, we all want the same thing. We want success. We want our families to be healthy. We want our children to have a brighter future than we've had. Where we differ is on how to get there.

President Obama's promises, like those of Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, sound appealing. A siren’s song. “Free this, free that. More tax. Big government will take care of you. I'm for the middle class. Just one more government program will get us there.”

The Republicans have a tougher sell. They believe that government cannot provide for you. That less government and less regulation will create growth and opportunity. And that opportunity, not government, will allow your children to succeed.

The Bible says “beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits.”

When you make your choice this year as to who will lead this country, please look beyond the rhetoric. You have a seven-year track record on which to judge. The President's policies have borne fruit. Is your family better off under President Obama? Do your children have a brighter future?

Look at the fruit...

Rice is a Republican who represents the 7th Congressional District.

 

The Hill: America's pothole - the Highway Trust Fund

By U.S. Representative Tom Rice and Former Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood | September 30, 2015

One of our county’s greatest conservative leaders used indisputable logic to promote raising the federal gas tax: “Our country’s outstanding highway system was built on the user fee principle — that those who benefit from a use should share in its cost. It is appropriate that we rely on this same concept now. America has been blessed over the years with excellent transportation, and this program would provide us with a means of protecting and preserving this system.”

Yes, it is true. Former President Ronald Reagan said that, and in 1983, he signed legislation to increase the federal gas tax by 5 cents per gallon. Voters apparently endorsed the move, giving him 59 percent of the popular vote the next year. 

But just a few decades later, many in our Grand Old Party seem hopelessly lost on this critical issue.

While much has changed since 1984, most members of Congress today still agree that a user-fee structure to maintain our nation’s roads and bridges makes sense — at least, they agree privately. But our nation’s transportation policy is stuck, and Congress is lurching from one short-term funding patch to another, refusing to face reality: We need to raise the gas tax again.

The inaction in Congress makes it impossible for local governments to plan for long-term construction projects. Americans driving on the roads see the results every day: The nation is one big pothole. More than 60,000 bridges are structurally deficient. We’re falling behind international competitors making significantly larger investments in their roads, bridges, ports, airports and rails.

For decades, the nation has relied on federal gas tax revenues derived from the users of the system. Until recently, that system served us well.

While there are more cars on our roads than ever before, they are also more fuel-efficient. They are using less gas, which means less gas tax revenue to maintain roads that are seeing record numbers of drivers. The federal gas tax of 18.4 cents per gallon has not increased in 22 years. The cost of everything else has increased since 1993, but because the gas tax has remained the same, it has lost more than one-third of its purchasing power. Funding for our roads and bridges has essentially been flat since 2005, leaving ample room for international competitors to surge ahead. 

Policymakers, leading experts and stakeholders alike agree: We all want a robust long-term transportation bill. And while there is a logical solution — raise the gas tax — Congress has instead set out on a hapless mission to reinvent the wheel.

There are a lot of problems with some of the funding solutions Congress has floated. Many of them are not permanent fixes. Short-term patches and fiscal shell games will eventually bring us back to where we are today — a Highway Trust Fund that is running on fumes.

A user-fee system is the most logical way to ensure permanent revenue for our highways. As conservatives, we believe the government generates plenty of revenue but spends too much. Citizens are rightly skeptical when they pay their taxes but cannot account for where the money goes in the vast federal bureaucracy. The beauty of the gas tax is that the revenue goes directly into the Highway Trust Fund, which is spent on roads and bridges.

Some opponents argue that the burden of an increased gas tax falls too heavily on those who can least afford it. To counter that concern, the Highway Trust Fund Certainty Act, introduced by Rep. Tom Rice (R-S.C.) and supported by former Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, would moderately increase the gas tax and index it to inflation, while offsetting that cost with an income tax credit to cover what an average driver will spend in additional gas taxes. This bill will cost the consumers nothing.  

This is a revenue-neutral proposal. It does not generate money for Washington; it generates money to fix the potholes in your neighborhood. This proposal might scare Congress. But it is the right solution to a big problem. And let’s be clear about the alternative. If we fail to meaningfully fund our highway system, it will continue to fall into a state of disrepair. Our bridges will continue to become structurally deficient and unusable. We will fall further behind our competitors.

Congress is back in session and again debating what to do about a nearly bankrupt Highway Trust Fund. We urge our friends and neighbors to tell their elected representatives to support the sensible solution. 

Rice has represented South Carolina’s 7th Congressional District since 2013. He sits on the Budget; the Small Business; and the Transportation committees. LaHood served as secretary of Transportation from 2009 to 2013. He is co-chairman of Building America’s Future.

 

The Sun News: International Drive - Another badly needed project delayed

By U.S. Representative Tom Rice  |  July 17, 2015

I was interested to read the article from The Sun News on Thursday about the last-minute delay of the permit to pave International Drive. This project will take thousands of cars off of the gridlock of Highway 501, and relieve congestion in Carolina Forest.

On the day before we were to receive the permit from the Army Corps of Engineers, the Coastal Conservation League filed an appeal. It seems they want the road to be redesigned to include multiple bear crossings, at a cost of millions of dollars to the taxpayers of Horry County. That’s millions of scarce taxpayer dollars that could be used to complete other badly needed road projects.

Now, I’m not sure how much use these crossings will get. My late friend General James Vaught, in pointing out the absurdity of bear crossings, often said, “Bears will cross the road wherever they damned well please.” Even if the crossings would be effective to prevent a bear from being killed every year or two, which I doubt, you should know that the Department of Natural Resources believes we have a sufficient population of black bears to have opened a bear hunting season in Horry County since 2012. That’s right, in last year’s season up to 45 bears could be legally taken in Horry County.

I consider myself an environmentalist. I love the outdoors. I love to hunt and fish. I am not, however, a radical environmentalist. I believe we can move forward with infrastructure, improve people’s lives, create jobs AND protect the environment. I believe that the term “environmentalism” has been hijacked by a group of folks who should more correctly be labeled obstructionists. They believe it their duty to put up roadblocks to progress. Friends, there are people out there who would, if they could, prevent the construction of any new roads.

It is standard procedure for the Coastal Conservation League and the Southern Environmental Law Project to stifle progress. They have made no secret of their intent to block Interstate 73, which would bring thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in economic growth through a poverty stricken area of South Carolina. Two other recent examples of their activities:

You would be driving on a four-lane Highway 707 and an extended Highway 31 today, but for Coastal Conservation League protests and objections that delayed those projects for years. These projects were paid for, and could have put hundreds of people to work, saved the people thousands of hours of commuting time and expanded commerce in Horry and Georgetown Counties in the depths of the recession, at a time when we desperately needed the jobs. Additionally, the delays are said to have increased the project costs to the taxpayers by about $20 million.

The Southern Environmental Law Project recently wrote a letter to the Army Corps opposing the expansion of the Bucksport Marina. The marina expansion is designed to attract marine-related jobs to one of the poorest sections of Horry and Georgetown Counties. But according to their friends at the Coastal Conservation League, the project has “no demonstrated need” and could “threaten the health of Bucksport residents.”

State and federal law make it far too easy for anyone to protest and delay projects in the public interest, with little or no cost, and regardless of merit. I constantly hear horror stories about projects being delayed or canceled, billions of taxpayer dollars spent, thousands of jobs lost due to absurd environmental laws. According to the World Bank Group, which studies economics and international business, the United States ranks 41st in ease of “dealing with construction permits.” In turn, the U.S. ranks 46th in “starting a business,” and is currently not ranked first in any of their categories.

I am working on legislation at the federal level to correct this inequity. At a time when America is struggling to remain competitive in the world we cannot allow obstructionists to stifle progress in the name of environmentalism.

 

Washington Times:From Point A to Point B without Forgetting Point C: Competitiveness

By U.S. Representative Tom Rice  |  July 23, 2014

It is no secret that many of our interstates, highways, and bridges are in dire need of repair. This impacts everyone—from the school bus driver taking children to school, families traveling out of state for vacations, and truck drivers transporting consumer goods. Not only does this impact our daily lives, but it also threatens our safety in emergency situations.

As commuters and consumers, we use our nation’s roads to get from point A to point B, without considering annual wear and tear. In 2010, highways carried more than 2.9 trillion vehicle miles and public transportation carried nearly 32 billion passenger miles. Sometimes we forget that our highway system was built in the 1950s by President Eisenhower. While this system made us competitive as a nation, we must commit ourselves to maintaining it or our competitive edge will literally crumble beneath us.

Currently, road maintenance and highway construction projects are funded by a highway bill Congress passed in 2012, MAP-21. This bill is set to expire in September; therefore, we must act soon so current road projects continue and planned projects move forward. The next highway bill needs to be fiscally responsible and build on the reforms made in MAP-21. Congress must further reduce the mounting regulatory burdens and give our federal partners the assurance and flexibility they need in order to fund and approve their projects.

MAP-21 did a great job with its programmatic and policy reforms last time around. It consolidated or eliminated nearly 70 U.S. Department of Transportation programs, which afforded state and local partners greater flexibility with the use of their federal funding. Furthermore, MAP-21 introduced great standards and emphasized performance management by incorporating performance measures into the highway, transit, and highway safety programs.

These changes, I believe, will continue to focus our federal funding on national transportation goals, increase accountability and transparency, and improve transportation planning and project selection. These new metrics should be further evaluated to see if their goals are being met. My colleagues and I on the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure have evaluated the benefits some of these reforms have had on our states.

In South Carolina, the performance and asset management emphasis in MAP-21 has provided the South Carolina Department of Transportation (SCDOT) with the vehicle needed to pursue initiatives within the agency. SCDOT is one of ten States undertaking a Transportation Asset Management Gap Analysis as part of a Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) project. This two-step analysis looks to identify department strengths and areas for improvement by conducting an online Gap Analysis survey and in-depth interviews with internal stakeholders. The results will then be used to structure an agenda for asset management planning. SCDOT has completed the analysis and is currently awaiting results.

As we continue to work on a long-term highway bill, we ought to continue to examine projects like the Transportation Asset Management Gap Analysis and MAP-21’s metrics. Should these projects prove successful, we must expand on them in the next highway bill.

Lastly, the House of Representatives should look at the recent Transportation Infrastructure Financing and Innovation Act (TIFIA) expansion. MAP-21 really put this program into the growth lane by increasing its funding from $122 million annually to $750 million in FY2013 and $1 billion in FY2014. This will provide credit assistance for surface transportation projects and significant leveraging of limited resources. I believe that these types of programs are the wave of the future.

Our highway and interstate system will always be a key component to our country’s competitiveness and essential in our everyday lives. Congress recognizes this, the President recognizes this, and Americans recognize this. It is my hope that we can come together this fall and enact long-term reforms to repair our current system and fund innovative projects that will last us for years to come.

 

Workforce Under Construction Blog: Maintaining American Competitiveness Through Improved Workforce Training

A guest post by Congressman Tom Rice

May 7, 2014 

In order to maintain American competitiveness, we must ensure that our 21st Century workforce includes the highly skilled and trained craftsmen and professionals that our economy requires.

Over the years, federal workforce training and workplace development programs have been added and existing programs have been modified in order to address spikes in unemployment.  While these changes were made with good intentions, they resulted in duplicative and unnavigable workforce training programs.

The President agrees.  During his 2012 State of the Union address, he committed to cutting through the maze of programs and creating “one program” so our job seekers can find the help they need to excel.

Last March, my colleagues and I acted by passing legislation to streamline job training programs and put Americans back to work.  The Supporting Knowledge and Investing in Lifelong Skills Act (SKILLS Act) consolidates 35 duplicative federal job training programs, eliminates unnecessary bureaucracy, and ensures that job seekers have access to the job training they need immediately.

The job training programs are consolidated into a Workforce Investment Fund to fund Workforce Investment Board initiatives.  Currently, the criteria for federal funding for workforce development programs is so restrictive that local communities cannot use the funds to innovate and develop training programs to satisfy the needs of local businesses.

The Pee Dee Workforce Investment Board in my district – South Carolina’s Seventh Congressional District—would like to launch a QuickJobs program that would prepare job seekers for positions that do not require a two-year or four-year degree, such as construction jobs.  Unfortunately, the board cannot use their funding to start a QuickJobs program because their funding can only go towards two-year programs.  The SKILLS Act would give the board the flexibility they need to innovate, which could prove critical as the construction industry is expected by some to need over 2,000,000 additional workers by 2018.

The SKILLS Act also changes regulations that require community and technical colleges to apply multiple times to be listed as eligible providers of federal workforce training.  The Southeastern Institute of Manufacturing and Technology (SiMT), located in Florence, SC, could benefit greatly from this change.

SiMT is a state-of-the-art facility specializing in programs that prepare job seekers for a variety of jobs in the Southeast that require special skill sets not commonly available at four year colleges or universities.  This large training facility offers students the opportunity to pursue industry-recognized and nationally portable certifications from NCCER in areas like welding and pipefitting as well as in various fabrication and heavy equipment occupations.  In addition, SiMT offers programs in cutting edge fields such as engineering CAD/CAM, 3D/virtual reality services, and rapid prototyping.

Employers are desperately searching for skilled craft professionals to build the 21st Century American landscape. Collaboration between the federal government, industry and state-of-the-art technical colleges like SiMT, would help job seekers obtain the training they need so our nation’s construction industry can expand and reach its full potential.

In today’s global market, businesses are developing new products and manufacturing techniques to stay ahead of the curve.  Our job training programs must evolve with businesses, and this evolution must include collaboration between the industries seeking employees and the education and training programs that will ensure these needs are filled.

The SKILLS Act’s Workforce Investment Fund would allow for our job training and readiness programs, like the credentials  offered at SiMT, to grow simultaneously with new business technologies so our workforce is the most developed and highly-skilled in the World.

 

Roll Call:Restoring Our Ports, Restoring U.S. Competitiveness

By Congressman Tom Rice (R-SC)

April 30, 2014

Our nation’s ports and waterways are vital to American competitiveness. They employ more than 13 million people and transport millions of products to markets across the globe.

But, America’s water infrastructure is rapidly aging and its upkeep is paramount to maintaining our trade dominance. While our ports deteriorate, our competitors are investing billions to strengthen and grow their countries’ water infrastructure.

China has invested $10 billion dollars to build a port in Bagamoyo, Tanzania, ramping up trade between China and Eastern Africa. The port is expected to handle 20 million containers a year, transforming it in to a hub for shipments in the Indian Ocean.

Panama has poured billions of dollars into its Panamax project to upgrade the Panama Canal’s lock system. Once completed, the deepened canal will be able to accommodate the largest container ships in the world. Large Post-Panamax container ships currently make up 16 percent of the world’s container fleet, and this number is projected to increase to 62 percent by 2030.

Post-Panamax ships require a port depth of 50 feet. Currently, only seven U.S. ports can accommodate ships of this size. Of these seven U.S. ports, none are located on the South-Atlantic Gulf.

Government regulations and the misuse of water infrastructure funds have stalled port projects in the South-Atlantic Gulf and across our country for decades. Consequently, our ports have begun to silt in.

In 1986, Congress levied a Harbor Maintenance Tax on all imports brought on to our shores. Each year, our shippers pay more than $1.7 billion dollars in import taxes. This money is pooled together into the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund, which is intended to be used to deepen and modernize American ports of all sizes. Instead, the government has dipped into the fund and used the money for non-infrastructure projects.

The Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund is not solely responsible for our infrastructure issues. Congress has not passed a Water Infrastructure bill since 2007. Prior to 2007, similar legislation was passed every two years.

My district’s port in Georgetown, S.C., has fallen victim to government abuse, inaction and overregulation. The Georgetown Port must be dredged to its authorized depth, so it may see the volume of ships it once did. However, it is currently ineligible for federal funding to dredge until it can prove that it meets a tonnage requirement. But, the port cannot reach the required tonnage depth until it is dredged. This is a classic “chicken and the egg” problem.

Georgetown willfully collected an import tax to raise the funds needed to deepen the port, generating more than half of the funding needed to dredge. In 2007, the port received the authorization it needs to move forward, but has been stalled due to the aforementioned tonnage requirement.

Fortunately, both chambers passed the Water Resources Reform and Development Act this Congress. WRRDA authorizes 26 port projects, increasing our country’s number of Post-Panamax ready ports. This legislation addresses absurd government regulations that have created senseless bureaucratic traps, like Georgetown’s “chicken and the egg” predicament.

WRRDA also restores the Harbor Trust Fund, ensuring that 80 percent of its funds are used for our country’s ports by 2020. It is imperative some of these funds are used to dredge South-Atlantic Gulf ports. This large region of our country cannot be left out of the Post-Panamax trade game.

We still have work to do, but this a good start in the right direction. Full capacity and full functioning ports result in full pockets for consumers, employees, contractors, shippers, and businesses that depend on water trade. I am committed to doing all that I can to restore our country’s competitiveness.

 

Roll Call: Consider the Potential for Abuse | Commentary

 

By Rep. Tom Rice

March 5, 2014

In 1792, when charged with enforcing an unpopular tax on whiskey in the face of rebellion, President George Washington noted in a letter to Alexander Hamilton, “It is my duty to see the Laws executed: to permit them to be trampled upon with impunity would be repugnant to” that duty.

With a long and bloody war for freedom still fresh in their memory, our forefathers created a government of, by and for the people, and they protected that new citizenry by dividing it into three branches and providing checks and balances to limit the power of each branch. The legislature created the law, the executive enforced it and the judicial interpreted it as the need arose.

After having just escaped the clutches of a monarch, the Founding Fathers did not seek to grant one man the power to unilaterally create and execute the law; however, more than 220 years after Washington recognized his duty, we find ourselves confronted with a commander in chief all too eager to forget his.

The “take care” clause in Article II, Section 3 of the Constitution provides that the president shall “take care that the laws be faithfully executed.” While the president has the right to exercise reasonable discretion, he may not choose which laws shall be enforced. This is fundamental to our constitutional framework.

Consider the potential for abuse. With the power to decide which laws to enforce, a president might grant dispensation of onerous laws to one favoured class while enforcing those same laws against those who do not share his political ideology. What would we say if the president decided to waive a tax against business owners, but not against the common citizen? How would we react if a president decided to enforce the tax laws only against his political enemies? What if the president unilaterally decided to open our nation’s borders to whomever, whenever, without the need for background checks, visas or green cards?

In delaying employer mandates, an IRS targeting conservative political groups and refusing to enforce our immigration laws, President Barack Obama has forgotten his duty.

If the president can choose which laws to enforce, there is no need for congress and little need for the courts. The House and Senate can go home, as the laws they pass — even after having been signed into law by the executive — are of little consequence if the president makes sure they are implemented only at his discretion.

President Obama has clearly and repeatedly violated Article II, Section 3 throughout his presidency. His waiver of the work requirements under Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, his failure to enforce our immigration laws, and his unilateral decision not to enforce multiple provisions of his own health care law are just a few examples of his lapse in duty and failure to execute his oath of office.

I, along with 118 co-sponsors, have filed the Stop This Overreaching Presidency, or “STOP,” resolution. If adopted by a majority of the House, this resolution will require the House to take legal action to force the president to do his job as prescribed by the Constitution.

Opponents of such a measure are sure to dismiss it as a conservative vendetta, a Republican vs. Democrat partisan battle, or personal animosity against the president. My colleagues and I take this action because we believe, as our Founders did, that one man is not greater than the Constitution, and that a government of the people, by the people and for the people is more than just a broken campaign promise. It is who we are as Americans and it must not be ignored.

Rep. Tom Rice is a Republican from South Carolina.

The Sun News: U.S. Rep. Tom Rice | It’s time for Obama to approve Keystone pipeline

The Obama Administration's State Department has issued its final opinion on the Keystone Pipeline.  It concludes that the pipeline will have no material adverse environmental impact.
 
The permit application has been pending for over five years. Dozens of studies have been completed. Yet the President remains undecided about whether construction should be allowed. The House of Representatives passed a bill last year, with Democratic support, that would have approved the pipeline, but Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has refused to take it up.
 
If constructed, the pipeline will carry 830,000 barrels of oil per day from Canada and North Dakota to refineries on the Gulf Coast. It will provide many benefits to include:
 
1. Lower bills at the gas pump, which have increased by $1.30 per gallon since President Obama took office;.
 
2. Lower monthly utility bills, which will reportedly increase $40 per month for the average family as a result of President Obama's war on coal;
 
3. During the two-year construction period for the pipeline, 42,000 jobs will be created when we desperately need them. The President's vast expansion of regulation and tax increases have resulted in an anemic economic recovery. Household income for the middle class has declined every year that President Obama has been in office. Millions of Americans have given up trying to look for work and have dropped out of the labor force, to become dependent on the President’s ever-expanding welfare state;
 
4. Lower energy cost makes companies in America more competitive. That means keeping American jobs here, and bring other American jobs coming back home;
 
5. Reduced oil imported from the Middle East;
 
6. Reduced trade deficit and stronger U.S. dollar resulting in lower prices;
 
7. More of our wealth and dollars retained in the U.S. where it can be used to invest in this country and our infrastructure, rather that building infrastructure in the Middle East;
 
8. Vast reductions in truck and train traffic carrying oil. This will put less stress on our road- and rail-infrastructure, thereby reducing accidents and the resulting environmental damage;
 
9. Another great stride toward energy independence. This increases our national security as we are no longer subject to the whims of OPEC;
 
10. Reduced budget deficit resulting from increased economic activity, and less American lives and military capital spent in foreign lands.
 
These benefits will affect every American family. The President loves to say that he is for the middle class, but as in the past, you can't take what he says at face value (“If you like your policy, you can keep it…period”). His policies put middle class people out of work and cut others to part time while at the same time increasing their taxes, costs at the pump, utility costs and healthcare costs. It is no wonder that the economic recovery has been anemic.
 
He has a chance here to actually practice what he preaches.
 
Mr. President, this is a no brainer. Five years of waiting is long enough. Approve the permit and let's put Americans back to work!
 

The Sun News: Opinion: Obama a president that would be king

By: U.S. REP. TOM RICE

July 21, 2013 

President Obama last week ordained a one-year delay in implementation of employer mandate under the Affordable Care Act. In response, Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin, one of the law’s chief architects told The New York Times, ‘This Was The Law. How Can They Change The Law?’

I agree.

But we should not be surprised. The president has repeatedly proven himself willing to ignore the law for his own means.

Last year, President Obama unlawfully granted states the authority to waive welfare work requirements.

He has refused to enforce our existing immigration laws. And only a few short months ago, released thousands of illegal immigrants from our prisons. He has issued executive orders to make 3,400 illegal immigrants in South Carolina legal with no apparent authority to do so. While our immigration laws need revision, they are the law of the land.
He is now issuing executive orders to unilaterally begin a war on coal, which will drive up our home heating costs, and make our businesses less competitive.

It seems that the president is confused about the separation of powers under our Constitution and the role of the executive branch.

The President of United States is not a king. He has no right to unilaterally make laws or alter them. Nor may he selectively choose the laws he wishes to enforce.
After the American Revolution, George Washington was offered a kingship but he refused. Our forefathers designed a grand experiment, a system of government in which power rested with the people.

I often hear that the Congress is dysfunctional. But it is not Congress that is confused about its role.