HARTSVILLE, S.C. -- U.S. Rep. Tom Rice visited with constituents in Hartsville on Tuesday morning at the Midnight Rooster for coffee. It was the first of several stops on his “Coffee with Your Congressman” meetings in South Carolina’s Seventh Congressional District.

Rice said he represents the people and needs to stay in close contact with his constituents.

“I can’t get very far from the people,” he said. “I was in Hartsville six weeks ago.”

He said that he tries to visit every county in his district about every three months. Rice stopped by tables to chat with Rooster customers, as well as with those who stopped by to greet him.

After his visit to Hartsville, he traveled to Darlington later Tuesday to meet with folks at Joe’s Grill. He planned to visit Loris in the afternoon.

BY ARDIE ARVIDSON The Hartsville Messenger

BY ALI WATKINS
McClatchy Washington BureauSeptember 20, 2014

WASHINGTON — The South Carolina congressional delegation is firmly split over the future of a federal bank that has pumped billions into financing the state’s exports.

The fate of the Export-Import Bank, which backs loans to international companies who buy American-made products, hung in the balance this week as Congress considered prolonging its life past a Sept. 30 charter expiration date. In a whirlwind voting session, both chambers voted to at least extend it to June 2015, bypassing the upcoming lame duck session and leaving time for lawmakers to consider reforms.

South Carolina politicians, though, were split on the vote to extend the bank’s charter; the amendment to do so was wrapped up in a budget bill to keep the government running. But even though its lifeline has been pushed to next year, the state’s Republicans don’t agree on the bank’s uncertain future, with some firmly calling for its end and others just as firmly demanding it stays.

“It’s not a win-win. Someone’s going to lose,” Rock Hill’s Rep. Mick Mulvaney said of the bank. “(It’s) market distortion. It tips the playing field in many circumstances against domestic producers.”

Sens. Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott have both expressly supported the bank, while Reps. Trey Gowdy, Jeff Duncan, Mark Sanford and Mulvaney all voted against the resolution that extended its deadline.

Established in a post-World War I economy that saw rebuilding nations struggling to afford American-made products, the Export-Import Bank helps guarantee loans to international companies importing U.S.-goods. Put simply, the bank helps back the loans companies take out to purchase American-made commodities.

These days, most major nations have some kind of export credit agency, including China, France, Russia and the United Kingdom.

The United States’ Export-Import Bank says it has financed over $265 billion in exports and benefited over 8,600 U.S. companies just since 2007. Over 70 South Carolina businesses saw $2 billion of that help sell their products overseas.

But Mulvaney says it’s not that cut-and-dry. The numbers sound good, he said, but most of the money goes disproportionately to large corporations, despite the bank’s mantra of benefiting small businesses.

“The overwhelming share of this goes to four or five companies,” he said. “The Ex-Im bank has failed for the last couple years to meet their small business (goals).”

The numbers would tend to back that claim up. Statistics show that the bank has financed exports for 36 South Carolina small businesses, but the overwhelming majority of the bank’s investments over the past seven years $1.3 billion has gone to the state’s industrial mainstay, Boeing.

With its newest 787 Dreamliner facility located outside Charleston, the commercial aircraft giant is one of the Export-Import Bank’s most fervent supporters.

“Export credit, the availability of export credit from a government is definitely a factor for a number of airlines around the world,” said Boeing spokesman Tim Neale. “It’s really important to give our customers the confidence that (the Export-Import bank) is going to be there.”

Even the potential that the bank may be gone after next June, Neale said, is shaking up Boeing’s international buyers.

“We have been hearing from customers all year long who are concerned about the future of the (Export-Import) bank,” he said. “They need that assurance that the bank is going to be there in case they need it. Otherwise, it’s just a risk factor that might cause them to buy from one of our competitors.”

In South Carolina, in particular, the loss of the bank would hurt, he said.

“Most of the 787s that are built there are for foreign customers,” Neale said. “Most of the planes that will go out the door will be destined for foreign airlines, so most of them will need a credit guarantee.”

The competitive advantage of the export credit, lawmakers say, isn’t something that U.S. companies can afford losing.

“I would love to see us get out of this business, but if we unilaterally stop doing this, then our companies, our employers are at a competitive disadvantage,” said Myrtle Beach’s Rice, who was one of two South Carolina Republicans to vote for the House bill that kept the bank afloat. “In a perfect world, I wish it wasn’t there. And I wish that banks would step up to fill the void. But the problem is it’s not a perfect world.”

Mulvaney did say there was room for negotiation among Republicans to overhaul the bank rather than just cut it when its charter expires in June. But he says he’s concerned the bank’s track record shows it’s more likely to succumb to politics than be revitalized as a functioning, nonpartisan entity.

“The 2012 authorization (to extend the bank) required the bank to make certain reforms, and the bank has simply refused to do that,” he said. “To think it’s not political is just not a reality.”

FLORENCE, S.C. – Republican Rep. Tom Rice was criss-crossing part of his Congressional District Monday, which covers most of the Pee Dee, to speak with constituents on the first week of Congress’ August recess.

The Morning News spoke with Rice before his constituent meeting at the Pee Dee Regional office in Florence on a wide range of topics, from the continued gridlock in Washington to international and domestic crises and a pending lawsuit against President Barack Obama. Below are nine questions we asked Rice and his answers.

Are things better off now in South Carolina since you took office?

I think so, the economy is very sluggishly moving in the right direction. I think South Carolina has done a fantastic job of positioning itself in terms of competitiveness within the nation. Places like South Carolina, Texas and North Dakota are revising their tax code, their infrastructure, their litigation infrastructure to attract businesses and it’s paying off.

What’s creating gridlock in Washington?

The House has been really effective; we passed 350 to 400 bills in the last year and a half that are sitting on (Senate Majority leader) Harry Reid’s desk gathering dust. I don’t know why, but for some reason Harry Reid and the president don’t want to take them up. I think it’s to their political advantage not take the bills up, to come in and say ‘the House Republicans aren’t doing anything’ but we’re the ones who are doing something. I think 10 or 15 of those bills have a lot of Democratic support in the House.

I think the House of Representatives is doing its job.

It’s a political calculation not to take anything up in the Senate and blame it on House Republicans and use it toward their election this November. I don’t think it’s going to work.

Is there a way to get beyond this tit-for-tat approach of governing?

I think we need to get to a reset to what the framers of our Constitution designed and that is the situation where the legislature makes the law and the president enforces it. This president prefers not to have any laws coming out of the legislature and use that as an excuse to make law himself; he has no power to do that. That’s one of the reasons why the Senate isn’t taking anything up.

Is our country governing by crisis now instead of being proactive?

No doubt about it. We’re truly lacking leadership. I wish the president, rather than giving speeches and throwing stones at Congress, I wish he would show leadership to try to work with Congress to find solutions we can agree on and try to work toward the betterment of the American people and the world.

What has Congress accomplished recently?

We passed some pretty important stuff out of the house last week; we passed the fix for the VA which is a huge change. It provided for veterans, at long last, a pathway to healthcare other than the massive, bloated, federal bureaucracy that is so inefficient that it causes veterans to die while they’re waiting in line for care. We passed a Republican proposal to allow veterans to go to private physicians. The average wait time at a VA facility is 53 days and the average wait time with a private physician is three days to get that same care.

We never would’ve gotten that through a Democratic-controlled Senate but for the crisis that occurred, the national disgrace that occurred with veterans dying waiting for the bloated federal bureaucracy to do its job.

On her Facebook page on Monday Gov. Nikki Haley said Congress should be called back to deal with the immigration crisis, do you agree?

I think it’s a national crisis, I think we need to be dealing with it. I also believe the House has dealt with it. The Senate needs to come back and take it up. Now, if the Senate is going to do anything and if we need to do anything I’m going to be there.

Will suing President Barack Obama accomplish anything?

My hope is as a result of this lawsuit we will return the relationship of the legislative branch of the government and the executive branch of the government to what the framers intended. I think we have a good shot of getting it to court, I don’t think its an absolute guarantee, but courts have allowed Congress access in the past, specifically for enforcement of subpoenas against the executive branch.

I don’t see it (impeachment) as part of this process. I see this as about the least damaging process for ongoing, day-to-day governing you could have. It’s very targeted on what the president’s role is, it doesn’t affect the operation of the government, I think the only ones up there talking about impeachment are the Democrats so they can raise money on it.

Did former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s primary loss mean anything to you?

I think that we need to be proactive and forward thinking and have positive solutions for people and act in the best interests of the people. I try to stay in touch with people, but if we’re positive and proactive we don’t have to worry about the next election; I think the next election will take care of itself.

What are your thoughts on your 57th birthday today?

My thoughts are that the best birthday present I could possibility have is to continue to serve the wonderful people of the 7th District of South Carolina. It’s an incredible honor and privilege to serve in this office and I thank them everyday for the privilege.

BY GAVIN JACKSON Morning News

Columbia, SC (WLTX) -- Members of South Carolina's Congressional Delegation have sent letters to the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Health and Human Services to get more information about children who entered the country illegally, and are being housed in South Carolina.

Last week federal officials revealed that 350 children were sent to the Palmetto State from January to July 7. According to the report, the children are staying with family members or other sponsors.

Previous Coverage: 350 Illegal Immigrant Children Sent to SC

Republicans Rep. Mick Mulvaney, Rep. Tom Rice, Rep. Jeff Duncan, Rep. Trey Gowdy, Rep. Mark Sanford, Rep. Joe Wilson, Sen. Lindsey Graham, and Sen. Tim Scott sent letters asking for details on the transport of the children and asking for specifics on where they are living.

You can read the full letter here.

Among the questions they want answered: "Have any UACs (unaccompanied alien children) been house at any military installation or HHS-contracted shelters within South Carolina?"

They also ask: "Does DHS or HHS have any plans to move any UACs to military installations or HHS-contracted shelters within South Carolina?"

The delegation goes on to ask for monthly updates on the number of children that the agencies send to our state.

In a news release several of the delegation members issue the following statements:

"We know DHS and HHS track this information but few specifics have emerged," said Congressman Mulvaney (SC-05). " There have been reports that some of the children who are entering our country illegally are being sent to South Carolina. My colleagues and I would like to know the specifics of how many children are being sent to South Carolina and where they are being housed."

"The surge of unaccompanied children at our southern border is a crisis," said Congressman Tom Rice (SC-07). "Children are risking their lives to reach our border, only to wait for their deportation cases to be processed. The Administration must stop disseminating inaccurate information about our country's immigration policies and start providing states with proper notice on how this crisis will impact their respective populations. I look forward to hearing the Administration's answers to our questions."

"I am extremely concerned that my office's repeated attempts to request data about any and all placements in South Carolina was consistently met with misleading information," said Senator Scott (R-SC). "Throughout this process, we have continually been told by various Obama Administration agencies that no unaccompanied minors had been placed in South Carolina and that no plans existed to start those placements. Clearly that information was wrong, and the administration must provide us the truth in answering today's letter."

"The current humanitarian crisis is a result of the Administration's failure to enforce our immigration laws and secure our border," said Congressman Wilson (SC-02). "By refusing to address the lack of communication between governments in Central America and our own, the President is essentially breaking up families, putting children at risk of abuse and exploitation, and inappropriately mandating that taxpayers foot the bill for those who have ignored our laws. At a very minimum, the federal government should notify South Carolina families when unaccompanied alien children are transported to locations within the Palmetto State."

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.

By U.S. Representative Tom Rice

Read more: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2014/jul/23/from-point-a-to-point-b-without-forgetting-point-c/#ixzz38PsmTn5G 
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