by Congressman Curt Clawson
As we begin a New Year, I want to thank the people of Southwest Florida for giving me the honor of serving Florida’s 19th Congressional District. Christmas Day marked 18 months since I took the oath in the “People’s House.” I’d like to mark this milestone by offering a brief recap of what has been accomplished in that brief stretch of time – with a “shout-out” to my team, without whom none of this would have happened.
Since coming to Congress, I’ve cast over 740 votes, signed or cosigned 82 Congressional letters, and sponsored or cosponsored 148 pieces of important legislation, amendments, and resolutions. I’m especially proud that my office has responded to over 26,000 pieces of correspondence and resolved over 600 constituent cases in the district. I’m also proud to report that we manage our offices under-budget. We returned taxpayer funds at the end of 2015, as we did in 2014.
CONSTITUENT SERVICE: OUR MOST IMPORTANT DUTY
We meet regularly with many dozens of our constituents; and respect the wealth of talent and expertise they bring. We are blessed with great relationships throughout our district – and value the important recommendations and feedback they offer in all areas of governance. We are never influenced by special interests or political pressures – but instead always endeavor to “vote our district”, to the very best of our abilities.
When we are considering legislation dealing with taxes, regulations, trade, and economic growth – we consult with our district’s business leaders, small business owners, and the local Chambers of Commerce. When dealing with issues related to the security and well-being of our citizens, we reach out for advice to our dedicated and highly capable law enforcement officials, and to our County Commissioners and local government leaders. In making decisions relative to national defense, we speak with local and state military personnel, our veterans, and the organizations supporting them. If it’s about education, we speak with our district’s school board officials, parents, teachers, and activists in this area. When we’re involved with healthcare issues, I seek the counsel of leadership at Lee Memorial Hospital, NCH, and others. Whenever we’re making decisions on environmental issues, I seek the counsel of our friends with the South Florida Water Management District, FEMA, the Everglades Foundation, the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, U.S. Fish and Wildlife (including the folks at Ding Darling), the Audubon Society, the U.S. Coast Guard, our harbor masters, our airport officials, the wildlife groups, and others. We greatly value all of the expertise, advice, cooperation, and support that we receive every day – on these and all other issues.
To manage all of these interfaces, we’ve got an excellent, hard-working team in our Cape Coral, Naples, and Capitol Hill offices. These professionals respond responsibly and in a timely manner with constituents who need support. They work on their behalf of our citizens with the Veterans Administration, Internal Revenue Service, Medicare, Social Security, U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services, and other federal agencies.
My team in-district regularly attends public hearings/events and meets frequently with local, state, and federal government officials. Together, we are working diligently to facilitate needed dredging operations in Punta Rassa (South Fort Myers), Gordon Pass in Naples, and the Marco Island Pass, and for corrections to flood map errors to help constituents.
While we are proud of what we’ve achieved over the past year and a half, we are all eager to do more.
SUPPORTING SOUTHWEST FLORIDA’S VETERANS AND MILITARY PERSONNEL
Supporting the approximately 100,000 veterans and active military personnel in our district, amongst the highest number in any of America’s Congressional districts, is one of my highest priorities.
I consistently vote to improve funding for our military, active and retired, in appropriations bills. When our country sends brave individuals into harm’s way, we must provide them the very best equipment in the field.
For those who have already served, I’ve cosponsored bills and resolutions to ensure they receive the benefits they so richly deserve. I’m committed to seek corrections for the failings in the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Participating in dozens of events honoring our veterans, including the Honor Flights that welcome WWII veterans to Southwest Florida, and in Veterans Day events that celebrate the brave men and women who have served our country, is a small token of the appreciation I feel for those who secure our freedom.
I take great pride in selecting the best possible candidates from our community to attend our nation’s service academies. This is a responsibility I take very seriously. I want to thank the candidates and the members of the review board who help in the selection process.
PROTECTING SOUTHWEST FLORIDA’S ENVIRONMENT, WATER RESOURCES, BEACHES, AND THE EVERGLADES
It was awareness of the dirty water released from the Caloosahatchee River into the Gulf that led me into public service back in 2013. Progress in these areas is a personal passion and commitment of mine.
Our nation needs to adopt economically friendly policies that enable private sector investment and job creation, preserve property values, and bring good-paying jobs to our area. Protecting our rivers, water resources, Southwest Florida beaches, and preserving the unique ecosystems of the Florida Everglades, must always be top priorities.
I’ve introduced several important amendments, and supported a variety of other bills, to help our district and the state in these regards. Two of the most important pieces of legislation would: (1) secure $123,000,000 for Southern Florida ecosystem restoration and $64,000,000 for seepage control at Herbert Hoover Dike, near Lake Okeechobee and (2) ban the use of federal funds for oil drilling exploration in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico.
SERVING THE HOUSE FOREIGN AFFAIRS COMMITTEE
During these challenging times, it has been an honor to serve on the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee – engaging in issues you read about every day: the defense of Israel; refugee crises, religious persecutions, genocide, civil wars, and barbarian atrocities in the Middle East, Africa, and elsewhere; nuclear negotiations with Iran; and Russia’s actions in Ukraine and the Middle East.
I actively promote America’s partnership with Israel, an alliance essential not only to the future of both nations, but to the security and liberties of the civilized world. I’ve spoken out and voted against the flawed nuclear agreement with Iran.
Recent atrocities in Paris, Mali, the Sinai, and even here at home – remind us that the world is a dangerous place, and that extremists threaten free people everywhere. To defeat the forces of evil, we need a comprehensive strategy, a clear path to victory, with active involvement of ground troops from the countries in the Middle East; those most threatened. Moving forward in what will be a long struggle; we must end wasteful spending of U.S. taxpayer dollars, and end the disproportionate sacrifice of American blood and treasure.
PROTECTING CITIZENS AT HOME – SERVING ON THE HOMELAND SECURITY COMMITTEE
Congress must deal with the economic and security issues that result from a poorly secured border. We cannot ignore the possibility of threats to our country from illegal migrants, or from un-vetted refugees. I will continue to work to block funds for existing or further executive orders that threaten our security.
Protecting our national security extends beyond our borders. I’ve challenged the DHS Secretary to fully leverage the strength of our U.S. markets and financial infrastructure to improve China’s behavior regarding cybersecurity. We must prevent hacking and cyber attacks.
Congress must also work to ensure that our district receives the funding due from the federal government. We helped Collier County retain about $9 million in funding from FEMA. We’ve also sponsored an amendment during committee to pave the way for our Southwest Florida International Airport to receive reimbursement for installing explosive detection systems.
WISHING YOU A HAPPY AND HEALTHY NEW YEAR
In closing, my team and I hope you and your families enjoyed the blessings of this past Holiday Season, and wish you the very best throughout 2016.
On a very personal note, I have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of condolences after the passing of my Mom, Cherie, this past July. Thank you.
As always, please let us know how we can better serve you. Call us in Washington, D.C. or in one of our district offices – or stop by and say “hi” when you are out and about. And please visit our website at: www.clawson.house.gov
Congressman Clawson represents Florida’s 19th District in the U.S. House of Representatives. He serves on the House Foreign Affairs and House Homeland Security Committees. He is the former CEO of Hayes Lemmerz International, the world’s largest manufacturer of automotive wheels.