The U.S. Senate has been unusually productive in recent weeks, passing immigration reform, keeping rates low for college student loans, tackling a series of budget bills and breaking the logjam on presidential appointees to key cabinet posts.
I’ve worked to capitalize on the progress by cutting federal spending and making sure our veterans receive proper health care and other benefits. I was pleased my bill to close a loophole in federal law to ensure veterans who become homeless as a result of domestic violence are eligible for veterans benefits passed the Senate Veterans Committee last week. In response to complaints, I also requested a Government Accountability Office review of the new management of Tricare, which provides health care benefits to military service members, retirees and their families.
As a new member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, I helped cut spending for the State Department and foreign operations by $2.9 billion, while ensuring a national focus on international activities in the Arctic are advanced.
Another effort to cut federal spending comes in legislation I introduced last week to require federal agencies promote bulk purchasing and "strategic sourcing." This sourcing gives federal agencies leverage with their buying power to achieve cost savings on common goods and services. The bill is estimated to save billions of dollars annually.
To help protect one of Alaska’s most important industries - our fisheries - I urged the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to give Alaskans more time to comment on a proposed halibut catch sharing plan. NOAA proposed granting just two additional weeks for comment on this major harvest plan, yet most affected Alaskans are busy fishing right now. Fishermen should get their comments in to NOAA by Aug. 26.
With Congress adjourning for August next weekend, I look forward to spending most of the month in Alaska, meeting with Alaskans and bringing important visitors to our state to better appreciate Alaskans’ needs.
Senator Mark Begich