by U.S. Senator Jon Kyl
In his final State of the Union address, the President outlined an agenda that addresses some of our nation's most pressing challenges.
In the short term, President Bush challenged Congress to stimulate the economy and curb wasteful spending; and in the war against terrorists, he discussed the need for legislation to amend the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).
al-Qaida still would like to carry out the same kinds of attacks against the United States and other countries that it executed on September 11, 2001.The incredible amount of damage that terrorists can inflict requires that we gain as much intelligence as possible to thwart their threats.
Preventing attacks from occurring in the first place is better than having to respond after they have occurred. That is why it is critical for Congress to legislatively confirm that the United States can engage in the kind of intelligence collection against al Qaeda that technology today allows.
Congress acted to ensure that critical intelligence could be collected when it amended FISA in 2007 with the Protect America Act (PAA).That law conformed the legal procedures to the evolving technology of intelligence collection, but it was limited to six months and is set to expire in early February.With the deadline looming, I join with the President in urging the swift passage of a bill to properly and adequately update FISA.
The President also outlined the contents of his "economic stimulus" bill, which he crafted with Democratic and Republican leaders in the House of Representatives.The centerpiece of this proposal involves issuing rebate checks to certain taxpayers with the hope that they would spend the check at a business, which would then presumably expand, helping the economy.I remain skeptical that there will be much benefit from issuing rebate checks.I would prefer, instead, that a stimulus bill include tax changes that could actually help the economy in the long-term.We need to work on a bipartisan basis to prevent tax increases, such as the Alternative Minimum Tax; we clearly must signal that it is unacceptable to allow the Republican tax cuts to expire at the end of 2010.In the end, keeping taxes low is the best recipe for sustainable, broad-based economic growth.
The President also addressed a concern that many share:wasteful Congressional earmarks; and he intends to issue an Executive Order to help curb earmarking in congressional spending bills. His proposal would direct Executive agencies not to fund projects that are not actually voted on by Congress.I don't believe Congress has done enough to curb the practice of earmarking, and I commend the President for taking the lead on this issue.
As the President enters his final year of his term, there is still much unfinished business.President Bush seemed energized at the prospect that he can now "sprint to the finish" on important initiatives for the American people.I look forward to working with him on these important issues.