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Hurd on the Hill: Battling the Bureaucracy

As a conservative, I am always looking for ways to reform government spending and use tax dollars more efficiently. With a background in computer science and through my time as Chair of the House IT Subcommittee, I’ve been able to identify federal information technology (IT) as an area in desperate need of reform.

While IT isn’t the most exciting topic for everyone, this issue has more of an impact on your lives than you might realize. Billions of your hard-earned taxpayer dollars are wasted maintaining outdated and obsolete government IT systems that are not just costly, but also vulnerable to cyberattacks.

Last year, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) was hacked, compromising the personal information of over twenty million current and former government employees, myself included. Furthermore, the federal government’s budget for IT systems is a whopping $80 billion, and almost 80 percent of this is spent maintaining these outdated systems. Aside from protecting our information and infrastructure, imagine what we could save by investing in 21st Century digital solutions to modernize the federal government.

The American people deserve better from their government. That’s why in Congress I have prioritized increased accountability, and have been working with my colleagues to improve our information security and keep our spending to a minimum.

Earlier this month, I introduced the Modernizing Government Technology (MGT) Act with support from my colleagues on both sides of the political aisle in the House of Representatives and in the Senate, to reform federal IT and create a more modern, responsive, and cost-effective government. Forcing the federal government to operate more like a private business and less like the outdated bureaucracy it is starts with leadership, but cannot be achieved without new technology.

This bipartisan federal IT reform package helps catch our government up to speed with the 21st Century by incentivizing agencies to implement modern technology. Federal agencies will save money over time by doing things like reforming IT acquisition, streamlining IT systems, replacing legacy products, and transitioning to cloud computing.

Savings from these processes can be placed in what is called a working capital fund that can be accessed for up to three years for further IT updates. This approach gets rid of the traditional use-it or lose-it approach that has led to departments and agencies going on a spending glut at the end of the year simply to justify their budgets, holding back government technology for decades and wasting hard earned taxpayer dollars.

The MGT Act is scheduled for a vote on the House floor this week. And with these critical reforms, the federal government will be able to better address growing cybersecurity threats while providing more efficient services to the American people.

The threat of a cyberattack is very real. For the United States to continue being a world leader, we need to better secure our government data and digital infrastructure. MGT is an innovative solution and another step forward in moving our government into the 21st Century. I will continue to work with my colleagues until this reform package is signed into law by the President.

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A former undercover CIA officer, entrepreneur and cybersecurity expert, Will Hurd is the U.S. Representative for the 23rd Congressional District of Texas. In Washington, he serves on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, as Vice Chair of the Maritime and Border Security Subcommittee on the Committee for Homeland Security, and as the Chairman of the Information Technology Subcommittee on the Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

Cornyn, Cruz, Hurd, O’Rourke Comment on Passage of American Health Care Act

After Thursday’s passage of the American Health Care Act, local and statewide representatives released statements regarding the vote.

Rep. Beto O’Rouke (via Facebook)

Today I voted against the American Health Care Act (AHCA). Like the original version of the bill, which failed to garner enough support for a vote in March, AHCA seeks to replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA) with a system of tax credits and Medicaid block grants.

In the March version of the bill we knew that:

– 81,000 fewer El Pasoans would have health care

– 2.5 million fewer Texans would have health care

– 24 million fewer Americans would have health care

– Americans would see premium increases of 15–20% in 2018 and 2019

– Millions of veterans not enrolled in the VA would lose health care

– Fewer resources would be available to combat the opioid crisis

– There would be no requirement for mental health parity

– Women’s reproductive health would be defunded

The most notable changes to this version of the bill are two amendments. First, the McArthur Amendment, which allows states to determine the minimum coverage in the health care plans they offer. Currently, the ACA requires insurers to cover a host of essential health benefits like hospital stays, mental health, and maternity care. This amendment will allow insurers to consider health status when setting prices. This will directly impact patients with pre-existing conditions and older Americans who will be charged more for coverage.

The second amendment is the Upton Amendment. It adds $8 billion over 5 years to the bill to help those with pre-existing conditions pay for their insurance and health care needs. Unfortunately that is nowhere near enough and if implemented many people will soon find it difficult to pay for their health care needs.

There has been no updated analysis of this new version of the bill because it was rushed through without an official score from the Congressional Budget Office.

I voted against the bill which passed the House by a vote of 217-213. It now goes to the Senate where it meets an uncertain fate.

Rep. Will Hurd

“Since the implementation of Obamacare, I’ve told my constituents that the only meaningful metric when it comes to healthcare is actual access to quality, affordable care – not just health insurance. While the goal of Obamacare was to make healthcare more accessible and more affordable, it has done just the opposite. Likewise, while the goal of the American Health Care Act was to combat the skyrocketing premiums and outrageous deductibles millions of Americans face, it too, falls short.

“We must provide relief, but unfortunately, the American Health Care Act (AHCA) in its current form does not address the concerns of many of my constituents, including adequate protections for those with pre-existing conditions and the challenges faced by rural healthcare providers. I am unable to turn my back on these vulnerable populations because I believe we can and must do better for the American people.

“I will not support the AHCA in its current form and hope that we can continue making improvements to fix our broken healthcare system.”

Sen. John Cornyn

“Today is an important step forward in upholding our promise to give the American people relief from Obamacare,” Sen. Cornyn said. “The health care status quo is unacceptable. Premiums have skyrocketed, coverage options have disappeared, and small businesses have struggled under crushing taxes and mandates. Working alongside the Administration, making health care more affordable and accessible for all Americans will continue to be our top priority and this legislation sets us on a course to achieve that.”

Sen. Ted Cruz

“Today was an important step. I am encouraged that House Republicans were able to come together and pass a bill to repeal and replace Obamacare. The House Freedom Caucus pressed hard to reduce premiums and make health care more affordable, and their efforts, in cooperation with the entire conference, substantially improved this bill.

“Our work now goes forward in the Senate, where we should continue to improve the bill. For many weeks, I have been working closely with my Senate colleagues, from across the ideological spectrum, on consensus reforms to make health insurance more affordable. We must deliver on that promise. I am optimistic we will get the job done, and honor our commitment to provide more choices for consumers, put people in control of their healthcare, and most importantly, lower premiums.”

Ethics Charges fly as Hurd-Gallego Rematch Comes Down to Wire

In the state’s only competitive congressional race, incumbent U.S. Rep. Will Hurd and challenger Pete Gallego are pulling no punches in the final days of the campaign.

Allegations of unethical behavior are reaching a new volume in the home stretch of Texas’ only competitive congressional race, a heated rematch between U.S. Rep. Will Hurd, R-San Antonio, and Alpine Democrat Pete Gallego.

With four days to go, the campaigns escalated long-simmering charges of impropriety, most notably over Gallego’s work after leaving Congress and the Hurd campaign’s TV ads. Early voting ended Friday in the race for the 23rd district, a sprawling area that runs roughly from El Paso to San Antonio and along hundreds of miles of Mexican border. tttxxxtt

On Friday, Texas Republicans filed a complaint against Gallego with the Texas Ethics Commission, formalizing their long-held accusation that he worked as a lobbyist after losing re-election in 2012 — and should have registered with the state. Gallego has repeatedly denied the charge, which PolitiFact Texas rated false when it was made about work he did for the City of Austin.

The GOP complaint targets his employment by another city, Del Rio.

Gallego’s side countered with its own charge that Hurd is breaking House ethics rules by airing another commercial featuring footage from a congressional committee hearing. Team Hurd was unapologetic, saying it is “airing an ad showing Will Hurd doing what he was elected to do.”

On Friday, Texas Republicans filed a complaint against Gallego with the Texas Ethics Commission, formalizing their long-held accusation that he worked as a lobbyist after losing re-election in 2012 — and should have registered with the state. Gallego has repeatedly denied the charge, which PolitiFact Texas rated false when it was made about work he did for the City of Austin. The GOP complaint targets his employment by another city, Del Rio.

Gallego’s side countered with its own charge that Hurd is breaking House ethics rules by airing another commercial featuring footage from a congressional committee hearing. Team Hurd was unapologetic, saying it is “airing an ad showing Will Hurd doing what he was elected to do.”

Back in Austin, Republicans tied Gallego to his party’s presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, as they sought to breathe new life into the lobbyist allegation. So far, more attention in the race has been paid to GOP nominee Donald Trump, whom Hurd never endorsed but only recently fully disavowed.

“There needs to be some transparency here,” state GOP chairman Tom Mechler told reporters after filing the TEC complaint against Gallego. “Hillary Clinton and him — we have two great examples here of how the Democrats refuse to follow the rule of law in America.”

The TEC complaint centers on a “professional services agreement” Gallego’s law firm had with the City of Del Rio during the 2015 legislative session. The agreement describes the “scope of work” as providing legal assistance to draft and review legislation as well as correspondence with state and federal agencies. The complaint alleges Gallego made enough off the agreement — at least $1,000 — to meet the requirement to file with ethics commission as a lobbyist.

The TEC complaint was filed four days before the election — a practice ethics commissioners have discouraged due to the appearance of political meddling. Asked Friday about the timing of the complaint, Mechler told reporters he was lodging it out now because the party had just obtained the “particular paperwork” it needed on which to base the allegation.

tttxxxtt2In response, Gallego’s campaign issued a lengthy statement that began “If you read the contract, it specifically says Pete was hired as an attorney, not a lobbyist.”

In the rest of the statement — and in a news release earlier Friday — Gallego’s campaign drew attention to four complaints that have been filed alleging unethical behavior on Hurd’s part.

The complaints, lodged with the Office of Congressional Ethics and the Federal Election Commission, partly deal with the appearance of a congressional committee hearing in Hurd campaign ads.

The hearing in question is from earlier this year when he aggressively questioned FBI Director James Comey over his investigation into Clinton’s use of a private email server while secretary of state. The hearing is a point of pride for Hurd’s campaign, especially after Comey’s announcement last week that the FBI was again looking into newly surfaced emails potentially related to the Clinton probe.

In the latest Hurd spot targeted by Gallego’s campaign, the Comey hearing is shown as Hurd says, “In Congress, I’ve witnessed dysfunction and felt your frustration.” House rules say footage of such proceedings “may not be used … as partisan political campaign material to promote or oppose the candidacy of any person for public office.”

“Congressman Hurd apparently believes that his status as a congressman makes him special — that the rules everyone else has to follow don’t apply to him,” Gallego spokeswoman Lyndsey Rodriguez said in the statement. “On more than one occasion, Congressman Hurd has said that this race is about him and that he has to do what it takes to take care of himself. If rules don’t serve his interests, he breaks them.”

Hurd’s campaign was unrepentant in response.

“Pete Gallego is a do-nothing, dishonest, career politician,” Hurd campaign manager Justin Hollis said. “We are airing an ad showing Will Hurd doing what he was elected to do. I understand that could be confusing to Re-Pete since he accomplished absolutely nothing on the public dime for over two decades.”

Read related Tribune coverage:

Author: PATRICK SVITEK – The Texas Tribune

Trump and the 23rd District: It’s Complicated

Republican incumbent U.S. Rep Will Hurd and Democrat Pete Gallego are battling it out in a sprawling, idiosyncratic district.

BRACKETTVILLE — In Texas’ sprawling 23rd congressional district, everyone knows about Donald Trump, the blustery billionaire on their five o’clock news every night, causing arguments at their dinner tables and leaving them desperate for this election season to end.

“Any time it says Clinton or Trump, I just swipe by it,” said Catherine Cano, a retired teacher scrolling through her phone here at a bakery Tuesday. “I’m not heading for the border — yet.”

This November, Democrats are hoping the ubiquitous White House race will play a starring role in dislodging Rep. Will Hurd, a San Antonio Republican who’s never endorsed Trump but shares his party designation on the ballot. Hurd again faces Alpine Democrat Pete Gallego, who is confident voters of the majority-minority 23rd district will punish Hurd for Trump’s inflammatory candidacy.

ttqtt1Yet like many things in this vast and idiosyncratic district, it’s not that simple. On a recent drive across the district — nearly 600 miles along the remote Highway 90 — voters were anything but uniform in viewing the presidential and 23rd district races as one and the same, or even similar.

Trump, many said, is a unique specimen.

“He’s totally different than anybody,” said Traci Koch, the owner of a boutique along the main drag in Hondo. “He’s his own person. Maybe that’s what we need.”

The district

Even without Trump at the top of the ticket, the Hurd-Gallego rematch was always bound to be dramatic. It’s unfolding against a rare backdrop in Texas’ GOP-dominated politics: a truly — and perennially — competitive district where candidates are forced to appeal to the ideological center and cannot sit back once the primaries end.

Kicking off his campaign in July, Hurd proudly called himself “one of the few Republicans in Texas who actually has to talk to Democrats.” Gallego, a former longtime state lawmaker, also trumpets his bipartisan credentials — and how they meld with the swing district.

“For me, growing up in West Texas, it’s really important — people who live out there are independent by nature,” Gallego said in his first — and likely only — debate with Hurd on Thursday. “They don’t necessarily go for one political party or the other. They do the right thing for the right reasons.”

Describing the largely rural district often requires superlatives. It’s one of the biggest in the country, covering an area larger than 29 states as it stretches from west San Antonio to just short of El Paso. Along the way, it hugs the majority of Texas’ border with Mexico — and far more Mexican border than any other congressional district in the nation.

“So long, so big — it encompasses all kinds of people,” said Pete De Hoyos, a 70-year-old Hurd supporter parked outside an early voting location Tuesday in Del Rio. “It has Democrats, Republicans, liberals and conservatives — and everything in between.”

The issues

That diversity was on full display during the drive through the district. For every diehard partisan, there was a self-avowed ticket splitter. And for every Democrat pleased with the direction of the country, there was a Republican less than satisfied — often incensed — with the way things are going.

“I want to vote out everything that’s happening right now,” Amanda Eubanks, 40, said as she walked her dog in downtown Alpine.

While every voter was well aware of Trump, few named him as the main issue for them in the congressional race. Instead they often rattled ttqtt2off priorities much closer to home: border security, health care and veterans issues. (The district is bookended by two cities with heavy military presences: El Paso and San Antonio, known as Military City USA.)

If voters had a beef with Gallego or Hurd, it was often because they viewed either candidate as not paying enough attention to constituent services during their congressional tenures. In those cases, Trump was a secondary factor, if a factor at all.

Seated in her living room Monday in Marathon, Francie Broderick praised Gallego’s office for helping her son, who has a pre-existing condition, sign up for the Affordable Care Act. It was not until later that Trump came up.

Hurd “hasn’t challenged Trump on any of the offensive things he’s said about anybody,” said Broderick, a retiree whose front yard is lined with Gallego, Clinton-Kaine and Black Lives Matters signs. “Anybody who doesn’t stand up against Trump doesn’t stand with me.”

Trump/Clinton

Shortly after Trump became the presumptive nominee in May, Hurd said he could not support Trump until the nominee showed he respected minorities and understood national security. Hurd held that position, which did not rule out an ultimate vote for Trump, until earlier this month when a 2005 clip surfaced showing Trump speaking lewdly about women. That prompted Hurd to fully disavow Trump, calling for him to drop out of the race.

The fallout from Hurd’s decision illustrated just how tough of a situation many down-ballot Republicans are in when it comes to Trump. It did not satisfy Gallego, who is now criticizing Hurd for doing too little too late to oppose Trump. And it even upset some Republicans who still believe the party should be united behind its presidential standard-bearer.

“For Will to bail on him is crazy,” said Jim Westermann, who owns a sign shop in downtown Alpine. “When he says, ‘I’m not voting for Trump,’ by default he’s voting for Clinton.”

Asked if he still planned to vote for Hurd, a frustrated Westermann did not exactly say. “I wish I could find a way to spank him — take him out to woodshed and send him back,” Westermann said.

When it came to the top of the ticket, there was deep discontent across the district with both major-party nominees, especially among Republican and undecided voters. More than one voter used the “embarrassing” to describe the choice between Clinton and Trump, lamenting that the parties could not produce better nominees.

ttqtt3“This is the election between the two crappiest candidates I’ve ever seen for president,” said Bob Steele, an Alpine attorney who was in Westermann’s store, seated at counter strewn with stickers reading “Texit” and “In God We Trust.” “They both have big issues.”

Trump, of course, seemed to evoke stronger emotions. No Republican seemed particularly enthused about voting for him — and that was among those who had made up their minds.

“I am a dyed-in-the-wool Republican but I don’t know who I’m going to vote for yet,” said Cheryl Viner, Cano’s daughter who was waiting with her for their order at Darla’s Kitchen. “I’m trying to find the lesser of two evils.”

Whomever voters ultimately pick, Democrats are hoping the outcome will spell doom for Hurd. Gallego has been aggressive in portraying Hurd as not that different from Trump on the issues, or at least too timid to make known his disagreements with Trump.

Delfin Lopez, a retired veteran walking out of the Presidio County courthouse Monday in Marfa, laughed when asked about the notion that Hurd is like Trump. “I don’t know who said that, but that was a stupid remark,” said Lopez, who is supporting Hurd this time but has previously voted for Gallego.

“To me, it’s not a salient argument because I’m informed to the point I can distinguish” between Hurd and Trump, said Gustavo Sorola, a retiree who was volunteering for another Republican candidate outside an early voting location Tuesday in Uvalde. “I can see through that.”

But maybe, Sorola added, it is not as clear to the average voter.

Finish line

With under two weeks until Election Day, few voters seemed certain about how things would turn out in the 23rd district. The race is expected to be close to the finish, with both sides projected to spend over $12 million combined on TV ads by Nov. 8.

One thing voters, even Republicans, were more sure of: Trump is likely doomed. Already resigned to his fate, some GOP voters said they were at least hoping their party would keep its congressional majorities, which would work to hold accountable a President Clinton.

That’s an argument Hurd has been increasingly making since he fully distanced himself from Trump. On TV screens across the district and in the debate Thursday, he pitched himself as the “only candidate in this race that’s willing to stand up to Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.”

“I want to keep the House and the Senate,” said Pamela Franzheim, a straight-ticket GOP voter leaving the Presidio County courthouse Monday in Marfa. “I want to keep some control in the House, even if we’re going to lose the presidency — which it looks like we may.”

Read related Tribune coverage:

  • In a debate, Democrat Pete Gallego accused U.S. Rep. Will Hurd of not doing enough to oppose Donald Trump’s candidacy. Hurd charged that he’s a more effective congressman than Gallego was.
  • National groups are saturating the airwaves in the only competitive U.S. House race in Texas.
  • Most Texas Republican leaders have largely stood by Donald Trump, but one has fully distanced himself — U.S. Rep. Will Hurd, locked in a heated rematch with Pete Gallego.

Author:  PATRICK SVITEK – The Texas Tribune

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