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McKeon calls past year 'frustrating,' but cites several successes

Posted: December 23, 2012 2:46 p.m.
Updated: December 23, 2012 2:46 p.m.

Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon, R-Santa Clarita, said it has been “frustrating to try and get anything done” in a divisive and clashing U.S. Congress over the last year.

But despite the frustration of partisan gridlock, McKeon said there have been some successes over the last year.

In a year-end review interview with The Signal, McKeon named the National Defense Authorization Act, which outlines the budget of the Department of Defense, as his biggest achievement over the past year, calling it the “only major piece of legislation” to pass both houses of Congress.

McKeon also cited a smaller bill, the renaming of a mountain near Mammoth, Calif., as an example of bipartisan cooperation.

McKeon said he solicited the help of Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., to help the measure pass through the Senate. In return, McKeon worked to get some of Boxer’s suggestions included in the National Defense Authorization Act.

“It kind of works out that way sometimes,” McKeon said. “I help you, you help me.”

The mountain-renaming bill cleared both houses of Congress Thursday.

McKeon, as he has in the past, said the lack of movement on a legislative option to stop the Cemex open-pit mine in Soledad Canyon is the item he is most disappointed about.

Both McKeon and Boxer had proposed bills to that end in the last congressional session.

McKeon’s introduced his latest bill, titled the Soledad Canyon Mine Mitigation and Relocation Act, in September.

The bill would instruct the U.S. secretary of the interior to take the steps necessary to implement the provisions of another McKeon Cemex bill: the Soledad Canyon High Desert, California Public Lands Conservation and Management Act of 2009.

That bill, which would have allowed the Cemex mining site to be swapped for federal land near Victorville, has been blocked by the earmark ban in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives.

Earmarks are defined as spending proposals that benefit a specific district. The House renewed that ban after the Nov. 6 election to extend through the next Congressional session, which begins in January.

By going through the secretary of the interior, McKeon could theoretically avoid the earmark ban altogether, though Congress would still have to approve such an action.

Looking forward, McKeon said the imminent sequestration cuts to the military and the so-called “fiscal cliff,” a series of phased in automatic spending cuts that will take place should Congress not reach a longer-term budget agreement, are the topics he is most concerned with right now.

And with the first rounds of cuts fast approaching, McKeon said he is not fully confident a deal will be reached by that time.

McKeon said he supported the proposal from House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, that laid out a “Plan B” to address the “fiscal cliff.”

Boehner’s proposal would have raised taxes on those earning $1 million or more a year in exchange for spending cuts.

The House of Representatives was expected to vote on the proposal Thursday night, but that vote was scrapped because not enough representatives supported the proposal for it to pass.

McKeon criticized those who chose not to support the proposal, saying they were putting the 1-plus percent of the population that are millionaires over the benefits to a wide margin of the population.

“There were too many members who wouldn’t support that (proposal) because they didn’t want the taxes to go up on the 1-plus percent,” McKeon said. “And instead 50 percent of the country will see their taxes rise as a result.”


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