Op-ed: Three priorities: economy, defense and civil liberties

January 18, 2015
In The News
By Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, Honolulu Star-Advertiser
Published: January 18, 2015
I'm grateful to you — the people of Hawaii — for the privilege of serving our great state and country. We have much to share with the rest of the country, and the world, because only by embracing the spirit of aloha can Congress transcend the partisanship and self-interest that leads to gridlock.
Here are three major priorities for the 114th Congress:
1. Growing our economy. Hawaii's economy continues to rely heavily on government spending and tourism. It's important that we diversify the economic drivers and job creators within our state by welcoming new industries, encouraging our local film and TV industry, investing in our aging infrastructure, and encouraging the innovative entrepreneurs who are looking to Hawaii as a start-up paradise.
The U.S. military presence in Hawaii plays a critical role in securing Hawaii and our nation, and promoting stability in the Asia-Pacific. Its Hawaii presence adds $14.7 billion annually to our state's economy, and its mission is critical in ensuring the regional stability which allows for greater prosperity and opportunity.
Responsible growth is possible in tourism, in part by increasing visits to our neighbor islands. I'll continue to work with federal, state and county leaders on opening airports like Kona and Maui for direct international travel, which will help support their island economies.
I just returned from India where I met with Prime Minister Modi, Defense Minister Parrikar and newly appointed Tourism Minister Sharma, all of whom are very interested in increasing travel, commerce and exchanges between our two countries.
I will continue to fight for the financial stability of our nation, and against efforts to allow Wall Street to make risky investments at taxpayer expense. I will work to enact further legislation, such as reinstating the Glass-Steagall Act, to make sure that big banks are no longer allowed to gamble with the financial stability of our nation.
2. National defense and veterans. Recent attacks in Paris, and heightened acts of terror around the world, illustrate the quickly changing and growing global threat posed by Islamic terrorists. As a member of the House Armed Services and Foreign Affairs committees, I'll continue advocating for a precise, effective strategy to accomplish our mission: keeping the American people safe by defeating our enemy, the Islamic extremists — no matter where they are or what name they call themselves.
I'll continue fighting for my brothers and sisters in arms, our servicemembers and our veterans, who are still waiting to receive the first-class health care and benefits they've earned.
3. Civil liberties and freedom. We must have a strong national defense, and policies in place to defeat the threats posed to the American people. The current practice of mass data gathering and surveillance of innocent Americans by the government, however, is not only an ineffective strategy to defeat our enemy, it also violates the civil liberties and freedoms guaranteed every American citizen. We must stop this practice and implement reforms that focus our nation's intelligence and security resources not on innocent Americans, but on those who actually pose a threat to our freedom.
Three provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act will expire on June 1. I'll be working with Republicans and Democrats to ensure that reforms are put in place to keep the American people safe and protect basic civil liberties and rights.
Unfortunately, Congress continues to be bitterly divided by partisanship. You have my commitment to continue working to bring people together, in the spirit of aloha, to serve the unique needs and opportunities that exist in Hawaii, and to work toward a bright future for all Americans. My best wishes and aloha to you and your family in 2015.

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