John Fleming (American politician)

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John Fleming
John flemming.jpg
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Louisiana's 4th district
In office
January 3, 2009 – January 3, 2017
Preceded by Jim McCrery
Succeeded by Mike Johnson
Personal details
Born John Calvin Fleming, Jr.
(1951-07-05) July 5, 1951 (age 66)
Meridian, Mississippi, U.S.
Nationality American
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Cindy Fleming
Children 4
Alma mater University of Mississippi, Oxford
University of Mississippi, Jackson
Military service
Allegiance  United States
Service/branch  United States Navy

John Calvin Fleming Jr. (born July 5, 1951) is an American politician, physician, and businessman who was appointed in March 2017, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Health Information Technology Reform in the Donald Trump administration. He reports to Secretary Tom Price of the United States Department of Health and Human Services. Earlier, as members of the United States House of Representatives, Fleming and Price were Republican colleagues.[2]

From January 3, 2009, to January 3, 2017, Fleming was the representative for Louisiana's 4th congressional district. He resides in the city of Minden in Webster Parish in northwestern Louisiana. A second cousin (five generations removed) to the former House Speaker Henry Clay of Kentucky, Fleming is a member of Sons of the American Revolution and Jamestowne Society. He is only the second Republican to hold his House seat since Reconstruction, the first was his predecessor, Jim McCrery.

The former congressman said that he "plans to advocate policies that would encourage physicians to use technology in their medical practice. He hopes to remove barriers to data transfer."[3] Despite his 2016 defeat for the United States Senate seat vacated by fellow Republican David Vitter, Fleming has not ruled out another run for elected office.[2]

Early life, education and family[edit]

Fleming was born in Meridian in Lauderdale County in eastern Mississippi. He was reared in a working class home. While he was still young, his mother became disabled and could no longer work. Just prior to Fleming's high school graduation, Fleming's father died of a heart attack. This forced him to finance his education with odd jobs and loans.[4] Fleming attended the University of Mississippi at Oxford, where he was a member of the Phi Delta Theta Fraternity. He graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in 1973. He later attended medical school at the Jackson campus of the same university, earning an M.D. in 1976.[5] In 1979, Fleming completed a medical residency with the United States Navy. Subsequently, Fleming stayed in the Navy another three years, serving until 1982 when he moved his family to and set up a private family medicine practice in Minden, Louisiana. He has served as a deacon, Sunday school teacher, and Sunday school department director at First Baptist of Minden.[6] Fleming also trained for years in karate attaining the rank of third degree black belt.[7] He took his first piano lesson at age 43 and ultimately studied for 14 years afterwards, playing the occasional recital and concert.[4] Fleming and his wife, Cindy, married in 1978. The couple has four children.[8]

Medical career[edit]

Fleming was chief resident in family medicine at the Naval Regional Medical Center in Camp Pendleton, California. He also trained at the drug and alcohol treatment unit at the Navy Regional Medical Center in Long Beach, California.[8] Serving in the Navy after his residency, Fleming practiced family medicine on the island of Guam.[9] From 1979 to 1981, he was the director of drug and alcohol treatment and chairman of the Navy Family Advocacy Committee. He subsequently performed similar duties in Charleston, South Carolina.[8]

After leaving the Navy, Fleming established a practice in Minden in August 1982. His first clinic was on Pearl Street across from the United States Post Office. He chose Minden for his city of residence because, in his words, it "has small-town charm, warm essence of life, long, lazy summer days with watermelon cuts and family reunions."[10] To attract patients to his new practice, Fleming announced evening and Saturday morning hours to accommodate working people and students.[11]

Fleming is board certified by the American Board of Family Medicine[8] He joined the staff of the Minden Medical Center.[12] Fleming is also a member of the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) and the Louisiana Academy of Family Physicians (LAFP). In 2007, he was chosen as the LAFP "Louisiana Family Practice Physician of the Year."[8]

Fleming previously worked with chemically dependent persons through the program called "New Beginnings" at the Minden Medical Center.[13] In 1994, the Minden Press-Herald revealed Dr. Fleming's call "to end violence and drug addiction. I link these two together because I believe most of the violence we see is caused by addiction to, or buying and selling of drugs."[14]

In 2006, Fleming wrote Preventing Addiction: What Parents Must Know to Immunize Their Kids Against Drug And Alcohol Addiction. In the book, Fleming argues that alcohol, among other addicting substances, can serve as a gateway for broader and more problematic drug use, and that the immature brain development of children make them vulnerable to drug addiction later in life. Therefore delaying the use of alcohol and other addicting substances until later adolescence or adulthood can sharply reduce the risk of later addiction according to scientific studies initiated by the National Institute on Drug Abuse and others.[15]

Business career[edit]

Fleming is also a businessman who owns thirty-six Subway sandwich shops in north Louisiana employing over 500 Louisianans;[16][17] and Fleming Expansions, LLC, a regional developer for The UPS Store, with outlets in Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas.[16]

Webster Parish coroner[edit]

In 1987, Fleming entered the race for Webster Parish coroner against the incumbent, the late Dr. Charles Hancock, but withdrew after learning the position would take too much time from his regular medical duties.[18] In 1995, he ran for coroner again. He defeated the nonpartisan candidate, Dr. Carlos A. Irizarry, 7,842 votes (60.4 percent) to 5,143 (39.6 percent). Fleming succeeded Democratic incumbent Dr. Carl A. Hines, from Minden, who did not seek re-election.[17][19]

U.S. House of Representatives[edit]

Elections[edit]

2008[edit]

Fleming entered the race for the District 4 House seat after the 21-year Republican incumbent Jim McCrery announced his retirement from the House. He received political support from the LAFP and the American Academy of Family Physicians' (AAFP) political action committee for his campaign.[20] Fleming supported the FairTax,[16] which would eliminate the federal income tax and replace it with a flat sales tax.[21]

In the October 4, 2008, Republican closed primary, Fleming ran against Jeff R. Thompson, a lawyer from Bossier City, and Chris Gorman.[22] In the election, no candidate received a majority of the votes. Fleming led with 14,500 votes (35.1 percent), followed by Gorman with 14,072 votes (34.1 percent), and Thompson with 12,693 votes (30.8 percent).[23] This established a primary runoff between Fleming and Gorman. In the runoff, Fleming defeated Gorman, 43,012 votes (55.6 percent) to 34,405 (44.4 percent) and carried all but one of the thirteen parishes in the district.[24]

In the 2006 race against McCrery, "Catfish" Kelley ran as a Republican and drew 12 percent of the vote under the old primary format.[25] In 2008, his 3 percent was far more than the margin between Fleming and Carmouche. A plurality is sufficient to win the general election—which, along with the District 2 race, were the last congressional races in the nation in 2008.[26]

Outgoing Vice President Dick Cheney appeared in Shreveport on November 21 to speak at a fundraiser for Fleming.[27] Politico.com indicated that McCrery supports Fleming but had made no official endorsement and had not appeared at any of Fleming's campaign events.[17] On December 2, McCrery spoke on Fleming's behalf in an appearance on The Moon Griffon Show radio program, which is syndicated in most Louisiana media markets. He used the argument that Carmouche, if successful, would cast his first vote for Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California.[28]

On December 10, 2008, Paul Carmouche formally conceded the election to Fleming.[29] Among the Democrats whom Carmouche defeated in his primary was later State Senator John Milkovich of Shreveport.

2010[edit]

Fleming was unopposed in the Republican primary in 2010 but was challenged by the Democratic nominee, David R. Melville. Governor Buddy Roemer, a former Democrat, then a Republican and later a failed candidate for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination; supported David Melville, his brother-in-law,[30] in the general election.[31] Fleming was reelected saying that Democratic policies were out of step with his district and most of America.[32][33]

2012[edit]

Fleming was unopposed by a Democratic candidate in his 2012 re-election bid in his district that is 2 to 1 Democratic registration but had a Cook PVI of R +11. In the November 6, 2012, general election, Fleming instead faced opposition from a Libertarian candidate, Randall Lord of Shreveport, a former chiropractor studying psychology at Louisiana State University in Shreveport.[34] Fleming defeated Lord, 187,790 (75.3 percent) to 61,587 (24.7 percent).[35] Lord was subsequently sentenced to 46 months in federal prison for financial scams related to illegal narcotic drug distribution.[36]

2014[edit]

On April 4, 2013, Fleming announced that he would not in 2014 seek the United States Senate held since 1997 by the Democratic Mary Landrieu. Instead his colleague, U.S. Representative Bill Cassidy of Baton Rouge, had announced on April 3 that he would challenge Landrieu. In his statement, Fleming said: "For me to enter the race now would risk a contest between two experienced Republican congressmen, potentially offering Senator Landrieu a path back to Washington. I can't let that happen."[37]

On December 10, 2014, KTBS, a Shreveport based ABC television station, reported that Fleming was considering running for the Senate seat held by David Vitter, who ran in the 2015 gubernatorial election. Vitter would have had to vacate his seat were he elected as governor. In a statement, Fleming said "If Senator Vitter is elected as Governor, I would certainly be interested in running for the seat he would vacate."[38]

2016[edit]

On December 7, 2015, Fleming officially announced his candidacy for the United States Senate.[39] He was a candidate to succeed fellow Republican David Vitter, who did not seek a third term in 2016. Vitter lost the gubernatorial runoff election on November 21, 2015, to the Democrat John Bel Edwards. Others who sought the Senate seat that Vitter vacated were Fleming's House colleague and fellow physician, Charles Boustany of Lafayette, Rob Maness of Madisonville in St. Tammany Parish, former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, Foster Campbell of Bossier Parish, a Democratic member of the Louisiana Public Service Commission and an advisor to John Bel Edwards, Democrat Caroline Fayard, and State Treasurer John Neely Kennedy of Madisonville, the ultimate winner of the position.

"I not only fought the liberals in Washington, I also fought the leadership of my own party when they were all too willing to compromise on our conservative principles," Fleming said in his statement of candidacy.[40] Fleming finished in fifth place in the primary election with 204,026 votes (11 percent), just behind the Democrat Caroline Fayard, who drew 12 percent of the ballots cast. He amassed pluralities in seven parishes, six of which are in his House district: Bossier, Claiborne, Grant, Lincoln (Louisiana's 5th congressional district), Sabine, Webster, and Vernon.[41]

Congressional tenure[edit]

Fleming served four 2-year terms in the United States House of Representatives from January 3, 2009, to January 3, 2017.[42]

Legislation authored[edit]

Federal Duck Stamp[edit]

Fleming served on the Committee on Natural Resources and chaired the Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife, Oceans and Insular Affairs. As such he introduced legislation to raise the price of the Federal Duck Stamp by $10 to $25, bringing the stamp in line with inflation as an increase had not occurred for many years.[43] The purpose of the legislation was to preserve habitat in critical migratory waterfowl flyways to allow duck populations to grow. The legislation was supported by hunting groups, including Ducks Unlimited, the National Rifle Association, and the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership.[44] The Fleming Duck Stamp bill passed the House and Senate by voice vote and was signed into law by President Obama on December 18, 2014, as it had broad bipartisan support.[45] Hunters and conservationists liked it as it generated more revenue to preserve habitat for waterfowl. Conservatives supported it because all additional revenues were dedicated to land easements rather than federalizing private land.[46]

Stagg courthouse naming[edit]

On April 4, 2016, Fleming introduced the "Tom Stagg Federal Building and United States Courthouse" bill.[47] It was named for the Honorable Thomas Eaton Stagg Jr., who served with distinction as judge for the federal court in 1984 to 2015. It ultimately passed the Senate and was signed into law on December 8, 2016. Stagg was appointed by President Richard Nixon to serve as a federal judge for the United States District Court for the Western District of Louisiana.[48][49]

Amtrak Secure Transportation of Firearms[edit]

On October 13, 2009, Fleming introduced the Amtrak Secure Transportation of Firearms Act.[50][51] It was supported by the National Rifle Association.[52] The bill passed the House and Senate and was signed into law by President Obama in December 2009.[53]

Conscience Protection Act of 2016[edit]

On March 22, 2016, Fleming introduced the Conscience Protection Act of 2016 which "amends the Public Health Service Act to codify the prohibition against the federal government and state and local governments that receive federal financial assistance for health-related activities penalizing or discriminating against a health care provider based on the provider's refusal to be involved in, or provide coverage for, abortion."[54] If enacted it would give access to courts (heretofore unavailable) by healthcare providers who feel they have been discriminated against because of their refusal (based on conscience) to provide abortion services. For legislative expediency the text was put into a Senate shell bill S. 304. It was ultimately passed by the House and Senate, but President Obama refused to sign it into law.[55][56][57]

The Abortion Non-Discrimination Act (ANDA)[edit]

By federal law, federal funding is required to be withheld from states who do not enforce the Weldon Amendment that prevents discrimination against healthcare providers if they refuse to provide abortion services.[58] In 2014, California began enforcing a 1975 state law requiring all insurance companies to charge and cover all subscribers for abortion services, even if they object based on religious or conscience beliefs. President Obama refused to enforce the federal statute against this, violating the Weldon Amendment in the opinion of Fleming and many others.[59][60] Fleming introduced legislation to provide health insurance subscribers a choice to purchase plans that do not cover abortions.[61]

Seniors’ Tax Simplification Act of 2015[edit]

With each congressional session, Fleming introduced this bill designed to improve convenience and lower tax-filing costs to seniors. Though a senior's income may be limited to only Social Security benefits, the IRS requires all senior citizens to use the long form 1040 to file taxes. This act was designed to reduce the senior taxpayer filing to one simple page saving time, complexity and cost.[62][63]

H. Res. 615 of 2009[edit]

During the debate over healthcare reform in Congress in 2009, Congressman Fleming recognized that members of Congress were likely to be exempted from the mandates and higher premiums expected from the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.[64] On July 13, 2009, he introduced H. Res. 615, "expressing the sense of the House of Representatives that members who vote in favor of the establishment of a public, federal government-run health insurance option are urged to forgo their right to participate in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP) and agree to enroll under that public option."[65] The resolution created a public outcry, after an interview of Fleming by Fox News' Meghan Kelly, demanding that members of Congress should also be subject to Obamacare. Consequently, language was placed in the Affordable Care Act requiring members of Congress and their staff to leave the more affordable Federal Employees Health Benefits Program with much lower premiums and deductibles, and obtain healthcare insurance through the DC Exchange, a product of the Affordable Care Act.[66][67][68]

American Health Care Reform Act of 2013[edit]

The Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) was signed into law in 2010. Dr. Fleming was vociferously opposed to, and voted against the health care law. He and his House Republican colleagues voted at full strength over fifty times to repeal the unpopular[69] law prior to 2017.[70] Citing the over eighteen new taxes, mandates on employers and individuals, and the newly mandated set of essential health benefits; Fleming emphasized how Obamacare would damage the economy and reduce access to affordable healthcare for many and fail to provide promised coverage for more Americans.[71][72] He also called Obamacare "the most dangerous piece of legislation ever passed by Congress." When asked about fixing the healthcare law instead of repealing it, he said it was "not fixable or repairable."[73] He believed, instead, in a market-based healthcare system through which competition can reduce costs and waste, and improve quality and effectiveness of the nation's healthcare system.[74][75]

In September 2013, Congressman Fleming helped write, cosponsored and introduced the Republican Study Committee's American Health Care Reform Act of 2013 and again in 2015, which would repeal the soon-to-be-implemented Affordable Care Act. Instead of raising taxes, adding mandates and creating massive amounts of regulations to the healthcare system, the American Health Care Reform Act of 2013 was designed to increase competition among providers by taking down state line barriers for health insurance, creating price transparency, tax equity between individual and employer plans, and liberalizing health savings accounts. It would create large buying co-ops for small businesses, and form strong high risk pools among other mechanisms to deal with pre-existing illness.[76]

The ACA sharply restricted the use of health savings accounts, though they had been popular since their inception in 2003.[77][78] In 2013, Congressman Fleming introduced Helping Save Americans' Health Care Choices Act, an expansion of health savings accounts in healthcare policy. Health savings accounts function to allow pre-taxed savings to be used to bridge the cost of deductible and co-payment gaps in healthcare purchasing.[79] Much of it was incorporated into the American Health Care Reform Act of 2013. It was introduced again in 2015 by the title of HSA Health Care Choices Act of 2015.[80]

Tax cuts and increases[edit]

The Bush tax cuts enacted in 2001 and 2003 could not be made permanent because they were passed under Budget Reconciliation. They expired in 2010 but were renewed temporarily for two years through the bipartisan compromise Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act of 2010. This led to the eventual passage of the President Obama's Proposed Plan to Increase Taxes which kept taxes low on lower income earners but raised taxes above the Bush Tax Cuts rate on small businesses and higher earners. Congressman Fleming was outspoken on the subject supporting tax cuts for all Americans. He agreed with many economists who said tax increases would damage the economy and jobs, and that federal taxes and spending should be cut to achieve a faster American economic growth rate.[81][82]

In a September 19, 2011, interview on MSNBC in which Fleming was critical of President Obama's proposed plan to increase taxes, he was questioned about the reported $6.3 million of gross revenues his private restaurant company received the previous year. Fleming responded to host Chris Jansing by saying, "that's before you pay 500 employees, you pay rent, you pay equipment, and food” (business overhead); "the actual net income was a mere fraction of that...It is more like $600,000 of that $6.3 million...So by the time I feed my family I have, maybe $400,000 left over to invest in new locations, upgrade my locations, buy more equipment."[83] When Jansing asked Fleming if he thought the "average person" might be unsympathetic to Fleming's position, Fleming responded, "Class warfare never created a job...This is not about attacking people who make certain incomes. You know in this country, most people feel that being successful in their business is a virtue, not a vice, and once we begin to identify it as a vice, this country is going down."[84]

Fleming's remarks were widely reported and resulted in considerable commentary. Bruce Alpert, of Louisiana newspaper The Times-Picayune, reported that "on liberal blogs, Fleming was portrayed as insensitive to millions of working Americans who are struggling to meet expenses in the face of high unemployment and stagnant wages."[84] Conservative sources including Bill O'Reilly and the Drudge Report defended Fleming's remarks. Josh Beavers, publisher of the Minden Press-Herald in Fleming's hometown, wrote an editorial which stated, "[Fleming's] sentiment was only that the more taxes he pays the fewer people he can employ. High taxes on business owners thwart economic activity."[84][85][86]

Activities in Congress that Fleming led[edit]

Co-founder of the House Freedom Caucus[edit]

Fleming, and his fellow congressional Republicans, began the 111th Congress in 2009 with Democrats attaining a supermajority in the House and Senate, and the Presidency. In reaction to a series of progressive bills enacted into law including the Stimulus bill, the Affordable Care Act, and the Dodd-Frank Act; conservatives across America created a number of local activist groups, collectively called the Tea Party Movement. Republicans in the House and their supporters became determined to regain the House to stop the sudden progressive shift in federal government policy. Republican House members, led by then House Minority Leader John Boehner, created the Pledge to America that outlined a platform to reverse the growth in government spending as well as to repeal the Affordable Care Act, the Dodd-Frank Act and other items. During the 2010 elections, many House Republican candidates ran on the Pledge to America platform with enthusiastic support from the Tea Party Movement. The 2010 election year ended with Republicans taking the majority by winning 63 seats from Democrats.[87][88][89]

The high expectations of conservative constituents of Republican House members, generally, and Speaker John Boehner, particularly; led to conflict and division among House members. A number of conservative members from within the House Republican Study Committee, began to resist initiatives led by Speaker Boehner when he appeared to be overly cooperative (in the view of conservatives) with House Democrats and President Obama on issues like taxes, the Affordable Care Act and illegal immigration and appeared to be not committed to the Pledge to America. When Speaker Boehner was reluctantly forced by conservative members to lead a shutdown of the federal government over the implementation and funding of the Affordable Care Act, John Boehner began to retaliate against individual Republican members who were critical of Boehner and the rest of the House leadership for not adequately (in the view of conservatives) resisting the progressive policies of President Obama and congressional Democrats. Retaliations ranged from removing House members from congressional committees and positions of committee leadership, to supporting Republican primary candidates to oppose them. Also, the Republican Study Committee, through its open policy to all Republican members (growing to over 170 members), transitioned from a smaller conservative group to one that aligned itself with the more establishment-oriented policies of Speaker Boehner.[90][91][92][93]

In January 2015, feeling that the Republican Study Committee had become too establishment-aligned and insufficiently conservative, and citing Speaker Boehner's continued political battle against conservative members; nine House members came together in a series of meetings to consider and ultimately create a more nimble, consistently conservative group consisting of approximately 40 conservative House members. They formed an official congressional caucus and named it the House Freedom Caucus. Congressman Fleming of Louisiana was among the nine founding members.[94] Once fully organized, the House Freedom Caucus began to oppose Boehner policies leading to continued divisions and conflicts within the Republican House Conference. In July 2015, Freedom Caucus member, Mark Meadows of North Carolina, without warning; submitted a written motion to vacate the chair (of the Speaker of the House). Though rarely done, it is a privileged motion meaning that any member can submit and trigger a series of parliamentary procedures culminating in a new vote for Speaker of the House.[95][96] The motion accelerated the pressure on Boehner, whose popularity had declined considerably, nationally and among House Republicans in general. Spurred by the timing of the visit to the Capitol by Pope Francis; Speaker Boehner, a devout Catholic, announced his resignation as Speaker and as a member of Congress on September 25, 2017.[97] Fleming, in addition to being among the nine founding members of the House Freedom Caucus, also served on the first Freedom Caucus board of directors and led the effort to impeach the Commissioner of the IRS.[98]

Attempt to impeach the Commissioner of the IRS[edit]

Soon after the Tea Party Movement began in 2009, local and national Tea Party organizations began to complain that the IRS would not approve their applications for tax exempt status, a certification necessary for the viability of nonprofit organizations. In 2013, Lois Lerner, a high level IRS employee, disclosed as Director of Rulings and Agreements in the Exempt Organizations, that the conservative Tea Party organizations were targeted by the IRS to be denied tax exempt status while liberal groups were given the appropriate certifications. This created the appearance that Lerner was using her power in the IRS for political and ideological benefit. Because of the IRS targeting controversy, Lerner was forced to retire and John Koskinen was appointed to replace the acting Commissioner to restore integrity of the IRS.[99]

Investigations into the IRS targeting controversy were held by the House Oversight Committee, chaired by Jason Chaffetz. Koskinen was instructed to protect and turn over all records relating to the controversy. However, under Koskinen, the vast amount of documentation, including computer backup tapes, were destroyed. Chaffetz issued a document to begin impeachment proceedings against Koskinen saying, "he failed to comply with a congressionally issued subpoena, documents were destroyed on his watch, and the public was consistently misled. Impeachment is the appropriate tool to restore public confidence in the IRS and to protect the institutional interests of Congress."[100] However, Republican House leadership did not bring the impeachment to the floor for a vote.[101]

With the support of the House Freedom Caucus, Fleming utilized a rarely-used parliamentary procedure called a privileged motion[102] to force a vote on impeachment of Koskinen. Fleming went to the floor of the House and read the motion on July 13, 2016, after filing it in writing the day before.[103] Though the motion required a vote on impeachment, House leadership and the Freedom Caucus negotiated a compromise for Koskinen to return for an additional hearing to learn more about his actions in the scandal. Koskinen returned, voluntarily, on September 21, 2016, to face an impeachment hearing during which he admitted to his "failings" in getting to the bottom of the IRS targeting controversy.[101][104][105]

Social media to connect with constituents[edit]

As Fleming entered Congress in 2009, use of social media such as Facebook and Twitter emerged as methods for members to connect directly with their constituents. In 2010 the House Republican Conference created the "New Media Challenge" to spur Republican members to acquire more followers. Fleming was awarded first place in both 2010 ad 2011 by his Republican peers.[106]

Work on religion in the military[edit]

Beginning about 2005, critics claimed that Christians in the military caught proselytizing should be court-martialed. Subsequently military members came forward claiming they were being punished by their military superiors for what they viewed as reasonable religious expression, a violation of the First Amendment.[107][108] In June 2013, Fleming sponsored an amendment to the 2014 National Defense Authorization Act requiring the military "to accommodate, except in cases of military necessity, actions and speech, reflecting the conscience, moral principles, or religious beliefs of the member." The amendment drew objections from the White House, with a spokesman saying that commanders need discretion to, "address potentially problematic speech and actions within their units" and that the measure would "have a significant adverse effect on good order, discipline, morale and mission accomplishment." The amendment passed with a bipartisan vote by the House Armed Services Committee. A similar measure passed the Senate and compromise language was adopted into the final NDAA signed into law.[109] [110][111]

The Army Chaplain Corps was implemented July 29, 1775, by George Washington, then the general of the Continental Army. Of chaplains Washington said, "Common decency, Sir, in a camp calls for the services of a divine, and which ought not to be dispensed with, altho’ the world should be so uncharitable as to think us void of religion, and incapable of good instructions."[112] By definition a chaplain is a religious minister assigned to a secular institution. During 2013, attempts were made by an atheist to join the military as a chaplain.[113] In July 2013, the U.S. House passed a measure, sponsored by Fleming, that bars the Defense Department from appointing atheist chaplains. Fleming said, "The notion of an atheist chaplain is nonsensical; it's an oxymoron." Democratic Congressman Rob Andrews of New Jersey said that it was "wrong" to tell an irreligious service member that they "must go to a mental health professional in order to receive counseling, rather than someone who comes from their philosophical faith or tradition."[114] Fleming ended the debate by saying, "an atheist chaplain is the last person in the world that a dying soldier should meet with when they need that last moment of counseling in their life." The amendment passed into the 2014 House DOD appropriations bill[115]

Long Range Strike Caucus[edit]

In 2009 Fleming stood up and co-chaired this bipartisan congressional caucus to "sustain both the land- and sea-based long range strike capabilities."[116]

Congressional Addiction, Treatment and Recovery Caucus[edit]

Fleming, based on his training, experience and interest, was the Republican co-chair of this bipartisan congressional caucus that promotes addiction treatment and prevention.[117]

House Values Action Team (VAT)[edit]

Fleming served as co-chair of VAT, a House caucus, that met regularly with interest groups in support of legislation and court decisions that are pro-life and pro-traditional family.[118][119]

2012 abortion post[edit]

In 2012, Fleming attracted attention for sharing an article from the satirical news source The Onion (titled "Planned Parenthood Opens $8 Billion Abortionplex") with his Facebook followers with the apparently sincere message, "More on Planned Parenthood, abortion by wholesale". He deleted the post after commenters highlighted the article's satirical nature.[120][121][122][123]

Budget Control Act of 2011 and budget sequestration of 2013[edit]

After Republicans took control of the United States House of Representatives In 2011, a debate emerged over how to bring deficit spending under control after it ballooned to over $1.3 trillion annually from 2009-2011.[124] A compromise deal was struck, called the Budget Control Act of 2011, between Republican Speaker John Boehner and President Obama that would create a bipartisan and bicameral "super committee" in Congress to decide how to equitably lower discretionary spending. According to the act, automatic and substantial cuts would be made to both national defense and non-defense discretionary spending in the federal budget if the committee did not come to an agreement to specific and targeted budget cuts. The "super committee" could not come to an agreement leading to the automatic cuts to national defense and domestic spending. Fleming opposed and voted against the Budget Control Act of 2011 as he feared it would ultimately lead to devastating cuts to national defense, which it did.[125][126][127][128][129]

Fleming was quoted in Forbes as saying:"Republicans in general, we desperately want a reduction in spending to get government back into balance. We would rather take some cuts in areas that we are not comfortable with than have no cuts at all."[130] Forbes noted that Fleming's district includes Barksdale Air Force Base and Fort Polk, both major military installations.[130] At a discussion in February 2013 in DeRidder; Fleming, a military veteran, stated he would not vote to allow the government to cut $600 million from the defense budget.[131] Fleming was well-known to be a supporter of the military and its personnel and the need to reverse the devastating cuts since the Budget Control Act of 2011 was implemented.[132][133][134] He was quoted as saying, “One way my service in the military changes the way I do my job is that I understand our next conflict is not a matter of ‘if’ but ‘when,’ and that we need to equip our military with the resources and tools they need to protect our nation at home and abroad.”[135][136] Fleming voted against the Budget Control Act of 2011,[137] that caused the automatic budget sequestration in March 2013. On November 21, 2011, Fleming criticized the Budget Control Act because of what he called "devastating cuts to military spending."[138]

On June 12, 2017, the newly confirmed Secretary of Defense, Jim Mattis, said of Sequestration, "(he) was 'shocked' upon his return to the Pentagon by the poor state of the U.S. military's readiness for combat." He was further quoted as saying, "(DoD) needs years to correct effects of Sequestration."[139][140]

Political positions[edit]

Abortion[edit]

Fleming was a staunch advocate in protecting unborn human life. He voted against taxpayer funding of abortion through the Affordable Care Act, Planned Parenthood and other programs that fund abortion through federal tax dollars. He opposed the use of abortion to choose sex, gender, color or race of the child, or the race of a parent.[141]

Religious liberty[edit]

In support of religious liberty and right of conscience, Fleming supported the company, Hobby Lobby, in its position to refuse to fund, through its healthcare insurance program, abortion or abortifacients for its employees under the Affordable Care Act. The Supreme Court of the United States ultimately ruled in favor of Hobby Lobby. He also opposed military sanctions against its members for openly expressing religious views.[141][110][111]

Opposition to same-sex marriage[edit]

In 2012, before the Obergefell v. Hodges Supreme Court decision, Fleming condemned a marriage-like ceremony that took place at Fort Polk, Louisiana, between an enlisted woman and civilian woman. (Fort Polk, a U.S. Army base, lies within Fleming's congressional district.) Fleming said that the ceremony "should not have occurred at Fort Polk, especially since the people of Louisiana have made it abundantly clear that our state does not recognize same-sex marriages or civil unions" and characterized the event as part of a "liberal social experiment with our military."[142]

Fleming condemned the Supreme Court's 2015 decision of Obergefell v. Hodges, which found a constitutional right to same-sex marriage. Fleming stated that he was "greatly disappointed" and disagreed with the decision.[143] Fleming was also a co-sponsor of The First Amendment Defense Act, a bill designed to protect religious institutions from being forced to perform marriage or other ceremonies that violate their teachings.[144]

Committee assignments[edit]

Upon his election to the United States House of Representatives, Fleming was assigned to these committees:

Caucus memberships[edit]

See also[edit]

Health and Human Services tenure[edit]

After completing four terms in the United States House of Representatives, Dr. Fleming was appointed Deputy Secretary of Health Technology Reform in Health and Human Services on March 23, 2017, by President Donald Trump. On being appointed, Fleming said, "I just want to be a part of taking down the barriers that are preventing innovation (in healthcare)."[148] During his private medical practice work, Fleming was an early adopter of (EHRs) Electronic Health Records. He implemented his first system in 1997 and said his practice was fully paperless by 1999.[149] He was assigned, primarily, to the Office of the National Coordinator, an agency within HHS. Fleming noted that for years after implementing his EHR, adoption rates of EHRs among his healthcare colleagues remained low until the implementation of the HITECH Act in 2009 in which around $30 billion in cash incentives were used to encourage health professionals to purchase EHRs. He reported that by 2017 adoption rates among hospitals was over 95% and over 85% among physician offices.[150]

Fleming has been a strong advocate of technology innovation and believes "the future of healthcare technology is tied to two core goals: improving the usability of health IT systems and interoperability." He also stated that interoperability "would be sparked by every American having a single, unified health record that resides in the cloud." He lamented the problems with the current fractionated nature of EHRs being disbursed among a myriad of healthcare providers tends to defeat the purpose of information technology to improve access to medical information and healthcare in general.[150][151]

Related to technology, Fleming advocated (ACOs) accountable care organizations as a method to streamline healthcare purchasing instead of the traditional fee for service system still mostly used today. Of fee for service Fleming said, “If you’re paying for service, you'll get service, whether the outcomes are good or not.” He has supported the need to produce and use data to improve the quality and cost effectiveness of healthcare as evidenced by the statement, “how do you pay for outcomes without good data? We need better methods for getting data into the system and delivering it to you, and we’re working on doing that. There is a good marriage between pay-for-value and data”.[150]

References[edit]

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External links[edit]

U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
Jim McCrery
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Louisiana's 4th congressional district

2009–2017
Succeeded by
Mike Johnson