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Finish the Job

November 28, 2016
Weekly Columns
As the 114th session of Congress begins to come to a close, many people – myself included - lament the time between now and the end of the year, also known as a “lame duck” session. Some believe that nothing should done until the new Congress and new President are sworn into office. Others believe this Congress should finish their jobs by passing a series of appropriations bills that have complied with the Budget Control Act.  Contrary to many of the assumptions that are made about a lame duck session, much of that work has already been done - Congress just needs to complete our responsibility. A lame duck should not be a time where nearly completed bills are simply left unfinished. It’s a time to continue the hard, real work that we started in January of 2015.
 
Perhaps second only to homeland and national security, the most fundamental responsibility of the Congress is to make sure we pass a budget, stick to that budget throughout the appropriations process, and make sure we don’t face yet another government shutdown.
 
A government shutdown is an irresponsible option that should be considered unthinkable, and we must prevent it from happening before December 9th. The easy way to avoid this is to simply pass what is known as a continuing resolution.  Think of it as cruise control or auto pilot.  Each federal agency will get exactly what they received in Fiscal Year 2016. And while that might seem like an acceptable outcome, I fundamentally disagree.  I believe the American voters sent a very clear message on November 8th that the status quo will no longer be acceptable.  Yet that is precisely what a continuing resolution will mean.
 
I believe the majority of voters believe we need to make our armed forces stronger, not to weaken them through sequester.  Many of the people I have visited with in the Fourth District of Oklahoma believe the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Labor – just to name a couple – need to have their wings clipped by reducing the amount we spend on those departments in 2017.  A continuing resolution makes that extremely unlikely.
 
One of the most critical pieces of legislation that will reach President Obama’s desk in a few weeks is the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). For the past 54 years, Congress has consistently passed this fundamental legislation that authorizes funding for our Department of Defense. This year will be no different – this is a must-pass piece of legislation – we must always support our military and defense programs with the funding and training they need. Along with robust funding of over $545 billion for our defense programs and over $9 billion in Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO), Americans need to be reassured that this will in fact happen.
 
I am the Chairman of the Appropriations subcommittee that oversees the Departments of Health and Human Services, Education, and Labor.  This subcommittee spent hundreds of hours taking testimony and touring some of the agencies, like the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control.  The bill we wrote increased funding for these outstanding research facilities, and puts greater investments in things like Alzheimer’s research, fighting cancer and eradicating deadly viruses like Zika – just to name a few.  And this would have been done under the Budget Control Act while simultaneously cutting wasteful spending and reining in some of the more overzealous agencies like the EPA and the U.S. Department of Labor.
 
President Trump deserves to take office with a fully functioning government, strong borders, state of the art bio-research facilities, a strong and effective infrastructure, a military fighting force second to none, and without the looming threat of a government shutdown hanging over his head.  I for one look forward to finishing the job I was elected to do and I am hopeful that the vast majority of my colleagues do as well.