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New Year, New Promises

January 2, 2017
Weekly Columns

This week the 115th Congress will be sworn in and will immediately be faced with a host of challenges and opportunities. I am honored to serve another term as the Representative for the Fourth District of Oklahoma. When I was first elected in 2002, I was proud to serve with a Republican Administration and in the majority party in Congress. Six years later my party was the minority party and the United States had elected a Democratic president. In November 2016, the voters elected a Republican president and Republican majorities in both houses of Congress.  And while the margins were close, it still remains apparent that the voters gave their stamp of approval to the policies and principles articulated by the Republican party.  After eight years of loyal opposition, we now have the opportunity to put our ideas into action.

I support President-Elect Trump’s plans to reform many facets of our government, and I plan to continue honoring the priorities for the Fourth District. This past Congress, my staff and I proposed policies to help with natural disaster relief and tribal relations. The Tornado Safety Act of 2015 would allow the Small Business Administration to provide loans to construct storm shelters and safety rooms for protection against tornadoes. This bill did not make it to the House floor, and it is my hope to ensure its passage in this Congress. Additionally, we’ve been able to address the changing needs of our nation’s tribes, especially in Oklahoma. We passed several pieces of legislation to honor the fundamentals of tribal sovereignty and property rights. As the co-chair of the Native American Caucus, these priorities will remain for the 115th Congress.
I was proud to introduce one of the most simple, bipartisan pieces of legislation during this Congressional session. Congressman John Delaney of Maryland’s Sixth District and I realized that something assuredly needed to be done about Social Security reform. We created the idea of a national, bi-partisan commission composed of 13 members from both the Executive and Legislative branches. Appointed by leaders in both parties, any recommendation by the commission must reach a 9 out of 13 vote threshold. And those recommendations must be voted on by Congress. Although this bill did not see past the Committee stage, it has grown in popularity as a serious, potential step to changing our Social Security system. It has a real chance of making a difference, and could truly benefit millions of Americans.
In this past Congressional session, I was privileged to serve as the Chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services and Other Related Agencies. From working with the National Institutes of Health to the Department of Education, I had the opportunity to hear and witness the pressing issues that many Americans value the most. Further, it is comforting to know that our nation’s federal dollars are going toward helping fight critical diseases, improving educational programs, reforming labor issues, and much more. I cut spending on ineffective programs, and then redirected those dollars‎ to achieve major increases in spending on biomedical research, early childhood education and additional support to help disadvantaged students reach and succeed in college. These programs are critical to ensuring a positive and secure future for Americans of all ages. The Appropriations Committee in this next Congress is committed to ensuring that our government’s dollars are distributed efficiently, and that all appropriations bills will be passed on the House floor for the next fiscal year.

We are sure to see many changes in this coming year, under the new Trump Administration. Rest assured, the new promises, policies and proposals will give Americans more opportunity for independence and less government intrusion. The work has already started and the slate has been cleaned. I’m looking forward to a productive year working with my colleagues in both the executive branch and on the floor of the House of Representatives to put America back on track and make it great again.