Two Years of Accomplishments
When the 114th Congress began its session in January of 2015, many Americans had concerns about the direction of our nation, and the job approval of their Congressional leaders was appropriately low. After so many years of onerous executive overreach, House Republicans faced many challenges in the fight to block President Obama’s liberal agenda. There were many times that House Republicans have come close to making common sense conservative progress, only to be shot down by the president’s veto pen. Fortunately, our vision to help America get back to the agenda of opportunity and independence finally has a real chance to come true. We have much to be proud of from the 114th Congress, and I hope we can continue this trend through the leadership of the new Trump Administration.
One of the first pieces of crucial legislation passed through the House in the 114th Congress was H.R. 2, the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA). This legislation permanently replaced the Medicare Sustainable Growth Rate that threatened providers’ reimbursement rates almost yearly since its inception. Instead of an arbitrary system of price controls which Congress waived yearly, the new payment reforms in MACRA should make meaningful changes so that providers are fairly reimbursed. While much more needs to be done to control the explosion of healthcare costs, it should not be done in a way that discourages our providers from caring for those most in need.
Congress has a fundamental obligation to our military and supporting them should be a bipartisan endeavor. That’s why one of our most successful pieces of legislation helped renew our commitment to our veterans. We passed the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act last year, as well as the Veterans Entrepreneurship Act of 2015. Both of these bills help our veterans tremendously to ensure they have the resources they need for mental health care, and to give them the assistance they need in the next chapter of their lives. We’ve also passed numerous Veterans Affairs reform bills to address the mismanagement and abuses at the Department of Veterans Affairs. I am confident that our promise to improve the lives of our nation’s veterans will continue and expand into the coming four years.
For both years of the session, we overwhelmingly passed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which authorizes funding for the Department of Defense and our overseas military programs. Included in these two bills were provisions to continue healthcare programs for our service members and their families, pay increases for service members, support for programs fighting ISIS in the Middle East, and much more. The NDAA has been passed consistently for the past 54 years, and we don’t plan to stop. This is essential legislation for out nation’s well-being. In fact, the calls to cut military funding in the 2011 Budget Control Act have been forestalled by finding savings elsewhere in the budget.
Last year, we passed all twelve spending bills out of the Appropriations Committees in both chambers – something that hadn’t been done since 2009. Subsequently, we passed an Omnibus bill, which funded the government for Fiscal Year 2016. Unfortunately, this year we were unable to pass any appropriations bills through the full Congress and had to instead rely upon a Continuing Resolution.
There were a few silver linings in passing the Continuing Resolution in the sense that it maintained the Visa Waiver Program reform, with strengthened security protocols and denied visa waiver status for anyone who has traveled to terrorist hot spots like Syria, Iran or Iraq. Further, the Continuing Resolution maintained the prevention of any Guantanamo detainees to American soil. And ultimately, we were did the more responsible action by continuing to keep our government’s doors open, instead of shutting down the government over tedious provisions in our funding bills.
In 2015, the House produced sweeping reforms to our education and transportation systems. The Every Child Succeeds Act, or ESEA, was passed to repeal the shortfalls of No Child Left Behind, and reduced the federal government’s role in our schools. Ultimately, this legislation put the states back in control of education policy, and gave parents greater latitude to direct the education of their own children.
Additionally, Congress passed the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, the first federal law since 2005 to provide long-term funding certainty for surface transportation infrastructure planning and investment. This includes but is not limited to federal highway projects. Oklahoma’s surface transportation programs will be apportioned an estimated $3.36 billion between FY2016-FY2020.
In the last weeks of this congressional session, we achieved major milestones in looking to future innovation in the bio-medical field. We passed the 21st Century Cures Act, a comprehensive bill to help our healthcare agencies adapt to changes and improvements in the industry. This bill will help the National Institutes of Health, which I’ve had the opportunity to work with through the subcommittee I chair, by helping with research initiatives finding cures for some of the most devastating diseases. It will also improve the FDA drug approval process.
We were expeditious in passing S. 612, the Waters Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) Act. This bill would authorize appropriations for numerous water infrastructure projects, natural resources projects, settlements and much more. Most importantly, it would finalize the Oklahoma Water Rights Settlement Act between the Chickasaws, Choctaws, the State of Oklahoma and the city of Oklahoma City. Among other projects, this bill is an excellent example of how future settlements could be resolved, and it created important changes for our nation’s most contentious water issues.
The 114th Congress was a session that answered the call for change from both sides of the aisle. And with a new era of leadership both in Congress and in the White House, we have a real opportunity to continue the call for change. I am hopeful and confident that the next Congressional session will be just as productive, if not more.