Review of 2015: Senate Gets to Work
By U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley
At year’s end, most Americans take stock of the previous 12 months and consider if they met their goals for the year. A review of one’s bank account, pay stub or job status and even a peek at the bathroom scale give folks a pretty good idea if they stayed true to their New Year’s resolutions.
When the 114th Congress gaveled to order this past January, it marked the first time since 2006 that Republicans controlled both the House and Senate. The new leadership vowed to live up to the promises and expectations of the 2014 midterm elections and restore order to the people’s branch.
The U.S. Senate succeeded in breathing life back into the world’s greatest deliberative body. In fact, the Senate held 163 roll call votes on floor amendments, compared to only 18 the previous year. Lawmakers performed oversight, drafted legislation, considered nominations and kept the federal government open for business.
Restoring regular order ought to be considered the rule, not the exception as far as I’m concerned. Considering that public opinion polls rank Congress among the least popular institutions in society, lawmakers are obligated to work towards restoring credibility and fundamental trust in our system of self-government.
An appraisal of the first 12 months of the year reflects promises made and promises kept.
Congress prioritized results that matter and advanced public policies that have substantive consequence on the daily lives of American families.
Three key items that had evaded resolution for years in Washington were advanced by the Republican-led Congress and signed into law this year, including:
· approval of a five-year reauthorization of the federal transportation funding law that eluded bipartisan agreement for years. If there’s one item that gets people animated at town meetings, it’s maintaining reliable roads and bridges. Rural Americans, in particular, typically commute longer distances in their own vehicles and need dependable roads to send and receive goods in the marketplace. The $305 billion agreement gives local and state governments the certainty they need to prioritize and move ahead with local infrastructure projects.
· overhaul of the federal K-12 education law to restore decision-making to state and local educators, parents and teachers. Passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act replaces the top-down interventions that the federal Department of Education prescribed under the previous law known as No Child Left Behind. When the federal bureaucracy in Washington meddles less, neighborhood schools can do more good by identifying and implementing innovative solutions that meet the needs of their students and local communities.
· passage of a long-term fix to a flawed Medicare funding formula that for 17 years caused dire uncertainty for patients and doctors. The Medicare Access and Chip Reauthorization Act improves the reimbursement formula for providers serving Medicare patients. Considering that Medicare serves 531,209 Iowans and spends $4.3 billion per year in the state, fixing problems in the way Medicare reimburses and incentivizes health care providers is a big deal for Iowa.
Looking ahead to 2016, the 114th Congress has even more ground to cover. As chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, I will continue to lead efforts for a balanced budget amendment, civil asset forfeiture reform and press for final passage of my bipartisan sentencing reform and corrections bill and my bill to make improvements to the juvenile justice system.
Other important work will require diligent oversight of the president’s my-way-or-the-highway mindset on immigration policy and prioritizing measures to end sanctuary laws, suspend risky resettlement of Syrian refugees into the United States and fix the nation’s foreign visa programs to protect U.S. workers, taxpayers and national security.
Keeping tabs on the people’s business requires a tenacious appetite to root out wrongdoing and mismanagement throughout the sprawling size and scope of the federal bureaucracy. My sights will be keenly focused on reining in overreach at the Environmental Protection Agency, particularly towards the implementation of the federal rule known as the Waters of the United States.
As an outspoken champion for rural America, whether it comes to roads, renewable energy, agriculture or health care, I stand strong to make sure the needs and challenges facing America’s heartland are heard loud and clear in Washington.
Despite declining gas prices and employment numbers moving in the right direction, too many households are struggling to get ahead and stay ahead. With the high costs of college, prescription medicines and the $19 trillion federal debt looming over the minds of hardworking families, the general mood gripping Americans today is rooted in uncertainty.
That’s even on top of increased concern about terrorism. Not since 9/11 has terrorism registered so high among the concerns of Americans. The terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernadino delivered a stark reminder that the federal government’s number one priority is to protect the safety and security of American citizens.
Looking ahead to the New Year, I am eager to continue working for Iowans and getting feedback from the grassroots when I start my 36th year holding a meeting in each of Iowa’s 99 counties in January.