It’s no surprise that Washington, D.C., is largely known for being incredibly unproductive. And with elected officials entrenched in partisan gridlock there’s no reason to expect that to change. However, in 2015, something did change.
When I was elected to Congress, I promised my constituents I would do everything in my power to represent their best interest in Washington and that I would work with everyone, regardless of which political party they belonged to.
While there is still much work to be done, this past year, members of Congress dedicated to truly doing what’s best for their constituents were able to accomplish several items on our national to-do list.
To start the year off, the House of Representatives and the Senate passed a significant Medicare-reform bill that would repeal Medicare’s Sustainable Growth Rate. This new and more-effective system of paying physicians is better focused on quality patient care, value and accountability.
To repair our nation’s crumbling roads, bridges and rail lines, Congress passed the largest transportation package in more than a decade. The five-year package was signed into law and put an end to the long-established pattern of short-term funding bills that fail to allow for planning.
The enactment of Trade Promotion Authority sparked heavy debate among Republicans and Democrats alike. However, since the TPA expired in 2007, our nation has lacked a straightforward and transparent process for the negotiation and consideration of trade agreements between the United States and foreign nations. By implementing the TPA, Congress ensured Americans will continue to have a voice in ongoing and future trade negotiations.
As the father of three children, the compromise made on the re-authorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act is something I am extremely proud of. For the first time since 2002, our nation’s federal education laws were addressed in a comprehensive manner. The legislation will cut the red tape that’s tying the hands of local educators and will give parents and teachers resources and flexibility to ensure every student receives the best education possible.
During the last legislative week of 2015, Congress laid the groundwork for comprehensive tax reform by making several tax breaks aimed at businesses and low-income families permanent. By making these provisions permanent we provide certainty to Americans while simplifying the tax process for all.
That same week, Congress passed a spending bill to keep our government operating. While the package is not perfect, it funded critical aspects of our federal government. The legislation included more than $86 million in funding for Naval Air Station Lemoore, $9 billion for Head Start programs and $1.4 billion in funding for law enforcement programs that will directly benefit local agencies in the Valley.
Not only does the package provide funding, it also reins in federal bureaucracy. For example, the legislation limits the number of employees at the Environmental Protection Agency and restricts the ability of the Internal Revenue Service to regulate political activity by tax-exempt organizations. The spending package also lifted the ban on selling crude oil overseas, a policy that is vital to creating American jobs and providing the United States much-needed foreign policy leverage abroad.
While these accomplishments address a variety of issues affecting our nation, they all were achieved with bipartisan support from Republicans and Democrats. Each was approved by both chambers of Congress and they were all signed into law by President Barack Obama. While true compromise doesn’t always equate to perfection, it does create a more stable, efficient government.
While Congress may have accomplished more in 2015 than the 24-hour news networks would like to convey, it is certain that we have much left to accomplish and no shortage of challenges are ahead.
For example, in 2016 I believe Congress must address major concerns at the Department of Veteran’s Affairs so our veterans receive the care and treatment they deserve. For our Central Valley, water continues to be our most critical concern. And while 2015 has come to a close, the Senate can still act on HR 2898, the water legislation I introduced last year to make more water available to families, farmers and communities in California and bordering states. I remain hopeful that our state’s senators will act on my legislation, or introduce and pass their own water legislation, to bring relief to the millions affected by the drought.
Despite these and many more forthcoming challenges, I believe that when Republicans and Democrats put aside their ideological differences, consider creative solutions, and come together to do what is beset for the American people, true progress can be made.
Rep. David G. Valadao, R-Hanford is a dairy farmer who represents the 21st Congressional District, which includes Kings County and portions of Fresno, Tulare and Kern counties.