RICK ALLEN: Busy year laid groundwork for productive 2017
By U.S. Rep. Rick Allen
It’s hard to believe my first term in Congress is coming to a close. This year in Congress, I voted over 600 times, had my first piece of legislation pass the House unanimously and gave 65 speeches on the House Floor. While House Republicans were able to stick to their guns and advance conservative priorities—there is still much work to be done.
Without a doubt, one of the most historic and influential pieces of legislation Congress passed this year was the 21st Century Cures Act. This overwhelmingly bipartisan and bicameral legislation was signed into law on December 13, 2016. The Cures Act modernizes our healthcare infrastructure and streamlines cutting-edge research and medicine to deliver hope for patients and their families battling diseases. It will help save lives.
Congress also made headway this year by passing a comprehensive bill to combat the nation's opioid epidemic. This bill was signed into law by the President on July 22, 2016. This legislation was a package that contained numerous bills, including one helping newborns who are born into addiction, creating an interagency task force to recommend new guidelines for pain management and prescribing, and a new substance abuse program within the Department of Justice. The landmark Opioid Bill is just the beginning of a nationwide discussion and action to combat addiction and substance abuse in our cities and communities.
Not only should our healthcare system be brought into the 21st Century, I think most would agree it should be cost-effective and patient-centered. The same cannot be said about Obamacare, which is still negatively affecting Americans with premiums on the rise and unreachable deductibles. I joined my Republican colleagues in a vote to repeal key provisions of Obamacare and defund Planned Parenthood. While the President vetoed our legislation, I was still proud to stand up and be a voice to those I represent.
An issue I consistently hear about back home is national security. National security begins with the preparedness and readiness of our troops. This year, Congress passed the National Defense Authorization Act, annual legislation that authorizes defense spending and sets priorities for America’s military. This year’s NDAA secures the largest pay raise for our troops in six years and strengthens military healthcare. Not only that, but it authorizes over $100 million in military construction for Fort Gordon to ensure finalization of the U.S. Army Cyber Command Complex and maintains prohibition on the closure of Gitmo and transfer of detainees to the U.S.
This year, we saw the President gamble with our national security when he chose to violate longstanding U.S. policy of not paying ransom for prisoners in a $400 million cash ransom transaction to Iran in a prisoner exchange. The House passed legislation to ensure this never happens again. Additionally, we held bad actors accountable and passed new sanction packages for both Iran and North Korea.
Congress has a duty to provide for our veterans, service members and their families. I was proud to vote in favor of the FY2017 Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill to provide for our veterans and military construction projects. With two VA facilities and two Army installations in Georgia-12, including one of the fastest growing bases in the country, Fort Gordon, construction funds are direly needed so our troops can carry out and accomplish their mission.
In addition to protecting our national security, I have also worked hard on the two committees I serve on in Congress. As a Member of the House Education and Workforce Committee I was proud to work to protect our families, students, seniors and workers. This year we championed reforms to help young Americans enter the workforce with tools and knowledge they need to compete for high skilled and in-demand jobs, make students financially aware when it comes to paying for their higher education, protect access to affordable retirement advice, improve support services for seniors and their caregivers, prevent child abuse and neglect and ensure states are meeting current child welfare requirements.
Agriculture is our state’s number one economic driver and I am proud to also serve on the House Agriculture Committee to help those who feed and fuel our nation. This year on the committee we dedicated time to review dozens of programs implemented by the 2014 Farm Bill and look forward to the 115th Congress where we will write a new one. I was also proud to work with my colleagues in getting a cotton farmers gin cost share program. Additionally, we held over 20 hearings and released a new report summarizing our two year findings on nutrition.
This may sound surprising, but 90% of my time in Congress is spent dealing with overreach and overregulation. Despite an Administration that has continuously attempted to legislate outside of reason and job description, the courts have honored the rule of law. I was glad to see the courts strike down the harmful Department of Labor’s overtime rule and protect the rights of workers and employers by permanently blocking the Department of Labor’s “persuader” rule, both of which I have opposed and questioned the Labor Secretary about in committee. The President’s attempt to unilaterally rewrite laws, like pushing his unlawful executive amnesty, was also met with interference from the courts. These instances were all victories for our Constitution—which specifically grants Congress the power to write laws.
I am happy to tell you that I had my first piece of legislation pass the House this year! Tax season is hectic—and Americans should not be further burdened with fear of another Lois Lerner IRS targeting scandal. My legislation protects Americans' constitutional rights by preventing the IRS from intentionally targeting citizens for exercising their First Amendment freedoms. It is disappointing that it takes an act of Congress to remind the IRS the Constitution is the law of the land—and they must abide by it.
Looking toward 2017, I am hopeful. Just last week, the House and Senate voted to pass a short-term spending bill to pave the way for our new administration. This strategy allows time for the next Congress and new administration, under President-elect Trump, to negotiate our spending levels and move our country in a new direction. I look forward to returning to regular order, scaling back federal rules and regulations and growing our economy.
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