Friday, January 09, 2015

Cleaver: Our nation's families deserve a Congress that will listen to them

(From Fifth District Congressman Emanuel Cleaver)

On the first day of the 114th Congress, as family and friends filled the halls of the Capitol, and as returning Members greeted new faces, I was honored and humbled to stand with my colleagues on the House Floor and to affirm my support of our Constitution. Article VI requires all Members of the U.S. Congress to bind ourselves by oath or affirmation to support our founding document. It is not a task I take lightly. I raised my right hand, saying:

I, Emanuel Cleaver, do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.

This year brings change to the halls of Cannon, Longworth, and Rayburn. We face new challenges to solve shared problems, but we have new opportunities to seek and find common ground. I want you to know I am ready and willing to work with my colleagues, both Democrats and Republicans, to get things done. I’m not na├»ve, I know it will be tough. It may be a tooth-and-nail, kicking, screaming and crying, uphill both ways kind of fight—but I owe it to you to try.

Hard-working families in Missouri’s Fifth District and across our nation demand and deserve a Congress that will work for and listen to them. We need to get past the inaction, past our own petty factions, and all the distractions. We have to create jobs, expand opportunity, and strengthen the middle class. At the heart of our agenda should be one simple idea: fairness.

We must be ready to negotiate a balanced plan to grow the economy. We must craft a budget to fund our priorities—good schools for our children, strong law enforcement at home and military abroad, and sufficient Social Security and Medicare as we grow older. We need to reform our confusing, complex tax code. Instead of giving tax breaks to millionaires, the government can offer families tools to help them save and become financially secure. I don’t know about you, but it makes better sense to help the average family buy a home, send their kids to college, and save for a secure retirement, than to give expensive tax breaks to people who, frankly, don’t need them. Let’s put money in the pockets of middle-class families, who drive economic growth and create opportunity for everyone.

We need an opportunity economy that works for everyone. Let's strengthen our financial system so it works fairly for consumers. Let's ensure we have clear and transparent regulation that fosters innovation, safety, and soundness. Let’s embrace innovation to jumpstart new industries, like clean energy. Let’s invest in economic infrastructure, like roads, bridges, and ports. Let’s commit to providing good education to children at every level and training for those who need it, so people can get good jobs.

And let’s waste no time. Let’s get to work caring for and supporting our veterans as they return to civilian life. Let’s make good on our promise to our seniors, including my ninety-two year-old father, who worked hard and paid into the system.

Let’s reform our broken immigration system so we keep families together, protect workers, and allow millions of immigrants to come out of the shadows and work toward citizenship. Let’s chart a new course in our relations with Cuba and further engage and empower the Cuban people.

Let’s keep talking with and learning from each other. And let’s continue working to make the promise of America, the practice of America, this year and the next.

Photo- Congressman Cleaver greets Alan Gross at an event on Capitol Hill. On December 17, 2014, Gross was released from a Cuban prison where he was held for five years. 

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