Friday, August 14, 2015
Billy Long: This is what Congress has achieved this year
Here is a recap of the 114th Congress regarding major legislative achievements and efforts made so far in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Without a doubt, the biggest legislative achievement so far this year is ending the flawed Medicare Sustainable Growth Rate. No longer will Congress have to debate the “doc fix,” as it had 17 times in the past. It was the first real Medicare reform in nearly two decades and gives seniors and Medicare providers a certain fiscal path forward – all without raising taxes. The bill passed the Senate and was signed into law in April.
The House also passed in July a landmark medical innovation bill, the 21st Century Cures Act. It was crafted over the course of a year and a half with patient, doctor and medical researcher insights. It would establish an “Innovation Fund” to provide resources for private partnerships to develop treatments and cures for modern medical conditions. It would make meaningful reforms to outdated regulations governing the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval process for breakthrough medical treatments, which can take up to 15 years to move from research lab to patient. Of the 10,000 known medical conditions, only 500 have treatments. I also authored language in 21st Century Cures that would compel FDA to facilitate communication of accurate, data-driven economic information among the health care system to achieve increased patient access and outcomes. This bill awaits action in the Senate.
In January, the House and Senate passed the Keystone XL Pipeline Approval Act with a bipartisan vote. Unfortunately, the president vetoed the popular legislation and an override attempt failed in the Senate. Keystone would exert North American influence in the global energy market while boosting the American economy. September will mark seven years since TransCanada first applied to build the Keystone XL pipeline and the project still awaits the Obama Administration’s approval.
Among other achievements, the House and Senate agreed on a budget resolution that does not increase taxes, cuts more than $5 trillion in spending and balances the budget in less than a decade. The House also had its earliest start on the appropriations process since 1974 and has passed six appropriations bills in an open process, considering more than 470 amendments. In fact, all 12 appropriations bills have won House Appropriations Committee approval; the remaining six stand ready for floor action.
Two very large issues loom for Congress to tackle in short order. Congress will act on the nuclear deal with Iran in September. The U.S., Israel and our allies cannot afford a bad deal that will still lead to a nuclear nation considered a state sponsor of terrorism. Two prominent Democrats – Sen. Chuck Schumer and Rep. Steve Israel - recently announced their opposition to the Iran Deal. A resolution of disapproval has been filed, and I too intend to disapprove of the deal. Congress should also debate in the coming months a long-term solution for highway and infrastructure funding. Passing a six-year bill will give certainty for infrastructure and safety projects. This has long been a nonpartisan issue – we all agree infrastructure investments create jobs and improve the economy.
It has been a hectic year so far, and I look forward to continuing the record of success during the remainder of the year.