Friday, October 16, 2015
Billy Long: Our Congress one of most efficient in history
After the past few weeks of swirling headlines claiming that the House of Representatives is in chaos, most folks are probably worried that we're headed for an unworkable disaster. Sure, the reality is that Republican leadership discussions have taken some unexpected turns in recent weeks and, as always, a lot of Congress' challenges are rooted in the need to overcome gridlock. But, the outlook isn't really so bleak.
The media can talk all day about gridlock, but what most people back home aren't finding out is that this Congress has been one of the most efficient in recent history. On top of that reality is another; the past two Congresses have hailed major accomplishments despite being controlled by separate parties.
While any deficit is too high, it's worth noting that we have cut the annual deficit by more than 60 percent since I came to Congress in 2011. The deficit, which was $1.3 trillion (the highest since 1945) has been slashed as a result of the largest deficit reduction plan in history. Additionally, we're now on a ten year plan to cut government spending by $2.1 trillion, we've protected 99 percent of Americans from permanent tax hikes, and passed myriad reforms to spur economic and job growth.
On top of that, the 114th Congress - when compared to other recent Republican led sessions - has tallied a higher average percentage of bills getting through the committee process, amendments making it to the floor, and bills passed. One of these bills was the Medicare "Doc-Fix," included in "the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act." After 20 years of costly and irresponsible spending "patches," this bill replaced the broken Sustainable Growth Rate formula with a system that immediately began reimbursing Medicare providers fairly, and expanded access for senior beneficiaries. The Congressional Budget Office now says this will result in a net savings - to the tune of about $1 billion - compared to before.
Much of this success has been due in large part to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, which I sit on. Already, our efforts have led to three bills being signed into law and 23 more that have passed the full House. This united effort has led to momentous improvements of our Medicare program for seniors, more accountability within the Environmental Protection Agency, and a package to spur innovation and faster treatment approval in our medical industry.
I have said for a long time now that the Speaker of the House role, when it did come open, was not going to be an easy one to fill. This Congress isn't even at the halfway mark and we still have plenty of work to do. Regardless of how our political climate is perceived, however, this body's record of success gives more reason for optimism than what most television screens show.
We are as prepared to lead as ever and confident that someone who can unite our conference will be elected to carry this momentum. No matter whom that person may be, gridlock is not a new phenomenon. In fact, our founders intended for our system to be this way. Yet, this body has found ways to navigate these differences before, and will continue to do so in the name of our duty to the American people.