New Congress looks to jobs, economy as early priorities

Published 7:00 am Thursday, January 8, 2015

Americans voted for change in the midterm elections, voicing their readiness for a new direction in Washington. The new Republican majority is entrusted with following through on this obligation and should work to pass legislation that has a positive impact on Americans’ lives. Instead of expanding the size of government, the focus should be on expanding opportunity for everyone.
The first step is to return the Senate to regular order. Dysfunction has dominated the chamber over the past eight years of Democratic control. Rather than protecting the Senate as a unique legislative institution, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has prevented it from operating as our Founders intended, where members could engage in free and open debate. The practice of lurching from one crisis to the next is no way to run a government. I am encouraged by incoming Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) commitment to restoring the traditions of the Senate, including the open amendment process.
Focusing on Pro-Growth Legislation
Leader McConnell has already announced that the Keystone XL pipeline will be among the Senate’s first legislative items in 2015. The private-sector infrastructure project, which has substantial bipartisan support, has been awaiting approval from the Obama Administration for six years, despite clearing multiple environmental reviews. It is a major jobs win, putting tens of thousands of Americans back to work. The pipeline also promises to pump more North American energy into the world market.
Like Keystone XL, a number of other job-creating ideas are ready for action. Dozens of pro-growth bills were passed by the Republican-controlled House of Representatives during the 113th Congress. Instead of being stifled by Senate Democrats, they now have an opportunity to go to the President’s desk to become law.
The Republican majority also has an opportunity to reverse some of the most harmful elements of the President’s health-care law. Obamacare’s burdensome mandates continue to drag down the economy and have negatively affected thousands of Mississippians. Although President Obama has threatened to veto a repeal of the entire law, there are components ripe for overturning, including the costly medical device tax.
Holding the Administration Accountable
In keeping with the Constitution’s checks and balances, Congress is responsible for overseeing the executive branch and the implementation of federal policy. The President has repeatedly tried to usurp this legislative authority with executive action, unilaterally advancing his agenda on immigration and the environment, to name just a few. The recent proposal by the Environmental Protection Agency to change the standards for ground-level ozone has been called the most expensive rule to date.
Congress should do its part to rein in executive overreach through the appropriations process and oversight hearings, as well as legislation that offers solutions to the most pressing issues of the day.
I look forward to continuing my work on the Senate Armed Services Committee; the Budget Committee; the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee; and the Environmental and Public Works Committee.
I will also join the Rules Committee, which handles Senate rules and regulations, in addition to federal election law.
The American people have given the Republican Party the majority in Congress for the next two years.
This is a solemn responsibility and deserves constructive policymaking with practical results.

By Senator Roger Wicker

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