Looking ahead to new congress

Published 7:00 am Thursday, November 17, 2016

Americans voted for change by electing Donald J. Trump as the next President of the United States.

They also chose to keep the House and Senate under Republican leadership. For the past two years, Republicans have worked to pass bipartisan legislation that offers practical solutions to some of the country’s most pressing needs. The 115th Congress will have the opportunity to add to this record of achievement. There is plenty of work to be done, and the American people expect us to deliver on the mandate from Election Day.

The next Congress should continue the practice of “regular order” to ensure deliberative policymaking.

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When bills receive the proper debate in committee, lawmakers can put forward the concerns of the American people. The same goes for voting on amendments on the Senate floor – a rarity when the Senate was under the control of Sen. Harry Reid but now routine under Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

The 114th Congress achieved highway reform, made investments in water infrastructure, improved airport security, instituted better care for our veterans, provided more flexibility for states to educate our children, and secured tax relief, to name just a few of the bills that were signed into law. Here are a few other priorities on our to-do list:

Repeal and replace Obamacare.

As open enrollment began earlier this month, many Americans faced dramatically higher monthly insurance premiums for their health-care plans.

Premiums are expected to go up by an average of 25 percent next year. Instead, market-driven policies should lower costs and offer patients more choices and flexibility.

Spur medical innovation. Congress has been working on legislation that would support cutting-edge medical research and drug treatments. The House has already passed its version, known as the “21st Century Cures Act.” I hope the Senate will approve a similar innovation package that incorporates policies I have introduced to fight Alzheimer’s. Meanwhile, telehealth is revolutionizing the health-care system, with Mississippi as a nationally recognized leader in this area.

I have introduced a bill to expand telehealth services through Medicare, building on our state’s successes.

Focus on national security. In June, the Senate passed the defense authorization bill, an annual blueprint for our military leaders that outlines the resources our troops need.

Approving the defense bill on a bipartisan basis has been a tradition for more than half a century, and its completion in the coming weeks is important to supporting our military’s preparedness to face complex and emerging global threats.

Keeping discretionary spending in check. Republicans have adhered to budgetary caps on discretionary spending in an effort to curb the national debt, which is barreling toward $20 trillion. An annual appropriations process is part of this financial responsibility.

Mississippi’s Thad Cochran is poised to continue as the chairman of the Appropriations Committee for the next two years, and his leadership will be instrumental to ensuring that lawmakers follow through on our commitment to reducing spending.

Americans expect their elected lawmakers to listen to their concerns and find solutions.

This is a pivotal moment for the new Congress and President-elect Trump to focus on what the country needs and build on the accomplishments that have been made.

By U.S. Senator Roger Wicker