By U.S. Representative Bradley Byrne (A-1)
2014 was a year of progress for Southwest Alabama, but it certainly didn’t come without its challenges. With that chapter in our history books officially closed, all eyes now turn to see just what 2015 has in store for us.
When the 114th Congress convenes this week in Washington, there will be a multitude of issues on the agenda. The midterm elections clearly altered the landscape in Congress with Republicans now holding our largest majority in the House since Herbert Hoover was President. In the Senate, Republicans will take control of the body for the first time since 2007.
The addition of a Republican-controlled Senate is certainly good news, but it won’t be a silver bullet for enacting conservative reforms. President Obama is still in the White House, and he has made clear he intends to aggressively use his veto power. Also, passing major legislation in the Senate requires a 60-vote threshold, and Republicans will only control 54 seats. This means we must act deliberately and strategically as we work to move our pro-growth agenda.
At the top of the agenda should be efforts to rein in the Obama administration’s regulatory overreach, which is stifling job creation. From energy regulations to new tax requirements, reports indicate President Obama has issued almost 21,000 new regulations in his presidency, with more expected this year. Republicans must stand up to this regulatory overreach using a variety of tools at our disposal.
A great example of one of our tools is “the power of the purse.” We used this tool in the government-funding bill, which became law in December. The bill cut funding for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Obama administration’s favorite regulator, by $60 million. This cut marked a 21% reduction in the EPA’s budget since fiscal year 2010 and a decrease in roughly 2,000 positions at the agency. The funding bill also made similar cuts to the Internal Revenue Service, another major Obama regulator.
Yet another area that should be at the top of the agenda is dismantling ObamaCare. I have made clear my opposition to this law, which is driving up costs and reducing health care access for American families. While I continue to support a full repeal of the law, I will be supportive of measures that repeal key pieces and regulations associated with the law.
In fact, the first major piece of legislation up for consideration in the House in 2015 is H.R. 3474, the Hire More Heroes Act. This legislation overrules ObamaCare’s employer mandate for veteran employees who have health coverage through the Department of Defense or the VA. It is this kind of commonsense solution that should be the focus of the new Congress.
I will also make it a priority to stand up against President Obama’s continued executive action on everything ranging from immigration to Cuba. We must restore the balance of power in Washington and send a clear message that the President must abandon his “my way or the highway” strategy and instead work with Republicans in Congress. One thing we know for sure: There will be a major debate early this year on President Obama’s attempt to provide amnesty to thousands of illegal immigrants. I look forward to that debate.
I will continue to make local issues my top priority. I am hopeful the House will act in 2015 on the reauthorization of the Manguson-Stevens Act, which is the primary law governing marine fisheries management in United States federal waters. Fighting for the more than 4,000 jobs at the Austal shipyard in Mobile will remain a top goal of mine as well. I will also keep pressure on the Federal Highway Administration to keep moving forward on the construction of an I-10 bridge over the Mobile River.
As always, I want your input on how I can best represent Southwest Alabama in Congress. You can always give my office a call or send me an email through my website at Byrne.House.Gov. You can also reach me on Facebook (U.S. Representative Bradley Byrne) and Twitter (@RepByrne).
Together, we will continue to push forward with conservative solutions, which empower individuals to grow and succeed. I look forward to a productive and rewarding 2015.