The 111th Congress finally concluded yesterday, ending two years of the most expensive and controversial legislative calendar in decades. Over the course of two years, Democratic leadership rammed through a $787 billion stimulus bill, held a special session that brought a $26.1 billion federal bailout for states, and passed a government takeover of health care. Congress should have ended weeks ago; however the lame duck session provided Democrats with a final opportunity to push their agenda on the American people. In the final hour, there were several legislative items that came up for a vote:
• The Tax Bill Compromise: Behind closed doors, the Obama administration and Senate Republicans morphed a deal that simply was not good for moving America forward. The bill has an estate tax provision that will be set at thirty-five percent and will expire in two years. Unfortunately, it also contained additional spending such as extending unemployment benefits for thirteen months, providing ethanol subsidies, and making $11 billion available in energy tax breaks. While I agreed with parts of the bill – such as extending the 2001 and 2003 tax policy – I believe it’s more important for Congress to stop voting on short-term fixes, and on legislation that has unreasonable spending.
• Food Safety Modernization Act: While I support increasing the inspection of imported foods, I am highly concerned with expanding the FDA’s oversight over domestic production. The bill that did pass will cost more than $1.4 billion over the next five years. I am concerned that the current entities who deal with food and product safety do not have the resources or structural organization to protect consumers from these dangers. For years I have been frustrated with Democratic leadership holding hearings only after food safety issues arise. I have been and will continue to press for this to change. With Republicans taking the majority I believe we should be proactive and address these concerns before safety issues arise.
• 9/11 First Responders: Nine years after the devastating terrorist attack in New York City, Congress passed legislation that will provide assistance to the 9/11 first responders who became ill from working at Ground Zero. It was important for Congress to get this work done, and ensure that those who risked their lives defending our country receive the care they need. It was unfortunate that this wasn’t addressed until the very end of Congress, as there were options for much better policy that would have cost less, but the Democratic leadership squandered those opportunities. I was able to speak on the floor regarding this bill and the mischaracterizations surrounding the legislation.
Due to the lame duck session extending far past what anyone expected, I was unable to travel to Austin to attend the Sunset Commission’s hearing regarding its review of both the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) and the Texas Railroad Commission. I felt it was important that the Commission still hear my concerns on this issue, so I submitted my written testimony for the record. You can read my statement that was submitted by clicking here. Additionally, I have personally spoken with the Chairman of the Sunset Committee regarding my concerns.
The 112th Congress will bring new opportunities, and as a new majority comes into power in the House of Representatives, new priorities will be set and voted on in the next Congress. Last week I was named the Vice Chair on Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health. In this new role I will continue to advocate for health care legislation aimed at reducing health care costs, improving choices, reforming liability laws to put the needs of patients first, and ensuring there are enough doctors in the public and private sector to care for America’s patients. I will continue to put these important issues, and the Medicare physician payment on the front line, and use every resource possible to repeal and replace the disastrous Democratic health care law. In the meantime, I will aggressively push the oversight of the Obama administration’s implementation of the health care overhaul.
For more information on these and other topics, go directly to my web site – http://burgess.house.gov. To view floor speeches, interviews and other video messages from me, please visit my YouTube Channel – www.youtube.com/MichaelCBurgessMD. You can also follow me on Facebook – http://www.facebook.com/MichaelCBurgess – and Twitter – http://twitter.com/MichaelCBurgess. It is an honor to serve you in the United States House of Representatives.
I want to wish everyone a safe and memorable holiday. I hope each of you has a very, Merry Christmas.
Rep. Michael C. Burgess, M.D.