With new leadership in the House of Representatives and an important return to regular order and a more inclusive process, the first Republican-controlled Congress in nine years ended 2015 by passing a number of substantial legislative achievements and conservative reforms that will benefit the American economy and the American people. More importantly, these legislative achievements were signed into law by a President who threatened to block much of this important progress.
By breaking the gridlock, the Republican Congress passed a long-term highway funding bill for the first time in a decade that will strengthen our economy and provide states long-term certainty and flexibility for much-needed infrastructure projects. By advancing Republican principles and ideas, the government’s 40-year-old ban on crude oil exports will be lifted, creating jobs here at home and shifting energy dependence of emerging democracies away from bad actors like Russia and Iran.
This year, the Republican Congress passed the first significant reform to Medicare that will strengthen and save this important program for current and future recipients, all without raising taxes. This legislation signed into law by the President repeals the flawed Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) physician reimbursement formula and replaces it with a system that brings stability to doctors who treat Medicare recipients. Since 2003, Congress has spent nearly $170 billion on 17 short-term patches to this unsound formula. Year-after-year, the SGR proposes increasingly steeper cuts to Medicare physician reimbursements, even though health care costs continue to climb. These cuts detrimentally reduce seniors’ access to their doctors, but the reforms we passed contain the first real, structural entitlement improvements in nearly two decades. By replacing the defective SGR physician reimbursement system, we are able to provide stability for seniors and their doctors for years to come.
Within the past two months, this Republican Congress passed the most substantial education reform in 25 years that replaces No Child Left Behind and returns power over education decisions back to the states, local governments and parents. Additionally, this Republican Congress twice passed the robust National Defense Authorization Act, which provides the resources necessary for military operations in the age of ISIS and Russian aggression and ensures our brave and selfless men and women in uniform are compensated for their services and sacrifices. Additionally, this legislation upheld the important prohibition on closing and transferring Guantanamo Bay terrorists to our homeland.
This Republican Congress also passed an Omnibus funding bill that increases funding for our military, veterans, and national security as a whole. It also provides certainty of funding through the 2016 Fiscal Year, and further strengthens our national security by tightening requirements under our Visa Waiver Program to combat potential threats on American soil. This legislation also substantially increases funding to secure our borders.
For the past 15 years, conservatives in Congress have been advocating for legislation to provide more long-term tax certainty for businesses, job creators and families that will help grow the economy. Recently, the Republican Congress sent a bill to the President that will do exactly that. This legislation was signed into law as a provision of the recent Omnibus funding bill and will make a number of temporary tax provisions permanent, and will help American taxpayers and job-creators keep more of their hard-earned dollars. Additionally, this legislation will help rein in the improper actions of the Internal Revenue Service.
This year, the Republican House passed multiple bills to help our honorable and courageous veterans. Besides providing for additional funding for veterans by nearly 10 percent, the House laid ground work to ensure Veterans receive increased and timely access to care and to make it easier to hold the VA accountable for misconduct and to fire and remove VA employees who are underperforming.
In the wake of the recent horrifying terrorist attacks on our homeland and abroad, Congress has quickly pushed through several measures to better protect our country and force the president to stop downplaying the threat ISIS poses and call its followers exactly what they are—radical jihadists. For example, the House passed the SAFE Act, which puts in place the most robust national security-vetting process in history for any refugee population and gives the American people the assurances needed that we will do everything possible to prevent terrorists and foreign fighters from reaching our shores. My colleagues and I have no greater responsibility than to provide for our national defense and the safety of our citizens. I implore President Obama to join us in this fight to better protect our nation, as well as Americans both at home and overseas.
Moving forward in the New Year, this Republican Congress will continue to offer solutions on behalf of American families. For example, we will send the first repeal bill of Obamacare to the president’s desk for his signature. Similar to the president’s veto of the Keystone XL Pipeline legislation earlier this year, a veto of this bill will force President Obama to explain to the American people why he chooses to ignore their concerns, especially regarding something as personal as one’s healthcare.
While a repeal of Obamacare has been something I have fought for since being elected more than five years ago, we have been hamstrung by Senate procedures that allowed Democrats to filibuster the consideration of this long overdue repeal. Fortunately, with the new Republican majority in the Senate, this repeal will finally reach the president’s desk. This legislation, which has already passed both chambers and now awaits final approval from the House, dismantles the broken laws and promises of Obamacare, ensures taxpayer dollars are not used to fund abortion providers, and repeals individual and employer mandates that stifle medical innovation and cost jobs. But we as Republicans will not stop there. We cannot simply be the party of repeal. We must offer solutions to return health care decisions from federal bureaucrats to Americans and their physicians.
Additionally, the Republican House passed, and will continue to pass, legislation to hold the president accountable for his overreaching actions, including his immigration executive order and the secret side agreements with Iran pertaining to the failure of the Iran nuclear deal that puts American lives in danger and gives Iran direct access to a nuclear bomb. In the New Year, we must also pass comprehensive tax reform. If we are to ensure the growth of our economy, we must take action to lower the world’s highest corporate tax rate and create a more fair tax system that increases revenues, expands businesses, and is centered around hardworking Americans.
As a representative from Florida, a significant concern held by many of my neighbors revolves around the broken National Flood Insurance Program and the rising costs of this federal program for families and businesses across the country. In the coming year, I will urge my colleagues to join me in passing legislation I have introduced that will expand the private flood insurance market and create competition to drive down the price of flood insurance and reduce this burden on families and small businesses in our communities throughout the country.
Through a more open and transparent process in the New Year, voters will have a clear choice of what kind of country they want to have in the 21st century come this 2016 election cycle. For far too long, there has been a clamor across our nation for strong, conservative leadership, and we have recently been given the opportunity to better provide the American people exactly what they want—representation.
With the changes in House leadership, we have been able to refocus the future of the Republican Party. We must keep this momentum going if we are to accurately represent the voices of those who put their trust in us and sent us to Washington to change the way our government operates, to advance strong conservative legislation that empowers the American people to thrive, instills fiscally-responsible values, and promotes long-standing traditions and freedoms granted to us by our Constitution.
Finally, the Senate Democrat leader has finally promised to stop blocking the appropriations process in the upcoming year. This is important, and will allow Congress to finally return to regular order, allowing input from Members across the country who are voicing the concerns of their constituents. We plan to begin the appropriations process early nest year so that we can consider all 12 appropriations funding bills through an open process—the way our Founders intended Congress to function in the first place. This process will provide Americans a greater voice in the political process and removes the large power held by a few individuals on Capitol Hill.
Continuing to move to regular order in the House of Representatives will allow for this to happen because members of Congress from across the country will be engaged, included, and more responsive to their constituents. This will result in policies being more thoughtfully debated and considered well in advance of deadlines. Ultimately, hardworking Americans want government to function in a deliberate, transparent manner, not rushing from deadline-to-deadline. I have faith House Republicans will emerge in 2016 a more unified conservative party, and I have no doubt vision, inclusivity and leadership will prevail.
Part of the House leadership as senior deputy majority whip, U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross, R-Fla., was first elected to Congress in 2010.