At the outset of my first year serving in Congress, I laid out three main priorities to focus on in order to help make America prosperous at home and strong abroad while also addressing the unique needs of the 7th Congressional district.
My first priority was to put in place an office that is responsive to the needs of everyone, with a special focus on the needs of our veterans. We cannot solve every problem. No Congressional office can, but we give it our best effort. In just this past year, we have assisted more than 50,000 individuals with their casework needs and other issues – including Veterans and Social Security benefits, last minute passports, etc. Second, I secured a seat on the Transportation & Infrastructure Committee to help address the needs of our beaches, waterways and overall transportation infrastructure. Additionally, I landed a seat on the Agriculture Committee, which I sought because the industry is our number one economic driver. Third, I worked to break our military out of the devastating sequester cuts which have significantly harmed our military readiness, particularly our operations at Fort Bragg and Camp Lejeune.
In all of these areas, success has been achieved, and on the national level there have been major wins that have largely gone unreported. Before I share some of the legislative successes from last year, it’s instructive to understand the legislative process.
When the Democrat Party occupies the White House and the Republican Party has a majority in Congress, we have a divided government. It’s further divided because the President has the upper hand due to the power of the veto – even on spending bills. Though Republicans have 247 members of the House – the most since 1928 – this majority is short of the 290 votes needed to override a veto.
Though Republicans have a majority of the vote with 54 members in the Senate, 6 Democrats must vote with us to reach the magical number of 60 votes, even to bring legislation to the floor. And, in order to override a veto of any bill that the House and Senate have sent to the President’s desk, 67 votes are required. That’s a very tall order in a day and time when our country is very polarized politically.
In spite of these obstacles, Congress has achieved important wins for the benefit of our country this past year. For the first time in 20 years, Congress was able to provide stability and certainty for our doctors and hospitals treating Medicare patients. This instability was one of several reasons many doctors have been turning away new Medicare patients.
For the first time in 5 years, Congress passed a Budget Resolution enabling us to put forward a Budget Reconciliation Bill, which is the only legislative vehicle that allows the U.S. Senate to bypass its 60 vote rule. This Budget Reconciliation Bill included a repeal of major elements of Obamacare and the repeal the hundreds of millions in both discretionary and mandatory spending for Planned Parenthood. This measure was vetoed by the President, but it serves as a great purpose by showing a distinction on the issues.
For the first time in 17 years, Congress passed a fully-funded 5-year highway bill providing state and local transportation leaders and industry the certainty and increased funding necessary to improve our roads, bridges and overall transportation needs in Southeastern North Carolina while also helping to enhance the Port of Wilmington.
On the tax front, Congress made significant headway on tax reform in December by making permanent a number of tax deductions, such as the section 179 deduction, which are incredibly important to our farm families and small businesses.
In December, new law was enacted providing a major boost in funding for our military and care of our veterans. We face the gravest threats we’ve had in the past 50 years, and it is imperative that we provide our men and women in uniform with the funding they need.
That’s also why it was so important to enact law to close the major loop-holes in our visa waiver program which provided a direct route for terrorists to enter our country, no questions asked, as long as they held a passport from any one of the 38 countries participating in that program. In addition, Congress lifted the ban on crude oil exports which will help us regain influence in the Middle East and enable us to be a long-term, dominant player in the oil markets.
Though there is obviously much more that must be done, I am proud of the hard work of my office and the successes that have been accomplished for our district and the country – especially in a very difficult political and governing environment.
Progress of any degree is difficult in a divided government, and the November elections will determine if our government becomes even more divided or more unified. In the meantime, I will continue to push for a smaller government, continue to work to address the unique needs of this district, and promote policies that will help make America prosperous at home and strong abroad.
David Rouzer is a U.S. Congressman representing NC-07, which includes Sampson County.