— Friday, April 12 marked the 100th day of the new House Democratic majority. In her speech accepting the Speaker’s gavel in January, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi stated, “And I pledge that this Congress will be transparent, bipartisan and unifying; that we will seek to reach across the aisle in this Chamber and across the divisions in this great nation.” Unfortunately, the reality hasn’t matched up to the rhetoric. We have a divided Congress; therefore, we need to be working on a bipartisan basis to make progress for the American people.
For every bill proposed in Congress, there is a process to ensure bills considered on the House floor are properly vetted and perfected, known as “regular order.” The process takes a bill from introduction to the committees that have expertise on particular topics, and then the bills are brought to the House floor. In the first quarter of the 115th Congress, 152 bills were passed through committee and 144 bills were passed out of the House. So far this year we have seen 110 bills considered on the House floor, but only 76 bills have passed committee. This means a significant amount of legislation are bypassing the people who have the most expertise on particular topics, which has led to some bad policies being passed by the House.
Rushing legislation only results in bad policies. A prime example was when a misguided bill passed the House that greatly expanded the waiting period to purchase a firearm. As Chairman of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, I discovered this bill would give government the authority to remove firearms from veterans being evaluated for mental health needs. This could apply to nearly 1.6 million veterans and result in many veterans not seeking health care for fear it will be used as an excuse to prevent them from owning a gun. The chairman of the House Judiciary Committee – which rushed the bill to the floor – has indicated they want to “fix” this problem, but nevertheless insisted on passing this legislation with this language included.
No issue better reflects the lack of bipartisan cooperation than the humanitarian crisis on our southern border, which saw nearly 100,000 apprehensions last month – double the number from March 2018. Speaker Pelosi repeatedly refused to negotiate with President Trump on how to address this crisis. President Trump made a good-faith offer with priorities that appeal to both parties, but Speaker Pelosi has not only failed to negotiate, she fails to acknowledge the massive influx of migrants crossing our border is a cause for concern. This stunning disconnect forced the president to take action and declare a national emergency redirecting previously appropriated funds to continue work on a border barrier. I am proud of the president’s willingness to address this crisis, and I have supported him every step of the way.
Democrats’ top legislative agenda item, H.R. 1, the so-called “For the People Act”, should really be called the “For the Politicians Act” since it is not actually for the people at all. I believe Congress can find a bipartisan campaign reform that benefits the people; however, this legislation does not do that. This bill takes the power away from states to decide election rules; allows taxpayer dollars to fund campaigns; attacks Americans’ right to free speech; and weakens our election system. H.R. 1 negatively affects the people it claims to help – the voters- and is one of the worst pieces of legislation we have voted on since I was first elected to the House.
The majority has largely ignored some of the most pressing issues facing our country in favor of more partisan approaches. Instead of measures to address the cost of prescription drugs or the skyrocketing cost of health insurance, Democrats passed a nonbinding resolution. Instead of working on improving our tax code, Democrats are focused on looking at President Trump’s tax returns. Instead of implementing bipartisan criminal justice reform passed at the end of last Congress, Democrats are frantically searching for evidence of President Trump colluding with Russia. Instead of focusing on improving our national defenses and strengthening America’s role in the world, the new majority is failing to speak out against anti-Semitic comments from their conference members. These are the wrong priorities.
These first 100 days of the Democrat majority has seen too much partisanship and a lack of focus on how to help Americans. It is time this leadership sets aside politics to enact bipartisan solutions.
My door is always open to East Tennesseans and I encourage constituents to continue reaching out to my office to share their views on this important issue with me. Feel free to contact my office if I can be of assistance to you or your family.