190 Bills Passed, But More Work Remains
By Rep. Kristi Noem
If you read the headlines, it’s difficult not to get frustrated with what’s happening in our country. Almost every day it seems we open the newspaper or turn on the news or scroll through Facebook to read about a new crisis, more gridlock, or greater dysfunction. It makes you wonder what is going on in this country? That’s how I feel sometimes, anyways.
The good news is, however, we aren’t standing idly by. Step by step, we’re getting things done.
At this point, we’re just over halfway through the year. Already, the U.S. House of Representatives has passed 190 bills, far more than the historical average of 125 bills by this point.
The legislative process these bills have undergone has been more open too. Every perspective has had the opportunity to be debated. In fact, the House of Representatives has considered more than 600 amendments, which is double the historical average. The result has been a Congress that is more effective, with 29 bills being enacted into law this year – once again, well above the historical average of 21.
Of course, it’s not all about the numbers. The bills that have become law have been meaningful as well. The Clay Hunt Act aims to prevent veteran suicides, which happen at a rate of about 22 per day, by giving veterans better access to mental health resources. The USA Freedom Act strictly limits the NSA’s bulk data collection. The Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act, which I helped author, represents one of the most expansive anti-human trafficking laws this decade. The Medicare Access and Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act shifts the focus toward the quality of care, not the quantity. And new trade legislation puts strict oversight and accountability restrictions on the administration’s trade negotiations.
Additionally, the House has held dozens of oversight hearings, focusing on everything from the IRS’s targeting of conservative groups to the 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi to executive overreach. Together with the Senate, we also passed the first bicameral 10-year balanced budget plan since 2001.
Despite several accomplishments, there are still major issues that must be overcome. In the coming weeks, the House will take up legislation that stops the President’s proposed nuclear deal with Iran. While I’m cautiously optimistic we have enough votes to get the legislation through both sides of Congress, we continue to work toward achieving a veto-proof majority that can override the President.
Funding for road and bridge repairs expires in October as well, but we have been working on a real, multi-year fix that may include reforms to at least a portion of the tax code.
Other tax reforms – known as tax extenders – are also on the agenda for the last half of the year. The House has already passed a number of these so-called extenders, including a permanent fix to Section 179 – a section of the tax code that is important to many South Dakota ag producers.
While the House has also pushed forward legislation addressing sanctuary cities, the President’s health care law, and immigration, I am doubtful we can find enough common ground with the administration to make responsible changes. Nonetheless, we’ll keep pushing our ideas forward.
I am continuously striving for a more efficient, effective, and accountable government. As part of that, I believe it’s my responsibility to show you what has been accomplished, while admitting to the challenges that lay ahead. There’s a lot of work to be done, but we’re making progress – one step at a time.