Weekly Columns

My Goals for the 116th Congress

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Washington, January 4, 2019 | comments

When I look back on the 115th Congress, I am proud of what we were able to accomplish. Two years ago, many East Tennesseans were concerned about the direction of our country. Today, the sense of optimism in East Tennessee is obvious, and much of the change in attitude is the direct result of the policies we were able to pass working with President Trump.

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act reduced the tax rate for all Americans and paved the way for robust job creation; in addition, the bill eliminated the individual mandate that forced Americans to buy government-approved health care policies, thereby allowing Americans greater access to more affordable plan options. The VA MISSION Act, which I authored as Chairman of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, improved veterans’ access to convenient care and expanded access to caregiver benefits. The Forever GI Bill, which I also authored, expanded GI Bill educational benefits to more veterans than ever before. The Congressional Review Act bills we passed eliminated some of the most burdensome regulations put forth by the Obama Administration.

Looking forward to the 116th Congress, Democrats will now be setting the agenda in the House.  However, it’s clear to me the people in the First District of Tennessee want me to fight for a conservative agenda that aligns with East Tennessee values, which is what I plan to do. I will always support legislation that supports individual liberty and freedom. 

I am optimistic that some common ground can be found. I have been chosen by my colleagues to continue leading the Republicans on the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs as Ranking Member, and our committee has had a great record of bipartisan success taking care of those who put themselves in harm’s way to protect our nation. I look forward to working with the incoming chairman to ensure key bipartisan legislation passed in the previous Congress – such as the VA MISSION Act, the Forever GI Bill, the VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act, and the Appeals Modernization Act – are all implemented correctly.

The previous Congress also had a bipartisan success with passage of the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act, which the new Congress can continue building upon. This comprehensive package will help fight the opioid epidemic, which is devastating East Tennessee and communities across our country. Still, more resources are needed for a crisis that killed more Americans last year than were lost in the Vietnam War. Additionally, as a physician and co-chair of the GOP Doctors Caucus, I will continue working to find a health care solution that replaces Obamacare with an affordable, patient-centered, free-market alternative. We should be able to agree on a bipartisan basis to continue coverage for pre-existing conditions, while allowing Americans to purchase insurance across state lines to spur competition and lower costs or to pool resources together in Association Health Plans, like large employers do.

I will also continue my work as a senior member of the Education and Labor Committee, where I am hopeful we can use the model of the bipartisan Every Student Succeeds Act to address the rising costs of college. We also have to address the significant challenges with multiemployer pension plans and ensure millions of Americans don’t lose access to their health plans, while protecting taxpayers.

Finally, I am still hopeful we can finally enact comprehensive immigration reform, which is desperately needed. Comprehensive immigration reform needs to start with border security, and having personally visited the border and spoken with border agents, the president’s proposal to build a physical barrier is absolutely needed to help secure the Southern border. We also need to address the status of children who have lived here their whole lives but were brought here illegally as babies or children, and I am hopeful compromise is possible on this issue. Although we have a divided Congress, I think this provides a chance to unify our government to pass legislation that will benefit every American.

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