Wicker: Regular Order Prompts Bipartisan Success in 2015
Under Republican Leadership, the Senate Is Finding Solutions to Pressing National Issues
Republicans made a promise to get the Senate working again when they took over as the majority party this year. Five months later, that promise is being kept.
Under Majority Leader McConnell’s leadership, a return to regular order is allowing Senators to find bipartisan agreement on pressing national issues. So far, more than 115 amendments have received a vote on the Senate floor. Last year, that number was only 15.
Putting Lawmakers on the Record
The committee process has been central to reaching consensus. For example, in the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, an education bill to reform “No Child Left Behind” and prohibit federal mandates for national standards like Common Core was passed unanimously after three days of debate. Likewise, in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, every Republican and Democrat voted in favor of legislation requiring congressional review of any final nuclear agreement with Iran. The bill, titled the “Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act,” went on to receive a vote of 98-1 by the full Senate and has since been signed into law by the President, representing a change of position on Mr. Obama’s part.
In fact, the Senate has already passed more than a dozen bipartisan bills in the 114th Congress. From human trafficking to the Keystone XL pipeline, Americans are finally getting the chance to see how their elected officials stand on the issues.
Restoring the Budget Process
Republicans are demonstrating that they are serious about addressing government overspending. At more than $18 trillion, the national debt continues to be one of our country’s most critical priorities. Like most American families, Washington needs an annual budget to get its financial house in order.
Senate Democrats failed to fulfill this basic responsibility while in the majority. Passing a budget resolution is required by law every year, but the Democrat-led Senate produced only one budget over the past five years.
As a member of the Senate Budget Committee, I support the budget that Republicans put together this year. It is the first resolution since 2001 that outlines a 10-year plan for a balanced budget. Unlike the President’s proposal, the Republican budget advances a pro-growth agenda, finds trillions of dollars in savings, and does not raise taxes on the American people. Data from the independent Congressional Budget Office shows it could boost economic growth by hundreds of billions of dollars and lead to 1.2 million additional jobs over the next decade.
Reining in Government Spending
A budget resolution is important to the appropriations process, which uses the budget’s spending levels to allocate government funding for the next fiscal year. The Appropriations Committee is supposed to produce 12 bills each year for lawmakers to debate and vote on in committee and then on the Senate floor. This process gives lawmakers the chance to establish spending priorities, eliminate government waste, and provide oversight of the agencies they fund.
In recent years, however, continuing resolutions and omnibus bills – stopgap measures for appropriations funding – have taken the place of tough decisions on America’s finances. Under the leadership of Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran, chairman of the Appropriations Committee, spending bills are again getting the attention they deserve. Two appropriations bills have already passed in committee.
Americans should have a government that works for them. The new Senate is working to change the conversation from gridlock to common ground. The first few months of 2015 are off to a promising start.