Wicker: Americans’ Priorities Rise to the Top of Senate Agenda

2015 Included Major Victories for Education Reform, Highway Upgrades

December 28, 2015

The Senate is up and running again under Republican leadership. Over the past year, more than 80 bipartisan bills have been passed and more than 30 have become law. A restored committee process has replaced gridlock and dysfunction with discussion and debate on urgent issues. More bills have come to the Senate floor for a vote, and Senators have once again been allowed to introduce amendments, voting on 192 amendments this year after a mere 15 votes on amendments in 2014.

Most importantly, the Senate has prioritized Americans’ concerns. One of 2015’s early achievements was passage of a pro-growth balanced budget plan for the next decade. With the federal debt nearing an unprecedented $19 trillion, Washington desperately needs a budget that makes tough decisions about out-of-control government spending and waste. Using the budget resolution’s spending limits, all 12 of the annual appropriations bills were approved by the Appropriations Committee for the first time in six years.

Education, Highway, and Rural Water Bills Become Law

Major priorities signed into law have included sweeping education reforms and critical upgrades to our country’s aging roads and bridges. The “Every Student Succeeds Act” passed the Senate with an overwhelming vote of 85-12, ending the Common Core mandate and putting more power in the hands of parents, teachers, and local school districts rather than the federal government. Likewise, a five-year highway authorization bill earned a vote of 83-16, setting in motion stalled transportation projects that promise to boost jobs and economic growth. Just this month, my “Grassroots Rural and Small Community Water Systems Assistance Act” also became law, which will help our rural areas get the assistance and training they need to provide safe, clean water to residents.

Keystone Approval, Obamacare Repeal Earn Congressional Support

Congress has continued to stand up to the President’s agenda with legislation supporting energy security and health-care reform. A bill to approve the Keystone XL pipeline was a direct challenge to President Obama’s rejection of the major infrastructure project, which would have supported tens of thousands of U.S. jobs and generated significant economic growth. A bill to repeal Obamacare would have offered relief to the many Americans hurt by the law’s harmful consequences. Recognizing that the President’s unworkable health-care law has led to fewer choices and higher costs, a repeal would have been a first step toward real reform, giving Americans more control over their health-care decisions. It is unfortunate that the President vetoed the Keystone XL approval. He has promised to do the same to any bill repealing Obamacare.

Vigilance Remains Crucial in Wake of Terror Attack

The fight for these priorities is not over. Neither is the work to protect our homeland from terrorists who seek to do us harm. The recent terror attack in San Bernardino, Calif. – the deadliest in the United States since Sept. 11, 2001 – is an alarming reminder of the unwavering vigilance necessary to ensure national security. This includes strengthening the screening process for anybody entering our borders and securing the online channels being used by terrorist groups. Congress has already shown it is willing to strengthen cybersecurity with passage of a bill that promotes voluntary information-sharing between private companies and the government. Fostering this dialogue is important to safeguarding Americans from attacks on their personal information. It should also offer avenues for moving forward with strategic ways to stop terrorists’ recruitment and coordination online.

The past year in the Senate has been a refreshing change, replacing the dysfunction and inaction of previous years. I am hopeful that this constructive momentum will continue, facilitating even more accomplishments for the American people in the coming year.