The Baker County press. (Baker City, Ore.) 2014-current, January 02, 2015, Image 4

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    FRIDAY, JANUARY 2, 2015
4 — THE BAKER COUNTY PRESS
Opinion
— Guest Opinion —
— Guest Opinion —
How to fix
Congress
Making
progress
together
(Part Two)
By Sen. Mike Lee
By U.S. Rep. Greg Walden
The biggest disagreements and loudest
voices got most of the attention dur-
ing this last session of Congress, from
filibusters to failed websites, immigration
to ISIL.
However, while the pundits blared,
many of us worked hard to achieve im-
portant legislative wins for Oregon and
America in 2014—like boosting American
energy and jobs and rooting out waste to
save taxpayer dollars.
Make no mistake, we still have work
to do, but we have a strong foundation to
build on next year with the new Repub-
lican majority in the Senate on efforts to
grow and strengthen Oregon’s rural com-
munities.
All in all, I’m proud that three bills I
wrote this session—protecting rural satel-
lite television service, providing more
water and power for Central Oregon, and
boosting agriculture research in Herm-
iston--are now the law of the land. And
several other of my initiatives passed the
House with bipartisan support, including
the plan to reform federal forest policy to
grow jobs in the woods, improve forest
health, and provide needed revenue for
schools, roads, and law enforcement.
Although I am disappointed the Senate
did not hold a vote on this plan or any
forestry bill to assist our region, this gives
us a strong base to build on next year with
the new majority in the Senate. I’ve al-
ready begun conversations with members
of the House and Senate from both parties
on efforts to reform federal forest policy
and better manage our lands.
All of these initiatives were developed
transparently with community support, so
they will have good momentum going into
2015.
One of my top priorities is making fed-
eral agencies like the IRS, the VA, and the
EPA more transparent and accountable to
taxpayers. I sought and secured a federal
investigation into the enormous, costly,
failure of Cover Oregon to stop the waste,
demand the truth, and get accountability.
That investigation is ongoing, and we
hope to get the results in the near future.
And when the FDA proposed rules that
would have made it harder to grow onions
and brew local beer, I pushed back hard
on behalf of producers and brewers, invit-
ing the FDA to visit with Oregon growers
to witness the rules’ impact firsthand. Our
voices were heard as the agency reworked
these to make them better for Oregon
producers.
I doubt most people realize how much
time a member of Congress and his/her
staff spend helping cut through red tape at
agencies like the Social Security Admin-
istration or the VA. For me and my team,
we helped more 2,811 Oregonians over
the past two years, including nearly one
thousand veterans cases.
The Energy and Commerce Committee
I serve on had 51 bills signed into law this
session, including legislation to increase
hydropower and boost research for pediat-
Submitted Photo
Greg Walden represents Oregon’s
Second Congressional District,
which covers 20 counties in south-
ern, central, and eastern Oregon.
ric diseases.
We launched a major initiative called
21st Century Cures to aggressively help
find cures for the nearly 6,500 known
diseases that lack them. This is an exciting
initiative that will dramatically improve
the lives of people all over the world.
The Committee also conducted thor-
ough oversight of federal agencies under
our jurisdiction. When the Federal
Communications Commission proposed
a “study” that sought to poke their noses
into America’s newsrooms, the Communi-
cations and Technology panel that I chair
objected strongly, leading to the agency
dropping this threat to the First Amend-
ment.
And Congress successfully passed
legislation to help clean up the mess at the
VA and allow more veterans to go outside
the VA to access care in the communities
where they live. This will really help vet-
erans, especially in our rural communities.
We also passed plans to streamline and
improve job-training programs and pro-
vide needed resources to farmers to tackle
drought, fire, and new diseases and pests
in their crops.
Getting deficit spending under control
also remains a huge priority of mine. The
House passed a budget that balances over
the next 10 years and eventually pays
off America’s debt. I supported efforts
to reform programs, eliminate waste and
duplication and as a result we cut discre-
tionary spending to a level below when
President Obama took office
This work doesn’t always grab the
headlines or dominate the chatter on
Twitter, but these quiet gains improve the
lives of people and help get our region
and country on a better track. I could not
have been as successful working on these
issues without hearing from and listening
to you—the people of Oregon’s Second
District.
Just this year, I traveled more than
9,000 miles through our enormous district
to hold town halls (49 in the past two
years) and other community meetings.
That’s in addition to the thousands of
telephone town hall questions, emails,
letters, phone calls, Facebook messages,
and tweets I’ve received from you and an-
swered (more than 41,000 just this year).
As the New Year dawns, I pledge to
continue to work as hard as I can to solve
our problems, here at home and across the
nation. I want to continue to hear from
you about your ideas and priorities. This is
how I develop my “to do” list to take back
to Washington, D.C. each week.
Please visit www.walden.house.gov to
send me an email to let me know what
you think should be on my plate for 2015.
— Letters to the Editor —
Congratulations!
To the Editor:
Congratulations to the Baker County
Press as you being your second year of
service to the people of our region. It
is truly refreshing to read a paper that
clearly does not bend to the “good old
boy” establishment. Your fair, objective
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ing and makes your publication credible.
You have a talented group of dedicated
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readers, benefit from that. Thanks and best
wishes for many more years of journalistic
excellence.
Jerry Boyd
Baker City
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2. Don’t Forget Cronyism
We’re going to be hearing that word,
“govern,” a lot in coming weeks; as in,
“Now Republicans must show they can
govern.” What is meant by this is passing
bills—quickly and with bipartisan sup-
port—and having them signed into law,
in order to show the country that Republi-
cans can “get things done.”
In this advice, there is much truth, and
also a trap.
The truth is that, yes, Republicans
should take every opportunity to reform
federal law wherever common ground
with Democrats can be found. And if good
policy makes for good politics, as it usu-
ally does, so much the better.
We should find common ground that
advances our agenda, rather than let the
idea of common ground substitute for our
agenda.
But the trap is that Republicans in fact
can’t “govern” from the House and Senate
alone—especially without a Senate su-
permajority. We can clearly articulate our
views and advance our ideas, and then see
where we can work with the president and
congressional Democrats. But we have to
do these things in that order. We should
find common ground that advances our
agenda, rather than let the idea of common
ground substitute for our agenda.
If we fail to grasp that, we will be drawn
into advancing legislation that is both
substantively and politically counterpro-
ductive, and that sends the wrong message
to the public about our party. For instance,
the easiest bipartisan measures to pass are
almost always bills that directly benefit
Big Business, and thus appeal to the
corporatist establishments of both parties.
In 2015, this “low-hanging fruit” we’ll
hear about will be items like corporate tax
reform, Obamacare’s medical device tax,
patent reform, and perhaps the Keystone
XL pipeline approval.
As it happens, these are all good ideas
that I support. But if that’s as far as Re-
publicans go, we will regret it. The GOP’s
biggest branding problem is that Ameri-
cans think we’re the party of Big Business
and The Rich. If our “Show-We-Can-
Govern” agenda can be fairly attacked as
giving Big Business what it wants—while
the rest of the country suffers—we will
only reinforce that unpopular image.
Insofar as the pent-up K Street agenda
includes good ideas, then by all means
let’s pass those pieces by huge margins
and send them to the president. But a new
Republican majority must also make clear
that our support for free enterprise cuts
both ways—we’re pro-free market, not
simply pro-business. To prove that point,
we must target the crony capitalist policies
that rig our economy for large corpora-
tions and special interests at the expense
of everyone else—especially small and
new businesses.
The easiest bipartisan measures to pass
are almost always bills that directly ben-
efit Big Business, and thus appeal to the
Submitted Photo
Elected in 2010 as Utah’s 16th
Senator, Mike Lee has spent his ca-
reer defending the basic liberties of
Americans and as an advocate for
founding constitutional principles.
corporatist establishments of both parties.
In other words, Republicans should seek
common ground between conservative
principles and the interests and needs
of the general public, not just between
Washington Republicans and Washing-
ton Democrats. And the search for that
genuinely common ground will point to a
lot of low-hanging fruit too, even when it
comes to the proper relationship between
government and business. We could pass
legislation winding down the Export-Im-
port Bank or the Overseas Private Invest-
ment Corporation. We could—and really,
must—eliminate the taxpayer bailouts for
big insurance companies in Obamacare’s
“risk corridors” program. Or we could
start to break up taxpayer subsidies for the
energy industry or large agribusinesses.
Anti-cronyism legislation is win-win
for the GOP. It is good policy, restoring
growth and fairness to an economy that
Big Government and Big Business have
rigged against the little guy. And it’s even
better politics, standing up for the middle
class while pinning hypocritical Demo-
crats between their egalitarian talking
points and their elitist agenda.
Taking on crony capitalism is a test of
the political will and wisdom of the GOP.
To become the party of the middle class
and those aspiring to join it—our only
hope for success in 2016 and beyond—we
have to change more than our rhetoric.
The new Republican Congress does have
to get things done, but those things have
to be for Main Street, too, not just Wall
Street and K Street. A big part of our
“governing” test is whether we can stand
up to special interests. Leaders like Paul
Ryan and Jeb Hensarling in the House,
and Marco Rubio and Jeff Sessions in
the Senate have made the fight against
cronyism a point of emphasis—and it’s
sure to be a theme in the 2016 presidential
primaries, too.
This issue is reaching critical mass on
the Right. And as I see it, it’s now a politi-
cal necessity, another one that we should
embrace rather than resist.
In passing anti-cronyism bills, we can
either achieve policy wins for economic
growth and opportunity, or we can let the
president explain in his veto messages
why taxpayers, whose take-home pay is
stagnant, should be subsidizing corpo-
rations, whose profits have never been
higher. That’s a brand-changing debate
Republicans can win.
(To be continued next week...)
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OFFICIALS
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Whitehouse.gov/contact
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Wyden.Senate.gov
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541.624.2402 fax
Walden.House.gov
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503.378.3111
Governor.Oregon.gov
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