The News Connection - Congress is Back to Business - the People's Business
By Rep. Burgess
Congress is back in Washington to finish for the year. There's much work to be done, and not a lot of time to do it. Congress must spend the time left on the people's business and not the business of growing the federal government. What exactly is the people's business? It's the things you talk to me about when I see you in the store, at my town halls, when you call or write my office: energy, transportation, and spending.
Energy tops your list. With record gas prices and unease about America's dependence on foreign oil, people rightly expect Congress to do something to address energy. Up until now, we have failed to do so. Republicans - including myself - were so dismayed with this lack of progress that we stayed behind in a darkened House of Representatives when Congress left town in August to call for action on energy. Now that everyone is back in town we should do the people's business and have an up-or-down vote to increase the supply of American-made energy, invest in alternatives, and promote conservation. No gimmicks or half-measures. We need a comprehensive approach to energy.
While energy tops your concerns, transportation is a close secondand for good reason. Transportation keeps Texans and our economy moving. That's why I spent much of August visiting local road and bridge projects and getting status updates. It's also why I brought together top national and state transportation officials as well as local business leaders to discuss ways we can work together to get things done. Congress should be finding ways to give states and localities more flexibility to fund transportation in new ways and to put these dollars toward projects that improve commutes and cuts congestion. I'm working hard to make sure these are the kinds of projects and policies that get federal investment. So should the entire Congress.
The formula for economic growth is low taxes, less regulation, and controlled spending. That's what we have in Texas and that's why our unemployment rate is a full percent lower than the national average. This brings me to your other top concern: taxes and government spending. Texans deserve to keep more of their hard-earned money. Yet, some in Congress refuse to make the 2001 and 2003 tax relief permanent, end the outdated and unfair Alternative Minimum Tax, or reduce the corporate tax rate, which is the second-highest in the world. And then there's runaway federal spending, not just on wasteful programs but also on entitlements. We're writing checks today we won't be able to cash tomorrow. North Texans have to balance their checkbook, so should the federal government.
Conducting the people's business means focusing on energy, transportation, and reducing spending. Instead, Congress has gotten into the business of growing government, including spending outrageous sums of money on things that fall outside the scope of what the Constitution and common sense dictate.
Recently, we passed a farm bill that was basically a food stamp bill, increasing the size and reach of government, costing more than $650 billion over the next 10 years, and doing little to help farmers. We passed a multi-billion dollar housing bailout that rewards speculators and gives Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac an unlimited line of government credit without the necessary intervention in their governance. We also passed a $150 billion economic stimulus, which we were given very little time to review, will worsen the deficit, and has had little effect. There are better ways to boost the economy than by piling on additional debt.
The country is anxious and Congress is not responding adequately. In two decades of record keeping, no sitting Congress has passed fewer public laws at this point in the session -- 294 so far -- than this one. On the flip side, no Congress in the same 20 years has been so prolific when it comes to proposing resolutions -- more than 1,900. Instead of promoting energy solutions we've passed the Monkey Safety Month and marked the International Year of Sanitation. It's time the people's business became the Congress's business once again. I often tell people that I live in North Texas and that Washington is my work station. Conducting the people's business is what I should be doing there. Let's hope the rest of the Congress meets this responsibility in the remaining weeks by doing something about the issue which you care most about.