Mark UdallOver the last year, Congress took decisive action to rescue America from the brink of economic depression.
But it hasn't been enough.
Every day, I hear from Coloradans struggling to find work, facing bankruptcy because of rising health care costs, and worrying about how they are going to keep their homes. As a nation, we continue to face new threats from international terrorism, and we are still sending billions of dollars overseas to import oil from countries that don't like us.
These are all real challenges that must be addressed by level-headed leaders willing to engage the American people, and each other, in the adult conversation that is missing from our political discourse. Too often this year, we saw meaningful reform get bogged down in bitter partisanship and petty politics. As I said when you elected me to the U.S. Senate, I am committed to working with members of both political parties to solve our nation's challenges and deliver results to Colorado.
With so many Americans angry, frustrated, and anxious about the state of the economy, 2010 needs to be a year of action. We need to finish the job that we were sent here to do, with an optimistic and forward-looking agenda that helps the middle class and hardworking Coloradans.
But before we look ahead, it's important to see how far we have come, and acknowledge the positive legislative achievements of the last year. While rowdy town halls and partisan rancor may have dominated cable news coverage, a lot of work got done that you may not have heard about. I want to share with you some of the highlights of that work and how it will benefit Coloradans:
* In May, President Obama signed into law a bill based on legislation I authored in the U.S. House of Representatives, to reform the credit card industry and protect responsible consumers from unfair rate hikes and deceptive marketing practices.
* I introduced a bill to bring transparency to the earmark process, and I helped pass "pay-as-you-go" rules for the budget to rein in Congressional spending. Additionally, I joined Senators Judd Gregg (R-NH) and Kent Conrad (D-ND) to support a bipartisan task force to reduce the national debt. I believe without a change in course, our fiscal path will saddle future generations with debt that could trigger disastrous inflation, cripple our economy, and stymie long-term job growth. A healthy economic future is the key to creating quality jobs here in Colorado and around the nation.
* I advocated for a tough and smart national security policy, traveled to Afghanistan and Pakistan to assess the situation on the ground, and supported Colorado's military families, making sure that they have the resources they need to defend America. At the same time, I voted to eliminate outrageously wasteful projects like the F-22 fighter jet. We need to ensure we're paying for equipment and resources that will keep our men and women in uniform safe and enable them to do their jobs - not duplicative pet projects that our troops don't need.
* I continued my support of Colorado's new energy economy because I believe it will put us on a path towards energy independence and create long-lasting, good-paying Colorado jobs that can't be sent overseas.
* I helped pass wilderness protection bills to preserve Colorado's outdoor heritage, and I introduced legislation to fight the bark beetle that is killing our forests, and turning entire mountainsides rust red. And my position as the chairman of the Senate's National Parks Subcommittee has given me the unique opportunity to look out for Colorado's treasured national parks.
* I made sure that the health care needs of rural Colorado would be addressed by fighting to see that the Rural Physician Pipeline Act - my bill to increase the number of rural doctors - was included in the Senate health insurance reform bill.
* And with the help of my staff, we answered hundreds of thousands of Colorado phone calls and letters, as well as resolved over 2,000 requests from Coloradans for assistance with federal agencies.
Looking forward to the rest of this year, I see extraordinary opportunities to help our middle class - by strengthening our economy, creating jobs, getting our country off to a sustainable energy future, and making sure we have the tools to keep our country safe from enemy attack.
One of my top priorities is getting our fiscal house in order. Government should live by the same budgeting rules that hardworking Colorado families follow every day. It makes no difference what your political party is - common-sense budgeting is just good policy.
I'm encouraged by the plans outlined by President Obama in his State of the Union address to both freeze spending for three years and create a task force to comb through the budget and find changes that will help reduce our national debt. Combined with other common-sense steps, including rules requiring that all new spending be paid for or offset with existing funds or budget cuts, spending caps, earmark reform, and line-item veto authority, we will be on a path to start making the tough economic decisions we have avoided for too long. I'm going to keep fighting for these reforms this year, and will be working across the aisle at every possible step to make these policies a reality.
But we have other work to do as well. I look forward to finishing health insurance reform to ensure Colorado families have access to quality, affordable health care and to control skyrocketing health care costs that are crippling our economy. And, as a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, I will continue my work helping set Colorado - and the entire country - on a path to lead the world in the new, clean energy economy. I will keep fighting for energy policies that will enable us to continue to unlock our domestic energy potential - and that will ensure that our children and grandchildren will continue to breathe clean air, drink clean water, and enjoy the outdoor heritage that is an inseparable part of life in the West.
We have our work cut out for us, for sure. It's going to be an uphill climb - but as an old mountain climber, I'm no stranger to uphill climbs. I look forward to working with you on these issues - and all Colorado priorities. Please watch these newsletters for more updates - and don't hesitate to contact me if I can be of help.
You have my promise that as your Senator, I will always serve as an independent voice that stands up for Colorado and the Western way of life that we all hold dear.