First, I want to thank the voters for the opportunity to continue to represent you in the U.S. House of Representatives. The trust you have shown me is not something I take lightly. With it comes great responsibility.
When first elected, I served in the minority. Beginning in 1994, I served in the majority. Then voters returned my party to the minority again. Come January, I will again serve in the majority.
Yet, whether in the minority or majority, I managed to get bills signed into law. Some very capable and honest Democrats serve in Congress, and I have been able to work with them to pass my legislation when I was in the minority, and their legislation when I was in the majority. We don't have to agree on everything to move legislation forward where there is common ground.
That is how Congress is supposed to work. However, recently there has been a level of unacceptable and detrimental arrogance in Washington that permeates the political system, affecting both Republicans and Democrats. It's why the Democrats lost the control of the House in 1994, the Republicans lost control of the House in 2006, and why the Democrats lost control of the House on Tuesday.
If Republicans have not learned humility from our defeat in 2006, if we take Tuesday's vote as a referendum to shut out the Democrats and develop legislation behind closed doors, if we don't realize that the change voters want is to move the country forward cooperatively, then the voters will return Republicans to minority status again very soon.
Republicans and Democrats have very different views on the government's role. Democrats believe the federal government can solve most if not all of society's problems. Republicans believe our forefathers fought the Revolution to create a limited government, with its powers not specifically reserved for the federal government, but for the states and the people.
But even with that divide, history proves cooperation is possible for the good of the country. President Ronald Reagan and House Speaker Tip O'Neill were political opposites. They also had great respect for each other and met regularly to seek compromises to move the country forward.
More recently, President Bill Clinton learned political humility when Republicans won control of the House in 1994. After that, he embraced several Republican initiatives, including welfare reform, for which he took credit.
Regardless of who claimed or received the credit, what matters is welfare reform passed and less-fortunate Americans could end the cycle of government handouts and learn to support their families. That was a win for them and for all Americans.
I've always said a lot can be accomplished in Washington when all sides focus on getting the job done instead of who gets the credit. That is the challenge for the next two years: To work cooperatively to ensure all Americans who want a job have one. To make sure that those who are satisfied with their health insurance coverage can keep it, while premiums are lowered and access is expanded.
We must not raise taxes on families and businesses. They know better how to spend their money than the federal government does. As the economy grows, more money will flow into the Treasury without raising taxes. At the same time, we must cut nonessential federal spending. Americans cannot afford to mortgage our children's and grandchildren's future to China and Saudi Arabia for inefficient federal programs that are best left to the states.
The easiest place to start is to combine or eliminate duplicative programs. For example, there are more than 14 programs administered by the U.S. Department of Education related to foreign exchanges and designed to increase opportunities for students to study abroad. According to the U.S. Government Accountability Office, the federal government funds more than 44 job training programs, administered by nine different federal agencies across the federal bureaucracy, to the tune of $30 billion. There are at least nine federal programs tasked with researching and developing biofuels, costing taxpayers $300 million annually.
It's within President Obama's power to bring America back to prosperity. It's within the House Republicans' power to bring America back to prosperity. It will take some give and take on both sides. It will mean some compromise that still allows both parties to move forward America's agenda without sacrificing their core values. It is not impossible. It's been done before. For the sake of America's future, it must be done now.
--Elton Gallegly , R-Simi Valley, represents the 24th Congressional District.