By Rep. Lamar Smith
In his State of the Union address, President Obama urged Congress to set aside politics and work with the White House on passing legislation. But the president neglected to mention that Republicans in Congress have been doing just that. Unfortunately, our efforts to expand the economy and create jobs for American workers have been rebuffed by the White House.
If the president is serious about working across party lines to tackle the tough issues facing America today, I urge him to support common-sense proposals from the House Judiciary Committee.
Rein in regulations:
The House of Representatives passed three Judiciary Committee bills last year to help lessen the strain of burdensome regulations on business owners.
More than once this year, the president has talked about the dangers that excessive regulations pose to our economy. But unfortunately, his actions speak louder than his words.
Federal regulations already cost our economy $1.75 trillion per year. But rather than reduce the number of regulations, the Obama administration has only added to the burden.
The administration counted 410 new major rules in its regulatory agendas for 2010 and 2011. That's four times the number of major rules than during the first two years of the previous administration. Uncertainty about the costs of these regulations discourages employers from hiring new employees and expanding their businesses.
Last year the House passed the Regulatory Accountability Act and the Regulatory Flexibility Improvements Act, which ensure that new regulations are imposed at the least cost to small businesses. The House also passed the REINS Act, which requires congressional approval for government regulations with an economic impact of at least $100 million before they can be imposed on the American people.
The president cannot say that he cares about addressing the massive burden of existing regulations and ignore these real solutions. He should make a commitment to regulatory reform and support these bills, or discuss with us what he could support.
Medical malpractice reform:
During the State of the Union last year, the president said he was willing to consider meaningful medical liability reforms to reduce the cost of health care. But his promises proved to be nothing more than platitudes.
According to the Harvard School of Public Health, 40% of medical malpractice suits filed in the U.S. are "without merit." The threat of these lawsuits forces doctors to conduct tests and prescribe medicines that are not medically required.
In February, the Judiciary Committee passed the HEALTH Act to help address the problem of frivolous lawsuits that drive up the cost of health care for all Americans. The Congressional Budget Office predicts this legislation would save American taxpayers more than $54 billion over the next decade.
The president should do more than just consider working with Republicans on medical liability reform. He should support the HEALTH Act to help reduce the cost of health care for all Americans. Yet we have received no response from the White House after numerous attempts to engage them.
Last year, the Judiciary Committee approved two important pieces of legislation to stem the flow of illegal immigration and protect America's communities from dangerous criminal immigrants. Despite promises of bipartisanship, the president has not expressed support for either one of these proposals.
We know terrorists continue to exploit loopholes and weaknesses in our immigration system to enter the U.S. The 9/11 hijackers came to America after obtaining visas. The Christmas Day bomber was able to board a plane en route to Detroit because he too had a visa. And just last year, a 20-year-old citizen of Saudi Arabia who entered the U.S. on a student visa was charged with the attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction.
Until we close this dangerous loophole in our immigration laws that allows foreign terrorists to enter the U.S., history will continue to repeat itself. The Judiciary Committee approved the Secure Visas Act to help prevent terrorists from obtaining U.S. visas and to allow U.S. officials to expedite the removal of terrorists and other immigrants whose visas have been revoked.
The Judiciary Committee also approved the Keep Our Communities Safe Act to halt the release of illegal and criminal immigrants back into American communities when they cannot be removed to their native country in the "reasonably foreseeable future." The federal government has released thousands of criminal immigrants into our neighborhoods, including rapists, child molesters, murderers and other dangerous criminals.
According to a recent press report, an immigrant from Haiti who was supposed to be deported in 2007 for two convicted felonies was released by federal immigration authorities in October 2010 because the Obama administration suspended all deportations to his native country. Tragically, just two months later he killed three Americans in Miami, Florida.
Just because a criminal immigrant cannot be returned to their home country doesn't mean they should be freed into our communities. Dangerous criminal immigrants need to be detained. The Keep Our Communities Safe Act helps keep dangerous criminal immigrants off of our streets.
To prevent future tragedies and protect American communities, the president should work with Congress to sign both of these bills into law. So far, he has not.
President Obama can certainly talk the talk when it comes to promises of bipartisanship. But the American people are tired of political rhetoric; they need real reforms.
Republicans will continue to pass legislation to rein in federal spending, promote national security, and create jobs for American workers. The real question is will the president work with us?
Rep. Smith (R-Texas) is chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.