From my very first day in the United States Senate, I have been focusing on issues important to West Virginians, and I've approached each of them in ways that reflect the values of our great state.
As we begin the work of the new 113th Congress, I have proposed legislation that West Virginians truly care about -- getting our financial house in order; keeping our promises to our seniors, veterans and children; achieving energy independence; addressing mass violence in a way that brings all parties to the table; and ending the war in Afghanistan.
I will continue to develop legislation as I hear from West Virginians about other concerns. But in the meantime, here's a checklist to help you keep track of some of priority bills in the 113th Congress:
Getting our fiscal house in order
* No Budget, No Pay: This bill prohibits Members of Congress from receiving pay if both houses of Congress fail to approve a concurrent resolution on the budget for the upcoming fiscal year before the end of the current fiscal year.
Keeping our promises to our seniors, veterans and children
* Seniors' Financial Bill of Rights: This legislation requires states to develop a financial Bill of Rights to empower seniors and protect them from financial exploitation. This legislation would also improve seniors' access to financial services and supports by adding to the purpose of state Aging and Disability Resource Centers that they offer older adults, people with disabilities, caregivers and families' financial counseling and legal assistance.
* Hydrocodone Rescheduling: This legislation reclassifies drugs containing hydrocodone, a highly-addictive substance found in medications such as Vicodin and Lortab, as Schedule II substances. This means several things: patients would need an original prescription for refills, pills would be stored and transported more securely, and traffickers would be subject to increased fines and penalties. The aim is to make it more difficult to abuse addictive pain medications.
* Military Childcare: This bill directs the Government Accountability Office to review contracted hiring procedures at Department of Defense day care centers. We must ensure that our military children are receiving the best care possible, especially in light of recent abuses at one of the largest child development centers in the Department of Defense.
* Streamlining Services for Older Veterans: This bill requires state and local agencies that provide services to the elderly to work closer with those that provide serve our veterans, including the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, and to reach out to veterans to inform them of assistance for which they are eligible under the Older Americans Act.
Achieving energy independence
* EPA Fair Play Act: This bill would rein in EPA's overreach, preventing the agency from revoking permits that have already been legally granted to energy production companies. This will protect jobs and investments in West Virginia and promote American energy independence and security.
Addressing our culture of mass violence
* National Commission on Mass Violence: The legislation establishes a bipartisan commission to take a comprehensive look at the causes of and solutions to mass violence in America, relying on expertise rather than opinion.
Ending the War in Afghanistan
* Sense of the Senate on Troop Strength in Afghanistan: I recently wrote President Obama urging him to reduce the troop strength in Afghanistan. This resolution declares that the United States needs to draw down forces in Afghanistan as quickly as possible, while maintaining the safety of our troops and our ability to fight terrorism around the world.
The partisan divides in Washington may be as strong as ever, but I truly believe that we can put our differences aside to tackle serious problems our great country faces -- because the simple fact is we must. West Virginians sent me to Washington to represent their values, and that is exactly what I plan to do every day that I have the honor of serving my great state as a United States Senator.