As the old adage goes, "the more things change, the more they stay the same." This mantra is becoming increasingly accurate as Washington heads into the New Year and two divisive issues which dominated the legislative agenda in 2009 look to do the same in 2010.
Health care and climate change were major issues throughout this past year, and will continue to garner headlines and as well as take up space on the congressional calendar well into the first few months of 2010.
In June, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 2454, the American Clean Energy and Security Act, so-called climate change legislation commonly referred to as "cap-and-trade." The bill, which I opposed, would impose costly new greenhouse gas emission and efficiency standards across the U.S. economy while creating an untested and complex cap-and-trade scheme.
Forcing a cap-and-trade mandate will create greater challenges for our rural economy. Implementing a cap-and-trade system amounts to a national energy tax at a time when both producers and consumers are struggling. The agriculture sector is one of the most energy-intensive, and any increase in operating costs could devastate farmers and ranchers.
According to a Heritage Foundation economic analysis of H.R. 2454, farm income would drop $8 billion in 2012, $25 billion in 2024, and more than $50 billion in 2035 - decreases of 28 percent, 60 percent, and 94 percent respectively.
The Senate has yet to act on the bill, and it is expected to face heavy opposition.
As of this writing, the Senate is also currently debating a government takeover of health care. Despite millions of Americans voicing their opposition to such a move, Congress is continuing to move forward on a bill costing billions of dollars and could cost millions their health insurance. The House version of health care legislation, passed in early November, will increase taxes, raise health care costs, and add hundreds of billions to our national debt.
This legislation creates a huge federal bureaucracy which put unelected boards, bureaus, and commissions in charge of families' health care decisions. The American people want Congress to instead pass responsible patient-centered reform which lowers costs and offers greater access to affordable health care.
On a more personal note, I look forward to continue to strive to offer the high level of constituent service to the people of the Third Congressional District. Beyond representing Nebraskans on legislative matters in Washington D.C., a significant part of my job is helping to improve our government's accessibility and responsiveness when addressing the needs of Third District residents.
My offices will continue to serve as a source of information, assistance, and reference - referring constituents to the correct federal agency and providing additional resources and materials as needed.
While I cannot override the decisions or policies of these agencies, I can help overcome the red tape which is too often the hallmark of government. I can be contacted at any of my offices.
The coming year will present numerous issues - many of which are going to be the exact same as in 2009. I look forward to working with all Nebraskans as we deal with issues such as cap-and-trade and health care reform in 2010.