The November 2010 elections gave Republicans control of the House of Representatives, but kept the Democrats in control of the Senate. This hasn't made for a peaceful year in Washington, D.C.
The simple fact is that the two parties have very different beliefs about the role of the federal government in American life. The size of government, how much the government taxes, and how much the government spends are critical issues on Capitol Hill.
Most freshman members of the House of Representatives ran on a platform of reducing the deficit by reining in government spending. For many years that has been one of my goals too. During the recent Bush administration, I voted against one-third of Republican spending bills because I believed they spent too much. I have been glad to see a significant number of members join the House who agree with me.
Right away, the House moved to reduce spending. The previous Congress left Washington with only a short-term spending bill that was set to expire early in the year. It wasn't easy to reach an agreement on this funding bill, and there was talk of a government shut down.
We avoided a shut down by doing something unprecedented: we passed a continuing resolution that actually cut spending. Not only did this bill reduce spending across the government, the House cut its own budget by 5 percent. It wasn't easy to reach a compromise, but we did so without any shut down or suspension of important federal benefits.
Soon after averting a shut down, House Republicans passed a budget that laid out a long-term plan to balance spending and eliminate the national debt over the coming decades. This was a bold plan that laid out our best ideas for creating a federal government that pays its bills and sets our economy free to create jobs.
On the other side of the Capitol, the Senate once again failed to pass a budget of their own. It's been nearly 1,000 days since the Senate passed their version of the document that is supposed to set our national spending priorities.
While the media focused on the partisan rancor of this year, there were significant bipartisan accomplishments. For the first time in decades, Congress passed legislation to reform our patent system. The changes should streamline the process and make it easier for inventors to move their products into the market.
We also came together to pass three major free trade agreements that had been sitting on the shelf for over four years. Together, the Panama, South Korea, and Colombia agreements could create more than 250,000 jobs in the coming years and will bring us closer to critical allies.
On a more personal level, this year I worked with members across the aisle on several legislative items. This year, I reintroduced a bill to expand Wild and Scenic Rivers protection to additional sections of the White Clay Creek in Chester County. Years ago, I introduced the legislation that initially protected the White Clay. Now we have an opportunity to include sections that had been left out of the original legislation.
This spring, Rep. Danny Davis (D-IL) and I introduced the Free Market Sugar Act, a bill to reform federal sugar subsidies and import quotas. Right now, these government controls nearly double the U.S. price of sugar compared to the world market. This means that U.S. companies that use sugar are at a disadvantage. We've been losing American jobs for years because of government meddling in the sugar market.
Also, earlier this year, I worked closely with Ranking Member Frank Pallone (D-NJ) on legislation to reauthorize an important program to help train pediatricians.
The year 2011 has been rough at times, but we have critical decisions to make about the future of our country. Like no other time since I have been in office, the American people are engaged in these debates. I hear from my constituents at townhall meetings, on the phone, and over e-mail that we need to fix our federal government and that we need to encourage job growth.
The coming year will be momentous. The American people will once again go to the polls and determine the direction in which our country will head. I hope that we will see a vigorous but civil debate about the critical issues facing our government.