By Senator Johanns
As the Senate comes back into session for 2012, our country continues to face significant challenges. Chief among them remains our debt and deficit, and the need to rein in spending to get our country back on a sustainable path. Our economy still struggles, recovering from the 2008 crisis while bracing for the impact of sweeping new regulations. We still have a long way to go to get the federal government on the right track in 2012. Congress has an important role to play, and several things will have my particular attention.
Though we were successful in cutting spending in 2011, it was only the tip of the iceberg relative to what needs to be done. I was tremendously disappointed that the Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction failed to produce a viable way forward. We cannot afford to give up, and I will continue to help find solutions; this includes working with any responsible efforts to come up with a deficit reduction plan. Tax reform -- including lowering our corporate tax rate, one of the highest in the world -- should be part of the plan. Additionally, we cannot make any significant forward progress without recognizing the current structure of our entitlements is unsustainable and must be a part of any meaningful solution.
With fiscal responsibility in mind, I also plan to cosponsor an important bill regarding earmarks the first day the Senate comes back into session. I remain committed to refraining from earmarks, and it would be prudent to officially eliminate them from Senate practice. The Senate should be about straightforward, transparent policy, not special spending projects slipped into large bills behind closed doors, which often influence votes.
The coming year will be a big one for our economy. American jobs have come under assault thanks to the increasingly aggressive regulatory regime being rolled out by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Fortunately, an appellate court recently delayed one rule, the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule, which would have hammered many of our power producers and likely led to job cuts and skyrocketing electricity costs for many Americans. Despite this ruling, I suspect the EPA will continue to pursue its overreach in many other areas, and we must therefore remain vigilant.
Another misguided policy will face judicial scrutiny in 2012 -- the new health care law. In March the Supreme Court will hear arguments on the law's constitutionality, a welcome development. The flawed law is not only responsible for higher insurance costs, but is harming our job creators and the sustainability of Medicare. I continue to believe the law is an unprecedented, unconstitutional piece of federal policy. I recently signed a brief to the Court urging it to strike down the entire law if it deems the individual mandate unconstitutional.
Though great challenges await us, so does great opportunity. The economic downturn and our country's fiscal condition have brought difficulties, but we are a great country with the power to correct course. I am optimistic about the work we can do to achieve much-needed solutions