As we bring a tumultuous 2011 to a close, what will you take away from it from a congressional perspective?
In my 19 years of serving in the House of Representatives, I have worked in a Democratic majority and minority, and under both Republican and Democratic presidents. In that time I have never seen the brand of Tea Party partisan politics that today have brought our nation’s capitol to a halt.
Compromise has been labeled a dirty word. The defeat of any of President Barack Obama’s agendas has been made priority No. 1. Tax cuts for the wealthy have been favored over programs that serve seniors and working families.
This is the Republican agenda that has held our government hostage, and set the stage for partisan theatrics that have done nothing to address the dire issues facing our nation. For the past year, this environment has made this congress one of the least productive—all while the unemployed continue to struggle to find work and families fight to get by.
As a result, frustration has grown and hope has faded—a state that is simply unacceptable. The bottom line is that every member of congress was elected to govern and solve problems. We were elected to place our nation before personal agendas and politics. Now more than ever, Americans are looking to their government to step up and do something about the dire state of our union.
A divided government is not an excuse for inaction, because time will not stand still for seniors waiting for their benefits, veterans seeking assistance, homeowners looking for a fair shot at staying in their home, or unemployed workers scraping to get by. Time will not stand still and wait for congress to get their act together.
People need help now, and they deserve help now. For that reason, while the partisan mudslinging continues in Washington, I am proud of the work my district offices have done to maintain one of our fundamental responsibilities: solving problems.
They say all politics are local, and by that standard there is nothing more important than addressing the individual concerns of our community. A partisan debate taking place 3,000 miles away seems irrelevant when your mortgage is underwater, your social security check is missing in the mail or a love one is in trouble overseas. We are problem solvers, at home and in Washington. Yet this perspective has been lost on many of my colleagues.
But despite the political bickering, 2011 has not been all bad news. This year our oceans, and the people working to protect them, received some much-needed support. As a member of the House Appropriations Committee, I was able to reverse $48 million in funding cuts for critical ocean and fisheries programs that are playing a critical role in the conservation and protection of ocean wildlife and habitats.
Before the end of the year, the Marine Debris Reauthorization Act of 2011 will receive a second hearing—bringing the bill one step closer to a vote. The bill will reauthorize funding for marine debris removal, prevention and the support of public-private partnerships that are key to keeping our beaches clean.
This year we also welcomed the news that our troops will be coming home from Iraq just in time to celebrate the holidays with their families. While this gives us cause to celebrate, I joined with many of my congressional colleagues—and many of you in Santa Cruz—to continue to call on the President to bring our troops home from Afghanistan.
Seniors on the Central Coast also received some good news; Social Security recipients received a 3 percent cost-of-living adjustment to help them pay for increasing health costs. In addition, critical domestic food programs received the necessary funding in the Agriculture Appropriations bill, which passed both chambers in November, to continue to serve underserved families and school children.
As we get ready to welcome in a new year, I am encouraged and hopeful that we can continue to successfully address the issues important to our communities. We cannot stop time, and we cannot afford to wait for Republicans to drop their partisan agenda.
Our communities are ready for progress, and I am eager to stand with you. I want to encourage you to stop into my office, visit my website and share your thoughts and opinions on Facebook and Twitter.
I want to wish you all a safe and healthy holiday season, and I look forward to seeing you on the Central Coast.