Considering some accomplishments, much left to be done in Washington
Published 3:03 pm Wednesday, August 21, 2002
By By Sonny Callahan, U.S. Rep.
As of the writing of this week's column, both the House of Representatives and the Senate are in the midst of their traditional August district work period.
This is always an important time for members of Congress. Not only does it provide them with an opportunity to get back to their home districts and visit with their constituents, it also allows those facing reelection to get a bit of campaigning in before returning for the remainder of the legislative session. This break also allows time to consider the legislative accomplishments to this point and the opportunity to look ahead to the business remaining.
I would like to take just a few moments to bring you up to speed on some of the major accomplishments of the House during the 107th Congress. Many of these have been mentioned in previous columns but are certainly important enough to merit another glance.
New laws on the books
I don't think any list of the legislative accomplishments of Congress could begin without first considering the impact of the terrorist attacks of last year.
The tragedy and devastation experienced in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania instantly presented this country with major challenges. As a result, many of the goals that had previously been identified as priorities by members on both sides of the aisle were set aside in order to put the interests and security of the entire nation at the top of the list.
As a direct result of these attacks and the weaknesses subsequently identified in the American airline industry, Congress passed the Aviation and Transportation Act of 2001. This bill, which was signed into law by the president, will ensure uniform security measures for all domestic airports and provide the safest possible environment for travelers. Additionally, the House and Senate provided President Bush with a significant supplemental appropriations bill specifically designed to allow the government and the military to conduct the war against terrorism on the scale necessary to eliminate threats to our sovereignty and security.
While the struggle against terrorism has by far been the most important issue, major strides were also made in reforming the Internal Revenue code and putting more of your hard-earned money back in your pocket.
The landmark changes in the tax code that have also been signed into law are designed to benefit all Americans in all income brackets. Some of these changes include an across-the-board reduction in tax rates; repeal of both the marriage penalty and death taxes until the year 2010; doubling of the child tax credit to $1000; and an increase in the adoption tax credit to $10,000.
In a further effort to help America's families, the No Child Left Behind Act was passed by both houses of Congress and signed into law by President Bush. This legislation will improve the educational opportunities for every child in this country, hold schools and teachers more accountable to parents and provide local schools with greater flexibility and more parental choice.
Finally, in the wake of the numerous corporate scandals that have unfolded in recent months and which have cost countless American workers their entire retirement savings, the president has signed the Corporate Fraud Accountability Act of 2002.
This bill will not only provide harsh penalties for corporations and executives that seek to defraud investors but will also mandate greater corporate accountability.
Our job not finished
We have certainly made significant progress on many fronts, but our work in Congress is far from over. There are still many more important pieces of legislation that require consideration, including nearly all of the thirteen annual appropriations bills that fund all segments of the federal government.
The House has passed legislation designed to protect our seniors during a time when they need help the most. The Medicare Modernization and Prescription Drug Act of 2002 devoted $350 billion to an immediate, affordable and voluntary prescription drug benefit for older Americans. Additionally, this plan provided low deductibles and premiums, catastrophic coverage for drug costs over $3700 and savings through a discount card program. Unfortunately, neither version presented in the Senate passed, so there is still much work to be done on this vitally important issue.
Perhaps the most significant piece of legislation resulting from the events of September 11th is the bill authorizing the creation of a Department of Homeland Security. Once enacted, this new department will continue the government's top priority of protecting all Americans here at home and ensure that all agencies involved in this venture work in a cohesive and effective manner to fight all forms of terrorism.
Yes, much remains to be done. However, you can be sure that until the last day of the 107th Congress, I will continue to fight for the people and interests of the First Congressional District.