Major issues await Congress in coming months

Published 11:55 am Wednesday, November 5, 2014

By U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne

It’s called the “Lame Duck,” but the last two months of the 113th Congress are shaping up to be anything but “lame.” Important issues ranging from national security to funding the government must be addressed before the start of the new year.

As you may know, every two years the entire House of Representatives is up for re-election. Even though the election takes place on Nov. 4, the new members of Congress won’t take office until early January.

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That means the current members of Congress will still meet in Washington during November and December, and the last two months of the year are going to be filled with important legislative decisions.

One of the top items on the to-do list is a new National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). Even in an era of political brinkmanship, the NDAA, which sets the policy and direction for our nation’s military, has usually been a bipartisan achievement. While the House passed our version of the NDAA back in May, the Senate has failed to act, setting up unnecessary drama. There is no greater constitutional responsibility of Congress than to provide for the national defense, and I hope the House and the Senate can come to a quick consensus.

The NDAA is particularly important for the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS), which is built in part at Austal Shipyard in Mobile. The Navy has requested funding for three LCS in the upcoming fiscal year, and I am going to continue to insist that our ships be bought and paid for. As I’ve said before, I don’t just support the LCS because it is built in Alabama; I believe the LCS represents the future of our naval fleet.

Congress must weigh in on an appropriate path forward in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). In September, Congress passed legislation that allowed the Department of Defense to start arming and training Syrian rebels to provide ground forces in the fight against ISIL, but that authorization expires in December. I voted for the initial authorization because it was limited in time and scope, and I wanted to give the Administration the opportunity to fashion and implement a full strategy. Unfortunately, the Administration has failed to provide such a strategy, a result of their timidity that endangers our soldiers and airmen and will end in failure.  So, I’m presently disinclined to provide further support unless the Administration changes course.

I’ve also made clear my belief that President Obama should ask Congress for a new Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) specific to the fight against ISIL. The current AUMFs are outdated and simply not applicable to this conflict. By asking Congress for a new AUMF, President Obama would have to put forward a clear strategy for defeating the Islamic extremists. Currently it seems the President is more interested in saying what we won’t do instead of outlining what he actually plans to do.

Congress must also address a number of issues important to the economy including passing a bill to fund the federal government. The current government funding legislation expires on Dec. 11. As I’ve said all along, I want Congress to stop governing from crisis to crisis and instead get serious about real, targeted spending reforms.

Other issues relating to the economy include extending a number of tax credits and deductions in areas ranging from education to research and development to charitable donations. Congress must also pass an extension of the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act and the Internet Tax Freedom Act.  Of course, the House of Representatives is also likely to consider a number of smaller issues, but these are the major legislative challenges facing us.

On each of these issues, just like every issue, I welcome your feedback and opinion. You can always send me an email on my website,, or give my office a call at (202) 225-4931 to share your input. You can also follow me on Twitter (@RepByrne) or like my page on Facebook (Representative Bradley Byrne). I look forward to hearing from you.

U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne is the representative for the 1st Congressional District of Alabama, which includes Escambia County.