2014 was a very busy year in Congress

Published 4:41 pm Tuesday, December 30, 2014

By U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne

When I was elected to Congress last December, I vowed to hit the ground running from day one to make southwest Alabama a better place to live, work and raise a family. In honor of the New Year, I wanted to take this opportunity to look back at some of the highlights from my first year in Congress.

My first legislative action was to cosponsor H.R. 3121, the American Health Care Reform Act, which repeals Obamacare and replaces it with common-sense, market based reforms. Throughout the past year, I have repeatedly supported legislation designed to repeal and reform Obamacare and actually make health care more affordable and accessible for middle class families.

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I received positions on two committees vitally important to our area: the Armed Services Committee and the Natural Resources Committee. These assignments were a victory for south Alabama jobs. After speaking with friends and neighbors in our community, we concluded that these were the two avenues where we could do the most good for our home.

In March, I voted in support of H.R. 3370, the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act. This bill slowed down the pace of rate hikes for coastal Alabama residents, allowing time to ensure that sound science is being used to create federal flood maps.
A few weeks later, I accepted a position on the House Committee on Education and the Workforce. Education is an issue that is a passion of mine, and I have seen firsthand how the federal government’s intrusions can hamper student success. The Committee also put me on a strong position to promote job-training programs and fight back against the activist National Labor Relations Board.

In April, after it was announced the red snapper season in federal waters would only last nine days, I introduced my first standalone piece of legislation: the SNAPR Act. The legislation would repeal Section 407(d) of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, which mandates inflexible quotas on recreational and commercial fishermen in the Gulf of Mexico.

In May, following the heartbreaking scandal at VA medical facilities around the country, I joined many of my colleagues in calling on VA Secretary Eric Shinseki to resign. Weeks later, Secretary Shinseki resigned and was replaced by Robert McDonald. Around the same time, Congress passed the Veterans’ Access to Care through Choice, Accountability, and Transparency Act. Most importantly, the bill included reforms to increase veteran access to private care, but more work is certainly needed.

In June, I held my 25th town hall meeting in Lillian. Since then, we have held even more town hall meetings, bringing to the total number to over 30. In addition to holding the in-person town hall meetings, I also held telephone town halls and answered questions from constituents during a Facebook town hall.

In response to many outrageous executive overreaches by President Obama and his administration, I supported a lawsuit against the president in July. Everywhere I go, I hear the same thing over and over again: This president will not stay within the bounds of the Constitution of the United States or the laws passed by this body and the Senate. I wish a lawsuit wasn’t necessary, but I believed it was one of the best ways to rein in the out-of-control executive.

Also in July, the Federal Highway Administration finally released the draft Environmental Impact Statement on the I-10 Mobile River bridge project. This step was almost 10 years in the making, and it represented a significant breakthrough in the process of getting a bridge built. I will continue pushing for this project, which is critically important to our entire region.

In August, in response to a dangerous influx of illegal immigrants crossing our southern border, I voted for legislation that would boost border security and end one of President Obama’s amnesty programs. President Obama’s continued threat of executive action has only exacerbated the problem of illegal immigration, and I look forward to a serious debate early next year on the immigration issue.

This fall, I traveled to the Middle East to meet with United States military personnel and visit with foreign leaders. During the trip, I made stops in Israel, Jordan, Egypt and Morocco. One common theme I picked up on during the trip was the lack of United States leadership and a clear strategy in the region. Whether it is ISIS in Iraq, Hamas in Gaza, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Boko Haram in Africa, or al-Qaeda throughout the Middle East, Islamic extremists are on the rise.

Most recently, we were able to secure funding for the construction of four new Littoral Combat Ships, which are built in part by Austal in Mobile. The same week, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel announced that the current LCS variants will be modified, instead of creating a new ship design. This means the Navy will continue building ships in Mobile for a long time.

There is no doubt many challenges remain, but I am proud of the many accomplishments from my first year in Congress. As we head into the New Year, I will continue advocating for our shared conservative values and fighting for Alabama jobs. It is an honor to represent you in Congress.