It’s going to be a busy September

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 7, 2016

By Rep. Bradley Byrne

The House is back in session for the month of September, and there are a number of issues on our plate. I wanted to give you a quick preview of some of the items Congress may tackle this month.

The current government funding bill expires on Oct. 1, so action must be taken to address funding for the entire federal government. The most likely scenario is that Congress will pass something known as a Continuing Resolution.

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Continuing Resolutions, or CRs, are usually short-term funding bills that just hold spending levels in place until Congress can pass a more long-term funding bill. I have said before that these sorts of short-term funding bills are not a good way to govern, and I want to see us get serious about addressing our nation’s budget issues.

I also hope Congress will take action to combat the Zika virus. In June, the House passed a responsible bill that set aside $1.1 billion for Zika virus prevention and research. Given the large mosquito population around the Gulf Coast, this issue is particularly important to our area.

Unfortunately, Senate Democrats have so far blocked the Zika bill, but I remain hopeful that a resolution can be found. We shouldn’t be playing politics with something as serious as the Zika virus.

Additionally, the House is expected to address the (President Barack) Obama administration’s $1.7 billion payment to Iran. As you may remember, reports recently came out that the Obama administration made a secret, cash payment of $1.7 billion to Iran on the same day that four Americans were released by the Iranian government.

This transaction was clearly a ransom payment to Iran’s regime, which violates a long standing U.S. policy. The Obama administration’s claim that it was merely “leverage” is absurd, particularly given the fact Iran said they saw it as a ransom. We should be standing up to Iran as the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism. Instead, the Obama administration pays them money, which we know will be used against U.S. interests and to hurt innocent people.

Issues at the VA continue to require Congressional attention, so I am hopeful the House will take up the VA Accountability First and Appeals Modernization Act. This bill will make it easier to fire or demote employees at the VA who are failing our veterans. Just as important, the bill also works to modernize the disability appeals process, which currently has a major backlog.

Over the coming month, the House will continue working to reduce regulatory red tape that makes it harder for small businesses and families to get ahead. I expect us to consider legislation to make it harder for the Obama Administration to put forward expensive regulations without any Congressional input.

Negotiations also continue between the House and the Senate over the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The NDAA is the bill passed each year to authorize funding and set policy for the entire U.S. military. As a member of the Armed Services Committee, this is a very important bill that I am following closely.

Finally, I am optimistic the House will take up a bipartisan bill I helped write to reform our nation’s career and technical education (CTE) programs. CTE is so important when it comes to having a skilled workforce to power the 21st Century economy, so I hope our reform-focused bill will get a vote.

While the presidential election will continue to consume most of the media attention, I wanted to make sure you knew that Congress is continuing to work to address issues that impact the American people.

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