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COLUMN: Change Coming to Washington

December 16, 2016
Weekly Column and Op-Ed

As the 114th Congress comes to an end, it is worth looking back on my first term in Congress and highlight the important accomplishments and the change that Americans should expect before the 115th Congress convenes next year.

While there has been much disagreement between Republicans and Democrats in the nation’s capital, progress on issues that earned bipartisan support should not be overlooked. During the 114th Congress, Medicare was put on stronger footing by the “Doc Fix.” This improvement was signed into law to permanently repeal the practice of allowing automatic cuts to doctors’ payments under Medicare, which threatened seniors’ access to their doctors. For many years, Congress would temporarily delay these cuts on an annual basis, and now there is a long-term bipartisan agreement.

Congress just recently passed the 21st Century Cures Act, which was signed into law by President Obama. Not only did the legislation streamline development and federal approval of life-saving drugs, but it included improvements for our nation’s mental health care system. The bill also included state grants to fight the opioid epidemic that is sweeping the nation, including communities in Central Washington.

For Washingtonians in particular, one important accomplishment of the 114th Congress was to make the federal tax deduction for state and local sales tax permanent. In 2012, Washington families saved $602 from this deduction, and making this provision permanent allows them to plan ahead.

These are a few examples of recent accomplishments during a period of divided government. In 2017, unified Republican control of the federal government will result in a dramatic shift from the Obama years.

One of the most important changes is a return to the system laid out in Article I of the Constitution. Article I delegates all legislative authority to Congress. During the past two years, hard-fought legislative priorities would be passed by Congress only to be vetoed by President Obama. President Obama’s “pen and phone” strategy—meant to maximize his power through executive actions and federal regulations while bypassing Congress on a host of issues—overstepped the constitutional powers of the presidency. Congress was forced to hold the line on overreaching executive actions and agency regulations, and in many cases the federal courts have found that the administration exceeded its authority.

For the health of our republic, the executive branch must stay within its constitutional limits regardless of who occupies the White House. There have been high-profile bipartisan legislative accomplishments in the past two years, but the nation’s government was largely divided between an overreaching executive and a resistant Congress.

Americans can expect the legislative branch to reclaim the Constitution’s focus on limited government next year.