Skelton summarizes Congressional accomplishments for 2009 session
By: U.S. Rep. Ike Skelton
Congressman Ike Skelton
WASHINGTON, D.C. (Dec. 20, 2009) — On Dec. 16, the first session of the 111th Congress came to a close in the House of Representatives. With America suffering from the worst economic recession in decades, this session has faced extraordinary challenges. Many of the good things accomplished this year were built around bipartisan consensus and common-sense logic, but other legislative efforts, although well intentioned, have not upheld the interests and values of rural Missouri.
One new law that will have a profound impact on the health of children in the Fourth District is the Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act. This legislation, which passed with the support of Republicans and Democrats, extends health care coverage to over 81,000 Missouri children whose parents earn too much to qualify for Medicaid but who cannot yet afford private insurance. Ensuring the health of our children will yield positive results for the health of every family and for our economy.
For women and families, the Congress enacted and the President signed into law the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which will reduce workplace discrimination and ensure that women receive the same compensation as their male counterparts. Equal pay is not simply a women’s issue; low wages for women tend to decrease family incomes and limit access to daily essentials like groceries and adequate childcare. This new law will increase rural incomes, help rebuild the middle class, and strengthen the economy by promoting fair pay and job stability for women.
For our nation’s military personnel, I worked as Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee to pass a strong, bipartisan National Defense Authorization Act. This bill increases military salaries by 3.4 percent, expands funding for the medical care of our warriors, and includes over $400 million in family support funds. Also, I helped to write and enact an important new law to crack down on wasteful Defense Department cost overruns that the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office had said were costing taxpayers nearly $300 billion. For veterans, the 111th Congress ensured quality, affordable health care by limiting TRICARE fee increases, increasing the numbers of military health clinics nationwide, and funding the Veterans Administration in advance to guarantee timely care.
To strengthen Missouri families, the 111th Congress enacted broad tax relief and has worked to blunt the impact of the recession on as many working Americans as possible. Legislation has been passed to stimulate economic activity and create jobs. In Missouri, we have seen teachers and other public servants retain jobs that may have otherwise vanished because local tax revenues have diminished in the recession. The House recently voted to extend assistance to help teachers, police officers, and firefighters retain work and to spur additional job creation.
The 111th Congress has also enacted key measures to strengthen security at U.S. ports and along our border with Mexico; to invest in science, technology, innovation, education, and health research; to improve community safety; and to strengthen tourism and rural economies. Action has been taken by Congress to promote the interests of agriculture, too, as dairy farmers secured $350 million in emergency funds and an international trade dispute with China, harmful for American farmers, was fixed. This year, I also hosted Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and the Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee in the Fourth District.
Much work remains on other issues taken up by Congress, like energy legislation, health care, financial regulatory reform, and a chemical security bill. When Congress returns in January, it must continue working to bolster rural economies and spur job growth.
As always, I remain committed to joining Republicans and Democrats as we find common sense solutions to America’s pressing challenges.
Congressman Ike Skelton (D-Mo.) serves as chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. Congressman Skelton’s website is at www.house.gov/skelton.