Friday, January 1, 2016

Marsha Blackburn's 2015: A year in review.


Happy New Year! I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and your 2016 is off to a great start! The year upon us promises to be an exciting one and I’m looking forward to leading the fight for reduced government spending, protecting our most vulnerable, and ensuring American families are safe.

Before we look ahead, I want to take a few minutes and celebrate what we accomplished in 2015. We fought and had many successes in the battle for faith, family, freedom, hope, and opportunity. I’m not giving up that fight in the new year and hope to look back at 2016 with many more successes for the Conservative cause.

Fought for Tennessee taxpayers. This year I achieved permanent tax relief for Tennessee families. Language in this year’s tax extenders bill made permanent the ability of Tennesseans to deduct their state and local sales tax from their federal income tax. I, along with Congressman Kevin Brady, have been leading the fight in the House on the issue for over a decade. Making these deductions permanent is vital to Tennessee families and small businesses as it will allow millions of dollars to be pumped back into our economy.

Fought to cut out-of-control spending. As I have in every Congress in which I’ve served, I  offered my colleagues a choice of spending reduction bills: HR 39, to make 1 percent across-the-board rescissions in non-defense, non-homeland-security, and non-veterans-affairs discretionary spending for each of the fiscal years 2015 and 2016, HR 49, to make 2 percent across-the-board rescissions in non-defense, non-homeland-security, and non-veterans-affairs discretionary spending for each of the fiscal years 2015 and 2016, and HR 58, to make 5 percent across-the-board rescissions in non-defense, non-homeland-security, and non-veterans-affairs discretionary spending for each of the fiscal years 2015 and 2016. You will remember we were successful in having the 2% cut included in the Budget Control Act of 2011. That one provision has saved taxpayers hundreds of millions since implementation.

Fought for national security. It seems everyone but our President is very concerned about the security of this country and the American people. Recently, DHS Secretary Johnson admitted that ISIS could ‘exploit’ our refugee program to conduct attacks here at home, something my colleagues and I have been saying for weeks. We must do everything in our power to eliminate terrorist threats – which is why I introduced legislation this year that would temporarily defund the refugee resettlement program until certain conditions are met. We must confront the danger of radical Islamic extremism. Senator Sessions is leading this effort in the Senate.

Fought to protect you and your data. We cannot afford to sit idly by as malicious hacker groups, and the countries that sponsor them, devise more sophisticated and effective ways to attack our citizens, businesses, and government institutions. I introduced HR 1770, The Data Security and Breach Notification Act of 2015, which would protect consumers by improving data security provisions and setting a national breach notification standard for industry. The private sector and government should be working together to share information about threats. This legislation has successfully moved through the committee process and is ready for a vote by the full House.

Fought for Fort Campbell. Fort Campbell is the most heavily deployed Army post in the country, providing both the personnel and capabilities to respond and to protect our national interests. When Fort Campbell suffers a troop reduction, it is felt by our entire nation. I worked hard to ensure Fort Campbell was not hit hard by this year’s troop reduction. Additionally, I secured a provision in the National Defense Authorization Act that authorizes funding for the “Army and Air Force flying hours program,” to provide training and flight hours at 100% levels for military aviators. Military installations across the country are facing budget constraints that will have an impact on military readiness programs. I have worked tirelessly to ensure the vital flying hours program provides the training necessary for mission success and the safety of our soldiers at Fort Campbell.

Fought to improve healthcare. Health care costs continue to rise and have become unsustainable for American families. Obamacare has not delivered upon the promise of access to healthcare. Millions of people have been given insurance cards, but find their deductibles and copayments make the insurance unaffordable and unusable. It is truly too expensive to use. Thousands are left without healthcare as they find it more difficult to find providers who are on the narrow Obamacare networks. My office hears regularly from constituents about the expense and the difficulty with the website and the bureaucrats who run the program. We also hear from businesses that are facing enormous fines because they want to provide better coverage to their employees than what is mandated by the misnamed Affordable Care Act but are being told no. Obamacare must be repealed and replaced with what we know works. Patient based reforms that use market forces to give consumers leverage is the best way to provide access to quality, affordable healthcare. One part of the solution is legislation I authored, HR 543, the Health Care Choice Act of 2015, which would allow Americans to buy insurance policies across state lines. The bill would allow insurance companies to compete for your business, offering plans with the benefits you want at a price you can afford.

Technology is all around us on our smart phones and watches. And these technologies are one key to improving healthcare access and outcomes. We must be sure our federal regulators are in the right lane when it comes to new technologies and their application in healthcare. The FDA is the agency charged with assuring the safety and efficacy of drugs and medical devices. But data is not a drug or device and it makes no sense to regulate it as such. However obvious that is, it hasn’t stopped the FDA from trying to make medical device law fit health IT. Medical device legislation was enacted in the 1970s. Leisure suits were popular and floppy disks had just been invented. We need to modernize the FDA authorities to reflect the new reality of health IT. That is why I introduced, HR 2396 the SOFTWARE Act. My SOFTWARE Act was part of a larger piece of legislation, the 21st Century Cures Act. The 21st Century Cures Act is landmark legislation that will speed treatments to people who have illnesses ranging from Alzheimer’s, autism, ALS, to zoonotic diseases and everything in between. This legislation has passed the House and is in the Senate waiting for action.

Fought for our seniors. You have worked hard for your social security dollars and they should be there when you need them. The federal government should not treat social security as a fungible source to shore up bad programs in the budget. My bill, HR 603, the Save Social Security for Seniors Act creates a true trust fund for those social security dollars so that they may not be appropriated for other uses. I also introduced HR 4090, the Health Care Choices for Seniors Act, legislation that would allow seniors to choose private insurance over Medicare without penalty. Due to the mandates of the federal government, seniors are given no option but to join Medicare. This legislation establishes a pathway that allows seniors to retain control of their healthcare decisions, stay with their current doctors and decide what’s best for them.
Fought for our military and veterans. This year’s defense bill passed both the House and Senate with an overwhelming bipartisan majority. The NDAA includes increased pay and benefits for our troops, safeguards our military personnel by allowing them to carry firearms on military bases and in recruitment facilities, improves access to child care on military installations, and provides our military with the resources needed to protect our country against the ever growing threat of terrorist groups such as ISIS. Thank you to Friends of Fort Campbell for the great job you have done in helping me secure some of these wins.

Fought to protect the life of all yet to be born. Every life is precious and we must work to build a culture that respects the right to life. The use of taxpayer money to fund big abortion businesses is both morally indefensible and fiscally irresponsible. I’m so honored to have been named as Chairman of the Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives. This select committee is tasked with gathering information and getting the facts about medical practices of abortion service providers and the business practices of the procurement organizations who sell baby body parts Additionally, I wrote HR 3494, the Protecting Infants Born Alive Act, which would amend Title XIX of the Social Security Act to ban any provider proven of violating the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act from participating in Medicare, Medicaid, and CHIP and will allow states that suspect any violation of this law to ban those suspected from the state’s Medicaid program.
Fought to keep the internet free. I have been leading the fight against the Obama Administration’s net neutrality regulations since they were first proposed in 2010 by Former Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Julius Genachowski. Despite being struck down by a Federal Appeals Court in January of 2014, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler announced that the FCC had once again adopted new Net Neutrality rules on February 26, 2015. In response to this announcement from Chairman Wheeler, I reintroduced legislation I first authored in the 112th Congress to block the FCC's efforts to implement new net neutrality rules. Additionally, I introduced HR 1106, the States' Rights Municipal Broadband Act of 2015, which would prevent the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) from overriding state and local municipal broadband laws. This fight over the control of the internet is a First Amendment issue and we will continue to use every legislative means to block government control of the Internet.

Fought to close and protect the border. Secure countries have secure borders. Today, every state is a border state and every town is a border town. Since coming to Washington, I’ve worked to ensure that our immigration policies are in sync with this new reality. My legislation, HR 2964, the CLEAR Act of 2015, a reintroduction of legislation we first filed in 2006, gives law enforcement the tools they need to help the Federal government deport criminal aliens from our country and withholds certain funding for sanctuary cities. In addition, I’ve led the fight in the House to stop President Obama’s executive amnesty. I passed an amendment to the Department of Homeland Security appropriations bill in January to freeze the President’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program (DACA).

Fought for energy independence. Cheap and reliable energy is crucial to restoring our economic strength. We need to pursue clean, economical and responsible energy options that ensure we have access to the energy we need – including natural gas, nuclear, and coal. We should not allow ourselves to be hamstrung by the environmental lobby that pushes winners and losers at the expense of the American people. This year I introduced HR 1273, the Energy Savings and Building Efficiency Act of 2015, which increases transparency and cost-effectiveness in the development of model energy codes, which set the baseline for energy efficiency in buildings. This legislation was successful and passed the House with inclusion in HR 702, common sense legislation that will help promote our energy security, economic security and national security by lifting the ban on crude oil exports. The four decades old ban on exporting crude oil was outdated policy that needed to be updated to reflect current realities.

Fought for Tennessee’s creative community. The Protecting the Rights of Musicians Act, HR 1999, is bipartisan legislation that would condition the ability of broadcasters to opt for retransmission consent payments on whether radio stations they own pay performers for their music. Further, a provision that would prohibit the Federal Communications Commission from imposing radio chip mandates for mobile devices has been added to the bill. Internet radio pays music creators fair market value for their performances, Satellite radio pays music creators for performances, Cable and Satellite TV/radio stations pay music creators for their performances. Everyone but AM/FM radio pays. This is a basic issue of fairness that must be addressed. In addition, I’m leading the effort in the House to ensure music creators receive fair compensation for their work as the lead co-sponsor of HR 1733, the Fair Play Fair Pay Act.

It’s been a busy year. Thank you for staying in the fight with me and I look forward to celebrating many more successes with you.


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