111th Congress Wrap-Up

By Rep. Steve Austria

As we embark on a new year, it is important to reflect on the many challenges our nation has faced and the lessons we can apply from the past year. Recently, the U.S. House of Representatives concluded its legislative business for the year with the passage of a two year extension of the Bush tax cuts and a continuing appropriations resolution to keep the government funded through March.

I continue to have serious concerns about the outrageous amount of government spending and look forward to the new Congress and the opportunity to begin addressing our fiscal and economic challenges. Below is a brief summary of the major legislative and policy issues that came before the 111th Congress.

Spending and Debt

Last year, our nation witnessed the passage of several pieces of sweeping and costly legislation that I opposed, including the $791 stimulus, the second half of the $700 “bailout” bill, and a $400 billion omnibus bill that included over 10,000 earmark projects. The runaway spending we witnessed last year, and that has continued this year with the passage of the $1 trillion government health care reform bill, is simply unsustainable. The national debt is now approaching $14 trillion with each American’s share currently surpassing $44,000. Yet Congress adjourned the 111th legislative session with the passage of yet another nearly $1 trillion appropriations measure to keep the government operating through March of next year.

Jobs and the Economy

Despite exorbitant government spending, we continue to experience unacceptably high levels of unemployment. Just this past month, unemployment rose to 9.8 percent.

Unfortunately, the past two years there were few legislative accomplishments to improve the lagging economy and high unemployment. Instead, we witnessed the opposite – with the passage of the so-called stimulus bill, unemployment rose from 8 percent to nearly 10 percent. One of the more pervasive shortcomings was Congress’s failure to enact a budget resolution or appropriations measure this year. Legislation was once again focused on short-sighted policies, including only temporary extensions of the Bush tax cuts and Medicare reimbursement for physicians.

In the absence of any meaningful, long-term action on these issues, we continue to perpetuate a climate of uncertainty with negative implications for all Americans from small businesses to farmers to families.

The Local Economy

While the nation’s economy continues to struggle, there has been substantial progress in helping our local area get back on track with the formation of the Blue Ribbon Commission and the creation of new missions at the Springfield Air National Guard Base.

The new missions will help support both the current National Air and Space Intelligence Center mission at Wright Patterson Air Force Base in addition to the Springfield Air National Guard Base.

The Blue Ribbon commission made substantive progress with its release of recommendations on how the community can enhance regional economic opportunities through partnerships with the business community, academia and government in the Dayton area. You can learn more about the commission by visiting my web site.

Health Care

After a year-long debate and a series of backroom deals, in March Democrats were able to garner the support they needed to pass the nearly $1 trillion health care bill into law. While I agree that we must find a way to lower health care costs and improve access to physicians, this new law equates to a massive government intrusion into our health care system. Many in Congress have called for the repeal of the portions of the bill that will limit health care options and increase pressure on financially strapped states.

What Lies Ahead

The conclusion of the 111th Congress, brings with it a new opportunity to curb the unprecedented spending that is endangering the future economic growth and prosperity of our nation. In 2011, we must be focused on less Washington spending, reducing our nation’s debt and most importantly, creating economic growth with new jobs.

As a newly appointed member of the House Appropriations Committee, I understand the difficult spending decisions that will need to be made as we seek to address these important issues. I look forward to addressing the challenges that lie ahead in the New Year.

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