WASHINGTON (WTOK) - Mississippi Cong. Gregg Harper issued an open letter to constituents in the state's third congressional district. It appears below, as submitted.
Charles Dickens, in his classic book published in 1859, A Tale of Two Cities, began with: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…..
In many ways, that’s a fair description of 2017. Even though the Republicans controlled it all, though narrowly in the Senate, it was the most frustrating year of my nine years of service in the House, but also extremely productive for the economy. Thankfully, the year ended with an incredible victory with the passage of the Tax bill. We learned from the mistakes made earlier in the year, and focusing on teamwork between the House, Senate and the White House, we accomplished great things together. Look for 2018 to be even better.
As this year comes to an end, I wanted to give you just a few of the year’s highlights:
1. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act will reduce taxes for more than 148 million Americans. Many corporations have already announced that they are expanding their businesses and paying workers more. It also repealed the unpopular Obamacare individual mandate. Since the implementation of Obamacare, premiums have continued to rise and hardworking Americans do not want to be forced to purchase a product they cannot afford. In fact, millions of Americans pay a fine to the IRS instead of buying insurance. I am happy to see that the federal government will no longer penalize individuals for not buying something they cannot afford or simply do not want
2. The Energy and Commerce Committee continued its work to combat the opioid crisis. As a part of this effort, the committee held hearings on the implementation of the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) and the 21st Century Cures Act. The 21st Century Cures Act provided $1 billion in funding to help states and territories combat addiction. CARA established a comprehensive strategy for improving evidence-based treatments for patients with substance-use disorders. The Trump administration has also made the opioid crisis a priority. Both Congress and the White House will continue focusing on the policies and allocating resources necessary to put an end to this epidemic.
3. The Energy and Commerce Committee had a productive year holding 18 legislative markups and 92 hearings. The committee reported 51 bills to the floor of the House and 58 Energy and Commerce bills passed the House. Six Energy and Commerce Committee bills were signed into law by President Trump this year. Specifically, the committee passed H.R. 3387 which I introduced to reauthorize and update the Safe Drinking Water Act. Generally, the committee passed bills to reduce burdensome government regulation and to provide for a more energized economy where more jobs are created and higher wages are earned. I was honored to recently be named Chairman of the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee. I am looking forward to investigating waste, fraud, and abuse in government and to furthering the committee’s work on examining data breach and identity theft issues, among others.
4. Passing the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), funds our military and authorizes increases to the size of the U.S. Army, the U.S. Navy, and the U.S. Air Force, as well as our Army Guard and Reserve, Naval and Air Reserve, and Air Guard. The NDAA includes provisions to help address several critical needs for our Armed Forces and helps to protect those who serve each day for our country by ensuring that our military has the resources it needs to be equipped for combat in the 21st century. The NDAA supports our military families and Congress provided the largest raise in troop pay in eight years. This passed the House and the Senate and was signed into law by President Trump.
5. Earlier this year the House passed the SELF DRIVE Act, which will make great strides toward the safe development and deployment of self-driving cars. Self-Driving car technology has the potential to provide new, more reliable modes of transportation which will lead to additional opportunities for the disability community and others who are unable to drive. So far this year I have taken two rides in self-driving cars on I-395 outside Washington, D.C. and the future is bright for this emerging technology!
6. The House Energy & Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Digital Commerce and Consumer Protection held multiple hearings on the Data Breaches affecting industry and consumers. The subcommittee called Robert Smith, former CEO of Equifax to testify before the Committee. I asked Mr. Smith a series of questions as to how this company could have totally failed to meet its number one responsibility – to protect consumers. The committee will continue to examine this issue in order to find balanced solutions that will better protect consumers.
7. The House recently passed my bill, H.R. 3759, the RAISE Family Caregivers Act that seeks ways to support family caregivers struggling to take care of loved ones who desire to live at home as independently as possible. It was supported by more than 60 organizations, including AARP. I am hopeful that this will be signed into law by the President early next year.
8. The House and the Senate have passed 15 matters under the Congressional Review Act, all signed into law by the President, that have removed Obama-era regulatory burdens that hurt businesses and their employees.
9. When I first arrived in the House, I started an internship program for college students with intellectual disabilities in the Mason Life Program at George Mason University. This program has continued to allow them to work in House Members’ offices and get valuable work experience, develop skills and improve their confidence, as well as to open the hearts of Hill staffers and Members to the vast possibilities of those young adults with special needs. When I became Chairman of the Committee on House Administration, we hired one of those graduates full time, and he has been amazing. This program continues to serve many students with intellectual disabilities, with over 150 Republican and Democratic offices having participated in both the House and Senate.
I realize that this is a longer-than-usual enewsletter, but I wanted to give you just a glimpse of a very busy and productive year in the House. It is the highest honor of my life to represent the great people in Mississippi. On behalf of my family and our staff, I wish you all a Happy New Year.
May God richly bless you and your family in 2018.
Member of Congress