Changing the Culture of the Senate
Aug 13 2015
With August upon us, the U.S. Senate has adjourned so we can spend the month working back in our home states.
It’s always great to spend some extended time in Arkansas, but this work period is distinctive because, for the first time in a long time, we are headed home with accomplishments in hand.
The Senate is working again. This year, we’ve been able to change the chamber’s culture for the better and get things done.
Just last week, we passed the first long-term highway bill in ten years. It revamps federal highway programs and makes sure revenue that is supposed to go to infrastructure is returned to the states to build and repair roads and bridges. It saves money by providing a steady and reliable framework for project planning. It will create immediate jobs and produce decades of economic opportunity for communities.
I don’t think it would be out of line to suggest that the change in the Senate’s leadership played a large role in getting beyond the decade-long impasse on a long-term highway bill.
Truth is, not a lot got done around here in recent years. During Senator Harry Reid’s tenure as Majority Leader, compromise was seldom sought, amendments were routinely blocked from being offered and tough votes for his caucus were avoided at all costs.
The Senate took a turn for the better in 2015 when the Republicans took control.
Eight months into this year and we’ve passed over seventy bills—thirty of which have been signed into law.
Many of these are bills that are of vital importance to Arkansans.
Along with a long-term highway bill, we passed legislation granting the president trade promotion authority so we can pursue the strongest free and fair trade agreements that we can negotiate.
We also passed the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act, which will provide VA with the personnel, services and proper tools to help veterans facing mental illness struggles and the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act, which will help end modern day slavery.
And we can’t leave out the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act, which gives Congress a voice in the President’s negotiations with Iran over its illicit nuclear program. It is because we came together across party lines that the American people will now have a say over the dangerous deal negotiated by this administration. Review of the agreement is likely to be at the top of our to-do list when we return from the in-state work period.
As we’ve witnessed, this chamber works best when we work together. That is why the Majority Leader has made good faith efforts to be inclusive. Amendment votes this year have already reached triple digits. Last year, there were fifteen total.
Unfortunately, President Obama is encouraging Senate Democrats to follow a strategy of obstruction when we return after Labor Day because he wants more spending for bureaucracies like the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). This is not the direction the country needs to go.
Regular order works. We are far more productive in this environment. It is my hope that Senate Democrats reject the President’s call to obstruct when we return from the August work period so that we can continue to work together for the good of the country.