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Last Congress far from ‘do-nothing’

Last Congress far from ‘do-nothing’
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George Orwell once wrote that “To see what is in front of one’s nose needs a constant struggle.” The media ought to keep this dictum in mind when considering the record of the 114th Congress, which wrapped up its work in December. The past two years saw some of the most consequential legislation passed in decades — but the media, blinded by its ideological predilections, insists on calling it a “do-nothing Congress.”

As President and CEO of the Republican Main Street Partnership, I’ve had a good vantage point from which to assess the past legislative session. Main Street is an organization of more than 70 members of Congress who represent the governing wing of the Republican Party. They’re conservatives, but they believe deeply in their responsibility to advance constructive legislation that will benefit all Americans.

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Over the past two years, our members introduced more than 250 bills that passed through the House, the Senate, or both chambers. Over a hundred of those bills subsequently became law. Our members were responsible for almost one-third of all the bills that passed the House under the speakerships of Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanCutting critical family support won't solve the labor crisis Juan Williams: Trump's GOP descends into farce Now we know why Biden was afraid of a joint presser with Putin MORE and his predecessor, Ohio Rep. John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerAre maskless House members scofflaws? Israel, Democrats and the problem of the Middle East Joe Crowley to register as lobbyist for recording artists MORE. And, by the way, the 114th Congress ranked second out of the past 13 Congresses for the most bills passed through the House.

What’s more, the vast majority of the legislation advanced by our members wasn’t merely “commemorative” — our members drove significant measures that will improve the lives of the American people.

Main Street’s Rep. Fred Upton of Michigan, for example, was responsible for the 21st Century Cures Act, which was signed into law in December. This initiative, supported by Main Street, will accelerate the pace at which medical cures are discovered, developed and delivered. Investing billions of dollars in cutting-edge medical research, the bill includes measures to speed the approval of new therapies by the Food and Drug Administration. It’s no exaggeration to say that millions of Americans will live longer and healthier lives as a result of this visionary legislation.

Also included in the 21st Century Cures Act was the Helping Families in Mental Crisis Act, introduced by Main Street’s Rep. Tim Murphy of Pennsylvania. The bill gained considerable momentum after Main Street’s listening sessions with women voters made clear that there was strong public pressure for serious changes in the mental health system. Main Street’s members also introduced more than half of the bills incorporated into the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, which will help prevent, reduce and treat the growing epidemic of opioid addiction.

Main Street’s members drove reforms to education, entitlements, environmental statutes and transportation funding that had been waiting decades for Congressional action. Our members championed measures — all of which were signed into law — to stop human trafficking, rescue Puerto Rico from financial disaster, combat the Zika virus and improve airport security and aviation safety.

I’m the leader of a national outreach effort to women voters, so I was particularly pleased to see that Main Street’s congresswomen championed measures to address problems that disproportionately impact women. For example, Rep. Mimi Walters of California introduced a bill to ensure survivors of sexual assault have commonsense legal protections and full access to justice, while Sen. Shelley Moore CapitoShelley Wellons Moore CapitoOvernight Health Care: Takeaways on the Supreme Court's Obamacare decision | COVID-19 cost 5.5 million years of American life | Biden administration investing billions in antiviral pills for COVID-19 COVID-19 long-haulers press Congress for paid family leave Senate confirms Radhika Fox to lead EPA's water office MORE of West Virginia introduced legislation to help the millions of Americans who experience eating disorders — two-thirds of them girls and women — and ensure they won’t be denied access to mental health services. Both of these measures became law in December.

Main Street’s members have become the workhorses of Congress. The reason for their success in spearheading so much constructive legislation, in my opinion, is that they combine detailed policy knowledge with the realism to know what kinds of policy proposals will find bipartisan support. I know that many Americans will find this hard to believe, but in truth the vast majority of measures that passed the 114th Congress did so with bipartisan votes and co-sponsorship.

I’m optimistic that Main Street’s members will make an even bigger and more positive impact on the 115th Congress. Main Street’s members hold eight committee chairs and more than 20 subcommittee chairs, and are united around a legislative agenda that includes health care improvement, regulatory reform, corporate and individual tax reduction, infrastructure modernization, energy independence, a revitalization of manufacturing and increased workplace flexibility.

As impressive as it was that Main Street’s members passed 250 bills in the last Congress, you can expect that the governing wing of the Republican Party will be even more productive over the next two years, with a Republican president coming into office. I look forward to our members taking the lead in solving the most critical national problems and helping to bring about a new birth of freedom and opportunity for all citizens. 

Sarah Chamberlain is President and CEO of the Republican Main Street Partnership.