By Rep. French Hill (R-Ark.) - 01/11/16 07:49 PM EST
In what will be his last State of the Union address, the president will stand in front of a Congress with a considerably different makeup than the one he was first greeted by in 2009—and he has only himself and his “my-way-or-the-highway” leadership style to blame.
When he came to office, his list of congressional allies was exhaustive, and they helped deliver to him his major legislative achievement during his presidency, Obamacare. However, the president’s great victory on healthcare was ultimately a devastating blow to Congressional Democrats and gave way to major Republican gains in the House and Senate in 2010, 2012, and 2014.
There is no clearer example of how the president’s liberal agenda on healthcare paved the way for a drastic change in Congress than the current breakdown of the Arkansas delegation. In 2009, then-Representative John Boozman was the only Republican member of our state’s six-person delegation. Today, he is the senior senator in an all Republican Arkansas House and Senate delegation - the first time this has happened since the Civil War.
When the president speaks to Congress and the American people for the last time in this State of the Union, it is likely that he will not express his willingness to work with Congress in his final year and will instead offer his “vision” for the future of America.
The president will try to use his message to draw contrast with the Republicans, label us extreme, and express his disappointment at our unwillingness to work with the White House, but it is Republican leadership in Congress that has offered a true message of hope and success, reaching across the aisle to enact common sense policies that ensure our national security, return power to our states, and grow our economy from the ground up. The president will once again offer Americans his failed progressive policies, while Congress works to offer the American people policies that will get us back on the right track.
Admittedly, there are some things this Congress and the president will not agree on, and major ideological differences exist between Republicans and Democrats; however, there is still much that both sides are willing to work together on, the most pressing being the issues of national security and foreign policy.
The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for FY 2016 that was signed into law in November after it received overwhelming bipartisan support in both the House and Senate set the priorities for our national security and provided essential funding for our military to do its job and defeat our enemies. One important requirement of this law is that the president must now submit to Congress a comprehensive strategy to combat ISIS. A comprehensive strategy today is essential for setting the next Administration up for success in our Global War on Terror.
In November, the House passed, with a veto-proof majority, H.R. 4038, the American Security Against Foreign Enemies (SAFE) Act . This bill would require the FBI Director, Homeland Security Secretary, and the Director of National Intelligence to approve any refugee coming to America that has been to Syria or Iraq at any time since 2011.
America needs to remain a beacon of hope, liberty, and freedom for the rest of the world. However, in maintaining that promise, we also need to maintain our promise of defending the American people from the very real threats our enemies pose. The Senate is expected to vote on this legislation soon, even under the threat of a veto from the president, and after last week’s arrest of two Middle East refugees in the United States on terror-link charges, the president needs to follow Congress’s lead and sign this important bill into law. I have also introduced a similar bill, H.R. 4086, the Security Verification for Refugees Act, which would expand that vetting process to anyone seeking asylum in America from any country that is designated as a high-risk threat to the United States—not just Syria and Iraq.
Most recently, the president is failing to effectively respond to provocations by the Iranian regime and hold it accountable for its dangerous actions and support of terrorism in the Middle East. Republicans and Democrats in Congress have joined together in calling for the president to implement punitive measures against the regime to respond to its recent ballistic missile tests that violated U.N. Security Council resolution 1929. By ignoring this action, the President is showing Iran that he is not serious about enforcing any agreements made with Iran. This week the House will be taking action to limit the president’s authority to lift sanctions on Iran and hold the regime accountable for its actions.
The president now is not only refusing to work with Republicans in Congress but with members of his own party, greatly reducing his ability to sign impactful legislation into law. While he may not work with us, Congress will still stand and deliver meaningful results on behalf of the American people and offer a clear, contrasting view for the future of our great nation.
Hill has represented Arkansas’s 2nd Congressional District since 2015. He sits on the Financial Services Committee.