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A Workable Balance
Congress Faces Tough Issues
by: Sen. Trent Lott       Filed 1/19/07 GCN

     Although the War on Terror continues to be our nation’s greatest challenge, there are other issues Congress must address, issues that require finding a workable balance.  I say “workable” because if any of these issues are too weighted on one side, they just won’t work.  They won’t go forward.  And the American people deserve results.

Energy:  We urgently need a national energy policy.  I’ve been saying this for years, but Congress has not acted decisively on this very important national challenge.  This isn’t just about the price of gas, although that’s a big part of it.  It’s about America’s economic and national security.

We need to develop a far-reaching energy plan that encompasses practically everything our nation’s vast resources and technology can muster.  We need more domestic energy production from traditional sources like oil, natural gas and coal.  We need more hydro and nuclear power.  At the same time, we’ve got to conserve and invest more in alternative fuels.  We need the whole package.  Enacting just one or two parts is not a workable, comprehensive plan.

In Mississippi we’re finding the workable balance.  We’re producing and refining more oil and gas.  Just in the last few months, we’ve broken ground on a new ethanol plant as well as a new lignite plant which derives energy from soil.  We’re leading in bio fuels which extract energy from plant and animal matter.  All of America should be following Mississippi’s lead.

Immigration Reform:  This is not just an issue for border states like Texas, Arizona and California.  In terms of percentage of immigrant population growth per state, Mississippi leads the nation.  The Center for Immigration Studies says our state’s immigrant population increased almost 150 percent between 2000 and 2005, eight times the national average.  More than 43,000 immigrants came here in those five years alone.  That’s like absorbing a community roughly the size of Hattiesburg in a very short time – tough for a small state with a limited tax base.

We need a comprehensive immigration reform package, but the American people won’t accept an amnesty program which would give millions of illegal immigrants a pass for breaking the law, putting the burden on American taxpayers.

We’ve got to find a workable balance that is short of amnesty, protects our borders and makes a distinction between those who want to do us harm and those who want to come here legitimately, work hard and contribute to our economy.  It can and must be done.

Health Care:  In Mississippi this issue can be broken down into two parts:  accessibility and affordability.  I’ve urged the White House to make this one of the top legislative issues this year because many Mississippians cannot afford quality health care.  And, even if they can, it’s getting harder for rural residents to find it near where they live.  

The American people consistently reject socialized medicine, and we see other countries where government health care just doesn’t work efficiently or effectively.  We can find a balance between the public and private sector that will improve health care for all Americans.

Hurricane Relief:  We’ve come a long way in our recovery and rebuilding effort since the fall of 2005, but hardly a day goes by when I or someone on my staff doesn’t have to call government agencies like FEMA.  We will continue to force the bureaucracy to make sure support gets through the layers of red tape to those who need it.

I understand the need to protect taxpayers from those seeking to misuse relief assistance, but the fraud peddlers by far are the exception.  Here, too, finding balance between accountability and action is what we must do.  Our overriding priority is helping those in need.

In fact, with all these issues, the first step in finding a workable balance is asking what’s best for the vast majority of Americans and building from there.  If that’s the way Congress approaches our agenda, America will indeed find a workable balance that moves us forward. 

Senator Lott welcomes any questions or comments about this column. 

Write to: U.S. Senator Trent Lott, 487 Russell Senate Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20510 (Attn: Press Office) or Email

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