I’ve been frustrated with the Senate’s lack of productivity and inability to complete important legislation. In recent weeks especially, the Senate has been paralyzed by politics. But that doesn’t mean we’re without accomplishments in the 109th Congress’ two years. There have been significant bipartisan legislative achievements worth noting.
Homeland security enhanced: We extended the Patriot Act, helping to make sure America’s law enforcement and security personnel can maintain pressure on terrorists. We added almost 15,000 new border patrol agents, and soon we will finalize a port security bill that will give us new tools to screen cargo containers coming here. We’ve also passed the defense bill that fully funds our military’s needs to fight the War on Terror.
Economic prosperity protected: The Senate passed a Pension Protection Act to safeguard America’s retirement funds. We cut taxes by $70 billion, and we’re slowing entitlement growth by more than $100 billion over the next decade, while freezing non-security spending.
Energy independence: America has a long way to go, but we have taken constructive steps toward becoming more energy independent. We’re opening new tracts far out in the Gulf of Mexico for additional offshore oil and gas production, and we passed an energy bill calling for more use of alternative energy.
New infrastructure: We have continued to fund new highways like I-69, which will come through the Mississippi Delta. Pending in the Senate is the first water resources development authorization in several years, legislation that will support key flood control, drainage and water and sewer projects around Mississippi, especially in Jackson.
Lawsuit abuse reform: Congress has acted to curb class action lawsuits, reform bankruptcy laws and change our gun liability laws, all designed to help our courts become less bogged down by frivolous lawsuits.
Healthcare initiatives: We have passed legislation to combat the spread of methamphetamines. We’ve responsibly and ethically expanded the current federal stem cell research program, and we’re considering bills that target autism, provide for electronic medical records and enhance America’s bioterrorism and pandemic preparedness.
Affirming America’s values: Judicial confirmations have not devolved into the partisan political slugfests some in Washington predicted they would be. In fact, we’ve confirmed two outstanding Supreme Court judges – Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justice Samuel Alito. We’ve confirmed 95 percent of all federal judgeships, the highest percentage in 20 years.
Decency initiatives: We’ve implemented stronger broadcast decency standards, strengthened penalties against child predators and outlawed the troubling prospect of “fetal farming,” the abhorrent concept of growing human fetuses for body parts.
Katrina relief legislation: Last, but by no means least for Mississippians, is our continuing emphasis on hurricane relief legislation, primarily in response to hurricanes Rita and Katrina, the latter being the worst natural disaster in American history.
Congress has acted in a bipartisan, bicameral way to help the Gulf states get back on our feet, and that in part contributed to Mississippi schools opening last November.
I’ll never forget a moment with Senator Hillary Clinton as she left the well of the Senate after voting for a Katrina relief measure. I thanked her for her support, and she responded that Mississippi had helped New York after 9/11, so it was New York’s time to return the favor.
That says a lot about the character of America, and what Americans can accomplish when we put partisanship aside and put America first. Political seasons are always tough, but we should reflect on what we did do this year, and what we can do together in the next Congress.
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