Even though this Congress has been under-performing, Washington has produced some good news lately worth note.
A Defense Bill: Defense is the federal government’s top responsibility. With that in mind, the Senate has passed a solid defense appropriations bill. Although we haven’t enacted most of the dozen appropriations bills that fund the rest of the government, due before the fiscal year’s beginning on October 1st, getting a defense bill in the Senate was a positive, bipartisan step toward giving our troops the support they need.
No matter what Americans think of current strategy in the War on Terror, all should agree that as long as we have troops deployed in combat, we must provide them with the supplies they need. Passing this bill proves the Senate can do that. From a local perspective, the defense bill contains about $9 billion impacting Mississippi’s military installations and defense contractors.
That money helps to sustain our economy and provide jobs here at home. In fact, more than $5 billion is slated for construction of new naval destroyers, helicopter carriers and amphibious ships at Northrop Grumman Ship Systems Ingalls Operations in Pascagoula.
That translates into good jobs at Mississippi’s largest private employer. More important, it signals a firmer commitment to build a new generation of ships capable of 21st century missions requiring rapid deployment. It ensures America will remain the world’s foremost sea power.
The defense bill also includes funds for programs impacting other major Mississippi companies, including Lockheed in Meridian, Raytheon in Forest, ATK in Northeast Mississippi and defense-related research programs at Mississippi’s universities.
A New Judge: Another primary responsibility of the Senate is to confirm federal judges. Mississippi’s judicial nominees have been victimized in recent years by partisan attacks, turning what used to be a non-partisan process into one laced with personal attacks and false accusations. These assaults are usually levied by special interest advocacy groups trying not only to influence the Senate, but supplant it and enact a very unpopular agenda.
There have been exceptions, particularly at the federal district court level. Last month I was pleased that a bright young Mississippian, Sul Ozerden of Gulfport, took a seat on the federal bench. He’s the son of a Turkish immigrant and embodies the American dream of achievement through hard work and determination.
Earlier this month, the Senate confirmed Sharion Aycock, Mississippi’s first woman confirmed to the federal district court bench. Sharion is an outstanding person who graduated second in her class from the Mississippi College School of Law and became a successful attorney, representing local governments, businesses and individuals. No stranger to the courtroom, she’s a great addition to the bench.
A Reduced Deficit: Finally on the national level, there is the good news that our budget deficit fell this year by 35 percent to $161 billion, much lower than anticipated. This estimate, released by the Congressional Budget Office, shows that the deficit as a share of the economy is down to 1.2 percent, or about half the average of the last 50 years. Federal tax receipts have climbed by $785 billion since 2003 when tax cuts were enacted – the largest four-year revenue increase in history.
These numbers show that the best remedy for deficits isn’t new taxes, but bold tax cuts which promote economic growth and job creations.
Congress can salvage its reputation and overcome its dismal approval rating by doing its job and producing results like I’ve chronicled here. Results in Washington mean good news for all Americans, and that’s where Congress’ emphasis should be.
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