Congress making progress

Published 8:41 am Monday, January 19, 2015

My first two weeks in Congress have made me realize just how blessed I really am.

I’ve read part of our Constitution on the floor of Congress. I’ve presided over the U.S. House of Representatives. I even got to see beautiful snowfall on my first real day in office.

My greatest experience so far, however, recently came last during a member retreat to Williamsburg, Va. During that trip, some Marines on our security detail jokingly invited me to go for a 6 a.m. run in the 10-degree weather.

They might have been joking, but I accepted. These guys help round up some running clothes and off we went. No, I didn’t outrun them, but I did keep up.

I was honored that these guys let me bond with them. As a veteran myself, I understand the sacrifice these young men and women make in service to our country. They deserve the best lives they can lead when they return to civilian life.

That’s why I’m proud to have been selected for the Veteran’s Affairs Committee so that I can play a direct role in providing a better future for our veterans. I’m also honored to have been selected to chair the subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs, a position that will allow me to hold the dysfunctional VA accountable and be sure vets who need the most help get the assistance they’re entitled to.

The House has already passed several bills that can help these veterans — and Americans in general — by providing more job opportunities. Two bills will fix part of Obamacare’s job-killing employer mandate.

The employer mandate means that employers who hire 50 or more full-time equivalent workers either pay for health care for their employees or face IRS penalties. This mandate is keeping businesses from growing and hiring more workers. It’s also forcing businesses to slash workers’ hours so they can afford to keep them.

The Hiring More Heroes Act will allow businesses to hire veterans without having to count them in their employee count. This is a win-win for veterans and businesses: the veteran gets a job and the business gets a worker without fear of IRS penalties.

I also voted to restore the 40-hour work week. The employer mandate counts workers who work 30 hours a week as a full-time employee. As a result, businesses are slashing workers’ hours to 29 hours per week to save on expenses. Restoring the 40-hour work week will allow businesses to allow their workers to work more hours, again, without fear of IRS penalties. This also puts more money in the pockets of hardworking Americans who can’t afford to have their hours and incomes slashed by such a steep rate.

The House also passed a bill to build the Keystone XL pipeline, which will provide an immediate need for 40,000 workers. After six years of discussing this pipeline, enough is enough. It’s time to build.

I’m hopeful the president keeps his word when he said he’s now willing to work with Congress. We have the largest Republican majority since 1929 in the House and a Republican-controlled Senate. The legislation we send to his desk will be conservative legislation aimed at putting our country back on the right track.

If the president was serious about working with Congress, he can show it by signing the job-creating bills we passed in just the last two weeks. I hope to hear that commitment from him in his speech on Tuesday.

The 5th District expected immediate progress, and even though I’m still the new guy on the Hill, I’ve done my part to move the country forward. As fast as we’ve moved in the first two weeks, I’m expecting this Congress to finally get back to the business of serving the people.

Congressman Ralph Abraham, M.D., represents Louisiana’s 5th Congressional District. He can be reached on Twitter @RepAbraham and on Facebook.