BY REP. ANN MCLANE KUSTER
For the Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Tuesday, January 13, 2015
As the New Year begins and we tackle our lists of resolutions, Congress also begins a new session — a good time to reflect on my first term representing New Hampshire’s Second District and share my own resolutions and goals for the future.
When I was first elected in 2012, I knew that Congress was broken. But I had no idea that it would prove to be the most dysfunctional institution I had ever seen. Sadly, partisanship routinely trumped practicality, and members of both parties were often more interested in highlighting lines of division rather than seeking common ground. I was shocked when the dysfunction actually led to a 16-day government shutdown in 2013!
But I came to office with a pledge to put an end to the gridlock. I knew that in order to tackle the priorities Granite Staters care about — creating more jobs for our workers, supporting our veterans, and making education more accessible for our students — we needed to end the polarization in Congress and move America forward. So I got to work to make that happen.
There were some real disappointments during the 113th Congress, including the 2013 shutdown, but those of us willing to put aside our partisan differences were able to achieve some real successes.
∎ Shortly after being sworn in, I cofounded United Solutions, a coalition of new Republicans and Democrats focused on working together to tackle challenging issues facing Congress, like reducing the deficit and passing a common sense budget.
∎ I worked with my colleagues on the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, both Democrats and Republicans, to help lead an investigation into the outrageous scandals within the Department of Veterans Affairs, and together we passed into law comprehensive reforms to the Veterans Administration. Thanks to this new law, veterans across New Hampshire and throughout the nation will now be able to get quality medical care sooner and closer to home.
∎ I worked across the aisle in the Agriculture Committee to pass into law bipartisan legislation that speaks to our New Hampshire values: supporting organic and local farmers, feeding the hungry, strengthening our rural economy, and conserving our state’s cherished wildlife and natural resources.
∎ And, by teaming up with one of my new Republican colleagues from Indiana, I was proud to pass into law enhanced protections for whistleblowers who report sexual assault in the military.
∎ What’s more, by working together Congress was able to avert another government shutdown just last month. I’ll be the first to admit that the deal we passed was not perfect, but it helped us achieve my goal to keep the government running and prevent needless damage to our economy.
Now don’t get me wrong, Congress left far too much work unfinished. But these positive developments prove that Congress can still function when Republicans and Democrats work together to solve problems. During my second term, I look forward to building on this progress to advance a number of causes important to New Hampshire.
∎ My goals for the new Congress include fostering local economic growth and job creation through investments that strengthen the middle class, including expansion of passenger rail into New Hampshire and the establishment of a Manufacturing Innovation Hub in our state.
∎ In addition, I have renewed my advocacy on behalf of our nation’s veterans, and will continue meeting with veterans across New Hampshire to hear directly how Congress can best serve those who served us.
∎ I’ll keep up the fight for older Americans by supporting continued funding to find a cure for Alzheimer’s disease and by advancing legislation to strengthen Social Security benefits for caregivers.
∎ And I will continue working to increase access to quality, affordable education by sponsoring legislation to let students refinance their student loans and by facilitating public-private partnerships to improve job training.
∎ From reforming our broken campaign finance system, to reducing sexual assault on campus and ensuring that women receive equal pay for equal work, there are many more issues I will again take up over the days ahead. These are my own resolutions for the 114th Congress.
I would love to hear from you about your priorities, and how I can best serve you and your family. If I may ever be of service, or if you would like to offer a suggestion, please call one of my offices in Concord (226-1002), Nashua (595-2006), or Bethlehem (444-7700), or visit my website at kuster.house.gov. As always, I look forward to hearing from you.
Thank you again for the honor of representing our community in Congress. Best wishes to you and yours in 2015.