We often hear the narrative in the news today that “Washington is broken”. Our American political system that has been praised as the world’s greatest deliberative body is now described with titles like “dysfunction” or “gridlock”, signaling a lack of confidence in our government to improve the lives of Americans in a tangible, meaningful way. In reality, however, Congress has come together many times to find common ground and pass landmark legislation to make life better for Nebraskans and all Americans.
Recently, I worked with my colleagues across the aisle to pass Right to Try legislation, relieve constrictive Dodd-Frank regulations that have plagued our community banks, and improve medical coverage for our veterans. I was a proud co-sponsor of all three bills that passed both chambers of Congress and were signed by the president.
You may recall the Ice Bucket Challenge that swept the nation four years ago. On social media sites, we watched as a deluge of ice cold water was poured over people’s heads. Though the videos were lighthearted, they raised awareness for ALS disease. Those who suffer from ALS, which is also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, experience paralysis of basic bodily functions. Trickett Wendler lost her battle with this disease, but her support for “Right to Try” policies that bring hope for future patients was dear to her heart.
I was proud to support legislation that would do just that. I was a co-sponsor of the Trickett Wendler Right to Try Act, which unanimously passed the Senate. The bill will allow terminally ill patients to request access to experimental medicines that have not received the approval of the Food and Drug Administration. When faced with devastating medical circumstances, patients can now try another alternative treatment.
I also co-sponsored meaningful legislation that will improve the lives of our veterans. The VA MISSION Act provides much-needed funding for veterans to access high quality healthcare in the VA and their local communities. Additionally, the bill streamlines community care programs, expands support for caregivers, and provides tools for attracting and retaining top health care providers.
Put simply, the VA Mission Act will give our veterans the flexibility to seek treatment when and where it suits their needs. The shortcomings and delays of the VA should never hinder our veterans from seeking the medical care they need.
For much of our nation’s history, community banks and credit unions have helped rural America grow. Unlike the larger investment institutions, these smaller banks are tuned in to the needs of working families in their towns. Bank employees know their customers on a more personal level because they are their neighbors and friends.
Community banks support their communities in a variety of different ways. They sponsor local sports teams, provide scholarship funds, and award grants to students. The prosperity of America’s small financial institutions is directly tied to the success of the communities they serve.
The Senate took major steps to lift onerous regulations for community banks and credit unions in Nebraska and throughout our country. These lenders did not contribute to the financial crisis, yet they have been unfairly burdened by Dodd-Frank regulations that should have never been applied to them in the first place. In Nebraska, we need our local banks and credit unions to survive, but the overregulation that followed the last financial crisis produced a burden on these institutions. The passage of the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief and Consumer Protection Act will provide significant relief to smaller lenders on America’s main streets.
The opportunity to restore individual freedom and push back sweeping policies made in Washington that hurt our families and local communities is why I decided to run for office. These three bills were signed into law recently, and though there is still much work left ahead, I was proud to work in a bipartisan manner to achieve these major accomplishments for Nebraskans.
Thank you for taking part in our democratic process. I look forward to visiting with you again next week.