By John Dingell
As the 112th Congress prepares to convene, I look forward to continuing my fight for the working men and women of Michigan, as I have always done. We accomplished a tremendous amount during the 111th Congress to help Michigan families, including health care reform with a Patient’s Bill of Rights that puts patients first, Wall Street legislation that holds bankers accountable and a revamped student loan program that makes college more affordable, among other things. Yet we have more important work to do, and I have several priorities for the upcoming term.
This year we accomplished something historic when we passed health care reform. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care law reforms our health care system and establishes my hard-fought battle for Patient’s Bill of Rights to curb the worst abuses of the health insurance industry. I will continue to fight for patients’ rights in the 112th Congress. The people of Michigan and Americans across the country are reaping new benefits from this law, including keeping dependents on their parent’s plan until age 26, banning insurance companies from dropping coverage for the sick and providing free preventive services. While I understand no law is perfect and it is a priority of mine to actively seek out ways to improve this legislation as more of it goes into effect, repealing the law and going back to the unsustainable status quo is not the solution. The Obama administration has done a fine job of implementing the law so far, but I intend to continue vigorous oversight of their efforts in the 112th Congress to see that it is done in a fair manner that benefits all Americans.
My main priority is to create jobs and promote economic growth so the people of Michigan are secure with well-paying jobs and a prosperous future. There are several common-sense ways we can achieve this and move Michigan forward, including supporting and expanding our manufacturing base, closing tax loopholes that encourage outsourcing jobs overseas, providing businesses incentives to encourage hiring and leveling the playing field for international trade. I want working families disadvantaged by the economic crisis to receive an extension of unemployment benefits and job training programs to provide them with the skills they need to get ahead in this economy. As long as American families are hurting, these programs deserve our support.
In addition, strengthening the middle class continues to be one of my main goals. We can no longer afford to provide billions of dollars in discounts to the mega-rich as millions of middle class Americans struggle to make ends meet. If we are serious about reducing the national debt and helping everyday people, then Congress must let these tax cuts for the wealthy expire and extend them for those who need it: the middle class. There is no better way to help this group, the backbone of our economy, than by extending the Bush tax cuts for middle-class Americans while allowing them to expire for the wealthiest 2 percent.
Finally, I will continue my work to ensure the safety of America’s food supply. Food safety is among the most important responsibilities of our government, and I have introduced legislation that gives the Food and Drug Administration the authority it needs to protect the American people. This legislation is urgently needed, as food-borne recalls and illnesses are frequently occurring, with the latest example being the salmonella-infected egg scare. My legislation, the Food Safety Enhancement Act, gives the FDA the authority it currently lacks in order to mandate a recall of tainted food products. Additionally, it increases inspections of food-production facilities and amplifies penalties on repeat offenders. While I am hopeful the bill will be signed into law by year’s end, I intend to reintroduce it and fight for its passage if it is not enacted. The American people deserve to have peace of mind in knowing the food they eat is safe, and it is important to me to ensure this happens.
As the next Congress starts, I recognize that we have many challenges ahead of us. I am looking forward to rolling up my sleeves to do what needs to be done. I will work with colleagues on both sides of the aisle to pass legislation of importance to the working men and women of this great nation. But rest assured, I will not stand by idly and let the progress being made be dismantled. I will deliver for Michigan and I will continue to fight for small businesses, the middle class and the hard working families. Although the Republicans are now in the majority, that will not stop me from putting Michigan families first and adhering closely to these priorities.
As the 112th Congress moves forward, I urge you to communicate your priorities to me, whether it be by email, Facebook, Twitter, or a handwritten letter. I welcome all of your thoughts and ideas and will work to incorporate them into our 15th District of Michigan agenda. After all, I do work for you, and I want to do all I can to move Michigan forward.