As we approach a new year and my final year of having the honor of representing Southwest Florida in Congress, it is important to take a moment to reflect on what we have accomplished in 2019 and look ahead to 2020.
Since coming to Congress, and why I ran in the first place, my primary focus has been on developing a sustainable bipartisan commitment to Everglades restoration and water quality. Right after the election, I began immediately to work on getting the funds appropriated to complete repairs of the Herbert Hoover Dike and to expedite completion of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) projects, especially the EAA Reservoir. I have also led the fight to diagnose the cause of, and pioneer solutions to, the Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs) that devastated our community in 2018.
In my first 30 days in office I wrote a letter to President Trump asking him to fulfill his campaign commitment to fund Everglades Restoration and CERP projects. This letter was co-signed by all 27 members, Democrat and Republican, of our Florida delegation. This was the first time that our delegation had come together to
unanimously support the Everglades and Okeechobee Watershed. Subsequently we have been successful in getting $1.5 billion (more than the previous 8 years combined) to complete repairs to the Dike many years ahead of schedule and commence construction of the EAA Reservoir, which will permit more water to be sent south of
Lake Okeechobee instead of being released into the Caloosahatchee River.
In May, I convened a meeting of experts from state and federal agencies to address HABs. This discussion has led to pilot programs to study the causes of these outbreaks on Lake Okeechobee and the Caloosahatchee River. It is my hope that we have set a new standard for funding from Washington to fix our water and on federal response to HABs, and that our next representative will continue the fight for our waters.
Another area of bipartisan success was House passage of a bill I sponsored to enact a permanent ban on offshore drilling in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico. From Florida 26 of 27 congress members supported our efforts. The existing moratorium expires in 2022 and needs to be made permanent. It is critical for the future of Florida and our tourism-based economy that offshore drilling in the Eastern Gulf be stopped for good. I am hopeful that the Senate
will follow suit and pass this legislation in 2020.
I am also reaching across the aisle on prescription drug pricing. Together with Peter Welch (D-VT), I introduced the
Drug Price Transparency Act to have the Department of Health and Human Services study linking Medicare Part B and D drug prices to the average price of these drugs in the countries which comprise the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), where the same drugs are often cheaper than they are in the United States. This would establish a global price ceiling and protect American citizens from overpaying for the same drugs. I have also introduced the bipartisan FAIR Drug Pricing Act, which would require drug companies to give notice and justification for raising the price of a drug more than 10% at one time.
Finally, I have been determined in my pursuit of fiscal responsibility in Washington. I have consistently criticized the excessive, irresponsible spending promoted by both parties, which has taken our national debt to a stratospheric $22.6 trillion. Since elected, I have consistently voted against legislation like this.
Even worse than their excessive and irresponsible spending, many of these bills contained subsidies – billions for sugar, ethanol, cotton and other commodities whose pricing should be determined by the market and not be artificially propped up by government. Just this year alone, I voted against three reckless bills that saddle future
generations with insurmountable debt. The uncomfortable reality is that debt matters and unless we get spending under control, sometime in the future it is inevitable that our standard of living in America and stature in the world will suffer.
The American people want and deserve a government that works. Each of the above-mentioned areas are critical to Southwest Florida and to our nation. It is up to us to get results.
Francis Rooney is the U.S. Representative for Florida’s 19th congressional district. He is the Vice-Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and serves on the Committee on Education and the Workforce. He previously served as U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See under President George W. Bush from 2005 to 2008.
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