As the curtain rings down on the elections and rises on the lame-duck session, Congress is facing a daunting array of challenges. From averting the fiscal cliff to dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, the next several weeks promise to be some of the busiest in recent memory.
But our work will be far from done when the lame duck ends. The next Congress must not repeat the mistakes of the last. Obstruction, delay, refusal to compromise must go by the wayside if we are to move our country forward.
After the longest recess in recent history, I stand ready to support a balanced approach to deficit reduction that includes both responsible budget cuts and revenue increases — yes, that means tax revenues — from those most able to afford them, just as we did under President Bill Clinton in 1993, which helped pave the way for the longest peacetime economic expansion in American history.
Let me be clear: Many of those most able to afford tax hikes live in my district, and what I hear from them is that they would be willing — not happy, but willing — to pay a bit more if it means more certainty in the fiscal and budgetary picture in Washington.
And certainty is certainly what’s been lacking. The unruly House majority in the 112th Congress has enjoyed citing “uncertainty” as one of the causes of the balky recovery. But it was uncertainty of their own creation, in service to the objective of defeating President Barack Obama.
Now, with the re-election of the president, perhaps the kick-the-can-down-the-road approach of the last two years will finally end and Congress will deal with the many pressing issues facing our country. That is especially necessary now in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.
That storm’s devastation of the Northeast, including areas of my own district, means Congress is going to need to act to help our communities recover and rebuild. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo estimates the costs of the storm for New York alone to be $33 billion. And with thousands of people still without power, many still unable to return their homes, and gas lines that can stretch for blocks, that cost is sure to rise. It is absolutely essential that disaster assistance not get caught up in ideologically driven politics.
It should also be clear now that climate change is real and Congress needs to deal with that reality. This includes recognizing that our aging infrastructure — buildings, roadways, mass-transit networks and power grids — needs significant rehabilitation to withstand more severe weather events, not just to keep the most densely populated part of our country functioning day-to-day, but to keep America competitive globally.
Our country needs a significant, sensible and sustained effort to better protect our cities, towns and shorelines from future cataclysms, while also creating jobs that can contribute to the recovery. I look forward to working with my colleagues from across the country who have been affected by extreme weather events to develop these policies.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.