U.S. Congress completes historic year

Published 10:49 am Tuesday, December 29, 2009

This year has been historic, and Congress took on an extremely ambitious agenda. We entered the year in a financial crisis, but we were ready to buckle down and help our nation recover.

We needed to address a broken health care system, a faltering economy, and a number of other pressing issues.

As the year comes to a close, I wanted to share with you what we have accomplished.

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One of the first pieces of legislation Congress passed this year was the American and Recovery Reinvestment Act.

Though the Recovery Act funds have been distributed more slowly than some anticipated, the results are undeniable.

In Ohio, new funds are awarded and released every week, and I expect announcements to continue in 2010.

So far, $238 million dollars have been dispersed in the 12 counties I represent, and we have created approximately 230 jobs.

The Recovery Act also included important tax relief to help families struggling in these difficult economic times.

Over 4.5 million Ohioans were granted an income tax reduction of up to $800, and more families will now benefit from an expansion of the child tax credit.

Congress started the year quickly and did not slow down. Knowing that our country’s long-term success lies in the hands of our youth, we passed the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act to ensure that college is affordable for every qualified student.

This legislation increased the Pell Grant scholarship to $5,550 in 2010 and $6,900 by 2019, and invested nearly $78 million in Ohio’s aging community college facilities.

In June, the House took up energy reform legislation, commonly called “Cap and Trade.” While I believe we need to support new energy initiatives, I voted No because I felt the bill was unfair to industries of our area.

Congress then took on the gargantuan task of reforming the health insurance industry.

I went into the fight believing that all Ohioans deserve access to stable, affordable, quality health care. Right now, over a million Ohioans are uninsured or underinsured.

Too many of our small businesses can no longer afford to provide health insurance to their employees. And the Medicare Trust Fund could go bankrupt by 2017, leaving millions of seniors at risk.

Those facts, along with the endorsement of leading groups like AARP and the American Medical Association, led me to vote for the Affordable Health Care for America Act.

This legislation will help bring stability and security to the health care system, lower costs, and insure broader coverage, all without increasing our deficit.

The Senate is still debating health reform legislation and it is my hope that Congress will send a bill to the President early next year.

Finally, just last week Congress took up legislation to reign in Wall Street. This was the first major overhaul of our banking system since the Roosevelt Administration.

The House passed common sense financial regulatory reforms that will provide more oversight, transparency and consumer protection in our financial system.

Wall Street’s dangerous behavior put our entire country at risk, but we took action to make sure it does not happen again.

This year has not been easy, but the action Congress has taken will ensure that our citizens get the health care they deserve, that our children receive the best education, and that our economy is strengthened as we put people back to work and stabilize our banks.

I believe this important work has put our country back on the right path.

Charlie Wilson serves in the U.S. House of Representative’s 6th District that includes Lawrence County.