In Congress, you learn real quick that the barn is full of show horses and workhorses. The show horses talk a big game while galloping from one cable news camera to the next.
But it’s the workhorses that get things done.
Southern Illinois’ has a lot of workhorses, and I knew if I was going to remain true to those values, I’d need to find common ground with members from across the political spectrum without compromising my principles. That is why every single bill I’ve introduced has had bipartisan support. A Democrat co-sponsor on every single one. Several of those bills are now law.
As a Marine and chairman of the Veterans’ Affairs Disability Subcommittee, I knew we had to honor the sacrifices of our veterans and their families and ensure they are provided the best care possible. I was shocked when it was brought to my attention last year that more than 470,000 American veterans were languishing in the VA benefits appeals process, waiting to have their cases heard and their benefits rendered. In response, I went to work with U.S. Rep. Elizabeth Esty, D-Connecticut, and introduced the Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act to make the VA appeals process more efficient. That bill was signed into law by President Trump last year.
In recent years, we’ve seen an alarming rise in violence at our schools. We have to ensure our children have a safe environment to grow and learn. That’s why I partnered with U.S. Rep. Brad Schneider, D-Illinois, to write the Securing Our Schools (SOS) Act, which established a federal program for local school districts to enhance their security and install panic alert systems. A school in Chicago and one in De Soto or Herrin have very different security challenges, but these grants allow the school districts the flexibility to address their unique needs. The SOS Act became law as part of a larger school safety legislative package earlier this year.
As a member of the House Agriculture Committee, I am proud to represent the more than 10,000 producers in our district. What I’ve heard from them, especially our beginning farmers, is that the cost of doing business is growing while their revenue to reinvest in their business and employees is shrinking. That’s why I introduced the bipartisan Beginning Agriculturist Lifetime Employment (BALE) Act to give beginning farmers, ranchers, and agricultural producers better access to credit so they can expand or diversify their operations. The BALE Act passed the House as part of the FARM Bill earlier this summer and is expected to be signed into law later this fall.
When the holiday floods of 2016 breached the Len Small Levee in Alexander County, destroying several thousand acres of infrastructure and agriculture land, residents were left in bureaucratic limbo as federal agencies calculated whether fixing the levee was worth their while. In the meantime, Southern Illinois families suffered. So I worked on a legislative fix gives a lifeline to rural communities struggling to rebuild after a disaster by providing financial flexibility for local sponsors to partner with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to meet their economic threshold for repair. My provision passed the House this month and should be signed into law in the coming weeks.
So when you’re watching a debate this fall or come across a slick new attack ad on television, think about which horse is right for Southern Illinois. The show horse or workhorse?
Either way, I want you to know that it has truly been the honor of a lifetime representing Southern Illinois in Congress. Who would have thought that a kid who joined the Marines out of high school and became a truck driver and a firefighter could one day go on to write bills in Congress?
It’s been a humbling ride.
September 23, 2018