WOODALL: America’s shared goals
Rhetoric alone rarely translates into results. Results are what the American people demand, though rhetoric tends to define State of the Union speeches.
I looked hard for common ground in the president’s words this week, and I am working hard to deliver results both here at home and across the nation. We need a safe and secure homeland, we need a strong economy and sound infrastructure that allows us to provide for our families, and we want to give our children more opportunity than we had. We need and we desire these things. So for Republicans, Democrats or anyone else on the political spectrum, this is the common ground on which we can craft long-term solutions, even in a president’s final year. In fact, particularly in a president’s final days, and that is the business that we are about in the people’s House.
We saw evidence of this work in 2015. In spite of significant disagreements between a Republican majority in Congress and President Barack Obama, we witnessed the wheels of public policy beginning to turn once again. Irrespective of where one may stand on any given issue — win or lose — it’s good for America when the system is functioning as our Founders intended, and I’m encouraged by what we’ve seen.
We had achievements that include the first long-term surface transportation bill (H.R. 22) in over a decade; past due education reform (S. 1177) that replaced the heavy-handed and ineffective policies of No Child Left Behind with policies that start pushing decision-making authority back home to Georgia and the 7th District, where it belongs; and much needed certainty in the tax code for American families and businesses (H.R. 2029).
The examples of success don’t stop there, and each one has helped move America forward. Each bit of progress along the way builds trust between the American people and Congress that is necessary to develop lasting solutions — especially when we disagree on how to get there. I’ve never seen a perfect bill come from Washington, but banking the success within reach today allows us to move forward and add to that success tomorrow.
I see potential in the coming year. For example, the president mentioned Criminal Justice Reform. While the conservative approach to improving our criminal justice system does not include vilifying our police officers and instilling fear in those whom they serve, I agree with the president that there is work to be done.
In recent years, Georgia has been a national leader in criminal justice reform that has rebuilt lives, saved taxpayer dollars, reduced recidivism rates and inspired others to follow suit. Bipartisan coalitions came together to re-evaluate the efficacy and fairness of mandatory minimum sentences and increase access to educational resources for the adult prison population while ensuring that criminals are held accountable for their actions. I invite President Obama to come down any time and see how we are doing it in Georgia.
The president mentioned jobs and economic security for American families. These continue to be priorities for all Americans. The president has a list of ideas that run dramatically counter to the goal of a growing economy — from heavy-handed regulations and unilateral rulemaking to crushing a small business’ access to capital and substituting the judgement of Washington for that of communities and entrepreneurs. But I want to work with the president to find the avenues on which we agree to reach this mutual goal.
Each year the president has listed tax reform and regulatory simplification among his priorities, but he has yet to work with willing partners in Congress on these measures. From global security to health care reform, the list goes on and on regarding areas we agree need addressed and improved. There is room for progress in 2016, and the stakes are too high to allow division to paralyze us. I am hopeful because I see Americans united on the end goal, and if we can agree on the destination, the battle is half over.
On Tuesday, we heard President Obama speak to the nation in what was his final State of the Union Address, and there was much that he said with which I vehemently disagree. But, the president will be leaving the White House in less than a year, and there is still much we can accomplish toward America’s shared goals. As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “A genuine leader is not a searcher of consensus but a molder of consensus.”
With America’s voice leading and with us working together, I have no doubt that America’s best days are ahead. Let’s not wait for those days to happen; let’s make them happen together and today.
Rob Woodall, R-Lawrenceville, represents the 7th Congressional District of Georgia, which includes part of Gwinnett County. To contact him, call 770-232-3005 or 202-225-4272 or visit woodall.house.gov.