While much has been accomplished this year, there are still several items left to complete. As the current Congress concludes, lawmakers must come together to finish the remaining work.
One of the most fundamental duties of Congress is to fund the federal government, keeping it open and operational. And before the recent start of the fiscal year, I am proud that more than 75 percent of annual funding was responsibly fulfilled by regular order. However, even though much of the federal government was fully funded on time, a significant portion of the government is currently operating under a short-term continuing resolution that will soon expire. To avoid a partial government shutdown, it is critical that lawmakers find bicameral agreement in the negotiations on the remaining appropriations bills for fiscal year 2019.
Every five years, Congress revisits the terms of a comprehensive piece of legislation that is vital to the success of the nation’s agricultural sector. While the official title of the bill has changed over the years, it is generally known as the “Farm Bill” because of its direct impact on the nation’s farmers and ranchers. To maintain healthy crops and produce, farmers and ranchers greatly rely on the crop insurance, conservation and other programs authorized in the Farm Bill. Considering that there are more than 13,000 farms and ranches in the Fourth District of Oklahoma alone, there is no question that the Farm Bill matters to the economy and vitality of rural America.
During the summer, I was pleased that the House and Senate successfully passed versions of the 2018 Farm Bill and voted to form a joint conference committee, where negotiations have been ongoing since September. Though I do not serve on this panel, I am hopeful that a reconciled version of the legislation can soon be reported out, brought to the floor of both chambers and sent to the president’s desk.
Aside from funding the government and finalizing the Farm Bill, there are other items that need to be renewed. This includes the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which authorizes federal programs that protect victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. Without question, I support reauthorization of these programs which help build safer communities, prevent acts of domestic violence and ensure criminals are brought to justice.
Also expiring soon is the National Flood Insurance Program, which protects communities susceptible to flooding and aids in recovery efforts related to instances of this costly natural disaster. While the House has already advanced legislation to renew and reform the program, it now awaits further action in Senate.
Lawmakers must indeed race to finish work on several pressing legislative items before the end of the year, but I remain committed to doing just that.
Tom Cole, Chickasaw, represents Oklahoma's 4th Congressional District. was elected to Congress in 2002. He was identified as “one of the sharpest minds in the House,” by Time Magazine and “the hardest working Member of Congress,” by Newsmax. In 2017, Cole was inducted into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame.