SEN. ROGER WICKER: Congress can build bipartisan bonds to address challenges

By Sen. Roger Wicker

The end of the year comes with reflections and resolutions, as we look back on 2012 and ahead to the future. Boosting economic growth and putting Americans back to work remain urgent priorities. At the same time, uncertainty and gridlock in Washington must not stand in the way of the recovery our country needs.
As we prepare for a new Congress, some of this year’s legislative accomplishments serve as an encouraging reminder of the constructive work and bipartisan agreement that can be done.
These highlights include:
• A better recovery process for property owners following natural disasters like hurricanes. I authored the Consumer Option for an Alternative System to Allocate Losses (COASTAL) Act to utilize scientific data in resolving disputes between wind and water claims on total-loss properties. The law was passed as part of the five-year reauthorization of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). After years of temporary fixes and delays, the long-term renewal of NFIP offers certainty to tens of thousands of Mississippians who live in flood-prone areas.
• Ensuring that fines from the 2010 BP oil spill help restore Gulf Coast communities. The RESTORE Act directs the majority of Clean Water Act fines to Mississippi and other affected Gulf Coast states. Otherwise, all of these funds would have been put in the federal treasury. RESTORE empowers local communities to lead recovery efforts by giving Gulf states the authority and flexibility to prioritize their most critical projects.
• Continued support for our troops and national security priorities. The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) demonstrates a bipartisan commitment to making sure our men and women in uniform have the resources they need. In particular, NDAA advances Mississippi’s proud military tradition and shipbuilding capabilities. The law also calls on the Department of Defense (DOD) to improve its energy-efficient building standards, which affect Mississippi timber producers and others. Among the NDAA provisions I championed is a requirement for greater transparency and fairness in DOD’s adoption of building standards as a way to avoid unnecessary costs and still achieve energy savings.
• Condemning human rights violators and establishing normal trade relations with Russia. With $55 million in exports to Russia last year, Mississippi stands to benefit from advancing trade relations, which promises economic growth and more jobs. And yet, we cannot ignore Russia’s appalling human rights record. The trade legislation also includes the Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act, which imposes restrictions on the financial activities and travel of Russia’s human rights violators. The law, which I co-sponsored, is an important signal to the world that America will continue to uphold justice and the protection of human rights.
As we enter a new Congress and new year, there is plenty of work left to do. Americans are ready for sensible measures to address the country’s most pressing problems: skyrocketing federal debt, chronically high joblessness, and a lagging economy.
It will take hard work and bipartisanship to solve these challenges. Although disagreements are certain in a functioning democracy, I am hopeful that meaningful action will prevail and a lasting economic recovery is ahead.
Contact U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., at his Tupelo office: 2801 W. Main St., PO Box 3777, Tupelo, MS 38801; (662) 844-5010.