My normal schedule is four days working in Washington while sleeping in my office, and three days traveling from Fryeburg to Fort Kent, from Jackman to Eastport — the largest congressional district east of the Mississippi River — meeting with thousands of fellow Mainers.
My 35 years of running small businesses taught me you got to work with everybody to be successful. The same is true in Congress. Working with both Democrats and Republicans gets stuff done. And I do.
In 2015, my first year in Congress, I passed the Child Support Assistance Act through the House with bipartisan support. The Senate adopted my language into a larger bill, which President Barack Obama signed into law. The law helps single parents care for their children by helping our state and local authorities assist them in collecting child support payments from delinquent parents. I know how tough it can be for a single mom or dad to raise kids. I’ve done it.
I worked tirelessly with Democrats and Republicans to marshal legislation through the House to help create new jobs near closed military bases, including in Maine. Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King supported similar action in the Senate. Our combined efforts were included in a larger bill that was signed into law by the president.
Last year, against resistance from some in my own party, I pushed a bill through the House to require the Pentagon to buy American-made athletic shoes for new recruits entering basic training. This common-sense requirement had been discussed for years with no resolution. The Senate embraced similar language included in the defense funding bill, signed by Obama. Nine-hundred hard-working Mainers manufacture American-made athletic shoes at New Balance factories in Skowhegan, Norridgewock and Norway. This new law protects their jobs.
Since I came to office, I worked with House Leadership and our senators to make sure funding was secured for constructing DDG-51 advanced destroyers at Bath Iron Works. That’s 6,000 good-paying jobs with benefits.
Unfortunately, this combined good work by both the House and Senate is the exception, not the norm.
Right now, more than 200 important bills passed by the House sit collecting dust in the Senate. Solutions to big problems never reach the president’s desk to be signed into law. The people’s work isn’t getting done because Senate inaction is routine.
In 2015, I stood strong with a bipartisan majority in the House and voted to stop the dangerous Iran nuclear deal. The Senate decided to not even debate the issue. Today, the belligerent Iranian government, which publicly chants “death to America,” continues to defy U.N. resolutions against weapons testing and to act aggressively toward the United States and our allies, and our homeland is less safe.
To further help protect our families, in September 2016, I pushed legislation through the House to hold Iranian officials accountable for financing terrorism around the world. It passed with an overwhelming bipartisan vote of 282-143. After more than a year, the Senate still hasn’t acted, and our families are less safe.
A few months ago, I joined House Republicans and Democrats to overwhelmingly pass Kate’s Law. It would impose tough criminal penalties for anyone illegally entering the United States, being deported, and then illegally re-entering. The legislation is named after a young San Francisco woman who was murdered by an undocumented immigrant with a criminal record who had illegally entered and re-entered our country several times. The Senate hasn’t voted on this important law enforcement bill to protect our families.
Earlier this year, Old Town officials asked if I’d help them attract new jobs to the business park around the local airport. Deed restrictions on 15 acres of land the Old Town airport acquired from the federal government prevented these projects from moving forward. My office quickly pushed through legislation in the House, with a near unanimous bipartisan vote of 418-1, to remove the unnecessary land restriction preventing development of the property. My bill is lost somewhere in Senate limbo, so Old Town is unable to attract those new jobs.
It is said that the Senate is a deliberative body. But there’s a difference between debating and not acting.
Everywhere I go in Maine, I hear the same thing — “get stuff done!”
I hope the Senate will finally move off the dime and follow the House to pass solutions to our serious problems. The American people are watching and waiting, and they’re impatient. I don’t blame them. So am I.
Rep. Bruce Poliquin represents Maine’s 2nd Congressional District.