In the New Year, the United States Senate must refocus on what we were elected to do — listen to the American people and address their concerns.
For the last 365 days, Democrats have read from a canned script concocted in a left-wing laboratory, completely divorced from reality. A small, yet highly vocal cabal on the far-left has captured the Democratic Party and, with the help of media allies, unions, and other interest groups, hijacked its agenda toward a socialist transformation for which Americans did not vote.
The Biden administration has purposefully eliminated our southern border. It has deliberately crushed the American oil and gas industry, while supporting Vladimir Putin’s control over Europe’s energy supply. Its out-of-control spending — to appease the aforementioned far-left faction — has created the most severe inflation in decades, yet they want to spend trillions more. Dishwashers and home-building materials are shockingly scarce. American humiliation in Afghanistan has emboldened our adversaries around the world.
Reality demands a return to responsible legislative action, stability, and American strength.
Having spent my career in the business world, I’ve been shocked and discouraged to see the Democrat leaders who set the Senate agenda completely ignore what is making life more difficult for Americans today. The Senate is being run as if the most urgent objective is to fend off Democrat primaries from the far-left.
America has real problems — most of them self-inflicted in 2021 by Democrats. Take the runaway inflation we’ve seen unfold. It’s time to stop pretending like inflation doesn’t exist or will magically resolve itself. Americans’ real wages fell like a rock in 2021. The Senate Banking Committee — of which I’m a member and which has jurisdiction over monetary matters — should be laser-focused on addressing this pernicious, daily tax on Americans. Incredibly, despite the highest inflation in 40 years, the Banking Committee hasn’t held a single hearing on the topic. That must change in 2022.
Americans are facing months-long delays for a new car, refrigerator, or building materials. We must make our supply chains more resilient by bringing back American manufacturing, from raw materials to shipping equipment. That’s why I recently introduced bipartisan legislation with Sens. Angus King (I-Maine) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio) to improve federal permitting processes that are limiting American development of key technologies, from semiconductors to advanced computing. This legislation will enhance America’s competitiveness without requiring new spending. It deserves a vote in 2022.
The war on American energy must end. On his first day in office, President Biden halted the Keystone XL Pipeline and launched an assault on the American oil-and-gas sector, despite the millions of good-paying American jobs that our energy sector supports and the soaring gas and home-heating prices that have resulted. Unbelievably, after self-sabotaging American energy independence, Biden then begged OPEC — a foreign oil cartel — to increase production (and thus our dependence on them) in a flailing effort to reduce energy prices. How about the Senate pass legislation that boosts American oil and gas production in 2022 instead?
The all-time record for illegal border crossings was broken in FY2021. Is it too much to ask that a Senate committee hold a hearing on the border crisis, or that we develop bipartisan, commonsense legislation to increase border security? Or that we at least avoid making the problem far worse by granting mass amnesty, as Democrats’ Build Back Better legislation proposes? This national security fiasco should be a front and center legislation priority in 2022.
The good news is that the Senate is structured to take on these issues. Its rules are intentionally designed to forge measured, robustly debated, bipartisan, compromise solutions to national problems. By electing a Senate equally divided between Democrats and Republicans, the American people certainly voted for that approach. It’s time that we honor that choice, rather than try to change the Senate rules to silence half of its senators.
Senate committees with specific subject-matter expertise exist for a reason — to hold hearings that marshal the information needed to develop thoughtful legislative solutions. These committees are responsible for reviewing and amending legislation within their purview to ensure that it has been carefully considered before it becomes law. Yet, in the case of the largest legislation that the Senate passed in 2021 — the so-called American Rescue Plan — the committees were sidestepped entirely.
Instead, such multi-thousand-page bills are written in secret by Democrat leadership before being foisted on the Senate floor just days or hours before the final vote. Major legislation is inevitably a pass-it-to-see-what’s-in-it exercise. As one might imagine, disastrous unintended consequences result from such an opaque and reckless process.
The American people deserve a government that acknowledges their concerns and works tirelessly to address them. The serious problems we face demand it. Our government — the U.S. Senate — must recognize it. The time has come for the United States Senate to do the job the American people require of us.
Bill Hagerty is the junior senator from Tennessee.