This November, the American people sent a very loud message to Washington. The constant campaign cycle combined with a hesitancy to promote a positive legislative agenda over the last two years led to partisan infighting and gridlock, and the country has suffered. Harry Reid refused to consider any of the many House-passed bills that would create jobs, inhibiting Congress’ ability to effectively do its job. This week, the American people signaled it is time for a new direction. Now, Republicans will have the largest House majority in nearly a century and will hold the Senate for the first time in nearly a decade.
The danger for Republicans moving forward is to find ourselves on third base and think we’ve hit a triple. We must not fall into this trap. The American people do not yet have confidence that we are part of the solution, not part of the problem. This is our chance to change their minds. These elections present a tremendous opportunity to show leadership. House and Senate Republicans must work together to drive a positive agenda that will make government work effectively and provide opportunities for working families across the country.
As we move forward with crafting an agenda that will grow the American economy and create jobs, I am advocating for our leadership to look to Louisiana as an example. Currently, the unemployment rate in Lafayette and Lake Charles in my south Louisiana district is significantly lower than the national average. That is no accident. We have created an environment in our state that makes responsible use of our natural petroleum deposits and keeps taxes low for families and businesses, while building thriving relationships with our trading partners abroad and maintaining our water infrastructure, allowing us to capitalize on these relationships.
We are on the leading edge of an American energy revolution that has the potential to kick our nation’s economy into high gear. Already, we are seeing the effects of this in south Louisiana, as nearly $80 billion in pledged investment from liquefied natural gas production and gas-to-liquid facilities begins to come online. This is just one part of the manufacturing renaissance taking place in our state with refineries and chemical plants providing well-paying jobs for Louisiana families statewide. The Lake Charles area is one of the fastest growing in the United States and continues to attract new businesses and residents.
As a Republican majority takes control of the Senate, we should craft a national energy strategy that allows us to take advantage of American energy production, which will lower costs at the pump for families and make our businesses more competitive. We also should seek to support LNG production and export in any way possible, giving us leverage with trading partners abroad and realizing our potential to become the global leader in this field. If we can find ways to leverage our natural resources into economic prosperity, all Americans will benefit.
Perhaps no area is riper for congressional leadership than on the issue of tax reform. The American tax code is outdated and overcomplicated, and does not work for the majority of the American people. Businesses are forced to hire armies of accountants while the tax code leaks billions from porous loopholes that have accumulated over decades. With new leadership in the Senate, Republicans have a golden opportunity to finally act on tax reform legislation. We must seize that opportunity. We should lower the corporate tax rate, close loopholes and lower overall rates to increase competitiveness but also to ensure fairness for the average American.
America also must act to build relationships with our trading partners that expand new opportunities for American-made products and allow our businesses and workers to compete in the global marketplace. Louisiana is an export state — we currently rank seventh in total exports nationwide, outperforming many other states relative to our size and population. We rely on a well-developed water infrastructure to support American trade and shipping, elevating our state on the national stage and building our brand worldwide. To support this, the Republican Congress should immediately pass Trade Promotion Authority legislation to give our negotiators greater leverage while they craft trade agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership. We should continue the work I’ve helped start to ensure funds collected through the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund are actually used for dredging and port maintenance, reflecting our water infrastructure’s important place in this system. We should seek out and capitalize on every opportunity to expand the marketplace in which American businesses can compete, creating more high-paying jobs for working families.
If Republicans can take the initiative and govern on critical issues such as these, we have a credible shot of earning back the trust of the American people. We must not fall into the trap of hesitating to lead in the runup to the next election.
The American people have spoken loud and clear: They are tired of gridlock. Actions speak louder than words. Republicans can and should craft a positive vision of what we believe America can be and pursue that vision relentlessly.
Charles W. Boustany Jr. represents Louisiana’s 3rd District in the U.S. House of Representatives.