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Looking Back On 2012
With 2013 now officially underway, I’d like to thank you for entrusting me with the great honor of serving you in the United States Senate last year.
I had a busy year in Washington and there are many things to be proud of. However, a great deal of my time was spent fighting the congressional gridlock that often stood in the way of substantive policy efforts and our ability to tackle our long-term challenges.
In spite of this, I’m confident that we took some positive steps toward advancing a pro-growth, fiscally responsible agenda in 2012 while also dealing with the challenges that face us at home and abroad.
Fighting for Fiscal Responsibility
Many votes in the Senate last year focused on which direction to take our nation’s struggling economy. In keeping with my campaign promises, I consistently voted against the job-destroying tax increases and shortsighted spending proposals pushed by President Obama and his congressional allies.
For example, in September, I opposed the Democrat-proposed continuing resolution, which sought to maintain spending levels at current, unsustainable rates for six months while kicking the can down the road when it comes to one of the most important roles of Congress: passage of an annual budget. The American people deserve for their elected officials to come together with an action plan that will reduce spending and encourage real growth, not merely postpone tough decisions to another time.
I also supported the Tax Hike Prevention Act of 2012, which would have extended 2001 and 2003 tax rates and prevented the fiscal calamity known as “Taxmageddon” from occurring on January 1, 2013. And I voted no early this morning on the fiscal cliff deal because it puts a tax burden on small businesses and their workers and does not help us solve our debt crisis.
Furthermore, I am proud to have stood strong for free enterprise by championing the RAISE Act, which would have permitted corporations to give raises to employees without consulting their union bosses. This important piece of legislation would have benefited employees by allowing them to earn merit-based incentives without having to renegotiate a union contract.
Defining America’s Role in the World
As a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and Intelligence Committee, I had many opportunities in 2012 to engage in our national conversation about America’s role in the world. I raised my voice against tyrants across the world, including Cuba’s oppressive Castro regime and the barbaric Assad regime in Syria. Also, alongside my wife Jeanette, I spoke out about and fought to eradicate the modern day slavery that exists in the form of human trafficking.
There were also these other important initiatives I was fortunate to work on:
- Successfully pressured the State Department to speak out on Daniel Ortega’s outrageous assault on democracy in Nicaragua.
- Secured concessions from the State Department and Treasury Department to toughen regulations on its misguided people-to-people travel program, which suffered from rampant abuses and brought American money to the Castro regime.
- Successfully passed two amendments to the FY 2013 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).
- The first was Amendment 3175, which ensured that the Navy does not retire early several Ticonderoga Class Cruisers. Four of these Cruisers are stationed at the Naval Station in Mayport, Florida.
- The second was amendment 3176, which required the Secretary of the Air Force to issue a report to Congress explaining how it plans on maintaining the testing and development capabilities for weapons at bases within Air Force Material Command.
I have also spoken out about the security of our men and women serving abroad, both in the armed forces and at our diplomatic outposts, calling for a thorough examination of the Benghazi terrorist attack that resulted in the deaths of four Americans. Just last week, I discussed the lessons we can learn from these attacks so that we never suffer such a tragic loss again.
I also had the opportunity throughout 2012 to make several trips abroad to visit critical military installations and engage foreign leaders. In April, I traveled to Colombia for the Summit of the Americas, giving me a chance to meet with several leaders about our shared future. I also traveled in May to the Naval Station at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba to tour the terrorist detention facilities and the courthouse that was built for trials by a military tribunal. Throughout each of these trips, I learned how beneficial it is as a lawmaker to experience America’s foreign policy efforts up close.
Championing Global Internet Freedom
I consider Internet freedom an issue of vital importance, not only to American life but also to the advancement of liberty around the globe.
On September 22, the Senate unanimously approved a bill that I sponsored with Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) opposing any international efforts to regulate the Internet. The resolution called on the U.S. government to reinforce its commitment to Internet freedom by opposing efforts to cede Internet regulatory power to the International Telecommunications Union.
I was pleased that the resolution I proposed passed both the Senate and the House of Representatives. As I wrote in Politico, “An international regulatory regime, and the politics and red tape that go with it, directly conflict with the Internet’s purpose of sharing ideas and connecting people.” Fortunately, thanks in part to the strong and united voice of opposition from our Congress, no damaging regulatory measures were passed at the World Conference on International Telecommunications.
Leading the Way on Important Transportation Policy
In 2012, Congress passed a highway bill and I proposed several key amendments to the bill that were enacted into law. Each of these amendments serves a key role in making our highway system safer, more streamlined and more transparent for our citizens.
Amendment 1658 – Streamlining multimodal projects: The purpose of this amendment was to streamline large, multimodal infrastructure projects, meaning projects that may involve multiple modes of transportation and therefore multiple agencies at the Department of Transportation. The amendment requires the department, at the request of a project sponsor, to designate one agency as the lead so that the sponsor can more easily navigate the network of different rules and regulations pertaining to their project without getting trapped in an inefficient bureaucracy.
Amendment 1659 – Transparency for major projects: The purpose of this amendment was to improve transparency in major project selections. While the Highway Bill originally authorized a $1 billion program to fund projects of national and regional significance, it did not require the Department of Transportation to explain why a project was selected. I proposed this amendment in order to require the department to provide a report to Congress on what criteria, as provided in the bill, each selected project met.
Amendment 1628 – Focus on evacuation routes: I proposed this amendment, which was co-sponsored by my friend Senator Bill Nelson (D-Fla), in order to ensure that states take into account evacuation routes when spending their highway funding. The amendment encourages states to give adequate consideration to the needs of evacuation routes when allocating funds under this bill. I am pleased that this amendment was passed, as it is a positive step toward ensuring that every state has safety measures in place should the need for them arise.
Serving Our Constituents
My office received approximately 7,114 constituent cases last year and closed 5,959 of them. The top five issues that we dealt with were immigration, veteran’s issues, identity theft (and other IRS issues), Social Security and home foreclosures. To better serve our constituents, my office conducted 145 “Mobile Office Hours” around the state, which generated over 1,461 visitors and 242 new cases.
Every week, our office gets thousands of letters, faxes and emails from constituents all across Florida. Many write to voice their opinion on matters of policy or politics, while many others write with constituent service requests and other inquiries. Last year we received over 1.3 million pieces of correspondence from constituents. I believe that each individual who takes his or her time to contact our office deserves a respectful and thorough response, and my staff and I have done our best to operate with that in mind. It’s also why we’ve continued our successful online video series, Marco’s Constituent Mailbox, which can be viewed on our YouTube page.
I’ve also made it a priority to stay connected with constituents by utilizing several different social media outlets. In 2012 alone more than 524,000 people visited our office YouTube page, over 16,700 more people “liked” our Facebook page, and there are more than 5,000 new followers on our office Twitter account. I encourage you to connect with my office anytime by using the above avenues of communication or by calling 202-224-3041 or writing to 317 Hart Senate Office Building, Washington DC, 20510. I look forward to hearing from you.
Standing Beside our Military and Veterans
Throughout the year I visited five military bases in Florida, including Tyndall, Eglin, Hurlburt Field and MacDill Air Force Bases, as well as Naval Support Activity in Panama City. During these visits I had the opportunity to thank our brave men and women in uniform in person for the important work they do at home and abroad, toured the facilities and learned more about the unique issues impacting these bases.
One piece of legislation that I found particularly important in 2012 was titled the Dignified Burial of Veterans Act of 2012. This bill, which I cosponsored, seeks to ensure that each of our veterans receive a suitable burial by authorizing the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to furnish a casket or urn for veterans who do not have a contactable next of kin. I also cosponsored the Veterans Skills to Jobs Act of 2012, which allows veterans to apply relevant military training toward federal licenses that are needed in certain civilian jobs. I’m please to note that this bill was ultimately signed into law by the president.
Defending the Right to Life
Throughout my time in public service, I have been a proud supporter of legislation protecting the dignity of life.
I had the opportunity last year to propose an important bill that seeks to close a federal workaround in some of our state abortion laws. I introduced the Child Interstate Abortion Notification Act, which deals with the issue of minors being transported across state lines in order to avoid informing their parents of an abortion. This legislation would make it illegal for someone to transport a minor for the purpose of circumventing a parental informed consent law in her home state. It would also require abortion providers to notify a parent of an out-of-state minor before performing an abortion. This bill would help prevent the evasion of parental consent and notification laws in 36 different states.
Looking Ahead to 2013
Despite the progress we made in 2012, much work remains to be done in 2013. As has been the case now for too many years, a broad swath of Americans remain out of work or in jobs below their skill levels. Ensuring that these Americans have the opportunities they deserve must be a priority for all lawmakers in 2013.
Early last month, I laid out my plan to address the economic struggles of middle and lower income Americans in a speech at the Jack Kemp Foundation. In this speech, I discussed my goal of seeing all Americans have the economic tools they need to raise their income and provide the life they know is possible for their children.
This goal is attainable. It can be achieved if we work together. With your help in the coming year, I will continue the fight for a prosperous, secure and free nation for our people.
Thank you and may God bless America,
P.S. Please check out the speeches below, which outline important policies that I hope will continue to be a part of the ongoing discussion about what it will take to lead our country towards a stronger future.
Remarks at the Kemp Foundation on Middle Class Opportunity
Marking Human Rights Day On The Senate Floor
Discussing Foreign Policy at the Brookings Institute
Keynote Speech on Immigration at HLN Conference
Speech on the Sanctity of Life at Susan B. Anthony List Gala