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2014: A success, but still a lot of work to do

By Congressman Dan Lipinski (IL-03)
Southwest News-Herald

This is a time when a lot of people are reflecting on last year and making goals for the new year. While some of you may have checked almost everything off your "to do” list last year, many (probably most) of us have brought back a lot of the same goals for this year. Congress is certainly in the second group, again.

But in spite of Congress’ lack of action, there were a few important items that I was able to get done in 2014 that will help make 2015 and the future better for many Americans.

After many years of hard work, my bipartisan legislation to boost domestic manufacturing and American jobs by requiring a National Strategic Plan for Manufacturing became law right before Christmas. The bill requires that at least every four years the president works with public and private stakeholders to produce and publish a plan to promote American manufacturing.

In addition, every year the president’s budget blueprint will have to contain an explanation of how it promotes the most recent manufacturing strategy. This bill guarantees that Washington has to pay attention to what can be done to help manufacturers and workers. Getting this provision into law can really make a difference by leading to economic growth, increased American security, and more middle class jobs that pay hard-working Americans a good wage. I look forward to finding many more "Made in USA” labels on products we see in our stores and online.

A much-needed major Veterans Affairs Reform Bill was also passed earlier in the year. Having spent a lot of time hearing and reading vets’ personal stories of the shameful care they received from the VA, I fought for this bill that provides much-needed reform.

Another important piece of legislation that became law in 2014 was the Water Resources Reform and Development Act. The bill didn’t get a lot of press coverage, but it is vital for freight transportation and will help take traffic off roads and rails. It also helps battle the spread of Asian carp that threaten our Great Lakes.

Critical bipartisan legislation that I first introduced back in 2010 that will increase the security of federal cyber networks and information systems, improve the transfer of cybersecurity technologies to the marketplace, train a cybersecurity workforce, and coordinate and prioritize federal cybersecurity research and development efforts has also finally passed through the Congress. Every day, we wake up to reports of more cyber attacks. Individuals are having their identities stolen while businesses and their workers are being damaged daily by cyber espionage; that’s why it has been a priority of mine to get this bill onto the president’s desk to help America thwart cyber attacks.

Finally, thanks to legislation that I recently got passed through Congress, Chicago’s Mount Greenwood Post Office will be renamed the Captain Herbert Johnson Memorial Post Office Building, after Captain Herbie Johnson, who died on Nov. 2, 2012, at the age of 54, while battling flames in the attic of a two-story home on Chicago’s South Side.

Believe it or not, last year there was a moratorium in the House of Representatives on the naming of postal facilities. Thankfully that policy was reversed. Naming a postal facility honoring Captain Johnson is not just a tribute to him and his family, but all first responders who bravely put their lives on the line every day, often for people they don’t even know.

2015 brings a new look to Congress. Hopefully, there will be a renewed focus from both sides of the aisle to work together to pass a long term transportation bill, create an economic environment that promotes the growth of high-quality jobs, strengthen Social Security and Medicare, and, in keeping with a popular New Year’s Resolution, trim some fat.