With Gratitude: A Year in Review
As we look forward to the New Year, and take time to reflect upon the past one, Mary and I want to extend to you our warmest greetings for the holiday season as well as our best wishes for 2014.
It is an indescribable privilege to serve you in the United States Senate, and I am deeply honored to have been entrusted with the solemn duty of representing the people of Maine.
Like my predecessors, who include such monumental and revered figures like Ed Muskie, Margaret Chase Smith, Bill Hathaway, George Mitchell, Bill Cohen, and Olympia Snowe, I will continue to strive to represent Maine with an independent mind, judging every issue with care and consideration; arriving at a decision based upon the thoughts of my constituents and the merits of the issue itself, rather than the influence of one political party or the other. That is the high-standard of service that Mainers not only expect from their elected officials, but one they deserve. It is the approach embodied by my colleague and friend, Senator Susan Collins, from whom I have learned much this first year in office, and it will always be the approach I attempt to follow in my service to you.
As I look back upon the past year, I am both gratified by the progress made in the Senate and frustrated by the opportunities lost. I am proud to say that for the first time in three years Congress passed a budget. As a member of the Senate Budget Committee, and as a member of the joint Senate-House Conference Committee tasked with reaching a compromise budget, I am proud to have been a part of that process and to arrive at a result which will alleviate the harmful effects of sequestration and provide sorely-needed certainty and stability to our economy.
The Senate this year also saw several other significant, bipartisan achievements such as the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, passage of comprehensive immigration reform, which has yet to pass the House, however, and most recently, approval of a major defense bill that not only provides for our national defense and security, but also supports jobs in defense-related industries across the state. And along with Senators Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Tom Caper of Delaware, Richard Burr of North Carolina, Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, and Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, I was able to spearhead an overhaul of the student loan interest rate system that not only prevented rates from doubling over the summer, but that also finally got Congress out of the business of setting the rates each year.
Despite those successes, though, the Senate failed to move forward on several important issues, like tax and entitlement reform, both essential to controlling our national debt, or an expansion of the national background check system for handgun purchases, which when it failed to pass earlier this year, was one of my most frustrating moments in the Senate. A farm bill has yet to pass, calls to address climate change have gone unheeded, and the U.S. Postal Service is still in dire need of an overhaul in order to ensure its future financial viability. Meanwhile, outdated and cumbersome regulations continue to stifle job growth across Maine and the United States, a problem that I am attempting to address through my own regulatory reform legislation.
With much work to be done, I am hopeful that the recent budget agreement will serve as a foundation for continued bipartisan work in the coming year, because in divided government we won’t be able to accomplish anything without the support of members from both parties. It’s just simple arithmetic, and it’s what the American people expect.
So as we head into 2014, I want to again thank you for the honor of allowing me to serve you in the U.S. Senate and, as always, I encourage you to be in touch with any questions, concerns, or thoughts you have. I look forward to seeing you around Maine and wish you the very best for the coming new year.