Roe: 2016 will be busy year for Congress
Published 12:01 am Thursday, January 1, 2015
With the Presidential election on the horizon and a slew of bills being brought to the floor for debate, 2016 is shaping up to be a busy year in Congress.
As many others are, U.S. Rep. Phil Roe, M.D., (R-Tenn.) is setting some goals — both personally and professionally — for this new year, including some things he would like to see accomplished in Congress.
“We all set some personal goals for 2016,” Roe said. “One of those, for me, is to be a little closer to my family.”
The Congressman got a jump start on that resolution a day early by spending New Year’s Eve taking his granddaughters to see a movie.
Making changes to improve health is a resolution many will make this year, and Roe is no exception. This year, he hopes to continue his efforts to let his take him to work in the mornings in Washington — a walk of about one mile —as often as possible, and then taking the 10 flights of stairs up rather than the elevator.
Apart from his physical health, Roe said he will also focus on his spiritual health this coming year. “I’m going to take a course in the Old and New Testament this year,” he said. “I’ve always wanted to study the Bible more and this year I’m going to do just that.”
But his hopes for change don’t stop at making improvements to himself. Roe wants to help make improvements to the nation for those he serves.
In the Education and Workforce Committee, which Roe serves on, the Congressman hopes to build on the success the committee achieved in 2015.
“A big shoutout to our committee for 2015. We were able to redo the No Child Left Behind Act,” Roe said. “It was several years of very hard work.”
With improvements made in the field of elementary and secondary education, Roe said his focus will now turn to improvements needed in the world of post-secondary education — primarily toward the nation’s problem student loan debt and how college students obtain funding for college.
“There are seven different loans for students with different loan rates and structures,” Roe said. “We need to simplify that and add some counseling so students don’t get so far in over their heads in debt.”
Roe, a retired physician, serves as co-chairman of the GOP Doctor’s Caucus, a group of 18 medical providers in Congress who utilize their medical experience to shape health care policy.
One of the focuses for the Doctor’s Caucus this year will be prescription drug overdose and abuse.
“That is also going to be one of the Surgeon General’s focuses this year and he should be issuing a report on that,” Roe said.
The problem with prescription drug abuse, particularly the abuse of opioids, has garnered a lot of attention lately as the number of drug-related deaths has climbed.
Following a Senate hearing earlier this year on drug abuse, the Senate Health Committee released a report saying that millions of Americans are abusing which include prescription opioid painkillers, like hydrocodone and morphine, as well as the illegal drug heroin — and more than 1,000 Tennesseans a year dying from opioid abuse. According to information from the Senate Health Committee, the number of U.S. opioid-related deaths is climbing — deaths from prescription opioid painkillers more than tripling since 2000 and heroin use taking more than 8,200 lives in 2013 alone.
“We now have more deaths from prescription drug overdose than we have from breast cancer,” Roe said.
Also looming on the healthcare front is the controversial Affordable Care Act, commonly called ObamaCare. Since its introduction and passage, many in the Republican Party have been busy attempting to strike down or replace the law. Roe, who himself has been involved in attempts to replace the ACA, expects those efforts to continue in 2016.
“I think you are going to see the Republicans bring an alternative to the Affordable Care Act to debate this year,” Roe said.
But, before that happens, action on the ACA is one of the first items on the agenda for the new year, Roe said.
Under the direction of House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan, Roe said the House of Representatives will use a “reconciliation vote,” which requires only a simple majority, to overturn ObamaCare.
“That is already keyed up and ready to go,”Roe said.
In 2016, Roe expects to introduce several new pieces of legislation himself including bills related to 401k and small investment advisements, prescription drug disposal, asthma treatments, and prohibiting people from remaining in public housing once their income exceeds the maximum limits.
“These are small issues, but they are important,” Roe said.
While there is a lot of work to be done, Roe notes that work must be completed quickly in order to maintain focus as the elections draw near. In addition to the Presidential race, members of the House of Representatives and some Senate seats will be up for re-election this year.
“We need to get this done before the Republican Convention,” Roe said. “After that convention, the attention will turn to the election.”
Roe said he is also watching the elections progress.
“All in all, I think the Democratic race is over,” he said. “I think Hillary has it. I don’t see Bernie Sanders coming back to take it.”
But, on his party’s side of things, Roe is not quite as sure.
“As far as who will get the Republican nomination, I have no idea,” Roe admitted. “Tennessee will be one of the pivotal states in the Republican Primary, I think.”
While Presidential hopeful Donald Trump has been enjoying a large lead in national polls, Roe said that can be misleading.
“Those polls don’t really matter, they aren’t a true indication,” Roe said. “What really matters is whether or not a candidate can win key states.”
Among the key states Roe said Republicans need to win are Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, Ohio, New Hampshire, Colorado, Nevada, Iowa, Wisconsin and Minnesota — particularly Florida and Ohio.
“If the Republicans do not win Ohio and Florida they cannot win the elections,” he said.