This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
When Republicans took control of the Senate last January, we pledged to fix a broken institution. A year later, the results are clear: The Senate is back to work for the American people.
Restoring the Senate hasn't been easy. Under the previous Democratic majority, the upper chamber was crippled by gridlock, partisanship and cynical leadership that prized politics over constructive legislation.
In this climate of dysfunction, Republicans promised change. From the outset, we pledged to restore the Senate by passing meaningful legislation that would improve the lives of all Americans. Twelve months later, our successes speak for themselves.
As the surest sign of progress, the Senate has returned to "regular order" the traditional means by which the Senate works to produce consensus legislation aimed at the common good. In just 12 short months, the Senate has passed 187 bills, a number of which are among the most significant bipartisan legislation of the past decade.
Meaningful discussion and debate is also flourishing under the Republican majority. The current Senate has demonstrated its commitment to robust deliberation by spending nearly 25 percent more days in session than in 2014. Senators are not just working longer hours; they are also working harder and more efficiently by filling these extra hours with constructive debate over important policy issues, often focused on legislative solutions to our nation's most pressing problems.
This renewed emphasis on legislative productivity stands in stark contrast to the previous Congress. The recent Democrat majority turned the Senate into wasteland of partisan warfare by focusing on political messaging bills that had little hope of becoming law. It wasn't long before the Senate devolved into a wasteland of partisan warfare.
But perhaps the most telling sign that Congress is working again is the quality of legislation we have passed legislation that will have a lasting, positive impact on the lives of everyday Utahns. Consider a few of the Senate's key accomplishments in 2015 and what each achievement means for Utah.
Early in the year, the Senate passed legislation to improve the quality and value of Medicare, providing a significant boon to our state's senior citizens. Shortly thereafter, I led the Senate in passing a trade bill that establishes a framework to help boost the national economy, bring thousands of jobs to our state and open up new opportunities for Utah's entrepreneurs and small businesses by tearing down barriers to trade overseas.
Our state scored another victory after Congress passed a national highway bill that will reduce traffic fatalities and provide hundreds of dollars in savings to Utah's families by improving the quality of our roads and funding other transportation projects across our state all without adding a dime to the deficit.
Utah's schools tallied their own victory when the Senate passed education reform legislation that fixes many shortcomings of No Child Left Behind and returns power to the states by putting parents and teachers not Washington bureaucrats in the driver's seat. This conservative reform is a big win for federalism. As the Wall Street Journal observed, the Every Student Succeeds Act represents "the largest devolution of federal control to the states in a quarter-century."
Utah will also benefit enormously from the year-end tax bill I helped write and that both the House and the Senate passed last month. This legislation will invigorate our state's economy by making key tax relief provisions permanent for hundreds of Utah's innovators, small businesses, charities, families and our most vulnerable citizens.
Utah's families will also directly benefit from Congress's recent funding package that strengthens our national defense and ends the ban on U.S. oil exports. Lifting this outdated embargo will create an estimated one million American jobs, including thousands of jobs here in our state. Moreover, it will save Utah families' budgets by reducing prices at the pump by up to 13 cents a gallon.
This year's record of strong, bipartisan achievement bears testament to the fact that Congress is finally working again. Under the new Republican Senate, Utah is better off today than it was a year ago. Much of what we want to accomplish can only come after we elect a Republican president. But as we look ahead to the new year, I will continue working hard to help enact commonsense reforms that will benefit both our state and our nation.
Sen. Orrin G. Hatch is the senior U.S. senator for Utah.