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Commentary: Capps Recounts Accomplishments of ‘08, Expectations of ‘09

Lawmaker says Obama and the Democratic Congress will rebuild the economy, fix health care and end the Iraq war.

As 2008 comes to a close and we look forward to 2009, we have a chance to reflect on what a remarkable year it has been and look ahead to the challenges and opportunities facing our country.

Rep. Lois Capps
Rep. Lois Capps
We are facing several daunting challenges — an economic crisis, two wars, record-high energy prices and sky-rocketing health-care costs. These are serious challenges but I know that we have faced tough times before and risen to the occasion. Indeed, one of America’s greatest strengths is that when faced with adversity we have overcome and emerged even stronger.

The election of President-elect Barack Obama also gives me hope that we can build on the successes of the Democratic-led Congress over the last two years, and continue to move America in a new direction. Despite opposition from President Bush and congressional Republicans, the Democratic-led Congress had several significant accomplishments, including passing the economic rescue and the economic stimulus packages, addressing the housing crisis, making the remaining 9/11 Commission recommendations law, providing record increases for veterans’ health care and education benefits, enacting historic ethics reforms, and cutting student loans in half.

We also realized some significant victories for issues important to Santa Barbara County. I was proud to secure federal funding for several local infrastructure projects, including millions for Highway 101 improvements, almost $2 million for dredging Santa Barbara Harbor, hundreds of thousands of dollars to repair the Santa Maria River levee, and millions to assist with the design of a new transit center for Santa Barbara MTD. Additionally, I helped secure federal funding for local public safety, and national security projects including several million dollars for research and manufacturing at local businesses like Raytheon and others, and funding for police and fire departments throughout the county.

I’m proud of the progress we have made, but there is more that needs to be done to get our country back on track. First, we have to act quickly and effectively to rebuild our economy. We need another economic recovery bill to stimulate our economy and help Main Street families and businesses. Obama and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., have said this will be a top priority and I look forward to working with them on this legislation next year. I am also pleased that Obama has laid out strong economic proposals and selected a talented new economic team with the experience and credibility to help our country in these tough times. It’s not going to be quick or easy to fix the many problems that Obama is inheriting from Bush, but I am confident the new administration will put us back on a path to economic recovery and prosperity.

As part of our effort to rebuild our economy, we have to accelerate our transition to a clean fuels economy, fix our health-care system, and enact common-sense immigration reform. These issues have eluded comprehensive reform for decades and we are paying the price for this failure. But I believe the problems we see in health care, immigration and energy are also opportunities to strengthen our economy and improve the lives of millions of Americans if we act boldly. Finally, we must bring the war in Iraq to a responsible close, and refocus our efforts on stabilizing Afghanistan and its volatile region, home to so much of the world’s terrorist activity.

These tasks before us are serious and won’t be solved overnight, but I am confident that with leadership of Obama and the new 111th Congress we will be able to overcome these challenges and seize the opportunities before us. I look forward to working together with you on these and many other issues in the coming year and I wish you and your family a happy holiday and a blessed New Year!

Rep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara, represents Santa Barbara County’s South Coast in the 23rd Congressional District.

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