Each month I want to provide you with regular updates about what’s going on in our nation’s capital and throughout the 4th District of Kansas. Here’s what has happened in the month of May.
Assistance for farmers and ranchers
Our Kansas farmers and ranchers fulfill the critical role of providing quality, affordable food for global consumers, but have suffered for years from unfair trade practices. That’s why I’m pleased to see President Trump stand up to countries like China and bring our trading partners to the negotiating table. However, the actions by the current Administration to create stronger, long-term trade deals have intensified the pressures of Kansas ag producers in the short term.
On May 23, the USDA announced the authorization of $16 billion in aid programs through the Market Facilitation Program (MFP), Food Purchase and Distribution Program (FPDP) and Agricultural Trade Promotion Program (ATP) to assist farmers and ranchers affected by trade disruptions.
Tariffs are not a long-term solution, and while I applaud the Administration and USDA for working to correct some of the current hardships for our farmers and ranchers through the $16 billion aid program, I am calling on trade representatives to negotiate now so that Kansans can have full access to free, fair and open markets.
I’m a fierce advocate for free and fair trade and am honored to serve on the House Ways and Means Committee, which oversees trade. As a member of the Republican Whip team to ensure passage of the USMCA in the House, I know how important trade is for Kansas producers and manufacturers, which is why I’m working with the Administration to resolve trade conflicts in a manner that benefits Kansans in the long term.
The USDA will release further details regarding eligibility and payment rates at a later date.
On May 16, President Trump announced a new plan that will address several of the most critical issues we face as a country concerning immigration and border security.
Our nation's immigration system is broken and our southern border is facing a crisis. Earlier this year on MSNBC, President Obama's Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said, "We are truly in a crisis." That was after he explained that during his tenure, 1,000 apprehensions a day overwhelmed the system. This year we've seen several days reach near 4,000 apprehensions.
President Trump’s proposal is the first significant overhaul of our immigration system in about 50 years. Like the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act did with an outdated tax code, President Trump's policy works to address the major issues our country is facing. It stops illegal immigration through stronger border security and creates a new immigration system that encourages legal immigration while protecting American jobs and wages. Finally, it ensures that America is still a safe-haven for people seeking asylum by expediting the process for those in need and quickly sending abusers back to their home country.
It's time to end the status-quo and accomplish real immigration reform.
Americans, regardless of party, agree that we should work to lower drug prices in the United States. In fact, a package of three bills passed out of the Energy and Commerce Committee with unanimous support. That should have signaled a win for the American people.
Unfortunately, as we've seen time and time again, Speaker Nancy Pelosi is more concerned about scoring political points than governing in a manner that benefits Americans.
Instead of presenting the bills to the House as they were passed out of committee — which would have a savings of around $4 billion over 10 years — Democrats decided that the best use of the money was to bail out the already failing Obamacare and package the bipartisan bills with costly partisan legislation. Other options that could have actually benefited Americans would be to put those savings toward the National Health Service Corps, community health centers and other public health programs.
Additionally, Politico reported that "Democrats in recent weeks also worried that the GOP would seize on a bipartisan drug price vote as evidence that President Donald Trump is following through on his vows to slash pharmaceutical costs."
It's clear that Speaker Pelosi is laser-focused on caring for her party and her failed policies. I'm focused on caring for you. I'm calling on the House to put rhetoric aside and revisit the three bipartisan bills without the disastrous Obamacare bailout.
Our booming economy
In May, the first quarter GDP growth was announced at an astounding 3.1%, surpassing the 2.5 percent expectation and providing more confidence in sustained growth in our country, as well as an announcement concerning unemployment falling to a new 50-year low as our economy added 263,000 new jobs in April.
— Ron Estes represents Kansas’ 4th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives. He serves on the House Committee on Ways and Means.