Across Kentucky, one topic of conversation dominates: the presidential election. People are captivated by the spirited campaigns and candidates in both parties. In my travels through the Commonwealth, I am often asked for my opinion or to make predictions about the race.
I tell everybody the same thing: I plan to support the Republican nominee for president. And I remind everybody that while the presidential candidates have been collecting votes across the nation, the new Republican Senate has been hard at work, passing bills that will make a difference in the lives of hard-working Kentuckians.
Take the recently passed Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA). More than 1,000 Kentuckians every year are dying from drug overdoses, frequently driven by prescription pain pills and heroin, and the rate of deaths continues to climb. Drugs destroy lives and families. I felt strongly that the Senate should act, and we did.
CARA would help address the opioid epidemic by providing additional tools for enhanced prevention, education, treatment and recovery programs that are already underway across Kentucky. The bill calls for the expansion of naloxone, a drug which can counter the effects of an opioid overdose. The bill would strengthen and enhance prescription drug monitoring programs, to crack down on “doctor shopping,” a practice used to obtain multiple prescriptions for drugs that can be abused.
CARA would also give law enforcement more of the tools they need by supporting anti-heroin and anti-meth task forces in their investigations of illegal drug trafficking and distribution. This bill represents a comprehensive approach to combatting the nation’s opioid epidemic, and it passed with overwhelming bipartisan support.
Under years of Democratic control in the U.S. Senate, a comprehensive bill like CARA never advanced. As Senate Majority Leader in a new Republican Senate, I made passing this bill a high priority.
Earlier this year, the new Republican Senate achieved another milestone that had long languished under a Democrat-controlled Senate: passing a bill that would permanently bar taxes on access to internet services. Internet service has become a vital, daily resource for many Americans, from schoolchildren to families to small businesses. In 1998, Congress voted to ban taxes on Internet access, but it was only a temporary ban.
That temporary ban was extended eight times by Congress, but never made permanent—until now. Kentuckians can rest easy knowing that the Internet access that connects them to their communities and to the world will remain tax free. This same law also strengthens U.S. trade enforcement capabilities at the border in an effort to prevent countries from violating our international trade laws and agreements.
I also worked on an issue that, as the father of three daughters, is especially important to me—helping to bring Kentucky families together. I’ve met many families who have generously opened their homes and their hearts to children through international adoption. Sometimes they encounter difficulty bringing their adopted children home to the United States, and my office helps them in their efforts.
For example, I’ve been proud to help several Kentucky families see the safe return of their adopted children from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and from Haiti. Last year, I helped lead the passage of the Adoptive Family Relief Act, which was signed into law to provide financial relief to families adopting from the DRC by waiving visa renewal fees in this and other extraordinary adoption circumstances. And my office continues to work with Kentuckians with other adoption issues, such as securing Social Security numbers for their children and navigating the federal bureaucracy.
All of these recent accomplishments build on the new Republican Senate’s already impressive record from 2015 to promote jobs and economic growth, defend America and provide for our troops, and protect the most vulnerable.
Under my leadership, the Senate successfully passed the first Obamacare repeal bill that reached the President’s desk; a long-term highway funding bill to repair roads and bridges in Kentucky and boost economic development; an additional $75 million to advance construction of a new VA medical center in Louisville to serve Kentucky veterans; funding for several important construction projects at Fort Campbell and Fort Knox; a bill to strengthen Medicare and protect seniors’ access to care; the most significant K-12 education reform bill in over a decade; funding to encourage economic development in eastern Kentucky; funding for job training for out-of-work coal workers; and permanent tax relief for Kentucky small businesses and farms as well as low-income and working families; among many other achievements.
The new Republican Senate is working because we are listening to you, the American people. From help for families devastated by addiction, to funding for our veterans, we’re taking action on issues that are important to families, small businesses, and the middle class.
We’ve come a long way from the days of gridlock and dysfunction in a Senate under Democratic control. But more work remains to be done. It is my pledge to you that as Senate Majority Leader, I will remain focused on the important issues and keep fighting for all Kentuckians.