The month of December is always a joyous time as we gather with friends and family to celebrate the miracle of Christmas, reflect on the year gone by and look forward to the year ahead. And I believe that this year, for the first time in a long time, Americans can look to Washington, D.C., — so often an object of mistrust and dismay — as a source of hope and optimism about our future.
The final weeks of the 113th Congress followed what has become a sad and predictable pattern: Several massive bills were cobbled together secretly by a small collection of political and economic insiders and then hastily forced through Congress before anyone could discover all the special-interest favors tucked inside.
And yet, as we approached the culmination of this miserable process, something remarkable happened.
A small but resolute group of representatives and senators from both sides of the aisle spoke out against this un-republican, undemocratic process. Their numbers began to grow.
Members of both parties — conservatives and liberals — stood up for the American people against a failed status quo that forces those who work hard, play by the rules and live within their means to subsidize political and economic elites who don’t.
And while our bipartisan efforts may have come up short this year, I believe they prove that what we have witnessed these past few weeks represents the last gasping throes of a discredited Washington status quo.
Ten years ago, passing an immense 1,600-page bill that no one had read and no one could amend would not even have been controversial. Five years ago, easy majorities would have been purchased with pork-barrel earmarks. This week, with the full weight of both partys' leaderships, it barely made it over the finish line.
Change comes slowly, as we know. And it comes slowest to those institutions that make the rules.
But change is coming. The era of passing legislative behemoths, written in secret via a process that includes lobbyists but excludes the American people, is coming to an end. The era of big government rigging the rules for big business and big special interests while leaving everyone else behind is coming to an end.
A new era is coming in which Washington will once again be forced to work for the American people instead of the other way around.
The Beltway establishments of both parties are exhausted: out of ideas, and running out of time. Next year, a new unified Congress has an opportunity to reshape the national debate, to challenge Washington’s failing status quo and its failed champion in the Oval Office.
We can finally begin the hard, overdue work of rescuing our economy from the grips of government dysfunction and political privilege; rescuing our health care system from Obamacare; reviving our education system and modernizing our transportation system; fixing our broken immigration system; ending special-interest manipulation of our tax system and reforming regulations to level the playing for small and new businesses.
Next year we can begin to craft a new reform agenda to increase access to and opportunity within America’s middle class. Such an agenda would help grow the economy and take-home pay. It would begin to finally restore mobility and opportunity to working families and communities while putting political and corporate elites back to work for everyone else.
For too long, the working families of and aspiring to America’s middle class have been fighting a lonely battle to keep up and get ahead. And for too long, Washington has been an obstacle, even an opponent, in that fight. That fight will remain uphill, but for the first time in a long time, there is hope. There is a real chance that fight may get a little less steep, a little less lonely. Help is on the way.
It may be hard to see right now, but change is coming. A new Congress is on the way — with new ideas and a new sense of purpose.
Washington may still be broken, but America is ready to fix it. Our opportunity to do so is almost here. For the first time in a long time, help for working families is on the way.
Mike Lee is the junior U.S. senator from Utah
Editor's Note: The TLC article DISCIPLINE is below this article.