Congressman reports successes helping constituents
Posted on August 30, 2015 21:09 pm CDT
By: Murray Bishoff
Business in Washington, D.C., moves slowly, Seventh District Congressman Billy Long, R-Springfield, told a luncheon gathering in Monett on Monday.
Long pointed to some positive developments on bills he supported and in helping constituents.
Long began by apologizing for missing two weeks of Congressional sessions following his college-aged daughter's diagnosis with Hodgkin's lymphoma. Her prognosis has improved since treatments began. In the previous Congressional session, Long said he was one of only six representatives to not miss a single vote.
Long serves on the Energy and Commerce Committee. His commitment to attending hearings, following the pattern set by his predecessor, Roy Blunt, earned him appointments to three top subcommittees: telecommunications, energy and healthcare.
On a good day, Long recounted how applying Ozarks common sense in a hearing managed to get results, such as a contentious rule by the Food and Drug Administration requiring pharmacists to present customers with detailed paperwork on drug use, even those who have used the same blood pressure medicine for years.
Pharmacists had offered to send an email to save paper costs, an option the FDA rejected. In a hearing, Long asked if it made sense to offer an email option. The FDA representative agreed, and shortly thereafter, the rule changed. Long credited the end of that extended fight to asking the right question and approaching it the right way.
While conservatives have pushed for spending reductions, Long recalled how he received 1,027 letters asking him to back cuts in federal spending. Of those, 1,000 asked for an exception on one pet project program or another, even from a very conservative local. Long has taken the position that, contrary to the wishes of conservatives, he votes for across the board spending cuts every opportunity, figuring every department can manage tightened spending a little.
Long reported joining bi-partisan support for the 21st Century Cures Bill, legislation to target more funding at stopping 10,000 known diseases where there are now only 500 cures. Earlier this year Long joined the coalition that developed the "doc fix," an adjustment in the sustainable growth rate for the reimbursement to doctors treating Medicare patients. Previously, Congress had to pass a bill annually to adjust what doctors received.
Long was most pleased with how his staff had been able to address constituent concerns, especially those with the Veterans Administration (VA). With help from his office, one woman received back payments of benefits after fighting the VA for 37 months. In touring Table Rock Lake with representatives of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, looking at specific problems, Long successfully resolved a problem for an elderly resident having difficulty reaching his boat. The unauthorized rope mounted between a post and the dock could stay for the life of the resident, already in his 80s and suffering from major health issues.
Asked how he would adjust federal spending if he could, Long said he would like to eliminate the Environmental Protection Administration and reduce spending on entitlements. He hesitated calling for raising the retirement age under Social Security, preferring to take a closer look at how payments are made.
In light of businesses taking jobs out of the country, Long recounted how a Seattle, Wash., firm bought TravelNow.com and planned to close it. The firm then discovered the business ethic of local workers, resulting in placing jobs here instead. Now, Expedia is located in the old Springfield airport terminal, fielding calls from around the country.
"People are proud of their jobs," Long said. "Trying to make it a better place to do business here is problematic. Businesses are not going to come back here if they are paying the highest corporation tax rate anywhere."
Long spoke earlier in the day at a roundtable of community leaders in Cassville.