Roby: The process matters

Published 3:00 am Friday, January 22, 2016

Donna Horn, chairman of the Pike County Chamber of Commerce Legislative Affairs Committee, welcomed U.S. Rep. Martha Roby, R-Alabama, to the legislative breakfast on Thursday. Horn said she has known Roby for many years, “and she’s the same person she was before she went to Washington.”

Donna Horn, chairman of the Pike County Chamber of Commerce Legislative Affairs Committee, welcomed U.S. Rep. Martha Roby, R-Alabama, to the legislative breakfast on Thursday. Horn said she has known Roby for many years, “and she’s the same person she was before she went to Washington.”

The process matters.

That’s the message U.S. Rep. Martha Roby, R-Alabama, brought to members of the Pike County Chamber of Commerce during the Legislative Breakfast on Thursday.

Roby, who represents Pike County, talked about the importance of “regular order” in the legislative process, sharing both “examples of the right way to do things and the wrong way.”

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“Many of you have been visiting with me about the highway transportation bill,” she told the nearly 100 business and government leaders gathered at the meeting. “Since I’ve been in Congress, we’ve gone from one short-term fix to another, but at the end of this last year we signed a five-year deal. This piece of legislation is a great example of how things can work.”

Roby explained how the bill was drafted and debated in committee, with each committee member having input in the process. Once passed out of the committee, the bill went to the floor of the House, where more than 100 amendments were added. “They were debated on the floor and then there was a vote on each one until we got the final product,” she said.

That bill was combined with the Senate’s bill during conference and Congress sent a bill to the president, which he signed into law.

“Because we went through regular order and process, every member of Congress had a say in it,” Roby said. “Was the final product perfect? Nothing ever is. But at least I can come back here and look you in the eye and tell you I addressed your concerns.”

Another good example, she said, was the 2015 update of the ESCA, Elementary and Secondary Education Act. This bill, which led to Every Child Left Behind standards, went through the same process.

“And because it went through this process, I was able to get an amendment in on your behalf,” she said. “That amendment says that no longer can the federal government use federal funds to coerce states into adopting any curriculum – including Common Core. Because of the process, I was able to be heard.”

The final bill, which was signed by President Obama, reflects what the Washington Post has called “the largest return of federal power to the states in 25 years,” Roby said. “I’m still scratching my head over why the president signed it …

“But it’s an example of how the process can work, of how we can get productive legislation and policy that works for the American people.”

Roby also brought examples of what happens when the system fails. “The best example is the omnibus bill,” she said, referring to the $1.1 trillion omnibus spending package approved by Congress in December 2015.

“As an appropriator, we marked up 12 separate bills and voted them out of committee,” Roby said. “Six actually wen tot the floor for amendments and passage.”

The process was “shut down” when Speaker Paul Ryan and other Congressional leaders negotiated the final package presented to members of Congress.

“All the good work we did in appropriations didn’t get included,” she said. “We had four people in a room negotiating the package and we got none … none of those conservative policy riders were included. That’s why I voted against it.”

And that’s why she thinks the process failed to work. “Sometimes the process is boring, but the process matters,” Roby said.

Roby also shared brief updates on other key issues, including the recent deal with Iran that returned U.S. hostages in return for releasing seven Iranian prisoners held in the United States.

“I’m so thankful that these individuals are home, so thankful that our soldiers are safe,” she said. “But this swap only took place after President Obama lifted the sanctions against Iran … as we know that those sanctions were working.

“I believe our president is making a tremendous mistake when it comes to Iran. We cannot afford to be naïve. They are not a peace-seeking government.”

She also talked about two things relating to Maxwell Air Force Base and Gunter Annex in Montgomery: the implementation of the Internet Exchange announced on Thursday that positions Maxwell-Gunter and the Air University to be on the leading edge of cyber warfare work and the federal government’s efforts to house illegal immigrant children at the base.

“In 2014 we got word for the Obama administration that they were going to house illegal immigrant children there and we shut it down,” she said. “Very quietly, over Christmas when they thought no one was paying attention, we got a letter that they were going to make a visit to assess the possibility of housing these children here again.”

Roby said she opposes both the concept of housing illegal immigrant children and the plan to use the highly sensitive Maxwell-Gunter location.

“The most compassionate thing we can do for these children is have them returned to their families,” she said. “If we don’t we send a message for more children to endure rape, drug cartels … and more in an effort to cross over our southern borders.”

Moreover, she said, housing children on a base where there is military training and highly classified work taking place is concerning. “My understanding is they are coming back for a second assessment … and we will continue to oppose this.”

Roby said she is continuing to address efforts to provide veterans with accessible health care. After the Veteran’s Administration scandal broke about 18 months ago, Roby spearheaded an effort to change the process and allow veterans a way to seek treatment in their hometowns, using local health care providers, rather than be forced to make lengthy trips to regional VA centers. “But the VA has created a lot of distrust for failing to pay their bills and other things …,” she said.

“Today, after I leave here, we’re going to Montgomery and we’re going to gather all the stakeholders together to talk about what we can do to bring resolution … so that any veteran who lives in Troy or Dothan doesn’t have to drive to Tuskegee or Montgomery for access to health care.”