With the first partisan impeachment vote since the Civil War complete, the spotlight will now shift to the U.S. Senate. Taking part in an impeachment trial is a solemn responsibility, and one I take extraordinarily seriously. But beneath the never-ending stream of headlines about impeachment, it’s been easy to miss the stories about everything else happening in Washington. This was a busy year, and together, we’ve notched a lot of wins for Texas.
Congress passed two major pieces of legislation to strengthen America’s military. The defense funding bill will provide a nearly $20 billion increase over last year’s funding levels, 98 new F-35 aircraft, which will be built by Texans in Fort Worth, and the largest pay raise in a decade for our troops.
This bill complements the National Defense Authorization Act, which invests in military modernization, and fully funds the B-21 bomber program for future deployment out of Dyess Air Force Base in Abilene. It also approved funds for military construction projects at Corpus Christi Army Depot, Fort Hood, Camp Swift, and Joint Base San Antonio, totaling $400 million.
Beyond the investment in our troops, this legislation also includes a number of bills I introduced to improve the quality of life for our servicemembers and veterans.
I’ve heard from active duty soldiers who thought the absentee voting process was too complicated, so they weren’t able to vote. This defense spending bill included a provision I introduced to simplify the process so we can remove the barriers preventing men and women in uniform from casting a ballot.
I’ve also talked with Texas veterans who have fallen on hard times and had to fight for their VA and Department of Defense disability benefits in bankruptcy proceedings, because unlike Social Security disability benefits, they aren’t exempted. This legislation righted that wrong too. No veteran should be penalized for receiving the disability compensation they are rightly due.
On top of the gains for our military, I’ve been proud to help corral a long list of wins for Texas.
It’s been more than two years since Hurricane Harvey, and folks continue to rebuild and prepare for future disasters. Sadly, some of the federal funding has gotten tangled in the Washington bureaucracy. In February 2018, Congress approved more than $4 billion for disaster mitigation in Texas, but after more than a year, folks at home still hadn’t seen a dime. This summer, Congress passed a provision I introduced requiring the Office of Management and Budget to send those, and any future funds approved by Congress, within 90 days. Earlier this year, we also approved $4.6 billion to support communities nationwide recovering from natural disasters, including those in Texas.
Another challenge we’ve faced over this past year is the humanitarian crisis at the border, which hit its peak in May. Communities throughout the state were quick to lend a hand, and help do a job that should be the responsibility of the federal government. I helped secure $30 million for local governments, states and charitable organizations to receive reimbursements for their work in response to this crisis, and nearly 40 percent of the initial funding went to Texas.
Last week the House also passed the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, or USMCA, which replaces NAFTA and modernizes trade with Mexico and Canada. Once the Senate completes the impeachment process, this will be the first item on our to-do list. I’ve been working with the Trump Administration to ensure this agreement benefits Texas, and I secured funding for the North American Development Bank, which will provide $215 million to improve infrastructure in our border communities.
On top of all this, we’ve grown the number of well-qualified federal judges confirmed under President Donald Trump to 185, including 20 outstanding Texans. We’ve taken steps to secure American’s voting systems ahead of the 2020 election. We strengthened our fight to end the rape kit backlog, passed a landmark bill to fund autism research, and made the most significant reforms to the IRS in two decades.
I’m proud of the work I’ve done in Washington this year on behalf of Texans, and as soon as the Senate has concluded its role in the impeachment process, I’m eager to keep our list of accomplishments growing.