By Congressman Pete Gallego —
As my first year as a U.S. Congressman ends, I want to share my impressions of my job, the Congress, and some of the challenges our nation faces.
I remain convinced that, despite the current gridlock, reasonable people — Democrats and Republicans — can come together to solve our most pressing problems. I still wake up every morning with the twin goals of injecting some southwest Texas common sense into the process and standing up for our Texas values.
Washington is a frustrating place, so I derive great satisfaction from the work I do at home in Texas. Here, my most important role is making sure you have access to first-class constituent services. We have a talented and committed team that works tirelessly across the 29 counties that make up the 23rd District of Texas.
Many constituents have experienced our commitment first-hand. So far in 2013, my staff and I have returned almost $2 million to constituents through casework with federal agencies. This includes items such as refunds from the Internal Revenue Service, delayed Social Security payments, and claims from the Department of Labor and the Department of Veterans Affairs.
I'm especially proud of our accomplishments for veterans. These men and women deserve more than just our respect and our thanks. Most of my legislation has centered on making it easier for veterans to come back home, obtain a job, and receive the benefits they have earned. The bills or amendments I authored this year range from increasing job opportunities for veterans to improving access to health care in rural areas to providing assistance to prevent suicides among veterans and service members.
Another focus has been improving the infrastructure needed to keep the economy growing in the 23rd District of Texas. Airports and runways, dams, roads, and water services across the District are critical needs that I have worked to improve so that we can continue to bring economic growth to the area.
Representing a border district, I have actively participated in the immigration debate. The border is a source of economic growth. Having well-staffed ports of entry to ensure goods and commerce can move freely between the United States and Mexico is a key part of border security and essential to immigration reform.
Though I am regularly disappointed by the lack of major progress, I maintain a sense of humor, a common sense approach, and the humility of one who is simply grateful for the honor and privilege of serving. There is no telling how long God and the voters will allow me to continue – but as long as I am here, count on me to make sure your voice is continuously heard and to work towards overcoming partisan bickering.
My ultimate goal is to strengthen our local economies and create opportunities for our kids and our grandkids. And, I and every American should always remember that – despite our cynicism and challenges – this is still a phenomenal country. May God continue to bless Texas and America.