Oversight and Government Reform
Many government programs and regulations are essential to protect the air we breathe and the water we drink, or to keep consumers and our families safe. But we all know government can sometimes be more of a hindrance than a help when it comes to businesses creating jobs and ensuring our economy reaches its full potential. That's why one of my top priorities is to make the federal government more accountable and fair to Colorado taxpayers, businesses and consumers.
As your Senator, I take my role in conducting government oversight very seriously – including reviewing burdensome "red tape" regulations, monitoring consumer protection rights in the private sector and regularly supervising executive branch agencies as laws are implemented.
Some outdated federal regulations or programs exist simply because they haven't been properly reviewed. To address that, I've introduced legislation to identify and target wasteful and underperforming federal government programs that should be cut or eliminated. This bill, which I introduced with my Republican colleague Senator Pat Roberts from Kansas, would create a 12-member bipartisan Committee to Reduce Government Waste that would submit a report at least once a year recommending cuts to government programs, which would then receive expedited consideration in the Senate. This committee would be analogous to the "un-authorizing" committee that was created to address our deficits and debt after World War II. The World War II-era Committee saved more than $38 billion (adjusted) over just three years by reducing wasteful and unnecessary spending. It is time to reconstitute this common-sense idea to bring more fiscal accountability to Washington and much-needed relief to taxpayers.
But I think we can do more still. Many Coloradans have told me about their experiences and concerns with government programs or processes that just aren't working. I want to hear more about how we can root out these problems and make government perform better for you. Is your small business weighed down by an unfair mandate? Do you feel consumers are being taken advantage of by a particular organization? If you're a federal employee, are there improvements we should make to save taxpayer dollars, or to simply help you better do your job?
Your input is important to me, and I want to use your expertise and on-the-ground knowledge. Don't hesitate to contact me at any time with your ideas for improvement. I, along with my staff, are here to assist you, and together we'll carefully review each suggestion you make.
A stagnant government is a weak government. Congress should be an agile body that's not afraid of reform. We must be willing to take a fresh look at the way we run our government in order to address outdated rules and bureaucracies and win the global economic race.
Railroads connect local economies and businesses to the wider world. But following a series of petroleum-train explosions in the United States and Canada, I am working to ensure Colorado never experiences one of these tragedies. That’s why I led local leaders from across Colorado in urging U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx to aggressively update the train-safety regulations for railcars carrying crude oil. Soon after, the Department of Transportation heeded my calls and began to take initial steps to strengthen public safety. These new safety standards will help give certainty to communities like Fort Collins and Palisade that their lives and property are not at risk, but I will keep fighting to protect all Colorado communities from fuel-car disasters.
Our state's volunteer firefighters and emergency medical personnel protect Coloradans in times of crisis. In this age of modern mega-fires, their services are critical to many communities across the state, and nothing should prevent our brave first responders from protecting Colorado communities. That's why I called on the Internal Revenue Service to protect firehouses from unintended consequences under the health reform law. After pushing hard for action, I'm proud that the IRS heeded my call and made this common-sense rule change. It is crucial that we continue to make improvements to the Affordable Care Act so that it works for Colorado families and businesses. This is a necessary change that ensures a bureaucratic requirement does not have local communities fighting red tape instead of deadly fires.
Trains are essential to moving people and goods across the West, but overly loud railroad crossings in communities across Colorado can undermine economic development and diminish our quality of life. In a major victory for Colorado communities struggling with train horn noise and onerous quiet-zone policies, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed my proposal to require the Federal Railroad Administration to work with communities to improve existing rules for train horn noise and report back to Congress with their findings. I have repeatedly advocated for the Colorado communities that have expressed concern about how the Federal Railroad Administration is implementing rules that require trains to blast their horns at certain decibel levels as they travel through towns, and I will continue to push for this common sense plan that ensures safety at train crossings without subjecting businesses and families to excessive train noise.
I introduced the bipartisan Energy Efficient Government Technology Act to require the federal government to reduce energy consumption at federal data centers. Data centers are the fastest growing consumers of energy, so focusing on energy efficiency in this arena is a critical component of the United States' plan to achieve energy self-reliance and reduce costs to taxpayers. This is a common-sense example of how a smarter, more efficient approach by the federal government can save taxpayer dollars and keep more money in the pockets of Coloradans.
I wrote a letter to the Senate Commerce Committee asking them to consider the need to revise the current train horn rule administered by the Federal Railroad Administration. It has been eight years since the agency finalized the rule and it is appropriate to review how it has worked and determine if there may be less costly and disruptive ways to protect public safety while also respecting the needs of local communities. Currently, train operators must sound their horns at certain decibel levels when passing through city crossings which results in notable disruptions in communities across Colorado. Safety for drivers, pedestrians and train operators is my number one priority, but it is important that federal regulators be flexible when developing and administering rules that significantly degrade the quality of life for Colorado residents and undermine economic development in our state.