WASHINGTON, D.C. – Gallup’s recent polling shows that Congress’ approval rating is at 7 percent. I am surprised it is that high.

This Congress has been the most partisan, and the least productive in our history. Congress’s job should be to pass laws to improve the lives of our fellow Americans, not to just be content doing nothing.

Recently, Republican chairman of the Rules Committee, Pete Sessions of Texas laid out the Republican Congress’s agenda. He said: “Everything we do in this body should be about messaging to win back the Senate.”

I disagree.

I think the American people want us to focus on things that will actually make their lives better. We are all tired of the endless gridlock, but the reality of our budget situations means we can’t do everything. However, I believe we should focus on the following priorities that will strengthen our economy and create jobs.


America is driving over an aging 1950’s-era transportation system. The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) put out a report that said one-third of America’s roads are in “poor or mediocre condition,” and over 150,000 of our bridges are structurally deficient or functionally obsolete. A similar study from the Department of Treasury says that traffic congestion costs drivers more than $100 billion annually in wasted fuel and lost time and the poor conditions of our roads costs the average motorist more than $400 annually in additional vehicle maintenance every year. In South Texas, the boom in oil and gas production has led to crumbling roads that cannot handle the additional traffic. Democrats have put forward legislation to make long-term investments in our nation’s aging highway system, but it has been repeatedly blocked from consideration by House leadership. It was only when President Obama pushed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 that the Rio Grande Valley benefited from programs that literally paved the way for highways I-69 and I-2 in our region. Our citizens deserve these investments that create jobs, make our roadways and bridges safer, attract trade and industry and boost our economy. After spending untold billions rebuilding Iraq after years of war, is it too much to ask that we make the same investments here at home?

Helping Families

Over 20 million American families lost their homes to foreclosure from 2007 to 2013. As our economy continues to heal, the effects of these foreclosures continue to make it difficult for millions of Americans to secure credit, rent housing, or even secure a job. Over half of employers currently run credit checks on job applicants, making it even harder for the victims of predatory loans to regain their fiscal footing. We must fix this so that consumers no longer have adverse information resulting from fraudulent and abusive loans on their credit reports, hampering their ability to get jobs and loans.

Sadly the average CEO makes more in one day that a minimum wage worker makes all year. We must fight to increase the minimum wage. It is not just the right thing to do; it also helps grow the economy. The 13 states that raised their minimum wages at the beginning of this year have higher job growth than those that didn’t. In addition, over 900,000 people would be lifted out of poverty.

In the 21st century, women should not still be fighting for pay equity. Just last week, Senate Republicans unanimously voted to block the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would ban salary secrecy and tighten rules to try to narrow the gender wage gap. Currently a woman who works full time, year round makes 77 percent of what a similar man makes. If women made more they would in turn put more money into our economy, creating more jobs.

The economy is also being dragged down by the increasing amount of student debt incurred by our young people; over $4 trillion currently held. Federal student loan holders that default have the ability to rehabilitate these loans over a span of ten months. is time for the holders of private loans to be also be able to rehabilitate defaulted loans in order to remove this information from their credit reports.

Immigration Reform

The Senate passed a bipartisan immigration reform bill over a year ago. If that bill was brought to the floor of the House of representatives today it would pass with a bipartisan majority and be signed into law by the president. It would grow our economy by over $1.4 trillion, give us the workforce our country needs and create an average of 159,000 jobs a year and reduce the deficit by $820 billion over 20 years. It is also overwhelmingly supported by the American public. Yet House Republican leadership refuse to even allow a vote on the floor.

These are not liberal or conservative priorities, these are the priorities shared by most Americans. We should focus on working on real solutions that help real people, not waste our time on “messaging” to win elections.

These are not liberal or conservative priorities, these are the priorities shared by most Americans. We should focus on working on real solutions that help real people, not waste our time on “messaging” to win elections.

Rubén Hinojosa is a member of the U.S. Congress for the 15th Congressional District in Texas. A Democrat, he hails from Mercedes, Texas.