With 2019 behind us, I’d like to reflect on a few major highlights from the year. While Democrats have spent 2019 focused on impeaching President Trump, I remained focused on delivering on the promises made to the American people. From securing our border, to giving Mississippi a voice at the table on decisions related to the Bonnet Carré Spillway, to passing the National Defense Authorization Act, and working to protect and create jobs in south Mississippi, 2019 was busy. Most recently, I supported the passage of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) that will provide major reforms to the outdated North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). A victory secured by President Trump that will add billions to our booming economy and create more job opportunities for Americans in every corner of the nation.
As you may recall, 2019 began with the government being shut down because Democrats refused to work with Republicans and President Trump to help solve our border crisis. I was selected as one of four House Republican Appropriators to serve as a conferee on the joint appropriations committee tasked with securing our border and ending the government shutdown. During the weeks-long debate, I led several members of the conference committee on a bipartisan fact-finding trip to the southern border to see the border crisis firsthand. I returned with three major takeaways: we need to build a border wall to stop the flow of illegal border crossings and funnel unlawful border traffic to our ports of entry, we need to put more boots at the border to hold the front line, and we must install 21st-century technology to help monitor our border. Using this information, I went head to head with Democrats to secure funding that secures our border. While there is still work left to be done, I was honored to serve as a conferee to end the government shutdown and invest in smart border security.
Palazzo visits a Port of Entry on the southern border
Palazzo views a portion of the border wall
You may recall that earlier in the year the Bonnet Carré Spillway was opened not once, but twice, wiping out our sea life in the Mississippi Sound, causing a regional disaster. Having lived by and worked in the Gulf of Mexico over the course of my life, I fully understand our way of life is dependent on a healthy Mississippi Sound. Taking action immediately, I supported Governor Bryant’s request for a federal fisheries disaster declaration by the Department of Commerce. This declaration, which was approved in September, will provide much needed economic relief to those who depend on a healthy ecosystem in the Gulf of Mexico.
One of my top priorities in spearheading efforts to ensure a regional disaster like this does not occur again was ensuring Mississippians would have a voice at the table when future decisions are made on opening the spillway. To help support this effort, I worked to pass language that directs the Army Corps of Engineers, who operates the Bonnet Carré Spillway, to consult a fisheries expert before opening the spillway. By having someone who understands the delicate ecosystem that exists in the Mississippi Sound, the Mississippi Gulf Coast will have an advocate that knows our way of life and can bring real impacts to the attention of those making operating decisions. As we move ahead with this new guidance, I will continue working to protect our way of life in south Mississippi.
Over the course of the year, I also introduced legislation to continue growing Mississippi's Blue Economy and our understanding of the Gulf of Mexico. After working with President Trump to sign the CENOTE Act into law in 2018, we were able to break ground on the new Ocean Enterprise facility that will continue collaborative partnerships between the federal government and public universities. To also support our understanding of our oceans, I helped introduce the Regional Ocean Partnerships Act which increases data collaboration between states sharing coastlines. Through all of these efforts, we will continue finding ways to expand our understanding of the Gulf of Mexico.
Palazzo joins Mississippi leaders in breaking ground at the new Ocean Enterprise facility
Last year also marked the 50th anniversary of astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin stepping foot on the moon, being the first people in history to reach the lunar surface. We are working to restore American exceptionalism and leadership in space by sending American astronauts back to the moon in 2024 on Artemis space missions. To help accomplish this goal, Stennis Space Center will once again test the rocket engines that will launch our astronauts off the earths surface on a lunar mission. In order to expedite the launch of Artemis 1, the Core Stage Green Run testing of the SLS was potentially going to be bypassed. Understanding the important work performed at Stennis Space Center, I worked with the NASA Administrator to underscore how critical the engine testing stage performed at Stennis is to NASA’s overall mission. In July, we received final word that Stennis will continue its practice of testing the Space Launch System (SLS) Core Stage Green Run.
Included in the year’s celebration of the moon landing, my office worked with Vice President Mike Pence’s office and the Moon Tree Foundation to plant a moon tree at the Vice President’s home. The daughter of Apollo 14 Astronaut Stuart “Stu” Roosa, Rosemary Roosa, is carrying on the legacy of her father who carried tree seeds on a trip to the Moon, by planting these seeds known as “Moon Trees” across the globe, ensuring a living piece of the Apollo era lives on for generations. Check out the pictures from the planting ceremony below.
An annual responsibility of Congress is to draft and pass an annual defense authorization bill. The legislation aims to meet the needs of those who serve in our armed forces and provide for a strong national defense. As a current member of the Mississippi National Guard and co-chair of the House National Guard and Reserve Caucus, I have the opportunity to understand the needs of our National Guard units around the country. Having led the National Guard Caucus for several years, I’ve worked to ensure our national guard soldiers who have been deployed under 12304b orders receive the appropriate retirement benefits for their service. Included in the National Defense Authorization Act for the 2020 fiscal year was my legislation HR 2954 which closed the final disparity of retirement benefits for our men and women who served under these orders in the National Guard.
Additionally, the NDAA provided a 3.1% pay raise for the men and women who serve in our military, the largest pay increase of the decade. The bill also authorizes construction and procurement of ships for the Navy’s fleet, allowing south Mississippi’s shipbuilders to continue strengthening our military. The job performed by our military men and women is never easy, but the NDAA can help support them in whatever challenges they face. While the NDAA provides authorization of ship construction, the appropriations process provides funding for these ships. Included in the defense and homeland appropriations for FY20, I secured critical funding for a 12th National Security Cutter, a landing platform dock ship (LPD) and a landing helicopter assault ship (LHA), all of which will be built right here in south Mississippi.
Whatever 2020 may hold, I stand ready to continue serving as south Mississippi’s voice in Congress. We know the job is never through, and it is my honor to serve you and your family. As we move into the new year, I want to hear from you on what your top priorities are for the coming year. To share your thoughts with me, fill out the survey here.
Serving You In all of 2019, my office served over 1,900 south Mississippians by way of casework through our district offices. I have a great team working hard at our Hattiesburg, Gulfport, and Pascagoula offices. Caseworkers are stationed at each office to assist you in working with a federal agency. From assistance with veterans claims to passport applications, we want to serve you. If you or someone you know needs assistance with a federal agency, please visit my website here.
I’d like to close by saying thank you for such a memorable year that closes the decade. It is an honor to serve on your behalf and I look forward to continue serving you and your family this coming year.
I hope you have a healthy and safe new year!
In your service,
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