By Rep. Buddy Carter.
In optometry, 20/20 represents perfect vision. However, no one could have envisioned what would happen in the year 2020.
At the beginning of the year, we had a surging stock market and record low levels of unemployment, including among African Americans and Hispanics.
In January, we were just starting to hear about the coronavirus, but our knowledge was limited due to the coverup from the Chinese government, their media restrictions, and country-wide lockdown.
As the pandemic quickly progressed in the United States and across the globe, many of Congress’ priorities shifted along with the needs of the American people.
Despite an unusual congressional calendar and unprecedented changes to the way we conduct business in the House of Representatives, I remained focused on securing critical wins for the people of the First Congressional District of Georgia.
At the beginning of the pandemic, Congress approved critical aid for small businesses and hardworking Americans. I was proud to support the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) which protected thousands of jobs and small businesses across Georgia. In the First District alone, PPP loans were distributed to more than 10,000 small businesses supporting more than 100,000 jobs.
We also learned quickly during the pandemic that our medical supply chain is too dependent on foreign nations for life-saving medications and protective equipment. Nearly 70% of medications or medication ingredients are produced overseas, primarily in China and India. As countries moved to tighten control over their it was a wakeup call that we needed to do something.
To address this, I introduced the MADE in America Act to attract pharmaceutical manufacturing back to the United States while placing an emphasis on opportunity zones, which are underserved areas in need of investment and job opportunities. In addition to this effort, I introduced the State Stockpile Readiness Act to help states establish their own strategic stockpiles in the event of future pandemics. I was also successful in getting the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to approve new hand sanitizer options during shortages.
In 2020 we continued to address the unfair trade relationships facing our nation. I helped to spearhead efforts to bring parity to the fruit and vegetable industry of the Southeast United States from unfair trade practices perpetuated by several countries, including Mexico. As a result of these efforts, the U.S. Trade Representative took the unprecedented step of initiating a Section 201 safeguards investigation to determine the true impact on our domestic blueberry industry. That investigation is laying the groundwork to hold foreign growers accountable for dumping product in American markets and flattening the ability of domestic producers to compete.
This year we were also able to secure full funding for the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project to keep it on track. I also fought to ensure the Columbia-class submarines that will be the next generation of nuclear submarines at Kings Bay remain on track. We also secured the expansion of Fort Frederica, allowing the park to encompass more historic sites for generations to come.
I also had seven bills passed addressing important issues like scams during the pandemic, medical transportation for patients, drug pricing data, state medical supply stockpiles, and an expansion of telehealth training at VA facilities to benefit the treatment of veterans. All of this was done with bipartisan support in an era of increased partisanship. Simply put, I have been successful in working across party lines to get things done.
Finally, most importantly, as a member of the Doctor’s Caucus in the House, I worked with Operation Warp Speed and federal partners to promote the timely creation of a COVID-19 vaccine. Now that a vaccine has been approved, the private-public partnership under Operation Warp Speed will work to distribute 100 million initial vaccine doses and up to 500 million additional doses. This vaccine is safe, effective and will help return us to our normal way of life. To prove my confidence in this vaccine, I am participating in a Pfizer clinical trial myself.
As we look ahead to 2021, I want to say thank you for the honor and privilege of representing you and our home in Congress. Serving the people of the First Congressional District of Georgia has been one of the greatest honors of my life and I will continue fighting for you every day.
Rep. Earl L. “Buddy” Carter (R-Ga.) represents the First District of Georgia in the U.S. House of Representatives.