With the 115th Congress coming to an end, political pundits are already writing their post-mortems about what Congress achieved and didn’t achieve. Because the climate in Washington, DC has become so politically oppressive, it’s nearly impossible to get an objective analysis on the 115th Congress, but I will attempt just that for the fire service’s legislative priorities. Many of my colleagues would agree with me that the 115th Congress was one of the more successful sessions for the fire service in recent memory. I can also say that there is plenty of credit to go around Capitol Hill.
From CFSI's perspective, the fire service's three most important legislative priorities this past year were the reauthorization of the AFG/SAFER grant programs and United States Fire Administration, the Fire Sprinkler Incentive Act, and the Firefighter Cancer Registry Act. None of these three measures were an easy lift but required bipartisan support to achieve passage in both the House and Senate. Cooperation from the national fire organizations was also necessary. Thanks to the co-chairs of the Congressional Fire Services Caucus, these bills achieved bipartisan support, with the cancer bill and the AFG/SAFER/USFA reauthorization receiving unanimous approval in both the House and Senate.
CFSI often asks members of the fire service to visit our website (www.cfsi.org) to determine if their members of Congress serve on the Fire Caucus. We make this request for your benefit. The Fire Caucus is one of the largest and most reputable caucuses on Capitol Hill. It comprises members from both sides of the political aisle in the House and Senate. Members join so they and their staff can learn how the federal government can help state and local governments address the needs of our nation's first responders. Fire Caucus leaders set the example for all caucus members to follow on how to address our issues in the spirit of bipartisanship. Passage of the three aforementioned measures was due in part to fire caucus leaders working together in building such support.
In three months, Congress will reconvene for the 116th session. Many members will be sworn-in as newly-elected representatives. While some served in local government and possessed some understanding of the fire service, others have not. Regardless of their backgrounds and experiences, they will come to Washington DC with limited knowledge about federal programs that benefit our firefighters. CFSI's immediate priority will be to engage them in the Congressional Fire Services Caucus so that they can learn about the importance of AFG, SAFER and USFA – and for that matter other federal programs that benefit our career and volunteer firefighters.
We will reach out to fire service leaders like you to help us in our efforts. If we are to continue our legislative success next session, we will need your support. If you ever have a question about legislative issues or fire caucus recruitment, please let us know. Part of our mission is to provide you with information that can help you strengthen your relations with your own members of Congress. After all, when it comes to delivering messages to our elected representatives, the voices at the local level are the most effective.
Please call CFSI at 202-371-1277 whenever you have a question about federal legislation or Fire Caucus recruitment – or send an email to Sean Carroll, our Director of Government Affairs. His email address is email@example.com.