It’s been very difficult for Republicans to get a bill passed in the U.S. House of Representatives since Democrats took over both chambers of Congress and the White House. However, freshman member Madison Cawthorn, of North Carolina’s 11th Congressional district, has succeeded in doing just that. He also just became one of the first freshman members of Congress, of either party, to get a bill passed.
Cawthorn is just 25 years old, the youngest member of Congress, barely meeting the minimum age to serve in the U.S. House. Much of his team is also young – and new to serving in Congress. And yet, as a Republican in a Democrat-controlled legislature, they accomplished something that perhaps young people care about across the political aisle: helping veterans.
But they did more than just that, they also gave veterans the flexibility to use the benefits of the G.I. Bill towards trade schools and not just traditional colleges and universities.
The bill, H.R. 2167, authorizes a pilot program to allow states to use grants or contracts to carry out a short-term fellowship program for unemployed veterans.
As Cawthorn wrote on his Facebook page, “This program would authorize DOL VETS to carry out a pilot program similar to the fellowship programs created by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation to allow states to use grants or contracts to carry out a short-term fellowship program.”
In essence, it’s a workforce participation program for those who served in our military. And, given the devastation caused by COVID19, the bill also has provisions to extend the benefits of the G.I. Bill for other educational opportunities, including trade schools.
Cawthorn released an Instagram video following the bill’s passage, where he stated that our veterans “deserve the thanks of a grateful nation.” He added that the bill “will allow our veterans to re-enter the workforce but it doesn’t force them to use the G.I. Bill to only go to college and get a four-year degree. It will allow them to receive a monthly stipend while they are going to get trade skills that they can use to be a tradesman so they can actually do something with their hands that I believe builds a better economy than a degree in Egyptology.”
Cawthorn himself did not finish college and told me last year, on the Agents of Innovation podcast, that after the car accident that forced him to use a wheelchair, “I really struggled with why do I want to go to college? Is it just because it’s some cultural norm or is it because I really feel like I need to?”
His wife, on the other hand, is in the medical field, and he believes that’s the kind of person that needs to go to college.
“We do ourselves a disservice when the American nuclear family defines the success of their children by if they got their kid to a four-year degree school.” He also expressed concerns about saddling so many of the next generation with student loan debt. “I think we need to start bringing honor and integrity and dignity back to the trades. We need to give more money and more funding to trade schools and people getting apprenticeships.”
Cawthorn uttered these words in August 2020, over two months before he was elected. This week, he delivered on those words with a bill that does precisely this for our nation’s veterans. He also did it as his very first bill to be passed as a member of Congress – and one of the first freshman members of the current Congress, all while the opposition party is in full control. That takes some skill, which makes it even more impressive for someone so new to the game.
There’s a lot more than youthful looks and a strong social media presence with Madison Cawthorn. He is delivering on the promises he ran on. He didn’t wait his turn in line to run for Congress and he certainly isn’t waiting his turn to put his ideas into action. We’ll have to wait and see what he does next. At the pace he’s going, it may not be long.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This article has been updated to correct an error. It originally referenced Cawthorn as “the first” freshman member of Congress to pass a bill. It has not been corrected to note he is “one of” the first.
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