Guest Commentary: Much accomplished in 2017; much work ahead in the new year
As we begin the new year, it is a time to reflect upon past accomplishments and look ahead to 2018 goals.
In 2017, we removed many job-killing Obama era regulations, and before adjourning last year, passed historic tax reforms that will benefit hard-working Americans at every income level. These tax changes will provide a family of 4 earning a median income of $73,000 a year $2,059 more in their pocket each year. They double the child care tax credit from $1,000 to $2,000 per child and nearly double the standard exemption – the first $12,000 for individuals and $24,000 for couples is now tax-free. Tax reform also provides needed relief for small businesses, positively impacting 62,041 taxpayers in Southwest Florida. For corporations, tax cuts mean that capital will be brought back into the United States and foreign corporations will have an incentive to relocate here. Finally, it eliminates the most onerous and unfair portion of the failed experiment of Obamacare, the individual mandate that forced Americans to either buy insurance that they didn’t want and couldn’t afford, or pay a fine for not doing so. Now it is gone.
The regulatory relief which Congress has enacted and the President has signed, as well as Executive branch orders, will save businesses over $8.1 billion in costs. Less bureaucratic red tape lowers costs, allows for confidence and gives a predictability that leads to hiring, investment and a booming economy. I was proud to sponsor one of these major regulatory repeal bills – H.J. Res 67, which was passed by Congress and signed by the President. The bill terminates a regulation that forced private-sector workers into government-run IRAs managed by cities and counties, which offered workers fewer protections and less control over their hard-earned savings.
In foreign affairs, we have returned to a policy of projecting strength and leadership. After eight years of empty threats and crossed “red lines,” the United States is once again a power to be respected on the world stage. President Trump has been clear and decisive about North Korea’s illegal nuclear program and consequentially China has engaged more than ever in dealing with its client state. With this in mind, I co-introduced a bill to defuel “rocket man” Kim Jong-Un’s missile fuel supply from China and Russia.
The administration is rightly supporting the protests against the Mullah-led theocracy in Iran. Former President Obama failed to support the “green revolution” but this time we have more resolve. I hope we see the advantages for the United States of an independent Kurdistan and have advocated for it.
Locally, I have been fighting relentlessly for funding to clean up the Lake Okeechobee Watershed. I have brought House leadership to SW Florida to personally tour the Everglades so they would understand their importance. I wrote a letter to President Trump, which was co-signed by the entire Florida Delegation, asking President Trump to support Everglades Restoration projects in his fiscal year 2018 Budget. In the House, we were successful in achieving the highest ever funding for rebuilding the Herbert Hoover Dike, and the full amount of funding requested for Lake Okeechobee and Everglades restoration (CERP) projects. Bringing all concerned parties together in a united effort has been critical to our success and will be necessary as we move forward together.
There is still much to be done. My colleagues and I in the House have passed many common-sense reforms this year that have stalled in the Senate. In June, the House passed Kate’s Law to make sure that deported illegal aliens who re-enter the country are incarcerated, and a bill to defund sanctuary cities. A few weeks ago, we passed concealed carry reciprocity to allow individuals with valid concealed carry permits to exercise their rights across all 50 states. In total, 477 bills passed the House and 378 of those remain stuck in the Senate.
I have sponsored the RAISE Act to stop “chain migration,” change immigration from families to skills based, and end the “diversity lottery.” As a member of the Education and the Workforce committee, we passed the PROSPER Act, which will move funding to career technical education to prepare students to fill the 6 million existing job vacancies.
Finally, I am all-out fighting for a permanent ban on offshore drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico. The existing moratorium, passed in 2022, expires on June 30, 2022 and the Interior Department has insidiously determined that seismic and geophysical testing can begin, despite the language of the ban concerning “related activities” to leasing for drilling. I have argued our case to Republican leadership and will work to get the moratorium extended. Our economy and life style depend on a pristine environment and tourism.
It has been an honor to represent Southwest Florida in Congress and I will continue to work every day to better our community and our nation. Happy New Year!
Francis Rooney is the U.S. Representative for Florida’s 19th congressional district. He is the Vice-Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and serves on the Committee on Education and the Workforce. He previously served as U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See under President George W. Bush from 2005 to 2008.