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Weekly Column: Year End Review And New Year Opportunities

Guest column submitted by U.S. Senator Mike Crapo

As we gather with family and friends this holiday season, there are likely plenty of discussions about the state of our nation.  Hopefully, these conversations are more lighthearted than Washington, D.C.-style partisan bickering.  These discussions around dinner tables and coffee tables can be fruitful, as we listen and share viewpoints with our loved ones.  Here are some considerations as we end out the year and get ready to kick off 2020. 

The U.S. Department of Labor’s November Employment Summary reaffirmed the American economy under President Trump’s leadership is continuing to flourish.  The agency reported employment rose by 266,000 last month alone and the national unemployment rate remains at historic lows. 

The enactment of the 2017 tax reform law has been a central part of the effort in Congress and by the Trump Administration to enable innovation and job growth.  The benefits of this law, which reaches its second anniversary this month, continue to ripple through the economy through job growth, reduced tax bills for American families--with lower to middle income Americans realizing the highest tax rate reductions, higher wages, simplified tax filings, corporate investment, increased U.S. competitiveness and more.  Similarly, the removal of overly-burdensome federal regulations is liberating productivity while maintaining needed protections. 

In addition, we are working to confirm President Trump’s judicial and executive nominees as quickly as possible.  As Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) recently noted, “In less than three years, President Trump has appointed and the Republican Senate has confirmed 50 Circuit Judges, more than any president’s first full term since 1980.”  This helps to advance a court system that preserves our constitutional rights.  Among appointees confirmed this year by the U.S. Senate, Retired Bear Lake County Sheriff Brent Bunn was confirmed to serve as U.S. Marshal for the District of Idaho. 

Other legislative successes include the enactment earlier this year of S.47, Natural Resources Management Act, which contains boundary changes for three wilderness areas in Owyhee County.  This bill was important to the implementation of the Owyhee Initiative, which is providing exemplary collaborative resource management of this special part of our great state. 

Additionally, as Chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, I worked to advance S. 2877, the Terrorism Risk Insurance Program Reauthorization Act of 2019, through the committee with unanimous support to extend the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act for seven years to help limit the economic and physical impact of terrorist attacks while further protecting taxpayers.

The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020 also contains important provisions, including a 3.1 percent troop pay raise, military housing reforms and a phase-out of the Military Widows Tax.  I have been a longtime proponent of this repeal on behalf of Idaho military families who should not have to face barriers to access their full benefits.  The act contains numerous other provisions I advocated for on behalf of Idahoans, including funding to support the work at the Idaho National Laboratory; modifications to the Transition Assistance Program that provides assistance to servicemembers returning to civilian life; and provisions to better secure supply chains.  

Further, significant progress has been made in preventing invasive and financially destructive robocall scams through advancement of legislative provisions I championed to expand the adoption of call-blocking technology while ensuring critical safety and emergency calls are handled properly. 

These are just some highlights and not a comprehensive list.  I will push forward on other necessary reforms moving into the New Year.  This includes continued work to advance bipartisan legislation to fix the federal government’s broken budget process.  These and other reforms are necessary to continue to strengthen our nation.

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