Guest column submitted by U.S. Senator Mike Crapo
I have the honor of serving as Ranking Republican Member of the Senate Finance Committee, which has extensive jurisdiction and oversees federal tax policy; federal health care programs; and implementation of trade agreements. As we enter a new year, it is a good time to update Idahoans on the important work being done on the Senate Finance Committee.
In 2023, I remained focused on policies that addressed the needs of Idaho’s working families and industries, while conducting aggressive oversight of the agencies within the Committee’s jurisdiction. Encouragingly, the Committee found bipartisan agreement on many issues, including on health care and reasserting congressional authority over trade policy.
Reducing Drug Costs and Expanding Mental Health Care--The Finance Committee advanced meaningful solutions to lower costs for patients and strengthen transparency in health care pricing with strong bipartisan support. The Committee passed the Modernizing and Ensuring PBM Accountability Act that will bring more transparency, accountability and competition to pharmacy benefit manager practices in the drug supply chain, helping to lower out-of-pocket costs for Idahoans.
The Committee also passed the Better Mental Health Care, Lower-Cost Drugs and Extenders Act to expand mental health care and substance use disorder services under Medicaid and Medicare; reduce prescription drug costs for seniors at the pharmacy counter; and increase Medicare payments to support physicians and other providers.
Expanding Trade Opportunities for Idaho--I have worked to break down trade barriers for Idaho’s specialty crop producers by introducing bipartisan legislation that responds to continued high tariffs, burdensome labeling requirements and other barriers that threaten our rural communities and agricultural producers from accessing global markets.
I also introduced much-needed double-taxation relief of cross-border investments between the U.S. and Taiwan, one of Idaho’s largest trading partners, further opening doors for American businesses and strengthening our economic ties. Congress also enacted into law my legislation to approve a trade agreement with Taiwan, reasserting Congress’s constitutional authority over trade and giving Idahoans a strong voice in how trade deals are crafted.
I also successfully pushed the Administration to prioritize the removal of Mexico’s unjustified “safety” restrictions on U.S. potatoes. These restrictions had been in place for more than 25 years and lacked any scientific justification. Now that they have been lifted, U.S. potato exports increased by more than 48 percent, or more than 17,300 metric tons from the previous year.
Conducting Essential Oversight--Oversight efforts are an essential Committee responsibility, and I continued to press Biden Administration officials on issues within the Committee’s jurisdiction. These efforts included protecting taxpayers from a heavy-handed Internal Revenue Service (IRS); shedding light and requesting information on the potentially harmful effects of the Administration’s drug pricing scheme; and looking into the causes and potential solutions to vast amounts of unemployment insurance fraud in pandemic programs.
Addressing an ever-encroaching IRS has been central to my oversight efforts. I have continually pressed the agency for more details on its funding plan for its massive new enforcement budget, and have re-introduced legislation to protect low- and middle-income taxpayers from the coming wave of IRS examinations. I have also questioned the agency on its mishandling of private taxpayer information, from callously destroying tens of millions of taxpayer documents to a contractor releasing private citizens’ data. The IRS has committed to make much-needed improvements, and I continue to press for these commitments to be fulfilled.
I also pushed for the enactment of legislation to help recoup the more than one hundred billion dollars in fraud in pandemic-era unemployment insurance (UI) programs. Additionally, I have continually raised concerns with Democrats’ drug price-setting scheme, which will lead to higher prices for new drugs coming to market, stifle the development of new cures and undermine seniors’ health. These oversight efforts are ongoing.
While I expect 2024 to bring its own policy challenges for Congress, I remain committed to working across the aisle to deliver fiscally-responsible solutions to grow our economy, protect taxpayers and provide Americans with better, more affordable health care. I am honored to lead Republicans on the Finance Committee and provide Idahoans a strong voice on these important issues.
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