There is a lot of work ahead in the new year. Before we undertake a fresh set of challenges, it is good to take stock of the many positive outcomes and accomplishments of 2017.
Tax reform becoming law was one of the year’s most celebrated victories. As a member of the Ways and Means Committee, it has been a privilege to be part of this years-long effort to overhaul our broken and overly burdensome tax code for the first time in a generation.
The economy is already responding. More than 100 companies across the country, including Nelnet and Pinnacle Bank in Nebraska, have announced bonuses and wage increases for employees, as well as new charitable giving and investments. With lower tax rates, Americans can look forward to higher paychecks, simpler compliance, and a growing economy.
Additionally, our tax reform bill finally eliminated Obamacare’s individual mandate penalty, allowing Americans to make their own health insurance decisions rather than being required to seek the approval of the federal government or face a bill from the IRS.
The confirmation of Justice Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court marked another important 2017 achievement. President Trump promised Americans he would fill the vacancy left by the late Justice Antonin Scalia with a conservative jurist committed to upholding the Constitution, and he fulfilled this promise quickly with an impressive judicial leader.
The Trump administration also followed through on its commitment to roll back regulations. Despite an initial promise to eliminate two regulations for every new one created, the administration actually brought an end to 22 regulations for each new one. Congress also passed 15 Congressional Review Act bills, signed into law by the President, to cut through the maze of red tape put in place by the Obama administration.
I had the opportunity to join President Trump, along with Senator Fischer, at the White House in February for the signing of an executive order to roll back the Waters of the U.S. rule, known as WOTUS. This put a stop to a dangerous overreach which would have given the Environmental Protection Agency the power to dictate local land use decisions and farming practices nationwide.
Regulatory impediments to infrastructure projects have also been on the chopping block, which is especially important as we work toward modernizing our country’s aging infrastructure. President Trump signed an executive order to reduce the average time it takes for infrastructure project permits to be approved from 10 years to two years.
For those traveling by air, new Essential Air Service providers were confirmed for Kearney, North Platte, and Scottsbluff, and will soon begin serving passengers. Due to ongoing issues with cancelled flights, I introduced two amendments to the Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization bill. One would direct the U.S. Government Accountability Office to study the state of the aviation workforce, including current barriers to entry and ways to encourage growth. The other would expand opportunities for prospective pilots to accrue training hours to qualify for piloting commercial flights. As Congress considers FAA reauthorization this year, I will keep working to ensure access to commercial air service for Nebraskans.
We also passed multiple bills last year, which were signed into law, to better serve veterans. The Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act provides the VA Secretary increased flexibility to remove VA employees for poor performance or misconduct, while also strengthening whistleblower protections. The HIRE Vets Act creates incentives for companies to hire veterans, and the Forever GI Bill eliminates the 15-year time limit for veterans to use their GI bill benefits, providing greater opportunities for professional and workforce development.
There is no question 2017 was an eventful year. 2018 promises many challenges and victories of its own, and we are committed to delivering more beneficial solutions for Americans.