Sen. John Thune
I believe the 115th Congress, which began less than two years ago, just days before President Trump took office, will be defined as one of the most productive Congresses in recent history. It’s been marked by accomplishment after accomplishment, all of which have helped fulfill my goal of making life better for South Dakotans and the rest of the American people.
While there’s certainly plenty of good news to share from our work over the last two years, things looked much different before Republicans took control of the House, Senate, and White House in 2017. Having that perspective helps underscore just how much this Republican-led Washington delivered in terms of real results for people across the country.
When President Obama left office, the economy had spent nearly a decade in neutral. Economic stagnation had not only set in, it became the new normal, leaving some people believing the days of strong economic growth were a thing of the past. At the same time, wages were stagnant, and American families were feeling the pinch.
My Republican colleagues and I refused to accept that the United States – the strongest country the world has ever known – couldn’t do better. We knew there were ways we could help create an environment in which the economy could thrive once again, and we took action.
We passed the largest reform of our nation’s tax code in a generation. As a result, we enacted across-the-board, top-to-bottom tax relief, affecting nearly every single American taxpayer. And when I say tax relief, I mean larger paychecks and more money in the family budget.
Our rewrite of the tax code nearly doubled the standard deduction (the amount of money taxpayers can remove from their taxable income when they file their taxes, which means Uncle Sam takes less of their hard-earned money). For example, with the new tax law, a married couple that earns $24,000 per year and files jointly would pay zero dollars in federal tax.
The child tax credit, another tax benefit enjoyed by many middle-income American families, doubled under the new law. Since it’s in the form of a credit, which is now $2,000 per dependent child, it directly reduces what a taxpayer owes the government when they file their taxes. Depending on what you owe, if you owe anything at all, it could actually result in a tax refund, which is always a good thing.
Reforming the nation’s tax code, plus taking additional steps to help strengthen the economy, has resulted in robust economic growth, the lowest unemployment rate in a half-century, a record number of job openings, and growing wages. The economy is back, and it’s only getting stronger.
Fixing the economy was critical, but we didn’t stop there. We passed legislation that streamlined the VA’s community care programs to help ensure veterans receive efficient, timely, and quality care. We passed the Support for Patients and Communities Act to address the nationwide opioid epidemic. We repealed Obamacare’s individual mandate tax. We passed the longest extension of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program in the program’s history. And we confirmed more than 80 federal judges, including two Supreme Court justices.
While Washington will look a little different in January when Democrats take control of the House of Representatives, there are plenty of examples where divided governments have achieved big things: 1986 Reagan tax reform, 1996 welfare reform, the Balanced Budget Act of 1997, 2012 legislation to help working families by making the Bush tax cuts permanent, and a major reform of the VA in 2014, to name a few.
When they’re in the majority, House Democrats will have an important question to ask themselves: Will they look to the future and work with Republicans so we can add more accomplishments to the list I just mentioned, or will they endlessly stare at the 2016 election in the rearview mirror? In order to continue making life better for the American people, I sincerely hope it’s the former.