In November 2016, the American people sent President Trump to the White House and Republican majorities back to Congress. We worked together to make 2017, by any objective standard, a year of extraordinary accomplishment. While the national media may overlook or downplay any of these successes, the fact remains that Congress has achieved a number of priorities this past year for the people we represent.
One of the most important Senate accomplishments in 2017 was our work to fill the vacancies in our federal courts with qualified judges. Our first major victory was the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch, who was exceptionally well-qualified to replace Justice Scalia and earned praise from across the political spectrum. In addition, the Senate confirmed an historic 12 circuit court judges – the most in a president’s first year in office since the creation of the federal circuit courts in 1891. Two of them are from right here in Kentucky – Judge Amul Thapar and Judge John Bush. I have been proud to partner with President Trump on these outstanding jurists who will impact our country for generations.
Congress also joined with President Trump to undo a number of Obama-era regulations that weighed down our economy. Using the “Congressional Review Act,” we repealed 15 regulations, including one rule which would have been devastating for coal communities across the Commonwealth. This process had only ever been successfully used once before, but we employed this critical tool to push back against the Obama Administration’s regulatory rampage. Our actions – coupled with the substantial deregulation by the Trump Administration – delivered approximately $60 billion in regulatory relief and saved more than 10.7 million hours of paperwork.
Most recently, President Trump signed into law our bill to overhaul the federal tax code, to get the economy growing again and to deliver much-needed economic relief to hardworking Kentucky families. In addition to lowering tax rates, it will nearly double the standard deduction, significantly expand the child tax credit, and protect key provisions like the adoption tax credit.
The law also provides tax relief to our nation’s small businesses and helps level the playing field in an increasingly competitive global marketplace. We’ve already seen some positive effects of tax reform. Major job creators throughout the country – including in Kentucky – have announced increases in the take-home pay for thousands of their employees. For instance, Louisville’s Turning Point Brands announced that it would deliver bonuses to more than 100 of its employees as a result of tax reform. U.S. Bank also announced that it would give bonuses to nearly 60,000 employees, including approximately 3,000 in Kentucky, and raise the minimum wage of all hourly employees to $15.
Soon after President Trump signed the bill into law, the Kentucky Public Service Commission (PSC) directed for-profit utility companies to examine their savings under the new law. The PSC is clearing the way for the utilities’ savings to be passed along to as many as 1.5 million Kentucky households.
We also repealed the very core of Obamacare: the individual mandate tax. For low- and middle-income Kentuckians, this was an unpopular tax from an unworkable law that required them to buy insurance plans they couldn’t afford or didn’t want. Repealing the individual mandate tax will bring real relief to those who need it most.
Last year, we considered many other important pieces of legislation as well. While they may not have made big headlines, passing these bills is a crucial part of my role in the Senate.
For example, Congress authorized resources for our nation’s servicemembers so they can continue confronting the numerous challenges from around the globe to help keep us safe. We built upon our efforts to address the opioid crisis by providing vital resources for those suffering from the scourge of addiction. We also passed legislation to shore up health care benefits for retired coal miners, support our nation’s veterans, and reauthorize the FDA’s user fee programs, which help speed up availability of lifesaving drugs. These important accomplishments will continue to have real benefits for people in Kentucky.
After a year of record accomplishments in 2017, the Senate recently convened to begin another productive session. I look forward to continuing to work with the president and my colleagues in Congress to build on our successes, to support Kentucky families, and to help our economy grow.