By Rep. Kristi Noem
The swearing-in ceremony on January 3 marks the official start of the 115th Congress, but our work to prepare for these next two years has been ongoing for months.
Last summer, House Republicans introduced a once-in-a-generation blueprint for the reforms we feel are necessary to move this country forward. In late December after most of Congress had gone home for the holidays, I – along with just 23 other members of the House Ways and Means Committee – came back to Washington to hammer out two critical sections of this blueprint: tax reform and healthcare reform.
On tax reform, we worked on a framework for a simpler, flatter and fairer tax code. Coming from a state that has zero income tax, I wanted to share a real-world example of the economic benefits of a lower tax rate. As a busy mom, I wanted to speak to the importance of a simpler tax return – one that may even be simple enough to fit on a postcard. As an experienced small business owner, farmer and rancher, I wanted the tax code to incentivize growth in the American economy. And as a taxpayer, I wanted the loopholes to be closed and the IRS to be held accountable. Our work continues, but I’m glad we were able to communicate this vision from the onset.
On healthcare reform, we plan to take immediate steps to repeal Obamacare. While we’re still navigating the best legislative path from that point, we are committed to protecting the healthcare needs of all Americans. At our meeting in December, we worked through a number of ideas for creating a system that no longer relies on mandates, but instead ensures affordable access so families can choose what works best for them. This plan would deliver unprecedented freedom, empowering Americans to purchase the healthcare plan of their choice, manage how they spend their healthcare dollars, and access their electronic health records. Moreover, it would include tools that drive down the actual cost for delivering healthcare, an expense that is higher per person in the U.S. than almost any nation in the world. The only way health insurance is going to be affordable is if the delivery of healthcare becomes less expensive too.
With so much at stake, it was important to get a seat at the table for South Dakota during these debates. After all, there are challenges that come with having just one representative in the House. Places like Texas, for instance, have dozens of congressmen who can represent the state’s interests on any given issue. A state like South Dakota, however, occupies just one of 435 seats, so making our perspective known requires a deliberate effort. Getting in on these types of conversations is one of the reasons I fought for a seat on the House Ways and Means Committee last Congress.
Our state might be small, but we’ve already had a major impact on what’s expected to be an aggressive 2017 agenda. What’s more, those contributions have helped establish the tone for the 115th Congress and set the legislative branch up to hit the ground running on Day 1.