e-News 5/19/17

e-News 5/19/17

  • Special Counsel Appointed in Russia Investigation
  • Pro-Jobs Tax Reform Takes a Step Forward
  • Appropriations Committee’s Oversight: Making Every Dollar Count
  • While Honoring the Fallen, Supporting Law Enforcement
  • New Sanctions on Syria and Iran
  • Salute: New Jersey’s 484 fallen officers


Special Counsel Appointed in Russia Investigation

Deputy Attorney-General Rod Rosenstein made the right decision this week when he appointed former FBI Director Robert Mueller as Special Counsel to investigate possible coordination between Trump associates and Russian officials. 

According to the order signed by Mr. Rosenstein, Mueller is charged with investigating “any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump’’ as well as “any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation’’ and any other matters that fall under the scope of the Justice Department regulation covering special counsel appointments.  Further, the order states, “If the special counsel believes it is necessary and appropriate, the special counsel is authorized to prosecute federal crimes arising from the investigation of these matters.’’

I am pleased that Mr. Mueller’s investigation will proceed concurrently with the two major investigations relating to Russian involvement in our political system being conducted by the House and Senate Intelligence Committees.  These two Committees have access to the volumes of classified documents and intercepts necessary for a complete analysis. 

It is important that Mr. Mueller and the Congressional Committees follow the facts, no matter where they lead.  My hope is that these investigations will be serious and thorough and not devolve into a partisan fight that does not serve the American people.

To learn about this appointment, click here.

Pro-Jobs Tax Reform Takes a Step Forward

Hearings happen all the time on Capitol Hill, but the House Ways and Means Committee conducted an especially important one this week.   The Committee heard from a range of witnesses about specific tax reform policy proposals that would deliver the most economic growth across America.

This hearing is part of the House’s efforts to prepare a major tax reform bill that will create jobs and increase paychecks.  

Let’s face it: our federal tax system is broken. The code stifles economic growth, puts American businesses at a major disadvantage, and hurts New Jersey families. The tax code itself is whopping 70,000 pages of rules and regulations nobody seems to understand enforced by an agency nobody seems to trust!  

It’s time for a change.

Reforms proposed by the House Leadership and principles outlined by the White House last month take the same approach: simplify the code, bring down rates, and increase competitiveness by leveling the playing field for American businesses.

That's the key to reaching our economic potential.

The nonpartisan Tax Foundation agrees.  The Foundation has determined that these reforms will jumpstart our economy by:

  • Creating 1.7 million new full-time jobs.
  • Raising average household incomes by 8.7% after taxes.
  • Allowing families to save $4,917 more of their income each year.
  • Leapfrogging our economy from 31st to 3rd in competitiveness among OECD nations.

This week’s Ways and Means Committee hearing is part of an open and transparent process designed to develop the first significant tax reform bill in 31 years! 

Yes, simplifying our tax code is the best way to grow our economy.   However, I am looking forward to examining closely and deliberately the legislation that the committee produces.  The stakes for New Jersey’s taxpayers are very high and we must remain committed to protecting their interests. 

Watch the Ways and Means Committee tax reform hearing here.

Read the Tax Foundation’s analysis here.

Appropriations Committee’s Oversight: Making Every Dollar Count

My Committee on Appropriations was also busy this week.  While much of our oversight work has been delayed by the late arrival of the President’s full budget for Fiscal Year 2018, our various Subcommittees were at work:

  • The Defense Subcommittee heard from senior intelligence officials on recent developments in the Middle East;
  • The Labor, Health and Human Services Subcommittee focused on “advances in biomedical research;
  • The Homeland Security Subcommittee discussed Coast Guard priorities and future Acquisition plans with the Commandant ADM Paul F. Zukunft;
  • The Financial Services and General Government Subcommittee explored issues affecting the nation’s federal courts;
  • The Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Subcommittee studied “emerging transportation technologies”
  • The Legislative Branch Subcommittee examined the budget proposal for the Capitol Police and other agencies;

The President’s full budget proposal for FY 2018 is expected to be released next week.

Learn more about the Appropriations Committee’s oversight activities here.

While Honoring the Fallen, Supporting Law Enforcement

In 1962, President Kennedy proclaimed May 15 as National Peace Officers Memorial Day and the calendar week in which May 15 falls, as National Police Week. Established by a joint resolution of Congress in 1962, National Police Week pays special recognition to those law enforcement officers who have lost their lives protecting the safety of others.  Tragically, this year 143 names were added to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial wall in remembrance of the men and women who were killed in the line of duty last year.

Clearly, we must remember the fallen.  But current law enforcement officers and their families deserve our support. Together, we must do more to improve the breakdown in trust between police and the communities they serve. We must remember to recognize and appreciate their everyday acts of bravery and kindness in service to all of us.

For our part, it is also extremely important to provide to law enforcement officers the resources and the tools to protect themselves and our communities.  This week, the House passed several related bills:

1) H.R. 510 – Rapid DNA Act would establish a system for the integration of Rapid DNA instruments for use by law enforcement to help reduce the DNA backlog. Unlike traditional DNA analysis, which can take weeks, Rapid DNA analysis permits processing of DNA samples in approximately 90 minutes or less.

This technology has the potential to revolutionize the way in which arrested individuals are enrolled in the criminal justice system, shorten the time required for their DNA to be linked to unsolved crimes, and expedite the exoneration of innocent suspects.

2) H.R. 1428 – American Law Enforcement Heroes Actwhich will incentivize state and local governments to hire veterans as law enforcement officers.  The bill, modeled after an expired program called Troops to COPS, which helped almost 1,000 veterans in the late 1990s, aims to better transition our nation’s veterans from serving their country in one uniform to serving their local communities in another.

3) H.R. 1616 – Strengthening State and Local Cyber Crime Fighting Actwhich provides state and local law enforcement with the tools and training they need to combat cybercrime and protect our communities;

4) H.R. 115 - The Thin Blue Line Act alters the federal criminal code to make killing or targeting law enforcement, firefighters, or first responders an aggravating factor in determining whether a death sentence is justified. 

5) H.R. 1039 - Probation Officers Protection Act- amends the federal criminal code to authorize a probation officer to arrest a person without a warrant if there is probable cause to believe the person forcibly assaulted or obstructed a probation officer engaged in the performance of official duties.

The House also approved H.R. 1892 – Honoring Hometown Heroes Act to provide for the flying of the flag at half-staff in the event of the death of a first responder in the line of duty.

New Sanctions on Syria and Iran

The House approved bipartisan legislation this week that would impose new sanctions on the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad for war crimes and human rights abuses against civilians.

The legislation, introduced in March by Rep. Ed Royce (CA), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and his Democratic committee counterpart Rep. Eliot Engel (NY), seeks to impose sanctions on the Assad regime and its foreign backers by requiring the Trump administration to blacklist any company or person that does business with the Syrian government and its entities, including Assad-controlled industries such as energy and air travel. It also would provide U.S. assistance to groups pursuing investigations into Syrian war crimes in order to galvanize prosecutions.

It is noteworthy that the Obama administration prevented a similar measure from receiving a House vote in the fall despite broad bipartisan support.

Learn more here.

At the same time, the Trump Administration announced plans to impose new sanctions against Iran aimed at its ballistic missile program. The sanctions target seven individuals and entities, including two senior Iranian defense officials and a China-based network the U.S. says has supported Iran’s ballistic missile program, a senior administration official said.

Assad’s crimes against humanity and Iran’s blatant violations of UN resolutions cannot go unanswered. With these new sanctions, we will continue to tighten the screws on the Syrian and Iranian regimes.

Salute:A posthumous thank you to the 484 law enforcement officers who have died in the line of duty in New Jersey.  

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