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Column: Tax reform highlights 2017 legislative achievements

Q: What was the most significant achievement of the U.S. Senate in 2017?

A: When the first session of the 115th Congress gaveled to order last Jan. 3, I took the oath of office to serve Iowans for a seventh term in the U.S. Senate. It is an honor I take very seriously. That’s why I work tirelessly to uphold the public trust, including face-to-face dialogue with Iowans at my 99 county meetings and holding government accountable to preserve the personal freedoms and individual liberties guaranteed by our constitutional republic.

When the Republican Senate Majority organized its leadership assignments for the new Congress, I was selected again to serve as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. This permanent, standing committee has broad legislative jurisdiction over federal criminal law, victims’ rights, immigration, intellectual property, anti-trust policy and whistleblower protections. It serves as ground zero for proposed Constitutional Amendments and considers nominations for Article III federal judgeships, including the Supreme Court of the United States. In fact, steering judicial nominations through the U.S. Senate certainly is one of the signature accomplishments of the 115th Congress.

Under my guidance as chairman of the Judiciary Committee, the U.S. Senate approved 12 circuit court nominees to serve on the federal bench and confirmed Associate Justice Neil M. Gorsuch to a lifetime appointment on the Supreme Court. The federal judiciary leaves a lasting imprint on society, as it is called upon to interpret the laws passed by Congress and administered by the executive branch. Its rulings have a profound effect on our American way of life that stand to sever or secure the blessings of freedom for generations to come.

As an outspoken advocate for transparency and open government, I continue my efforts to open the federal judiciary to allow cameras in the courtroom. Opening the courthouse to live audio-visual streaming would build better appreciation for an independent federal judiciary assigned to preserve the constitutional rights of the American people. Allowing cameras in the courts would provide a vital connection for people who arguably may feel disconnected from this branch of the federal government.

Landmark decisions handed down by the Supreme Court, such as prayer in schools, segregation, abortion, free speech, privacy, personal property, affirmative action, due process and the right to bear arms have consequential impact on daily life in the United States. Supreme Court precedent also has established equal protection under the law and determined no one is above the law. The federal judiciary serves as the arbiter of the rule of law in the United States. For more than 200 years, it has paved the way for certainty, stability and opportunity in the free marketplace; public safety in the public square; and, freedom and liberty in a just and free society. Approving qualified, independent jurists to the federal bench is vital to the preservation of our republic and vital to secure freedom, liberty and justice for all Americans.

Q: What was the signature legislative achievement for Congress in 2017?

A: For the first time in more than 30 years, Congress successfully passed historic reforms to the federal tax code. The landmark tax overhaul enacted in December will restore a bigger share of taxpayers’ hard-earned money to their paychecks.

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act will simplify federal tax returns for millions of Americans and bring fairness to U.S. workers working paycheck to paycheck to make ends meet. Long-sought reductions to burdensome corporate tax rates will revitalize the U.S. economy by making American businesses and job creators more competitive. It will allow companies to keep more revenue, empowering U.S. businesses to hire more workers, boost wages and grow, innovate and expand. Many Iowans wonder how the new tax law will affect their pay and their household budgets. These historic tax cuts will allow workers to keep more of their hard-earned money, putting more in their pockets to save, spend and invest.

Starting in February, workers will see more take-home pay in their paychecks. For the 2018 tax year, American taxpayers will benefit from lower marginal income tax rates, doubling of the standard deduction, increased family tax credits, reduction of the alternative minimum tax, expanded estate tax relief and full repeal of the individual mandate created by the Affordable Care Act. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act keeps the charitable contribution and home mortgage interest deduction and retains the tax benefit for teacher expenses, deductibility for student loan interest and graduate student tuition waivers.

Congress delivered on a promise to give Americans tax relief. I’m glad we got the job done. Tax cuts will make a real difference for hard-working Iowans who play by the rules to earn a living, pay their bills, build a business and save for retirement. Reducing Uncle Sam’s share of their paychecks is the right thing to do.

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