The Bergen Record: A hundred-plus days of working for you
By: Josh Gottheimer
I’ve had the privilege of serving North Jersey in Congress for just over a 100 days now, and I would like to share a few of my initial observations. First, while Congress has a well-deserved reputation for dysfunction and gridlock, I’ve found that there are indeed opportunities to get things done.
Shortly after taking office, I was elected co-chair of the Problem Solvers Caucus, a group of 40 members of Congress – 20 Republicans and 20 Democrats – who sit down weekly to discuss common-sense policies and areas where we can move the ball down the field.
This week, we came to a bipartisan agreement on a Continuing Resolution to avoid a government shutdown. My litmus test for each issue has been simple: Is it good for the families and businesses in New Jersey’s Fifth District.
In some cases, that’s meant standing up to President Trump’s 2 a.m. tweets and poorly thought-out plans, including a health care proposal that would have hurt our seniors and added a $4,000 tax on our families. Or his decision to allow coal dust back into our drinking water.
But, in other cases, that’s meant working across the aisle and not obstructing just for the sake of it.
That is my second observation: I fundamentally believe that you can’t take an all-or-nothing approach to governing. You have to call them like you see them. To me, that’s what governing from the common-sense middle is all about, even though at times, it makes me a punching bag from both sides.
But I’m not in Washington to represent a national political party. You elected me to represent northern New Jersey and to stand by our families, help grow our economy, protect our values and present a strong path for our future.
The question is how do we capitalize on our assets – including our outstanding schools and brain power, safe neighborhoods and our long leadership in health care and life sciences? And, how do we handle some of our greatest challenges – our crushing tax and regulatory burdens, our crumbling roads, bridges and rails, our exodus of people and businesses and our stalled growth and investment.
That leads to my third observation: There are no quick fixes to these challenges, but here are some of the steps I’ve taken:
1. Meeting with and listening to citizens, mayors and businesses: My job is to listen and be responsive to the people I represent. It’s about good customer service and accessibility, online or at one of our six offices.
2. Working on tax cuts and regulatory reform: I’m working with the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus on across-the-board tax reform, meeting with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and other leaders to talk about how we can lower tax rates while preserving items like the state and local tax deduction that is so important to New Jersey. I also introduced the Regulatory Improvement Act with a group of colleagues on both sides of the aisle to cut out-of-date red tape and help our businesses grow.
3. Improving return on investment for our tax dollars: I’m fighting to bring more federal tax dollars back home instead of having other states get grants we could have won for priorities like roads, first-responders and combatting the opioid epidemic. This Anti-Moocher bill will put tax dollars back in the pockets of states like New Jersey that pay in more than they get back.
4. Standing up for Jersey values: I passed my first amendment to help post-9/11 veterans at the VA, fought for women’s health care and equal pay and am working to pass bipartisan legislation with Republican Brian Fitzpatrick to keep lead out of the drinking water in our children’s schools.
5. Protecting our home front: I helped introduce bipartisan legislation to create a comprehensive plan to destroy ISIS, have worked to secure funding to help law enforcement, and have taken the lead to support Israel – and shut down Iran’s ballistic missile testing – during a tenuous time in the region.
Finally, based on what I’ve seen to date, the only thing that’s certain is that the next 100 days will be filled with an equal amount of ups and downs. Through it all, I will do my best to find reasonable solutions and allies, wherever they exist, to help our families and businesses here in the Fifth District.
Josh Gottheimer, a Democrat from Wyckoff, is serving his first term representing the Fifth Congressional in the House of Representatives.