Happy New Year! 2017 was a busy year and I wanted to provide highlights on a wide range of issues we addressed. My staff and I have met with thousands of constituents, local elected officials, businesses and advocacy groups and have had hundreds of meetings throughout our District with constituents to find critical solutions to problems that affect us all. Some of our highlights:
Tax Relief for Working Families and Businesses
In December, Congress passed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act a pro-growth, pro-jobs, pro-family tax relief package that featured doubling the child tax credit to $2,000 that I advocated for, as well as lowering personal and business tax rates so hardworking families and businesses will have a healthier economy. With this historic tax cut and the 14 regulatory reform bills that were signed into law this year, we have helped unleash strong economic growth, and we are now heading into the third consecutive quarter of above 3 percent growth. The regulatory reform bills are estimated to save $3.7 billion. You can read more about the details of the tax cuts on my website at Comstock.House.Gov.
Strengthening Our Defense and National Security
Congress passed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for FY 2018 in December. The NDAA provides much-needed funding for our troops to carry out their missions, including a 2.4 percent pay increase for our troops; $28 billion to address readiness concerns; and $8 billion in funding for cyber operations; and support for PTSD. The NDAA also continues, via my amendment, to provide support for STARBASE, a STEM education program that serves 10th District students.
Supporting Our Firefighters and First Responders
In December, Congress passed my legislation that ensures our nation's firefighters and paramedics will have the tools and training they need to fight and prevent fires. Loudoun County Fire and Rescue Department Chief Keith Brower praised the legislation, "These programs greatly assist localities in the areas of firefighter safety, fire and life safety education and improved resourcing for tactical fire operations...This bill is tremendous for career and volunteer firefighters alike." The President signed this bill into law last week.
Leading in the Battle Against Sexual Harassment
The House of Representatives passed my bipartisan resolution to combat sexual harassment in Congress that mandates educating everyone, from Members to the interns, on preventing sexual harassment in Congress and having zero tolerance. I am also working on legislation that will fundamentally reform the outdated 1995 Congressional Accountability Act so it protects victims, brings disclosure to the process, and stops taxpayer money from being used for sexual harassment claims. I have also co-sponsored legislation that requires disclosure of any members who made sexual harassment settlements in the past.
Cracking Down on MS-13
The House of Representatives passed my bipartisan legislation, the Criminal Alien Gang Member Removal Act, which will provide additional tools to our law enforcement to combat MS-13. This legislation identifies gang membership and participation in gangs as grounds for inadmissibility and removability from the country. My legislation for additional funding to regional task forces like the Northern Virginia Regional Gang Task Force also advanced through the Judiciary Committee and should soon be voted for on the House floor.
Addressing Our Transportation Needs
I serve on the Transportation Committee and we are working on an overall Transportation and Infrastructure package to advance support for our roads, bridges, and infrastructure. This enhances our economic development as well as eases congestion and improves our quality of life.
In early December, I introduced the METRO Accountability and Reform Act, the largest legislative reform package introduced since Metro's inception. The legislation has the backing of over 30 business groups including the Northern Virginia Chamber of Commerce, the Greater McLean Chamber of Commerce, and more. The Washington Post Editorial Board said of the legislation. "Barbara Comstock offers a realistic lifeline for Metro".
In early December, Department of the Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke heeded our call for action and announced $227 million for the full rehabilitation of Arlington Memorial Bridge. The bridge carries 68,000 vehicles daily — many 10th District constituents among them — and this funding prevents the bridge from closing by 2020 and causing major traffic disruptions.
Leading On STEM Education
Congress passed my bipartisan legislation the INSPIRE Women Act which was one of the first bills that President Trump signed into law. The legislation provides more resources at NASA to young women who aspire to careers as scientists, engineers, astronauts, mathematicians, and other STEM careers.
The House of Representatives also passed my bipartisan legislation, the Research and Education Effectiveness and Transparency Act which provides better information on how to make taxpayer-funded investments in STEM and Research and Development more effective, transparent and fair.
Addressing Hate Crimes
In April, I introduced House Resolution 257, which condemns ethnic, religious, and racial hate crimes. The Senate companion Resolution already passed unanimously. The resolution cites trends in violent incidents targeting Jewish, Muslim, African-American, Hindu, and Sikh communities. The resolution calls on federal law enforcement, working with state and local officials, to investigate all credible reports of these occurrences in the United States, hold perpetrators accountable, and bring them to justice. The resolution has strong bipartisan support of cosponsors ranging from Congressman David Brat to Congressman Don Beyer.
Continuing the Fight Against the Opioid and Heroin Epidemic
This summer, I hosted two opioid roundtables in the District to address our continuing challenges on opioids, heroin and addiction which has now been declared a National Health Emergency by the President. The roundtables brought together local, state, and federal stakeholders to discuss the current state of the opioid epidemic in the region and we are introducing additional legislation to enhance our efforts.
Working With and For Our Veterans
In November, my office, announced that a "Vet Center Community Access Center" will be opening in Leesburg to serve Veterans as well as active duty military personnel and their families in both Loudoun and eastern Fairfax. This spring, I was honored to be named "National Legislator of the Year" by the Virginia Council of the Military Officers Association of America. For a full list of the 66 veterans bills that we have worked on this past year, see Comstock.House.Gov/VetsBills.
Working To Combat Human Trafficking
As a member of the Human Trafficking Caucus, and having passed and worked on major human trafficking initiatives since my time as a Delegate, I continue to work with my colleagues to promote legislation to provide more tools and funding to law enforcement to crack down on the heinous crime of human trafficking. In 2017, the House passed six bills including the No Human Trafficking on Our Roads Act, legislation I cosponsored that disqualifies someone from operating a commercial motor vehicle for life for a human trafficking crime. We are also working to stop human trafficking activities online.
Our staff also addresses casework from assisting with complicated foreign adoptions, to helping with emergency passports for our diverse population, to working with the Veterans Administration, Social Security or Medicare on facilitating resolution of a benefit claim. If you need help with a federal agency go to Comstock.House.Gov or call my District office at 703-404-6903. I wish you and your family very Happy New Year in 2018.