Congresswoman Kristi Noem’s Weekly Column: A New Year Brings New Responsibilities

A New Year Brings New Responsibilities
By Rep. Kristi Noem

January 9, 2015

kristi noem headshot May 21 2014Legislative business in Congress is divided between just over two dozen committees, each of which specializes in a specific policy area.  At the beginning of each Congress, members are assigned to the committee – or committees – on which they will serve.

Last Congress, I served on the House Agriculture and Armed Services Committees.  Within those committees, I was able to help write and pass the Farm Bill and two annual National Defense Authorization Acts (NDAA).  With farm policy largely set for the next five years and a number of reforms made to defense policy through the last two NDAA’s, I felt I could have a greater impact for South Dakota on the Ways and Means Committee, which has jurisdiction over taxes, trade, Social Security, Medicare and much more.  During the first week of January, I was officially welcomed as a member of the Committee and I’m already looking forward to the work that must be done.

The Ways and Means Committee is considered to be one of the most powerful committees in Congress and I will be the first representative from South Dakota to serve on it.  It is also the oldest congressional committee, first gathering in 1789.  Eight Presidents and eight Vice Presidents have served on this committee, as have four Supreme Court Justices.

The congressional agenda this year is jam-packed with efforts that fall under Ways and Means jurisdiction.  One of the first places we’ll focus is expanding trade.  Currently, South Dakota exports billions of dollars in goods and services annually, which supports nearly 125,000 jobs in the state.  My goal is to grow these numbers even further by expanding our access to foreign markets.

Over the last few years, we’ve been looking at finalizing two new free-trade deals – the Trans Pacific Partnership with countries in the Asia-Pacific and the Transatlantic Trade Investment Partnership with the European Union.  While Congress doesn’t negotiate the deals, we can help guide the discussion and we have the final say on whether to accept the agreement.  All of this will go through Ways and Means.

In addition to trade, both Ways and Means leadership and the White House have shown a willingness to work together to simplify the tax code.  Farmers and ranchers in South Dakota are often disproportionately impacted by bad tax policy, especially when it comes to Section 179 or the death tax.

After my dad passed away, my own family was impacted by the death tax.  Like most farmers, everything we had was wrapped up in the land and machinery that was necessary for the business to continue.  As a result, we took out a loan that impacted every decision we made for a decade.  I understand the impact of these taxes and as one of the only voices from rural America on the Committee, I will do all I can to protect South Dakota families from the burdensome taxes that jeopardize the American Dream.

Tax simplification and trade expansion are two of Congress’s top agenda items this year.  Beyond these two issue areas, I will play a big role in holding the IRS accountable, ensuring children within our foster care system are properly cared for, taking a look at unemployment compensation, and much more as a member of Ways and Means.

As South Dakota’s only voice in the 435-member House, I want to make sure our voice is heard and I’m confident we’re in the best position possible for that to happen.

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