MacArthur Tackles Opioid Crisis, Joint Base Manpower; Votes No on Budget

Nov 01, 2017

Who says congressmen don’t work very much?

Republican Rep. Tom MacArthur has been a busy man in the past couple of weeks. On Oct. 23, MacArthur announced that a key legislative proposal by the Bipartisan Heroin Task Force, which he chairs along with Democratic New Hampshire Congresswoman Annie Kuster, had taken a big step forward by clearing the House of Representatives.

The INTERDICT Act intends that U.S. Customs and Boarder Protection will be provided with new screening devices, laboratory equipment, facilities and personnel it needs to detect and intercept fentanyl and other synthetic opioids at the border. The bill was introduced in a bipartisan way, with Rep. Niki Tsongas (D-Mass.) and Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.) sponsoring it while MacArthur, Kuster and Donald Norcross (D-N.J.) served as co-sponsors.

“Across the United States, synthetic opioids are flowing into our neighborhoods and destroying the lives of so many loved ones,” said MacArthur, whose 3rd Congressional District includes much of Ocean County including the western half of Stafford Township and all of Barnegat Township. “Customs and Boarder Protection is our first line of defense in detecting and intercepting these illicit substances from getting into our country.”

Another key issue for MacArthur is the health of Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, located in his district. The more missions that can be staged and expanded at the Joint Base, the more chance it has of surviving any future Department of Defense reductions or closings.

So seizing on the situation in post-Hurricane Maria Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, MacArthur penned a letter on Monday to the Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson, urging the secretary to increase the size of the 621 Contingency Response Wing, already located in part at JB-MDL.

MacArthur’s was the lead signature on the letter, which was also signed in a bipartisan effort by New Jersey Representatives Donald Norcross, Leonard Lance, Chris Smith, Frank LoBiondo, Josh Gottheimer, Albio Sires, Frank Pallone and Bill Pascrell as well as Senators Cory Booker and Bob Menendez.

“We write to you today in support of the 621 Contingency Response Wing (CRW) located at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst and Travis Air Force Base (California). As you are aware, the 621 CRW is the Air Force’s highly specialized unit that can rapidly deploy personnel to quickly open airfields to establish, expand, sustain, and coordinate air mobility operations. This unit is often the first to respond to humanitarian disasters as well as serving a wartime role.

“After Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, the 621 CRW quickly deployed and was instrumental in assessing the situation at Luis Munoz Marin International Airport and directed the effort to get the airport up and running as quickly as possible. The 621 CRW currently maintains disaster recovery efforts with four locations in Puerto Rico, one in the British Virgin Islands, one in US Virgin Islands, and one in St. Maarten. ...

“It is our understanding that the 621 CRW is currently manned at approximately 1,350 airmen, while it is authorized for 1,500 airmen. We encourage you to increase the manning of the Wing to its authorized level if possible.”

MacArthur also reinforced his moderate bona fides that had perhaps been damaged by his helping to push the repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare, through the House.

Last Thursday the House of Representatives passed a procedural budget blueprint that will allow a tax bill to pass Congress without any Democratic votes, in other words, closing down the chance of a Democratic filibuster while tax reform is considered. It was a narrow Republican victory, with the resolution narrowly passing by a 216 to 212 vote with 20 Republicans defecting, most of whom were worried about the possible elimination of the IRS deduction for state and local taxes in the final tax bill, something that would hurt many New Jersey taxpayers.

MacArthur was one of those 20 defecting Republicans. But he still feels a compromise can be reached that would protect the residents of states like his own that have high state and local taxes.

— Rick Mellerup


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