MacArthur Thrilled Joint Base Will Get Millions in Trump Budget

May 31, 2017

President Donald Trump’s budget has been severely criticized due to its proposed cuts to the EPA, U.S. State Department, the National Institutes of Health, PBS, Medicaid and any number of social service programs.

But even the most strident Democrat would have to admit Trump is attempting to keep his promise to beef up the military, with his budget calling for a 10 percent increase in defense spending.

Congressman Tom MacArthur, whose 3rd District includes the western half of Stafford Township and all of Barnegat Township, is thrilled with at least one budget line. It would provide approximately $134.5 million for new hangars at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst to house 24 KC-46s, the Air Force’s next generation of tanker aircraft. MacArthur had led a letter urging Secretary of Defense James Mattis to include the funding in the fiscal year 2018 budget.

“Since I came to Washington, fighting to protect Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst has always been one of my top priorities,” said MacArthur. “I’m grateful the administration heard my concerns and will provide funding for new hangars to house the KC-46 refueling tankers at the Joint Base. This funding will protect our national defense and ensure Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst remains our nation’s premier air mobility installation.”

The Joint Base, along with Travis Air Force Base in California, recently won a competition to become the Air Force’s MOBs (Main Operating Bases) for the KC-47 tankers, with 24 going to each. The Air Force is currently conducting an environmental review of each base and final approval is expected in the near future.

MacArthur gives every indication of being a defense hawk. But an even more important political consideration is that his district, which includes 36 municipalities in Burlington County and 17 in Ocean County, is home to thousands of military members and civilian employees at the Joint Base.

MacArthur was in the news a couple of more times last week.

On Tuesday he resigned as co-chairman of the Tuesday Group, an informal caucus of moderate Republicans. Although he will remain a member of the Tuesday Group he decided he could no longer fill a leadership role after he had negotiated with the conservative Freedom Caucus to create his “MacArthur Amendment,” which finally put the GOP’s American Health Care Act over the top in the House of Representatives.

“You can’t lead people where they don’t want to go,” he told Politico. “I think some people in this group just have a different view of what governing is.”

Later in the week the Congressional Budget Office released a report saying the American Health Care Act, as it currently stands, would result in 23 million fewer Americans having health insurance by 2026. MacArthur, who had been an insurance company executive before being elected to Congress, slammed the non-partisan CBO report.

“I’ll put my knowledge of the insurance market against CBO’s knowledge of the insurance market,” MacArthur told CNN. “I respect the CBO’s role, but just because a group of auditors down the block has created a model that has a lot of ‘ifs,’ ‘ands’ and ‘maybes’ looking out 10 years doesn’t make that the gospel. That is somebody’s opinion at CBO. I have a different opinion.

“It does not destabilize markets when you cover people with pre-exiting conditions on the much broader shoulders of the taxpayer (via high risk pools), and then you allow the rest of the people to have lower premiums and an insurance market that actually works for them.”

MacArthur went on to argue the CBO doesn’t have a very good track record. When the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare, was being debated in Congress the CBO said it would attract 22 million people to its exchanges by 2016. But, said MacArthur, only 10 million people got their insurance through those exchanges, meaning “they were off by 120 percent. That’s a staggering error.”

— Rick Mellerup

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