Rep. Mike Kelly's 2019 Year-End Report

Jan 13, 2020

Dear Neighbor,

I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year with your family and friends. This season we had the opportunity to reflect on many things, including that even in the midst of a time of division and turmoil, we live free in the greatest country on earth because a precious few were willing to fight to secure and defend our liberty. 

Thank you for trusting me to serve you in the People's House. Taking western Pennsylvania's voice to our nation's capital has been the honor of my life and I take that responsibility seriously. This report seeks to highlight how I have worked for you this year and offer an update on the state of our politics and policy in Washington.

Unfortunately, impeachment of President Trump has overshadowed a well-spring of great news that we should all be celebrating. Let's get our impeachment discussion out the way. 

On Impeachment, I voted 'NO'

In December, the House of Representatives, led by Democratic leadership, impeached President Trump, charging him with an "abuse of power" and "obstruction of Congress." The facts don't support these allegations, and I believe the effort to remove the president from office is a cynical attempt to damage him ahead of the 2020 election, not allegiance to the Constitution or to an oath of office as proponents of impeachment claim. I voted against both articles of impeachment on the House floor and look forward to America continuing to win under his leadership.

The Best Economy in Half a Century

While the left obsessed over removing the president from office this year, the American economy continued to perform at the best levels in half a century. The president's policy of ending burdensome regulations coupled with the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act have led to historically low unemployment and higher wages for American workers.  Here are a few statistics to illustrate just how good things are:

Here at home we're seeing a resurgence. Like the rest of the country, western Pennsylvania is feeling the affects of this booming economy. Manufacturing jobs are on the rise, opportunity zones are helping revitalize our cities, and we are seeing hope for a better future. What more could we ask for? In 2020, I will fight for policies that continue this trend.

Promises Made, Promises Kept

President Trump committed to defend American workers and put our country first in trade negotiations, and he and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer have delivered.

  • The North American Free Trade Agreement that Devastated western Pennsylvania will soon be a thing of hte past. It is about ot replaced by the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), a new trade deal with our neighbors to the north and south that better suits the 21st century economy. The agreement provides security for American worker sand establishes rules for digital trade, among other incredible benefits. I voted 'YES' on USMCA when it passed the House in December.
  • China will not longer be able to take advantage of lax trade politics that hurt American workers and our industrial capacity. President Trump recently announced Phase One, a deal between the United States and China that is the first step in re-balancing our trade relationship. Included in this deal was an agreement by the Chineses to buy billions more in U.S. agricultural products, great news for western Pennsylvania farmers.
  • The United States withdrew from the United nations Arms Trade Treaty (ATT). I urged President Trump to withdraw the U.S. from the ATT in March 2018 because it does not expressly protect the right of individuals to keep and bear arms. It also hindered our ability to fulfill our commitment to key allies such as Taiwan and Israel. I have long-wondered why the United States would participate in and pay for a treaty that neglects the fundamental rights of its citizens, threatens is defense industrial base, and treats its right to transfer arms on an equal footing with totalitarian regimes. The president promised to put America first, and once again he has delivered.

2019 Legislative Achievements

  • H.R. 3151, the Taxpayer First Act: The IRS should be a resource, not an adversary, and we made that a reality with enactment of the Taxpayer First Act. The law will change the taxpayer’s experience by bringing the IRS into the 21st century. Among other reforms, it completely restructured the agency to improve efficiency, bolster cyber security, and require it to develop a customer service plan based on private sector best practices. It also established an independent appeals board to ensure that taxpayers receive a fair hearing during disputes. I was proud to co-author this legislation with Representative John Lewis, D-Georgia.

President Trump signs the Taxpayer First Act on July 1, 2019

  • H.R. 1994, the SECURE Act: Preparing and planning for retirement is a daunting task, but it's critical to the financial security of Americans. The SECURE Act opened new paths to retirement savings that will help you keep more of your money, make it easier for employers to offer retirement plans, and many other benefits. I authored this legislation Representatives Ron Kind (D-Wis.), Richard Neal (D-Mass.) and Kevin Brady (R-Texas).
  • H.R. 748, the Middle Class Health Benefits Tax Repeal Act of 2019: Obamacare established the "Cadillac Tax," a 40% penalty on employer sponsored health insurance plans that the government viewed as too expensive. Recognizing that this was terrible policy, subsequent Congresses voted to delay implementation of this tax multiple times. I am happy to report that legislation I authored with Representative Joe Courtney (D-Conn.) that was enacted this year permanently repealed this unnecessary tax that would make health insurance more expensive and of lower quality.
  • H.R. 510, the Building Rail Access for Customers and Economy Act: The economic success of rural areas and small towns requires access to main railroad lines. Short line rails provide that connection between our communities, large cities and America's ports. H.R. 510 permanently extended the short line railroad maintenance tax credit to make it easier to keep those lines operating and in good repair. I was proud to author this legislation with Representative Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.).
  • H.R. 2089, the Biodiesel Tax Credit Extension Act of 2019: Energy production and consumption are a huge part of western Pennsylvania's economy. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act implemented tax credits for renewable fuels and the production of biodiesel. Legislation I authored with Representative Abby Finkenauer (D-Iowa) extends that tax credit to continue the incentive to invest in new energy sources that will keep costs down.
  • H.R. 1175, the Craft Beverage Modernization Act of 2019: Small brewers, distillers, vintners, and cideries across our nation are creating jobs and building local economies. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act reduced the excise tax on these small businesses and this legislation made that reduction permanent. Craft beverage makers across western Pennsylvania have told me they use the excise tax savings to buy new equipment, hire more people, and for other investments in their businesses. Representative Ron Kind (D-Wis.) and I wrote this one together.
  • H.R. 4964, the Paid Family Leave Pilot Extension Act: As a father of four and grandfather of ten, I know that raising children is a full-time job. It's also critical to have peace of mind and time to heal when our health fails us. We must do all we can to encourage businesses to offer family and medical leave to employees, which is why I wrote this legislation to extend the tax credit for employers who do so. 
  • H.R. 2679, the 529 OPTIONS Act: The tax code has allowed tax-free distributions from qualified tuition programs called 529 plans for four-year universities for some time, and now, they can be used for expenses associated with apprenticeship programs. America needs more men and women to learn skills in the trades, and this is one way to make that more affordable. I wrote this legislation with Representative Donald Norcross (D-N.J.).

Goals for 2020

Prescription drug prices, including insulin, are on the rise. I am working to address that problem, as well as advocating policies to help rebuild our country's aging infrastructure. Here are a few of my top policy goals for 2020:

  • Reducing the cost of insulin: Earlier this year, I introduced H.R. 4244, the MAGIC Act, legislation that would create a clear and permanent pathway for the approval of a generic insulin at the FDA. As of this date, no true and affordable generic insulin exists because of regulatory and legal barriers, and this lack of competition has led to skyrocketing costs for this life-saving drug. This is unacceptable, and I am committed to finding a solution for American diabetics. Visit my government website for more information on the MAGIC Act.
  • H.R. 3107, the Improving Seniors Timely Access to Care Act: Health insurance plans, including many Medicare Advantage plans, require doctors to obtain pre-approval for certain medical treatments before they can provide care. Known as prior authorization, this process is meant to control costs by reducing medically unnecessary procedures.  My bill would establish an electronic prior authorization process that will streamline the approval of routine medical procedures. There should not be a delay in patient care because of inefficient administrative procedures between health care providers and insurers.
  • I am co-chair of the Health Care Innovation Caucus with Representatives Ron Kind (D-Wis.), Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.), and Ami Bera, M.D. (D-Calif.). We are a bipartisan group of lawmakers working together on creative health care policy solutions that foster innovation in the medical industry. Our primary focus is exploring solutions that improve patient outcomes. We want to reward health care providers who deliver results for patients and move away from the current fee-for-service model, which can incentivize unnecessary treatments and less personal care.
  • H.R. 2440, the Full Utilization of the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund Act: Ports and harbors across America are in disrepair, and they require dredging and other improvements.That includes the Port of Erie. Ports are essential to economic prosperity, and the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund was established to keep them maintained. Unfortunately, Congress has routinely raided the fund for other purposes. Only in Washington would you need legislation to require money in a trust fund to be used for its designated purpose, so I wrote this bill with Representative Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) to make sure our harbors and ports get the investment they need.
  • H.R. 5351, the Short Sea Shipping Act of 2019: To encourage the movement of goods by ship in the Great Lakes region rather by rail or highway, I wrote legislation with Representative Brian Higgins (D-N.Y.) that would create a limited exemption from the Harbor Maintenance Tax for certain ships loading and unloading cargo between two American ports or Canadian ports on the Great Lakes. Doing so would stimulate growth in the shipping sector, ease congestion and deterioration of western Pennsylvania highways and rail lines. With this bill, we can ease the burden on our infrastructure and support the Port of Erie. It's a win-win.
  • H.R. 3316, the Neighborhood Homes Investment Act: Investment is pouring into urban communities across America, revitalizing downtown areas, and building new housing. Often left out of this conversation is investment in renovations to aging single-family homes in suburban neighborhoods. That's why I wrote this legislation with Representative Brian Higgins (D-N.Y.) to spur growth in our nation's suburbs.
  • H.R. 1251, the Public Buildings Renewal Act: Our nation's government buildings are aging and in dire need of repair, so I wrote legislation with Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) to offer tax incentives for private entities to invest in renovating public buildings.
  • H.R. 3051, the Commercial, Low Emissions And Net Energy Reduction Buildings Act: Making buildings more energy efficient is always a good goal, so I wrote legislation with Congressman Jeff Van Drew (R-N.J.) that would extend a tax deduction to update and renovate buildings to achieve that goal. It's good for our environment and stimulates economic activity.
  • H.R. 3832, the Legacy IRA Act: Charities across our nation provide education and economic opportunity to families in need, and their work is made possible by millions of individual givers each year. This bill, which I wrote with Rep. Don Beyer (R-Va.), would encourage more giving by allowing Americans to give to charity tax-free from their IRA retirement accounts if they so choose. This form of giving has grown exponentially in recent years and we want to make it even easier.
  • Save the Erie SeaWolves: On a more personal local level, Major League Baseball (MLB) is threatening to cut ties with 42 Minor League Baseball teams, including the Erie SeaWolves. The SeaWolves are an integral part of Erie's identity, as are minor league teams across the country for rural communities and small towns. Losing their teams would devastate millions of baseball fans across America. Though there is not an explicit action Congress can take to prevent MLB from abandoning these teams, I joined a group of lawmakers who wrote to Commissioner Rob Manfred in November urging MLB to reconsider their plan.

Pennsylvania's 16th District Wins

  • Optimism in western Pennsylvania is booming with our economy. This is no exaggeration: the economy of western Pennsylvania is very much a part of the overall boom across the nation. I have spoken with workers and business owners across our district, and wages are rising and jobs are being created. Investment in our communities has been growing to levels once thought impossible. I am committed to policies that will keep our economy rolling!
  • Sand Replenishment at Presque Isle State Park:  Western Pennsylvanians know that Presque Isle State Park is a part of Erie's identity, but erosion of its beaches is a constant threat. Every year we ask the Army Corps of Engineers replenish the sand so these beaches remain open for future generations of Americans. This year, we asked President Trump again and he delivered. The sand came earlier than usual in anticipation of the summer busy season. I am committed to policies that preserve Presque Isle for our communities and the millions who visit each year.
  • High-level cabinet officials visited our district this year: Before President Trump, it had been a very long time, if ever, that a member of the president's cabinet visited western Pennsylvania. This year, Dr. Ben Carson, the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, was the third since 2017. He visited Erie to discuss the success of Opportunity Zones program that is revitalizing downtown. These zones were established by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act and are causing investment in places that were once forgotten, creating hope for a better economic future in some of America's poorest neighborhoods.

Secretary of the Dept. of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson presents a grant award to the city of Erie

  • Former Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer visited New Castle's ELLWOOD Group plant: Ellwood Group is a contractor for the Navy and produces steel propulsion shafts for ships. His visit was an opportunity for President Trump's administration to see how western Pennsylvania contributes to America's national defense. Our workers are building warships!

Former Navy Secretary Spencer and I meeting before ELLWOOD Group plant tour. ELLWOOD builds propulsion shafts for  ships.

How My Staff and I Directly Served You in 2019

My staff and I take pride in the services we offer to the residents of Pennsylvania's 16th district. We are proud of the fact that for the second year in a row, we were a finalist for the Democracy Award in Constituent Service. Here is a snapshot of the work we did for you this year. 

  • We staffed three full-time constituent offices that are located in Erie, Sharon, and Butler.
  • These offices primarily assist constituents with issues they are experiencing involving federal agencies. We have worked on and completed nearly 2,000 cases this year alone. In addition, our district offices serve as your liaison to federal agencies and a one stop shop for federal resources.

  • We attended 145 in-district constituent outreach meetings with individuals, groups, schools, hospitals, and other entities;
  • We met with the employers and employees at 41 local businesses to discuss how federal policies are affecting them and what we can do to help them grow their business and keep our economy roaring for American workers;
  • Corresponded with tens of thousands of constituents in the form of phone calls, pieces of mail, e-mail, and faxes;
  • Sent several million outreach emails, including public service announcements, monthly newsletters, policy updates, and notices of services available.
  • Hosted four telephone town hall meetings, three of which covered specific topics to help participants learn more about the tax filing process, Social Security, and Medicare. The fourth town hall covered a wide-array of policy issues, allowing constituents to hear directly from me about what's happening in Washington. Each event included thousands of participants from the 16th district, far more than any in-person town hall could accommodate.
  • Delivered 641 American flags to constituents;
  • Nominated 19 constituents to the elite U.S. Service Academies, following an extensive application and evaluation process, for the graduating class of 2024;
  • Hosted a school safety seminar. We partnered with the U.S. Secret Service and U.S. Attorney Scott Brady to provide school safety training to representatives from school districts, colleges, and police departments. Participants included 64 community partners.
  • Officially recognized 247 constituents for various outstanding public achievements that benefit our communities.
  • Hosted the national Congressional Art Competition, promoting the value of the arts and recognizing the talent of high school students from across the 16th District;
  • Assisted hundreds of families with 516 official tours, including 233 tours of the U.S. Capitol; 203 tours of the White House; 15 tours of the Library of Congress; 11 tours of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, and 54 tours of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
  • Expanded my online constituent communication, ending the year with 16,564 fans on Facebook and more than 20,000 followers on Twitter.
  • Doubled our subscriber list for e-newsletters. Sign up here.
  • Engaged in hundreds of interviews with local, regional, and national newspapers, radio shows, websites, and television programs.

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I look forward to working with you and President Trump in 2020 to build an even more prosperous country. God bless you, and God bless America.