Congressman MacArthur: My Legacy Will Be Serving The People

Tom MacArthur (Photo courtesy Tom MacArthur)

TOMS RIVER – At a town hall at the Waretown Fire House in early 2017, Congressman Tom MacArthur opened it up with “I am not Donald Trump. I am not Paul Ryan. You might have guessed I am not Hillary Clinton.” What followed was a long night speaking with residents who had very emotional concerns about health care, education, and the fitness of the president.

  These issues likely followed to this year’s election, where he barely lost to Democrat Andy Kim. Their vote totals were within a few thousand – close enough that he didn’t concede until more than a week after the election day.

  Election turnout was in record numbers for a midterm election, and many people said that a lot had to do with whether people approved of what was happening D.C.

  A month after the election, he said in an interview that he agrees with the president on some things. “I want America to be strong on the world stage. I want its people to be safe and prosperous.” After a life in business (he was Chairman and CEO of York Risk Services Group, Inc.) he said he knows what conditions would make businesses prosper, and saw where public policy and business success intersect. Government has the ability help or hurt business based on the laws that are passed.

  It was a very close victory, and “the President helped me measurably in Ocean County,” he said. Burlington County, where Kim got the majority of his votes, might have been voting against Trump.

  But partisanship didn’t start with Trump, MacArthur said. When he started as a Congressman, it was a Republican-controlled House with a Democrat president. Partisanship is nothing new.

  “I don’t believe there’s not a middle ground,” he said. No matter what side of gun control you are on, school safety is still a good idea. There’s a way to handle immigration with compassion while still upholding the rule of law.

There are ways to find common ground “if you want to solve the problem and not just fight for political reasons.”

He hopes that in the future, cooler heads prevail.

  At that Waretown event, the first person he called on during the Q&A was the head of the Barnegat Democrats. He said he knew who she was. “I never run away from conflict, ever.”

  He touted his ranking in the top 10 percent of House members in terms of being bipartisan, as ranked by the Lugar Center., the political site, ranks him as having voted along with Trump’s position 94.6 percent of the time. He entered Congress on the Democrats’ side, and finds Democrats to co-sign bills when he introduces them.

  While the opioid epidemic, for example, is a priority for all people, voters tend to split when it comes to certain key issues, such as abortion and gun control.

  “I’m concerned society has become more polarized,” he said. “People only want to elect someone in the far right or far left.” However, real politics requires compromise. “You have to do things you don’t like in order to get things done.”

  He said that where he falls on the political spectrum didn’t dictate his choices.

  “I did what I thought was right,” he said. “Some people go to Congress and only work to get re-elected.”

  As part of the Bipartisan Heroin and Opioids Task Force, he worked to address the opioid epidemic that has struck the nation and has hit particularly hard in Ocean County. There were 50 bills passed and signed, 30 of them authored by task force members. These measures have seen real changes in the war on drugs.

  He was one of the politicians who helped get the county designated as a U.S. Drug Enforcement High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area. This led to one of the biggest drug busts in the area, spreading across multiple counties, racking up about 30 arrests and 90,000 dosage units of heroin in nine illegal facilities.

  “Whether we agreed or disagreed, I conducted myself honestly. I told people what I was going to do and I did what I said,” he said. “And I was straightforward with my colleagues in Washington.” That forthrightness, he said, is what allowed him to get done more than most freshman and sophomore representatives can accomplish.

  For example, he is proud of his work to keep the Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst open. It had been eyed for closure, but he said he worked with Democrats to fend off the Base Realignment and Closure from coming here during the Obama administration. Then, working to get the KC-46 tankers there will give the base a mission in airborne fueling for decades.

  Healthcare was a “provocative” area of his tenure, he said. “While I trust the American people, I believe America was deceived by negative ads regarding healthcare.”

  Kim’s ads got a lot of mileage from “the MacArthur Amendment” to the American Health Care Act, which Republicans wanted to replace the Affordable Health Care Act, better known as Obamacare. It fell short in the Senate, though.

Congressman Tom MacArthur speaking with Vietnamese News Reporters from Washington D.C. during an event in Barnegat in 2018. (Photo by Bill Clanton, Jr.)
Congressman Tom MacArthur speaking with Vietnamese News Reporters from Washington D.C. during an event in Barnegat in 2018. (Photo by Bill Clanton, Jr.)

  MacArthur had said his amendment was designed to make care more affordable by allowing states more flexibility in what was covered. Those with pre-existing conditions could still have coverage. Critics of the amendment, including those in the medical field, said that the waivers it would have created would let states define what was essential benefits based on saving money, and cause those with pre-existing conditions to be priced out of the market.

  Another health care item he was proud of was more local: Deborah Heart and Lung Center. He said he introduced legislation to bring Medicaid money to Deborah and shepherded it through the House to get it signed. Specifically, Deborah was losing out because of a loophole in the Medicare Dependent Hospital Program. “Long after me and Andy Kim will be forgotten, Deborah will (still) be the recipient of $5 million.”

  But these are the big policies that are very public. There are many issues that the world may never learn about, because they may only affect one person. But to that one person, it’s the most important topic in the world.

That’s the realm of constituent services, where an individual contacts his office for help. And it’s probably more important to him than any of the previously mentioned successes. Whether it’s someone struggling with the Veterans Administration or Social Security, he is proud of fighting for the little guy in his district. He said he returned $11 million in four years for residents in the 3rd District. There was an immigration case where a woman’s deportation was stopped 36 hours before her plane was scheduled for take-off.

  He credits his staff for this above all. He set the tone that individuals matter, and hired people who had compassion and would work like bulldogs to get things done.

  These are projects he would have liked to continue.

  “It’s disappointing to lose. I have had bigger losses in my life and I have learned that good things can come of it,” he said.

  “I wish him success,” he said of his successor, offering advice: “Be impactful, even early on. Make life better for the people of the 3rd district.”