The political landscape in Washington is about to shift in the most dramatic way as President Donald Trump takes up residence at the White House. What will the new power structure in the nation’s capital mean to New Jersey? For clues, I turned to Congressman Leonard Lance, a veteran Republican from New Jersey’s 7th District, representing parts of six central and northern New Jersey counties. Here are highlights of our conversation.
New Jersey Monthly: How is a Trump presidency and GOP majorities in both houses likely to affect New Jersey?
Leonard Lance: Having a golf course in Bedminster, Mr. Trump knows New Jersey…and, with Republican control of both houses, I would hope that we can engage in fundamental tax reform, which would be very beneficial to New Jersey, particularly because of the relative affluence of the people in the state in the scheme of things nationally.
NJM: Trump is talking a lot about funding infrastructure projects. How could that impact such projects here at home?
LL: Our infrastructure is older than many states. There is speculation here on Capitol Hill that there may be a deal struck of tax reform on one side and significant infrastructure spending on the other side. That would be extremely beneficial to New Jersey. We also need to proceed with the Gateway tunnel.
NJM: What are your thoughts on the potential repeal of Obamacare and its impact on New Jersey’s citizens?
LL: I think it is unlikely that Congress would repeal Obamacare without some sort of replacement. The term I have used is “repeal and replace”…the promises of Obamacare and costs going down have not occurred, and instead, premium increases have been dramatic…. To address that, I think tort reform is likely to pass.
NJM: How challenging will it be to bring people together in New Jersey, particularly given some of Trump’s comments about Muslims, Mexicans and immigrants in general?
LL: I have criticized Mr. Trump where I think his statements have been wrong. I publicly stated before the election that his remarks regarding women were vulgar, as well as his comments about the Khan family, John McCain, and a federal judge of Mexican ancestry [Gonzalo Curiel]. Now Donald Trump is going to be our President. I think he should reach out to those who didn’t support him, specifically to the Muslim Americans, Hispanic Americans and others, to indicate that he is going to be a President of all of us.
NJM: What will a Trump presidency mean for undocumented immigrants in our state?
LL: I believe that the focus of the new administration will be to deport those illegal immigrants who are criminals and felons. The vast majority are not in that category. Something that is not well known generally is that 2.7 million illegal immigrants have been deported under President Obama. I do not believe that President Trump’s administration will be deporting any more than that. This will be a continuation of the policies of the Obama administration.
NJM: What will the future hold for pharmaceutical companies and a potential reduction in the cost of prescriptions?
LL: Both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump discussed that in the campaign, and that was one area where they seemed to be on the same page. As someone whose district has a great deal of pharma, I think we have to proceed in a judicious fashion. I don’t want to lose the U.S. pharmaceutical industry. I am sure as we work through the [Affordable Care Act], there will be a discussion on that aspect. I hope that whoever is appointed secretary of health and human services is someone experienced in these matters.