District Connection - 10/15/19
If the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) were brought to the floor in both chambers of Congress, it would pass overwhelmingly.
If the USMCA were passed, there would be increased economic growth, greater foreign investments in our state and national economies, and thousands of new jobs for Americans.
You might be wondering – so why haven’t we passed this agreement already and what do we have to do to make it happen soon?
Read my latest Atlanta Journal-Constitution column to find out:
This week, Gwinnett County surprisingly became the subject of headlines across the country because of a new invader to Georgia. The northern snakehead, an invasive fish originally from East Asia, was found in a pond on private property in Gwinnett, and it has the unique ability to breathe air and survive on land. While you may not have to worry for your personal safety because of this “invader,” the northern snakehead could seriously harm our local ecology and native species by competing for food and habitat and could quickly establish itself in the area. The snakehead has been found in 14 states, but this is the first one found in Georgia.
The Georgia Department of Natural Resources urges anglers to do the following if you believe you have caught a northern snakehead:
- DO NOT RELEASE IT.
- Kill it immediately (remember, it can survive on land) and freeze it.
- If possible, take pictures of the fish, including close ups of its mouth, fins and tail.
- Note where it was caught (waterbody, landmarks or GPS coordinates).
- Report it to your regional Georgia DNR Wildlife Resources Division Fisheries Office
And remember, in Georgia, it is unlawful to import, transport, sell, transfer, or possess any species of snakehead fish without a valid wild animal license.
- CNN. Snakehead fish that survives on land found in Georgia
- New York Times. Snakehead Fish Found in Georgia: ‘Kill It Immediately’
- Fox News. Snakehead fish discovered in Georgia, sparks warning from wildlife officials: 'Kill it immediately'
The trade war with China and the passage of USMCA are two of the most concerning issues raised in my visits with local businesses. As the global economy creates more and more interconnections, more and more businesses are affected by global trade uncertainty. For months, I have been working with local businesses one-on-one to address new tariffs on their business inputs – tariffs intended to protect American jobs, but which are actually threatening them right here in our neighborhoods. If you know of a business struggling to file a tariff exclusion request with federal regulators, please direct them to my office so that we can partner with them to continue the growth of local jobs and the local economy.
For those focused on this international issue, I’m pleased to report that we are gaining ground on China, and the chances of a deal being struck are improving with every passing day. Additionally, there are still several opportunities to pass legislation this year, like the USMCA, that will create jobs and boost our economy. Since these issues have such an impact on our local community, I will continue to provide an update to you all as negotiations continue.
Last week, I had the opportunity to visit with the Southwest Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce to update them on progress in D.C. and to address some of their local interests. Our local chambers do so much to develop local businesses and grow opportunities. Their concerns are almost always shared by chambers across the nation, so when I carry those concerns back to Congress, I can almost always find bipartisan partners to help with solutions. Thank you to the Southwest Gwinnett Chamber for hosting me and sharing with me!
Martha from Duluth:
Dear Rep. Woodall Right now, threats to social security and Medicare remain high in Washington. That's why I need you, my elected representative in Congress, to take a strong public stand for protecting the benefits that I and so many others have paid into during our entire working lives. As you know, millions of Americans cherish their earned benefits, and are hoping these programs will be protected and strengthened.
And so, as your constituent concerned about the future of Americans' retirement and health security, I'm counting on you to uphold our hopes by preserving these vital programs. Today, millions of retirees, workers with disabilities and their families are counting on social security and Medicare as never before. So instead of slashing these vital programs, now is the time to build and strengthen social security and Medicare's historic legacy for current and future beneficiaries. I need to hear from you on this critical issue that will impact the livelihood of millions of middle-class American families. Please stand up for social security and Medicare!
David from Cumming:
I am writing to urge you to act in a bipartisan manner and support the passage of H.R. 860, the social security 2100 Act, to make social security financially strong for the next 75 years. Beginning in 2020, social security will pay out more in benefits than it takes in from taxes and interest income and will deplete its $2.9 trillion reserve fund in 2035, according to the social security trustees' annual report issued in April. While the program will not go bankrupt due to payroll taxes, projections are there will only be enough revenue to cover 77% to 79% of benefits.
Congress and a President haven't acted to preserve social security since 1983 when, to avert a social security financial crisis, payroll taxes were raised, and the eligibility age is slowly raised from 65 to 67 years old. Social security benefits have become increasingly important as pensions have disappeared and many Americans have failed to save enough for retirement.
Let me begin by saying that I share Martha’s and David’s commitment to maintaining the Social Security program. This program is a vital source of income for many individuals across our nation. It is no secret that Social Security is facing serious financial difficulties, however, and we all know that the sooner Congress acts to put it on a solid financial course and ensure that it is a healthy program for current and future beneficiaries, the less dramatic the solution will need to be. As Martha points out, I certainly recognize and appreciate the fear that surfaces when folks hear Congress is considering changing the program. That said, before getting into more specifics, please know that I cannot name one serious lawmaker who is looking to deny hard-working Americans their well-earned benefits or renege on the federal government’s long-standing obligation to provide for this program’s beneficiaries. When you hear lawmakers talk about changing the program, they are talking about saving it, not destroying it. According to the Social Security Administration actuaries, doing nothing to change the programs dooms it to begin short-changing retirees. So, let’s talk about where we are and where we can go.
Righting Social Security’s fiscal ship is never easy, but as I said above, it’s always easier to fix it sooner rather than later. Rescuing Social Security always takes lots of political courage. America came together in 1983—Republican and Democrat, Congress and the President—and added 40 additional years to the life of the program. They adjusted the taxes workers paid, they adjusted the benefits workers receive, and they added life to this critical program. Those 40 years of additional life will soon expire, however, and we must all come together to make new and hard decisions to extend the program safely and soundly for generations to come. David is spot on with his calculation above – according to the Social Security Administration’s own actuaries, with the current laws in place, Social Security’s Old-Age and Survivors Insurance Trust Fund, combined with the Disability Insurance Trust Fund, is projected to be insolvent by 2035, at which point, payroll taxes will only be sufficient to pay roughly 79% of scheduled benefits.
Clearly, such a shortfall would be a breach of the trust of and the contract with American workers. Given that the shortfall is a certainty in the absence of reform, I’d hope that you would agree with me that reform is a necessity. While various proposals addressing Social Security in one way or another have been put forward, including the proposal David mentioned in his correspondence (H.R. 860), any serious solution must be carefully vetted to ensure both fairness for current Social Security recipients and continuity of the program for future beneficiaries. As such, I am not convinced at this time that H.R. 860 is a viable reform proposal. I am concerned that the measure puts an undue burden on working Americans, especially lower-income Americans, by increasing their payroll taxes substantially without a resulting overall increase in the value of the benefits received. Additionally, reasonable solutions must ensure younger workers have more effective programs to enroll in when they reach retirement age, and they must address the structural deficiencies in today’s program in a manner that will ensure Congress doesn’t have to fix the program again in another few years. While H.R. 860 doesn’t fill the bill entirely right now, you can be sure that I am closely monitoring every Social Security reform proposal because we must do more to help current seniors and those who are paying into the system today. Should you come across any proposals that you’d like me to review, please do not hesitate to share them with my office.
As you may know, Congress passed and President Trump signed into law sweeping legislation last year that included more than 70 measures to combat the ongoing opioid crisis. As federal agencies like the Department of Health and Human Services work to fully implement those reforms, it is critical that those in our local communities continue supporting our friends and neighbors who are battling opioid abuse and addiction. In fact, that bill was crafted with this very goal in mind, and we are starting to see more of those dollars trickle directly back to our community, in addition to those dollars that were allocated through the FY19 appropriations process to address this epidemic. For instance, Invistics Corporation in Peachtree Corners – a provider of healthcare analytical software – recently received more than $400,000 through the National Institutes of Health’s Helping to End Addiction Long-Term (HEAL) Initiative. That initiative is aimed at improving treatments for chronic pain, curbing the rates of opioid addiction and overdose, and achieving long-term recovery for those who have become addicted. Solutions will surely come from every corner of industry, and I know we are proud that some of those are the result of the hard work from folks here at home.
- HHS. NIH funds $945 million in research to tackle the national opioid crisis through NIH HEAL Initiative
The ability of our students to be successful once outside the classroom relies on a strong educational foundation and rewarding experience that is meticulously cultivated day after day by the teachers, parents, educators, and administrators who we charge with that great task. If you are a frequent reader of my newsletter, you are no doubt aware of the many accolades presented to schools in our community in the name of education excellence, and I’m sure none of us are surprised that trend has once again continued in a big way. The Gwinnett School of Mathematics, Science, and Technology (GSMST) was once again ranked #13 on Niche’s list of 2019 Best Public High Schools in the country and was selected as the #1 public high school in the state. I am sure you will recognize several schools from our area at the top of their list of “Best Public Schools in Georgia,” and you can read their complete rankings HERE. You won’t be surprised to learn that three more of the top 10 public schools in the state are also in the Seventh District. Lambert High School comes in at number five, South Forsyth at number seven, and North Gwinnett at number 8. What an amazing testimony to the quality of our students, parents, and teachers here in the Seventh District that four of the top 10 schools in the state are located right here in our neighborhoods! Congratulations to all who helped to make this recognition possible!
This week, the House is moving forward with consideration of H.R. 1815 and H.R. 3624. These partisan measures from the House Financial Services Committee are unfortunately just more of the same thing we’ve seen far too often this year: bills that score political points but won’t move in the Senate, won’t be signed by the President, and thus won’t provide any benefit for hard-working Americans.
Instead of working with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) as it crafts pro-consumer regulations, H.R. 1815 unnecessarily up-ends the SEC’s current rulemaking power. Similarly, instead of working with American companies and workers to support the production of U.S.-made products, H.R. 3624 erroneously assumes that placing more reporting requirements on multinational companies will somehow shame these businesses into moving operations back to the U.S. I want companies hiring more American workers and making their products here, but playing political games with their workforces and forcing them to spend money complying with useless regulations isn’t the answer hard-working Americans sent us to Washington to find. It is the answer you get, however, when partisanship is the order of the day instead of working together. I hope that we can put strife aside and bring bills forward next week and for the rest of the year that will make a difference in people’s lives.
Member of Congress