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Congressman Rob Woodall

Representing the 7th District of Georgia

District Connection - 10/17/16

October 17, 2016
E-Newsletter Archive

GIVING THE GIFT OF LIFE

Millions of Americans have been touched by the gift of life in the form of organ donation. Deciding to be an organ donor can be a tremendously difficult decision to make for some, but it is also an unparalleled gift to our friends and neighbors in need. Thankfully, in our part of the world, many Georgians have made the life-saving choice to be organ donors, and in 2015, Georgia donors generously gave nearly 250 livers for transplant. That’s 250 loved and cherished family members – moms, dads, grandparents, children, aunts, and uncles – who were given a second chance at life. And our local hospitals – Emory University Hospital, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, and Piedmont Healthcare – are some of the most successful organ transplant centers in the country. 

Unfortunately, liver donors aren’t as plentiful in others areas of the country as they are in Georgia, and as such, folks in other parts of the country – like the northeast and the west coast – are waiting longer for transplants. To help them, the United Organ Sharing Network (UNOS), which governs all organ transplant procedures in the United States, has proposed to change the way livers are distributed. 

Right now, if a liver becomes available for transplant in Georgia, the first attempt is to match it with a person in need in the southeastern region. Should there be no match in the immediate area, then the search parameters widen and the liver might be sent elsewhere in the country. Under the newly proposed regulations, Georgia would be placed in a new regional area that spans the entire eastern seaboard from Georgia to Maine. While this new regional classification will bring more livers to the northeast, it will take livers away from Georgia. While I appreciate what UNOS is trying to do, it’s not fair to hold Georgians accountable for the low donor rates in New York, New Jersey, or Pennsylvania. Instead, we should be working to increase liver donations across the country. 

I was proud to join with all of my Georgia Congressional colleagues – House and Senate, from both sides of the aisle – in sending a letter to ask that UNOS reject its proposed changes and that the Department of Health and Human Services carefully review UNOS’ proposal. 

If you haven’t thought about organ donation before, I encourage you to do so now. There are over 4.7 million Georgians who have registered with Donate Life Georgia to be organ and tissue donors, and I hope that the thought of saving someone’s life will spur all of us to give the gift of life to our neighbors. 

WATER WARS UPDATE: FLORIDA AND GEORGIA POISED FOR COURT 

On October 31st, the State governments of Georgia and Florida will convene for a trial regarding the long-running “water war” that involves withdrawals from the Chattahoochee and Flint Rivers.  Although Georgia lays claim to 98 percent of the population and 99 percent of the economic activity in the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint (ACF) river basin, Florida contends that their State is entitled to more water to revive its struggling oyster industry.  Florida is suing to return Georgia’s water withdrawals to 1992 levels—when metro Atlanta was half its current size.  Representatives from Florida recently attempted to circumvent the legal process—three times—by trying to insert language directly in the recently passed Water Resources Development Act, but luckily, I led our Georgia Congressional delegation is beating back those cynical attempts.  I expressed my position to our leadership that my colleagues and I in Georgia would never accept an end-run around the ongoing discussions between the states' governors to resolve the dispute, and we were able to defeat all three attempts.  However, this remains a critical issue for our State, and I will continue to monitor it closely in the coming weeks and months.

INTERNATIONAL INVESTMENT IN GWINNETT STUDENTS

With all the world-class universities and the multi-national businesses that call the Atlanta metro area home, it’s easy to forget that we have a top-notch college right in our backyard; Gwinnett Technical College. And just this past week, one of those multi-nationals, Mercedes-Benz, announced a new partnership program with Gwinnett Tech to confer a two-year degree in automotive technology. If you’re anything like me, you used to spend time tinkering with your car and fixing problems yourself. But recently, many cars, especially luxury cars like those made by Mercedes-Benz, are almost entirely run by computers and high-tech components that require specialized automotive training to diagnose and fix. It’s fantastic that Mercedes-Benz has come to our district to find those highly-educated young people to keep American moving. 

FEDERAL COURT RULES AGAINST UNILATERAL CFPB POWER

A federal court ruled last week that the structure of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is unconstitutional.  As you likely recall, the CFPB was created by the 2010 passage of the Dodd-Frank Act, and it was established as an independent federal agency with a single director who, in the opinion of a federal court, largely answers to no one.  The CFPB isn’t accountable to Congress because it operates outside of the appropriations process, and the CFPB isn’t accountable to the President because its director may only be removed for cause, rather than at will.  What’s more, the court found that the CFPB’s director has more unilateral authority than any other officer in the any of the three branches of the U.S. government except the President.  I was pleased to see a federal court agree with what House Republicans have being arguing for years: concentrating so much power in a single director who “possesses enormous power over American business, American consumers, and the overall U.S. economy” is “a grave threat to individual liberty.” While the CFPB can continue to operate under this court decision, I fully expect Congress to continue working next year to bring the CFPB's financial operations under our control and to hold the CFPB's leadership to the same standards as other  quasi-federal agencies. A rogue agency with unconstitutional powers simply cannot be allowed to continue operating without appropriate oversight, and I'm happy to say that my colleagues and I won't allow it to. 

ANOTHER DANGEROUS CONCESSION TO IRAN BY THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION

Last week, more news about the Obama Administration’s troubling policy towards Iran was unveiled: the U.S. Department of the Treasury released updated guidance clarifying that it won’t sanction foreign banks and businesses that conduct transactions in U.S. dollars with sanctioned Iranian entities.  This move represents yet another instance of this Administration going above and beyond the requirements of the already dangerous Iran nuclear deal to appease Iran.  And, like the other recent instances, such as the heavy water purchase and possible hostage ransom payment, this new guidance has dangerous implications as well.  By removing a barrier and giving the green light to international banks to conduct business with Iranian entities, many of which are controlled by leaders of the infamous Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), this move only serves to strengthen the IRGC and empower it to continue conducting nefarious activities such as supporting Hamas and Hezbollah.  

News of this guidance is a fresh reminder of the importance of passing H.R. 5461, the “Iranian Leadership Asset Transparency Act,” which would provide crucial information to Congress, the American people, and the world at large that sheds light on what assets bad actors in Iran like the IRGC have and how they are using them.  While this legislation won’t reverse all of the damage done by this Administration with regards to Iran, it is an important transparency tool that the American people—and the world—need and deserve.  

Sincerely,

Rob Woodall
Member of Congress