District Connection - 6/6/2016
When I share with you what I am working on in Washington, I often talk about bills or amendments that I am passing or laws that are being signed. Certainly, moving legislation is important. But also tremendously important is Congress' role in providing oversight for the work being done by the Executive Branch. This week, I want to highlight some recent efforts that will have a particular impact here at home.
There probably isn’t another federal agency that I hear more complaints about than the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). That’s not an indictment of the good folks who work there, but it is an indictment of the IRS’ tremendous mismanagement over the past few years. When news first broke about former IRS Director Lois Learner’s controversial directive to allegedly target conservative organizations filing for tax-exempt status, it brought a brand new fear to light – that government workers who should be above reproach would use their power to further their own political agendas.
Though current IRS Commissioner John Koskinen was brought in to turn around the IRS and restore trust to the American people, he has seemingly become part of the problem instead of the solution. As such, the House Judiciary Committee held a hearing on May 24th examining allegations of misconduct against Commissioner Koskinen, including his failure to comply with a congressional subpoena and the possibility that he made false statements during congressional testimony.
Because the IRS is so involved in the lives of every American citizen through the individual and corporate income tax codes, the Judiciary Committee must take allegations of misconduct seriously.
- Washington Post. Republicans detail case against IRS chief in hearing Democrats call a sham
- International Business Times. Who is John Koskinen? IRS Commissioner faces impeachment
On May 26th, the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology’s Subcommittee on Environment delved into the ways that that the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plant rule will negatively affect states and rate-payers across the United States. President Obama pledged at the Paris climate agreement conference to cut U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80 percent by 2050, and the Clean Power Plant rule is the cornerstone of his regulatory agenda to make this pledge a reality.
Of course, the reality is much different for American families than it is for liberal environmentalists in a conference room in Paris. Georgia’s families could see average annual price increases of 14 percent on their electricity bills, with prices jumping 22 percent in peak years. And that’s a relatively modest increase compared to what the estimates are for West Virginia and North Dakota. The economic models say that West Virginians could see an average annual electricity price increase of 33 percent, with a peak year price increase of 45 percent. In North Dakota, the peak year electricity price increase could be as much as 62 percent. Imagine what you’d have to sacrifice in your household budget in order to spend 62 percent more on electricity! Unfortunately, the Obama Administration’s EPA doesn’t seem to care about your budget or mine. Instead, the EPA is focused entirely on promoting a plan that will satiate a radical "no fossil fuels, period" agenda, cost Americans billions of dollars, and fail to significantly make an impact on the Earth’s temperature. We can do better for American families, and I’m pleased the House is working hard to ensure that hard-working taxpayers come first.
With the prevalence of a dynamic, internet-based, technology economy taking hold of our nation, it’s almost impossible to believe that parts of the federal government are still running on computer systems that were designed and deployed more than 50 years ago – but it’s true. The House Oversight and Government Reform (OGR) Committee held a hearing on May 25th examining why many parts of the federal government are so woefully inadequate in making technological progress.
According to the Government Accountability Office, the Department of the Treasury is using a 56 year old computer system to store its master data file on individual taxpayer accounts, and there’s no plan to replace it. The Department of Veterans Affairs uses a 51 year old system to store its claims data that was written in a programming language called COBOL – which only runs on an IBM mainframe and was developed in the 1950s. The Department of Defense is still using 8-inch floppy disks on a 1970s era computer to coordinate operational function for U.S. nuclear forces. If you think this is beyond ridiculous, it’s only because it is!
Georgia is a global hub of the electronic payments industry – an industry that uses high speed internet connectivity and cutting-edge technologies to move money around the world in a matter of seconds. With our private sector innovators right here at home, we have a lot of experience and know-how in tackling complex technology problems that we can share. With the OGR Committee tackling this difficult issue, I look forward to working with them to ensure that Georgia’s technological know-how can inform the federal government’s transition to the 21st Century economy we all want to support.
- PBS. Government wastes billions of dollars on old computers, report says
- NBC News. Feds spending tech money on floppy disks and COBOL, report says
Last Tuesday, the Supreme Court struck another blow against the Obama Administration’s reckless overreach, this time over the Clean Water Act. The question before the Supreme Court was whether or not a private landowner can challenge the federal government’s claim to jurisdiction over private land under the Clean Water Act before the time-consuming and costly permitting process takes place. In a win for private landowners, the Supreme Court almost unanimously decided that challengers “need not assume [enforcement risks] while waiting for EPA to 'drop the hammer' in order to have their day in court.” Since you sent me to Washington, I’ve worked with my colleagues to fight against this Administration’s unprecedented lawlessness using any and every tool possible, and we’ve had success. For instance, the American people have halted Obama’s unconstitutional executive actions on immigration. We’ve reversed the President’s unconstitutional union appointments. We’ve blocked his historic power grab over our nation’s water. We prevented the President from implementing a de facto ban on popular ammunition. We’ve done even more, and though there is still much work to do, don’t believe those who say the Congress and the American people are powerless to make progress. One step at a time, together, we are restoring our constitutional order.
- The Hill. Supreme Court rules against White House in water pollution case
- Politico. Supreme Court ruling means more Clean Water Act lawsuits are likely
- Forbes. Supreme Court hands big win to landowners in wetlands challenges
As many of you have likely heard, President Obama spent much of last week touting the economic gains Americans are experiencing under his policies, and though he is correct that the economy has added many jobs since he took office and the unemployment rate has fallen below 5 percent, there’s much more to the economic story, and last Friday’s job report is proof. According to the report, the U.S. economy added only 38,000 jobs in May, which is the fewest number of jobs created in five and half years and marks the third straight month the economy added fewer jobs than it did the month prior. What’s more, the two previous months’ jobs reports were revised downward by a combined 59,000 jobs, and on top of all of that, the labor participation rate, which measures the share of working-age Americans who are either employed or looking for a job, fell to 62.6 percent, its lowest level this year.
Rather than hitting the trail for a “victory lap,” President Obama could work with Congress to jump-start our economy by reforming our broken tax code and repealing some of our many, overly-burdensome, job-killing regulations. If he wants to do something that would immediately add thousands of jobs to the U.S. economy, he could rethink his decision to veto a number of job creation bills already passed by Congress, including the approval of the Keystone XL pipeline.
While Congress will no doubt continue to press the President on the abovementioned legislative priorities, I want to call your attention to Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady’s statement on this month’s job report in which he promises to roll out a number of pro-growth solutions to our nation’s most pressing challenges. I encourage you all to take a look at those ideas when they are released this week and share your thoughts with me.
- The Atlantic. May’s Jobs Report: Very Disappointing
- WSJ. U.S. Added Only 38,000 Jobs in May
- Washington Post. Hiring dropped sharply in May, the weakest in 6 years; unemployment rate fell to 4.7 percent
- Barron’s. Job Growth Tanks; Only 38,000 New Jobs Created in May
This week the House is expected to consider our third annual appropriations bill. The appropriations process has been broken for years, yet it is the primary constitutional method for Congress to exert its power. I have been working with both the left and the right to get this process back on track, and I am pleased to see this progress.
The house will also consider a bill directing the government of Puerto Rico to reform its economic condition and restructure its massive, multi-billion dollar debt. For months, I have been insisting that the American taxpayer not be on the hook to bailout Puerto Rico from its profligate spending. This legislation is the result of months of hard-work between Republicans and Democrats on the House Natural Resources Committee, and while no bill is ever perfect, this one is a common sense measure that will help Puerto Rico reform its economy for the future without sending one penny from the U.S. Treasury to Puerto Rico.
Finally, I’m honored to again be visiting with the Prime Minister of India, Mr. Narendra Modi, on Tuesday evening. As India grows into its new role in the 21st Century, it is both a critical economic partner and a critical security partner. Prime Minister Modi, the governments of India and the United States, and the U.S.-India Business Council have a strong and lasting relationship that has improved the economic well-being of both our nations. In partnership with our vibrant Indian-American community here in the 7th District, I know that we will continue the deep friendship between our two nations for years to come.
Member of Congress