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Congressman Rob Woodall

Representing the 7th District of Georgia

Washington Watch - 10/3/16

October 3, 2016
E-Newsletter Archive

FOCUS ON GROWING JOBS: HOUSE PASSES PORTS/WATERWAYS BILL

Congress often passes bills that don’t make national news but are critical to ensuring America’s economic competitiveness. I led one such bill, the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA), to passage through the House last week. This is the bill that builds and maintains our nation’s water infrastructure, including the harbors, waterways, and ports that make Georgia one of the top states for business. This bill is critical to those of us who rely on Lake Lanier and the Chattahoochee River for water to drink, and it is critical for those jobs that rely the Ports of Savannah and Brunswick for commerce. Did you know that Savannah is the fasting growing container port in the U.S. and that Brunswick exports U.S.-made Mercedes Benz automobiles for sale back in Germany?  Both are true!  Now that the House and Senate have each passed a WRDA bill, I look forward to working together to send this language to the President for his signature.

CLICK BELOW to watch part of my speech on the House floor last week.

CONGRESS PASSES 2017 VETERANS FUNDING, ZIKA FUNDING

For the first time in 10 years, Congress passed and the President signed appropriations legislation before the end of the federal fiscal year. This funding prioritizes certainty for our veterans and for our researchers who are seeking to contain, prevent, and treat the Zika virus here in the U.S. This bill is a good first step toward ending the culture of “continuing resolutions” and “government shutdowns,” but there is much more to do. You can count on me to continue working to restrain spending, and to ensure that those efforts make Congress part of the solution and not part of the problem.    

FAILING OBAMACARE CO-OPs SHOULDN’T FURTHER HURT AMERICAN FAMILIES

You probably heard that many of the co-op health care plans that were created by President Obama’s health care law have gone bankrupt already and have shuttered their doors. Picture this: you had a health insurance plan that you liked, but the Affordable Care Act (ACA) outlawed it, so you purchased insurance through a new Obamacare co-op. Now, that co-op has failed and you have to find another insurance plan to purchase, and if you don’t do it quickly, the Obamacare law assesses a tax penalty on you for not having insurance. 

That’s right, unbelievably, the Obamacare law would not let you keep the plan you had, it forced you into a plan you may or may not have wanted, and now, when that plan disappears or fails, the Obamacare law wants to hit you with a tax penalty because you no longer have insurance. That makes absolutely no sense, and that’s why the House passed H.R. 954, the “Co-Op Consumer Protection Act” last week. This bill insures that no American will be fined by the government for not having appropriate health insurance coverage if their co-op plan is terminated during a plan year. This is simply common-sense, and I’m proud that a bipartisan majority of my colleagues in the House came together to make the health insurance marketplace more fair and more workable for our fellow Americans.

FOCUSING ON THE BIG THINGS—AND THE LITTLE THINGS—TO HELP GEORGIA’S VETERANS

Last week, I joined several of my colleagues from the Georgia Delegation in sending an important letter to Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert McDonald about an issue that directly affects Georgia’s veterans. The VA recently unveiled a new eye screening pilot program, called Technology-Based Eye Care Services (TECS), which it has begun to employ in the Atlanta VA Medical Center system.  While it does allow veterans living in places outside of Atlanta to be screened in several local clinics rather than having to drive into Atlanta, there are serious quality concerns about how many eye-related conditions the new TECS system may fail to detect.  The letter we sent asks some very reasonable questions of Secretary McDonald: is TECS meant to replace the traditional comprehensive eye exam, or just supplement it? If so, are Georgia veterans being informed of this policy change? Why is the VA pursuing this experimental program when there is an ongoing clinical study to determine the quality of the TECS exam?  If the VA has fundamentally altered the way in which it delivers eye care, Georgia’s veterans absolutely have a right to know, and that’s why I’m glad several Georgians in Congress partnered together to figure out exactly that.  

While I’m glad several in the Georgia delegation sent a powerful message to the VA regarding our shared concerns about this new program, I am a firm believer that actions speak louder than words, and I’m pleased to report to you that the House also took some much-needed actions last week on behalf of all of America’s veterans. Three important veterans bills passed the House last week: H.R. 5162 would improve the Veterans Choice Program by making it easier for the VA to share health records with private medical providers in the program, H.R. 5392 would make a number of crucial reforms to resolve ongoing quality issues with the Veterans Crisis Line (VCL), and H.R. 3216 would ensure that no veteran can be turned away from receiving emergency medical care when they arrive at a VA hospital. While these three bills certainly represent progress on behalf of America’s veterans, I know that much more work remains to be done, and you can count on me to continue working hard in this crucial area of policymaking.  

HIGHLIGHTING OUR ESSENTIAL RELATIONSHIP WITH SOUTH KOREA AND JAPAN

The House’s committee hearing schedule last week was very full, but there was one especially interesting hearing that has major effects on Georgia that I want to take the time to highlight for you. The House Foreign Affairs Committee held a hearing entitled “The U.S.-Republic of Korea-Japan Trilateral Relationship: Promoting Mutual Interests in Asia” last Wednesday. We don’t often think about Georgia’s relationship with foreign countries, but our state’s economic growth is certainly tied to our trading partners in Asia, especially Japan and South Korea. Not to mention the rich cultural, familial, and defense ties that our state and our nation have with these critical, democratic allies.

In 2015, South Korea and Japan were in the top 5 of Georgia’s import partners. So far this year, the Port of Savannah’s second largest trading partner was South Korea – with over $3.4 billion worth of goods coming into our state – and Japan was number four – with over $2.9 billion worth of goods. As a gateway to the southeastern United States, Georgia’s ports bring economic vitality to the region, including thousands of jobs. I’m heartened that the House Foreign Affairs Committee has taken such an interest in our trilateral relationship, and I’m certain that with the support of Congress, that relationship will grow even stronger in the years to come.

CONGRESS OVERRIDES PRESIDENTIAL VETO        

For the first time since President Obama took office, Congress successfully used its Constitutional authority under Article I, Section 7 to overturn President Obama’s veto of S. 2040, the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act. The bill overwhelmingly passed the House and Senate, and after the President’s veto, received the necessary votes to become law. While I know that there are disagreements about the merits of the legislation, I am proud that Congress came together to show the President which branch of government truly holds the legislative power. I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle in the future to continue asserting Congress’ Article I Constitutional prerogatives. 

HONORING ISRAELI LEADER SHIMON PERES

As millions of people of the Jewish faith woke up this morning around the world to celebrate Rosh Hashana -- the Jewish New Year -- we pause to remember that just last week, the world lost a defender of democracy, peace, and freedom when former President and Prime Minister Shimon Peres passed away. Mr. Peres was the last of Israel’s founding generation of leaders and a man dedicated to maintaining a resilient Israeli state based on democratic values and institutions, while also constantly reaching out to Israel’s Arab neighbors, including the Palestinians, to seek peace. His desire for a peaceful Israel was so strong that he shared a Nobel Peace Prize with former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and former Palestinian Liberation Organization Chairman Yasir Arafat in 1994 after the men had come together to sign the Oslo Accords on the White House lawn in 1993. Mr. Peres’ long career serving Israel will never be forgotten – and neither will his dream of ensuring that a strong and democratic Israel could stand beside its Palestinian neighbors in peace.

Sincerely,

Rob Woodall
Member of Congress