Washington Watch - 10/7/19
Last week, the President signed an Executive Order (EO) directing the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to improve and protect the Medicare program. Given that an overwhelming majority of Americans on Medicare like their plans and believe they receive quality health care services, I commend the President for directing HHS Secretary Alex Azar to protect and bolster these plans so that future generations of Americans can enjoy the program. Now is the time to undertake these efforts, especially since leading Democratic lawmakers continue to push socialized “Medicare for All” proposals that would abolish Medicare and Medicare Advantage and replace them with a one-size-fits-all single-payer health care system throughout the U.S.
Specifically, the EO directs the HHS Secretary to foster innovative benefit structures in Medicare Advantage plans, enhance access to telehealth services and technologies, and eliminate abuse and fraud within the system, just to name a few of the EO’s directives. I look forward to following Secretary Azar’s action on these directives, and you can be sure that I will keep you updated.
Another strong jobs report was released last week, showing continued gains in our economy and its positive effects on the U.S. workforce. Just last month, 136,000 jobs were added, bringing the national unemployment rate down to 3.5%; a jobless rate we haven’t seen since 1969! The jobs reports for July and August were also revised to reflect the additional 45,000 jobs added in those two months, bringing those numbers up to 166,000 and 168,000 respectively. This economic growth is also reflected in people’s paychecks with average hourly earnings rising by 2.9%.
More jobs, more pay, and a stronger economy is what’s driving America forward, and I am hopeful this Congress will continue to work with President Trump so that we may deliver positive results for the American people.
- The Wall Street Journal. U.S. Economy Added 136,000 Jobs in September
This past week much of the buzz across the country was about the recent announcement by the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), that the Democrats will begin an impeachment investigation into the President. As I traveled around the Seventh District, I was asked frequently what that really changes. The truth is that it doesn’t change much. There have been as many as six House committees already conducting investigations on matters related to President Trump since the beginning of this Congress. Speaker Pelosi could call for a vote on the House floor to begin an official impeachment inquiry, but she doesn’t seem interested in doing so. Thus, the same Committee chairmen who have been investigating for almost three years will continue investigating, and the same partisan press conferences that have been going on for almost three years will continue to go on. In the absence of a vote on the floor of the House, nothing but the tone of the investigations really changes.
That said, the investigations seem increasingly partisan in nature, threatening all other bipartisan goals and opportunities that we have in the House. Congress missed the deadline to complete the appropriations process for the 2020 Fiscal Year and has yet to begin reauthorizing Highway and Transit funding programs or the National Flood Insurance Program, both of which are expiring and in need of reform. There remains an unaddressed humanitarian crisis at our Southern border. The much-needed update to NAFTA, the USMCA, has broad bipartisan support and needs to come to a vote on the House floor but has been delayed.
I know that many of these legislative priorities affect your business and our community directly. While we wait and encourage the Speaker to bring those critical issues to a vote, do not hesitate to reach out to my office if you would like me to speak to your group and provide an update on Congress.
Rep. Woodall addresses the Sugarloaf Rotary Club
Americans have always believed that if you work hard, play by the rules, and treat others with dignity, you can make it in America. Entrepreneurship and innovation have been the foundation of our world-leading economic growth since our nation’s founding. From the Department of Labor to the Small Business Administration to the Department of Education, the federal government is working to promote entrepreneurial growth across the country and at every level. Not surprisingly, our community has taken a leading role in that effort through our educational system, helping all of our children to unlock their full potential.
One of the very first innovative programs I heard about after I was elected to Congress was a local Gwinnett County effort to connect local entrepreneurs with local high school students to bring a new focus to entrepreneurial education. Fast forward to today, we see entrepreneurial education programs formalized in our schools and thriving. Programs like Brookwood High School's Integrated Entrepreneurship Program are so successful that they are oversubscribed and now have waiting lists of students hoping a new slot will open.
I’m a firm believer that education should be handled at the local level. We don’t want to see Washington bureaucrats promoting a “one-size-fits-all” national education curriculum that isn’t tailored to the individual needs of our children. However, the federal government can play an important role in taking successful programs like the ones we see in Forsyth and Gwinnett and helping to share those with other school districts across the country. I am so proud of our local educators and young people, and I am full of optimism about what this means for our nation’s future.
Rep. Woodall visits with Brookwood High School’s Integrated Entrepreneurship Program
As you may know, a number of proposals have been introduced this Congress regarding prescription drug prices. I cannot imagine a goal which the American people agree needs addressing more, and I applaud my colleagues’ commitment to addressing the high costs of prescription medications which have plagued seniors and families alike for far too long. Here’s what I have heard from some of you back home on this issue:
Holly from Duluth:
I've just learned that Nancy Pelosi is pushing a health care plan that brings European-style drug price controls to America, raises taxes on our businesses, and gives unelected bureaucrats more control over my health care. It’s no accident that more cures, therapies, and vaccines have been developed in America than in any other country on Earth.
Jacob from Cumming:
Retirees can’t wait. We need quick passage of H.R. 3, the Lower Drug Costs Now Act. Each day, millions of Americans, including seniors and retirees, having to choose between paying for medicine and paying for other necessities because their prescription drug costs are so high. I strongly urge you to work to get this bill to the floor of Congress immediately.
As you may have heard, Speaker Pelosi and House Democrats have introduced their solution - H.R. 3 - aimed at reducing the high costs of prescription drugs through a number of sweeping reforms. These include Secretarial price negotiation, a price index that bases drug costs on those of other countries, an out-of-pocket spending cap in Medicare, and rebates for Medicare Part B and D drugs, among others. While folks like Jacob believe this plan is the best path forward, I can tell you with certainty that it wasn’t crafted as a serious pathway forward. From its drafting to its introduction to its coming presentation before the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health, H.R. 3 has been a completely partisan effort. We could have worked together to address some of Holly’s concerns, but unfortunately, this was not the goal of H.R. 3 or its authors.
On the other side of the Capitol, the Senate Finance Committee has advanced its solution – the Prescription Drug Pricing Reduction Act – which includes several suggested reforms in the prescription drug pricing realm and is largely bipartisan. Among these, the legislation would modernize Medicare Part D’s benefit design, including establishing an out-of-pocket spending cap, along with imposing new rebate requirements for manufacturers like a new 20 percent discount on brand name drugs once beneficiaries enter the catastrophic coverage phase. The CBO’s preliminary assessment projects that this measure would reduce beneficiaries’ spending for cost-sharing by roughly $25 billion over ten years.
As you can imagine, both bills are quite complex and both proposals will surely be subject to much debate, feedback, and improvement in the halls of Congress. It is clear to me that the ideals of transparency and fairness are shared by my friends on both sides of the aisle and must be incorporated into any successful legislation. Crafting large comprehensive solutions is never easy, but in this case, it is a goal we are all committed to pursuing.
Even as big bills are introduced, however, smaller, bipartisan solutions like the “CREATES Act” which would help facilitate the introduction of cheaper generics could be moved to the President’s desk today if party leadership could set politics aside. It is still too early to say how the debate on prescription drug costs and access will end, but I know that a lasting legacy of the 116th Congress could be one of decisive action to bring individuals and their families some relief at the pharmacy counter.
It seems like every week the schools here in the 7th District reach another incredible milestone that is worth sharing. But last week was particularly special. The Gwinnett County Public Schools reported that its students’ average SAT scores topped state and national averages on both sections of the test. More specifically, the Gwinnett School of Math, Science, and Technology had an average score that ranked No. 1 in the state of Georgia.
The good news didn’t stop there. In Forsyth County, graduation rates climbed to an all-time high of 95 percent, leading all Metro Atlanta county school districts for the 2018-2019 school year and breaking the state record. Also last week, Forsyth County Schools Superintendent Jeff Bearden was named a finalist for the 2020 Georgia Superintendent of the Year, a prestigious honor that highlights “leadership abilities and superior skill sets in the community, school boards and staff.” The winner will be announced in December.
I would like to offer my sincerest congratulations to everyone that has made this success possible. It is only from your hard work that the 7th District is continually recognized for its outstanding schools and education.
- Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Gwinnett schools out perform state on SAT
- Forsyth Herald. Forsyth graduation rates climb to all-time high
- Forsyth Herald. Bearden named finalist for education award
Here in the 7th District, we are protected by outstanding law enforcement agencies. Last week, the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office was honored with advanced accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA). To obtain this renowned accreditation, an agency must undergo a rigorous self-assessment in which policies, practices, and processes are closely scrutinized and altered to meet 439 internationally accepted standards and almost 1,500 other items.
I would like to congratulate the Sheriff’s Office for this impressive achievement and thank everyone there for their hard work to help keep our community safe.
- Forsyth Herald. Sheriff Office earns two accreditations
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