Washington Watch - 11/17/14
Elections are powerful things, and apparently the coming election in Louisiana is enough to motivate the Senate to take up the Keystone Pipeline Bill. As you can imagine, the pipeline and energy policy generally is very important to voters there. With that movement beginning in the Senate, the House voted once again to approve construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline, which will bring oil from our neighbors in Canada to our refiners in America, and sent the bill to the Senate for approval. This pipeline has been in the approval process for six years, and numerous scientific and environmental experts have supported its construction. It will bring jobs to American workers and will contribute to lowering oil prices, which helps every American family. I hope that the Senate will move quickly and that President Obama will sign this common-sense measure.
- CNBC. The Hail Mary to Sen. Mary Landrieu on keystone vote
- The Hill. White House hints at veto of keystone bill
- USA Today. House approves Keystone XL pipeline, Senate up next
Last week, a bill I introduced with two of my colleagues was approved by Congress and will hopefully be signed by the President soon. H.R. 4194, the "Government Reports Elimination Act," is a simple bill that repeals duplicative and outdated reports that Congress at one point or another forced federal agencies to write. For instance, even though no one has read it in years, the federal government is still required by law to issue an annual report on the importation of products made with dog or cat fur. This bill eliminates this report and dozens of others that nobody reads, but that we're spending money to produce. I am committed to building on this bipartisan success to continue targeting and eliminating more waste in all areas of the federal government.
- Federal Times. Number of required agency reports cut in newly passed bill
- The Hill. House clears bill to reduce government reports
The Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta will be hosting the 4th Annual National Veterans Small Business Engagement (NVSBE) event from December 9-11th. The event, which is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, is focused on helping veteran-owned small businesses learn best practices from federal and commercial procurement specialists so that small, veteran-owned businesses have expanded access to economic opportunities.
Veteran-owned small businesses are run by men and women who served our nation admirably and who want to continue serving our nation by helping to grow our economy and provide high-quality jobs to their fellow citizens. I applaud their hard work, and I hope that if you or someone you know is part of a veteran-owned small business, that you will direct them to this great event.
As many of you know, Congress passed the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014 (H.R. 3230) in July, and the President signed the bill into law on August 8, 2014, to expedite reform of VA health care system. My goal in supporting the legislation was to ensure that the men and women coming home from our operations overseas never again face a time when they are denied immediate access to the best possible health care treatment. One of the law's key programs includes providing our nation's veterans with a health care card, the Veterans Choice Card, which would expedite their access to health care by allowing them to visit a private health care provider.
This month, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs launched the Veterans Choice Program, and will begin distributing cards in three phases.
- Phase One: Those veterans who live 40 or more miles from the closest VA medical facility should expect to receive their Veterans Choice Cards, granting them access to a private health care facility, in the mail by the end of November 2014.
- Phase Two: Those veterans who have been waiting more than 30 days to see a VA health care physician should expect to receive their Veterans Choice Cards, also grating them access to a private health care facility, in the mail by December 5, 2014.
- Phase Three: Those veterans who are currently enrolled in the VA health care system, but do not meet the criteria in phase one or two, should expect to receive their cards by the end of January 2015.
The VA is estimating that the Veterans Choice Program will cover more than nine million veterans in 2015 alone. I am hopeful that our veterans will not encounter major problems, but I want you to know that I am here for you to help you navigate the process. If you or someone you know has not received the Veterans Choice Card by January 15, 2015, or you or a family member are having trouble using your Veterans Choice Card, or are unsure if you qualify for the card, please do not hesitate to contact my office at 770-232-3005 and one of our dedicated VA caseworkers will assist you so that you can get the health care treatment that you need and deserve.
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Expectations are high about what will happen next year in a new Congress with a newly functional U.S. Senate, but I am not willing to wait until next year. Like you, I want results today, and you can count on me to press each day to make as much of a difference as we can.
Member of Congress