Washington Watch - 11/28/16
As you all probably know, at the direction of President Obama, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) issued a regulation this past May that would more than double the salary threshold used to determine overtime pay eligibility. In the weeks and months since, I’ve heard concerns from folks across the district and the state about the overtime rule’s potential negative impact, including workers who were worried about losing flexibility with their schedules or simply seeing their hours reduced, and employers concerned that taking such actions would be their only viable option in order to stay in business. In response to these concerns, House Republicans repeatedly called on the President to reconsider his overtime rule and passed legislation to delay its implementation, while also arguing that he lacked the authority to make such significant changes to our overtime laws without Congress’ approval.
Last Tuesday, a federal court agreed with House Republicans in a case brought by 21 states, including the State of Georgia, challenging the legality of President Obama’s overtime rule. According to the court, the DOL lacks the statutory authority to increase the overtime salary thresholds and mandate automatic increase going forward, among other things. As a result, the DOL can no longer implement or enforce the overtime rule, which was set to take effect on December 1st. While this isn’t likely to be the final word on the overtime rule, as I expect the DOL to appeal the court’s decision, my hope is that employers and employees alike can rest easy knowing that it will not be forced upon them just before the holidays.
This ruling is also another in a long-line of rebukes by the Federal courts against President Obama’s “go it alone” strategy of using the regulatory bureaucracy to implement policy that should rightly be considered in full and open debate by Congress. I know it’s tempting when your party is in the White House to simply bypass the normal legislative structure in favor of the faster regulatory route, but no matter who is in the White House – a Republican or a Democrat – Congress should always be the ultimate arbiter of what should and should not become the law of the land.
- The Hill: Judge blocks Obama overtime rule, putting it in jeopardy
- NBC News: Obama’s Plan to Extend Overtime Pay Is Blocked by Federal Court
Two weeks ago, the House Committee on Energy and Commerce dove into the topic of self-driving cars. While you might think self-driving cars are the stuff of science fiction drama, you’d be wrong; the technology is already here, and I’d venture a guess that partially self-driving cars are going to be parked on your street and mine within the next few decades. In fact, you may have heard that earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Transportation released a new non-binding regulatory framework to help guide the development and deployment of this potentially game-changing technology. This type of technology could one day greatly reduce accidents and congestion on our roadways by increasing vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communication, and I am encouraged that the Department of Transportation understands that heavy-handed federal regulation could hinder or even kill the kind of innovation that is being cultivated by states and manufacturers. There are still many questions that must be answered before we start seeing this technology on our roadways, including questions of privacy and safety, but I am encouraged that we are beginning to examine in detail the kinds of changes we could all be seeing on our roads in the future. I expect we will learn much more about this issue in the coming year.
- The Hill. National Highway chief: fully self-driving cars decades away
- Land Line Magazine. Congressional hearing: Majority of vehicles can be self-driving in a few decades
On November 16th, the House Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on Information Technology held a hearing entitled “Federal Cyber Security After the OPM Data Breach: Have Agencies Learned Their Lesson?” The Chief Information Officers of the Department of Agriculture, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and the Social Security Administration were called to examine each of the Agencies’ information security programs and management, including their compliance with the Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA) and the Federal Cybersecurity Enhancement Act. I applaud the efforts of Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) and Subcommittee Chairman William Hurd (R-TX) to ensure we don’t repeat the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) data breach which affected 22.1 million people. The Committee has been working with the Administration over the past few months to get better information from more than two dozen Federal agencies about security tests and information security audits. And the Committee highlighted why those tests and audits were so important in its report about the OPM data breach back in July.
If your family is anything like mine, part of your Thanksgiving dinner discussion probably touched on President-elect Trump and his proposed Cabinet and high-level appointments. As of today, Mr. Trump has chosen his Chief of Staff (Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus), National Security Advisor (former Defense Intelligence Agency Chairman Lt. General Michael Flynn), and Deputy National Security Advisor (former National Security Council advisor Ms. K.T. McFarland). And he has nominated for Senate confirmation his Attorney General (Senator Jeff Sessions from Alabama), Education Secretary (Ms. Betsy DeVos from Michigan), United Nations Ambassador (Governor Nikki Haley from South Carolina), and CIA Director (Representative Mike Pompeo from Kansas). With this diverse group of appointees and nominees from both inside and outside the Washington Beltway – both public sector experts and private sector advocates – I believe that President-elect Trump is sending an important signal that all sectors of society and the economy need to work together. As President-elect Trump continues filling his Cabinet over the next few weeks, I look forward to learning more about his choices and supporting all those men and women who I know will work hard to retain America’s place as the greatest country in the world.
- New York Times. Trump diversifies Cabinet; picks Nikki Haley and Betsy DeVos
- Washington Post. There are three rules of Cabinet appointments. Will Donald Trump break them?
This week the House is expected to consider a critically important bill from the Financial Services Committee; H.R. 6392, the “Systemic Risk Designation Improvement Act of 2016.” Since the adoption of the Dodd-Frank financial reform law, the government has been erroneously equating asset size and risk, instead of taking the time to understand the varying structures of small, mid-size, regional, and large financial institutions and evaluating financial institutions based on a more complex understanding of portfolio asset management. H.R. 6392 provides financial regulators with a better way to assess risk by eliminating the one-size-fits-all Dodd-Frank approach in favor of one that takes into account the health of asset portfolios.
The House will also debate this week a bill that has been years in the making – the 21st Century Cures Act. This measure passed the House over a year ago, and finally, after many months of negotiations with the Senate, we are moving forward with a final bill that will provide millions of dollars in funding to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for cancer research. There will always be disagreement among well-meaning Americans about the proper role of the federal government in spending taxpayer dollars – but I hope that you join me in supporting taxpayer dollar investment in life-saving health research.
Member of Congress