Washington Watch - 1/13/20
The House of Representatives reconvened last week, marking the beginning of the second session of the 116th Congress. With every new year comes new possibilities, but our legislative priorities remain unchanged. In my final year in office, I am determined to see the USMCA trade deal signed into law and pass other meaningful legislation, like bills to lower prescription drug costs, end surprise medical billing, and improve our country’s transportation. I am also hopeful to repeat our USMCA victory and pass a prosperous trade deal with China.
These goals can only be achieved with a bipartisan approach. I encouraged my colleagues last year to treat our divided government as an opportunity. Now is the time to pass legislation that has the fingerprints of every member—Republican and Democrat. Now is the time when we can best serve our constituents and help every American across our nation.
I look forward to renewing this call for bipartisanship in 2020.
During a cold winter 117 years ago today, over one hundred Korean immigrants arrived in Honolulu, Hawaii. After a long and dangerous voyage, these immigrants finally found a better life here in the land of opportunity. And for over a century, our communities have been made richer by our Korean American friends and neighbors.
Today, Gwinnett and Forsyth counties are home to over 25,000 Korean Americans—nearly half of the entire Korean American population of Georgia. There are many groups representing the interests of our Korean American friends and neighbors, including the Korean American Grassroot Conference. I had a chance to speak at their Youth Leadership Summit last week about the importance of cultural diversity and community engagement in shaping the future of our nation.
Rep. Rob Woodall meets with young people from across the U.S. for the Korean American Grassroots Conference in Washington, D.C.
Additionally, I joined my colleague, Congressman Jimmy Gomez (D-CA), in authoring an op-ed about the importance of Korean American Day and why Congress needs to pass vital legislation like the Divided Families Reunification Act and the Adoptee Citizenship Act. You can read that article below.
- Fox News. Reps. Gomez & Woodall: Korean American Day – Let’s skip the politics. Congress needs to take these actions
In the past 80 years the U.S. Department of Labor has collected employment data, it has never recorded ten straight years of uninterrupted job growth – until now. With the release of the Bureau of Labor and Statistics report on Friday, the U.S. economy closed out the month of December with 145,000 jobs added and the unemployment rate holding at 3.5%. The number of jobs added met economists’ expectations, contributing to an unemployment rate that hasn’t been seen in nearly 50 years. Last year was a strong year for job growth, and with USMCA finalized and Phase One of the China trade deal soon to be implemented, I am excited for the greater gains we should expect to see this new year.
- The Wall Street Journal. U.S. Economy Added 145,000 Jobs in December
As I frequently note, the bipartisan work that unfolds in the House chamber tends to do so without catching the attention of the media. That’s primarily because bipartisan action occurs when lawmakers roll up their sleeves to fix a policy issue that may not be exciting for broader audiences, which is why I want to take a moment to highlight some of those policy issues that lawmakers worked across the aisle last week to resolve. These include ensuring federal inmates have the knowledgebase necessary upon release to enter the business world and an amendment I worked on with Rep. Mark DeSaulnier (D-CA) to reduce the probability of PFAS contaminants being released on airfields across the nation.
Generally speaking, small business issues tend to garner significant bipartisan support, especially since each and every lawmaker represents entrepreneurs and small businesses, and I was pleased to see lawmakers rally around a handful of bills that advance the interests of the small business community. Specifically, the House passed four small business bills last week in a bipartisan manner, which include:
- H.R. 5078, the “Prison to Proprietorship Act” sponsored by Rep. Nydia Velázquez (D-NY) and H.R. 5065, the “Prison to Proprietorship for Formerly Incarcerated Act” sponsored by Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), would require the U.S. Small Business Administration to work with the Federal Bureau of Prisons to require women’s business centers, small business development centers, and SCORE to provide entrepreneurial skills, training courses, and tools to individuals currently and formerly incarcerated in federal prisons. Sponsors of these bills hope that by providing such services to these individuals, we can reduce recidivism rates among this population by giving them the tools to actively participate in the business community and give back to others.
- H.R. 5130, the “Capturing All Small Businesses Act of 2019” sponsored by Rep. Marc Veasey (D-TX) doubles, from one to two years, the length of time used to determine the average number of employees of a manufacturing firm for purposes of determining whether the firm is a “small business.” This is a rather small but technical fix that will ensure certain small businesses have sound capital, infrastructure, and a work model in place, allowing them to successfully compete in the open marketplace.
- H.R. 5146, the “Unlocking Opportunities for Small Businesses Act of 2019” sponsored by Rep. Jim Hagedorn (R-MN) requires federal officials to consider any past performance of a firm applying for a contract, including work the firm may have fulfilled while working on a federal contract as either a joint venture or as a first tier sub-contractor. This will allow small firms to demonstrate their capacity to successfully work on federal contracts and contract officers the opportunity to better analyze the capacity of the firm’s work outside of the larger projects previously worked on.
The House also considered H.R. 535, the “PFAS Action Act,” a bill to designate PFAS as hazardous substances under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability (CERCLA) Act of 1980. As I stated in the Constituent Spotlight section of last week’s newsletter, lawmakers are committed to reducing the presence of PFAS, per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, in our environment. The good news is that Democratic and Republican lawmakers alike share this commitment. In fact, that is why I joined my fellow Rules Committee and Transportation and Infrastructure colleague, Rep. Mark DeSaulnier (D-CA), in offering an amendment to the bill. Our bipartisan amendment ensures state and local building code inspectors and fire marshals are at the guidance-making table as we work to minimize the use of PFAS in fire-fighting foam and other related equipment. I hope you will click the photo below to learn more about the amendment I offered with Rep. DeSaulnier and why lawmakers from both sides of the aisle offered their support. I look forward to keeping you in the loop on bipartisan successes as the second session of the 116th moves forward.
Rep. Rob Woodall (GA-07) speaks during amendment debate for H.R. 535
Further conflict with Iran appears to be avoided after a tense week between the country and the U.S. In the aftermath of the death of Qassem Soleimani, Iran retaliated by striking two military bases in Iraq housing American and allied forces. While it resulted in no casualties, the attack marked a serious escalation of tensions. In a speech the following morning, President Trump called to de-escalate the hostilities, saying that the U.S. would not respond militarily. Iran, in return, appears to be standing down. However, the President remained firm in his commitment that Iran would never acquire nuclear weapons and announced further sanctions.
On Capitol Hill, the strike was predictably divisive, and House Democrats introduced a nonbinding resolution to restrict the President’s use of military force to attack Iran or any part of its government or military unless otherwise authorized. The resolution purports to forbid the use of force against any part of Iran’s government or military, even as Iran consistently threatens and attacks the U.S. and allied forces, civilians, diplomats, and shipping vessels, both directly and indirectly through its proxies. No matter who is sits in the oval office, our President must have the ability to respond to threats to the American people and our interests. As such, I opposed the resolution that was largely symbolic and will likely not be taken up in the Senate.
After years of allowing the hostile regime in Tehran to cross red line after red line, the strike against the head of the terrorist-designated Quds Force of the IRGC not only served to prevent the further loss of American and Iraqi lives, but also to deter Iran from further action. The U.S. does not want war with Iran, but Iran’s countless transgressions and interference in the region has exacerbated the instability of the region, if not the principal cause of much of it for decades.
- FOX News: Trump says Iran ‘appears to be standing down,’ missile strikes resulted in no casualties
- The Washington Post: Trump administration hits Iran with fresh sanctions after attack on U.S. forces
- CBS News: House approves war powers resolution to restrict Trump on Iran
I commonly hear from folks back home who are passionate about animal rights and want to ensure animals are treated humanely. Below are a few messages I have received about a bill that was recently re-introduced in the House related to this endeavor: H.R. 5141, the “Humane Cosmetics Act.”
Ronnie from Norcross:
Please support the Humane Cosmetics Act. We no longer need to test products on animals to prove their safety. Please end this cruel practice immediately by passing this bill.
Jennifer from Buford:
I am writing to urge you to co-sponsor the Humane Cosmetics Act which will end animal testing for cosmetics in the United States. This is a common-sense bill that will benefit industry, consumers, and animals. In the last 20 years cosmetics companies have reduced their use of animals for cosmetics testing in favor of modern non-animal alternatives that are often cheaper, faster and more predictive for humans. Polls show that the American public overwhelmingly supports alternatives to testing cosmetics on animals and that a majority believe that testing cosmetics on animals is unethical.
The Humane Cosmetics Act – which was reintroduced during this legislative session this past November – would prohibit, in most instances, cosmetic testing on animals in the United States as well as prohibit the sale and transport of those cosmetics or any ingredients in those products that are tested on animals.
Today, with respect to the cosmetics industry, there is no federal regulation either requiring animal testing to demonstrate safety or prohibiting it. Companies are free to adopt alternative means for testing the safety of their products, and as Jennifer mentioned, more and more companies are eliminating animal testing for their products on their own accord, largely in response to demands from the American public that those products be “cruelty free.” The economic benefit that companies gain from not testing on animals is powerful, and consumers are certainly influencing the market in this area in a measurable way.
While this piece of legislation focuses on cosmetic testing, efforts to limit animal testing in all areas continue to move forward. For instance, U.S. Environmental and Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler issued a directive in September requiring the agency to prioritize efforts to reduce animal testing. Additionally, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has continually supported the development and use of animal testing alternatives as well as strict adherence to the Animal Welfare Act and the Public Health Service Policy of Humane Care and Use of Laboratory Animals which govern the treatment of animals in these settings. Further, three states have already taken action on this issue, enacting legislation largely prohibiting animal testing for cosmetics.
At the federal level, the Humane Cosmetics Act has been introduced in three congresses and always in a bipartisan manner. Each successive effort has garnered more support than in the past. As you know from so many newsletters over the years, I always have reservations about using the hand of government to regulate in an arena where consumers and the free market are already moving swiftly and effectively, so I have not cosponsored this legislation. But, knowing of the constituent interest in this issue, as a member of the Rules Committee which sets the agenda for debate on the floor of the House, if this bill comes to Rules, I will definitely support moving it to the floor for a free and open debate where all constituent voices and concerns can be heard.
Here in the 7th District, law enforcement officials not only protect our community from harm, but they also go above and beyond to bring us closer together. Last week, on National Law Enforcement Appreciation Day, the Gwinnett County Police Department spent the day celebrating others. A group of 19 officers gathered outside Academy Sports + Outdoors and took Special Olympics athletes from South Gwinnett High School shopping for new sports equipment. On the eve of the State Indoor Winter Games in Cobb County, this was a great opportunity for athletes to buy equipment they previously had to borrow.
I would like to recognize these officers for donating their time to help these athletes. The 7th District is grateful for your service and we thank you all for risking your lives every day to keep us safe.
- Gwinnett Daily Post. Gwinnett County police shop with Special Olympics athletes on National Law Enforcement Day
Each one of our brave first responders is invaluable to our community. I was deeply saddened to hear about the loss of local firefighter Lawrence Mitro, who passed away on Christmas morning following a battle with cancer. Mr. Mitro was a 56-year-old Air Force veteran and became one of Forsyth County’s first fulltime firefighters. Those close to Mr. Mitro said he “lived a life of loyalty, duty and dependability.”
I would like to express my sincerest condolences to Mr. Mitro’s family and friends. His dedication to public service will be remembered for generations, and I would like to thank him for all his contributions to our community here in Georgia.
- Forsyth County News. Friends remember the life of Forsyth County Firefighter Larry Mitro
This week the House will consider a number of measures, including H.R. 1230 and H.J.Res. 76. The first bill, H.R. 1230, purports to protect older Americans from age discrimination in the workplace. But in reality, it simply makes it easier for high-powered lawyers to make money. Under the measure, should the defendant prove that he or she would have fired the employee for reasons other than the employee’s age, then the employee would only receive declaratory relief, injunctive relief, and attorney’s fees and costs. Should the employee win his or her suit outright, they would receive compensation and so would their attorneys. As such, win or lose, the measure ensures that attorneys get paid, even if the plaintiff doesn’t receive a dime in monetary damages. That’s a give-away to the trial lawyers’ lobby, and it will harm employers and employees.
H.J.Res. 76 is a resolution of disapproval that would eliminate a new U.S. Department of Education regulation called the “Borrower Defense Institutional Accountability” rule. The Borrower Defense rule updates an Obama-era rule allowing student loan borrowers to discharge some of their student loan payments should the borrower’s higher education institution misrepresent material facts about the institution that financially harmed the borrower. This seems like a common-sense regulation to me that protects borrowers who were lied to by their colleges for any number of reasons and are experiencing an inability to pay back their loans because of those distortions. The Obama-era rule didn’t distinguish between intentional fraud by colleges and universities and simple mistakes; this new rule does. Because no distinction was made, higher education institutions were hit with huge federal fines, which of course leads them to have fewer resources to invest in students, teachers, and campus life. Disapproving this rule isn’t about helping students, it’s about politics and about opposing the Trump Administration at all costs.
Member of Congress