Washington Watch - 12/10/18
This time of year is certainly busy for most, from wrapping up the year’s end to preparing for the next, to the holidays in between that are celebrated in countries around the world, the month of December can certainly feel a bit overwhelming. What’s more, many of you are probably either preparing your home to welcome family and friends or you are planning to travel to be with your loved ones. There is nothing more special than being present with those you love and catching up on what has happened in the lives of those you cherish since you last visited with them, and I hope that you’ll be doing just that and enjoying all that our community has to offer this time of year.
That said, while it’s my sincere hope that all your conversations are filled with joy and happiness, we all know too well that some troubles might be aired. You might even learn that a family member is having trouble with a federal agency. Unfortunately, bureaucratic red tape knows no boundaries, even during this special time of year, and these challenges can consume the minds and weigh on the hearts of those individuals who are seeking the services promised to them by the government.
Whether it’s your father-in-law who is having an issue with Medicare, your cousin who is trying to obtain military service records, or your daughter who is trying to navigate the immigration system to secure a student visa so she can study abroad this coming summer, our office is here to help! Resolving problems constituents are having with federal agencies is my Georgia office’s number one focus. I have a dedicated team of caseworkers who are familiar with the rules, regulations, and inner-workings of these agencies, allowing us to use their expertise to help solve issues you or a family member may be having.
So as you gather around with friends and family in the coming weeks, please know that my team and I want to give the gift of peace of mind to any of your coworkers, neighbors or family members who are grappling with federal bureaucratic red tape this season. My office works each and every day to ensure that the federal government works better to serve all Americans, and I look forward to partnering with you to bring solutions home this year!
Last week, Congress sent a short-term spending bill to President Trump’s desk, extending the FY19 funding deadline to December 21st. Much of the funding negotiations were postponed out of respect for the Bush family and for all Americans to honor and remember the life of President George H.W. Bush. This extra time will allow us to iron out the last few remaining details in the FY19 package that includes funding for the Department of Agriculture, State, and Homeland Security, to name a few. A major point of contention lies with funding for border security. While the House provides the Department of Homeland Security with $5 billion for border funding, the Senate version would only provide $1.6 billion. Both, however, are an increase from the current level which is at $1.3 billion.
Additionally, we are also discussing a disaster relief package for folks who have been affected by the wildfires in California and the several hurricanes that hit the southeast of the United States. Hurricane Michael in particular devastated our farmers in south Georgia, uprooting pecan trees, leveling timber forests, and destroying poultry houses, which is why I signed a letter along with the entire Georgia delegation to House leadership urging them to include disaster relief funding for all those affected.
Sending aid to Georgia farmers is important. Funding security measures at our southern border is important. Ensuring federal agencies have the resources they need to operate is important. All of these issues and more can and should be resolved in the coming days.
For the past 55 years, families from across the nation have joined Members of Congress for a time-honored tradition: the lighting of the Capitol Christmas Tree, also known as “The People’s Tree.” This year’s tree is an 80 foot tall noble fir that made the long journey from Oregon’s Willamette National Forest to the west lawn of the U.S. Capitol. Last Thursday, Speaker Paul Ryan, with the help of Brigette Harrington, a 9-year-old elementary school student from Hillsboro, Oregon, flipped the switch to kick-off the holiday season in our nation’s capital. Brigette was chosen for this honor after her poem was selected out of more than 1,200 entries from 4th grade students from across Oregon who were asked to write about what they loved about Oregon’s great outdoors. As you can tell from her poem, Brigette loves all the natural grandeur that Oregon’s wilderness has to offer. I only hope that one day a great Georgia pine will adorn the Capitol grounds!
If you’re going to be in Washington, D.C., for a holiday trip, you’ll be able to see the tree illuminating the Capitol’s west lawn through January 1st. If you can’t make it to D.C., however, you can watch the Capitol Christmas Tree’s journey by CLICKING HERE. And you can click the picture below to see Speaker Ryan and Brigette light the tree!
Recently, the Senate voted to advance a measure that would require the President to remove U.S. troops not authorized by Congress from taking part in hostilities in Yemen, thereby renewing our national debate on where and when our military should be operating. It is likely that the resolution will be brought before the Senate this week. Here is a sample of what I have heard from Georgia Seventh District constituents about the conflict in Yemen:
Tae from Cumming:
The war that is destroying Yemen and threatening the death by starvation of millions of children is dependent on both the participation of the U.S. military (picking targets and refueling bombers) and U.S. weapons sold to Saudi Arabia. As a constituent, I insist that you must do the only decent thing and support legislation to end U.S. participation in the war (S.J.Res. 54 and H.Con.Res.138) and to block any further weapons sales from the United States to the Saudi government. Please speak out publicly and lobby your colleagues. There are many lives in the balance.
Elizabeth from Sugar Hill:
Good Evening, I'm writing in regards to the humanitarian crisis in Yemen. I've read that 85,000 children have starved to death, partially due to our involvement. We should not be involved in this war which has caused immeasurable suffering, but should instead be providing humanitarian aid. My heart is broken for these children and their families. Please act to end our involvement in this war, and to fund aid for these people. Thank you.
The ongoing crisis in Yemen, similar to the conflict in Syria, is a civil war involving nation states and terrorist organizations that has deepened into a severe humanitarian crisis. Further, the country’s woes now serve as an all too familiar proxy battle between Saudi Arabia and Iran. For nearly four years, the Saudi-backed government of Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi has fought the Iranian-supported Houthis in a conflict shattering the lives of the Yemeni people. The United States has sought to end the conflict though political means and has been the largest contributor of aid to Yemen, with over $1.46 billion in financial assistance since 2015, but it has also played a military role by providing arms and support to the Saudi-led coalition forces and by conducting counter-terrorism operations against Al Qaeda affiliates in Yemen.
I agree with Tae and Elizabeth that any use of military force, in this conflict or any other, which is requested by the President should be approved by Congress first. In fact, I recently joined with over 100 of my colleagues in sending a letter to Speaker Paul Ryan asking that the House begin debating and vote on a new Authorizations for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) regarding the ongoing deployment of U.S. forces throughout the Middle East and expressing that the President seek approval from Congress before taking any additional military action in the region. Our military has been operating under the authority of a nearly two-decades-old AUMF that has authorized operations in 14 different countries since 2001. It is past time that we craft a new AUMF to address the current situations we face.
In addition to requesting the consideration of a new AUMF, I supported the passage of H.Res. 599, which explicitly stated that Congress has not authorized the use of military force in Yemen. I also supported measures in the FY18 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) and the FY19 NDAA restricting the use of funds for supporting certain operations in Yemen.
Such a complex conflict demands a comprehensive strategy in order to guarantee a successful peace, and it is imperative that Congress be involved in that debate from the very beginning. There may be good news on the horizon as the Yemeni government and the Houthi rebels agreed recently to resume a United Nations-brokered peace process, but until that process is restarted and the peace is won, I am eager to see what my colleagues in the Senate decide to do this week and how we can work to end this conflict without further loss of life.
When folks discuss healthcare nowadays, it is one of those topics that can often be broad in nature and bogged down in policy details, but at its core, it’s really neither of these things. Healthcare is personal, it should be patient-centered, and it requires skilled and dedicated professionals to deliver it. Without these men and women, we would all be in a very precarious situation. Their contribution to our community is not something we can fully quantify, but each of us in our own way has felt it through the care they have provided to us individually or to a loved one. It comes as no surprise that here in the Seventh District, once again, we have some of the very best the industry has to offer, and their excellence was on full display last week as the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce recognized nearly 90 finalists and 12 winners at the annual Healthcare Excellence Awards.
- Gwinnett Daily Post. Gwinnett Chamber presents annual health care honors
I’ve often said that one of the things I value about our community is not only that we have the very best any given industry or profession has to offer, but we make an effort to acknowledge their hard work and all that they do for us. Whether it’s our educators, our first-responders, our small business owners, or in this case our healthcare professionals, we make a special effort to honor excellence – and to say thank you to our neighbors giving so much of themselves to make our home an even better place to live. Congratulations to each of the honorees, and thank you for all you do in service to others!
What some may not know about the Seventh District is that Forsyth County – and the Seventh District in general – has one of the most robust manufacturing communities in the state and region! I’ve been fortunate to visit with so many of them over the years, and the input they provide is so important to making our voice stronger in Washington. If I haven’t visited your place of business to this point, please reach out to me and we’ll make it happen! I always welcome the opportunity to learn more about what you do and the challenges you face. I’ll never know as much about your industry as you do, but by investing your time and knowledge in me, we can partner to make a difference – not just on the big things, but in fact, often on one small issue at a time. When you solve one small problem today, do the same tomorrow, and so on, you can make a huge impact in a month, a year, and a Congress.
- Forsyth County News. What gets made in Forsyth? Local manufacturers honored during annual event
No one does this better than our community, and that example serves as a model for success to others. For the second year in a row, the Cumming-Forsyth County Chamber of Commerce and the South Forsyth Rotary Club hosted the Forsyth County Manufacturers of Distinction and Leadership (MODL) awards last week, and recognized outstanding local manufacturers for their contributions. Winners in respective categories included Hansgrohe, Manufacturing Resources International, American BOA, and Scientific Games, with last year’s Manufacturer of the Year, Metcam, receiving a new award for environmental sustainability! Leading by example is what we do here at home, and it makes me proud to see the type of corporate citizenry we have in the Seventh District time and again. Congratulations to each of these companies, and best of luck in the state competition!
Congress is expected to move forward with consideration of a bipartisan Farm Bill this week that will provide much-needed support for our nation’s farmers as well as ensure that Americans who are struggling with hunger are able to get the short-term food assistance that they need. Members on both sides of the political aisle and from both chambers have been hammering out the details of the Farm Bill for months now, and I’m so pleased that we are finally coming together with a measure that can be signed by the President before the end of the 115th Congress.
The House is also hoping to pass a slate of important health care bills this week, including measures to help prevent maternal deaths, provide greater resources for mothers and premature babies, and improve research and treatment of sickle cell disease, to name a few. To see a complete list of the bills that the House will vote on this week, please CLICK HERE.
Member of Congress