Washington Watch - 12/11/17
For those of you who are following the tax reform process closely, you’ll know that last week brought us another step closer to wrapping up our work on a comprehensive tax overhaul before the end of the year. The House led the way last Monday by voting to meet the Senate in Conference Committee to hash out the differences in each chamber’s tax reform plan, and the Senate followed our lead on Wednesday. Once the members of the Conference Committee reach an agreement on a unified tax reform bill, it will come before the House and Senate for final passage, and if approved by each chamber, the tax reform bill will head to the President’s desk for his signature.
You may be wondering what those outstanding differences are in the House and Senate tax bills. The good news is that the bills are pretty similar, but there are several areas in which the plans differ. For example, the House-passed version of H.R. 1 would consolidate the current seven tax brackets into four, while the Senate bill maintains all seven of today’s brackets. Another outstanding issue is how to deal with certain deductions and credits, including the deduction for medical expenses, which the House bill eliminates and the Senate bill retains, and the child tax credit, which both bills expand but in different ways, to name a few. Even in areas where there is agreement, such as lowering the corporate tax rate to 20%, the two chambers currently disagree on whether the changes should take place in 2018 or be delayed a year until 2019. My expectation is that, after much consideration and debate, the Conference Committee will reach an agreement on each and every one of these issues in the coming days.
For those of you who are interested in learning more about each of chamber’s tax reform bill and the sections that need to be reconciled, I encourage you to take a look at the Tax Foundation side-by-side comparison. And as I’ve said many times in past newsletters, I hope you all will continue to reach out to me about those parts of our tax reform bill that you like and those parts that you believe could be improved. My commitment to you all is that I will continue working until the very last minute of this debate to deliver a tax reform plan that makes the American taxpayers proud!
- Tax Foundation. Important differences between the House and Senate tax reform bills heading into conference
- Reuters. Congress moves closer to final tax bill with House vote
- Lexology. Tax Reform Update: Senate and House Tax Bills Move to Conference Committee
President Trump fulfilled yet another one of his campaign promises last week by recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Israel. This move was lauded by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and described by many as an important step toward peace in the troubled region. The President wants what we all want—peaceful coexistence between the Israeli and Palestinian people—and the simple fact is that bipartisan majorities in Congress have voted multiple times to recognize Israel’s self-identified seat of government. The Jerusalem Embassy Act became the law of the land in 1995 during President Bill Clinton’s Administration, and I’m pleased that this law is finally being implemented by President Trump, as it should have been long ago.
- Washington Post. Three things to know about Trump’s Jerusalem gambit
- NPR. 5 key points on Jerusalem
- BBC. Jerusalem is Israel’s capital, says Donald Trump
Amongst the other matters considered in the House of Representatives this past week, Representative Al Green (D-TX) offered articles of impeachment against President Trump, describing the President as a divisive and controversial figure, but failing to actually cite any criminal actions. The articles were overwhelming dismissed, with only 58 members, all Democrats voting in favor of taking the matter up on the House floor, and 364 members, the vast majority of the House – both Democrats and Republicans – in opposition to such an action. While demands for impeachment are not rare, even George Washington faced such calls; the actual impeachment of a federal official is incredibly rare. In fact, only two Presidents have ever been successfully impeached, and both were acquitted by the Senate, where the trial is adjudicated. Impeachment is very serious action and should be reserved for the most grave of circumstances and with appropriate evidence of “Treason, Bribery, or other High Crimes and Misdemeanors," as prescribed in the Constitution. If a Member of Congress proposed articles of impeachment every time he or she disagreed with the President, our country would not be able function. Just because we disagree on policies does not justify removing someone from office or overturning free and fair elections decided by the American people. The wonderful thing about the great experiment of American democracy is that we can disagree on many issues, and, despite those differences, still be able to come together to govern the country. I was pleased to see the vast majority of my colleagues—both Republican and Democratic— agree that this was a distraction from the vital work that faces the House, especially with pressing issues such as tax reform, immigration, and our national security on our plate.
- Politico. Trump impeachment vote fails overwhelmingly
- NPR. Democrat pushes vote on Trump impeachment: it didn’t work
- The Hill. Pelosi; Hoyer: Now is not the time to consider impeachment
Last week, the House passed an important financial services bill – H.R. 477, the “Small Business Mergers, Acquisitions, Sales, and Brokerage Simplification Act of 2017,” with overwhelming bipartisan support. This bill seeks to modify the current U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) regulatory structure that subjects merger and acquisition brokers who advise small privately held companies to the same SEC registration requirements as larger, publicly traded companies, and such registration requirements typically come with a hefty fee that is oftentimes passed on to small businesses. I know that we can do better for our nation’s small, family-owned businesses, especially when it comes time to pass on a company that someone has invested their life’s work and passion into, and by exempting certain merger and acquisition brokers who assist these companies when that time comes, I am confident that H.R. 477 will provide small business owners with the sound financial confidence they need to finalize a transfers or a sale, as well as the fair treatment they deserve.
In addition to H.R. 477, Congress passed and sent to the President a Continuing Resolution (CR) to extend funding for the federal government through December 22, 2017. As many of you already know, the House passed earlier this year, on time and ahead of schedule, an entire Fiscal Year 2018 spending package to fund the priorities of the American people. As I pointed out on the House floor, Congress should not be in the business of funding the government by way of CR’s, but unfortunately, we cannot continue to wait any longer for the Senate to take up and consider the House-passed FY18 spending package and let the federal government’s funding lapse.
Similarly, the Senate has not yet taken up a bill that passed the House weeks ago with my support and would provide a five year reauthorization for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Because many states and families can no longer wait for the Senate to get itself moving either, this CR includes a provision that allows the government to provide reserve CHIP funds to states most in need of it.
CLICK BELOW to watch me speak about the CR and H.R. 477.
- Financial Services Committee. House Approves Bipartisan Small Business Bill
- Wall Street Journal. Congress Passes Two-Week Spending Bill to Avoid Government Shutdown
- Bloomberg. Congress Buys a Little More Time for Childrens’ Health Insurance Program
On Thursday, I joined many of my colleagues on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee for a roundtable on emerging technologies in the trucking industry. We have seen advancements over the last several years in technology related to efficiency and safety that are poised to reinvent this industry for the 21st Century. Today there are more than 10 million commercial trucks on the road, and a growing economy with better trade deals will only result in more commerce. Commercial trucks on the road are a good sign—that means there are more jobs available, Americans have more money to buy things, and businesses are succeeding. That economic activity does bring its own set of challenges, however. We have to make sure that our infrastructure is able to accommodate it, our roadways don’t become hopelessly congested with new traffic, and that we all can drive on our public roads safely.
Rep. Rob Woodall participates in a bipartisan roundtable discussion on emerging technologies in the trucking industry
On the Committee, we are working with safety organizations, industry stakeholders, and folks back home to build consensus on the steps we can take to begin integrating semi-autonomous vehicles on the road and improve the safety technology that truck drivers have access to, such as automatic emergency braking systems, forward collision warning, lane keeping support, and more. These conversations will intensify once the President announces his infrastructure proposal early next year, and I am excited to be in a position to influence such an important issue.
As a gun owner and concealed carry permit holder myself, I value the opportunity to exercise my Second Amendment right while home in Georgia. But as many of you know, not all states will honor a Georgia concealed carry permit. Congress had attempted to address this problem back in 2011, but it failed to offer protections to uphold the rights of states to make their own laws in this area. Last week, however, the House passed a bill, H.R. 38, the “Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act,” that would address not only the reciprocity issue, but also many of the Tenth Amendment concerns regarding the protection of state sovereignty. With the additional endorsement of Georgia’s chief law enforcement officer, Attorney General Chris Carr, and twenty three other attorneys general across the United States, I am encouraged that this bill will uphold the Second and the Tenth Amendments equally. I am hopeful that as H.R. 38 continues to move through the legislative process, Members of this body remain mindful of the importance of each Amendment in the Constitution.
- Fox News. Concealed-carry gun permit 'reciprocity' means every state would accept all states' permits
I’m so grateful to each one of you for taking the time to participate in my town hall meeting last week. We had a great discussion about Congress’ effort to reform our nation’s outdated tax code, and we were joined by my good friend Representative Tom Rice (R-SC) who sits on the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee in the House. Representative Rice shared with us his insight on Congress’ reform effort as well as his tax policy expertise from his twenty-five plus years of practicing tax law before being sent to Congress. We also heard from a number of Seventh District residents who shared their thoughts about the “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act,” and from those folks who simply wanted to get their facts straight, which seems harder and harder to do now-a-days with the news media’s sensationalized coverage of the issues.
If you weren’t able to participate in this event, please know I’ll be doing more, and I certainly hope you’ll be able to participate at that time. I’ll be sure to let you know when those are coming up, so please keep an eye on future newsletters and on my website. Thank you again for your continued partnership, and please don’t hesitate to contact me with any questions or concerns you may have.
Of all the things that make me proud of our community, the way in which we take ownership of the big challenges with a sense of partnership and vision certainly rises to the top. One of those issues is how we partner to address our growing transportation needs not only in the Seventh District, but across the State of Georgia, and throughout the country. As a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, with your help, I’ve been able to carry our message of local leadership and decision-making, the ways in which we invest with our own time and resources before asking others to do so, and the results we have to show for it to Washington. Not every community has that story to tell, but irrespective of the issue – whether education, taking care of those in need, transportation, and so much more, we work together to reach our goals. We’ve accomplished a great deal together, and there’s absolutely more to do. As the region continues to grow and change, so do our infrastructure needs. Arriving at the best solution requires the kind of discussion and leadership we’re fortunate to have with so many of our local officials – Gwinnett County Commission Chairwoman Charlotte Nash being among them.
- Gwinnett Daily Post. Transit dominates conversation at county leaders meeting with legislators
In recent years, we’ve made great strides together at the local, state, and federal level. From the bipartisan enactment of the FAST Act, to Georgia’s own billion dollar investment in transportation and infrastructure, to county and local projects in Gwinnett and Forsyth, we’re making tangible progress, but we’re also keenly aware of the work and hurdles that remain before us. Here at home, we don’t always agree on every step forward, but I’m grateful that where we do agree is that we all want to move towards those common goals, and we don’t shy away from the dialogue that gets us there. Thank you all for your continued partnership in these conversations, whether just around the corner, down at the Gold Dome, or in Washington.
It was a productive week in Washington, and that included visiting with several of our fantastic Forsyth County Commissioners who were in town on behalf of the good people of Forsyth County. While our paths cross often here at home, it’s not every day that I have the pleasure of hosting them in my office on Capitol Hill. Now mind you, they had important business to attend to that included meeting with Vice President Pence and White House staff, not to mention many others on Capitol Hill, but I like to think they didn’t feel any more welcome there than when they were in the Seventh District’s office in Washington. We discussed many things, but one of their biggest areas of concern and reasons for their trip was to advance a resolution that would establish a water intake pipe in Lake Lanier.
Rep. Rob Woodall meets with members of the Forsyth County Board of Commissioners in Washington, D.C.
Here again we have yet another example of the forward-thinking leadership of our local leaders, and I’m so grateful to have the opportunity to partner with them on this issue and so many others. Water resources is a topic near and dear to all of us, especially as it relates to Lake Lanier and its responsible use, which is an on-going conversation we have on Capitol Hill as well. Most recently, in last year’s Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA), you and I successfully partnered to preserve our local decision-making authority surrounding Lake Lanier. Without a doubt, it is one of our community’s most valued resources, and it is because of that reality that I will always make the case for our superior stewardship of it. No one values its beautiful shores or precious drinking water more than we do here at home. It was my pleasure to visit with our Commissioners about their vision and goals for our shared community, and I’m looking forward to continuing that partnership on this issue and many more.
- Forsyth County News. Commissioners Brown, Mills and Levent visit Washington D.C.
I’m especially excited to announce that this Tuesday, the House Judiciary Committee will approve a bipartisan bill that I introduced along with my colleague Representative Jackie Speier (D-CA). H.R. 2595, the “Strengthening the Department of Homeland Security Secure Mail Initiative Act,” is a common-sense bill that directs DHS to allow someone to pay a small fee and have their important DHS documents held for them at the post office or delivered only with signature confirmation. While this is a simple bill, it’s fixing a complex problem. Too many of our 7th District neighbors have seen their critically important immigration documents – work permits, visas, green cards – lost in the mail. This increases the chances of identity fraud for the unsuspecting immigrant, and it provides criminals an opportunity to engage in terrorism. By allowing folks to pay a nominal amount up front, we’re helping save time and aggravation later by keeping these documents safe. I’m so proud that the Judiciary Committee is moving the bill forward, and I hope that it will come to the House floor soon.
The House is also expected to move four bills through the Rules Committee and across the floor this week: H.R. 1628, the “Iranian Leadership Asset Transparency Act,” H.R. 2396, the “Privacy Notification Technical Clarification Act,” H.R. 4015, the “Corporate Governance Reform and Transparency Act of 2017,” and H.R. 4324, the “Strengthening Oversight of Iran’s Access to Finance Act.” The Rules Committee will be holding its hearing on these measures Tuesday afternoon at 3:00PM, and I hope you’ll take a moment to tune in online to watch the Chairman and Ranking Member of the House Financial Services Committee discuss these important pieces of legislation.
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