Washington Watch - 12/14/15
Last Tuesday I joined 406 of my House colleagues in voting to reform our country’s current visa waiver program. This program currently allows citizens of 38 countries – mostly European nations – to travel to the U.S. for a maximum period of 90 days without having to obtain a visitor visa. H.R. 158, the “Visa Waiver Program Improvement Act of 2015,” which I was proud to cosponsor, strengthens the security procedures in the program and ensures that terrorists aren’t exploiting our good relationships with our close allies abroad to bring terror to our shores. One part of the bill specifically bars people who have visited Iraq, Syria, Iran, and Sudan within the past five years from travelling to the U.S. without first obtaining a visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad. This is just one of the many steps that our government is taking to keep the homeland safe, and I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues in Congress to do all that we can to stop terrorism overseas from reaching American soil.
- Gwinnett Daily Post. Woodall wants improved visa waiver screening system
- The Hill. House votes overwhelmingly to restrict visa waiver for travelers
- CNN. House passes visa waiver overhaul
- Washington Post. House passes visa waiver reform bill with strong bipartisan support
In another sign that Congress is working again under the new Republican leadership, the House passed its third conference report in two weeks. This week’s conference report, H.R. 644, the “Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015,” is a bicameral compromise that modernizes the methods used by U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) in order to facilitate and streamline trade between the U.S. and our partners abroad. It also provides CBP with new tools that can be used to hold our trading partners accountable for unfair trade practices like currency manipulation, and it builds on the Trade Promotion Authority bill passed by Congress earlier this year by reaffirming that trade agreements are prohibited from including obligations for the U.S. regarding greenhouse gas emissions or changes to U.S. immigration laws. I was pleased to support H.R. 644, and its passage is certainly very timely, as the U.S. recently completed negotiations on the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) and is currently negotiating two other free trade agreements.
- The Hill. Lawmakers strike deal on key trade legislation
- Journal of Commerce. U.S. customs bill would streamline import, export processes
Our nation has the largest, most complex airspace in the world. In order to maintain our high safety standards in such a difficult environment, we turn to highly-trained air traffic controllers to guide aircraft through this expansive, diverse, and often congested airspace. Unfortunately, we have been hearing from air traffic controllers that we don’t have enough controllers in our towers and radar rooms, which could lead to flight delays and inefficiencies that cost travelers time and money. That’s why the Transportation and Infrastructure’s Subcommittee on Aviation, of which I am member, hosted a roundtable discussion with government officials and industry representatives on Tuesday. We considered ways to increase the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) funding stability and ensure that these critical jobs are being filled by the right people. This debate will continue as we craft a long-term FAA reauthorization bill early next year.
The House Homeland Security Committee’s Transportation Security Subcommittee held a hearing on Tuesday morning that highlighted the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) efforts to work with foreign airports and security authorities to ensure that those airports are adhering to strict security guidelines. As last points of exit before entering the U.S., it is imperative that the TSA work closely with our foreign partners. Stopping threats abroad is our best option for defense.
The House Education and Workforce Committee Subcommittee on Workforce Protections held a hearing on Wednesday examining how the Obama Administration’s steady onslaught of regulations is affecting workers and job creators. I hear it all the time from job creators in the 7th District who wish the Administration would consult with people on the ground before making regulatory decisions, especially when those decisions negatively affect jobs. The good news is that we will absolutely be better off the more we highlight how our government should be regulating less and more efficiently and with the input of citizens.
Too often, I hear from folks that all Congress does is say “no” and vote against Obamacare without any plans to help those in need. You’ll be pleased to know that the House Energy and Commerce Committee Subcommittee on Health held a hearing last week examining six health care bills. These are targeted bills that may not make headlines, but will absolutely make a real difference in the lives of Americans.
Many of you may not be aware, but in the months following the President’s unilateral decision to swap five enemy combatants held in Guantanamo Bay for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, the House Armed Services Committee has been hard at work investigating the incident and recently released a report with detailed findings about the prisoner swap. Getting all of the facts was no easy task, but it is a perfect example of one of the most fundamental responsibilities of Congress: exercising oversight over the Executive Branch and keeping the American people in the loop during the process. Unfortunately, the Administration failed to keep Congress in the loop, even though the law required it. The report found that not only did the President clearly violate the law, which requires the Administration to inform Congress at least 30 days prior to a prisoner exchange, the manner in which the President conducted the swap was irresponsible as he left top Pentagon officials that would have been well-equipped to judge the security risks of the swap out of the conversation. These findings should give us all pause and also a renewed concern about the dangers of unilateral executive action. We must do better, and I remain committed to holding this Administration—and all future ones—accountable to the American people.
- The Hill. House report: Obama officials misled public on Bergdahl swap.
- Wall Street Journal. Congressional Report Says Administration Misled Congress on Bergdahl Swap.
This week the House is expected to finish its work for the year by passing an omnibus appropriations bill and a bill extending expired tax provisions for individuals and businesses, as well as sending Congress’ reconciliation bill, which repeals many parts of Obamacare, to the President’s desk. Moving these bills across the finish line requires members from every corner of the country and from different ideological backgrounds to come together to find common ground and move America forward.
Member of Congress