Washington Watch - 12/16/19
House Democrats last week brought Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s drug pricing bill – H.R. 3, the “Elijah E. Cummings Lower Drug Costs Now Act” – forward for a vote on the House floor. While Democrats and Republicans share a passion to curb ever-increasing prescription drug costs and ensure that folks don’t have to make tough decisions between filling prescriptions and putting food on the table, the unfortunate reality is that this bill will put in place a process that could leave many patients across the country with unmet medical needs. Under H.R. 3 the federal government would have the ability to enact onerous price controls on pharmaceutical manufacturers that would stifle innovation and biomedical research and thus inhibit cures from being brought to market. In fact, the Council of Economic Advisers finds that H.R. 3’s price controls would affect as much as one third of drugs under development. That means that out of 300 projected new medicines that would otherwise be approved over 10 years by the Food and Drug Administration, 100 could be severely delayed or never developed at all. Additionally, the California Life Sciences group has estimated that in that state alone, H.R. 3 will result in an 88% reduction in the number of drugs brought to market by small and emerging companies, jeopardizing more than 80,000 biotech and research jobs.
Knowing the projected impacts to patients that would be brought on by H.R. 3, I voted against the bill on the House floor. Instead, I was pleased to offer my support to an amendment offered by Reps. Greg Walden (R-OR), Kevin Brady (R-TX), Doug Collins (R-GA), and Virginia Foxx (R-NC), that if adopted would have replaced the entirety of H.R. 3 with a bipartisan alternative, H.R. 19, the “the Lower Costs, More Cures Act.” In fact, all provisions in H.R. 19 have been supported or previously passed by both Republicans and Democrats at one point in time since the drug pricing debate began, and it incorporates many provisions of drug pricing proposals introduced in both the House and Senate.
Specifically, H.R. 19 would improve drug pricing transparency across the board, redesigns the Part D benefit to limit out of pocket costs for our nation’s senior citizens, and reforms the patent and drug approval processes to bring generics to market faster. H.R. 19 would work to reduce drug pricing costs without reducing innovation and research – an ideal solution for all Americans and lawmakers alike. I was proud to fight for it in the Rules Committee and on the House floor.
Unfortunately, even though H.R. 19 received bipartisan support, Speaker Pelosi steered most of her Democratic Caucus away from the compromise proposal — a proposal that could have been taken up in the U.S. Senate and signed into law — and towards her partisan solution that will do nothing more than collect dust in the Senate clerk’s office. Given the importance of this issue, I know that you share my frustration. The House could have made a bipartisan difference, but instead it chose to make a partisan point. My commitment to you, however, is that I will work to make sure that this partisan effort isn’t the final word on drug pricing and availability. We can get this done together, and I will work to ensure we do.
After much negotiation and deliberation, House Democrats finally signed off on President Trump’s United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). As I’ve previously stated, the USMCA is the best trade deal I’ve seen in my adult lifetime. I know that it would have passed with overwhelming bipartisan support had it been brought to the floor at any point since all parties signed off on the deal last year, but while disappointed by the year-long delay I am pleased that the USMCA is now on track to be brought before the House before the year’s end. It is my sincere hope that the Senate will swiftly take up and consider the agreement once it passes the House so that we can deliver on the President’s promise to rebalance trade among the three countries. I had the opportunity to discuss this historic trade deal on FOX Business last week with Jackie DeAngelis, and I hope you’ll take a moment to listen to my thoughts.
From the Cannon Rotunda, Rep. Woodall offers his thoughts about how USMCA bolsters American workers
What began as a goal of the partisan few even before President Donald Trump was sworn into office is just one step away from the House floor. Articles of Impeachment (H.Res. 755) were approved on a party-line vote by the House Judiciary Committee on Friday morning. Without calling a single fact witness and fully accepting the flawed partisan investigation conducted by Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA), Judiciary Chairman Nadler chose to move forward. The Committee’s Democrat Members passed two articles: Article I charges an abuse of power by the President alleging that he used the power of his office to solicit the interference of a foreign government in a scheme conditioning military aid upon the announcement of an investigation into a 2020 Presidential election opponent, and Article II charges that the President obstructed Congress by directing Executive Branch agencies, offices, and officers not to comply with Congressional subpoenas related to the impeachment investigation. Though some are taking pleasure in this outcome, I am not. This vote marks a sad chapter in American history, and it’s one that I know we could have avoided.
What we have learned after years of investigation is that the Democratic majority in the House was going to keep investigating and calling things “impeachable” until it found something it thought it could contort to stick. The articles passed by the Judiciary Committee do not include any of the so-called impeachable offenses that fringe voices in the Democratic House has been asserting for years. Instead, the articles focus on a single phone call, and after months of investigations—and the insistence by President Trump that the call contents be made completely public—we know this: U.S. government officials who were on a July phone call — and some who were not — had different views about what the call between President Trump and President Zelensky meant and whether it was or was not concerning. We also learned that instead of one, unified foreign policy toward Ukraine being carried out by U.S. government officials, there were high-level officials inside the Administration and some folks from outside the government entirely, working at cross purposes, or at the very least, not in concert with each other. Ensuring the stability of a strong, prosperous, free Ukraine is important for the United States, and anything that undermines this is misguided foreign policy. I fully admit that. Such a misguided policy would harm our credibility with our foreign allies and play directly into the hands of the Russian government. Clearly, such an outcome is undesirable, and while I wish the President’s directions had been different, I am glad that American foreign policy decision makers and implementers are now all on the same page. But that confusion, while regrettable, is not impeachable.
This week, the House Rules Committee, of which I have been a member since my very first day in Congress, will hear from Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY) and Judiciary Ranking Member Doug Collins (R-GA) about H.Res. 755, and I fully expect that we will see the Articles of Impeachment on the floor by mid-week. Again, I regret this outcome. I wish that cooler heads had prevailed on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue, and I hope that the American people will be able to look beyond this chapter of our history and remain optimistic about our Republic’s future.
After weeks of negotiations, members of the House and Senate Conference Committee reached an agreement on the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2020, and the Conference Report passed the House. It is expected to pass the Senate and be signed into law sometime this week, and despite some partisan hurdles, this would mark the 59th consecutive year that Congress has passed the NDAA.
This bipartisan bill is the blueprint for our national defense policy and reaffirms our nation’s priorities, such as ensuring the livelihood of men and women of our Armed Forces, keeping America safe, and preserving our global leadership. This year’s NDAA authorizes in total $738 billion for our national defense programs at the Pentagon, Department of Energy, and other agencies. The report also authorizes an additional $5.3 billion emergency funding for disaster recovery for North Carolina, Florida, Louisiana, California, and Nebraska.
These authorizations will provide the necessary resources for our military to rebuild and prepare for our future national defense needs. Our readiness issues have been most evident in recent accidents, with the most recent one of note being the death of three soldiers this past October in a training accident at Fort Stewart near Savannah, GA. It also includes the modernization of our nuclear forces, invests in emerging technologies like hypersonic, AI, and 5G, and establishes the newest military branch: the U.S. Space Force. On the personnel side, the Conference Report authorizes a 3.1% pay-raise for servicemembers — the largest increase in a decade — phases out the so-called “Widow’s Tax,” significantly reforms military housing, and provides up to 12 weeks of Paid Parental Leave for federal employees.
- CNN. House passes defense bill that would include paid family leave for federal workers for the first time
- New York Times. House Passes $738 Billion Military Bill With Space Force and Parental Leave
- The Hill. House passes defense bill to establish Space Force, paid family leave for federal workers
I absolutely value the work of the Chair of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration and Citizenship, my friend and colleague, Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), in making a good-faith effort to address the enormity of immigration reform. I know she cares a great deal about this issue and understands the need to build consensus in order to deliver solutions. In fact, there are many immigration priorities that I share with my colleagues across the aisle, from the Fairness for High Skilled Immigrants Act – which I joined with Chair Lofgren in cosponsoring – to the Adoptee Citizenship Act. However, I hesitate in supporting legislation that prioritizes reforming our immigration system for those who came to the country illegally before we have had the chance to reform the system for those who have done everything right – filled out the forms, paid the fees, waited years or even decades for their application to be processed – and yet our system still fails them.
Last week, the House passed the Farm Workforce Modernization Act without my support. My concerns about the bill were many, included that it failed to even garner the support of the Georgia agriculture community. Further, I oppose legislation that would prioritize the needs of those who broke our laws before addressing the needs of those who have followed every law and done everything right within our broken system. The bill would allow an expedited path to legal status for those who have been in the country illegally for over ten years while folks right here in the Seventh District who have immigrated the lawful way must wait decades before they get that same chance.
I applaud the bill for its attempt at modernizing the seasonal agricultural worker visa program, and while this proposal fell short from addressing the visa program’s biggest issues, I know that we can come together and get something done. Whether improving this bill or starting anew, we will continue to work to reform our immigration system to solve the problems that we all know are real.
I often hear from folks back home who are passionate about good environmental stewardship and want to ensure that the beauty and utility of our planet persists for years to come. Below are some of the messages I have received about the desire to see Congress address issues related to climate change.
Lilliana from Cumming:
I think it’s incredibly important that we focus on conserving our environment and saving our climate before it is too late. We need to keep climate change under control for our future and our children's future.
Maria from Lawrenceville:
Today I am trying to reach you because there is a cause that I believe the needs more of our attention and that is the Climate Change. Our planet is the only thing that we have, and if we don't take care of it, we will soon lose it. In the U.S. climate change has become an issue. Across the U.S. families have experienced rising sea levels, an increase of droughts, heatwaves, and wildfires. The federal government can help us achieve a long-term result that would help normalize the climate.
I share Lilliana and Maria’s belief that we have a responsibility to protect and preserve our environment and Earth’s natural treasures for the next generations. That is exactly why I joined the Congressional Climate Solutions Caucus – a group of Republican and Democratic lawmakers who are dedicated to exploring and advancing bipartisan solutions to mitigate the effects of climate change. In fact, the Caucus had two Member meetings over the last month to discuss two important topics: national security issues related to our changing climate and responsible financing proposals regarding sustainability projects. As we all know, true bipartisanship demands that good policy takes precedence over politics, and I am glad that Co-chairs Representative Francis Rooney (R-FL) and Ted Deutch (D-FL) have made a commitment to that ideal an inseparable one in this caucus.
We should all agree that any steps we take to address climate issues are met with quantifiable health and environmental returns. As evidenced by the command-and-control regulations of the past administration, implementing numerous regulations amounting to billions of dollars in economic costs to arguably negligible outcomes is not good policy. Rather, we must advance smart solutions that uplift – rather than burden – our economic growth. Equally, we must advance solutions that don’t address the problem in name only, but actually have a discernible impact.
To that end, I am afraid that House leadership’s bill package – H.R. 729 – which moved through the House this week was simply another messaging opportunity that failed to address this issue in a meaningful way. This bill package included ten Natural Resources bills largely focused on programs that impact the U.S. coastline, but in reality, would largely duplicate existing authority already afforded to federal agencies, like the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Equally concerning, the cumulative cost of this package to the American taxpayer would be upwards of $1.4 billion, according to estimates from the Congressional Budget Office.
Also, the fact that these bills were grouped as one measure hindered the House’s ability to move those individual bills in the package that have broader support and that have an opportunity to be passed in the Senate, like Representative Derek Kilmer’s (D-WA) Tribal Coastal Resiliency Act and H.R. 1314 introduced by Representative Dong Young (R-AK). In the future, I hope House leadership will focus less on amassing election soundbites and more on advancing bipartisan solutions that better serve the American public.
The 7th District is fortunate enough to have outstanding health care professionals who look out for our safety and well-being. Some of these individuals were honored last week at the Gwinnett Chamber’s annual Healthcare Awards. Twelve winners were selected from a group of 72 finalists. Awards included categories like, “Emerging Executive,” “Dentist of the Year,” and “Volunteer Service.”
I would like to congratulate all the night’s winners on these incredible achievements. Without your dedicated service to public health, our community would not be as strong as it is today.
- Gwinnett Daily Post. Gwinnett Chamber recognizes medical providers at annual Healthcare Awards
This past Saturday was “National Wreaths Across America Day”— a time when volunteers from all over the country lay wreaths on veterans’ graves to pay their respects. Here in the 7th District, there were ceremonies at East Shadowlawn Memorial Gardens and Sugar Hill Cemetery.
This was a wonderful event for our country, and I am proud there was such enthusiastic support back home in Georgia. As we know, without the dedication of our service men and women, we would not have the freedoms and liberties that we value today.
- Gwinnett Daily Post. Deceased veterans to be remembered at 'Wreaths Across America' service in Lawrenceville
The holiday season is an opportunity for our community to come together and support those in need. Last week, Ms. Tiffany Johnson of Forsyth County launched her “Love Your Neighbor Winter Blanket Drive” to supply blankets for low-income senior citizens in the local community. So far, more than 80 blankets have been collected! Ms. Johnson hopes to have more blankets to donate by the end of the drive on February 5.
I would like commend Ms. Johnson for her charitable work. This act of kindness will go a long way to making this holiday season a special one for the many seniors here in the 7th District.
- Forsyth County News. One woman’s drive to keep low-income seniors in Forsyth County warm this winter
Before Congress adjourns for the year, the House of Representatives will vote on H.Res.755, Impeaching Donald John Trump, H.R. 5377, Restoring Tax Fairness for States and Localities Act, a package to fund the government for FY2020, and, if everything goes to plan, a vote on USMCA.
The two-count impeachment describes the President’s actions related to a July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy. Both articles argue that the President remains a threat to national security and the Constitution if he remains in office. Should the House pass either article, it would trigger a trial in the Senate, which could remove the President from office if two-thirds of the Senate vote to convict him. If you are interested in hearing the debate surrounding the articles of impeachment, tune into the House Rules Committee’s hearing at 11:00am on Tuesday, December 17.
H.R. 5377 will raise the $10,000 state and local tax, or SALT, deduction cap for 2019, and repeal the limit entirely for 2020 and 2021. Tonight, the House Rules Committee will review the legislation before it advances to the House floor.
Tomorrow, the House of Representatives will vote on Fiscal Year 2020 spending bills to fund the government. Last week, lawmakers from both parties announced a “handshake” agreement that would stave off a federal shutdown and split the differences on a number of contentious issues.
Finally, the White House is currently in the process of finalizing the USMCA text, which should be ready for a vote on the House floor later this week.
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