Washington Watch - 12/18/17

December 18, 2017
E-Newsletter Archive


As you all know, tax reform has been a goal for decades and a hot topic in recent months. It’s been discussed around kitchen tables at dinner time and conference rooms during business meetings. It’s been debated on live television by policy experts and political talking heads. It’s been considered in various forms in hallways and committee rooms on Capitol Hill for years. The reason, of course, that all this debate and discussion has been happening is because our tax code impacts Americans from all walks of life, and that reality makes reaching a consensus on a reform plan an uphill battle. But I’m pleased to report that we are nearing the top of the mountain. Last week the House-Senate Tax Reform Conference Committee successfully reconciled the separate tax reform bills passed in each chamber. That’s right, an agreement on the first fundamental overhaul of our tax code since 1986 has been reached, and the final tax reform bill has been signed by the conferees and posted online for the world to see.


As I pointed out in last week’s newsletter, the final bill still needs approval from the full House and Senate before it can be sent to the President’s desk. My hope and expectation is the House will pass it tomorrow (Tuesday), and the Senate will follow suit before the week ends. I invite you all to take a look at the bill and the accompanying summary documents to see exactly how you will benefit from the new plan. I think what you’ll find in the agreement are many of the ideas and policy proposals that many of you have contacted me about in recent months—and thank you again to all who have reached out about tax reform over last few months and years! 

 As you can see from the below tax reform timeline, this legislation has been years in the making. It is the result of countless hours of deliberation and debate—many of those hours occurring during the more than 100 tax reform hearings held in the House and Senate in recent years. In the few years that I have been entrusted with your voting card in the House, there has never been a conference report that has the potential to do as much for jobs and wages as this one, and I am very much looking forward to casting our vote on H.R. 1 this week.  Let’s get this bill to the President’s desk, lock in these reforms that make it easier to keep and grow jobs in America, and then we’ll roll our sleeves back up again and see what more needs to be done. 


While much of America’s attention is currently focused on the North Korean threat, Iran continues to finance terrorism, sowing violence and chaos in the Middle East and beyond.  In the House, we passed two bills—H.R. 4324 and H.R. 1638—last week to address this illicit behavior and put a stop to their terror.  These initiatives require the Treasury Department to lend greater scrutiny to the export of aircraft to Iran, report to Congress on any new transactions by U.S. or foreign financial institutions involving the export or re-export of commercial aircraft to Iran, and include additional measures to improve the deeply flawed Iran deal that was negotiated by the Obama Administration.  The White House and Congress are working closely to leverage cooperation with global partners and continue to make progress against terrorism and the rogue regimes that finance it. We simply cannot allow Iran’s terrorist financing and support to continue unabated, and I’m pleased that the House passed both of these bills with bipartisan majorities. 


Last week, the House approved H.R. 2396, the “Privacy Notification Technical Clarification Act.” This measure builds on legislation approved and signed into law during the last Congress that allowed financial institutions to forgo sending annual privacy notice disclosures to customers so long as those policies had not changed and the company did not share information with non-affiliated third parties.  H.R. 2396 provides additional flexibility by allowing vehicle financing companies – those companies that work with your local car dealer to help you buy your new car – to post privacy policies on their websites as long as customers are notified about them in monthly billing statements. Right now, these financial institutions have to print and mail these notices to consumers each year, and this bill would update existing laws to reflect the technological advancements of recent decades. I was pleased to join an overwhelming majority of my colleagues in supporting H.R. 2396, and I look forward to its consideration in the Senate.


Once again, I have the pleasure of sharing with you all – if you haven’t already heard or seen – a heartwarming story that’s happening right here at home.  The Place of Forsyth County is doing amazing things for those in need in our community, and I can’t describe the amount pride I feel when I see, time and again, members of our community going out of their way to help others – often times in very new and innovative ways.  The Place of Forsyth County is a non-profit organization led by Executive Director Joni Smith, and they recently held their third annual Holiday House, where Forsyth County residents who are experiencing hard times can come to ensure they are still able to make the Holidays a wonderful time for their children.  Through the generosity of residents across Forsyth County and the region, and the selfless work of Ms. Smith and her whole team, thousands of lives have been touched by the kindness that shapes our part of the world.  That is a reality to which we’ve grown accustom here, but not every community can claim such remarkable citizens.  Thank you all for what you do!


It’s hard to believe, but with 2017 drawing to a close, it’s time to enjoy the holidays and gear up for a productive 2018!  On Wednesday of last week, leaders from across the region and state gathered in Gwinnett County to do just that.  At the Gwinnett Chamber legislative luncheon, folks had the opportunity to visit with and hear from colleagues, elected officials, local businesspeople, and to top it all off, a keynote address from Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle. The Lieutenant Governor discussed his vision for not only the upcoming state legislative session beginning next month, but also for the coming years.  

Now I know our community has differing opinions on exactly how we reach our common goals, especially when it comes to the specifics, but we all want the community we share to thrive in every way possible.  The only way we get there is if we engage each other in productive conversation, and we turn to our elected and business leaders to often be the tip of that spear.  We’re fortunate to have these kinds of folks at every turn here at home.  Irrespective of our disagreements, we work together in a way that builds consensus towards solving the challenges we face.  There’s always more work to do, but I’m grateful for the goals we’ve reached to this point, and the vision and commitment that keeps us striving towards those we’ve yet to achieve.


Overshadowed by the larger debate on Congress’ effort to reform our nation’s tax code last week were a number of important hearings that took place on Capitol Hill. Among the many hearings, Congress heard from Rod Rosenstein, the Deputy Attorney General at the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), as well as from trade and foreign policy experts on the future of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). 

As you know, it is the responsibility of Congress to conduct oversight of federal departments and agencies to ensure that taxpayer resources are properly utilized as well as to ensure proper behavior of all federal employees as they conduct their official duties. That said, questions and concerns have been raised in recent weeks about the actions of some DOJ investigators and counselors assigned to Special Counselor Robert Mueller’s team and whether or not those actions had any influence over investigative decisions. In response, the House Judiciary Committee called on Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein, who appointed Mr. Mueller, to testify on his knowledge of this matter as well to discuss a number of other important issues. I believe that Americans deserve to know the extent to which Russia may have interfered in our elections, and I do hope you’d agree with me that any and all investigations must remain free of political bias. My expectation is that most of the findings will be made public, but if any do need to remain classified, I commit to you that I will investigate those, as well.  You can click here to watch the entire committee hearing or here to read Mr. Rosenstein’s opening statement. 

Additionally, members on the Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation, and Trade heard from policy experts on the future of NAFTA and its importance to both the U.S. economy as well as our national security. We live in a global economic marketplace and while NAFTA’s continued success is critical to the future of America’s economic well-being, the increased trade between our three countries has forged relations that allow us to work together on a number of important issues that extend beyond trade. As Chairman Ted Poe (R-TX) exclaimed in his opening statement, “we cooperate with the Mexican government on issues of border security, immigration, and the fight against organized crime and drug trafficking. Our southern border security depends on our joint efforts with Mexico.” With that said, you can count on me to continue encouraging this Congress and Administration to move forward with renegotiation talks in a manner that does no harm to U.S. industries, workers, and consumers or to the important relations we have fostered with our North American neighbors.


 This week the House is going to consider and pass two critically important bills: the final version of H.R. 1, the “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act,” and H.J.Res. 124, a measure which will keep the government funded through January 19, 2018, will provide a two-year reauthorization of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and will fund the Department of Defense for the remainder of Fiscal Year 2018. I’m so excited that we’re just a few days away from making tax reform a reality. Congress has been working on tax reform for many years, but the leadership of Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady (R-TX) has brought us to the edge of success. I look forward to telling you next week that President Trump has signed this landmark bill into law.                


Rob Woodall
Member of Congress