Washington Watch - 1/22/19
Regretfully, another week has gone by without conversations addressing the border security crisis. This week I voted to give federal employees their first paychecks of the year and was disappointed to see that only a handful of Democrats joined me. The President has made multiple overtures to our Democrat counterparts and offered a range of possible deals that could put an end to what has become the longest shutdown ever, but those offers seem to fall on unwilling ears as the issue degenerates into an “us against them” political party issue. I will continue to urge my colleagues, both Democrat and Republican, to sit down around the negotiating table and refuse to walk away until we Americans are served. With the offers that have been made, a solution shouldn’t be this challenging. Negotiating means no one will get everything that they want, but it is also the only path forward from the partial shutdown which all sides agree no one wants.
Yesterday, Americans from all walks of life came together to celebrate the life and legacy of the great Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. While I’m certain that our friends and neighbors who had the day off from work and school yesterday appreciated the opportunity to sleep in and relax, I’m also certain that many Americans set time aside during their day off to remember the tremendous impact Dr. King had on his community, the nation, and around the globe, by participating in local and national service events. That’s because Congress, in 1994, moved to make the Martin Luther King, Jr. Federal Holiday a national day of service, and I believe that such a designation is fitting, as I wholeheartedly believe that there is no better way to remember Dr. King’s life and legacy than by following his leadership and giving back to others and serving our communities.
Now more than ever, in our current divisive political climate, we must capitalize on each and every opportunity to come together. There is no better opportunity to do just that than by honoring Dr. King’s vision and working to bring about positive change in our communities. As Dr. King himself said, “Life’s most persistent question is: what are you doing for others?” While I am proud to live in and represent communities where helping and serving your neighbor is the default position, we – as a nation – could all do well to be reminded of the words of Dr. King and take them to heart. If we all commit to doing so, I am confident that our country, our community, and our world will continue to reap the benefits of Dr. King’s courage and celebrate his legacy.
Last Friday, Washington, D.C., hosted thousands of pro-life advocates from throughout the United States who made the trek to our nation’s Capital to have their voices heard. This is the 46th year of the largest pro-life event in the world, and it allows us to stand proudly together and keep this issue in the national spotlight. In fact, a recent poll released on the heels of the event shows that the vast majority of Americans are increasingly pro-life. The poll even shows that a majority of Democrats also support pro-life policies, demonstrating further that life is not a partisan issue. Polls like these, as well as hearing daily from folks like you who are champions of life, encourage me to hold steadfast in the cause for the unborn.
Thank you to everyone who came by my office and shared their story.
Rep. Woodall visits the U.S. Capitol with the Cryan Family, who traveled to D.C. to take part in the 46th annual pro-life march
Last year, families, farmers, and businesses throughout the United States and its territories were affected by natural disasters of almost every kind. Wildfires devastated California, typhoons slammed the Northern Mariana Islands, earthquakes rattled Alaska, a volcano erupted in Hawaii, and hurricanes hit the Southeast. As you may recall, one hurricane in particular, Hurricane Michael, was classified as a Category 3 storm when it hit the Southwest of our state, toppling over pecan trees, wiping out cotton fields, and leveling poultry houses. Georgia’s agricultural industry took a significant hit, prompting Congressmen Sanford Bishop (D-GA) and Austin Scott (R-GA) to draft language that would provide aid to the farmers directly impacted. That language was offered last week as an amendment to a disaster relief package that sought to help those affected by natural disasters last year.
Given the impact disasters have had on our state and across the country, I had every intention of supporting the bill on the House floor. Unfortunately, as happens from time to time, politics got in the way of policy when Democrat leadership decided at the last minute to include a Continuing Resolution as part of this disaster relief package that excluded President Trump’s wall funding request. A bill that was bipartisan, set for Senate passage, and all but guaranteed to receive President Trump’s signature was now contaminated with a poison pill that would now serve to deny countless families across the United States the aid they need.
At the Rules Committee hearing last week on the disaster aid bill, I had a chance to discuss this issue with the bill’s sponsor, Chairwoman Nita Lowey (D-NY). Click the picture below to see our exchange:
Rep. Rob Woodall (R-GA) discusses H.R. 268, the “Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2019” with Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey (D-NY)
Stuart Varney invited me onto his television show last Thursday to discuss Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-CA) letter to President Trump. In her letter, the Speaker told the President to postpone the State of the Union address because of security concerns during the shutdown. Folks, let me be clear, security planning for State of the Union did not start this week, or last week, or even last month; it started over a year ago. I am confident that our Secret Service agents, U.S. Capitol Police, and all other federal law enforcement personnel are absolutely prepared. Click the picture below to watch our entire interview.
From Statuary Hall, Rep. Rob Woodall (R-GA) derides the government shutdown and Speaker Pelosi’s decision to poke the President in the eye
This week, House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Ranking Member Sam Graves (R-MO) announced the Republican Members selected to serve on the Committee in the 116th Congress. It was an honor to be chosen to work on the Committee once again, especially since I am Georgia’s only voice on such a critically important committee to our district and our state.
During my time on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, I was instrumental in drafting the FAST Act as a member of the Highways and Transit Subcommittee. This legislation established a competitive grant program that awarded $184 million to expedite construction of the new Express Lanes on SR-400. In addition, I wrote the law that protected consumers from predatory billing practices in the air ambulance industry during the longest FAA Reauthorization since 1982.
It’s work like this that I was proud to share with the great folks at the University of Georgia last week who invited me to attend their College of Engineering annual Georgia Transportation Collaborative Reception. Effectively rebuilding our outdated infrastructure is such an important issue for folks here in the Seventh District and across the state, and I’m ready to get back to work on the committee bringing solutions home to all Georgians.
Rep. Woodall talks about the future of transportation and infrastructure research in Georgia and throughout the nation
While the shutdown continues and dominates the headlines, I want you to know that Congress is still at work on other critical matters. One issue that came up in both the House and the Senate was a joint resolution, H.J.Res. 30/S.J.Res. 2, to disapprove “the President's proposal to take an action relating to the application of certain sanctions with respect to the Russian Federation.” The joint resolution failed to pass the Senate, and while it did pass the House, I voted against it. A number of folks reached out to my office to ask why:
Alex from Lawrenceville:
What is Mr. Woodall’s reasoning for voting to lift sanctions on Russia?
Foley from Sugar Hill:
I saw your vote for the "Disapproving the President’s proposal to take an action relating to the application of certain sanctions with respect to the Russian Federation" bill. I am very disappointed that you voted against this. You know that Russia meddled in our elections and you know Putin and his cronies, especially Oleg Deripaska are profiting from this. Yet you set your duty to the country aside and decided vote Nay on it. Don't consider yourself a patriot - don't tout any of your support of the constitution. Your fancy speeches and pamphlets mean nothing. Your vote matters the most, and this vote says it all.
Martha from Lawrenceville:
Why did you vote to lift sanctions on Russia?
Rather than being a sign of weakening our stance against Russia, the need to revisit sanctions against three Russian companies is evidence that the sanctions the Republican-led 115th Congress passed into law through the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act are working. Sanctions are intended to encourage an entity to change its behavior, not punish it for punishment’s sake.
Last April, the U.S. Treasury Department began levying sanctions on seven Russian oligarchs and a dozen companies connected to them, including Oleg Deripaska, who owned the En+ Group through which he has control of UC Rusal plc, the world’s second largest aluminum company, and JSC EuroSibEnergo, Russia’s largest independent power producer. However, in December, the Treasury informed Congress that it intended to end sanctions on those companies as it had reached an agreement for the companies to undertake significant restructuring and to disassociate themselves with Mr. Deripaska in exchange for sanctions relief.
Under this deal, his ownership will now be reduced from around a 70% controlling ownership stake to a roughly 44% non-controlling stake. In addition to reduced ownership and giving up control of the company, he will not be compensated for the lost shares, and he will only be allowed to vote with 35% of his shares. The board of the company will be changed to have two-thirds of its directors independent of the oligarch and half will be American or British. All of Mr. Deripaska's personal property and interests in property, including entities in which he owns a 50% or greater interest, will remain sanctioned, and anyone who does business with him will run the risk of sanctions themselves.
These companies were only sanctioned because of Oleg Deripaska’s controlling interest in them, and if he still had a controlling interest, I would still support the sanctions. But when a private foreign company agrees to all of our demands, we need to take “yes” for an answer.
These were serious sanctions that impacted not only the Russian economy but also the U.S. and global economy. Because of Rusal’s prominence as a producer of aluminum, the sanctions had caused the price of aluminum to sky rocket, posing a threat to companies that use aluminum in the United States, Europe, and for our other allies around the globe. The Treasury’s agreement brings stability to the European aluminum market, which helps our allies in the European Union, and it does so through a complete restructuring of Rusal and the further punishment of a dangerous Russian oligarch with ties to the Kremlin. This is how sanctions are supposed to work, and I am pleased with our shared success. What’s more, the Treasury will continue monitoring this situation in the future, and if there is any backsliding on the agreement, I will be the very first to support a return to these sanctions and additional new ones.
As you know, the 116th Congress convened at the beginning of the new year, but last week marked the start of the 2019-2020 legislative session for our state legislature. Our state representatives and senators, both those returning and those newly sworn-in, are hard at work at delivering solutions for Georgians. In addition, Governor Kemp recently announced his top policy priorities in his “State of the State Address” at the Georgia State Capitol this past Thursday, which include raising pay for state employees and teachers, tackling mental health issues in schools, and creating a new taskforce to combat gang violence.
While much attention is paid to Congress, solutions at the state level are critical to our success, which is why the work of our Georgia General Assembly and Governor’s Office is so important to better serving those in our state, especially in those areas where state action can move faster than Congress. Reforms in education and healthcare, for example, are largely state-led, and our challenges in these areas cannot be fully corrected by federal action alone. That is why as the 2019 Georgia legislative session moves forward, I encourage you to share your thoughts and ideas with your state representative and state senator. Just as I rely on the good counsel of folks back home, our state and local leaders do as well, and it is through this collaborative partnership that we can achieve more.
- Gwinnett Daily Post. Kemp announces teacher raises, plans to fight gangs during State of the State Address
- WSB Atlanta. Gov. Brian Kemp gives first State of the State address
Our law enforcement officers put their lives on the line each and every day to keep us safe, and the good work of our local, state, and federal law enforcement could not be more on display than this past week. I know I speak for everyone when I say we are grateful for their sacrifice and commitment to protecting us from harm. In particular, I want to commend the actions of the Federal Bureau of Investigation Atlanta's Joint Terrorism Task Force, Forsyth County Sheriff's Office Sheriff Ron Freeman, and Gwinnett County Police Department Chief A.A. “Butch” Ayers for their efforts in foiling a potential terrorist attack.
- Forsyth County News. Forsyth County man arrested for alleged plan to attack the White House
- CBS This Morning. FBI foils Georgia man's alleged plan to attack White House
- The Hill. Feds arrest man suspected of plotting attack on White House, other DC landmarks
With the continued partial shutdown of the federal government, the House has cancelled its planned District Work Week and will instead be in Washington, D.C., working to re-open the government and serve the American people. This is the right thing to do, and I’m happy to continue working with my colleagues to negotiate an appropriate compromise. As you know, compromise only comes when both sides of the debate turn away from radicalism and find common ground. The good news is that it looks like Speaker Pelosi is finally – after weeks of stalling – turning against the most radical leftists in her party and is looking to make a first step on the road to real compromise.
This week the House will consider H.R. 648. The measure combines six of the seven remaining annual appropriations bills – everything but the most contentious bill, the Department of Homeland Security bill – into one package. And what’s more, the six bills are those that House and Senate negotiators from both parties have been working on for many months in a collaborative manner. I’m so pleased that the Speaker has shown some willingness to divert from her “my way or the highway” approach and is realizing that she can’t have it all her way all the time. It looks as though she is seemingly changing her tactics, and I am heartened at this initial step forward toward what I hope is a more robust compromise that will include border security funding. As such, I want you to know that I am seriously considering whether to support this bill. I am working with my team to go line by line through the package to find those good things that will help Georgia families and that are complementary to the Seventh District’s values. I won’t pretend that this is an easy decision, because it isn’t. Compromise is always hard, but I believe in giving good ideas all due consideration, and my promise to you is to never shrink from doing what is hard when doing so is what is right.
Member of Congress