Washington Watch - 12/26/17

December 26, 2017
E-Newsletter Archive


When I visit schools around the Seventh District, I am often asked, “Where do the ideas for new laws come from?” The answer that I give most often is that a constituent came to me with a problem, and we worked together to craft a solution. That was the case last week when the House passed S. 1393, the “Jobs for Our Heroes Act.” Section 2 of this bill, which is now on its way to the White House to be signed into law, is the exact text of my bill, H.R. 2547. It allows VA medical professionals – physicians, physician assistants, chiropractors, advance practice nurses – to conduct the medical examinations necessary for a veteran to be able to operate a commercial motor vehicle under the rules and regulations of the Department of Transportation. This common-sense legislation was approved by bipartisan majorities in both the House and Senate, and it is going to help veterans get back to work faster.

I was proud to have worked with my main Democrat co-sponsor, Representative Julia Brownley (D-CA) on this measure as well as my friend Representative Pete Aguilar (D-CA) on the final version of this bill. Despite what you may hear elsewhere, bipartisanship is alive and well in Congress, and the “Jobs for Our Heroes Act” is a prime example of how we can work together to make a difference.


While most of the focus last week was on tax reform, Congress also passed a couple of spending bills. The first was a Continuing Resolution (CR) to fund our federal agencies and programs through January 19, 2018. The CR also included a temporary extension of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act as well as funding through March 2018 for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). President Trump signed the CR into law at the end of last week.  The House has passed full-year measures for funding and reauthorizations for CHIP and Community Health Centers, but the Senate has not yet acted on any of these bills.  My expectation is that Senate will resume work on a FY2018 appropriations package in the early days of 2018 with the goal of completing it before the CR expires. 

The second spending bill to pass last week was an emergency disaster funding measure, and it was designed to assist with the ongoing recovery and relief efforts for those who were impacted earlier this year by devastating hurricanes and those who are currently being impacted by wildfires.  Tens of billions have already been dedicated to those American families affected by hurricanes and wildfires in 2017.  President Trump asked for another $40 billion in emergency funding and suggested offsets to pay for it, but by the time the bill reached the House floor, all of the offsets had disappeared and the bill had grown to more than $80 billion—only 15% of which (according to CBO) is actually going toward disaster relief in FY2018.  That isn’t right—not for those families in need and not for the American taxpayer.  I stand with our families in need, and I will continue to work with the Administration on disaster relief and support Administration requests for funding and offsets.  Hopefully, with work, we can eliminate the non-emergency dollars in this bill and put 100% of the bill toward disaster recovery.


As a Christmas gift to millions of American families, President Trump signed H.R. 1, the “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act” into law on Friday morning. As you likely know, the bill was approved by both the House and Senate last Wednesday, marking the first major overhaul of our income tax code since 1986. Certainly, there is still much to do, but there is much to celebrate about this iteration of tax reform.  I am confident that its reforms will deliver tax relief for hardworking Americans from all walks of life and fuel our economy for years to come. Though there are far too many reforms to mention them all here, I do want to share some of the more significant provisions with you.

Click on the picture below to watch my remarks in support of H.R. 1.

On the individual side of our tax code, the final version of H.R. 1 significantly increases the standard deduction to shield nearly double the amount of money every American can earn before paying income taxes, and it also lowers tax rates so taxpayers can keep more of their hard-earned money. Though many credits and deductions were eliminated in the name of simplifying the tax code, H.R. 1 preserves several of those that are most beneficial to many American taxpayers, including the mortgage interest deduction, the state and local tax deduction, the charitable contribution deduction, and the medical expense deduction, to name a few. For families with children, H.R. 1 expands the child credit from $1,000 to $2,000, preserves the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit, and maintains the Earned Income Tax Credit.

Businesses of all sizes will also see a simpler tax code and a reduced tax burden beginning in 2018. For small business organized as pass-through entities, H.R. 1 offers a first-ever 20% tax deduction so that more business income can be invested in employees and growing the company. And for larger businesses competing in today’s global economy, the corporate tax rate will fall from 35 percent—the highest in the industrialized world—to 21 percent, a reform that will make American businesses more competitive overnight. Further, H.R. 1 shifts America from a world-wide system of taxation to a new territorial system that will end the outdated practice of double taxing foreign earnings brought back to the U.S. for investment while repealing the incentives in current law that reward companies that offshore jobs and income.

Again, there are far too many good things about H.R. 1 for me to share them all here so I invite you all to use the links below to read more about it. I hope you all are as excited as I am about beginning a new year with a brand new tax code. And if the last few days are any indication, hard-working Americans have a lot to look forward to in terms of benefits. Several companies (Boeing, AT&T, Wells Fargo, Comcast) have already announced new billion dollar investments in their American operations, immediate bonuses for hundreds of thousands of front-line employees, and increases in the minimum wage for entry level employees (up to $15 per hour). This is just the beginning folks. I expect more companies to announce how they are going to use their tax savings to invest in their employees and in the American economy as this law goes into effect in the coming year. 


The headlines last week focused on passage of landmark tax reform legislation and another necessary government funding package, but amidst all that, the White House was taking a bold step forward in punishing human rights abusers and perpetrators of worldwide corruption schemes. In 2016, Congress passed a law called the Global Magnitsky Act – named after Russian citizen Sergei Magnitsky who was killed while in government custody after exposing corruption in the Russian government – which allows the President to impose visa bans and targeted sanctions on any individual in the world who is responsible for committing or supporting human rights violations and who engages in corruption. 

Last week, President Trump used this law to impose sanctions and visa bans on 53 people and organizations, including Major General Maung Maung Soe, a Burmese general who is responsible for an ethnic cleansing operation of the Rohingya minority in Burma. Sanctions were also levied against: Yahya Jammeh, the former President of the Gambia who created a terror and assassination squad in that country to silence political opposition; Slobodan Tesic, one of the biggest illegal arms dealers in the Balkans; Gulnara Karimova, the head of a powerful organized crime syndicate in Uzbekistan that engaged in extortion and bribery of government officials; and Mukhtar Hamid Shah, a Pakistani doctor who Pakistani law enforcement believe is the ring-leader of a human organ trafficking ring, to name a few. 

The Declaration of Independence is clear when it says: “[w]e hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happieness….” From 1776 to today, we believe as Americans that all people are equal – whether here or abroad – and it is our responsibility to stand up to those who would take away the God-given rights of every person through horrific crimes like ethnic cleansing and politically-motivated assassinations. I’m proud of President Trump for taking these actions, and I support him continuing to single-out for punishment even more heinous actors around the world. 


With a productive week in Washington keeping me occupied, I wasn’t able to attend the celebration in Suwanee last week, but I sure am proud of the North Gwinnett High School football team, and all those who helped them reach the remarkable achievement of becoming the 7A State Champions!  The Seventh District alone -- and the entire State of Georgia -- is home to incredible schools with top-notch academic and athletic programs, so to rise to the top in such a competitive field is truly impressive.  A Suwanee native and former North Gwinnett High School quarterback, Mayor Jimmy Burnette, said it best when he talked about how the journey to this point was a long one, but shows just how far hard work and commitment can take us – as individuals, teams, and communities.  Team sports are such a great way to demonstrate this principle, and I’m grateful to have the kind of local leadership that is empowering our young people with these opportunities to learn and be successful.  Congratulations once again to North Gwinnett High School and the Suwanee community for this victory!  As is almost always the case, successes are the culmination of a great deal of hard work, many failures along the way, the lessons learned through them, and the support of so many behind the scenes.  It’s a moment well-earned, and we’re proud of you!


The stories of success just keep coming!  In our community it doesn’t seem to matter which direction you look, you’ll find real-world examples of tangible success and excellence in just about any field you choose.  If you hadn’t heard yet, it was recently announced that Forsyth County public schools ranks higher than any other public system in the state on the College and Career Readiness Performance Index!  Of course, this isn’t the first accolade earned by our fantastic educators here at home, but it is yet another one.  These kinds of results give our voice in places like Washington tremendous credibility, and I’m so appreciative of our local leaders who make that a reality.  When I share our story of success on Capitol Hill, it isn’t just my voice, it’s a proven track record from a diverse community that is working together to get things done.  That matters, and it makes a big difference as we work to shape federal policy that partners with, and empowers, those back home. The message of local decision-making and freedom to craft tailored solutions for individual communities isn’t hypothetical in the Seventh District – it’s a way of life, and I’m grateful.  As Assessment and Accountability Director of Forsyth County Schools, Beth Kieffer, said, “We are blessed here by a community with high expectations. And beyond that, we have excellent students who want to excel,” and I couldn’t agree more. Congratulations!


This is truly the most wonderful time of the year. No matter how your family celebrates the holiday season, it is hard not to get caught up in the season of joy and giving, family and traditions. Across the Seventh District you can see Christmas trees, Menorahs, poinsettias, wreathes, lights, and so much more celebrating and sharing the holiday spirit with our entire community. This is by far one of my favorite parts of representing our district. The ability to take part in and see that vast diversity of traditions present in our community warms the heart, and I am incredibly thankful for how each of our different celebrations enriches and benefits our community. While the holiday decorations on the outside of every home are beautiful, what is more inspiring is the generous and caring spirit that fills each home and every person. The holiday season is so much more than a time of year or an actual season, but rather a reminder to cherish and love one another, to enjoy the warm company of friends and family, and to pursue the dream of “peace on earth, goodwill toward men.” I wish you a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, from my family to yours. See you in the New Year!


Rob Woodall
Member of Congress