Washington Watch - 12/5/16

December 5, 2016
E-Newsletter Archive


The best votes that I get to make in Congress are the votes that I know will make a difference.  Last week, I joined the House in a passing the final version of a bill that the House and Senate have been working on for years, the 21st Century Cures Act.  Now, having passed the House with a big bipartisan vote, my hope and expectation is that the Senate will move the bill this week and that President Obama will sign it into law before the end of the month.

The Cures Act has three major components.  First, it invests in the cutting-edge medical research being carried out by the National Institutes of Health like the Precision Medicine Initiative, the Cancer Moonshot, and the BRAIN initiative, to name a few.  The billions of new dollars dedicated to these investments are being taken from other lower priority or failing programs and are redirected to Cures.  Previous versions of the Cures Act borrowed these dollars or dedicated them to programs subject to abuse and very little oversight.  I have worked with the Committee to correct these problems in a way that offers families real hope for cures, offers taxpayers real hope for trillions in lower health care costs if cures can be found, and has been certified by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office to not add a single new dollar of debt to our children or grandchildren’s futures.

Second, the Cures Act’s reforms to the Food and Drug Administration’s drug, medical device, and clinical trials processes, break down bureaucratic hurdles that make it more difficult and expensive for researchers to develop and deliver lifesaving drugs and treatments to patients.  While this can mean billions of dollars can go into research instead of paperwork, it also means that families with a sick loved one will have access to treatments safely and faster.  

Finally, the bill also provides funding for states to combat the opioid epidemic.  If you know a family that has been touched by this scourge, you know how devastating an opioid addiction can be – not just on the user, but on the entire family.  Washington doesn’t have the answer to the national epidemic, but many American localities have been using innovative programs and ideas that are making a difference in their communities.  The Cures Act will support that local successes and help to expand those successes into other communities.  The Cures Act marks the largest federal commitment to fighting addiction since Ronald Reagan was President and is providing hope to millions of American families.

I hope you all will take a minute to read more about the 21st Century Cures Act and then join me in calling on the Senate to pass it right away! 



Given the evolving nature of our national security threats, from state-sponsored hacking to non-state-actor cyberattacks, it is imperative for us to leverage every resource available to tackle this issue head on. That’s why the House passed H.R. 5843, the “United States-Israel Cybersecurity Cooperation Enhancement Act,” and H.R. 5877, the “United States-Israel Advanced Research Partnership Act,” creating a grant program incentivizing advances in cybersecurity research and including cyber security technologies in our bilateral effort to combat cyber threats. These bills not only deepen our bond with Israel, but they also encourage cooperation between two of the biggest hubs of cybersecurity research and advancement. I’m proud of the work Representatives John Ratcliffe (R-TX) and Jim Langevin (D-RI) have done to put these bills together, and I’m optimistic that these bills will make our nations more secure. 



By a vote of 375-34, the House approved the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for fiscal year 2017 on Friday.  I’m proud that this bill includes the biggest pay raise for our troops in six years, ensures our service members have the tools they need to defeat any enemy foolish enough to challenge us, and makes certain that America’s military remains the most capable fighting force the world has ever known.  This year’s NDAA will ensure that our new Commander-in-Chief and his Secretary of Defense will have all the resources they need to keep Americans safe.  I expect that the Senate will pass this bill in short order and that President Obama will sign it into law this month.



For too many years, Americans erroneously believed that if you needed mental health care you were weak, or crazy, or someone to be pitied. Thankfully, we have come out of that dark time, we know that mental and physical health care are intertwined, and thanks to Congress’ resident mental health expert, Representative Tim Murphy (R-PA), a renowned psychologist, we know that getting proper mental health care is just as important as physical health care. There is no shame anymore in taking care of oneself. I’m so proud to have joined Dr. Murphy as he has led the charge to make mental health care a national priority and to reform how mental health is delivered in our health care system. 

As part of the 21st Century Cures Act, the House passed portions of Dr. Murphy’s bill, the “Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act.” With the Cures Act, we are going to help break down barriers to care and ensure that evidence-based mental health care programs are prioritized over the feel-good programs of the past that have shown little achievement. We especially have to prioritize early interventions so that we’re ensuring proper treatment for our young people so that they can avoid the behavioral problems that undiagnosed and untreated mental health issues evolve into later in life. By making mental health care part of the mainstream continuum of care, we are going to improve quality of life for all Americans. 



The House took action last week to provide federal regulators with the flexibility to more accurately determine the risk that financial institutions pose to the economy.  The bill, H.R. 6391, the “Systemic Risk Designation Improvement Act,” passed the House with bipartisan support and would replace an arbitrary threshold put in place by the Dodd-Frank Act.  Under current law, if a financial institution has more than $50 billion in total assets, financial regulators must automatically designate it as systemically important, and such designations, whether appropriate or not, come with a slew of time consuming, costly regulatory compliance requirements.  H.R. 6391 would replace Dodd-Frank’s capricious asset threshold with a new test that considers multiple indicators of systemic importance, including the size, interconnectedness, and complexity of financial institutions.  I agree with the former Congressman Barney Frank (D-MA), who authored Dodd-Frank, the $50 billion asset threshold was a “mistake,” and I was pleased to support this common sense change.    



Often in this recent election season, it’s been easy to see partisanship, but hard to find common ground. The good news is that common ground has been found in the House with the passage last Thursday of H.R.6393, the “Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017.” This bill, which passed with my support, authorizes critical national security programs that help protect Americans against terrorism and cyberattacks. The bill also calls for increased scrutiny of Russia’s attempts to exert covert influence around the world. 

In our day and age, the Internet and global communication tools are right at our fingertips, and they have resulted in the sharing of ideas and collaboration around the globe. However, in this digitally globally connected world, it is critical that we take the necessary steps to ensure that our great nation is ready to combat cyber-attacks, terrorism, and acts of aggression by foreign powers. Americans around the world today face the most significant threat levels since 9/11. That said, we must do everything in our power to provide the intelligence community with the resources it needs to protect all Americans. H.R.6393 has been sent to the Senate for consideration, and I look forward to working together to send this language to the President for his signature.



This week, the House will wrap-up its work for the 2016 year and the 114th Congress will come to a close. But before that happens, we have the opportunity to pass a bill that we’ve been talking about for almost a full year; the final version of the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA). After months of negotiation, this landmark legislation is finally ready to send to the President for his signature, and I’m proud of the work that we’ve done to help Georgia in this bill. We’ll also send a Continuing Resolution that will fund the government until April 2017 to the President’s desk. While I would have preferred us to finish each of the 12 individual appropriations bills this year, we will instead have another opportunity to change our nation’s spending priorities for the better with President-elect Donald Trump in the White House next year.                        


Rob Woodall
Member of Congress