Washington Watch - 12/9/19
Last week, Senator Johnny Isakson delivered his farewell speech on the U.S. Senate floor. The Senate is losing one of the best, and his presence will be sorely missed in the halls of Congress. I would like to thank Johnny again for everything he has done for all of us here in Georgia. I wish him all the best in his much-deserved retirement!
In Senator Isakson’s stead, Governor Brian Kemp announced his intention to appoint business executive Kelly Loeffler to the soon-to-be-vacant Senate seat.
Loeffler’s decades of leadership and experience make her an excellent fit for the job. From working on her family’s farm, her philanthropic work, and creating jobs and opportunity in the private sector, Kelly embodies the best of our public servants and citizen leaders, and Georgia’s small business owners and local entrepreneurs will benefit from her firsthand knowledge of the free market.
Just as I did with Senator Isakson, I look forward to working with Senator Loeffler to expand the American Dream for the millions of hardworking families here in the great state of Georgia.
- Gwinnett Daily Post. Woodall, Hice praise Loeffler pick for Senate seat
A full day of testimony from four law school professors in front of the House Judiciary Committee last Wednesday brought remarkably little new information to the impeachment process. It was clear that each side of the political aisle had chosen its witnesses very carefully. The Democrat witnesses were all lock-step in favor of impeachment and highlighted various reasons why they believed the President was guilty of “high crimes and misdemeanors,” while the one Republican witness that the Committee permitted was concerned that the impeachment case was going forward prematurely and would set a dangerous precedent for what constitutes an impeachable offense in the future. That’s an outcome we all knew before the hearing, and it’s one that shouldn’t have taken eight hours to uncover.
Instead, the Judiciary Committee should have been doing a real investigation of its own by examining the evidence before it. It should have been questioning Representative Adam Schiff (D-CA), the Chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. After all, Chairman Schiff is the one who did all the investigating and who presented his report recommending impeachment to the Judiciary Committee. But even though the Committee is conducting yet another hearing today, Chairman Schiff’s absence is particularly notable. That’s distressing to many Members of Congress; that the person in charge of the investigation has yet to appear before the Committee to answer questions about the investigation.
What’s even more disturbing is that before hearing from even one fact witness or even one member of the Intel Committee, which conducted the investigation, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) announced that the time had come for the Judiciary Committee to draft official articles of impeachment. The march toward an impeachment in the House is of course inevitable now. Regardless of what the Judiciary Committee might uncover in future hearings, the Speaker has decreed that impeachment will go forward. That’s not how an impartial, non-partisan investigation should be conducted.
- Los Angeles Times. Democrats outline potential articles of impeachment against Trump
Beating expectations, the U.S. economy added 266,000 new jobs in November. Wages topped estimates, and the unemployment rate returned to a nearly half-century low of 3.5%. Despite slowing growth around the world, our nation’s economy remains a bright spot, thanks to Republican-led tax reform and fewer burdensome regulations. With 3.1% growth in wages since last year, workers have more money in their pockets and are feeling more financially secure.
- Bloomberg. U.S. Payroll Gain of 266,000 Trounces Forecasts as Wages Heat Up
- Associated Press. US gains a robust 266,000 jobs; unemployment falls to 3.5%
- CNBC. Dow surges 350 points on strong jobs report, S&P 500 erases losses for the week
Insider trading occurs when an individual makes a trade on the stock exchange for his or her own advantage using information that is not public. This practice has long been unacceptable and illegal in the United States. However—believe it or not—insider trading has not been explicitly defined in statute by Congress. Cases have largely been prosecuted as fraud cases under the Securities Exchange Act or have been based off of judicial precedents. This week, the House voted to explicitly define insider trading through the passage of H.R. 2534, the “Insider Trading Prohibition Act.” Under the bill, insider trading is clearly defined as trading with information that is fraudulently obtained and used for personal benefit. The bill is by no means perfect, and I was glad to see a bipartisan compromise come together to make the original version’s vague definition more specific, but it is a positive step towards providing legal certainty for those participating in the financial markets.
- The Hill. House passes bill to explicitly ban insider trading
- Yahoo! Finance. Bill banning insider trading heads to the Senate
- The Wall Street Journal. House Passes Bill Establishing a Clear Definition of Insider Trading
Last week the House Transportation and Infrastructure (T&I) Committee held a hearing that focused on the importance of freight transportation and the ways in which the movement of goods is changing. It goes without saying that this was an aptly timed hearing as the movement and volume of goods tends to increase during the holiday season. With consumers expecting speedy deliveries now more than ever, and shippers balancing intricate transportation logistics and consumer demands, lawmakers had the opportunity to learn more about the ways in which federal freight programs, as authorized by the FAST Act of 2015, can be reformed to meet the needs of tomorrow.
As many of us know too well, the movement of freight in the metro-Atlanta area has not helped with our already congested roadways and highways, and in fact, it is an issue that our state has been studying at great length. That’s because according to the American Transportation Research Institute, Atlanta is home to three of the top 10 freight bottlenecks in the United States: I-285 at I-85 (North) in second place, I-75 at I-285 (North) in third place, and I-20 at I-285 (West) in ninth place. With the Port of Savannah now the fourth largest port in the nation, and preparations in place to deepen the Savannah harbor, it is undeniable that Georgia will continue to see increased freight movement along our roads and rails. Fortunately, our state officials have been proactive in addressing these pressing freight issues. You can be sure that I will follow their good work and look for ways to supplement their efforts at the federal level to efficiently accommodate the movement of freight while simultaneously alleviating congestion across our roadways. I look forward to having those important conversations and highlighting Georgia’s hard work next year when the House T&I Committee begins reauthorizing our critical surface transportation programs.
While the impeachment hearings have cast a shadow over Congress, there are still opportunities for my colleagues and I to come together on issues that unite all Americans and enact meaningful reform. As I’m sure we can all agree, the pervasiveness of unlawful robocalls is one such issue.
Earlier this summer, the House passed its solution – H.R. 3375, the “Stopping Bad Robocalls Act,” with nearly unanimous support, roughly two months after the Senate approved its solution the “TRACED Act” by a vote of 97-1. After months of working out the differences between the two bills, the House approved that final measure last week with almost unanimous support. For those of you not familiar with this legislation, this bill requires telecommunications providers to implement effective call authentication technologies at no additional cost to the consumer so that fraudulent calls never reach consumers’ phones in the first place.
With more than 47 billion robocalls placed nationwide in 2018, and the number of robocalls on track to outpace that figure in 2019, I am glad that Congress was able to come together on a bipartisan basis to move this legislation forward. I believe that the provisions included in this legislation, coupled with continued action from the Federal Communications Commission and telecom industry, will help curb those unlawful robocalls that have robbed Americans of their time, money, and peace of mind for too long. The Senate is expected to pass that legislation in the coming weeks, and I fully expect we will see that bill signed into law.
Every week I share with you some thoughts from our neighbors about the issues most affecting them. This week, we have two opposing perspectives regarding H.R. 2474.
Cliff from Duluth
I am writing today as an enthusiastic member of the franchise community and your constituent. I understand that the House of Representatives and the Senate are considering the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act (H.R. 2474/S. 1306), a bill that would wreak havoc on franchise businesses in our state and nationwide. I respectfully urge you to oppose this legislation.
Specifically, the PRO Act seeks to codify the vague and unlimited standard for joint employment that was adopted in 2015 by the National Labor Relations Board in Browning-Ferris Industries. The legal uncertainty created by the expanded joint employment standard has had a chilling effect on the franchise business model, to the tune of nearly $33.3 billion per year and 376,000 lost job opportunities.
Additionally, the bill's codification of California's "ABC test" for determining independent contractor status threatens to turn me and all other franchise owners in our state into employees of big, out-of-state franchise companies. I would stand to lose my independence as a business owner and potentially a lot of the hard-earned value of my business that I’ve worked tirelessly to develop over the years.
This bill stands to destroy not just individual businesses, but the franchise business model as a whole.
I am respectfully urging you to oppose this legislation, which will reduce entrepreneurship, stifle small business growth, and prevent franchising from serving as the engine of opportunity and access point to the American Dream as it has done for decades.
Earl from Buford
More than 6 out of 10 Americans approve of unions. But there are still too few protections in place for workers who want to start a union. Instead, companies are often able to get away with suppressing workers' rights to organize by making it harder to hold elections, firing those who engage in union activity, and preventing unions from collecting their fair share of dues.
The Protecting the Right to Organize Act would help change this by strengthening the opportunity for workers to form a union or engage in union activity. It would mean more power for workers, and it would allow workers to collectively bargain to meet their families' needs without having to choose between rent and food, health insurance, and keeping the lights on.
As your constituent, I urge you to support this bill and do everything in your power to move it to a vote.
At my office in Washington, D.C., and back home in Georgia, I regularly hear from workers and business owners about the issues they are facing and what legislative solutions they are seeking as a remedy to the problem. Candidly, in our part of the world, the desire to strengthen labor unions, however, isn’t generally one of the solutions I hear much about from employees or employers. In fact, most conversations are about employers’ need for workers, and given the nation’s record-low unemployment rate, it’s a job-seeker’s market. Business owners are therefore incentivized to offer competitive pay and benefits to attract and retain workers.
While I absolutely agree with Earl that workers should be treated fairly and their right to unionize should be respected, I have to disagree with the assertion that the relationship between business owners and their workers is generally adversarial. On the contrary, the relationship between employers and employees is, by and large, mutually beneficial, and the greater flexibility that employers are afforded allows them to be creative in how they compete with other employers to hang on to their workers. Even when workers unionize, this symbiosis is recognized in federal statute and stewarded by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), which views both employers and employees on equal footing when assessing labor disputes. While the NLRB may not always get it right, there is a process that exists through the agency or through Congress to course correct. One example is the joint employer rule that Cliff brought up, which NLRB is expected to change by the end of this year.
H.R 2474, the “Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act,” would undermine the trust in the NLRB as a fair arbiter between unions and businesses by drastically shifting the balance towards unions and stripping employers of the protections provided by the agency. The bill would also repeal NLRB’s ban on secondary boycotts where a neutral third party employer is targeted to coerce it from doing business with the primary target of a union. The PRO Act also inflates the power of unions at the expense of individual workers. The bill would repeal the right-to-work laws that have been adopted by more than half the states and eliminate a worker’s right to secret ballot elections to determine if employees really want to unionize in the first place.
While well-meaning individuals can disagree about the effectiveness of the NLRB and its rulings over the years, I think we can all agree on the need to ensure fairness in the NLRB process. When a proposal like the PRO Act puts union interests above those of employers and their employees, it has the potential of doing more harm than good.
The hard work and dedication of our school administrators here in the 7th District is a significant reason for the success of our children’s education. Last week, the Forsyth County Board of Education was recognized for its outstanding performance and was selected out of a group of nine finalists as the winner of the 2019 Governance Team of the Year Award.
I hope you will all join me in congratulating the Board of Education for this incredible achievement. Your hard work is what makes the education here in our community among the best in the nation.
- Forsyth County News. Forsyth County Schools receives 2019 Governance award
It is important to remember all the men and women who have paid the ultimate sacrifice to protect our community. Last week, a San Antonio-based nonprofit, Saving a Hero’s Place, helped pay tribute to fallen Gwinnett County police office Antwan Toney, who was shot and killed while responding to a call last year. The nonprofit presented Gwinnett’s South Precinct with a commemorative wooden chair with Officer Toney’s name. Saving a Hero’s Place regularly produces these chairs to pay tribute to police officers who have been killed in the line of duty.
I would like to thank Saving a Hero’s Place for their kind gesture to our community. We value each and every one of our outstanding first responders, and we take great care to remember all who have fallen in the line of duty.
- Gwinnett Daily Post. Gwinnett County Police Department receives 'honor chair' in memory of officer Antwan Toney
With only two weeks left before Congress’ annual Christmas holiday, there is important work left to do, though unfortunately, much of what is on the House’s agenda is more of the same missed opportunities for bipartisanship that has plagued the House all year.
Instead of hearing from Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA) of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence about his investigation into President Trump, the House Judiciary Committee met this morning at 9am to hear presentations from the legal counsel on the House Intelligence and Judiciary Committees. It saddens me that Chairman Schiff is hiding from the tough questions of his colleagues. On the House floor this week, we’ll have a number of large pieces of legislation, including H.R. 3, H.R. 729, and H.R. 5038. House Democrats argue that H.R. 3, which deals with drug prices, would allow Medicare to negotiate some drug prices and use fees to pressure drug companies to offer lower prices to private insurers. In reality, Speaker Pelosi has rejected every opportunity to work with congressional Republicans to find bipartisan solutions to lower the cost of prescription drugs without destabilizing medical professionals and healthcare organizations. In fact, I expect that we’ll see an alternative bill introduced by House Republicans that includes only bipartisan provisions that we can all agree will lower drug costs without stooping to price fixing.
I am pleased, however, to see the House working on H.R. 5038, which is a bipartisan agriculture guest worker bill that stands to benefit American farmers, consumers, and foreign workers who want to work in the United States the right way. While I’m sure there will be much discussion about this measure, and I know that conscientious legislators from both sides of the aisle may have opposing views, with so much attention in the House being spent on those things that divide us, it’s a positive step forward to at least talk about a measure that can bring many members together.
Hopefully this is the start of a new way of doing business in 2020, where lawmakers move away from poking each other with sharp sticks and instead focus on bringing bills to the floor that would pass with wide ranging support.
Member of Congress