Washington Watch - 1/6/20
Partisanship in the House prevented commonsense measures from moving forward in Congress for too much of 2019. However, the log-jam has finally begun to clear. Legislation to curb illegal robocalls, many of which originate from overseas, has made its way to the President’s desk.
The “Traced Act” passed the House with overwhelming bipartisan support. This legislation requires telecommunications providers to adopt effective call authentication technologies at no additional cost to the consumer in order to limit the amount of fraudulent calls that reach consumers’ phones. Additionally, this legislation increases the statute of limitations during which the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) can pursue scammers and increases the amount in fines the agency can levy for certain infractions. The Senate came together to pass this bill shortly thereafter, and President Trump signed this bill into law this past week.
While the Traced Act is just one solution to curbing those illegal robocalls, it stands to alleviate the burden these calls have placed on Americans and their families. Coupled with continued action from the FCC, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and telecommunications providers, these actions will continue to move us forward in our goal of halting illegal and unwanted calls. As with passage of any new legislation, you can be sure I will follow how it works to achieve this goal in practice as we work to fully implement its provisions.
The Department of Defense announced late last week that the U.S. military conducted an airstrike near Baghdad International Airport in Iraq, killing Qasem Soleimani, the head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Quds Force, a U.S.-designated Foreign Terrorist Organization. Soleimani, dubbed “a truly evil figure” by General David Petraeus, the former commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, contributed to much of the violence and discord in the Middle East over the past twenty years, leading attacks against American military personnel and innocent civilians in the region, and was actively planning to attack Americans in Iraq and the Middle East. Shortly after the strike, the State Department urged all U.S. citizens to leave Iraq immediately due to the heightened tensions in the country. Additionally, the U.S. is planning to deploy some 3,000 plus soldiers from the 82nd Airborne to the region to ensure U.S. personnel and facilities are protected from any threats.
The recent developments in Iraq and the Middle East will no doubt be a topic of interest as the House begins its second session of the 116th Congress. While greater conflict would do little to benefit any party or the people of the Middle East, the U.S. will not allow the callous killing of innocent civilians and its servicemembers. We must hope that the absence of Soleimani’s deadly influence will lead to greater stability in the region.
- NBC News. U.S. to send 3,000 troops to Middle East after embassy attack, Soleimani killing
- The New York Times. U.S. Strike in Iraq Kills Qassim Suleimani, Commander of Iranian Forces
- Reuters. U.S. embassy urges citizens to depart Iraq immediately: statement
Many of you may have already heard about PFAS, per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, while others may have not, and as such, I want to take this opportunity to share with you what PFAS are and what steps are being taken at the federal level to mitigate PFAS contaminants.
Laura from Duluth
PFAS (polyfluoroalkyl substances) are contaminating our air and water across the country, an issue with serious health implications for our communities and our families. We have no information about who uses these dangerous chemicals, or where — and in what quantities — they are being released. We deserve to know. I urge you to hold industry accountable and require companies to report all PFAS on the Toxics Release Inventory.
Patricia from Cumming
It’s time to get PFAS chemicals out of our environment and our bodies. These chemicals have been linked to serious health risks like cancer and thyroid disease. Right now, our laws and public institutions are failing to protect us.
As is telling from Laura and Patricia’s correspondence above, many in our community have grave concerns about the effects and presence of PFAS (polyfluoroalkyl substances) chemicals in our everyday lives, and I certainly appreciate their outreach on this important matter. For that reason, I appreciate this opportunity to share with you some of the action plans already in place both to research and to combat PFAS.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, PFAS are a group of synthetic chemicals that have been in use since the 1940s. There are nearly five thousand known PFAS that have been used in a wide-range of products, from water-repellent clothing and cookware to shampoo and firefighting foams. While U.S. manufacturers have largely phased out the production and most uses of PFAS, some types are still in use today in important capacities without a ready substitute. For example, the Department of Defense (DoD) and many civilian airports use firefighting foams that contain PFAS to quickly put out fires and firefighters have not yet found a viable, effective alternative. That said, the recently enacted National Defense Authorization Act included several PFAS provisions, including one that would prohibit the use of firefighting foam at military installations after October 1, 2024, further incentivizing the search for an alternative firefighting tool.
Additionally, several federal agencies are currently working to address PFAS and assess the dangers of these chemicals. For instance, DoD has started a PFAS Task Force to address the dangers of these chemicals on military installations and the EPA has released its PFAS Action Plan to identify PFAS, address contaminations, and prevent further contamination on a national level.
We will leave no stone left unturned in the search for ways to curtail PFAS contamination. In fact, this week in Congress the House Rules Committee is scheduled to consider H.R. 535, the “PFAS Action Act of 2019,” a bill to designate PFAS as hazardous substances under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability (CERCLA) Act of 1980.
While I have some concerns about Congress preempting the EPA’s deliberate assessment, I look forward to robust debate on H.R. 535, and I do hope you’ll share with me your thoughts on how Congress can appropriately address the challenges PFAS pose to Americans and the environment.
Time and again — especially during the holiday season — the 7th District takes to charity to improve the lives of those around us. Right before Christmas, The Place of Forsyth County donated four cars to county residents in need. The nonprofit started this program three years ago to make life easier for those without transportation options, and so far, 15 vehicles have been donated.
I would like to recognize The Place of Forsyth County for all its charitable work this holiday season. Your efforts are admirable and go a long way to make our community a better place to live.
- Forsyth Herald. Non-profit gives cars to residents in need
Sports provide rewarding experiences for our children and help bring our community closer together. During an awards ceremony held last month, Duluth resident Marc Lancaster was named BlazeSports America’s 2019 Triumph of the Human Spirit Award Winner for his outstanding work with wheelchair-bound athletes. For nearly a decade, Lancaster has been volunteering countless hours coaching both basketball and track and field, and mentoring young athletes. He started coaching when his son joined the BlazeSports Basketball league after spinal cord was damaged in an automobile accident when he was five
I would like to congratulate Marc on this outstanding achievement. It is coaches like you, with all of your passion and hard work, that make sports such an enriching experience for children in our community.
- Gwinnett Daily Post. Dacula dad, wheelchair athlete coach honored by BlazeSports
This week the House returns from our holiday break to begin the Second Session of the 116th Congress. A complete list of the legislation the House will consider is available by clicking here, and I’d like to highlight the legislation that my colleagues and I on the House Rules Committee will be discussing, H.R. 535. As noted in the above constituent spotlight, the bill is a response to concerns that certain chemicals used mainly in firefighting foams and cleaning products, the largest class of which is called perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substance (PFAS), are not being regulated strictly or quickly enough by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Most Members of Congress agree that the EPA should appropriately regulate PFAS, as I do. I’m not usually one to praise the deliberativeness of the EPA, but in this instance, the EPA is working to properly assess the scientific evidence to ensure that the health and safety of all Americans is protected.
Member of Congress