Washington Watch - 2/21/17
Last Wednesday, just after I finished voting on the House floor, I hosted a Telephone Town Hall Meeting. More than 600 people took part in the phone call, and we discussed the issues that are on everyone’s mind – immigration, Obamacare, Russia, Medicare, Social Security, taxes, and more. I know of course that it’s difficult to carve time out of your busy schedules to participate in a town hall meeting, but I am grateful to you when you do. If you have a friend or neighbor who you think would like to participate in a future town hall, please encourage them to sign up for this newsletter at https://woodall.house.gov, and I will make sure that they get all of the details. And if you have an issue that you would like raise one-on-one, please share it with me on email at firstname.lastname@example.org or reach out to me by phone. I value hearing from you.
Yesterday, as we do each year on Presidents’ Day, we celebrated the legacy of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. Both George Washington and Abraham Lincoln embodied the most American of traits: civilian leadership with a servant’s heart. They were citizens who believed in the promise of America and worked tirelessly at great personal cost to make that promise a reality. Washington led the U.S. Army during the American Revolution and was the first at the helm of a system of government that has become the greatest experiment in self-governance the world has ever known. President Lincoln led our great country through perhaps our most turbulent time as a nation, but his leadership and legacy lives on today. From our earliest days, the United States has always relied on the leadership of Americans such as these, but never relinquished our voice as a people in the process. It is that balance that President Lincoln spoke of in the Gettysburg Address when he said, “that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
Americans have been debating how to reform health care for decades, and the Affordable Care Act in particular has dominated the discussion for the past eight years. Regardless of whether you support or oppose this law, we have to face the facts: it’s more expensive than anyone thought it would be, it’s covering fewer Americans than anyone thought that it would, and it’s collapsing under its own weight. We can do better for America.
Last week, I went to the House floor yet again to try to focus the discussion on common ground and common concerns. Some people in the media or politics will try to stoke fear and anxiety around new Congressional solutions. I will work to allay those concerns. President Obama brought the American people together around ideas of helping those who are uninsured—but his federally-mandated solution is failing even as 20 million Americans continue not to have coverage. Congress will now try to bring America together around patient-centered solutions that put families back in control. Dealing with issues of cost and access have never been easy—and damage done to families and to markets by the Affordable Care Act has only made the job harder—but we are at work in Congress right now trying to deliver.
- Gwinnett Daily Post. Broken promises should not be end of story
Last week the Senate confirmed three more Cabinet secretaries to serve the American people: Linda McMahon as Secretary of the Small Business Administration, Scott Pruitt as EPA Administrator, Steve Mnuchin as Secretary of the Treasury, and Mick Mulvaney as Director of the Office of Management and Budget. I’m especially proud that the Senate supported a well-known business leader, Ms. McMahon, in a strong bipartisan manner. She has a track record in business that will serve our nation’s small business owners well in the next four years. She understands their needs, and I’m sure that she will use her new role as SBA Secretary to help our small businesses across the nation revitalize the American economy. The Senate still has more work to do to allow President Trump to fully staff his team, but assuming that no Senator chooses to engage in any more delay tactics, the White House should soon have all of its key leaders in place.
- Fox News. Former wrestling exec Linda McMahon confirmed to lead SBA
- Bloomberg. Mnuchin secures Senate confirmation as Treasury Secretary
- New York Times. Senate confirms Scott Pruitt as EPA head
- New York Times. Mick Mulvaney, Trump's pick for budget director, is confirmed
The effort to eliminate economically harmful regulations continues to move forward. The President has already begun to sign bills to eliminate needless burdens, and the House is continuing to work to put more repeal bills on his desk. This past week, the House passed two disapproval resolutions to block a set of Obama-era regulations that could have forced certain private sector employees into government-run retirement accounts without the long-standing retiree safeguards offered by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). As most of you have likely heard, in many other parts of the country state and city pension plans are severely underfunded. While I would always welcome these plans to invite private sector employees to join them, the federal government should not use its heavy hand to require hard-working private sector employees enroll and to turn their money over to these failing plans. While I absolutely support the goal of encouraging and even incentivizing more Americans to save for retirement, I’m certain that mandating that more Americans enter into underfunded plans is not the solution.
The House also moved a disapproval resolution last week to roll-back a rule issued last year by the U.S. Department of Labor that would place restrictions on states’ ability to drug test individuals collecting Unemployment Insurance (UI) benefits. Under current law, states have the option to require drug testing for both UI benefit applicants who were terminated from a job for drug use and applicants who are seeking employment in occupations that regularly conduct drug testing. Unfortunately, on his way out the door, President Obama moved to restrict drug testing. I was pleased to support a resolution that will provide Georgia the flexibility to design a UI benefit drug testing program that best serves its citizens, and I hope that the Senate will approve this common-sense resolution and send it to President Trump’s desk.
On Thursday, the House passed Representative Don Young’s (R-AK) H.J.Res. 69, a joint resolution of disapproval to overturn a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) rule that clearly oversteps the agency’s authority. The rule sought to dictate to Alaska how to implement predator control methods in wildlife refuges within the state, but such dictates are specifically prohibited in the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) and the Alaska Statehood Compact. That’s right, Alaska only agree to be a state with the guarantee that it would have the right to manage local fish and wildlife. This is another example of an overzealous regulatory authority implementing its wishes instead of implementing the law, and I was proud to stand with my colleagues to pass this resolution, correct this illegal overreach by FWS, and return authority back to the people of Alaska.
- Alaska Dispatch News. U.S. House passes Rep. Don Young's bill to repeal Alaska wildlife management regulation
- Rep. Don Young Press Release. Young Wins Fight in U.S. House to Overturn Obama-Era FWS Rule, CRA Effort to Restore Alaska’s Local Management Authority Moves to Senate
Protecting America’s opportunity to compete globally is a top priority of mine, and aviation is a key industry for the Seventh District and Metro Atlanta area. We are blessed to have one of America’s biggest airlines serving America’s busiest airport right in our own backyard, and it’s critical that we make sure both Delta and Hartsfield-Jackson are competing for business on a level playing field. Unfortunately, the fairness of that playing field has been called into question in recent years. It stems from the fact that America has international agreements with other nations to ensure access to global airspace—these are collectively called “Open Skies” policies. Our nation enters these agreements with other nations with the expectation that they will stay true to the free market principles that form the foundation of these agreements. Last week, I highlighted my concerns about the enforcement of these Open Skies agreements in a Transportation and Infrastructure committee hearing. Competition is good for any industry, including commercial airlines. However, we must make sure the competition is fair, and I am committed to working with my colleagues to uphold the letter and spirit of America’s Open Skies agreements.
Like so many of you, I am proud to support federal funding initiatives like the Title X grant program so that states can direct federal funding to health centers dedicated to low-income individuals seeking assistance for family planning services. I believe states are best equipped to identify the health centers that are most effective in addressing the needs of their communities, which is why I voted in favor of H.J.Res. 43, disapproving of a rule drafted by the Obama Administration to require states to use that grant to fund abortion clinics. That rule sought to infringe on the states’ right to prioritize health funding in ways that best serve local families. I was happy to support the bill when it passed the House on Thursday, and am hopeful the Senate will take it up quickly and get it to the president’s desk for his signature.
It’s been over a year since the U.S. Supreme Court has had a complete bench of nine justices, which is why I was pleased when President Donald Trump announced Judge Neil Gorsuch as his intended nominee. It would be impossible to fill the incredibly big shoes left by Justice Antonin Scalia, but I believe Judge Gorsuch is a great choice to return ideological balance to the highest court in the land. His academic and professional background alone can demonstrate how supremely qualified he is for this position, however, I am pleased to have the potential of Judge Gorsuch’s originalist understanding of the Constitution and textualist interpretation of law back in the SCOTUS chamber. That’s why I was happy to sign on to a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee in support of Judge Gorsuch’s confirmation. I am hopeful the confirmation hearings – scheduled to begin March 20th – will be swift and seamless so that the Supreme Court will be able to fulfill its Constitutional duties.
- The Hill. Gorsuch hearing date set for March 20
- Politico. Neil Gorsuch: Who is he? Bio, facts, background and political views
I never get tired of seeing the great things our young people are doing here at home throughout the Seventh District. We are blessed to have such bright young minds and committed parents, educators, and mentors to help them cultivate their talents. Just last week, Forsyth County students were taking part in the Northwest Georgia Regional Science and Engineering Fair, and it comes as no surprise they did very well – with 22 students now moving on to the state level competition. I have no doubt they’ll make us all proud there and beyond, and look forward to seeing what comes next for them. Good luck!
- Forsyth County News. Forsyth students score at regional science fair
With all the politics and partisan rancor that you see on the news every night, it’s easy to forget that we have heroes right here at home who serve our community without regard for their own safety. One of those heroes is Detective Justin Von Behren of the Gwinnett County Police Department.
With Americans living longer and requiring more specialized at-home health care, many of us take for granted that we’ll be able to find quality care for our parents or grandparents – or even for ourselves. Unfortunately, the reality is that unscrupulous individuals often times try to take advantage of senior citizens who are in vulnerable health. In December 2015, Detective Von Behren busted an unlicensed home care ring that was abusing patients, and last week, he was recognized in the Georgia General Assembly by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation for his work.
We all know that seniors living on fixed incomes rely on their hard-earned Social Security, Medicare, and retirement benefits to pay for their health care needs – including home care needs. With the financial pressures that Social Security and Medicare are facing at the federal level, we can’t allow a penny of that money to go to waste, especially if it’s wasted on caregivers who are abusive. Seniors deserve to be treated with dignity and respect, and thanks to the great work of the Gwinnett County Police Department, seniors in our area are going to be protected and cared for and their benefits are going to be used on high-quality care from licensed professionals.
- Gwinnett Daily Post. Gwinnett police detective honored during Georgia Assembly senior week for protecting elderly
Both the House and the White House are hard at work on the 2018 budget. This past week my friend and former Congressman Mick Mulvaney from South Carolina was sworn in to be the Director of the Office of Management and Budget. If you haven’t heard of this agency, you are not alone, but it is the gatekeeper for all of the money that the Administration will spend. It is also responsible for crafting the President’s budget and sending it to Capitol Hill. Ordinarily that happens by the first week of February, but he couldn’t release a budget until after he was sworn in. Mr. Mulvaney made a name for himself on Capitol Hill as a budget cutter, and I was proud to work with him on a number of Congressional initiatives. If we are to continue our push for a balanced budget, we will need Mick Mulvaney as a partner. I will keep you up to date on both our House budget numbers and the White House budget numbers as they become final, but I wanted to give you the encouragement of knowing that for the first time in a long time, we have a fiscal hawk partner in the White House budget office. This week will be a pivotal one in the OMB process.
I hope that you and your family are having a great week so far, and I thank you for the privilege of serving you.
Member of Congress