Washington Watch - 2/4/19

February 4, 2019
E-Newsletter Archive


The U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor and Statistics released the latest jobs report on Friday that shows our economy continues to strengthen into the new year. The report shows that 304,000 jobs were added in January, beating out economists' predictions of 170,000 and the 2018 per month average of 220,000. What’s more is that wages are also up 3.2% compared to a year ago. This economic expansion is helping virtually every sector in the American economy as both business leader confidence and consumer confidence remain high. This is great news for our country as we build upon our reputation as an economic powerhouse and a place for all industries to do business. I look forward to promoting further efforts in the House to continue this growth and improve outcomes for every American family.



It is an unfortunate reality in this country that too few young people understand the basic structure of our government, the responsibilities they have as citizens in charge of their nation, or even the rights guaranteed to them under our constitution. In 2014, only 23% of eighth graders performed at or above a proficient level on the National Assessment of Educational Progress Civics Exam. The Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania found that only 32% of Americans surveyed could name all three branches of government; only 30% of Americans surveyed knew that the Senate is in charge of confirming Supreme Court nominees; and only 37% of Americans surveyed could name any of the rights guaranteed under the First Amendment.

This isn’t a trivia problem—and certainly not a trivial problem. Knowing who we are as Americans, what makes our journey special, what makes our role in the world special, and what special obligations we have as citizens to fulfill that role is vitally important, helping us to always celebrate that there is more that unites us as Americans than divides us. To address this concern, I partnered with my friend and colleague Representative Alcee Hastings (D-FL) to introduce H.R. 849, the “Civics Learning Act”, a bill to expand opportunities for schools to implement best practices for success and share those practices with school districts across the country. To be clear, this bill does not force anything on our amazing local schools—but it does unlock new resources for them to focus on young students on citizenship early in their educational career. Our teachers will be better able to engender a passion for civic engagement in our students and instill knowledge on how to make the most out of our precious gift of American citizenship.



Last Tuesday, the House Budget Committee held its first hearing of the 116th Congress. At our hearing, Congressional Budget Office Director Keith Hall discussed the state of our nation’s budget. During the question and answer portion, I had the opportunity to ask Director Hall about long term economic growth and how the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act has increased our nation’s GDP. Click the photo below to hear Director Hall’s testimony.

Rep. Rob Woodall (R-GA) discusses the United States’ economic outlook with CBO Director Keith Hall



Last week, House Democrats passed H.R. 790, a bill that was “dropped in the hopper” a few days prior without a hearing, a committee markup, and testimony from expert witnesses. H.R. 790 would give a blanket raise to all federal employees, including those who have been disciplined for inappropriate behavior.

Democratic Leadership expected this bill to be voted on during the government shutdown and wanted to use it as a “messaging bill” to poke the President in the eye. There is not a single line in H.R. 790 that rewards exceptional federal employees or a single provision to discipline or train up those who are performing poorly. Click the picture below to watch my remarks.

On the House Floor, Rep. Rob Woodall (R-GA) speaks in favor of rewarding talented employees and not treating every government employee the same



As you may have heard, Congress last week, on both sides of the Hill, set the stage for how it plans to tackle the issue of high prescription drug prices over the next two years. I want to begin by saying that drug pricing is an issue that has been at the forefront of many of my conversations and meetings with families, individuals, and seniors across our district, and I certainly understand that it is an issue that resonates with many Americans. As such, I want to take this opportunity to let folks know that I hear those concerns loud and clear, and I do believe that we can do better at both the state and federal levels to curtail this perverse trend of skyrocketing prescription drug costs. For that reason, I tuned in to hearings held by the Senate Committee on Finance and the House Committee on Oversight and Reform last week, as both committees laid out their respective agendas for the 116th Congress and made it clear to all Americans that they intend to work diligently to bring relief to Americans saddled by ever-increasing drug prices and put an end to the anti-competitive behavior that has rifled the prescription drug realm for too long.

That said, I would be remiss if I told you that working across the aisle in a divided Congress to lower drug prices will be easy, because it won’t be. But I do wholeheartedly believe that lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have an appetite to work together to make prescription drugs more affordable, and I am optimistic that legislation to do just that will make it across the finish line in the 116th Congress. However, before Congress can push such legislation across the finish line, it is apparent to me after tuning into last week’s hearings that lawmakers sitting on Committees with jurisdiction over prescription drugs have their work cut out for them this Congress. That’s because there are hundreds of proposals as we speak floating around that are marketed as solutions to stem high drug costs, but each proposal targets costs in a different manner. From proposals that take aim at high priced branded drugs, to increasing transparency in the supply chain, to reducing patent abuses, to reexamining the role of rebates, lawmakers will have to coalesce in a bipartisan manner to not only find common ground amongst myriad proposals, but to also ensure that any final package or deal reached will in fact work in the best interest of the American people.

Even though I do not sit on a committee with jurisdiction over drug costs, I do have the opportunity to discuss such proposals with my colleagues who do sit on committees of jurisdiction, and I can tell you that I plan to do just that. The Georgia delegation is fortunate to have the only sitting member of Congress with a background as a pharmacist, Representative Buddy Carter (R-GA-01), and I know that he will continue to bring a great voice to the House Energy and Commerce Committee on behalf of all Georgians, especially when it comes to discussions about making prescription drugs more affordable.



On the international stage, one of the biggest developments in recent weeks has been the political upheaval in Venezuela, where at least one million Venezuelans have taken to the streets to protest the authoritarian rule of President Nicolás Maduro. Here is what a few of you have said about the matter:

Stephen from Lawrenceville

STAY OUT OF VENEZUELA. Please MAKE SURE our President is aware that we as a country DO NOT NEED TO BE INVOLVED MILITARILY IN VENEZUELA. The US does not need to act as "policeman for the world". If Venezuelans want their leadership to change, it is up TO THEM to make that happen - not the US. For decades now the VENEZUELAN PEOPLE have elected and allowed corrupt officials to lead their country down the road to destruction. It is the responsibility of the VENEZUELAN PEOPLE to determine the direction of their country - not the US. I am NOT interested in financing yet another war in yet another country that IS NOT our responsibility and which DOES NOT directly affect the US. Please make sure our President is aware that VOTERS DO NOT WANT THIS, and DO NOT WANT TO FINANCE THIS...

David from Norcross

President Trump and Vice President Pence have damaged the rule of law and endangered international security by supporting a coup attempt in Venezuela. As your constituent, I urge you to speak out publicly, to introduce and sponsor articles of impeachment, and to speak with your colleagues to move impeachment forward now.

Alfonso from Lawrenceville

I am concerned about the U.S. military’s role in the Venezuelan crisis.

In the past, oil-rich Venezuela thrived as the wealthiest South American country due to the high global demand for oil. However, with the drop in demand for oil and years of corruption and mismanagement, Venezuela is billions of dollars in debt and has been plunged into financial crisis with rates of inflation that are the highest in the world. This has resulted in mass shortages of food and medicine, leaving the people of Venezuela starving and sick. Furthermore, President Nicolás Maduro put the country on a path towards dictatorship by seizing control of the presidency though illegitimate elections and bypassing the popularly elected legislature by having the Venezuelan Supreme Court seize the powers of the legislature. These actions only exasperate existing issues in Venezuela, including one the highest homicide rates in the world, and add to the numerous human rights violations, such as violently suppressing protests and restricting free speech, and corruption already perpetrated by Maduro.

In response to this rapidly deteriorating situation, Venezuelans across the country began protests earlier this month, and the democratically-elected National Assembly declared Maduro’s re-election invalid, removing him from office. Since then, the United States, Canada, at least 14 countries in Latin America, and more around the globe have recognized Juan Guaidó, the elected president of the National Assembly, as interim President of Venezuela, until fair elections can be held. In addition to recognizing Mr. Guaidó as interim President, President Trump signed an Executive Order to impose further sanctions on Maduro, his allies, and Venezuela’s state-owned oil company. President Trump has said “all options are on the table” to support the new government, and Secretary of State Pompeo announced that the United States is ready to provide more than $20 million in initial humanitarian assistance to the people of Venezuela.

Like many of you, I do not have any desire to involve our military forces in Venezuela, nor have I heard of any serious plans to do so. Interim President Guaidó stated in an op-ed this week that his government has met with key figures in the Venezuelan military, considered to be aligned with Maduro, to garner their support, and continues to gather support from the majority of Venezuelans. I want this to continue to be a choice for the Venezuelan people to make. Allowing the people of Venezuela to choose their future is the best way to guarantee legitimacy and stability. The international community stands ready to support a democratic Venezuela, and my colleagues and I in Congress will continue to follow the situation in Venezuela to ensure the United States provides the appropriate support for the people of Venezuela as they demand democracy, human rights, and prosperity.



This past Sunday hundreds of millions of Americans tuned in for Super Bowl LIII, and this year’s Super Bowl was all the more special as Atlanta had the honor of hosting the championship game this year at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Whether you were glad to see the New England Patriots once again come out on top by defeating the Los Angeles Rams to take home their sixth Super Bowl ring in 18 years, I know we are all glad to have Atlanta so prominently featured on a world stage. As you know, our state and local leaders have done so much to make our home the great state that it is and with Atlanta emerging as one of the likely spots for the 2026 FIFA North American World Cup, we will surely see more opportunities for Georgia to showcase its unique position as the economic and cultural powerhouse that it is in the near future.

With that said, I want to take this time to thank those back home who helped make this event happen. In particular, I want to commend the tireless efforts of our federal, state, and local law enforcement who worked to keep Americans safe before, during, and after the game along with those law enforcement and officials who have used this opportunity to raise awareness and crack down on human trafficking. We are grateful for all you do to keep us safe!



Time and again, I talk about how it is our youngest generations who will be instrumental to solving our nation’ biggest challenges, and our students back home are certainly no exception. If you are not familiar now, you may well soon be with the work of Akshat Gautam, a junior at Lambert High School, who created the AllergySafe app. This mobile app helps those with food allergies determine what items on restaurant menus are safe to eat, and you can read more about his inspirational work below. His work will surely lead others to follow in his example, and I couldn’t be prouder to have such dedicated and hardworking students looking for solutions to better serve our friends and neighbors. I hope you will join me in commending Akshat for his great achievement!


THE WEEK AHEAD              

This week the House will consider H.R. 840. This measure would expand and make permanent a current VA program, the Child Care Pilot Program. This program provides child care services to eligible veterans at specified VA health care facilities across the U.S. This pilot program has been in effect since 2011, and it has been remarkably successful in helping veterans, especially female veterans, get the health care that they need. Last Congress, a similar version of this bill was approved by the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee in large part because proponents of the bill showed that veterans with small children would forego medical appointments because of lack of child care. While that bill isn’t identical to this one, I look forward to learning more from my friends at the Veterans’ Affairs Committee this week about the future of H.R. 840.


Rob Woodall
Member of Congress