Washington Watch - 2/6/17
The House acted last week to nullify a regulation handed down by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) that is completely unrelated to the agency’s mission and would put American businesses at a disadvantage against foreign competitors. The Obama era regulation was simply another not so-veiled attempt to end mining and energy exploration around the world. The regulation, which was reissued last summer after the initial draft was struck down by a federal court, requires American oil, gas, and mining companies to report payments made to foreign governments for things like development licenses and permits. According to a cost analysis performed by the SEC, the regulation would cost American businesses $600 million per year. That’s $600 million that could not be used to invest in new employees or new equipment or anything else that companies need to expand. And it's $600 million that won't be wasted by our international competitors who won't have to abide by the new, unnecessary regulation. After passing the House with my support last Wednesday, H.J. Res. 37, which overturns this burdensome rule, was approved by the Senate last Friday, and I expect President Trump to sign it in the coming days.
The House also voted to invalidate a rule jointly issued by the Department of Defense (DoD), the General Services Administration (GSA), and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) that would impose additional, unnecessary layers of red tape on businesses vying for federal contracts at an estimated cost $458 million in year one alone. Under the regulation, which was issued in an effort to carry out two Executive Orders issued by President Obama, prospective federal contractors would have been required to disclose alleged violations of fourteen different federal labor laws from the previous three years, among other things. The regulation was recently stayed by a federal judge who noted that it presents an “imminent and non-speculative threat” to the First Amendment rights of affected businesses, which “will likely suffer increased costs, loss of customers, and loss of goodwill, regardless of whether they are actually disqualified from government contracts, by being labeled labor law violators.” Let’s be clear, blacklisting businesses and excluding them from being able to do business with the federal government over allegations of misconduct – not proof, but simply allegations – is wrong. Small businesses without armies of lawyers were especially threatened by this rule, as were the millions of Americans who work for those small businesses. I was pleased to join my colleagues in voting to roll back this costly, redundant regulation, and I hope to see the Senate follow suit very soon.
While it is imperative that our country continues to support our existing criminal background check system to keep weapons out of the hands of criminals, I am actively engaged in protecting Second Amendment rights for law-abiding citizens throughout the United States. During the Obama Administration, the Social Security Administration promulgated a rule indicating it would share information with the National Instant Criminal Background Check System on beneficiaries who receive a mental health status determination. While well intentioned, the broadness of the rule would group beneficiaries who simply have someone help with their finances into a category of individuals whose mental health makes them a potential danger to themselves or others. I was happy to support H.J.Res. 40 on the House floor disapproving of this rule to ensure the Constitutional rights of responsible gun owners would not be infringed upon by unelected bureaucrats in Washington, D.C.
- The Hill. House votes to overturn Obama gun rule
- Fox News. House Republicans move to scrap Obama rule on gun background checks
In 2008, the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement within the Department of the Interior decided to revise a preexisting regulation on the interaction between surface coal mining operations and streams and entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with state agencies that would be impacted by the rule. However, this cooperation was short-lived. State agencies were repeatedly ignored and their input omitted from the drafting process, forcing 11 states to withdraw from the process entirely. The resulting rule – costing $10 million over 8 years to rewrite without necessary state and local input – indicated the potential loss of one-third of the U.S. coal mining workforce and drastic reduction of coal production in 22 states. When federal agencies draft regulations, it is paramount that they consult the affected stakeholders, not only to understand how the proposed rule would impact the targeted industry, but also to seek advice for how best to implement the rule. That is why I decided to cosponsor H.J.Res. 38 to reject this grossly mismanaged and poorly drafted regulation.
- Fortune. Coal Miners Rejoice After Senate Votes to Repeal Stream Protection Rule
- CNN. GOP House votes to reject Obama administration stream protection rule
On Friday, I joined my colleagues in supporting H.J.Res. 36 to disapprove of a rule proposed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) that sought to regulate the oil and gas industry’s venting and flaring of gas byproducts. While I absolutely believe in the importance of protecting our environment, this was simply another cloaked effort to slow and restrict American energy exploration. BLM, in fact, doesn’t have any jurisdiction in this area. Rather, the responsibility lies with the Environmental Protection Agency and the states to enforce existing regulations authorized by the Clean Air Act – which they already do. Moreover, a current EPA report suggests existing regulations are sufficient as methane emissions in the energy sector have dropped over the last decade, even as the industry has grown over that same period. I’m pleased we were able to pass this resolution, and I am hopeful we will continue to eliminate onerous regulations that threaten our nation’s energy independence.
Last week, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee held our first full hearing, and appropriately, it focused on the ways in which we can continue building a 21st Century infrastructure system that ensures America remains a global leader. I’m a big fan of what we do in this committee because transportation is one of those issues that brings people together rather than drives them to one side of the political aisle or the other. We saw proof of that with such major bipartisan accomplishments as the FAST Act and WIIN Act last year, both becoming law just last Congress, and I’m confident we’ll see more of that success going forward. The challenges we face over time may change, but the vision and shared principles that make America great remain the same.
With the Trump Administration wrapping up just its second week, Congress and the new President have already begun repairing and strengthening critical relationships abroad. Two weeks ago, British Prime Minister Theresa May visited both the Congress and the new White House, and last week we welcomed King Abdullah of Jordan and Israeli Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein to Washington to discuss how to achieve our shared goals of defeating ISIS and bringing peace to the Middle East. The United States must remain a powerful force for freedom and good in an increasingly dangerous and unstable world, but we can’t achieve all our goals alone. Whether on trade, defense, or myriad other issues, our partnerships with nations like Britain, Jordan, and Israel are absolutely vital, and I look forward to working with my colleagues in Congress with President Trump to continue our open dialogue with America’s friends and allies.
You might be interested to hear that King Abdullah didn’t just come to talk about international issues. He came to celebrate America’s freedom to worship, as well, and attended our National Prayer Breakfast. This breakfast, and the day's many activities, have become so much more than just a morning meal, with King Abdullah of Jordan gave the keynote speech at the prayer lunch. We hear a great deal about what divides folks, and too often, we hear that religion divides us, but I can tell you there is much more that unites us. A strong friendship between the United States and Jordan makes each country more secure, and I’m grateful for King Abdullah’s commitment to our common goals and his words of wisdom this past week.
- Times of Israel. Knesset speaker pushes US counterpart Ryan on embassy move
- Speaker Paul Ryan. Statement on meeting with King Abdullah II of Jordan
- CBS News. Trump talks safe zones in Syria with King Abdullah of Jordan
When disaster strikes, it never ceases to amaze me how responsive and willing to help folks are, especially when disaster hits close to home. As you know, thousands of Georgians have come together to assist the residents of south Georgia who were affected by severe weather that wreaked havoc on a number of communities in January. I encourage you to join me in continuing our prayers for these folks who are seeking hope in the face of heartbreak and loss. The outpouring of support and large number of volunteer inquiries that my office received from Seventh District residents has prompted me to create a Disaster Relief resources page on my website. Going forward, you will be able to find disaster relief efforts, resources, volunteer opportunities, and donation warehouses on a case-by-case basis on my website. Please do not hesitate to give my office a call if you have any questions, or if you know of any resources available to assist folks when disaster strikes.
This week is a short week in the House in order to accommodate the House Democrats annual legislative retreat. But even with a short week, we’re getting a lot done! We will be voting on three more joint resolutions of disapproval to roll-back regulations recently promulgated by the Obama Administration that are killing jobs, harming development, and dampening economic growth: H.J.Res. 44, H.J.Res. 57, H.J.Res. 58. I encourage you to tune into the Rules Committee Monday night at 5pm to learn more about these resolutions and how Congress can do better for our nation.
Member of Congress