Washington Watch - 3/11/19
On Friday, the House of Representatives voted on H.R. 1, a bill number reserved each Congress by the Speaker of the House for the most important agenda item of the year. Speaker Pelosi reserved H.R. 1 to address election campaign reform and election integrity, issues that are important to absolutely everyone. But then she proceeded to write a bill with no expert testimony, bipartisan input, and no serious committee consideration. Imagine that: this is supposed to be the most serious issue of the year; 10 committees were assigned to all work together to gather testimony and craft solutions, and yet nine of those committees hadn’t even had time to hold a mark-up on the legislative language before the Speaker rushed the bill to the floor. And only one committee, the House Administration Committee, which is the smallest committee in the House, only considered about half of the bill. Imagine that: this is a bill that completely rewrites state election law for all fifty states, yet the one committee that did have a mark-up on the legislation only heard from one state election official. That doesn’t sound like a very serious effort at legislating, and it wasn’t. Democrats pushed the bill through the House of Representatives in a party-line vote with every Democrat voting yes and every Republican voting no. As has sadly become a pattern this year, what could have been a bipartisan bill that would have made a difference for the nation was hijacked to become a liberal messaging document with no chance of becoming law.
Obviously, with Republicans controlling the White House and the Senate and Democrats controlling the House, bills must be bipartisan if they are to become law. And to be bipartisan, bills must contain good public policy that is broadly agreeable. H.R. 1 did not pass that test. For example, many Americans believe that political campaigns spend too much money running too many ads for too long. H.R. 1 proposed to spend even more money in the future by collecting new federal taxes and beginning to subsidize every federal political campaign in the country. Who believes federal candidates need a taxpayer subsidy? Who believes federal campaigns need to spend even more money? Apparently, every Democrat in the House does. But I don’t know one person in the 7th District who believes that we need more tv ads, more mailers, and more robocalls, but that’s what you’ll get should H.R. 1 become law…and the federal government would be paying the new bill. Nonsense!
Campaign finance reform and election integrity are serious issues, and they deserve a serious response. H.R. 1 wasn’t one. I tried to improve the bill. I tried to bring my colleagues together around more common-sense reform, but the new House leadership wasn’t willing to move an inch. So, sadly I am reporting another missed opportunity this week, though I continue to hope that each such report will be the last.
Rep. Woodall questions House Administration Committee Chair about the real costs of H.R. 1
In addition, I spoke against H.R. 1 on the floor of the House. Click on the picture below to watch my entire speech.
Rep. Woodall speaks out on the undemocratic nature of H.R. 1
As warmer weather will soon be returning, industries throughout our state have begun looking to staff-up their teams for the upcoming summer season. Small businesses like Landmark Landscapes in Norcross exhaust all venues looking for American workers to fill vacancies on its team to meet the growing demand from customers in our district. However, when those efforts fail, businesses are at risk of losing market share. Rather than forego opportunities that help their businesses grow, seasonal businesses are offered the ability to apply for H-2B visas, which allow American employers to temporarily hire foreign workers, for a few months at a time, to fulfil peak-season demand in labor, once they have certified that they cannot recruit Americans to perform the same job.
This year, given our low unemployment rate, which is at 3.8% and which further shrinks the candidate pool for these seasonal jobs, the H-2B visa program has been put under tremendous pressure to deliver. That is why I signed a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen requesting that she use the power granted to her by Congress to provide additional H-2B visas for Fiscal Year 2019. Businesses should not have to go under because they cannot find employees to do the work that they require. I’m proud to have partnered with my colleagues across the aisle and across the Capitol to support this visa program that helps Georgia businesses flourish.
Whether we need foreign workers and how many we need will always be a topic for debate and discussion, but whether those workers who come to America should come legally or not should never be open to debate. The H-2B program when successful both brings a small number of people to the country legally and provides the incentive to thousands more to wait in line for their opportunity to come next. Immigration reform has two components: solving legal immigration and solving illegal immigration. My H-2B effort does a little for both.
Last week, the Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment held a hearing to examine our nation’s clean water and wastewater infrastructure systems. We heard from a panel from witnesses about the need to ensure and maintain affordability and access to clean water in communities across the country, while simultaneously making long overdue and dire repairs to infrastructure so that it can function appropriately with today’s technology and meet the demands of its community. While it’s no secret that folks have differing opinions about how communities should go about making much needed investments to better manage water resources infrastructure without sending water utility rates sky high, I continue to believe that allowing cities and communities to pursue innovative solutions that work best for them and their residents is the best path forward, as our local county and city officials don’t want anything more than to provide for and meet the needs of their communities.
However, doing so is no easy task, and while some communities might be able to replicate the success story that Mayor David Condon of Spokane, Washington, shared with the subcommittee, who’s community invested $350 million and saved $150 million along the way, other communities cannot for various reasons, often because of the strings that burden federal dollars intended to help. As such, it’s important that we not only embrace communities looking to pursue creative solutions, but also ensure that federal funding opportunities and partnerships acknowledge innovative approaches without zeroing out the economic benefits of such solutions. Undeniably, we all want to be good stewards of our environment and our precious resources, and I wholeheartedly believe that implementing environmentally responsible and innovative solutions and ensuring financial sustainability and affordability for consumers do not have to be mutually exclusive.
Click the image below to watch my question and portion of the hearing.
Rep. Woodall discusses how economic incentives can improve water resources infrastructure with City of Spokane Mayor David Condon.
I had the pleasure of visiting with two of our five Forsyth County Commissioners last week who were in town for the National Association of Counties’ 2019 Legislative Conference. Commissioners Dennis Brown (District 2) and Cindy Jones-Mills (District 4) kindly took time out of their busy visit to provide me with an update on happenings across Forsyth County as well as to share with me the important work that is being undertaken to bolster and support our flourishing communities. One of my favorite parts about serving you in Washington is partnering with our state and county officials to deliver solutions to our friends and neighbors, and I thank the Forsyth County Board of Commissioners for the work they do in making Forsyth an outstanding county. I look forward to partnering with both Gwinnett and Forsyth County officials to deliver even more solutions in the 116th Congress.
Rep. Rob Woodall visits with Forsyth County Commissioners Dennis Brown (District 2) and Cindy Jones-Mills (District 4) in Washington, D.C.
I also had the pleasure of meeting with the Boys and Girls Club during their visit to D.C. While I’m sure we all know their name in the after-school space, folks may not readily be aware of the variety of programs they offer to better serve our nation’s youth. From youth mentoring programs, opioid preventive initiatives, and workforce readiness programs, the Boys and Girls Clubs, particularly our two local chapters in Lawrenceville and Norcross, are going even further. While I will continue looking for ways to support their mission in Congress, undeniably, their success could not be possible without their dedicated team of program directors, volunteers, staff, and mentors who are on the ground serving our youngest generations daily.
Rep. Woodall discusses how Congress can bolster the outreach of the Boys and Girls Club
Among the other groups I met with this week included farmers and veterans from across the state. Farmers with the Georgia Farm Bureau came in to share their experiences recovering from the damage of Hurricane Michael. The hurricane brought catastrophic damage to our agricultural sector—the largest industry in Georgia—and these farmers took valuable time out from running their businesses to advocate for their industry. Senators Isakson and Perdue are leading the charge in the Senate to pass a broad disaster aid package, and I’m hopeful that the House will be able to follow their lead.
Veterans with both the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) and Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) came to the office to provide updates on how the VA has changed since important reform laws, like the VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act and the VA MISSION Act, have passed. They emphasized the need for the VA to work with Congress and veterans’ groups as it begins to implement important changes to the VA healthcare system, and I couldn’t agree more. Our Veterans deserve the best care and benefits possible, and it only makes sense that the VA gets it right the first time, instead of requiring, yet again, more changes.
I had the pleasure of visiting with representatives from Hartsfield-Jackson Airport last week, along with a few other airports from across the state, who were in town to share with lawmakers their legislative priorities for the new Congress. With more than 275,000 passengers a day, direct daily flights to more than 70 countries, and Atlanta within a two-hour flight of nearly 80% of the United States’ population, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport undeniably plays a key role in generating economic growth across our great state and southeast region. As the busiest airport in the world, Hartsfield-Jackson has certainly set the bar high when it comes to operational efficiency, improving passenger experience, and partnering with airlines and concessionaires to deliver top-notch services.
That’s not to say that the world’s busiest airport has mitigated and overcome all challenges, because it has not. In fact, implementing new technologies, working with federal agencies, prioritizing passenger safety, and raising capital for much needed infrastructure improvement projects are challenges that face all airports, including Hartsfield-Jackson, each day. I certainly appreciate the important economic role our airports play in communities across the country, and I look forward to working with my colleagues on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee to ensure that airport officials have the support and tools needed to be successful.
As some of you may know, I recently introduced H.R. 849, the “Civics Learning Act of 2019,” with my friend Representative Alcee Hastings (D-FL). The bill will authorize $30 million in grants to innovative and evidence-based civic learning and teaching programs. Since its introduction I’ve heard some feedback from some of you:
Henry from Snellville:
Please rescind your support for the Civics Learning Act. I and I am certain others would not only rather make educational decisions locally but would also not want additional taxes to support the Act on a national level.
Krista from Lawrenceville:
Congressman Woodall, I am a mother of 3. I have had all my children in public, private and even home schooled. I know how important education is. However, sponsoring a bill for 30 million for a civics class is an utter waste of money. As a small business owner who is struggling to pay my high-end health care bill and you want to spend it on civics. Last I checked, all school systems teach civics. To graduate one must pass Government and Economics. When I was homeschooling my youngest in the fourth grade through a state-run online school, he was taught weeks of civics. He could not even pronounce legislative and executive branch and yet he was learning about it. We do not need to pour more money into something that already exists.
Much like Henry, I have long supported local control of education, and I have fought against attempts to impose federal, top-down mandates such since I have been in Congress. So, I am pleased to tell those who have concerns about a federal curriculum being pushed on our locally controlled schools that the “Civics Learning Act” will never do that. Instead, it will provide access to new resources for schools that choose to expand their civics education programs at all grade levels—especially to those schools that are underserved and otherwise not able to provide a quality civics education. Too often, resources are strained at schools across the country and with the number of other priorities we want our students to study, a quality civics education can get lost. How often has you heard of supporting the arts? How often have you heard of supporting math and science? How often have heard about supporting athletics? How often have you seen us focus on good citizenship? Exactly!
Krista is right that in most schools there are requirements for government and history classes, and many schools do a fantastic job. Citizenship is much more than that, of course, but students need a firm foundation, and the evidence shows that what they are getting today isn’t enough. In 2014, only 23 percent of U.S. 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 percent of Americans surveyed could name all three branches of government, only 30 percent knew the Senate is in charge of confirming Supreme Court nominees, and only 37 percent could name any of the rights guaranteed under the Constitution's First Amendment. For a self-governing people, those results are alarming.
Understanding that the needs in every community are different, the goal of the Civics Learning Act is to find model programs, like those developed in our area and elsewhere, and share them with underserved communities throughout the nation. To quote the bill, “a lack of knowledge on the basics of the structure of our democratic republic creates an increasingly ill-prepared electorate which overtime has, and will continue to, contribute to a weakened democracy.” Our local leaders in Georgia have long seen this need, and we are lucky to be led by Georgia’s State Superintendent of Schools, Richard Woods. He said, “We have roughly 180 school districts and 2,300 schools. The needs look different going from school to school and district to district, so I think having that flexibility is very welcome, but it also builds upon our civic engagement diploma seal for our high school students as well and really allows us to address some issues at the lower elementary level, as well.” My hope is that with the assistance and support of our state and local educators, we can empower Americans to be more engaged in their government.
I am sure it is no surprise that our youngest generations are continually recognized on a national level for their achievements. Our community is unique, not in that there are so many hardworking men and women who each day strive to make a difference, but because they continually succeed in doing so. Anish Bikmal, a senior at South Forsyth High School, was recently awarded the Prudential Spirit of Community Award for 2019. This is one of our nation’s largest programs that recognize outstanding achievements in volunteer efforts among our youth, and Anish was honored for his outstanding volunteer work through his non-profit organization, the Motivate and Inspire Academy, which works to address world hunger as well as give back to our community by offering tutoring programs for local students. He is 1 of only 2 students in our state to receive this honor, and I hope you will join me in congratulating him for this great achievement!
- Forsyth Herald. South Forsyth student receives national award for volunteerism
The word is out that our community is a great place to do business! As you may know if you are a frequent reader of my weekly newsletter, in these first few months of the new year, we have seen business after business decide to expand in our own backyard and invest in the skilled and creative workforce that has led to our state’s continued economic growth and success. Companies like CarMax, Academy Sports, and Souto Foods are set to join the ranks of so many others, like Boehringer Ingelheim, who have decided to invest in Georgia and the Seventh District. I look forward to continuing to partner with the people of Georgia to support policies that ensures our state remains as the #1 state in which to do business.
- Gwinnett Daily Post. CarMax creating more than 300 new jobs in Peachtree Corners
- AJC. New Academy Sports + Outdoors coming to Gwinnett, hiring 60
- AJC. Hispanic food distributor expands operations in Norcross
This week the House is going to consider H.Con.Res. 24. As I’ve said dozens of times already this year, I’m saddened that Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has taken potentially bipartisan bills and made them partisan exercises. Unfortunately, H.Con.Res. 24 is quickly becoming another failed opportunity at bipartisanship.
This measure is supposedly an attempt by the Democrat majority to ensure that the American people can read the entire report by Special Counsel Robert Mueller that will be submitted to the Attorney General. That certainly seems to be a common-sense goal, but the Democrat majority know full-well that sections of the report, like grand jury testimony, are required by law to be redacted. It was true in Ken Starr’s Clinton report, and it is still true today. If Democrats wanted to change that law, they could, but H.Con.Res. 24 isn’t an attempt to change anything. Why? Because this type of measure – a House Concurrent Resolution – can’t become law. That’s right. It is simply a “communication” from the House that restates the current law. I wish Congressional Democrats would focus on issues where we can work together to solve problems for our constituents instead of introducing partisan resolutions that are designed to divide our nation.
Member of Congress