Washington Watch - 4/10/17
By a vote of 54 to 45, Judge Neil Gorsuch was confirmed on Friday as the 113th Justice to the United States Supreme Court. This long awaited vote did not come without contention; however, I am pleased it turned out favorably for Justice Gorsuch. It is abundantly clear Justice Gorsuch possesses the knowledge, experience, and demeanor to serve as a Supreme Court Justice as demonstrated through his hearing, his rulings on cases during his tenure on the bench, and the thousands of pages of documents provided to the Senate Judiciary Committee by the U.S. Department of Justice. This confirmation reassures me that the Supreme Court will now be able to perform its responsibility at full capacity and serve our nation as intended. His Constitutionalist perspective will have a welcome place on the bench, and I look forward to his work on the court in the years to come.
- New York Times. Neil Gorsuch Confirmed by Senate as Supreme Court Justice
- Fox News. Gorsuch confirmed to Supreme Court
- Washington Post. Senate confirms Neil Gorsuch to Supreme Court
On Tuesday, the United States government learned that President Bashar al-Assad was responsible for a horrific chemical weapons attack on his own people, killing 85 and wounding many more—including nearly two dozen children. In response to this cruel, barbaric act, President Trump and his national security team made the decision to launch 59 Tomahawk missiles at aircraft, hardened aircraft shelters, petroleum and logistical storage, ammunition supply bunkers, air defense systems, and radars at the al-Shayrat airbase in Syria—the same airbase Assad is suspected to have used to deploy his chemical weapons.
If the Assad regime and its enablers were gauging America’s commitment to peace and justice, they received a clear answer from our nation and our international partners, including the United Kingdom, Jordan, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Japan, Turkey, Germany, and others that publicly supported America’s decision. That said, while America’s leadership changed on January 20th, our Constitution did not. Before acting further, it is vital that the Trump Administration present a decisive strategy to achieve our goals in Syria and work closely with Congress and the American people. I look forward to working with the Trump Administration to further those shared goals.
- Washington Post. U.S. strikes Syrian military airfield in first direct assault on Bashar al-Assad’s government
- CBS News. Allies and adversaries react to U.S. attack in Syria
- The Hill. Haley rejects closed-door Security Council meeting on Syria
In a couple of very strong, bipartisan votes last week, the House passed two bills that would update decades-old federal laws in an effort to both increase flexibility and provide greater access to capital for small businesses and startups around the nation. The first bill, the “Encouraging Employee Ownership Act of 2017,” was passed by a vote of 331-87, and it would amend U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) regulation last updated in 1999 to make it easier for companies to offer more employees ownership stakes. Such a change will allow more small businesses and startups, especially those without large amounts of cash on hand, to attract and retain talented employees.
The second bill, the “Supporting America’s Innovators Act,” passed the House by a vote of 417-3, and this bill updates a federal regulation that has been on the books for almost 80 years to allow more individuals to invest in certain qualifying venture capital funds without triggering SEC registration requirements, which are both costly and burdensome. You may recall that Congress made similar changes for individuals investing in private companies by passing the Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act in 2012, and my hope is that this important change will spur even more capital investments U.S. businesses and startups. I was pleased to support both of these pro-growth bills, and I hope that you all will join me in calling on Georgia’s Senators to approve them in short order.
- House Financial Services Committee. House Approves the Encouraging Employee Ownership Act
- House Financial Services Committee. House Passes the Supporting America’s Innovators Act
The House Rules Committee, of which I’m a member, moved ahead last week with our plan to reform our nation’s health care system. As I’ve said in the past, the American Health Care Act (AHCA) is just one step in a long-term plan to remake our nation’s health care system into one that provides greater choices for Americans. There’s been a great deal of concern that the AHCA won’t be able to keep premium prices affordable and care accessible for the sickest patients. That’s why the Rules Committee brought forth a solution to address those concerns – one that’s built on measurable results from the State of Maine.
In 2011, Maine experienced rising health insurance prices and the beginnings of an insurance death spiral with young, healthy folks leaving the marketplace. Instead of panicking and moving toward a more government-centered enterprise, Maine looked outside the box to a new health care innovation, the invisible high-risk pool. Maine’s solution, which has been retooled slightly for use in Alaska, has brought young people back to the marketplace, has kept premiums manageable and reasonable, and has allowed those with high-priced care to get the insurance they need. When the House returns from its Easter/Passover district work period, I expect that we will move this national solution, based on Maine’s great work, to the House floor.
- Health Affairs. Invisible high-risk pools: how Congress can lower premiums and deal with pre-existing conditions
- USA Today. GOP revives Obamacare repeal bill with risk sharing plan
Last week, I supported two House-passed bills to ratchet up the pressure on North Korea’s increasingly dangerous and hostile regime. H.R. 479 urges the State Department to formally designate North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism, and H. Res. 92 calls for an end to its development of nuclear weapons. Before the end of President Trump’s first term, North Korea is expected to become a fully-armed nuclear state with the potential to devastate the United States and our allies in the Pacific Rim. We can never allow this to happen, and I was encouraged to hear Secretary of State Rex Tillerson report that the United States is considering a number of additional responses to North Korea’s international provocations, which have rightly alarmed the global community. I will continue engaging with international partners—including China—to stymie North Korea’s nuclear ambitions once and for all.
- The Hill. House votes to move toward designating North Korea as state sponsor of terror
- CNN. White House: ‘The clock has now run out’ on North Korean nuclear program
Additionally, last week the House passed and sent to the President’s desk, S. 544, which will extend the Veterans Choice program that was set to expire this August. As you know, the Veterans Choice program started in 2014 as a way to allow veterans to receive necessary health care more quickly. Rather than sitting through long waits at a VA health center or clinic, or needing a course of care that the VA could not provide, the Veterans Choice program has helped over 1 million veterans get care in a timely fashion from their local community providers. This, along with bills we passed last month to make it easier for the VA to recruit medical professionals and also to remove bad employees, is just another step in the right direction towards fixing our beleaguered VA health care system and ensuring our men in women overseas come home to the best possible health care available.
If you or a family member are having trouble using your Veterans Choice Card, or are unsure if you qualify for the card, please do not hesitate to contact my office at 770-232-3005 and one of our dedicated VA caseworkers will assist you so that you can get the health care treatment that you need and deserve.
Irrespective of the topic, when I make the case in Washington for local control and community-driven solutions rather than federal intervention, it is the story we have to tell here at home that makes the impression on others on Capitol Hill. And that wouldn’t be the case if it was only words. We have example after example of ways we confronted a challenge in our community and crafted a solution together. This doesn’t happen because we always agree on every issue. It happens because at the end of the day we know we’re on the same team, and acknowledge there’s plenty to learn from one another. You don’t have to look far to see the result of those efforts either.
One such example can be found right here in Forsyth County with the partnership of the University of North Georgia (UNG), Lanier Technical College, and Forsyth County Schools to share ideas and approaches that have been successful in one place, and perhaps implement elsewhere. Leaders from each organization joined in what was the first meeting of its kind recently to have that conversation, and as UNG Foundation Chairwoman Mary Helen McGruder said, “This opportunity was for the schools to come together and see what each one of them is doing and see how they can partner together for the benefit of the students,” McGruder said. “That’s what they’re all here for — to benefit the students in our region, and this was an opportunity for everyone to get on the same page and move forward.” That kind of initiative and cooperation is why we’re successful across the board in our part of the world, and I couldn’t be prouder to carry that message to Washington.
- Forsyth County News. Educational partnerships touted in Cumming's Alliance Academy
In many ways it’s hard to believe, but spring is here in full force, Passover is upon us, and Easter Sunday is fast approaching. I’ve always loved this time of year for many reasons, and this year is no different. Spring is a time of renewal, and the holidays we celebrate this week share that prevailing message.
This past week was also spring break for students across the Seventh District, and I was thrilled to have many families stop by my office on Capitol Hill for tours or just to say hello. There’s a certain excitement that comes with springtime, and it wouldn’t be the same without sharing that portrait of spring with you all who take the time to visit. We live in a time that certainly has its challenges, and we all lead busy lives with no shortage of obligations each day. It’s easy to get bogged down in the routine, but as spring break concludes and we begin Passover and Easter week, I hope we are all able to take a few moments amid the work that must be done to enjoy a season of renewal. I wish you and your family a very blessed and joyous holiday!
Member of Congress