Washington Watch - 4/1/19
Last week, the House Budget Committee met for back-to-back hearings to review President Trump’s policy priorities from his FY2020 funding request, A Budget for a Better America.
First, we met with Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Deputy Secretary Eric Hargan who shared with us the successes HHS has had in reducing prescription drug prices, fighting the opioid crisis, stabilizing the Affordable Care Act exchanges, and dropping the national average benchmark premium price on HealthCare.gov for the first time. Deputy Secretary Hargan also shared the Department’s plan to effectively address and combat the HIV and AIDS virus, as well as the Department’s plan to increase our biodefense preparedness in the case of a bio-attack or pathogen outbreak.
I had a chance to speak with Deputy Secretary Hargan about HHS’ plans to address preventable, hospital-acquired illnesses, the authority given to Georgia Governor Brian Kemp to request Affordable Care Act and Medicaid waivers, and security concerns at our Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) facility in Georgia. Click on the picture below to watch our full exchange.
Rep. Woodall speaks with Department of Health and Human Services Deputy Secretary Eric Hargan during the House Budget Committee’s Hearing on Department of Health and Human Services FY 2020 Budget
The House Budget Committee also met with Department of Defense (DOD) Deputy Secretary David Norquist to review the Pentagon’s funding request for FY2020. Deputy Secretary Norquist spoke about the increasing threats posed to us by both Russia and China, our impaired readiness from chronic underfunding, and efforts to improve recruitment and retention of military personnel as justifications for the Department’s increased funding request. With that in mind, I questioned Deputy Secretary Norquist about our efforts to confront these challenges in a fiscally intelligent and effective way. If you would like to see our conversation, click on the picture below.
Rep. Woodall speaks with Department of Defense Deputy Secretary David Norquist during the House Budget Committee’s Hearing on Department of Defense FY 2020 Budget
The Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress is not the first – nor do I believe it will be the last – effort to reform the procedures of the House to make the institution more effective. Last Wednesday, the Select Committee met with a panel of experts from academia and private sector think tanks to discuss such past efforts to see what they set out to accomplish and how those adaptations affect how we conduct business today. Some past reforms noted during the hearing were positive, like implementing electronic voting, while others were beneficial but had unintended consequences, like introducing C-SPAN coverage to the House floor which allowed Members to be disengaged from debate and encouraged political grandstanding.
I spoke with the witnesses on our panel about empowering our constituents' voices by increasing Member input and decentralizing decision making and about process reforms that can build trust and bipartisanship in the Chamber. If you’re interested in seeing our discussion, click on the photo below.
Rep. Woodall questions a panel of experts during the Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress hearing entitled “Congressional Reforms of the Past and Their Effect on Today’s Congress”
This Committee’s work is about modernization and reform, and we must find ways to balance new ideas with outcomes that will shape future Congresses in a positive way. Our Committee is made up of exceptionally driven and hardworking individuals, and I am hopeful we will propose solutions that will make us work better.
Thank you, Vice President Pence, for visiting the brave men and women of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Atlanta. Supporting these public servants should be a bipartisan goal, and with the exception of a few shrill voices on the far left, I believe it can be. I sat down with 11 Alive News and discussed how President Trump can find a bipartisan way to secure our border and prioritize legal immigration. Click on the image below to watch my interview with 11 Alive.
On Tuesday, March 19, Gwinnett County voted, for the first time in nearly 30 years, to expand public transit. In a decisive vote of 54.32% to 45.68%, Gwinnett residents rejected the proposed MARTA expansion for the third time, though the vote grows closer each time.
Our amazing local leaders, like Chairman Charlotte Nash in Gwinnett, have provided great leadership as we fight congestion and plan for future growth and prosperity. Responding to the crisis at the federal level is easy; preventing a future crisis by planning decades ahead at the local level is hard. I hope that you are as proud of the work of our county commissioners as I am!
With the vote behind us, we now turn our attention to the next steps. I spoke to the Gwinnett Daily Post about what the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee can do to partner with local leaders to improve our transportation systems in the near term. We are working together in Congress to send the President a bipartisan infrastructure bill. Click the image below to read the full article.
With a Democratic House and Republican Senate, it’s easy to be cynical about what Congress can accomplish in the next two years. Republicans and Democrats can work together on common-sense solutions to make prescription drugs more affordable, eradicate the HIV/AIDS virus, and reduce burdensome regulations that stifle job creation. I encourage Speaker Pelosi, Leader McConnell, and President Trump to come to the table and draft bipartisan solutions that will secure our border and will rebuild our crumbling infrastructure. Click on the image below to watch my appearance on Varney and Co.
A heartfelt thank you to Mitsubishi Electric U.S. President & CEO, Keijiro Hora, for making time to visit with me in Washington, D.C. Mitsubishi Electric has an HVAC warehouse facility in Suwanee, which so many of you might see as you drive down I-85, and the company is a wonderful partner in Georgia’s Seventh Congressional District. You can’t have a conversation about energy efficiency and innovation without including Mitsubishi Electric, and Georgia workers and consumers benefit from that effort.
Last week the House voted on a resolution expressing opposition to banning service in the Armed Forces by openly transgender individuals. As you are all aware, this has been a contentious issue since former Secretary of Defense James Mattis first announced a delay in implementing transgender enlistments in June 2017. Here is what I am hearing:
Paige from Lilburn:
Support transgender rights in the military. All service members serve with dignity and honor to protect our country.
Andrew from Lawrenceville:
I am a voter in your district. I Oppose the legislation H. Res. 124, "Expressing opposition to banning service in the Armed Forces by openly transgender individuals.". I’ve listened to both sides of this topic. Personally, transgender folks have a lot to deal with in normal life. Adding the high risk potential of military service goes against my better judgment. I urge you to vote against it.
Mary from Alpharetta:
I am writing to urge you to vote “no” on H.Res. 124. This resolution condemns the President's policy on not allowing transgender individuals who suffer from gender dysphoria to serve in the military and is filled with false information. The Department of Defense found that allowing these individuals to serve would adversely affect military readiness. The Supreme Court has ruled to uphold this directive, but Democrats refuse to let it go. Congress should work on legislation that helps American families and improves the economy instead of resolutions that do not provide any results. The military is NOT an arena for social experiments! Vote “NO” on H.Res. 124
As I mentioned before, the House passed H.Res. 124 last week. While I opposed the measure for a couple of different reasons, I would first like to recognize that any American’s desire to serve his or her country is noble, and we must respect the dignity of all people.
Prior to 2016, there was a complete ban on transgender service in the military. That changed in 2016 when President Obama’s Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter instituted a new policy allowing transgender individuals to serve openly under the conditions that applicants must have completed all medical treatment and be stable in their preferred gender 18 months prior to enlisting. In 2017, before the policy was fully phased-in, former Secretary of Defense James Mattis delayed it in order to review its impact on military readiness. A month after that, President Trump announced his decision to reverse the Obama-era policy. Since then, there have been four lawsuits filed against the decision, and the Department of Defense just recently released its new policy. That new policy, which goes into effect on April 12, 2019, says:
- Current transgender service members with a diagnosis of gender dysphoria would be grandfathered under the Obama-era policy and would be exempt from the Administration’s policy change;
- Non-exempt transgender individuals would be permitted to serve openly in the military, so long as they are capable of serving in their biologically assigned sex;
- Applicants diagnosed with gender dysphoria must be medically stable for a minimum of 36 months (previous policy required stability for 18 months), prior to entering military service, and they must serve in their biologically assigned sex; and
- Applicants that have undergone treatment to medically transition would be presumptively disqualified from serving in the military. Applicants would be permitted to file a waiver request to the provisions outlined in the memo.
This policy does not diverge from existing standards for joining the military, which preclude those with conditions such as anxiety, depression, and other medical issues from joining. Former Secretary of Defense Mattis said it best: “It is a bedrock principle of the Department of Defense that any eligible individual who can meet the high standards for military service without special accommodations should be permitted to serve.” Until there is evidence that reversing the policy would not have negative effects on military effectiveness and lethality, I don’t expect this policy to change. It is worth noting, however, that H. Res. 124 wasn’t an effort to change existing law. It was simply an “opinion” bill. If you ever wonder when Congress is trying to make a point and when Congress is trying to make a difference, look at the bill designation. An “H.R.” or an “H.J.Res.” can be signed into law, but an “H. Res.” never can be; it simply voices an opinion.
I never ceased to be amazed by the incredible spirit of generosity in our community, and it is that spirit that was on full display in Cumming during a recent event to honor and support Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office Detective Drue Green. Detective Green recently received a liver transplant, and to support his recovery, local businesses and families came together to give back in a big way – raising roughly $50,000! I think this success just goes to show that when a call is placed to help our friends and neighbors, our community goes above and beyond that call. I know we all are wishing Detective Green a speedy recovery, and I want to commend everyone who donated their times and talents for such a worthy cause.
- Forsyth County News. ‘I can’t believe it’: Event raises $50K for Forsyth County detective recovering from liver transplant
Every week when you read the newspaper or turn on the news, you’ll see no shortage of folks from our community doing incredible and inspiring things.
If you are a frequent viewer of Jeopardy, you may have recognized a familiar face on the show this past Friday, as Andrew Simmons had the opportunity to compete and represent Lilburn on the program! And when it comes to excellence in service, our community is second to none. During their annual awards banquet, Gwinnett County Public Schools recently recognized three incredible employees: Julie Peterson, Gretchen Arnold and Hannah Robinson for their outstanding service for our students. What’s more, Rebecca Russell and Melissa Sinyard with Forsyth County’s 911 Center were honored as the Communications Director of the Year and Supervisor of the Year, respectively, at the Georgia Emergency Communications Conference award ceremony earlier this month.
Please join me in congratulating these hardworking individuals for honorably representing and serving our friends and neighbors!
- Gwinnett Daily Post. Lilburn resident to compete on 'Jeopardy'
- Gwinnett Daily Post. Gwinnett County Public Schools recognizes transportation professionals at annual banquet
- Patch. Forsyth County 911 Operators Honored By State
This week the House will consider a number of measures, including H.R. 1585 and S.J.Res. 7. H.R. 1585 would reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), but unfortunately, instead of doing so in a bipartisan way – as has been done each time VAWA has been reauthorized before under both Democrat and Republican leadership – this measure currently includes highly partisan and controversial unrelated measures. In addition, the House will consider another controversial bill, S.J.Res. 7, which would direct the removal of U.S. Armed Forces from the on-going conflict in Yemen. And as always, the full list of other measures that may be considered this week can be found by CLICKING HERE.
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