Washington Watch - 5/13/13
SOUTH KOREA: A FRIEND AND ALLY
Last Wednesday, President Park Geun-hye, the first female President of the Republic of Korea, addressed a joint meeting of Congress. I attended the joint meeting and took with me two representatives from the Seventh District, Mr. Travis Kim, Senior Executive Vice President of the Korean-American Chamber of Commerce, USA, and President of the Korean-American Association of Greater Atlanta, and Mr. Andy Kim, Vice President of the Korean-American Chamber of Commerce, U.S.A., Chairman and CEO of Corman Global Group, and Secretary of Korea Southeast U.S. Chamber of Commerce, U.S.A.
Rep. Woodall with Travis Kim (left) and Andy Kim
The United States and South Korea have shared a long alliance based on a series of strong mutual values and interests. For decades now, the two countries have worked together to promote and strengthen democratic institutions and free market principals in Asia and the surrounding region. The United States and South Korea continue to coordinate closely on a variety of national security issues involving North Korea. And, as South Korea’s economy has grown over the years, the United States and South Korea have established a very important trade and investment partnership. The partnership between the United States and South Korea is one of the strongest in the world today, and will continue to grow in the coming years both politically and economically.
HOLDING THE ADMINISTRATION ACCOUNTABLE ON BENGHAZI
Also last Wednesday, my colleagues and I on the Oversight Committee heard hours of testimony from three Benghazi witnesses who revealed brand new information about the events leading up to the attack and the events that followed. State Department official Gregory Hicks, then the number two official at the U.S. Embassy behind Ambassador Chris Stevens, testified that he had personally briefed then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton about the terrorist attack unfolding in Benghazi. He also revealed that State Department officials were instructed not to speak openly with a Congressional chairman who was investigating the incident. Perhaps most troubling of all, one of the witnesses testified that, in his view, no substantive changes have been made that would prevent another tragedy like Benghazi. You can be sure that I will continue to seek answers from the Administration until we get to the bottom of this issue. We can’t undo the tragedy of Benghazi, but we can take steps to ensure that future tragedies do not occur. I expect several more hearings as both Democrats and Republicans on the Committee have many questions that still have not been answered.
Click on the image below to watch my line of questioning at last week's hearing.
Click image or here to watch video.
INTRODUCING NEW LEGISLATION: THE BASELINE REFORM ACT
When you and I sit down and plan our budgets, we certainly don’t just assume we will have more money to spend each year. There is no reason, especially in an economic recession, that Washington should either. Unfortunately, under current federal budget rules, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) must assume in its budget projections—the so-called “budget baseline”—that the federal government will spend more each year. That is why Washington math calls a $5 spending increase a “cut”—it is a cut from the baseline projected increase of $7, for example. The bill I introduced last week, the “Baseline Reform Act,” eliminates Washington math once and for all by requiring the CBO to end its practice of inflating spending year after year.
I hope you’ll join me in supporting this important budget bill. You can read my official statement on the Baseline Reform Act by clicking here. You can read the text of the Baseline Reform Act by clicking here.
PREVENTING DEFAULT AS WE STRIVE TO END DEFICITS
On May 19, 2013, the U.S. Treasury will hit a new statutory debt limit. Much like you and I have been able to use the debt limit to negotiate real spending cuts and convince the Senate to pass a budget, the House of Representatives will not increase the debt limit again without further progress toward balancing the budget and ending the decades-long cycle of borrowing and spending. To prevent a fiscal crisis in the event that we cannot reach agreement on the debt limit, last Thursday the House of Representatives passed H.R. 807, the “Full Faith and Credit Act” by a vote of 221 to 207. This legislation, of which I am a proud cosponsor, will ensure the U.S. Treasury has the cash flow to roll over existing debt and pay outstanding debt and principal. This provision ensures that the United States will never default on our debt. I disagree with the President about whether the U.S. should continue to borrow from tomorrow to pay for today’s bills, but I hope that he will agree with me that all Americans are disadvantaged by the risk of default. H.R. 807 eliminates that risk once and for all.
KEYSTONE PIPELINE: CONTINUING THE PUSH FORWARD
As you know, I have been a longtime supporter of the Keystone Pipeline—a project that will put thousands of Americans to work, offer relief at the pump for American families, and removes America's dependence on foreign oil. Folks have expressed valid concerns about the environmental impact of a new oil pipeline. However, President Obama’s own Administration has already conducted two detailed studies on the environmental impact of the pipeline, and both studies found that there would be a minimal impact on the environment. Despite the encouraging findings from his own Administration, the President and radical environmental allies have continued to hold this project hostage. That’s why I cosponsored H.R. 3, the “Northern Route Approval Act,” which takes the decision out of the hands of the President and allows Congress to approve the project. Earlier this spring, the Senate took an encouraging step by easily clearing an amendment supporting the Keystone Pipeline, so it appears that now the only thing standing in the way of reliable energy and new jobs is the President and his Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid. This bill will soon be finished with the committee process in the House and I hope that we will pass it and send it to the Senate as soon as possible.
PROVIDING FLEXIBILITY FOR WORKING FAMILIES
Last week the House moved to provide hourly workers with a degree of flexibility in how they are compensated for overtime hours. H.R. 1406, the “Working Families Flexibility Act,” will allow hourly-employees and their employers to enter into a mutual agreement whereby they can either continue to receive time and a half overtime payments, or they can instead receive time and a half compensatory time off. I was proud to give my support to this bill. H.R. 1406 will help working moms and dads make more ball games, school plays, or doctor’s appointments. This common-sense benefit is already available for government employees and union employees. H.R. 1406 changes federal law so that all private sector employees have the same choices. This change is long overdue, and I hope that the Senate will rush this bill to the President’s desk for his signature.
IN THE SENATE: MARKETPLACE FAIRNESS ACT
Last week the Senate passed the Marketplace Fairness Act. This bill allows states to require Internet-based retailers who have no physical presence in the state to collect sales taxes from consumers and remit those taxes to the state. Proponents of the bill argue that it’s unfair that states can force local retailers to collect sales taxes, but can’t force online retailers to do the same. They say that this hurts local businesses and drives Americans to buy online instead of downtown. Opponents of the bill argue that there is no need for this law because those states, including Georgia, that levy sales taxes right now already require residents to remit sales taxes to the state. The states simply need to enforce current law instead of looking to create new laws. In addition, opponents are concerned that the bill requires online retailers to calculate taxes based on where the purchaser lives rather than from where the item was purchased. This is an entirely new way to calculate sales taxes. Brick-and-mortar retailers charge sales tax based on the jurisdiction in which the store is located, not based on where the purchaser lives. As such, opponents of the measure believe that the bill will actually create an unequal playing field.
Though some want the House to move quickly on approving this bill, you can see that there are significant concerns on both sides of this issue. As such, the House is going to take its time on this measure and allow it to have a thorough hearing process in the House Judiciary Committee. I look forward to the Judiciary Committee’s future work on this issue, and I encourage you to make your voice heard on this issue in the coming weeks.
OUTLOOK FOR THE WEEK
This week, the House will consider the following major pieces of legislation:
H.R. 1062, the “SEC Regulatory Accountability Act”
H.R. 45, a bill to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and health care-related provisions in the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010
Thank you for all that you do to keep America strong.
Member of Congress