Washington Watch - 5/8/17
At the end of last week, and after weeks of debate and amendments, the House advanced the “American Health Care Act (AHCA).” As I’ve said before, the AHCA marks the first of what will ultimately be many steps to reform our nation’s health care system and address the continuing collapse of Obamacare. The urgency of providing solutions was amplified last week as even more families were put at risk as the only remaining Obamacare plan in much of Iowa announced it would no longer participate in Obamacare. With this withdrawal, tens of thousands of Iowans – including many with pre-existing conditions – will join the thousands of Americans in Tennessee who will have no health insurance options left on the ACA exchanges next year. Hundreds of thousands of Americans elsewhere (including here in Georgia) will have only one choice left on the exchange next year. No matter how high or low your hopes were for Obamacare, we can all agree that choice was the goal and Obamacare failed.
We can do better as a nation, and the House took action last week on a bill containing reforms that will lead to more insurance options for more Americans and more stable insurance markets for all Americans, and I hope that you all will really dig into its provisions and share your thoughts with me as this important debate continues. This process will be long and hard—and I want to be certain not to over promise and under deliver—but I am certain that if we work together we can not only stop the continuing damage to our health system but we will improve it and put patients—not insurance companies or federal bureaucrats—back in charge. Now that the House has acted, the opportunity to implement solutions moves to the U.S. Senate, and I look forward to reviewing what our Senators come up with.
- Washington Post. My son has a preexisting condition. He’s one of the reasons I voted for the AHCA
- CNN. House Republicans pass bill to replace and repeal Obamacare
- Reuters. House Republicans repeal Obamacare, hurdles await in U.S. Senate
This week, the U.S. House passed H.R. 244, the “Consolidated Appropriations Act,” which funds the government through September 2017 and invests an additional $25 billion in our nation's armed forces, including the largest pay raise for troops in six years. Also on the list of priorities advanced through the bill are $42.7 million in funding for the ongoing Savannah Harbor Expansion Project (SHEP), the largest increase in border security funding in a decade -- $12.2 billion – and funding for the implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act, which shifts school control and accountability back to states and communities.
For me, this spending bill is a statement of a new direction for America, and I’m pretty excited. This bill implements badly needed increases in defense spending, moves money to border protection and enforcement, eliminates federal domestic programs, bolsters our infrastructure initiatives by fully funding the FAST Act we passed 2 years ago, and much, much more. President Trump believes that this funding bill is reflective of his Administration’s policy goals, and he asked every member of Congress to support him by supporting the bill. I think that the big bipartisan vote in favor of it is good for America, and I know that we are building a foundation to deliver even more in the FY2018 bill later this year.
On a local level, in Georgia and in the 7th District, we find resources in the FY2017 bill that really help us move forward—over $40 million for the Savannah Harbor Project, disaster relief for Georgia, and the increased military spending will have a tremendous impact on all of our bases in very specific ways – like $128 million for the fielding of next generation JSTARS battle management and surveillance aircraft, which will be stationed at Robins Air Force Base – and $6.7 billion for DOD cyber operations at Fort Gordon, and perhaps most importantly, a 2.1 percent pay raise for the more than 100,000 active duty service members stationed in Georgia.”
The impact the military spending increase has on Georgia goes even further. The bill provides funding for additional C-130J cargo aircraft and F-35 Joint Strike Fighter components manufactured in Marietta, Georgia, and in Savannah they will be busy as funding in the bill provides for a G550 produced by Gulf Stream to be used in the Air Force’s “Compass-Call” electronic-attack mission.
It’s always important to remember that the work is never done simply because one bill is passed. There is more to do, and there are improvements that can be made, but this bill delivers on the commitment to rebuild our military, secure our borders, protect innocent life, and much more. It also positions us to make even more progress going forward.
I invite you all to use the below link from the House Appropriations Committee to read more about the FY2017 Consolidated Omnibus Appropriations Act, and as I mentioned last week, I hope that you all will share your thoughts and ideas with me as Congress begins the fiscal year 2018 budget and appropriations process.
- House Appropriations Committee. FY2017 Consolidated Omnibus Appropriations Act
- Atlanta Journal Constitution. Georgia reps see things to like, dislike in federal spending deal
I’m proud the House passed H.R. 1180, the “Working Families Flexibility Act of 2017,” last week. Specifically, the bill allows employers to offer hourly employees the option of receiving time-and-a-half pay for overtime work, as employers are required to do today, or – if employers and employees agree – employees could choose to receive an hour and a half of compensatory time off. Today, the law prohibits employers from offering and employees from accepting this option. For many working parents, the ability to bank extra paid time off will allow them to attend a child’s school event or take their child to the doctor. Maybe you’d rather have extra time off to visit a family member who lives in another state. This bill empowers you to make those choices so that you can better balance your work-life and your home-life. Federal government workers have long had this choice, and it’s about time that Congress end the prohibition preventing the rest of America’s hourly workers from having the same flexibility. I have supported this bill for years, and I am pleased to advance it to the Senate.
- The Hill. Choice, fairness in workplace flexibility
- Washington Post. House Republicans just voted to change overtime rules for workers
I heard from many of you last week who were concerned – and rightfully so – that the House was exempting itself from the provisions of the AHCA. That isn’t true, but the arcane budget rules of the Senate raised the concern, so the House took one additional step to ensure the AHCA applies equally to everyone. The issue arose when the MacArthur Amendment was added to the AHCA. The MacArthur Amendment allows states to seek waivers to improve their health care system, but the amendment specifically excluded the section of law which impacts Congress and the D.C. exchange. Why? Because the AHCA is moving forward through a process called “reconciliation.” The benefit of reconciliation is that a bill can move through the Senate with 51 votes instead of 60. The burden of reconciliation is that a lot of extra procedural rules apply, and violations of those rules allow the bill to be killed in the Senate. Simply mentioning Congress and the D.C. exchange would have given another committee jurisdiction over the AHCA, and – according to Senate rules – adding that committee would allow any member of the Senate to kill the bill. To avoid this silly rule, prior to voting on the AHCA, however, the House voted unanimously to approve a separate bill – H.R. 2192 – that will move alongside the AHCA and will ensure that Congress and the D.C. exchange are treated exactly the same as the rest of the states. If you would like more information about this issue, I encourage you to read the below article, which does a very nice job of explaining what happened and why.
- New York Times. Fact Check: Is Congress Exempt From the G.O.P. Health Bill?
Like many of you, I have grown increasingly alarmed by the wanton behavior of the North Korean regime. The uptick of rhetoric, military exercises, and less than successful missile tests have done nothing but increase the instability and insecurity of the Korean peninsula and the region at large. That is why I joined my colleagues in the House to pass almost unanimously H.R. 1644, the “Korean Interdiction and Modernization of Sanctions Act.” This bill aims to increase economic sanctions on North Korea, targeting its shipping industry and companies that continue to do business with the regime. By doing so, we will limit North Korea’s ability to fund its military capabilities and nuclear arsenal by preventing businesses from investing their capital in this rogue state. It is imperative for us to do what is in our power to create a safer, more peaceful region for our allies, and I am hopeful the Senate will take up this bill quickly and send it to the president’s desk so that we can bring North Korea back to the negotiating table.
- The Hill. House votes to create new North Korea sanctions
- Reuters. U.S. House approves tighter North Korea sanctions
Not even a week on the job, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue has hit the ground running as he announced that schools will no longer be required to adopt stricter sodium standards for their lunch programs. While well intentioned, nutrition requirements put in place under the previous administration received a lot of criticism from students and school nutritionists alike. I have had meeting after meeting with our local school nutrition specialists who are committed to our children but who are being prevented from doing their best because of burdensome federal rules. Meals became less appetizing to those in the program, food waste increased as students were mandated to take food they did not want, and producers were forced to add artificial fillers to make up for the ingredients that they could no longer use.
We can all agree that it is important for our children to have access to healthy, nutritious food when they are at school, and we all want to ensure school lunch vendors are providing those options to our students. But we must also allow students, parents, and school nutritionists to come together and make those decisions for instead of having those decisions made for them by the federal government. In fact, that is exactly what a group of school nutritionists from Forsyth County came to Washington, D.C., recently to tell Congress. I believe Secretary Perdue’s announcement will allow for greater flexibility and greater participation in the school lunch program, which means a better experience for all of our children. I can assure you that the House will continue to support Secretary Perdue, and we will continue to do all that we can to free our local schools to serve our students the very best ways they know how.
- Atlanta Journal Constitution. Sonny Perdue moves to loosen federal school lunch rules
- ABC News. Trump administration relaxing Obama-era school lunch standards
We do a great many things well in our community, and athletics is right there in the mix. The role athletics plays in the development of our young people helps teach work ethic and mold character. We’re fortunate to have so many dedicated coaches and trainers here at home who understand that balance and help not only pass along the love of a game, but the life-lessons that seem to always accompany the work required to be successful. We see it in a talented class of athletes graduating from West Forsyth High School who have earned collegiate scholarships, and we see it in the 11 young men from our community getting the opportunity just last week to realize their dream in the NFL. But whether it’s on an athletic field, in a board room, a publically elected seat, or a family living room, passion and hard work pay off. Congratulations once again to each of these remarkably talented, dedicated individuals for earning the opportunity to tackle the next challenge. We’re all routing for you!
- Gwinnett Daily Post. Four Gwinnett grads selected on the final day of NFL Draft
- Forsyth County News. 12 athletes sign scholarships at West Forsyth
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