Washington Watch - 6/20/16
Congress has the crucial role of not only overseeing the Executive Branch and its agencies, but also making certain that any abuse is stopped. As a result of unrelenting oversight efforts led by the House Ways and Means Committee, the IRS recently notified Congress of its decision to further review cases involving improper asset seizure from small-business owners. The civil asset forfeiture policies in question were never intended to be used as a heavy-handed punishment for hard-working Americans, but rather to help apprehend human traffickers, drug dealers, and other criminals. In 2014, the agency changed its policy to reflect this important clarification, but had not made any attempt to reimburse the men and women damaged by its actions – until now. Thankfully, approximately 700 Americans will now have that opportunity for reimbursement. While the negative impact cannot be erased, this is an important step in the right direction, and a win for hard-working Americans across the country.
Last week, I was very proud to see the House continue to move forward with regular order and the annual appropriations process and pass H.R. 5293, the “FY2017 Department of Defense Appropriations Act,” with a strong, bipartisan 282 to 138 vote. While each of the twelve appropriations bills play an important role in our government, the Department of Defense bill that we passed is arguably the most important because it provides the necessary resources for the federal government to fulfill one of its most vital and fundamental roles: to provide for the common defense of the American people.
This critically important legislation funds everything from troop pay, healthcare, and training to our nation’s ongoing fight overseas against ISIS and other terror groups, sophisticated new weapons systems that give our troops an edge on the battlefield, and everything else in between. For such an important bill, it is equally important that we get the process right for considering it, and with 75 amendments debated on the House floor from both sides of the aisle and many hours of deliberation, I am also very proud of the robust and comprehensive process in which this legislation moved forward. Giving the American people a direct voice into the way their hard-earned taxpayer dollars are spent in Washington could not be more important, and I look forward to continue doing just that with consideration of even more appropriations bills in the coming weeks.
- Gwinnett Daily Post. Woodall praises defense spending bill
- Defense News. House Passes Defense Appropriations
- Military Times. House advances $576 billion defense spending bill
Last week the House passed H.R. 5053, the “Preventing IRS Abuse and Protecting Free Speech Act,” which prohibits the IRS from collecting the identity of individuals who donate money to tax exempt organizations. I’ve heard concerns about the IRS from many of you in the few short years that I’ve represented your voice in Washington, and while you have all raised a number of issues in your communications with me, the one thing almost every call and email had in common was a lack of belief that the IRS was working for you rather than against you. I have heard from leaders of non-profits here in Georgia specifically about their concern about the new IRS reporting requirements and their support for a solution like H.R. 5053.
During the debate about H.R. 5053 at the Rules Committee last week, I shared a story about a Seventh District resident who was being audited by the IRS and was concerned that the IRS had initiated the audit because of donations made to a specific charitable organization. The story highlights the troubling perception that folks across our nation have of the IRS. There is a breakdown in trust that must be restored, and H.R. 5053 represents another step towards that goal.
- The Hill. House passes bill to ban IRS from collecting donor information
- Accounting Today. House Passes Bill to Prevent IRS from Collecting Names of Donors to Tax-Exempt Groups
The recent attack in Orlando is yet another truly sobering reminder of the very real impact terrorism already has here in the American homeland and that there’s much more work to be done to thwart terrible attacks like these before they ever happen. In response to these attacks, the House came together last week to pass H.R. 5471, the “Countering Terrorist Radicalization Act,” on a resounding 402 to 15 vote. While it’s no secret that Washington is divided on a number of issues, the safety and security of American families is absolutely not one of those issues, and I was very proud to see such an overwhelming majority of my colleagues come together and send this legislation to the Senate.
H.R. 5471 combines three very important bills that the House has already passed separately, but has packaged together in this legislation to facilitate consideration in the Senate so that it advances to the President’s desk for his signature as quickly as possible. These bills provide the Homeland Security Department with new tools to counter the propaganda machine of ISIS and other terror groups, improve the outreach of federal authorities to whistleblowers in communities who often spot signs of radicalization first, and take a variety of other steps with the sole purpose of improving our nation’s efforts to prevent the unthinkable from happening again. While I know that much more work remains to be done to keep American families safe, this package of bills is an important step in the right direction, and I’m looking forward to the House taking up even more common-sense ideas to make our nation safer and more secure.
- USA Today. House passes bills to combat radicalization of Americans by terrorists
- Homeland Security Committee. In the Wake of Orlando, House Passes Bundle of Bills to Counter Extremism and Combat Racialization
The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, on which I served in the 113th Congress, just voted to censure IRS Commissioner John Koskinen for his failure to cooperate with Congress’ investigation into the IRS targeting scandal. This is a step toward full impeachment and could ultimately result in his removal from office and the forfeiture of government benefits such as his federal pension. Democrats in Congress have largely defended the IRS’s indefensible behavior making impeachment look unlikely. However, House Republicans will continue working to ensure that government officials trusted with the public’s business cooperate fully with serious investigations into allegations of wrongdoing and insist on accountability for those who don’t.
- Bloomberg. House committee votes to censure U.S. IRS Chief Koskinen
- Townhall. Oversight committee votes to censure IRS Commissioner
- Washington Times. House to take first vote to censure IRS chief
This week the House is expected to consider a package of bills from the Ways and Means Committee that will provide Americans with more access, greater flexibility, and better choices in their health care. They promote health care innovation and empower individuals and families to make their own decision about health care spending. This is exactly how it should be, and I’m proud we’re bringing these small but meaningful changes to the House floor.
The House is also expected to consider our fourth appropriations bill of the year – the FY17 Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act – which provides funding for the Treasury Department, the Judiciary, the Small Business Administration, and the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Finally, the House is going to pass H.R. 4768, the “Separation of Powers Restoration Act of 2016,” which restores the power of the Judicial Branch to resolve ambiguity in federal legislation without regard to interpretations offered by the Executive Branch.
Member of Congress