Washington Watch - 6/27/16
The U.S. Supreme Court deadlocked 4-4 last week on the question of whether or not President Obama’s most recent “Deferred Action” program could move forward, which effectively ends the effort altogether. While the New York Times described this decision as a blow to Obama’s “legacy,” I view it as a major victory for the idea of constitutional government.
No matter where you stand on the issue of immigration, Americans across the political spectrum should celebrate this affirmation by our judicial system that one individual cannot run roughshod over the people’s elected representatives to reshape our nation to suit his or her policy preferences. The White House and its Democratic supporters bemoaned the Supreme Court’s decision today, but you can bet they will be thankful that these critical checks and balances are in place when a future Republican president decides to take his own “executive action.” Laws matter. The Constitution matters. And the people of this great nation are still in charge.
- USA Today. Deadlocked Supreme Court blocks Obama on immigration
- NBC News. Supreme Court tie dooms Obama immigration policy
- CNN. Deadlocked Supreme Court deals big blow to Obama immigration plan
Just as with immigration policy, the Article III Courts also halted another example of the President’s overreach last week when the U.S. District Court in Wyoming struck down the Administration’s hydraulic fracturing regulations. In the words of Judge Scott W. Skavdahl, “Congress’ inability or unwillingness to pass a law desired by the executive branch does not default authority to the executive branch to act independently, regardless of whether hydraulic fracturing is good or bad for the environment or the citizens of the United States.” I could not agree more with Judge Skavdahl, and given that hydraulic fracturing is already heavily regulated by the industry itself and by the states in which it occurs, these regulations would have been an unnecessary impediment to the responsible development of this energy source.
Hydraulic fracturing has been very important in our nation’s domestic energy resurgence, and it has moved the dial of progress in the right direction for a balanced “all of the above” energy portfolio. While I am a member of the Republican Party, I will never forget that I am an American first, and I applaud the District Court’s decision, not as a victory over a Democratic President, but as a victory for American democracy, American jobs, and America’s energy future.
- New York Times. Obama Fracking Rule Is Struck Down by Court
- The Hill. Obama-appointed judge strikes down federal fracking rule
Last week, House and Senate negotiators completed work on a unified conference agreement to provide funding for Zika virus preparation and response efforts. The House immediately passed the Zika virus funding measure, and the Senate is expected to vote on it this week. Building on the nearly $600 million that has already been allocated to combat the Zika virus, the Zika Response and Preparedness Act provides an additional $1.1 billion in federal funding for virus vaccine development, mosquito control and readiness, diagnostic testing, and more. The bill also removes a duplicative federal regulatory hurdle that makes it more difficult and expensive for local governments to spray pesticides that control mosquito populations. I hope you are as pleased with the Zika Response and Preparedness Act as I am, and I invite you to read more about it by clicking here.
- The Hill. House GOP pushes $1.1 billion Zika bill through Dem sit-in
- USA Today. House approves $1.1 billion deal to combat Zika virus
On Wednesday, the President signed a bill that my colleagues and I on the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee had previously passed. The bill, known as the “Protecting our Infrastructure and Enhancing Safety Act of 2016,” improves the safety of our nation’s 2.6 million miles of pipelines that provide Americans to access critical energy resources. The bill also provides the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration’s (PHMSA) ability to respond to emergencies and widespread incidents.
During a week that was marred by partisan clashes, it’s important to remember that when we put politics and election cycles aside, we can and do come together to pursue good public policy for the American people. Georgians will benefit from reformed pipeline safety procedures, and I’m proud the President listened to the will of Congress and signed this bill.
- The Hill. Obama signs pipeline safety bill
- The Independent. Pipeline bill key to safety improvements
House members are back home in their districts this week, but this is one of the few weeks of the year where the House and Senate calendars don’t match-up. The Senate is in Washington, D.C. this week, and I’m happy to say that it will be considering two pieces of House-passed legislation: the Zika conference report that I talked about earlier in the newsletter and a bill to provide Puerto Rico with the tools necessary to reform its failing economic situation. I’m heartened that the Senate is finally moving forward with critical legislation to protect Americans from the Zika virus and to restore order to Puerto Rico’s economy.
Member of Congress