Washington Watch - 6/8/15
On Tuesday, my colleagues and I held a hearing on the recent Amtrak derailment on May 12th in Pennsylvania that led to eight deaths and approximately 200 injuries. The heads of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and Amtrak were on hand to update the committee on their investigation and discuss ways to prevent future tragedies like this from occurring. So far, the evidence points to human error rather than mechanical failure being the reason for the accident, as investigators found that the train was traveling at more than twice the speed limit when it derailed. Positive steps being taken include a comprehensive assessment of all potentially dangerous curves along the most popular routes, new inward facing cameras in locomotives, and full implementation of Positive Train Control (PTC) – important technology that allows for automatic stopping or slowing of trains if necessary. As we move forward, we will be continuing to look at ways to make all passenger and commuter rails as safe as possible.
- New York Times. Cause of Amtrak train’s speeding still unknown, panel is told
- United Press International. First congressional hearing after Amtrak accident yields few answers
As you may know, the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule on an important case, King v. Burwell, by the end of this month. Should the Court rule in favor of the plaintiff, the result could be a loss of Obamacare tax subsidies for individuals in the 34 states which use the federal health care exchange. Georgia is one of those states. Though I continue to oppose Obamacare and support its repeal, it’s clear to me that should the Court rule the subsidies illegal, the roughly 7 million Americans who are relying on those subsidies – many of whom were forcibly removed from private health insurance plans that they liked and could afford – will face an unknown future of ever growing health care bills and broken promises from the Obama Administration.
The great news is that last Thursday, my friend and colleague Representative Tom Price (R-GA) introduced a bill that would protect Americans who could be harmed should the Court rule that the Obama Administration did not appropriately follow the law. H.R. 2650, the “RESCUE Act of 2015,” would empower Americans to purchase whatever health care plan they desired and would provide an age-adjusted, refundable tax credit to supplement the cost of that purchase. It would also expand the use of popular health savings accounts, which are powerful savings tools for middle class Americans, but were unfortunately decimated by Obamacare.
The RESCUE Act, which I intend to cosponsor this week, ensures that no American is priced out of the market, it levels the playing field between the tax preference for health care that is provided to employers but not individuals, and it does so without the need for a government mandate. I applaud Dr. Price’s efforts, and I look forward to the House moving this legislation should it become necessary.
- Atlanta Business Chronicle. U.S. Rep. Price floats Obamacare alternative
- Investors Business Daily. GOP has to act quickly after Court rules on Obamacare
- Bloomberg View. An Obamacare replacement that works
Last week the House passed, with my support, our 4th appropriations bill of the year: the FY16 Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) Appropriations Act. There are 12 of these bills hat must be passed each year to fund the operations of the country, and with America's new Senate now open for business, the House is passing these bills faster than ever. This CJS bill funds several federal agencies, including the Department of Justice, the Department of Commerce, the National Science Foundation, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, which are responsible for such priorities as federal law enforcement, counterterrorism and cyber security, neuroscience research, and space exploration, among others. You might be interested to know that the House included language in the FY2016 CJS appropriations bill aimed at preventing the Obama Administration unilaterally issuing unnecessary gun control regulations, transferring enemy combatants from Guantanamo Bay to the U.S., using certain surveillance authorities, and offering immigration visas through trade agreements, just to name a few. I was pleased to support this measure, and I hope that the Senate will move it quickly to the President’s desk.
The House also began consideration of the FY16 Transportation/Housing and Urban Development (THUD) Appropriations Act last week. While we weren’t able to finish the bill (we will do so this week), we did have a lively debate on a number of amendments to this measure. This is one of the most important funding bills of the annual appropriations cycle, as it is the means by which Congress prioritizes critical investments in our nation’s infrastructure. While there are many issues that divide members of Congress, investing in our nation’s roads and bridges is not one of them.
This week the House is expected to complete its consideration of our 5th Appropriations bill – the FY16 Transportation/Housing and Urban Development Appropriations Act – reauthorize our nation’s intelligence apparatus, repeal unworkable and WTO non-compliant country of origin labeling requirements for certain agriculture products, and begin consideration of our 6th Appropriations bill, the FY16 Department of Defense Appropriations Act. If this sounds like a lot of legislation in just one week, that’s because it is! I am so proud of how efficiently and effectively the House has been working so far this year, and I give a lot of credit for that good work to people like you who routinely demand that Congress do better to serve the American people. We are always striving to meet and exceed your expectations.
What’s really exciting for me this week is that on Tuesday, House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA) will be joining me in Atlanta for a roundtable discussion with Georgia’s transportation and business leaders about the importance of our state’s infrastructure to the economy of the southeast region and the nation. If you have time on Tuesday morning at 9:30am, I invite you to watch a live stream of the roundtable and see for yourself the successes that Georgia can share with the rest of the country.
Finally, I want to mention that at some point this month – and it could be as early as this week – the House will tackle the critically important issues of international trade. This will be the most open and transparent agreement America has ever negotiated, so I hope that if you have any concerns about my support for opening international markets to Georgia’s exports, increasing American investment opportunities abroad, or creating new jobs right here at home, that you will contact me at email@example.com or at (202) 225-4272 and share your thoughts with me.
Member of Congress