Washington Watch - 7/18/16
As Americans across the country return to work today -- or for some of you, enjoy a well-deserved family holiday -- the tragedy of law enforcement officers being targeted by our fellow Americans is foremost in many people's minds. In the past two weeks, 8 police officers have been murdered in the line of duty: 5 officers in Dallas on July 7th and 3 officers in Baton Rouge on July 17th. The senseless violence leveled against the men and women who have dedicated their lives to protecting and serving our communities is disgusting and heartbreaking.
Let me be perfectly clear. Recent shootings by police officers have stoked a fire of anti-police sentiment in some individuals in our nation. Unfortunately, instead of committing to answers and accountability, and instead of focusing on peaceful protest and fruitful conversation about race relations and community policing, some have allowed themselves to turn to violent rage. It is too easy to place blame and ask "who started it?" What is hard, and what we must do, is come together and denounce, in the strongest terms, anyone who turns to violence as a solution. This is a time for us to support our police officers and those peaceful protesters who want to bring about change in the right way.
- Washington Post. 3 police officers killed, 2 wounded in Baton Rouge; gunman dead
- USA Today. The Baton Rouge victims: a new dad, an ex-Marine, and a father of four
For too many Americans, an addiction to opioids – both prescription drugs and illegal heroin – is taking away their ability to live normal, active lives. Right here in Georgia, the opioid crisis is leading to some dramatic outcomes. The Georgia Division of Family and Children Services (DFCS) says that nearly 40 percent of the cases in which a child is removed from a home and placed into foster care are related to drug abuse. That statistic is staggering, and it’s emblematic of what’s happening across the country. Opioid pain killers are turning good moms and dads into addicts, and unfortunately, with the price of heroin getting cheaper, it is easier than ever for our friends and neighbors – maybe even someone in our family – to end up with an uncontrollable addiction.
The good news is that Congress has come together to pass a comprehensive reform of the way our police and health care workers treat those with opioid addictions. This effort has been years in the making, and I’m proud that we’re working on the federal level to treat this like the health care crisis that it is.
- WABE Atlanta. Opioid epidemic drives more Georgia kids into state care
- Georgia Public Broadcasting. Opioid bill reframes addiction as a health problem, not a crime
- New York Times. Senate approves bill to combat opioid addiction crisis
Last week, the House also continued to make important progress in the annual appropriations process and successfully advanced yet another appropriations bill. Passage of H.R. 5538, the “FY2017 Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act,” not only marks the fifth appropriations bill to move forward in the House, it also marks the passage of a very important bill to the Seventh District and the nation. Among many other victories contained in this legislation, H.R. 5538 reduces funding to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) by $164 million and holds the EPA to the lowest staffing levels since 1989 to ensure that it remains focused on its core mission to protect the environment—not on crafting overreaching regulations that it lacks the authority to create. In addition to imposing much-needed fiscal restraint on the EPA, this legislation also contains crucial provisions that explicitly prohibit the EPA from carrying out these overreaching regulations. One such regulation that this legislation blocks is the “Waters of the U.S.” rule. I’ve heard directly from the Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners and many others in the Seventh District who have told me that this particular regulation is their number one regulatory concern. As such, I was very happy to translate these concerns into action and halt this unprecedented and unwarranted expansion of EPA regulations that the federal courts have already issued a nationwide stay for.
With over 100 amendments debated from both sides of the aisle and many hours of debate on the House floor, I was very proud of the robust and inclusive process for consideration that allowed dozens of members from both sides of the aisle to offer their ideas to make this legislation better. Between this open process for consideration and the many provisions that rein in the regulatory overreach and keep the executive branch accountable to the bounds established by the U.S. Constitution, this legislation is a clear victory for American democracy, and I was pleased to lend my support for it.
The oversight of the Article II Executive Branch in each appropriations bill is critically important to our Constitutional balance of power. I have been working hard in my time in Congress to restore oversight and a well-functioning appropriations process. There is always more to do, but we are doing more today than ever before, and I am grateful for that progress.
- Washington Examiner. House passes EPA-Interior spending bill
- House Appropriations Committee. House Passes Fiscal Year 2017 Interior and Environment Bill
Thursday night during the Bastille Day celebration in Nice, France, we were once again tragically reminded of an existential threat and the need to relentlessly pursue the defeat of terrorists wherever we find them. In the days since this awful attack, we’ve mourned for the victims, prayed for their families, and asked frustratingly familiar questions. We want to know who did it, why they did it, and we want to ensure it never happens again. As we move forward, we will continue to learn more about each of these things, and we will reinforce our relationship with allies across the globe as we combat terrorists in every capacity here and abroad.
I’m grateful to all those who have dedicated their lives to protecting Americans, and am fully committed to doing everything possible to ensure they have the resources they need to continue being successful.
- CNN. 2 arrested in connection with Nice attack
- NBC News. Nice attack investigation: no sign driver was tier to terrorist networks
- The Hill. Scores dead in terror attack on French national holiday
You all have likely already heard that, for the second time in recent weeks, Senate Democrats chose to put politics ahead of public health and our veterans by blocking the House-Senate conference agreement to combat the Zika virus and fund military construction and veterans benefits. As you all will recall, the conference agreement, which was passed by the House in June, provides $1.1 billion in additional funding for several federal agencies charged with preparing and responding to a potential Zika virus outbreak on U.S. soil, including the CDC, which is housed right here in our own backyard and would receive more than one-third of the total funding in the bill for efforts like mosquito control and Zika response and readiness, among other things. The funding for military construction and veterans benefits would be used to train and equip military personnel, provide housing and services to military families, and maintain base infrastructure across the nation, among other things. It’s disappointing to me that the minority party in the U.S. Senate decided to use a procedural hurdle to stall funding for these important priorities in hopes of scoring a few cheap political points.
- The Washington Times: Senate Democrats maintain filibuster, block Zika deal for second time
- The Hill. Senate punts Zika fight to the fall
Last Wednesday, the House Budget Committee held its third in a series of hearings related to the Restoring the Trust for All Generations initiative, the purpose of which is to discuss and advance effective and positive solutions to save and strengthen our nation’s health, retirement, and economic security programs. This particular hearing focused on federal programs for those at or near retirement, including Medicare and Social Security, which are both projected to reach insolvency in 2028 and 2034, respectively. With the fiscal realities facing these programs in mind, I chose to focus my time questioning Dr. Scott Gottlieb, who is a former senior official at the Center for Medicare and Medicaid services, about how Medicare is increasingly becoming more involved in the health care decisions of our nation’s seniors.
According to Dr. Gottlieb, in the last few years, Medicare policy has been shifting health care decision making authority over to bureaucrats and providers who are increasingly using a cost-benefit analysis to make important clinical decisions for beneficiaries. I don’t disagree that a cost-benefit analysis should be part of the consideration; my issue is that seniors and doctors are increasingly being left out of the discussions all together. I don’t want folks in Washington deciding whether or not seniors should have access to certain kinds of procedures and care, and that’s one of the reasons why the House Budget Committee has been advocating for a system that offers seniors both traditional Medicare and a premium support model. Under a premium support model, seniors would have more health insurance choices and more control over their health care decisions. Since over 400,000 Georgians are already taking advantage of the private sector benefits of Medicare Advantage, it’s clear to me that moving younger workers to a premium support model would be equally as beneficial.
While much attention has been focused on Iran’s nuclear enrichment activities, we absolutely cannot not forget that Iran is guilty of other nefarious activities that must be stopped. Namely, its support of terrorism, human rights abuses, and ballistic missile development—all of which are reasons why the President should have never agreed to the dangerous nuclear deal with Iran in the first place. The billions of dollars worth of sanction relief under the nuclear agreement amount to a blank check to Iran to continue being an irresponsible actor in the international arena. This week the House passed several measures addressing the ongoing reckless behavior of the Iranian regime that has proven repeatedly to be untrustworthy, and I was proud to support each of these bills. H.R. 5119, the “No 2H2O from Iran Act,” H.R. 4992, the “United States Financial System Protection Act of 2016,” and H.R. 5631, the “Iran Accountability Act of 2016” all implement measures including a large package of new sanctions and financial restrictions that will make it more difficult for Iran to carry out its irresponsible behavior. No regime with the track record of Iran should be left unchecked, and these bills are important steps in that process.
- The Hill. House votes to toughen Iran sanctions
- Reuters. House votes to bar heavy water purchases from Iran
Last week, Congress cleared the way for the President to sign our FAA extension into law. While this legislation doesn’t contain all of the provisions that were included in the bill passed out of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, it contains a number of important reforms that will benefit taxpayers and American travelers. First of all, while we did not increase spending, we did guarantee more than a year of certainty for businesses and Americans who rely on safe, convenient air travel. We also included language I authored that will allow for quicker deployment of innovative unmanned aircraft technology by electric utilities so that in the event of a power outage, service can be restored faster and safer than it is today. The bill also requires airlines to refund baggage fees to customers whose items are lost or unreasonably delayed and reforms TSA policies to cut down on wait times at airports. This 14 month extension lays the ground work for a full reauthorization next year, and I am excited to get back to work to implement other critical reforms.
- Woodall Press Release. Bipartisan FAA reauthorization strengthens national security, empowers communities
- Gwinnett Daily Post. Woodall: FAA reauthorization protects Americans
- Wall Street Journal. Senate passes FAA reauthorization bill
One of my favorite things to do in Congress is to remind my colleagues how lucky I am to live in a community that commits itself to amazing schools. In addition to the many academic success stories that I already have to share with folks in D.C., I learned last week that public schools in Forsyth and Gwinnett Counties are not only delivering Seventh District students a high quality education, but they are doing it in a more financially efficient manner than most other schools around the state. In fact, the Forsyth County Public School system as a whole was found to be the most financially efficient school system in the entire state, receiving the only 5 star rating awarded, and Gwinnett County Public Schools took top honors for all school systems in the core metro Atlanta area. It’s truly an honor to represent a district that is home to some of the finest schools in the nation, and I want to congratulate Forsyth County Schools and Gwinnett County Schools on this remarkable achievement.
- Forsyth Country News. FCS most financially efficient in state
- Atlanta Journal Constitution. Georgia unveils new school financial efficiency rating
For the next two weeks, our nation's major political parties will host their respective national conventions in an effort to formally choose their nominees for President of the United States. No matter your political affiliation, I hope that both conventions will be peaceful examples of how political rivals can use rhetoric to draw distinctions instead of violence. Peaceful transitions of power and honest elections are a hallmark of the American experience, and I am proud to be part of that heritage.
Member of Congress