Washington Watch - 7/23/18
With the around the clock noise of the news cycle and the real time updates of our social media feeds, we all know too well how easily our attention and thoughts can be captivated and redirected. But even amid the chaos and frenzy, there are constant and common goals that I believe we all share and want to strive to attain; however, the tricky part is keeping our eye on those goals and making sure that they don’t get drowned out, overshadowed, and hyper-politicized. That’s because as soon as our shared goals succumb to any such noise or frenzy, working together becomes harder and harder.
The same notion translates to Capitol Hill where too often our bipartisan successes are drowned out by political rancor. For example, the House came together last week in true bipartisan fashion to leverage solutions for a number of issues that aren’t being championed by just one side of the aisle or the other, but that are instead supported by a majority of members on both sides of the aisle. I was proud to join my colleagues in keeping our focus on the end goal of bringing solutions home to our friends and neighbors. Some of the solutions that passed the House last week included measures to ensure that our disabled Veteran Affairs employees receive care for their service-connected injuries, modernize federal casework services, improve our stormwater infrastructure, and make much needed reforms to how we regulate over-the-counter drugs.
- House Amendment to S. 899, the “Veterans Providing Healthcare Transition Improvement Act,” was sponsored by Senator Mazie Hirono (D-HI). S.899 seeks to bring the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) up to speed with other federal agencies to ensure that veterans with service-connected disabilities who are employed by the VA are able to take leave to treat their conditions without loss or reduction in their pay.
- H.R. 3076, the “CASES for Constituents Act of 2017,” was sponsored by Representative Garret Graves (R-LA), and would allow Congressional offices to utilize electronic privacy consent forms to assist constituents more timely in problems with federal departments and agencies. Specifically, the bill would direct the Office of Management and Budget to develop and establish a process by which all agencies can receive electronic privacy waivers.
- H.R. 3906, the “Innovative Stormwater Infrastructure Act of 2018,” was sponsored by Representative Denny Heck (D-WA) and would establish within the EPA a stormwater infrastructure funding task force to study and make recommendations on how we can work to leverage public and private resources to better fund our stormwater infrastructure and make much needed improvements.
- H.R. 5333, the “Over-the-Counter Monograph Safety, Innovation, and Reform Act of 2018,” was sponsored by Representative Bob Latta (R-OH). This bill makes vital reforms to the regulations that oversee the safety and efficacy of over-the-counter (OTC) drugs, and will allow for new and safe OTC drugs to be brought to market more readily and expand consumer choice, and it does so all without jeopardizing safety.
Each of these solutions will make a difference, and while you may not hear the daily work on such solutions in the news or read about it on social media, please know that I am continuing to put the best interests of our nation and our neighbors above politics and will never turn away from an opportunity to work with my colleagues on the other side of the aisle to do so. That’s because if there are people in our community grappling with an issue, I can likely find a colleague on the other side of the aisle who has a community in their district dealing with the same issue. Working together, we can bring solutions to our constituents.
Monday is starting off right in Washington, D.C.! That’s because George and Lisa Winton, the owners of Winton Machine in Suwanee, are participating in the Made in America Product Showcase at the White House. Manufacturers from every state in the nation will be featured – everything from Lockheed-Martin’s F-35 aircraft which will be on the White House lawn to Winton’s coaxial cable bending machine – will be on display. I am so proud that Georgia’s representative is a company that has been serving the metro Atlanta area for decades, and is one that I have had the pleasure of visiting many times. In fact, just last year I was thrilled to award Winton Machine with the U.S. Commercial Service’s Export Achievement Award, and now, I’m even more pleased to join them at the White House for this well-deserved honor. Congratulations to the entire team at Winton Machine!
Rep. Rob Woodall presents the 2017 U.S. Commercial Service Export Achievement Award to Greg and Lisa Winton
- Gwinnett Daily Post. Suwanee-based Winton Machine participating in White House business showcase Monday
For the past few months, 15 of my bipartisan, bicameral colleagues and I have been working on the Joint Select Committee on Budget and Appropriations Process Reform. Being on this committee is an honor, and a lot of work! But that’s really great news. We’ve completed five public hearings on various aspects of the budget and appropriations process, and we’ve had a number of member working sessions – both formal and informal – to discuss the best ways to ensure that Congress is able to get its work done every year on time and that we’re adequately considering ways to lower our long-term debt and manage our mandatory spending programs.
I won’t pretend that it’s easy work. If budget challenges were easy to solve, we would have resolved them long ago. To come up with a plan that can get the support of a majority of Republicans and Democrats on the committee requires persistence and patience, but I’m consistently impressed by how much each and every member with whom I’m working is committed to coming to a lasting agreement. Too often, too many assume that we must retreat to our partisan corners and if a deal is struck, we must be selling out our core principles to do so. I can tell you with conviction that my experience in Congress generally and on this committee specifically is very different: Republicans and Democrats can work together, we can find common-ground together, and we can do what is best for the American people without compromising our deeply held beliefs. I look forward to all that this committee can accomplish this year.
It’s no secret that Georgia’s Seventh District is home to some of the best schools in the nation, so it’s no surprise that we sent 17 students to our nation’s service academies last year. Including those new cadets and midshipmen, Georgia’s Seventh Congressional District has more than 30 students enrolled and serving in our nation’s military academies. I had another chance to spend time with one of those students, Cadet Sergeant Justin Jang from Duluth, who is currently a rising junior at the United States Military Academy at West Point and is interning in the Senate for the summer. I first met Justin when he was still a student at Peachtree Ridge High School applying to West Point, and I was so pleased to catch up with him to hear about his accomplishments since then.
Rep. Rob Woodall and Cadet Sergeant Justin Jang on the Speaker’s Balcony at the U.S. Capitol
If you know someone who would like to follow in Justin’s footsteps and would like to apply to one of our service academies, they must first receive a nomination from a member of the Executive Branch, House of Representatives, or Senate. I’ve had the pleasure of nominating so many exceptional students in the past, a great deal of whom have been selected to go on to the academy of their choice, and I look forward to making new nominations this year. Anyone interested in being nominated by my office can visit my website for more information about the nomination process. Good luck to you!
This past week the House completed the passage of the first six of the twelve annual appropriations bills needed to fund the federal government for the 2019 Fiscal Year, which begins October 1st. These first six appropriations bills will provide funding for our federal programs in the Departments of Energy, Veterans Affairs, Interior, Treasury, and Defense. And in the coming weeks, the House will consider more funding bills for the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Justice, Homeland Security, Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, State, Transportation, and Housing and Urban Development. As you can see, these spending decisions cover everything from our military and national defense needs to education programs to parks and courts, and everything in between. Naturally, as Congress begins to consider appropriations bills, I hear a lot from all of you on what federal spending priorities you have. Many people send me their thoughts on specific priorities such as these:
Laura from Cumming:
Please support spending legislation for FY19 which will fund border improvements on the southern border.
Michael from Lawrenceville:
As a constituent, I urge you to continue recent progress and provide more funding for education, including significant increases for programs like Title I, IDEA, and early education. Congress also needs to take steps to help make college more affordable. At the same time, I urge you to oppose the reckless cuts and voucher plans repeatedly proposed by education secretary Betsy DeVos, including elimination of afterschool programs and Title II, which supports professional development for educators and helps reduce class sizes. All our students deserve the opportunity to attend strong, well-resourced public schools, no matter what zip code they live in. To fulfill America's promise of equal opportunity for all, I urge you to increase funding for education and reject the DeVos budget cuts.
While others have more broad concerns about our federal spending, like these:
Carolyn from Cumming:
Wasteful federal spending is out of control. The recent $1.3 trillion omnibus package only underscores the federal governments continued reckless spending on the taxpayers dime. It’s time for Congress to put current and future generations of American taxpayers first, by cutting back on wasteful federal spending.
David from Duluth:
Please finish the appropriations before you go on a break.
The “Power of the Purse” is the most significant Constitutional responsibility given to Congress, and each appropriations bill is your opportunity to advocate for the programs and initiatives that you believe will make a difference in our district, our state, and our nation. Every fiscal year, Congress deliberates and decides on funding for all of the federal government’s discretionary operations via the twelve appropriations bills. These twelve bills cover roughly a third of total federal spending each fiscal year, while the remaining nearly two-thirds of our federal spending is comprised of direct spending and trust fund spending outside of the appropriations process, including funding for important priorities like Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and interest on the debt.
The entire appropriations process begins with the President’s budget, which lists the Administration’s priorities for the coming fiscal year through recommendations for the spending levels for the various federal agencies and programs. While Congress considers the President’s request, it crafts its own budget establishing a discretionary spending ceiling for the upcoming fiscal year and the Appropriations Committees in the House and Senate set the spending levels for each agency and program.
The appropriations bills take months of work and debate, and input from you helps prioritize funding decisions. Big or small, I hope each of you will continue to share what your priorities are with me as we work through the rest of the FY19 appropriations process, and in every year going forward, as Laura, Michael, Carolyn, and David have. America can only spend each dollar once, and I want to be certain that we make the best of each opportunity.
What’s in a name, they say. Well, while it may not tell you everything you need to know, sometimes a name can do a lot to paint a pretty clear image. The Optimist Club of Forsyth County certainly fits in that category, and if you’re not familiar with what they’re doing here at home, I hope you’ll learn more about it. As a quick – and candidly oversimplified – summary of what they’re accomplishing, they work to raise funds and partner with Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta to provide additional resources for children battling cancer, as well as those in need all across the community. The reality is there are many communities all across the country where optimism is hard to find – and for good reason. Folks in those places haven’t experienced the kind of compassion, cooperation, and results that we are fortunate to have in abundance in the Seventh District. It seems like our community is full of these stories where, whether large or small groups, individuals, businesses, non-profits and more, come together to be a part of a solution. No blame – just solutions. There are so many needs, but because of those like Optimist Club President Brenda Basey and her team, there are a few more of those needs met each and every day, and I’m grateful for their passion.
- Forsyth County News. Optimist Club donates to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta
This week the House is going to consider a number of bills meant to solve problems related to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), specifically sections that have made it more expensive and more difficult for Americans to get the health care that they want. I’m happy to say that with these three bills – H.R. 6311, the “Increasing Access to Lower Premium Plans and Expanding Health Savings Accounts Act of 2018,” H.R. 6199, the “Restoring Access to Medication and Modernizing Health Savings Accounts Act of 2018,” and H.R. 184, the “Protect Medical Innovation Act” – we can do better. These bills will expand Health Savings Accounts and allow Americans to purchase lower-priced health insurance plans that still meet their family’s needs. Providing needed access at affordable prices is a shared goal across the country, and these three bills will move us closer to that goal.
The House may also consider a final version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) this week that will guide the Department of Defense’s policies for the next fiscal year. This Conference Report will be the product of months of negotiations between the House and Senate Armed Services Committees, the Pentagon, and the White House. It is a major security victory for our nation and gives our servicemen and women the certainty they deserve for the coming fiscal year.
Member of Congress