Washington Watch - 9/11/17
Though it has been 16 years, the events of September 11, 2001, remain a painful reminder of why we must always be vigilant against those who would do us harm. I remember clearly where I was and what I was doing on that crisp morning – and I remember how quickly things changed that day. Terrorism was brought to our doorstep and, tragically, took the lives of thousands of Americans. It did not, however, inspire fear in the American people. Quite the opposite. As clearly as I remember the devastation of the attacks, I remember the American patriotism, resolve, kindness, and heroism that defined the hours, days, and weeks that followed. Those have always been the most American of traits. We come together in times of tragedy and need, and we help one another to overcome it.
Today, we pause to remember those we lost on that day and those we have lost in the years since in the defense of freedom. America – and the freedom for which it stands – was attacked, but as has been our way throughout our history, we stand together even stronger as a result.
With Hurricane Irma already bearing down on southern parts of Georgia, we’ve seen the severity of this storm, and I urge everyone to heed the guidance of Governor Deal and all our local leaders as it approaches metro Atlanta and the Seventh District. Prioritizing your safety should of course take precedence, but as the storm passes, there may be many of our neighbors who need our help. If you’re interested in pursuing some of these options and resources to contribute, please visit my website to learn more.
After a difficult and tragic week for folks in Texas following Hurricane Harvey, Congress last week approved a much needed disaster relief funding package. The House kicked off the efforts early in the week by approving legislation that included funding for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which is the federal agency primarily responsible for coordinating government-wide disaster relief efforts. The Senate, working with President Trump, amended the House-passed bill to include additional disaster relief funding and an extension of the National Flood Insurance Program—both of which will be helpful to folks in Texas who were impacted by Harvey and many more Americans who are being impacted by Hurricane Irma at this very moment.
President Trump requested, and Congressional leaders agreed, to use H.R. 601 as the legislative vehicle to deal with two other important, rapidly approaching deadlines: the new fiscal year and the debt limit. While I would have preferred taking these issues up one-by-one, and the House was working to do just that, I voted to support the President’s larger agreement.
- The Wall Street Journal: House Passes Deal on Storm Aid, Debt Limit, Government Funding
- Roll Call: House Approves Harvey Package With Debt Deal
As you may remember, the House approved a national security appropriations package consisting of five of the twelve annual appropriations bills at the end of July, and our goal at the time was to move the remaining bills before the end of September. I’m pleased to report that we are very close to delivering on that promise after spending much of last week debating and voting on most of the 342 amendments that were offered for H.R. 3354, the “Make America Secure and Prosperous Appropriations Act, 2018.” Though the House had originally planned to wrap up the remaining amendments and approve the final version of the bill last week, we stopped on Friday morning to consider the disaster relief package I mentioned above. My expectation is that, by early this week, the House will finish work on the remaining amendments, approve the “Make America Secure and Prosperous Act,” and send it to the Senate for further consideration. If we and they are successful in this effort, it would mark the first time since 1997 that Congress funded the entire federal government before the end of the fiscal year. I look forward to getting it done!
Rep. Woodall manages debate on House Appropriations legislation
- Republican Policy Committee: Summary of H.R. 3354, the Make America Secure and Prosperous Appropriations Act, 2018
- The White House: Statement of Administration Policy, Make American Secure and Prosperous Appropriations Act, 2018
One of the many amendments considered and approved by the House last week was one I authored on behalf of not only those of us here in the Seventh District but those all across the State of Georgia. As we considered the Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development Appropriations bill, it contained an $800 million rescission of unobligated contract authority in the Highway Trust Fund, and there was language mandating a uniform way in which states must fulfill the rescission. As we’ve seen here in Georgia – perhaps most recently with the success of rebuilding the I-85 bridge in record time – our local leaders are tremendously capable and certainly know Georgia’s needs better than Washington does. That principle will be as true for any other state as it is for Georgia, and each should have the ability to determine their own priorities. When it comes to deciding which transportation projects will move forward here at home, I want to ensure our local leaders have the flexibility to make the best determinations for our community, and my amendment helps to get us there. Having passed this amendment through the House, I will now turn my attention to encouraging the Senate to do the same.
After much discussion and debate, President Trump announced that his Administration would end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. As you may know, DACA was created by President Obama as an amnesty program for children who were brought to the United States illegally. Under DACA, these individuals could receive work permits and temporary legal status in the U.S. under the theory that they had no choice regarding their illegal entry into the U.S. and shouldn’t be punished for the choices of their parents. While President Trump’s action does not change anyone’s current status, it does stop further expansion of the DACA program.
President Trump echoed the position that I have taken for years: Presidents can’t write laws; only Congress can. Immigration reform is a subject for Congress to tackle so that every individual in America has the certainty of the law as their guide. President Obama’s DACA program was only ever going to be a temporary step that ignores a permanent problem – what to do with individuals who were minors when their parents brought them into this country and/or kept them here without a visa. DACA was the subject of ongoing legal challenges by states and localities, and while touted by its supporters as a “fix” has always placed its recipients in legal limbo; something that would have been unlikely had President Obama worked with Congress to change the law instead of working outside Congress through executive orders and directives.
President Trump has made it a point to target the violent offenders who are in this country illegally. He has also made it a point to observe the amazing talent, generosity, and ingenuity of many of the DACA recipients. He is encouraging Congress—and I agree—to look at ways to continue to ensure that every bad apple is located and apprehended while developing new ideas about how to tap into the talent and entrepreneurism of those children brought to America years ago. Make America Great has long been President Trump’s mantra, and he is committed to working with any one—young or old, near or far—who will commit to working with him to achieve that goal. Our community has a host of outstanding young people who fit that description! Working out the details will be hard, and I would expect controversial, but I am committed to working with the President to get it all done: visas, border security, interior enforcement, and more.
Rep. Woodall speaks on the President's decision to end DACA
The surest way to impede exciting, new, and innovative technology is to smother it with government regulation. That’s why the House last week unanimously approved legislation, H.R. 3388, or the “SELF DRIVE Act,” designed to assist the private sector in its development of autonomous and semiautonomous vehicles without weighing innovation down with new burdensome federal rules before it matures. This bill sets in motion a process whereby the Department of Transportation will carefully monitor this developing technology and seek input for future rulemaking designed to set broad, baseline performance and safety standards. It’s an approach that is supported by the private sector innovators who are investing in this transformative technology because it will allow a level playing field to continue improving without compromising the safety of the traveling public, including those who opt for traditional, non-autonomous vehicles. In fact, I recently had an opportunity to visit a facility in Suwanee, Applied Information Technology, that is developing cutting edge technology that will be deployed in this space. I look forward to Senate approval of this first, preliminary step toward an exciting future in the automobile industry.
- Reuters: U.S. House unanimously approves sweeping self-driving car measure
- NY Times: Self-Driving Cars’ Prospects Rise With Vote by House
This week in the House the work continues on our Appropriations bills, in which we have already considered hundreds of amendments going back to last week, and we’ll be completing this process and voting on final passage of H.R. 3354, the “Make America Secure and Prosperous Appropriations Act” soon. While a short-term continuing resolution cleared Congress on Friday, proper funding for FY2018 remains, and the hard work put in by the House on H.R. 3354 gives us a firm foundation on which to build consensus with the Senate going forward.
Another piece of legislation we’ll be considering in the Rules Committee this week is H.R. 3697, the “Criminal Alien Gang Member Removal Act,” which is yet another targeted step to strengthen our immigration system and protect the American people. H.R. 3697 would further empower the Department of Homeland Security to deny entry and/or deport any alien having known association or involvement with a criminal gang. National security remains the highest priority for Congress on both sides of the aisle, and this bill offers an opportunity to build upon that common ground.
We talk a great deal about national security, and in fact, this week I’m hosting two telephone town hall meetings, one of which will discuss this very issue. The first meeting will be tomorrow evening at 7PM, and will focus specifically on the issue of national security, while Thursday we will be meeting at 7PM as well, but we will be discussing foreign affairs. If you’d like to join either or both, please click here or visit my website and you’ll find all the information you need. Dial in just prior to 7:00PM, enter the passcode when prompted, and you’ll be connected to the call. I look forward to speaking with you!
Member of Congress