Washington Watch - 9/16/13
Last week Congress returned to Washington, D.C., and began working on a way forward to fund the government, address the crisis in Syria, and continue to hold the Obama Administration accountable to the American people for the implementation of Obamacare. These are no easy tasks, but good Georgia values and common sense offer our best path forward. I am working hard every day to bring Seventh District solutions to the forefront of Congress.
GEORGIANS MAKE A DIFFERENCE IN DC
Each week, I have the opportunity to meet with Georgians who have travelled to Washington, D.C., to make their voices heard. Last week, for example, I met with a number of constituent groups from Georgia who were in town speaking on behalf of the American Cancer Society, the American Academy of Dermatology, the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee, the American Orthopaedic Association, the American Optometric Association, the Georgia Association of Christian Schools, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to name just a few.
The movies make it look like Capitol Hill is run by Washington lawyers, but the truth is that it is run by your and my friends and neighbors who take time out of their lives to travel to DC and share their concerns and ideas with Congress. While their goals vary -- from improving patient care to supporting Israel and America's interests in the Middle East to better educating our children, and more -- their core message is the same: "You are my voice on Capitol Hill, and I have a message to share."
GEORGIA LEADS THE WAY IN ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT
I want to highlight for you some great news coming out of Gwinnett County last week. As reported by the Gwinnett Daily Post, WIKA Instrument, LP -- which is headquartered in Lawrenceville -- is expanding its facility and bringing 250 new jobs to our area. WIKA is the leading global manufacturer of pressure and temperature measurment instruments, producing more than 43 million pressure gauges, transmitters, and other instraments that are used by the oil and gas industry, chemical manufacturing, HVAC and refrigeration companies, water treatment facilities, power generation companies, and more.
We don't normally think about product manufacturers when we think about the need to become energy independent, but we should. The bills that the Republican-led House of Representatives has passed already and the focus that the House Energy and Commerce Committee is placing on expanding our energy production and releasing American businesses that rely on producers like WIKA from burdensome regulations is key to our economic growth.
OPENING THE CUMMING REGIONAL READINESS CENTER
On Saturday, I was honored to attend the ribbon cutting of the Cumming Regional Readiness Center (CRRC), which will be the home of four companies of the 560th Battlefield Surveillance Brigade of the Georgia Army National Guard. This ten year project is the culmination of many cooperative efforts between federal, state, local, and private entities. I am very impressed with this work, and applaud everyone involved in the development of the CRRC.
The CRRC will provide administrative, training, and classroom space to help the units complete their training tasks and be better prepared to support their missions. Our brave citizen-soldiers are not only going into the theater to assist our men and women on the ground as they engage insurgents and terrorists, but they are continually working hard to improve their organization at home. I am proud that our community is able to provide such a modern Readiness Center for our Georgia military men and women so that they can continue to successfully meet all of the challenges that are put in front of them and lead the effort to make our military even better. May God bless them and their families.
Rep. Woodall (4th from left) participates in the CRRC ribbon cutting on September 14th
IMMIGRATION REFORM THAT BUILDS AMERICA
You may have seen in the AJC last week an editorial that I wrote focusing on the failures of the Senate immigration bill to even come close to addressing real immigration reform. I know how important it is to the Seventh District that we get this issue right. We are a nation of immigrants and a nation of laws, and I reject those arguments that suggest we must choose one or the other. America has always been and will always be stronger when we choose both. I hope that you will take this opportunity to read the editorial, and I also hope that you will email me your thoughts as this issue moves forward.
PREVENTING OBAMACARE FRAUD
On Thursday, the House of Representatives passed an important piece of legislation, H.R. 2775, which I was proud to cosponsor and vote for, that would prohibit the government from handing out Obamacare subsidies until a fraud prevention system is in place. The Obamacare law requires such a system, but no system has been implemented. The President recently announced that he plans to waive the verification law and begin handing out subsidies anyway, but the American people are tired of both fraud and waivers. H.R. 2275 responds by prohibiting the distribution of Obamacare subsidies unless the Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) certifies that HHS has appropriate verification standards in place to ensure that only those people who are eligible for subsidies will receive them.
Now, I know that you and I want to believe in the honesty of the American people. We don't want to believe that anyone would lie about their income in order to get a taxpayer provided subsidy that they weren't entitled to receive. Of course, everyone isn't as honest as we would hope, and as such, without verification, we know that billions of dollars in fraudulent payments would probably go out the door.
This is another case of how Obamacare is not ready for implementation. I want to see the law repealed, but even if the President refuses to right his wrong by signing one of the myriad repeal bills the House has passed, he should, at the very least, agree that delaying the law is a necessary step. The drumbeat for delay is increasing -- from the President's numerous admissions that the law will not be ready for implementation on January 1st, to his Administration's granting waivers for dozens of requirements that are not ready or cannot be enforced, to businesses that have begun to eliminate or curtail the insurance coverage that they provide, to the unions who now realize that Obamacare is destroying the 40 hour work week and will make the health plans that they provide prohibitively expensive.
This is not a Republican or Democrat issue. This is an American issue, a freedom issue, and a fairness issue. America is speaking with one voice, and I will do everything that I can to encourage the President to listen.
CONGRESS CONTINUES TO FOCUS ON SYRIA
I have heard from many folks in the Seventh District about Syria. Many of you have contacted me to voice your opposition to military action. Though the death and destruction in Syria's civil war offends our consciences, I oppose a unilateral military airstrike. In recent days and weeks, there have been many developments, and they reached a crescendo last week.
Over the last couple of days, the United States has been working with a number of its European allies to craft a United Nations (UN) Security Council Resolution that would attempt to start the process of working on a ceasefire agreement between the Assad regime and Syria’s opposition forces, as well as instruct Syria to eliminate its chemical weapons stockpile by mid 2014. The UN Security Council Resolution will reportedly contain strong sanctions for any noncompliance, and though it is not yet clear if it will contain an option for military force should Syria be found in violation of the Resolution’s terms, the United States, Britain, and France have stated that “all options must remain on the table.” Congress’ plans to consider any legislation that deals with Syria has been put on hold indefinitely until the UN Security Council Resolution has been finalized.
I will continue to provide you with updates on the rapidly evolving events in Syria. My hope is that the Syrian people will meet with some measure of peace and stability in the very near future.
MEETING WITH THE NATIONAL SECURITY AGENCY
I know that many of you have been interested in and concerned with the power of the National Security Agency (NSA) over the past few years. This is an important issue for many Seventh District constituents, so I took some time to visit NSA headquarters last week to see first-hand how the agency operates. From what I've seen, the NSA is full of hard-working, patriotic Americans who take seriously their mission to protect and defend the United States and her citizens from foreign enemies who would try to harm our country and destroy our way of life. I am convinced now more than ever that the problems with Section 215 of the Patriot Act are not due to rogue NSA agents in some quest for power, but due to poorly drafted legislation and an abdication of oversight by Congress.
We need to take a long, hard look at the Patriot Act, especially Section 215, and make certain that Congress is doing its job in striking the appropriate balance where personal privacy and the individual rights of Americans are protected while giving the NSA the ability to do what it does best -- protect America. As we move into the Fall legislative schedule, I expect that Congress will consider a measure to reauthorize our nation's foreign intelligence complex, and I will certainly look for ways to use that discussion to ensure our national security and protect our Constitutional rights.
THE WEEK AHEAD
- On Thursday, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, on which I sit, will be hearing from Ambassador Thomas Pickering and Admiral Michael Mullen who will testify about the Benghazi Accountability Review Board's recent report. One year after the attack on our consulate in Benghazi, the Obama Administration has provided too few answers and there are still too many questions outstanding. This non-partisan, independent report will help us shed more light on the issue and bring more accountability to this issue.
- The House of Representatives is going to consider three bills this week that have come from the House Natural Resources Committee: H.R. 687, H.R. 761, and H.R. 1526. All these bills seek to ensure that the Federal government is managing our forest lands and our nations strategic minerals in the most effective and efficient way possible.
- It is possible that the House may consider a short-term Continuing Resolution this week to provide funding for government for the first few months of the 2014 Fiscal Year. I'm sure you're all well aware of the intense discussion and negotiation that is occurring right now on the CR and on how to defund Obamacare. I look forward to working with my colleagues to address these important issues.
- The House is expected to consider a nutrition bill this week that will make our Food Stamp program more effective and efficient. Mirroring the lessons and the great successes from Welfare reform in 1996, the new Food Stamp bill will have strict work requirements, eliminate loopholes for asset and income tests, and reduce the number of jobless, able-bodied adults without children receiving Food Stamps. I know that this is going to be a difficult reform for some in Congress to accept, but in this era of fiscal austerity, we need to make sure that the most needly are receiving assistance, while those who can work do work.
Member of Congress