Washington Watch - 9/17/18
FIRST THREE APPROPRIATIONS BILLS ARE GOING TO THE PRESIDENT ON TIME
On Thursday, the House approved three appropriations bills in advance of the September 30th deadline—that’s when the current government funding law expires. These bills provide a years’ worth of stable funding for programs within the Energy and Water, Military Construction and Veterans Affairs, and Legislative Branch Appropriations accounts. First and foremost, this legislation bolsters our nuclear security needs, increases resources for our military personnel, and provides the highest dollar amount ever to the Department of Veterans Affairs and those programs that are so essential to our servicemen and women.
Not only that, but this package of bills is a success story for a Congress that has had trouble finding consensus for funding our government on time. Now, for the first time in more than a decade, we’ve sent three full appropriations bills to the President’s desk before current funding expires. By passing these bills, we are on track to avoid a disruptive and costly government shutdown and provide certainty for our veterans and our growing economy! And when we return to Washington next week, I expect that we’ll complete two more bills. Congress and the President are working together to serve the American people, and that is something to be proud of and support.
- Wall Street Journal. Lawmakers reach deal to avoid shutdown drama before midterms
- WTOP. Congress passes spending deal
I know that when you read the news or turn on your television, it is easy to believe that bipartisan success in Congress is rare, but I can assure you that legislative achievements gained by reaching across the aisle are a defining characteristic of the 115th Congress. I often say that as Americans, there is more that unites us than divides us, and that couldn’t be more evident than last week as the House took action and passed several pieces of legislation – supported by both Republicans and Democrats – to better serve our friends and neighbors.
One of these bills, H.R. 6198, the “Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction Act of 2018,” which unanimously passed the House, completes a reorganization of part of the Department of Homeland Security – the Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction Office – so that we have the tools we need to thwart biological threats and threats from weapons of mass destruction. Ensuring that our federal agencies are equipped to serve the American people is crucial to their success, and supporting their success will always be a valuable endeavor.
H.R. 3186, the “Every Kid Outdoors Act,” also passed the House with overwhelming bipartisan support and grants fourth graders and their parents or guardians free admittance into our national parks and federal lands by way of the “Every Kid Outdoors” program. From running around the backyard or swinging in the local park, to playing on a youth sports team or visiting the treasures in our national parks, our children are blessed with natural resources all around them, and we must encourage them to take advantage of these riches. In fact, I have heard from a number of folks back home about their support for this program, and I am proud that the House has taken steps to reward young people and inspire them to be active and explore the world around them.
What’s more, the House came together and passed H.R. 6690, the “Fighting Fraud to Protect Care for Seniors Act of 2018,” which establishes a “smart card” pilot program that will strengthen the Medicare program by eliminating the ability of unscrupulous persons from billing for services for a beneficiary without the beneficiary’s knowledge. It is so important that we ensure that every dollar spent in the Medicare program is benefiting our seniors, and it is essential that we work to deploy the most recent technologies available to us to curb waste and inefficiency and have our government programs better serve their beneficiaries.
I believe that the answers to some of our nation’s greatest legislative challenges will come from creative, bipartisan solutions, and I commit to you that I will press for more as Congress considers even more bills in the coming weeks.
You can read more about other bills that passed the House this week below.
- H.R. 3635 – Local Coverage Determination Clarification Act of 2018
- H.R. 6197 – RAWR Act
- H.R. 6227 – National Quantum Initiative Act
- H.R. 6287 – 9/11 Memorial Act
- H.R. 6411 – FinCEN Improvement Act of 2018
- H.R. 6561 – Comprehensive Care for Seniors Act of 2018
- H.R. 6662 – Empowering Seniors’ Enrollment Decision Act of 2018
- H.R. 6720 – Dog and Cat Meat Trade Prohibition Act of 2018
On Thursday, we passed the most important bill you’ve probably never heard of (unless, of course, you’re a regular reader of my newsletter). S. 3021, “America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018,” is the latest effort to fulfill our promise to the American people to build a 21st Century infrastructure system. This particular bill focuses on our water infrastructure, which takes on special significance here in the Seventh District. I’m pleased to report that both of our top priorities were included in this bill—we successfully protected Lake Lanier’s clean water supply, and we raised the authorized federal funding level for the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project (SHEP)—Georgia’s #1 economic priority which supports more than 30,000 jobs in Gwinnett and Forsyth counties. In addition, we de-authorized older, obsolete projects and repurposed those funds toward the many critical projects that are underway throughout our state and nation.
Click on the picture to watch my remarks on the House Floor in support of this bipartisan legislation.
- American Journal of Transportation. House sends water resources infrastructure bill to Senate with unanimous vote
As the school year gets into full swing, I often hear from students from all age ranges writing in to learn about our government, the issues that are important to them, or simply as a part of a school project. No matter the reason, I am happy to be of service to our students and answer whatever questions they may have, share my experiences, or listen to their concerns. Naturally, a majority of the student letters I receive speak directly to what they are experiencing in their daily lives at school and in class. Here are some interesting letters about what our students are experiencing:
Amaya from Buford
I believe students shouldn’t be forced to do so much testing in multiple years and in such a constricted time limit. High school is an institution that prepares you for college and your career. I believe Georgia can live up the that cause. I believe Georgia should allow incoming high schoolers the freedom to be able to choose what classes they want that would lead them on their correct career path. High schools have electives however there are classes that must be taken. If we open students to either have more electives or open the entire track to choice, then the graduation rate would increase and students would be more engaged simply because they chose their track.
Alexis from Lawrenceville
There are multiple classes that I take that I will not need for my desired major. I want to major in business and minor in marketing or entrepreneurship, and classes such as chemistry will not help me in my major. My fellow classmates agree that the majority of their classes do not pertain to what they want to do in their life. My fellow classmates and I think that curriculum, starting 9th grade year, should accommodate to what each student wants to do outside of high school. If the student is still undecided on what they want their major to be then they could still chose classes that interest them. This would most likely increase grades because students are actually taking classes they enjoy. Due to students having better grades and enjoying the classes they are taking, dropout rates would decrease and graduate numbers would increase.
Senjin from Duluth
An education issue that has bothered me is the number of days in a school week. Currently, Gwinnett County Public Schools adopts a five-day week schedule, however, I feel as if introducing a four-day week schedule would greatly benefit students, teachers, and other faculty members. Adopting a four-day week schedule would allow public schools to save more money and allocate those funds towards other budget spending or staff wages. Excluding Fridays would save money on resource usages, such as electricity consumption and school bus fuel. Saving funds and resource usage could prove to be beneficial especially during the harsh winter and tropical hurricane seasons.
While most students may be too young to vote, I hope that does not discourage them from reaching out to their elected officials at every level, because their voices and experiences are important for all of us to hear. As policymakers, we strive to lead our students to success through a quality education, but, like with any other policy area, it is critical to get feedback from those on the other side of those policy decisions. In the case of K-12 education, though, the truth is that those closest to our students, including parents, teachers, and state and local education leaders, are in the best position to determine what’s best for them, and as a federal official, I have little input on matters like curriculum or school schedules. The needs of students can vary vastly from school district to school district, and even school to school. In the past, federal one-size-fits-all efforts, like No Child Left Behind, to push curriculum or testing standards have failed to produce the results we expect or to elevate our students to the educational standards we demand as a community and a country.
Rather than institute more impersonal, burdensome requirements that cannot sufficiently assess, manage, or achieve the educational outcomes for such disparate school districts across the country, I have consistently fought for more local control of our schools, where local education officials can adequately respond to the needs of our students. The most significant effort to do this has been the Every Student Succeeds Act, which became law in 2015 and devolves the vast majority of K-12 decision making authority to the individual states. Education has long been an intimately local issue and is often how many families first become involved in their communities. Our schools are proof of what success communities can see by investing in their students. A good example is the newly opened Alliance Academy in Forsyth County, which I discussed in a recent edition of my newsletter. This new alternative high school allows students to focus on building a career by pursuing unique curricula in specific pathways, such as aerospace, criminal justice, healthcare, or mechatronics, just like Alexis and Amaya proposed.
To answer Amaya, Alexis, and Senjin’s concerns directly, I would encourage them to engage with their local education leaders in their schools, on their school boards, and on the state level to discuss how changing the school schedule may improve our schools or how curriculum can be catered to better prepare students for the future. We have entrusted these local leaders with the power to change the direction of education in Georgia, and if our schools in Forsyth and Gwinnett are any example, they have done a great job and will value the students’ input. I look forward to continuing to empower our local leaders to make positive changes for our schools, and I am eager to hear from many more students throughout this school year.
Clean air is essential, and the federal government plays a big role to ensure our air stays clean through regulations issued by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The energy sector also takes it upon itself to limit emissions and employ technology that helps to keep pollutants to a minimum. When this happens, it’s important for the EPA to take a look at the regulations on the books and see which ones make sense to keep folks accountable and which ones don’t. President Trump recognized this when he decided to relax regulations for the oil and gas industry, ridding them of overly burdensome and duplicative regulations and allowing them to redouble their efforts to generate cleaner energy – and more of it! Technology is evolving rapidly, and our regulatory framework should reflect that reality. If we want to keep energy costs low, ensure our country is not dependent on foreign oil, and allow energy companies to invest in clean technology, we cannot impose punitive regulations that go against that mission. We should continue to incentivize energy companies to be better stewards of the environment while keeping sensible regulations that protect the air we breathe, and the Administration’s actions last week moves us closer to both.
I thoroughly enjoy sharing the stories from across the district of all the amazing and inspiring things going on each week – and sometimes, I’m fortunate enough to participate and see them take place in real-time. That was the case in Forsyth County just recently as I got to throw out a pitch at the Cumming Forsyth Miracle League baseball game. This event is a high-point for so many folks from so many different walks of life, and if you ever attend, it doesn’t take long to see why.
From the very youngest athletes to the most senior, from ages 4 to 60-plus, and from various levels of physical or intellectual disability, the Cumming Forsyth Miracle League is changing lives. And from the organizers that I spoke to, though the league requires a great deal of effort, it’s clearly a labor of love which means so much to the families involved. The camaraderie of the athletes, coaches, and participants is palpable, and the energy is immediately infectious! If you ever have the opportunity to see one of the Miracle League games, you should absolutely spend some time with these athletes and count yourself among their community of supporters. Thank you to all the organizers and athletes who made this day so special!
For anyone who has been around metro Atlanta for any length of time, we all know that the term “Hollywood of the South” has certainly been earned. From television to Internet streaming series to full-length motion pictures, production companies make the trek to Georgia on a regular basis to film their projects. In fact, the film industry in Georgia accounted for an estimated $9.5 billion in economic impact last fiscal year, with $2.7 billion in direct spending! That kind of activity is reflective of the great work Governor Deal and his economic development team have done over the past 8 years to make Georgia a great place to do business, and from the looks of what was happening on the Lawrenceville Square last week, the trend continues. An adaptation of the DC comic book “Doom Patrol” was filming on several streets, and while I can’t say I’m familiar with this particular comic, if you are, you’ll now be able to stream it in the months to come – and catch a few glimpses of some of your favorite downtown Lawrenceville destinations while you’re at it! Apparently we’re not the only ones who are fans of our community!
This week I’m happy to be back home in Georgia, and I have to say that I’m very much looking forward to attending all the local events on the calendar: from meeting with students and faculty at Georgia Gwinnett College, to community leaders with our local Rotary and Kiwanis clubs, to meeting with insurance and financial services professionals who are providing investing, saving, and retirement advice to our friends and neighbors. Everything that I learn from you, I take back to Washington, D.C., with me and use to inform my colleagues about how we can better craft legislation to provide real benefits to families back home.
If you have an issue that you’d like to discuss with me, or if you want to invite me to one of your local church or community organizations, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Member of Congress