Washington Watch - 9/18/17
Recent weeks in Washington have seen a lot of activity, but we’ve made great progress on many fronts, and I’m grateful to all of you who took time from your own busy schedules to join me for last week’s town hall meetings discussing some of these developments. We’re currently in the middle of our series in which we focus on targeted issues while hearing from guest speakers who just happen to be some of the most respected minds in their respective fields. For those who weren’t able to participate last week, we discussed national security and foreign affairs, and were fortunate enough to be joined by General Thomas Spoehr from the Center for National Defense at the Heritage Foundation, and Dr. Michael Rubin of the American Enterprise Institute (AEI). I’d like to again thank these gentlemen for sharing their time and expertise with us. I sure found it helpful, and I hope you did as well.
If you weren’t able to participate in either of these events, though, I’m happy to tell you that we have two more coming up on September 26th and 28th at 7PM where we’ll focus on healthcare and infrastructure. You can find all you need to call in here, and of course there is an abundance of information on my website at all times, ranging from news on recent votes and legislation, to casework services, to details on upcoming events. Thank you again for your continued partnership, and please don’t hesitate to contact me with any questions or concerns you may have.
For the first time this decade, the House passed an entire Fiscal Year 2018 spending package on schedule last week. The package, H.R. 3354, the “Make America Secure And Prosperous Appropriations Act,” is a work product of which the American people can be proud. This measure keeps America safe, begins to rebuild our military, spends taxpayer dollars responsibly, protects life, and limits the reach of government. While you can read all about this legislation here, I want to share a few highlights. Among other things, this bill:
- STRENGTHENS OUR MILITARY: Increases military spending by $68.1 billion to modernize equipment, improve training, and ensure our warfighters have all the tools they need to do their job;
- SECURES OUR BORDER: Fully funds President Trump’s border request and adds 500 new Border Patrol agents and 100 new ICE agents;
- PROTECTS LIFE: Provides conscience protection for entities that do not want to participate in abortion, ends funding to Planned Parenthood, and defunds the UN Population Fund;
- SHRINKS GOVERNMENT BUREAUCRACY: Cuts unnecessary red tape and rolls back the mission creep of regulators all across the federal government.
- CARES FOR VETERANS: Includes the highest level of funding ever for veterans relying on the VA, and increases access to mental healthcare, suicide prevention, drug treatment, and services for homeless veterans.
This legislation was crafted with input from all sides of the ideological spectrum. And after thousands of amendments were considered in committee, we voted on over 450 amendments more on the House floor, representing ideas from all sides of the political spectrum and both sides of the political aisle. We debated all 12 appropriations bills for months in the Appropriations Committee and for almost a full week on the House floor. This was a robust and fruitful debate, and I’m so proud of the work that every member of Congress has done to advance our constitutional duty to fund the federal government. While this is the first time this decade that the House has completed this job on time, if the Senate can join us, it will be the first time in more than 20 years that has happened. Each day, Congress is striving to do better and keep the promises made to the American people.
- The Hill. House passes $1.2T government funding package for 2018
- Science. U.S. House approves 2018 spending bills, but process far from finished
Last Thursday, my colleagues shared with the House horror stories of street gangs – many of which have members who are in this country illegally – terrorizing their districts and leaving their constituents fearing for their lives. President Trump drew attention to this crisis on his recent trip to New York where he spoke to local police officers about cracking down on criminal gangs like MS-13. However, while law enforcement officials currently do track these individuals, they are forced to wait until these gang members commit a crime to deport them from the United States. Thankfully, Representative Barbara Comstock (R-VA) has sought to remedy this deficit in our current immigration law by introducing H.R. 3697, the “Criminal Alien Gang Member Removal Act.” This bill would allow U.S. Department of Homeland Security Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to put undocumented aliens through removal proceedings if they are affiliated with a criminal gang. The bill also ensures that current and former gang affiliates are not offered asylum nor protected status, and are permanently inadmissible to the United States. I was proud to support this bill on the House floor, and I am hopeful the Senate will send it to the President’s desk soon so that we can restore law and order to our communities.
- The Hill. House votes to crack down on undocumented immigrants with gang ties
- Washington Post. House passes Comstock bill targeting immigrant members of MS-13 gang
As many of you may already know, an improvised explosive device was detonated on a crowded commuter train in London during the morning rush hour. This heinous and cowardly act left dozens injured as they made their way to work. It is clear that we must continue to be diligent in our pursuit of these terrorists and collaborate with our allies so that we can prevent future attacks. Last week, the House took steps to bolster our current operations by passing a series of bills that aim to improve our readiness and enhance our information sharing capabilities. Building our defenses against terrorists and strengthening our homeland security are areas that generally share wide consensus in Congress, and I am pleased with the members of Homeland Security Committee for drafting such vital pieces of legislation that will further develop our ability to thwart terrorist attacks and help our friends abroad.
- New York Times. London Underground Is Struck by Crude Bomb at Parsons Green
- BBC. Parsons Green: Underground blast a terror incident, say police
A few months ago, when the Senate was unable to come to an agreement on an Obamacare replacement bill, many people thought that the effort to help Americans struggling under the weight of Obamacare’s regulations and costs was over. But the good news is that Republican senators have not given up the fight. Senators Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Lindsay Graham (R-SC), Ron Johnson (R-WI), and Dean Heller (R-NV) have been working hard to develop another health care proposal that can help Americans regain control of their health care decisions. And this coming week, the Senate is expected to discuss this measure and others.
It would be easy for the Senate to simply move on to other things and ignore the necessity to act on Obamacare. But I’m proud of my Senate colleagues for sticking in the fight and working for the American people. Nobody can craft a perfect bill to repeal and replace Obamacare all at once – we all know that – but we have to persevere. Millions of Americans are counting on us, and I know that we can work together and deliver for them.
- Politico. Graham, Cassidy unveil last-ditch Obamacare repeal bill
- The Hill. Senate health panel aims for deal on stabilizing markets early next week
There is little doubt that the uncertainty created by DACA is a symptom of a broken immigration system, a system that challenges those who want to come here legally to contribute to the American dream and rewards those who break the law. If you wanted to bring your adult child from Mexico to the U.S. today, you would have needed to file in April 1995 for his or her visa number to be called this month. If you wanted to bring your adult sister or brother from the Phillippines, you would have needed to file in June 1994 for their visa number to be called up this month. These are just two examples, but there are many many more for countries all over the world. No family wants to suffer the anxiety of being separated for years on end while waiting through the legal process that is filled with confusion and uncertainty.
Fortunately, we now have the incredible opportunity to have this discussion, find consensus, and cure what has put us in this situation of uncertainty and find certainty for those who have been failed by the system. Since President Trump's announcement that he would like to sign a permanent solution within the next six months, the President and Congress have come together to find common ground. I’m encouraged by the President’s leadership and willingness to find solutions and consensus on both sides of the aisle on the serious issues our country has long contended with, and I hope that my colleagues feel the same. We clearly have many differences to reconcile, but it is important that we have those debates because for far too long we have faced deadlock and inaction in the face of disagreement. What we all can agree on is that we must do better. We are both a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants. I am optimistic that Congress and the President will find a path that celebrates both. We in the 7th District will be deeply involved in that discussion.
My colleagues and I have heard from many folks over the years who have expressed concern about the potential risks associated with having their Social Security Numbers (SSNs) displayed on their Medicare card, and I could not agree more that we should be taking steps to reduce the vulnerability of our senior citizens, not putting them in harm’s way by no fault of their own. That said, Congress listened and took swift action to remedy the issue by passing into law the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA) in the last Congress, which directs the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to remove SSNs from all Medicare cards to help combat identity theft and safeguard taxpayer dollars. The good news is that CMS announced just last week that Medicare beneficiaries can expect to receive their new cards as early as April 2018.
A new Medicare Beneficiary Identifier (MBI) will replace the SSN-based Health Insurance Claim Number (HICN) on the new Medicare cards for Medicare transactions like billing, eligibility status, and claim status. You can learn more about the new Medicare cards and what to expect by clicking here, and if you have further questions or concerns please do not hesitate to call my office at 770-232-3005 to speak with a member of my staff. Protecting the personally identifiable information of all Americans should be common-sense, and you can count on me to continue finding ways to make the government work in the best interest of the people it serves.
- CMS Press Release New Medicare cards offer greater protection to more than 57.7 million Americans
- NPR. Get Ready! Medicare Will Mail New Cards to 60 Million People
North Korea has been one of America’s greatest foreign policy challenges over the past several Administrations. Unfortunately, the failure of past Administrations to effectively extinguish North Korean nuclear ambitions has allowed the rogue regime to evolve from a foreign policy challenge to an existential threat to many of our allies around the world—and soon to the United States itself. The most recent missile launch over Japan marked the second time in two weeks that North Korea directly threatened our ally in the Pacific and further stoked fears among nations around the globe that they could be next. This is exactly why President Trump and Congress has taken such bold steps to confront North Korea and warn them to settle down and begin down a new, more peaceful path before it’s too late. Congress enacted a very tough package of sanctions that has led China’s biggest banks to stop accepting North Korean money, and United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley successfully recruited China and Russia to support the strongest sanctions ever placed on North Korea by the UN Security Council. As the Administration has made clear, the United States is never looking for war and is not pursuing regime change in North Korea. We are however pursuing an end to the barrage of apocalyptic threats coming from this troubled state and will do what is necessary to protect ourselves and our closest allies.
- CNN. North Korea launches missile over Japan
- Politico. Tillerson calls on nations to take new measures against North Korea after latest missile launch
This week (in fact, hopefully tonight) the Senate will debate, and is expected to approve, the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). You’ll remember that the House spent almost a week on this bill earlier this summer, and I’m pleased that the Senate is taking up the bill and working to make it even better. Providing our nation’s troops with the tools they need to get the job done and specifically outlining the tactics and strategies that they will use to keep us safe here at home and keep our allies safe abroad are critically important. There are enemies abroad who would wish to destroy our American way of life and prove that democracy and freedom aren’t the bedrocks of good governance. We know better, and we rely on our military to ensure that our enemies will never win. I wish my Senate colleagues good luck, and I look forward to meeting with them in Conference Committee soon to bring a final version of the 2018 NDAA to the President’s desk.
Member of Congress