Washington Watch - 9/23/19
The House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Water Resources held a hearing last week to examine the Administration’s Clean Water Act (CWA) priorities. CWA is the principal law that governs the way in which we regulate water quality in the United States. Of all the things you would expect us to agree on, clean water is one. Being a good steward of this vital natural resource is not a Republican or Democratic priority, but rather an America priority, even a world priority, regardless of political ideology. Despite this agreement, however, debates have ensued for decades regarding the CWA’s reach (i.e. where do federal rules stop and state rules begin)
In 2015, President Obama’s Administration promulgated a new rule in an attempt to provide clarity to the scope of the “waters of the United States,” or WOTUS. As we now know, the 2015 Obama-era regulation failed to achieve that goal. With its overreach into areas that have long been regulated locally, the WOTUS rule spurred confusion and uncertainty among regulated communities including farmers, manufacturers, and commercial properties. Court cases have now been fought and won overturning in some cases parts and in other cases the whole of the WOTUS rule, leaving a confusing patchwork of regulations across the country. For those reasons, I was pleased when the Trump Administration announced plans to repeal the flawed WOTUS rule and replace it with language that comports with the four corners of the CWA law.
The Administration has decided to undertake this rightsizing effort in a two-step process. Step one, which was completed earlier this month, entailed repealing the 2015 rule and re-codifying the previous regulatory text in place with some technical fixes. Step two, which will likely be finalized in the coming months, will replace the Obama-era 2015 WOTUS definition with one that ensures clarity and certainty within the boundaries of the law so that regulated communities can easily comply.
Click the image below to watch my Q&A with Dave Ross, the Assistant Administrator in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Water.
In my Q&A with Assistant Administrator Ross, we discussed the agency’s plans to ensure we get WOTUS right this time around. Additionally, we discussed Georgia’s recent success in leading a lawsuit with nine other states that resulted in a federal judge making it clear that the Obama-era agencies overstepped the law. You can click HERE to read more about Georgia’s success in Court under Attorney General Chris Carr’s leadership.
As a Member of the House Budget Committee since my first days in Congress, I have seen first-hand how our existing process has failed to produce a budget in a timely manner – if at all. I have also witnessed repeated Continuing Resolutions and government shutdowns because of Congress’ failure to do its job in passing spending bills to fund the government. Clearly something must change, which is why I was pleased when the House Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress held a hearing last week titled “Recommendations for Improving the Budget and Appropriations Process.”
During that hearing, we spoke about another Committee that I had the honor of serving on in the 115th Congress, the Joint Select Committee on Budget and Appropriations Process Reform, which produced a number of recommendations that we are revisiting: biennial budgeting, realistic budget timelines, and technical changes to the House rules to name a few. The co-chairs of that Committee, Representatives Steve Womack (R-AK) and Nita Lowey (D-NY), testified before us about the Joint Select Committee’s process and the small but necessary reforms that were considered.
We were also joined by M. Matthew Owens of Convergence Building a Better Budget, G. William Hoagland of the Bipartisan Policy Center, and Megan Lynch from the Congressional Research Service who offered their expertise in the matter to both endorse the ideas presented by the Joint Select Committee and present other ideas for this Committee to consider moving forward.
While there are many factors working against us, I believe the momentum is on our side to push forward recommendations to repair and improve our budget and appropriations process and have them adopted here in Congress. If you would like to watch a clip of my questions to the second panel, click on the photo below.
Rep. Woodall questions witnesses at the House Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress hearing entitled “Recommendations for Improving the Budget and Appropriations Process”
Last week, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) took one more step closer to getting to President Trump’s desk. Both the House and Senate voted to send the NDAA, which authorizes the majority of our country’s national defense and military priorities, to conference where the differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill will be resolved. Reconciling the differences between the two chambers is an essential part of our democratic process and is especially important for this year’s NDAA.
As some may remember, the NDAA typically passes Congress by wide, bipartisan margins, however, the Democrat-led version that came out of the House this year failed to invest in essential areas such as modernizing our nuclear capabilities, upgrading our Navy, and other innovations that are critical to deterring threats around the globe from China and Russia. As such, the bill was forced through the House on a partisan vote of 220 to 197.
In contrast, the Senate crafted a bipartisan product with the proper resources for our men and women in uniform to achieve their missions around the globe and passed the bill 86 to 8. The U.S. military is vital to the defense of our country and should not be subject to petty politics, yet that’s exactly how House Democrats have treated our national security. This NDAA conference is our opportunity to ensure the final bill properly provides for the common defense of our nation, as the Constitution mandates, and it is my hope that the Conferees follow the Senate’s example of bipartisan partnership.
More than one-third of adults in the U.S. are obese, and with obesity linked to many chronic diseases, the costs associated with treating these diseases will only continue to rise.
Last week, I met with 7th District representatives from Novo Nordisk, a global healthcare company that focuses on diabetes care.
We discussed legislation aimed at reducing obesity in our Medicare population by increasing patients’ access to intensive behavioral therapy and access to coverage of obesity medications through Part D plans.
Whether they are assisting individuals with disabilities, helping military veterans transition to civilian life, or simply serving as a beloved part of the family, there is no doubt that pets are important to us here in Gwinnett and Forsyth counties.
I recently had the opportunity to sit down with members from the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council to address legislation that would allocate funds to connect veterans to service dog providers. We also discussed research proposals that would determine possible benefits of companion animals in educational settings.
Thank you all for stopping by to discuss such an important topic for those of us here in the 7th District.
It is important to find better ways to help individuals and families who are struggling with behavioral health issues.
Last week, I spoke with representatives from the National Council for Behavioral Health to address some of the challenges people face when seeking treatment. We discussed funding for and access to mental health services and innovative measures to address the nation’s opioid crisis.
Last week the House passed H.R. 2486, the “Fostering Undergraduate Talent by Unlocking Resources for Education (FUTURE) Act.” This legislation would extend $255 million of mandatory funding for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs), and other Minority-Serving Institutions (MSIs). There are many of you in the 7th District who have ties to these institutions and have written in to share your thoughts with me:
Sid from Duluth:
I'm writing to you today because, like so many of your constituents, I'm extremely concerned about the future of education in our country.
H.R. 2486, as you know, benefits Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Minority-Serving Institutions (MSIs), and Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs) by providing mandatory funds that allow these institutions to better serve their students in the STEM fields. STEM education, the inventive and creative power it reveals, is crucial to the growth and continued development of our economy.
Judy from Cumming:
Please support the FUTURE Act when it comes up for a vote on the House floor. My experience at HBCUs were extremely important as I navigated and advanced my educational career, and it is critical that they continue to receive funding so that the same opportunities can be provided for others like me.
As the FUTURE Act moves to the Senate for further consideration, I’d like to echo the sentiments shared by Sid and Judy and talk about how the FUTURE Act is a necessary step to ensure the success of our nation’s HBCUs and MSIs.
For more than a century, these institutions have helped minority students prepare for a professional career in the American workforce, propelling them towards industries like medicine, politics, education, business, finance, and more – a history of success that we all want to celebrate and support in the future.
HBCUs and MSIs are also vital on a local and regional level, contributing $14.8 billion in total economic impact and generating nearly 135,000 jobs in their local areas. Additionally, for students with an HBCU degree, they can expect to make almost $1 million in additional income during their lifetime.
Considering we have ten of the most renowned HBCUs located right here in the state of Georgia, including Clark Atlanta University, Morehouse College, Morehouse School of Medicine, and Spelman College right here in the metro Atlanta area, it makes sense that the FUTURE Act is an important piece of legislation for many of us at home. I am hopeful the Senate will take this bill up quickly and send it to the President’s desk for his signature so that these institutions may continue to thrive in the future.
There is no greater responsibility of our law enforcement than to serve and protect, and the work our esteemed officers undertake in that effort touches nearly every part of our lives. The daily commute to work or picking the kids up from school, for example, is dependent on the work that we often don’t see – the work that takes place behind the scenes – all aimed at keeping individuals and their families as safe as possible when on our roadways. This past week, the Snellville Police Department received the highest recognition from the Georgia Governor’s Office of Highway Safety for their outstanding achievement in highway safety enforcement and education. Congratulations to Chief Roy Whitehead and his team for this tremendous honor.
- Gwinnett Daily Post. Snellville Police receive Governor's Cup
- AJC. Snellville police win top Governor’s Office of Highway Safety Award
Every week, I get to meet with folks from our community who are not only committed to using their voice to make a difference, but who are also willing to put in the time and energy to see their plans and ideas to fruition. This notion extends far and wide, including environmental stewardship, where the gains we have made in keeping our environment clean and beautiful would not be possible without the individuals who make their mission to strive and achieve that goal. Organizations like the Lake Lanier Association have worked for more than half a century to protect Lake Lanier – our area’s most valuable water and recreational resource – and this September capped the 31st year of their annual “Shore Sweep.” This event brought out nearly 1,000 volunteers to pick up debris across Lanier’s shoreline, ridding the area of roughly 30 tons of trash. I know we are all grateful for those who dedicated their time to this remarkable effort!
- Forsyth County News. This much trash was picked up from Lake Lanier by volunteers at Shore Sweep 2019
On Tuesday afternoon, the Rules Subcommittee on Legislative and Budget Process, which I have had the privilege of leading in past Congresses and of which I am the ranking Republican today, will be holding a hearing examining how Congress budgets for and helps localities rebuild after natural disasters. We all know that natural disasters are going to happen – floods, hurricanes, wildfires, tornadoes, and more – so why don’t we budget for these events more efficiently? As is the case for most of us, we are reactive instead of proactive. But we know, somewhere at some point in the year, Americans are going to be faced with a natural disaster, and I’m looking forward to hearing from our witnesses about how we can better use taxpayer dollars to prepare ourselves for those instances and for rebuilding after they are over.
The House will also consider two measures, H.R. 2203 and H.R. 3525. These measures, while well intentioned, are more of the same left-wing “solutions” to real-life problems facing our nation. Instead of empowering our border patrol officers and homeland security officials to take real actions to protect Americans and migrants, these measures make it harder for law enforcement to stop child smugglers, make it easier for possible criminal migrants to disappear inside the country, and place greater burdens on our border control and immigration agencies without providing any resources or funding. We can do better, and we should.
Member of Congress