Washington Watch - 9/26/16
Last week the House unanimously passed a bipartisan bill that I introduced with my friend Representative Jackie Speier (D-CA). H.R. 4712, known as the “Strengthening the Department of Homeland Security Secure Mail Initiative Act (Secure Mail Initiative Act),” will improve the security of sensitive immigration documents such as green cards and work authorizations to ensure they only get delivered to their intended recipient. I’m proud of this bill, which will hopefully be signed into law soon, because it’s another example of constituents sharing an often-overlooked but widespread problem and my working with colleagues to craft a solution not just for our neighbors but for our entire nation.
Imagine, you or your family member has immigrated to the United States legally; you’ve filed all the appropriate paperwork with the government, you’ve paid all the fees, and all you’re waiting for in order to go to work and help to your family is delivery of a green card or work authorization. But, that green card never arrives because something went awry with the mail. Maybe it got delivered to the wrong address. Maybe it’s been stolen by an identity thief. In either case, you’re waiting for it, the government thinks you have it, but you don’t. So you’re stuck in an immigration limbo that can only be solved by your sending the government another $450 and waiting weeks more; again with no guarantee of delivery the second time around.
This is the scenario that a 7th District resident found himself in, leading him to call my office. The bill I passed last week in a bipartisan way simply allows a constituent to request and pay an additional fee for documents to be sent through a “signature required” service to ensure that the government doesn’t hold them financially responsible for lost or wrongly delivered mail and to ensure that errant mail delivery doesn’t prevent anyone from being able to live and work in America legally. While this bill won’t change the world, it will make a big difference to the many families who have struggled with this problem. Every congressional district has seen this problem, but you and I have finally done something to fix it once and for all. No matter how large or small, if every day we work together in Congress to solve a problem, save money, and make a difference, by the end of the year we’ll find that we’ve accomplished a lot. On your behalf, I try to do exactly that.
- Rob Woodall. House turns casework into policy success
Last week the House made another strong statement in America’s continuing push to hold Iran accountable for its corruption and support of international terrorism. There is no greater sovereign state threat to the world than Iran. According to the State Department, Iran is the largest state sponsor of terrorism in the world and is actively financing terrorist organizations throughout the Middle East. It is our responsibility as a peace-loving nation and leader of the world’s democracies to ensure that Iran’s international financial corruption and support for terrorism are stopped.
The first bill the House passed last week to tackle the Iranian issue was H.R. 5461, the “Iranian Leadership Asset Transparency Act.” I led the effort to bring this bill to the floor to shine much needed sunlight on the financial assets of top Iranian officials. It’s well known that Iran’s political and military leaders have amassed significant personal wealth through corrupt practices at the expense of ordinary Iranian citizens. In fact, the personal foundations that these leaders direct make up roughly one-third of the entire Iranian economy, including such important sectors as telecommunications, construction, airports, and seaports. Unfortunately, the nuclear deal that President Obama signed with Iran allows many of the entities that are tied to this corruption to be removed from the sanctions list.
While H.R. 5461 won’t put a stop to the nuclear deal, it will force the U.S. Department of the Treasury to publish online a comprehensive list of the financial assets of these Iranian leaders so that everyone in the world will know where they get their money and how it’s being spent. That way, even though the President may support lifting sanctions, Americans in all sectors of the economy will know if they’re doing business with a corrupt Iranian official, and the Iranian people will know how their leaders are fleecing the Iranian economy.
The second bill, H.R. 5931, the “Prohibiting Future Ransom Payment to Iran Act,” makes it illegal for the U.S. government to make cash payments to Iran until such time as the President certifies that Iran is no longer a primary money laundering concern or a state sponsor of terrorism. The bill also states that is the formal policy of the United States to never pay ransom or release prisoners for the purpose of securing the release of a U.S. citizen taken hostage abroad. I’m proud that both these bills passed with broad bipartisan support, and I hope that the Senate will pass these bills soon.
- Washington Post. House passes bill rebuking ransom payments to Iran
- The Weekly Standard. House passes bill barring Iran ransom payments under veto threat
- Iran Focus. House passes bipartisan bill bringing financial transparency to Iranian regime
Last week, we had another great hearing in the House Budget Committee. It was the next in a series of hearings related to the Committee’s “Restoring the Trust” initiative, and the focus was on what Congress can do to improve the lives of American families and working age adults. Among the many topics of discussion were education, health care, jobs and wages, and housing, to name a few, and I was surprised to learn that there is so much common ground between members on both sides of the aisle on a group of issues that can often be contentious.
For example, there was near universal agreement that we should focus less on simply ensuring Americans have access to education and more on ensuring that Americans have access to education that will actually benefit them in the long-term. We’ve been succeeding with innovative models in Georgia like dual-enrollment for high school students who want to get college credit from Gwinnett Tech while they’re still in high school. This makes getting a college degree cheaper and faster, and it gives our students an amazing leg-up when it comes to landing quality jobs. The same is true for finding ways to ensure that hardworking Americans see their wages increase as their productivity increases. I very much enjoyed the thoughtfulness of both the witnesses and members at this hearing, and I invite you watch the hearing by clicking the below link and share with me any feedback or ideas that you may have.
- House Budget Committee. Restoring the Trust for Families and Working-Age Americans
Last Wednesday, the House Judiciary Committee held its third hearing regarding an issue many of you back home have expressed concern about; the allegations of misconduct and possible impeachment of IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. There’s no disputing that some in the IRS engaged in a targeting campaign against certain groups seeking tax-exempt status, and ever since this targeting came to light in 2013, many Americans have felt uneasy with the IRS’ power. Not only that, but with the subsequent erasure of hard drives containing documents linked to the targeting scandal, it’s only natural that the American people would want answers and would want someone held accountable. I’m pleased that Commissioner Koskinen answered all the committee members’ questions and even expressed regret that the IRS failed to preserve all the information congressional investigators sought in their probe. I look forward to further action by the Judiciary Committee in this matter.
- Washington Post. IRS Commissioner faces GOP critics seeking his impeachment
- Wall Street Journal. IRS Commissioner pushes back on impeachment attempt
- Fox News. IRS boss Koskinen takes heat at impeachment hearing for faulty testimony
This week the House is going to vote on the 2017 Water Resources Development Act (WRDA). We’ve spoken before about how critical this legislation is to Georgia – for our water supply, our ports, and our water infrastructure – and I’m so pleased that we are spending time this week on debating and passing this bill. I also expect the House and Senate to pass a Continuing Resolution (CR) to fund the government’s operations through December 9th.
Member of Congress