Washington Watch - 9/30/19
Wishing a Happy New Year to all celebrating Rosh Hashanah.
May 5780 be a sweet and peaceful year.
If you have tuned-in to the House floor in the past few months, you may have seen the Speaker repeatedly admonish Members for making disparaging remarks about the President or their colleagues, which is a violation of House rules. You also may have witnessed the coarseness of the latest hearings at the House Judiciary Committee. Rules of decorum have deteriorated; expectations of respect and civility have waned; and many—including myself—worry that productivity is the victim.
The House Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress on which I serve was created to seek a 21st century framework in which we work together to find solutions for the American people. The title of the hearing last week was “Promoting Civility and Building a More Collaborative Congress,” where our witnesses spoke about the rise of polarization and the need to promote bipartisanship and civility.
Our panel included Former United States Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, Executive Director of the National Institute for Civil Discourse Keith Allred, Associate Professor of Political Science at Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University Jennifer N. Victor, and Founder and President of Bipartisan Policy Center Jason Grumet. Their testimony was fascinating, tracing the rise in polarization and discord back through a number of previous congressional reforms that at the time were aimed at improving the work of Congress. From changes to campaign finance rules to changes in House rules, to changes in how House Members interact, to changes in how staff interact, our expert witnesses went line-by-line through their testimony offering concrete suggestions for reform.
Rep. Woodall speaks with witnesses at the House Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress hearing entitled “Promoting Civility and Building a More Collaborative Congress”
When I report back to you on the recommendations of my Committee to Congress, I will trace some of those ideas back to this past week and the productive, bipartisan ideas shared and discussions had. In a typical Congressional hearing, you might see a panel of five witnesses—four that were selected by the majority party to make a point and one that was selected by the minority party to counter that point. On our Modernization Committee, there is no majority—half the committee is Republican and the other half Democrat—which means for our hearings there are no majority or minority witnesses—only expert witnesses chosen together by the Members of the Committee. With that firm foundation, it is no wonder that we are having more success moving ideas than many of the other committees on Capitol Hill, and I am very proud of that.
- Roll Call. With impeachment churning, Modernization panel urges civility
- Press Release. Select Committee Examines Opportunities for Increased Civility and Collaboration in Congress
Last week at the Rules Committee, the Subcommittee on Legislative and Budget Process held a hearing to examine community resilience and the impacts of natural disasters on the budget process. Lawmakers on the Subcommittee heard from subject matter experts and local officials about how we can spend federal dollars in a smarter and more targeted manner when disasters strike.
We all know too well that every community in America has been – or will be – affected by a natural disaster. Just last year, Hurricane Michael struck Georgia and left devastation in its path. Such natural disasters – whether floods, hurricanes, wildfires, tornadoes, droughts, or earthquakes – have profound budgetary impacts on the lives of those affected. It is no secret that when disaster strikes, most all local, state, and federal dollars are spent in a reactive manner rather than a proactive one. While Congress has taken steps in the last decade to ensure that our discretionary budget caps can account for the costs of disaster relief, such figures only provide a good snapshot of federal spending on post-disaster recovery efforts, not pre-disaster mitigation.
There’s no doubt we can and should spend dollars more wisely to help communities prepare for disasters. As such, the central question before the Subcommittee was not whether we should be spending dollars on resiliency techniques to better mitigate damages, but instead how can Congress budget better and account for those dollars to curtail the amount spent on post-disaster recovery. The good news is that the Rules Subcommittee on Legislative and Budget Process is not the only group of lawmakers looking at this very issue in the 116th Congress. The topic of resiliency is being discussed in the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Science Committee, Budget Committee, Oversight Committee, Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, Natural Resources Committee, and more.
To that end, I am pleased that this Congress is taking a serious look at how we can do better for the American people. Moreover, I want to take this opportunity to thank my good friend and Subcommittee Chairman, Representative Alcee Hastings, for holding this hearing and allowing Members of the Subcommittee the opportunity to hear from each of the witnesses and to think about ways Congress can budget better to mitigate the damaging effects of natural disasters. Click on the image below to view my remarks at last week’s Rules Committee hearing.
Our service academies are gateways for exceptional young people to pursue rewarding careers in serving their country. It is an honor as a member of Congress to be involved in the admissions process by nominating candidates for consideration. If you’re interested in a Congressional Nomination for one of the U.S. Service Academies, CLICK HERE to learn more. The deadline to submit an application to my District Office is by Friday, October 4, 2019 at 5:00 P.M.
The USCMA isn’t a partisan victory important to only Republicans or Democrats; it’s important to America. Passage of this trade agreement is long overdue, and I urge all my colleagues to stand up to partisan politics and stand up for America. I have heard from many businesses and employees across the district that they worried that the heightened partisan fervor around the House majority’s now three-year effort to remove President Trump will make any major trade deal—or legislative deal of any kind—impossible. I want you to know that I reject that notion. I have watched this White House closely over that past three years, and setting the bombastic rhetoric aside, I see a singular focus on advancing prospects for the America worker. A new trade deal with Canada and Mexico – and then with China – will do that in tremendously meaningful ways. So, I know that the Administration will continue to work hard to get this effort across the finish line. Here in the House, I will continue to work hard to keep our serious Members focused and working together to make meaningful legislative action our number one goal.
Click on the image below to watch my full interview with Fox Business' Charles Payne.
From the Cannon Rotunda, Rep. Woodall advocates that Congress can still pass the USMCA
Last week, the House voted on H.R. 1595, the “Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act.” This bill would allow federally insured and regulated banks and other financial services to serve cannabis-related businesses in states where cannabis or marijuana has been legalized. As more states have legalized marijuana, more questions have been raised on how state laws interact with federal laws and the repercussions of legalizing a drug that is illegal federally. Here is what some of you have written in on the issue:
Jennifer from Cumming:
As your constituent, I ask you to vote for the SAFE Banking Act when it comes to the floor in the next few days, and to ensure that its hemp provisions are retained. Difficulty in finding banks and credit card companies to handle financial transactions has been plaguing the hemp industry for many months. Too many financial institutions refuse to do business with hemp and CBD companies, worried about the risk that they will be sanctioned by federal agencies. The SAFE Banking Act offers a solution. Specifically, language within the bill would: Provide a safe harbor for hemp financial transactions, ensuring that banks and other financial institutions would not face federal punishment for those activities; and Direct the federal financial regulators (FDIC, Federal Reserve, etc.) to issue clear, formal guidance to banks, credit card companies and other financial institutions about the legality of hemp and CBD commerce. This is a critical time for this exciting new industry. This legislation would benefit hemp and CBD companies in our district, as well as the growing number of hemp farmers who have discovered an exciting new economic opportunity with this crop. Please vote for the SAFE Banking Act and its hemp provisions. I appreciate your consideration.
Robert from Suwanee:
Dear Representative Woodall, I am a cannabis voter and one of your constituents. Can you please let me know if you plan to support the SAFE Banking Act? Please respond and let me know.
Ten states and the District of Columbia have legalized the use marijuana recreationally, and nearly every state has legalized it for limited medical purposes. That said, it is still prohibited by federal law, and as one can imagine, that has repercussions. As a Schedule I controlled substance, the manufacture, distribution, dispensing, or possession of marijuana is a federal criminal offense, with the only exception being the use of marijuana as part of a Food and Drug Administration pre-approved research study.
While dealing with marijuana remains a federal crime, one of the biggest issues states are having, raised by Jennifer and Robert, is the ability for marijuana-related businesses in states that have legalized it to access the federal banking system. Because banks and other depository institutions can be penalized under federal money laundering laws for accepting deposits from an illegal drug-related business, most of these businesses rely on cash-only transactions. H.R. 1595 would allow banks and other financial institutions to do business with marijuana-related companies without fear of federal punishment.
I confess I don’t understand the merit of H.R. 1595. Everyone who violates federal drug laws is subject to prosecution. Profits from sales of illegal drugs are subject to forfeiture. H.R. 1595 does nothing to change that. It simply carves out an exception from money laundering statutes. That is terrible policy, and I voted against the bill.
If advocates want to give marijuana-businesses the certainty to bank and do business, they don’t need a special carve out; they need a legal product to trade in. While some might prefer that the federal government look the other way, that isn’t the law. We can change the law if we like, but until that happens, we must enforce the law. It is striking to me that instead of having a debate on what drugs should be legal or illegal we instead had a debate on how to make dealing in illegal drugs easier for vendors.
Even for advocates of such a policy, there are many unanswered questions about the full reach of this bill. In fact, Ranking Member of the Financial Services Committee Representative Patrick McHenry (R-NC) sent a letter to Chairwoman Maxine Waters (D-CA) asking to delay consideration of this bill until the Committee has a better understanding of the full range of consequences that enacting such legislation may trigger, including posing 15 questions about how the bill would affect federal agencies' enforcement of other laws. Those 15 questions have yet to be answered.
On the broader issue of legalizing marijuana, there are questions about the drug’s health effects, especially with recent reports of deaths associated with vaping with THC (a key ingredient in marijuana), and how to measure whether someone is intoxicated or not while driving after using marijuana. But I welcome that full debate if the Congress wants to have it. We all want answers to these questions, but H.R.1595 will not bring us closer to the answers we need. It is up to Congress to update our national drug policy and either require the federal government to enforce existing laws equally in every jurisdiction, or to amend those existing laws to permit greater flexibility for individual states.
The U.S. Department of Education’s National Blue-Ribbon Schools Program honors public and private elementary, middle, and high schools whose students meet high performance standards and who are making notable improvements in closing the achievement gap among its students. I’m proud to share the news that our very own Daves Creek Elementary was recently recognized as a Blue-Ribbon School for 2019. To put that achievement in perspective, Daves Creek was one of only 362 schools across the nation to receive this honor - and only one of six schools in the state! This distinction is a testament to our hard-working teachers, administrators, counselors, parents, and students, and I am proud that they will be recognized for their hard work in Washington this November. Congratulations to Daves Creek Elementary, and I know we are all grateful for your hard work serving our youth in the Seventh District.
- Forsyth County News. Daves Creek Elementary named 2019 Blue Ribbon School
- Patch. Blue Ribbon Schools: Six In Georgia Make The List
The good work the men and women of the Gwinnett County Police Department (GCPD) undertake each and every day to serve nearly 800,000 residents across Buford, Suwanee, Lawrenceville, Grayson, Snellville, Lilburn, and more is vital to our security and protection. Their success relies on coordinated, decisive, and steady leadership, and these are just a few of the many accolades that can be attributed to Police Chief Butch Ayers who has led and served at the Department’s helm for the past five years. His retirement caps 35 years of service with the GCPD.
Few among us can boast such an admirable tenure of service, and we are fortunate that Chief Ayers chose to devote his time and talents to making our community better. I hope you will join me in commending Chief Ayers for a remarkable career and wishing him a happy retirement as we support Chief Tom Doran stepping into this vital role.
- AJC. Gwinnett police Chief Butch Ayers is retiring; successor named
- 11 Alive. Gwinnett Police chief retiring; deputy chief named successor
- Gwinnett Daily Post. Gwinnett police chief retiring, county announces successor
This week, House Members are back home in our districts with the opportunity to meet directly with you. It’s always a pleasure to be back home, but it’s even more so on weeks like this where I get to spend time with so many community leaders and student groups. From meeting with students at Brookwood High School, the Legacy Academy for Children, and Puckett’s Mill Elementary, to the Sugarloaf Rotary and the Consul General of Korea, I know that I’m going to learn a lot from all my neighbors and friends in the 7th District about what’s most important to you.
While my schedule for this week is full, I hope that you will keep in touch with my office should you have an event you want me to attend or you have a community concern with which you’d like my office’s assistance. The 7th District’s Congressional office is always open for you!
Member of Congress