You may have already seen the news, but the Associated Press covered a confidential document last week that revealed some troubling news about the Iran nuclear agreement: Iran is getting a much better deal than much of the world previously knew. Before the nuclear agreement even expires, the document reveals that, starting on the eleventh year of the agreement, Iran will be allowed to acquire thousands of advanced centrifuges that are up to five times as efficient as its current capabilities. While it was previously thought that Iran’s nuclear “break out” time, or the time it would take it to enrich enough uranium to produce a nuclear weapon, would be at least a year during this timeframe, this new revelation means that Iran could produce a nuclear weapon in 6 months or less—cutting in half the amount of time the world would have to react should Iran pursue weaponization.
While the document itself is very troubling and only deepens my fears about the dangerous nuclear deal with Iran, I am even more troubled that the President wasn’t fully transparent with the American people about the deal our nation was getting in exchange for billions of dollars’ worth of permanent sanctions relief. The loser in this equation isn’t just international security as a result of an even more dangerous nuclear deal, it’s the trust of the American people who are wondering why their President couldn’t be frank and honest with them about the terms of the agreement. I was pleased to see the House pass three Iran-related bills two weeks ago, including one that would impose a host of brand new sanctions on Iran, and I will continue to be a strong advocate for any future legislation that corrects our nation’s course on Iran.
The Department of Justice last week announced that it was challenging the proposed mergers of Aetna/Humana and Anthem/Cigna in what could be the largest health insurance company consolidations in U.S. history. It would be easy to pit the Obama Administration against the health insurance industry in a partisan political struggle, but that’s not the case here. These health insurance companies are looking at the new health insurance marketplace created by the Affordable Care Act and they see that the best way to thrive is to merge. On the other side of the ledger are state insurance commissioners, physicians groups, and the Justice Department that are worried about over consolidation of the industry and how that might affect prices for consumers.
But this isn’t just an academic argument. These potential mergers have real effects for Georgians. Anthem is the parent company of Blue Cross-Blue Shield of Georgia, and the Medicare Advantage plans supported by Aetna and Humana, if merged, would serve roughly one-third of Georgia’s more than 460,000 Medicare Advantage enrollees. Premium price changes, new physician networks, reimbursement adjustments for physicians, and more are all possible outcomes of these mergers, and as such, it’s imperative that government regulators and the health insurance industry work together to ensure that the mergers – if approved – are in the best interests of consumers. I look forward to following this issue as it continues to move through Washington, and you can follow the issue right here in Georgia when Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens holds a public hearing on the issue on July 26th.
Last week I had the pleasure of speaking with a fantastic group of folks in Cleveland – including some of our neighbors from Georgia – about how our government can do better for middle class Americans. The event was sponsored by Real Clear Politics and the Credit Union National Association (CUNA).
In fact, I was so happy to be able to take questions from folks in the audience who have never visited our part of the world and to tell them about the success stories that we have in the great Seventh District of Georgia. Our district is a microcosm of America – we have everyone from those who have made it to those who are still trying; we have the middle class, first generation Americans, ethnically diverse neighborhoods, and the young and the old.
When it comes to economic opportunity and success, the question is always, “Can you grab the bottom rung of the economic ladder; and no matter which rung you are on, do you have the tools to reach for the next one?” We do not live in a “success-is-guaranteed society,” but we do live in an opportunity society. Seventh District families demonstrate that each day, and I can share those successes nationally in Congress.
Two weeks ago, the House Republican Conference released its A Better Way agenda for the 115th Congress. One of the policy platforms in that agenda is to reform our nation’s health care system. While the House’s proposals are geared toward helping consumers regain control of their health care dollars and choices, an integral part of ensuring that all Americans can receive the health care they deserve is making sure that we have enough physicians to serve them.
You might not know it, but Medicare is the major funder of graduate medical education for our nation’s student doctors. Unfortunately, population increases in economic powerhouse states like Georgia haven’t been met with the necessary increase in physicians. Too many “sunbelt” states in the southeast and the southwest are lacking a sufficient number of primary care physicians, and that’s a shortage that will ultimately lead to fewer choices for Americans.
As we work to reform our nation’s health care system, I look forward to working with the State of Georgia, health insurance plans, medical colleges, and hospitals to find new ways to financially support the training of new physicians. Medicare simply can’t be expected to shoulder the entire burden, and I applaud states like Georgia that are tackling the physician shortage head-on and coming up with state and local solutions.
While the Democrats will be meeting in Philadelphia this week to formally nominate Hillary Clinton for President of the United States, I will be back in the Great State of Georgia meeting with our friends and neighbors. Businesses are opening their doors so that we can talk about opportunities and challenges with their employees, and community groups are opening their doors so that we can talk with their members. I know a bright future is ahead for America, and working together, we are already at work on that goal today.
Member of Congress
U.S. Sen. David Perdue and Rep. Rob Woodall, both R-Ga., have renewed calls to go after terrorist groups, including ISIS, in the wake of last week’s terrorist attack in Nice, France.
Eighty-four people died after a Tunisian man drove a truck into a crowd at a Bastille Day crowd in Nice. Hundreds more were hurt during the attack. Perdue called it an “unconscionable tragedy” in a statement while calling for American solidarity with France.
But he also said attacks such as this one, and similar incidents in Paris and Brussels, must be stopped by going after terrorist groups in the Middle East and stepping up border security.
“President Obama must reevaluate his strategy to defeat ISIS and other extremist groups,” Perdue said in a statement. “But, while we bolster our efforts to combat terrorism abroad, it is equally important that we strengthen our efforts to protect against terrorism here at home.
“This starts with securing our borders and improving our intelligence efforts, as well as providing our troops with what they need to take on these threats worldwide.”
Meanwhile, Woodall issued similar sentiments on Facebook.
“We are again reminded of an existential threat, and the need to relentlessly pursue the defeat of terrorists wherever we find them,” the congressman said.Read More
U.S. Rep. Rob Woodall praised legislation passed by the House and Senate this week that reauthorizes the Federal Aviation Administration for a little over a year.
The funding bill keeps the FAA running through September 2017. It also tackles several issues such as making air carriers refund paid baggage fees if the luggage is lost or “unreasonably destroyed,” streamlining the approval and cooperation process between agencies for the use of unmanned aircraft during emergencies and improving the process for hiring air traffic controllers to addresses shortages.
Some additional pieces of the bill include mandating some air traffic control towers make themselves more visible to low-flying aircraft; making expedited security screening available to a wider group of passengers and requiring carriers to have flight attendants trained to recognize and help potential human trafficking victims.
“This legislation takes immediate steps to keep the American people safe, and delivers over a year of certainty to consumers and those invested in the industry while ensuring we have the time to iron our remaining differences,” Woodall said in a statement.Read More
As Americans across the country return to work today -- or for some of you, enjoy a well-deserved family holiday -- the tragedy of law enforcement officers being targeted by our fellow Americans is foremost in many people's minds. In the past two weeks, 8 police officers have been murdered in the line of duty: 5 officers in Dallas on July 7th and 3 officers in Baton Rouge on July 17th. The senseless violence leveled against the men and women who have dedicated their lives to protecting and serving our communities is disgusting and heartbreaking.
Let me be perfectly clear. Recent shootings by police officers have stoked a fire of anti-police sentiment in some individuals in our nation. Unfortunately, instead of committing to answers and accountability, and instead of focusing on peaceful protest and fruitful conversation about race relations and community policing, some have allowed themselves to turn to violent rage. It is too easy to place blame and ask "who started it?" What is hard, and what we must do, is come together and denounce, in the strongest terms, anyone who turns to violence as a solution. This is a time for us to support our police officers and those peaceful protesters who want to bring about change in the right way.
For too many Americans, an addiction to opioids – both prescription drugs and illegal heroin – is taking away their ability to live normal, active lives. Right here in Georgia, the opioid crisis is leading to some dramatic outcomes. The Georgia Division of Family and Children Services (DFCS) says that nearly 40 percent of the cases in which a child is removed from a home and placed into foster care are related to drug abuse. That statistic is staggering, and it’s emblematic of what’s happening across the country. Opioid pain killers are turning good moms and dads into addicts, and unfortunately, with the price of heroin getting cheaper, it is easier than ever for our friends and neighbors – maybe even someone in our family – to end up with an uncontrollable addiction.
The good news is that Congress has come together to pass a comprehensive reform of the way our police and health care workers treat those with opioid addictions. This effort has been years in the making, and I’m proud that we’re working on the federal level to treat this like the health care crisis that it is.
Last week, the House also continued to make important progress in the annual appropriations process and successfully advanced yet another appropriations bill. Passage of H.R. 5538, the “FY2017 Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act,” not only marks the fifth appropriations bill to move forward in the House, it also marks the passage of a very important bill to the Seventh District and the nation. Among many other victories contained in this legislation, H.R. 5538 reduces funding to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) by $164 million and holds the EPA to the lowest staffing levels since 1989 to ensure that it remains focused on its core mission to protect the environment—not on crafting overreaching regulations that it lacks the authority to create. In addition to imposing much-needed fiscal restraint on the EPA, this legislation also contains crucial provisions that explicitly prohibit the EPA from carrying out these overreaching regulations. One such regulation that this legislation blocks is the “Waters of the U.S.” rule. I’ve heard directly from the Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners and many others in the Seventh District who have told me that this particular regulation is their number one regulatory concern. As such, I was very happy to translate these concerns into action and halt this unprecedented and unwarranted expansion of EPA regulations that the federal courts have already issued a nationwide stay for.
With over 100 amendments debated from both sides of the aisle and many hours of debate on the House floor, I was very proud of the robust and inclusive process for consideration that allowed dozens of members from both sides of the aisle to offer their ideas to make this legislation better. Between this open process for consideration and the many provisions that rein in the regulatory overreach and keep the executive branch accountable to the bounds established by the U.S. Constitution, this legislation is a clear victory for American democracy, and I was pleased to lend my support for it.
The oversight of the Article II Executive Branch in each appropriations bill is critically important to our Constitutional balance of power. I have been working hard in my time in Congress to restore oversight and a well-functioning appropriations process. There is always more to do, but we are doing more today than ever before, and I am grateful for that progress.
Thursday night during the Bastille Day celebration in Nice, France, we were once again tragically reminded of an existential threat and the need to relentlessly pursue the defeat of terrorists wherever we find them. In the days since this awful attack, we’ve mourned for the victims, prayed for their families, and asked frustratingly familiar questions. We want to know who did it, why they did it, and we want to ensure it never happens again. As we move forward, we will continue to learn more about each of these things, and we will reinforce our relationship with allies across the globe as we combat terrorists in every capacity here and abroad.
I’m grateful to all those who have dedicated their lives to protecting Americans, and am fully committed to doing everything possible to ensure they have the resources they need to continue being successful.
You all have likely already heard that, for the second time in recent weeks, Senate Democrats chose to put politics ahead of public health and our veterans by blocking the House-Senate conference agreement to combat the Zika virus and fund military construction and veterans benefits. As you all will recall, the conference agreement, which was passed by the House in June, provides $1.1 billion in additional funding for several federal agencies charged with preparing and responding to a potential Zika virus outbreak on U.S. soil, including the CDC, which is housed right here in our own backyard and would receive more than one-third of the total funding in the bill for efforts like mosquito control and Zika response and readiness, among other things. The funding for military construction and veterans benefits would be used to train and equip military personnel, provide housing and services to military families, and maintain base infrastructure across the nation, among other things. It’s disappointing to me that the minority party in the U.S. Senate decided to use a procedural hurdle to stall funding for these important priorities in hopes of scoring a few cheap political points.
Last Wednesday, the House Budget Committee held its third in a series of hearings related to the Restoring the Trust for All Generations initiative, the purpose of which is to discuss and advance effective and positive solutions to save and strengthen our nation’s health, retirement, and economic security programs. This particular hearing focused on federal programs for those at or near retirement, including Medicare and Social Security, which are both projected to reach insolvency in 2028 and 2034, respectively. With the fiscal realities facing these programs in mind, I chose to focus my time questioning Dr. Scott Gottlieb, who is a former senior official at the Center for Medicare and Medicaid services, about how Medicare is increasingly becoming more involved in the health care decisions of our nation’s seniors.
According to Dr. Gottlieb, in the last few years, Medicare policy has been shifting health care decision making authority over to bureaucrats and providers who are increasingly using a cost-benefit analysis to make important clinical decisions for beneficiaries. I don’t disagree that a cost-benefit analysis should be part of the consideration; my issue is that seniors and doctors are increasingly being left out of the discussions all together. I don’t want folks in Washington deciding whether or not seniors should have access to certain kinds of procedures and care, and that’s one of the reasons why the House Budget Committee has been advocating for a system that offers seniors both traditional Medicare and a premium support model. Under a premium support model, seniors would have more health insurance choices and more control over their health care decisions. Since over 400,000 Georgians are already taking advantage of the private sector benefits of Medicare Advantage, it’s clear to me that moving younger workers to a premium support model would be equally as beneficial.
While much attention has been focused on Iran’s nuclear enrichment activities, we absolutely cannot not forget that Iran is guilty of other nefarious activities that must be stopped. Namely, its support of terrorism, human rights abuses, and ballistic missile development—all of which are reasons why the President should have never agreed to the dangerous nuclear deal with Iran in the first place. The billions of dollars worth of sanction relief under the nuclear agreement amount to a blank check to Iran to continue being an irresponsible actor in the international arena. This week the House passed several measures addressing the ongoing reckless behavior of the Iranian regime that has proven repeatedly to be untrustworthy, and I was proud to support each of these bills. H.R. 5119, the “No 2H2O from Iran Act,” H.R. 4992, the “United States Financial System Protection Act of 2016,” and H.R. 5631, the “Iran Accountability Act of 2016” all implement measures including a large package of new sanctions and financial restrictions that will make it more difficult for Iran to carry out its irresponsible behavior. No regime with the track record of Iran should be left unchecked, and these bills are important steps in that process.
Last week, Congress cleared the way for the President to sign our FAA extension into law. While this legislation doesn’t contain all of the provisions that were included in the bill passed out of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, it contains a number of important reforms that will benefit taxpayers and American travelers. First of all, while we did not increase spending, we did guarantee more than a year of certainty for businesses and Americans who rely on safe, convenient air travel. We also included language I authored that will allow for quicker deployment of innovative unmanned aircraft technology by electric utilities so that in the event of a power outage, service can be restored faster and safer than it is today. The bill also requires airlines to refund baggage fees to customers whose items are lost or unreasonably delayed and reforms TSA policies to cut down on wait times at airports. This 14 month extension lays the ground work for a full reauthorization next year, and I am excited to get back to work to implement other critical reforms.
One of my favorite things to do in Congress is to remind my colleagues how lucky I am to live in a community that commits itself to amazing schools. In addition to the many academic success stories that I already have to share with folks in D.C., I learned last week that public schools in Forsyth and Gwinnett Counties are not only delivering Seventh District students a high quality education, but they are doing it in a more financially efficient manner than most other schools around the state. In fact, the Forsyth County Public School system as a whole was found to be the most financially efficient school system in the entire state, receiving the only 5 star rating awarded, and Gwinnett County Public Schools took top honors for all school systems in the core metro Atlanta area. It’s truly an honor to represent a district that is home to some of the finest schools in the nation, and I want to congratulate Forsyth County Schools and Gwinnett County Schools on this remarkable achievement.
For the next two weeks, our nation's major political parties will host their respective national conventions in an effort to formally choose their nominees for President of the United States. No matter your political affiliation, I hope that both conventions will be peaceful examples of how political rivals can use rhetoric to draw distinctions instead of violence. Peaceful transitions of power and honest elections are a hallmark of the American experience, and I am proud to be part of that heritage.
Member of Congress
(Washington, D.C.) – This week, both the House and Senate cleared a bipartisan agreement to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) through September 2017, and the measure is expected to be signed into law by the President today. The legislation is an extension of operational funding without increasing federal spending, and enacts long-term policy reforms to strengthen national security, improve air travel for persons with disabilities, shorten wait times, and among other things, require airlines to reimburse passengers with lost luggage.
“This legislation takes immediate steps to keep the American people safe, and delivers over a year of certainty to consumers and those invested in the industry while ensuring we have the time to iron our remaining differences,” said Rep. Woodall. “It empowers stakeholders and agencies to plan ahead, and though unfinished work remains – such as streamlining regulatory approval processes – I am pleased we locked in good policy on which there is agreement so that implementation can begin right away. Some really important aviation policy reforms that will help the American people today are in this bill, including my own language paving the way for utility providers to use drones to help restore service in extreme circumstances. In keeping with our theme in the FAST Act, this bill makes large strides in reforming how we will operate moving forward, which will have a positive impact on all Americans.”
While the highlights of the bill focus on the nationwide impact, there are several provisions in the bill that residents right here in Georgia will feel almost immediately. Section 2204 for instance, authored by Woodall, ensures electric utilities can use innovative technology, like drone technology, to speed up service restoration when lost during an outage in a safer and more timely way without being burdened by unnecessary layers of red tape. Residents everywhere will experience an immediate impact as utility companies across the country utilize this new opportunity.
Georgia Power CEO Paul Bowers welcomed the passage of the FAA Reauthorization Act and pointed specifically to the reform that targets the utility industry. He said, “Georgia Power applauds the passage of the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2016. We appreciate the hard work of members of Congress in coming together to pass a bill that assures the continued safety of the national airspace system while also recognizing the critical importance of utility restoration efforts and the promising role unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) may play in those efforts.”
Bowers added, “In particular, we sincerely thank Congressman Woodall for his resolute support and for his determined efforts to ensure that the FAA will be prepared to act quickly in approving UAS use in connection with utility restoration efforts by having entered into prior agreements with the Secretary of Energy, FEMA, and other relevant agencies. The FAA’s ability to authorize UAS use expeditiously in support of utility restoration efforts will benefit our customers.”
Woodall’s reform language was initially offered as an amendment to House legislation, but was ultimately included in the long-term reforms of the bicameral agreement. The measure is one Woodall credits to an active dialogue with stakeholders in the utility industry who are familiar with the bureaucratic difficulty of utilizing unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) to quickly restore power.
Reforms found in the legislation include, but are not limited to:
· Directing air carriers to provide a refund of paid baggage fees when items are lost or unreasonably delayed
· Streamlining processes for approval and interagency cooperation to deploy unmanned aircraft during emergencies, such as disaster responses and wildfires
· Improving the air traffic controller hiring process and ensuring the FAA can better address chronic controller shortages with experienced candidates
· Requiring the marking of certain towers to improve their visibility to low-flying aircraft and help prevent accidents
· Ensuring that pilots are sufficiently trained on manual flying skills and how to monitor cockpit automation system
· Increasing operational efficiency of airport checkpoints by providing expedited screening to more passengers, redeploying certain TSA personnel, and assessing TSA’s staffing allocation model
· Streamlining the third-class medical certification process
· Requiring training for flight attendants in recognizing and responding to potential victims of human trafficking
Congressman Woodall represents the Seventh Congressional District of Georgia, which includes the majority of Forsyth and Gwinnett counties, and currently serves as Chairman of the Rules Subcommittee on Legislative and Budget Process, as well as serving on the Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, and Budget Committee.
On Friday, the House approved a final Conference Report providing much needed tools to combat opioid addiction in America. Since 2000, the rate of drug overdose deaths has increased by 137 percent, including a 200 percent increase in the rate of overdose deaths involving opioids. In 2014 alone, more than 28,000 people died in the U.S. from the use of opioids – both prescription drugs and heroin. And the issue is hitting us right here at home. From 2013-2014, Georgia saw an over 10 percent increase in drug overdose deaths, with over 1,200 Georgians dying of this terrible disease. That figure puts Georgia in the top 10 of all states in the rate of increase of overdose deaths. This is an epidemic in America, and it’s one that we can help to solve if we come together.
This bill commits the government to investing in programs and private sector entities that specialize in opioid addiction prevention and education as well as treatment and recovery. The bill also makes a significant investment in supporting our nation’s law enforcement entities that are trying to stem the tide of illegal opioids coming into the U.S. and better provide treatment opportunities for those who end up in our judicial system. I look forward to working with the Senate and the President to see this bill signed into law.
Last week the House passed its third appropriations bill, the “FY2017 Financial Services and General Government (FSGG) Appropriations Act,” which provides funding for the Treasury Department, the Judiciary, the Small Business Administration, and a number of other related agencies. This year’s bill makes investments in programs that support small businesses, increase transparency for consumers and investors, combat financial crime, improve taxpayer services and prevent fraud at the IRS, bolster cybersecurity protections, and more. It also reduces funding for underperforming federal programs and includes policy reforms to rein in executive overreach from the Obama Administration. All told, the bill comes in at $1.5 billion less than enacted funding levels for FY16 and is $2.7 billion below the level requested in the President’s FY17 budget. I hope you will take a minute to read more about the FY2017 FSGG Appropriations Act, which you can do by clicking here, and share your thoughts with me.
While the agencies receiving funding from this bill impact the lives of most us in the Seventh District in some way, I want to highlight one specific part of the bill that provides funding for Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs). SBDCs, which are under the umbrella of the U.S. Small Business Administration, provide assistance to small businesses and entrepreneurs in an effort to foster economic development. As some of you may have read in the news recently, the 17 SBDC locations across the State of Georgia have worked with private companies over the past five years to create more than 11,000 jobs, and we are fortunate to have an SBDC location in Lawrenceville. If you or someone you know is thinking about starting a new business in the area, I encourage you to have them contact the Gwinnett SBDC office to learn more about the professional services that are available.
The Port of Savannah is the recipient of a $44 million infrastructure grant. The award, announced on July 6th, will help improve the on-dock container transfer facilities and increase efficiency at the port. While that is indeed exciting, what I am even more excited to report is that the FAST Act, the legislation that implemented this program, is already starting to change how we go about efficiently and effectively using taxpayer dollars for transportation.
As House Transportation Committee Chairman Shuster and I worked together crafting the FAST Act, we agreed that this legislation needed to reform how we go about prioritizing and spending money to maintain and expand America’s infrastructure, and in turn, start earning back America’s trust. The Savannah Port is one of Georgia’s greatest economic advantages and one of America’s busiest ports, and this grant award is an example of how we can invest in high priority projects that will benefit everyone. I am proud to see the intentions behind the bill starting to take shape.
FBI director James Comey was just brought before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform to discuss his decision not to recommend criminal charges for Hillary Clinton related to her email scandal. During the hearing, Comey implied that had she been employed by the FBI, she would have probably been at least fired for her extremely reckless handling of classified government information. While the Department of Justice has decided not to pursue this deeply troubling case any further, I am committed to holding the powerful and connected accountable for their behavior. That’s why I joined many of my colleagues in sending a letter to the director asking for more detail behind his investigation as well as his decision not to recommend criminal charges for the former Secretary of State. I will be sure to keep you informed of his response and any other important developments.
Partnering with each other to make government work best is one of the things we do so well in the Seventh District. I could list example after example of the successes we’ve had fixing things one at a time, and just last week I co-sponsored H.R. 921, the “Sports Medicine Licensure Clarity Act,” to move the ball forward on another one of these solutions.
By nature of their industry, sports medicine professionals travel to multiple states with athletes, but under current law, often find themselves unable to carry-out their responsibilities due to a lack of licensure and liability insurance in each state they visit. Despite having all the necessary credentials to practice in their state of origin, this technicality prevents them from caring for the same individuals – in the very same way – that they would back home. H.R. 921 offers the clarification needed to ensure properly licensed sports medicine professionals can care for their patients.
This is a seemingly small issue to many of us, but a very important one for those in this field. I would never have known the problem existed if those in the industry, like those serving at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, weren't willing to drop by my office to share not only the problem, but a proposed solution with me. Whatever your industry, you’re an expert in it, and I hope you’ll bring your ideas to me if I can ever partner with you. The big policy issues can be tough to solve, but if we solve one small problem every day together, we will have accomplished a great deal a year from now.
This week the House is expected to pass three important bills that hold Iran accountable for its continued hostile actions. H.R. 5631 requires the Obama Administration to apply enhanced sanctions to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). The IRGC is not only the Ayatollah’s internal security force and political police, but it also operates as one of the country’s major economic actors and is responsible for cultivating and supporting terrorists abroad, including pro-Assad forces in Syria. The IRGC and its affiliated entities will certainly benefit from President Obama’s new alliance with Iran, and I for one cannot in good conscience allow a terrorist organization to do so. In addition to holding the IRGC accountable, H.R. 5119 ensures that the federal government does not provide any support to Iran to purchase heavy water from Iran’s nuclear complex. And H.R. 4992 cuts off the Iranian government and its affiliated financial institutions from having access to funds denominated in U.S. dollars given the government’s financial ties to terrorism.
We’ll also move forward with consideration of our sixth appropriations bill this week, the FY17 Interior and Environment Appropriations Act. The bill provides funding for the Department of the Interior, the Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Forest Service, and the Indian Health Service to name a few. I am heartened that the House is continuing to push ahead with our annual funding bills, and I look forward to working with the Senate and the President to make our Constitutional responsibility of funding the government a reality this year.
Member of Congress
(Washington, D.C.) – As a result of the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act signed into law last year, the Port of Savannah will receive $44,000,000 for reconfiguration and improvement of its on-dock container transfer facilities to bring rail switching activities inside the Port. The funds were awarded through the Nationally Significant Freight and Highway Projects (NSFHP) Program, which established a competitive grant program known as Fostering Advancements in Shipping and Transportation for the Long-Term Achievement of National Efficiencies (FASTLANE).
As the name suggests, FASTLANE is consistent with the intent of lawmakers – including Georgia’s House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee member Rep. Rob Woodall (GA 07) – to prioritize federal spending on projects most critical to the nation’s safety and economic success while shifting those dollars away from less significant projects. As the largest single container terminal in North America, the Port of Savannah handled more containers last year than ever before, and it continues to be a critical hub for freight shipments throughout the entire southeastern United States and beyond.
“We knew going in that the FAST Act needed to be legislation that would reform how we go about prioritizing and spending money maintaining and expanding America’s infrastructure, and in turn, start earning back America’s trust in how we use their hard-earned tax dollars,” said Rep. Woodall. “This grant, and others in FASTLANE, is a wonderful example of that effort taking shape. The Port of Savannah is one of the busiest ports in the country, which makes it the perfect candidate for what this program is intended to do: steer taxpayer dollars toward projects that matter most to America. Whether it’s ensuring the safety of workers and nearby residents, clearing traffic congestion to get folks home to their families sooner, or making sure we have the necessary infrastructure to create Georgia jobs, this is exactly the kind of nationally significant project that will benefit Georgia families and our nation’s economy.”
Included in the objectives of the FASTLANE grants, the FAST Act’s NSFHP Program prioritizes the following:
Congressman Woodall represents the Seventh Congressional District of Georgia, which includes the majority of Forsyth and Gwinnett counties, and currently serves as Chairman of the Rules Subcommittee on Legislative and Budget Process, as well as serving on the Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, and Budget Committee.
The U.S. Supreme Court deadlocked 4-4 last week on the question of whether or not President Obama’s most recent “Deferred Action” program could move forward, which effectively ends the effort altogether. While the New York Times described this decision as a blow to Obama’s “legacy,” I view it as a major victory for the idea of constitutional government.
No matter where you stand on the issue of immigration, Americans across the political spectrum should celebrate this affirmation by our judicial system that one individual cannot run roughshod over the people’s elected representatives to reshape our nation to suit his or her policy preferences. The White House and its Democratic supporters bemoaned the Supreme Court’s decision today, but you can bet they will be thankful that these critical checks and balances are in place when a future Republican president decides to take his own “executive action.” Laws matter. The Constitution matters. And the people of this great nation are still in charge.
Just as with immigration policy, the Article III Courts also halted another example of the President’s overreach last week when the U.S. District Court in Wyoming struck down the Administration’s hydraulic fracturing regulations. In the words of Judge Scott W. Skavdahl, “Congress’ inability or unwillingness to pass a law desired by the executive branch does not default authority to the executive branch to act independently, regardless of whether hydraulic fracturing is good or bad for the environment or the citizens of the United States.” I could not agree more with Judge Skavdahl, and given that hydraulic fracturing is already heavily regulated by the industry itself and by the states in which it occurs, these regulations would have been an unnecessary impediment to the responsible development of this energy source.
Hydraulic fracturing has been very important in our nation’s domestic energy resurgence, and it has moved the dial of progress in the right direction for a balanced “all of the above” energy portfolio. While I am a member of the Republican Party, I will never forget that I am an American first, and I applaud the District Court’s decision, not as a victory over a Democratic President, but as a victory for American democracy, American jobs, and America’s energy future.
Last week, House and Senate negotiators completed work on a unified conference agreement to provide funding for Zika virus preparation and response efforts. The House immediately passed the Zika virus funding measure, and the Senate is expected to vote on it this week. Building on the nearly $600 million that has already been allocated to combat the Zika virus, the Zika Response and Preparedness Act provides an additional $1.1 billion in federal funding for virus vaccine development, mosquito control and readiness, diagnostic testing, and more. The bill also removes a duplicative federal regulatory hurdle that makes it more difficult and expensive for local governments to spray pesticides that control mosquito populations. I hope you are as pleased with the Zika Response and Preparedness Act as I am, and I invite you to read more about it by clicking here.
On Wednesday, the President signed a bill that my colleagues and I on the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee had previously passed. The bill, known as the “Protecting our Infrastructure and Enhancing Safety Act of 2016,” improves the safety of our nation’s 2.6 million miles of pipelines that provide Americans to access critical energy resources. The bill also provides the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration’s (PHMSA) ability to respond to emergencies and widespread incidents.
During a week that was marred by partisan clashes, it’s important to remember that when we put politics and election cycles aside, we can and do come together to pursue good public policy for the American people. Georgians will benefit from reformed pipeline safety procedures, and I’m proud the President listened to the will of Congress and signed this bill.
House members are back home in their districts this week, but this is one of the few weeks of the year where the House and Senate calendars don’t match-up. The Senate is in Washington, D.C. this week, and I’m happy to say that it will be considering two pieces of House-passed legislation: the Zika conference report that I talked about earlier in the newsletter and a bill to provide Puerto Rico with the tools necessary to reform its failing economic situation. I’m heartened that the Senate is finally moving forward with critical legislation to protect Americans from the Zika virus and to restore order to Puerto Rico’s economy.
Member of Congress
Congress has the crucial role of not only overseeing the Executive Branch and its agencies, but also making certain that any abuse is stopped. As a result of unrelenting oversight efforts led by the House Ways and Means Committee, the IRS recently notified Congress of its decision to further review cases involving improper asset seizure from small-business owners. The civil asset forfeiture policies in question were never intended to be used as a heavy-handed punishment for hard-working Americans, but rather to help apprehend human traffickers, drug dealers, and other criminals. In 2014, the agency changed its policy to reflect this important clarification, but had not made any attempt to reimburse the men and women damaged by its actions – until now. Thankfully, approximately 700 Americans will now have that opportunity for reimbursement. While the negative impact cannot be erased, this is an important step in the right direction, and a win for hard-working Americans across the country.
Last week, I was very proud to see the House continue to move forward with regular order and the annual appropriations process and pass H.R. 5293, the “FY2017 Department of Defense Appropriations Act,” with a strong, bipartisan 282 to 138 vote. While each of the twelve appropriations bills play an important role in our government, the Department of Defense bill that we passed is arguably the most important because it provides the necessary resources for the federal government to fulfill one of its most vital and fundamental roles: to provide for the common defense of the American people.
This critically important legislation funds everything from troop pay, healthcare, and training to our nation’s ongoing fight overseas against ISIS and other terror groups, sophisticated new weapons systems that give our troops an edge on the battlefield, and everything else in between. For such an important bill, it is equally important that we get the process right for considering it, and with 75 amendments debated on the House floor from both sides of the aisle and many hours of deliberation, I am also very proud of the robust and comprehensive process in which this legislation moved forward. Giving the American people a direct voice into the way their hard-earned taxpayer dollars are spent in Washington could not be more important, and I look forward to continue doing just that with consideration of even more appropriations bills in the coming weeks.
Last week the House passed H.R. 5053, the “Preventing IRS Abuse and Protecting Free Speech Act,” which prohibits the IRS from collecting the identity of individuals who donate money to tax exempt organizations. I’ve heard concerns about the IRS from many of you in the few short years that I’ve represented your voice in Washington, and while you have all raised a number of issues in your communications with me, the one thing almost every call and email had in common was a lack of belief that the IRS was working for you rather than against you. I have heard from leaders of non-profits here in Georgia specifically about their concern about the new IRS reporting requirements and their support for a solution like H.R. 5053.
During the debate about H.R. 5053 at the Rules Committee last week, I shared a story about a Seventh District resident who was being audited by the IRS and was concerned that the IRS had initiated the audit because of donations made to a specific charitable organization. The story highlights the troubling perception that folks across our nation have of the IRS. There is a breakdown in trust that must be restored, and H.R. 5053 represents another step towards that goal.
The recent attack in Orlando is yet another truly sobering reminder of the very real impact terrorism already has here in the American homeland and that there’s much more work to be done to thwart terrible attacks like these before they ever happen. In response to these attacks, the House came together last week to pass H.R. 5471, the “Countering Terrorist Radicalization Act,” on a resounding 402 to 15 vote. While it’s no secret that Washington is divided on a number of issues, the safety and security of American families is absolutely not one of those issues, and I was very proud to see such an overwhelming majority of my colleagues come together and send this legislation to the Senate.
H.R. 5471 combines three very important bills that the House has already passed separately, but has packaged together in this legislation to facilitate consideration in the Senate so that it advances to the President’s desk for his signature as quickly as possible. These bills provide the Homeland Security Department with new tools to counter the propaganda machine of ISIS and other terror groups, improve the outreach of federal authorities to whistleblowers in communities who often spot signs of radicalization first, and take a variety of other steps with the sole purpose of improving our nation’s efforts to prevent the unthinkable from happening again. While I know that much more work remains to be done to keep American families safe, this package of bills is an important step in the right direction, and I’m looking forward to the House taking up even more common-sense ideas to make our nation safer and more secure.
The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, on which I served in the 113th Congress, just voted to censure IRS Commissioner John Koskinen for his failure to cooperate with Congress’ investigation into the IRS targeting scandal. This is a step toward full impeachment and could ultimately result in his removal from office and the forfeiture of government benefits such as his federal pension. Democrats in Congress have largely defended the IRS’s indefensible behavior making impeachment look unlikely. However, House Republicans will continue working to ensure that government officials trusted with the public’s business cooperate fully with serious investigations into allegations of wrongdoing and insist on accountability for those who don’t.
This week the House is expected to consider a package of bills from the Ways and Means Committee that will provide Americans with more access, greater flexibility, and better choices in their health care. They promote health care innovation and empower individuals and families to make their own decision about health care spending. This is exactly how it should be, and I’m proud we’re bringing these small but meaningful changes to the House floor.
The House is also expected to consider our fourth appropriations bill of the year – the FY17 Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act – which provides funding for the Treasury Department, the Judiciary, the Small Business Administration, and the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Finally, the House is going to pass H.R. 4768, the “Separation of Powers Restoration Act of 2016,” which restores the power of the Judicial Branch to resolve ambiguity in federal legislation without regard to interpretations offered by the Executive Branch.
Member of Congress
1725 Longworth HOB
Washington, DC 20515
Rob Woodall serves the 7th district of GA in the U.S. House of Representatives and serves on the House Committee on Rules, the House Budget Committee, and the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. Rob also serves as Chairman of the Republican Study Committee’s Budget and Spending Task Force.
Rob was born and raised in Georgia, graduated from Marist School in 1988, attended Furman University for his undergraduate degree and received his law degree from the University of Georgia
Rob first came to public service as a staffer for then Congressman John Linder serving as his Chief of Staff and was elected to Congress in 2010.
Rob’s political philosophy is guided by the principles of freedom, and his proudest accomplishment is helping Seventh District families one at a time through casework and creating a Congressional office that functions for the people.
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