Washington Watch - 9/21/15



On Thursday, the House passed H.R. 758, the "Lawsuit Abuse Reduction Act of 2015," by a vote of 241-185. The bill ensures that federal judges can hold accountable those individuals who bring frivolous lawsuits to the courthouse steps. Frivolous lawsuits are those that have no legal merit, but that unfortunately force defendants -- either individuals or businesses -- to hire lawyers and fight the action in court. H.R. 758 requires judges to impose mandatory penalties on those individuals who file these frivolous lawsuits. This might seem like an inconsequential bill, but ensuring that our judicial system is used properly and isn't being overwhelmed by frivolity is essential to the proper functioning of our government. I hope that the Senate will expeditiously take-up and pass this bill.


Last week, the House Veterans' Affairs Committee approved a critically important bill, H.R. 3106, the "Construction Reform Act of 2015." You may have read about the appalling state of affairs in the Denver area where the VA has been unsuccessfully trying to build a new VA medical facility for the past six years. Ground was broken in 2009 on this facility, and six years and over $1.7 billion later, we still don't have a functioning facility for the roughly 400,000 veterans in the Denver area who need access to health care. The VA's gross mismanagement of this construction project has led the House VA Committee to adopt H.R. 3106, which, among other provisions, requires other federal construction agencies -- like the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers or the General Services Administration -- to take control of any VA construction project that is estimated to cost more than $100 million.

The federal government is constantly trying to provide the highest quality health care to our nation's veterans, and wasting hundreds of millions of dollars on a construction debacle is not doing right by America's heroes. I look forward to this bill coming to the House floor soon.


I'm sure that many of you have seen video clips or read newspaper reports about the activities of Planned Parenthood affiliates around the country. The videos allege that these affiliates are inappropriately and unlawfully selling fetal tissue and organs for profit. No matter your opinion on whether abortion should be legal or not, I think all Americans can agree that it is unconscionable to sell a baby's body parts for profit. The House last week passed two bills to support this common moral goal.

H.R. 3134, the "Defund Planned Parenthood Act of 2015," places a one-year moratorium on federal funding for Planned Parenthood and any of its affiliates unless they certify that no affiliates will perform abortions or provide funding to any entity that performs abortions. This one-year moratorium gives Congress plenty of time to conduct a thorough investigation into whether Planned Parenthood violated any federal laws regarding tissue or organ donation. The bill also includes a provision making all funds no longer available to Planned Parenthood available to other eligible health care entities -- like Community Health Centers -- so that no woman goes without essential health care services.

H.R. 3504, the "Born Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act," requires that a health care practitioner must provide the same level of health care for a baby born alive as the result of an attempted abortion as he or she would for any other child born at the same gestational age. Any health provider who violates that requirement would be subject to up to five years in jail. If any health provider takes any overt action to kill or harvest body parts from a child born as the result of an attempted abortion, the bill prescribes the punishment of first degree murder.


This week, His Holiness, Pope Francis will be addressing a Joint Meeting of Congress on Thursday, and thousands of people from all over the country are expected to fill the West Lawn of the Capitol to watch his speech and receive a blessing. If you would like to watch the Pope's speech, it will be broadcast on CSPAN or you can watch it online by visiting www.speaker.gov/pope.

As I'm sure you've heard, the end of the fiscal year is quickly approaching, and Congress must find a way to fund essential government functions before October 1st. In the next week and a half, I expect the House to consider a Continuing Resolution to extend short-term government funding. Like many of you, I would rather have been able to work with the Senate to pass individual appropriations bills this year, but unfortunately, while the House has done its work, the Senate has been unable to convince the necessary number of Democrats to put aside partisan politics and bring those bills to the floor. I still look forward to working with my colleagues in both chambers and both sides of the aisle to provide the American people with what they deserve -- an appropriately functioning government that uses their taxpayer dollars wisely.