Washington Watch - 9/28/15



On Friday, I was pleased to vote for H.R. 348, the "Responsibly and Professionally Invigorating Development (RAPID) Act of 2015." This legislation streamlines our burdensome federal permitting process and will expedite delivery times for infrastructure, energy, and construction projects. Currently, multiple environmental reviews can be required for a single project. As you can imagine, this increases costs and delays progress on high-priority projects. In fact, the average length of time to prepare an environmental impact statement is 3.4 years, and it gets longer each year. This bill cuts down on duplicative reports, sets a deadline for federal agencies to complete their reviews, and ensures that important projects can actually be completed on-budget and on-time.

If you think that this is just an academic exercise in cutting red tape, you're wrong. There are real world examples of how federal bureaucrats are holding up progress from right here in Georgia. The Georgia Department of Transportation began working in 2012 on a project to improve State Route 20 from Cherokee to Forsyth Counties. The bad news is that you haven't seen any construction, and that's exactly my point. In the past three years, GDOT has been jumping through federal hoops to satisfy preliminary environmental impact concerns. Now, after three years, countless employee hours, and thousands of wasted dollars, GDOT likely has another three or four years of environmental study to go before the federal government will approve the final environmental impact statement and construction can begin. More than six years from the concept of a transportation project to putting a shovel in the ground is ridiculous. It's a waste. And it's something that H.R. 348 is going to fix.


Thousands of Americans and international visitors travelled to Washington, D.C., last week to be near His Holiness, Pope Francis, as he visited the United States for the first time. The reception the Pope received at the White House and the U.S. Capitol was truly heart-warming and shows the welcoming spirit of the American people. Closer to home, our fellow Georgian, Representative John Lewis, who is respected around the country for his work in the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s, had a very personal experience listening to the Pope's address to Congress. I know that this was a special experience for our Catholic neighbors and friends, and for those of us who are not Catholic, I know we can certainly appreciate his message of love, his respect for life, and his exhortation that all politicians should work harder to better serve the American people.


I talk frequently about moving decision making out of Washington, D.C., and back to our communities. My experiences have taught me that if we empower individuals in that way, they will take the necessary steps to give their neighbors in need the right kind of helping hand. In our community, the zeal to serve our neighbors is incredible, and that is exactly what I witnessed last week when I visited the extraordinary people who run Rainbow Village in Duluth. If you don't know, Rainbow Village is a transitional housing community for homeless families -- many of whom are women and children fleeing domestic violence and working hard to lift themselves from poverty. Rainbow Village gives these families a safe place to live while they put their lives back together. I was privileged to see how our community is working together to make life better for these families.

Did you know that fewer than 25% of homeless children graduate from high school? It's well documented that a quality education is the key to escaping poverty and breaking the cycle of violence that plagues far too many economically impoverished communities. Supporting kids who are homeless to see school as a safe place where their dreams of a better future can be nourished is the goal of Rainbow Village's after school program. And that goal was supported by a $20,000 grant provided by Verizon that I was so pleased to witness. Thanks to Verizon's generosity and the great work of all the staff and volunteers at Rainbow Village who teach not only academic lessons, but who focus on how a strong value system and positive decision-making can improve life, I know that our community's children are going to succeed.


On Friday, Speaker of the House John Boehner announced that he would resign from Congress at the end of October. As we think about service to our communities, I want to thank the Speaker for his many years of service to the people of his district in Ohio and to the people of the United States. Everyone who puts his or her name on the ballot is representing a community of Americans and is trying to make our nation better tomorrow than it was yesterday. Every member of Congress, regardless of party affiliation, has one goal -- to serve the American people -- and I thank Speaker Boehner for his commitment and hard work.


This week the House is going to move forward once again with another attempt to convince our fellow Americans that taxpayers should never be forced to support organizations that perform abortions. You might know that Medicaid is partially funded and administered by the states, and H.R. 3495 give states more flexibility to ensure that women's health is protected while stopping abortion providers from participating in this critical taxpayer-funded health system.

Thinking more about the issue of life, it is unfortunate that last Thursday, on the same day that Pope Francis spoke about the moral imperative of protecting and respecting all human life, that Senate Democrats voted against a bill that would have funded the government for the next three months and put a short-term moratorium on Planned Parenthood funding so that a full investigation into the allegations that its affiliates are selling baby body parts can be completed.

The House will also likely consider this week a bill to fund the operations of the federal government through a short-term Continuing Resolution. I would rather be passing individual appropriations bills through the House and sending them to the President's desk, but Senate Democrats have routinely blocked regular order in an effort to protect President Obama from having to sign or veto appropriations legislation that he dislikes.