Washington Watch - 10/5/15



For thousands of Americans who are fighting a rare disease diagnosis, one of the most selfless actions they can take is to participate in a clinical trial. Clinical trials are at the cutting-edge of medical innovation, where years of laboratory research meets the real world needs of patients. Unfortunately, current policy sometimes discourages patients from participating in these trials because the very modest stipend they might receive for participation could keep them from qualifying for necessary health care benefits, like Medicaid. Nobody would participate in a clinical trial if it meant losing his or her health insurance coverage. The good news is that last week, the House passed a bill, S. 139, the "Ensuring Access to Clinical Trials Act," which removes any punitive effects for Americans who take part in clinical trials and helps medical researchers more quickly develop life-saving therapies.

The more people we have working on the most promising medical cures for rare diseases, the better off all Americans will be. Finding a cure for even one of the over 1,300 rare diseases affecting Americans of all ages, races, and socioeconomic backgrounds is the purpose of S. 139. Removing barriers to life-saving treatments and encouraging brave Americans to join clinical trials and fight for their futures is a step that I am proud our Congress came together to make.


You might remember that Congress passed a bicameral balanced budget conference agreement earlier this year -- the first since 2001. The budget laid out -- among many other things -- a path for achieving billions of dollars in savings through common sense changes. While the Senate can filibuster most common sense changes, having a budget agreement allows us to use a process called "reconciliation," which allows bills that save money to move through the Senate with only 51 votes. I'm proud to say that reconciliation is moving forward in the House now, and hopefully, moving forward to the President's desk soon.

Last week, the House Ways and Means Committee and the House Energy and Commerce Committee passed bills that will repeal Obamacare's individual and employer mandates, stop the "Cadillac tax," eliminate a billion dollar Obamacare slush fund, ensure that Planned Parenthood receives no federal funding, and support our Community Health Centers.

Those bills will now be sent to the House Budget Committee, on which I sit, where we will merge them together and present one bill to the House for approval. With only 51 votes in the Senate required to pass a reconciliation bill, a true American majority in Congress will be able to move this bill forward -- a bill to end Planned Parenthood funding, to end ridiculous and destructive Obamacare taxes, and to end the individual and employer health mandates. President Obama will have a chance to support these common sense ideas, and America will be the beneficiary.


Last week was full of great visits and learning opportunities for me. From speaking with the Southwest Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce to meeting with students focused on entrepreneurship at Brookwood and South Gwinnett High Schools to working with college students building next generation opportunities, I was immersed in local success stories. There is no substitute for starting your day with our community's job creators or with the next generation of America's leaders. The 7th District is truly a special place, and I will carry our successes and our experiences back to Washington to make a difference in public policy.


H.R. 719 passed the House last week and provides a pathway to a long-term deficit reduction bargain that will be advantageous for the American people. Our Founding Fathers expected that anyone deemed responsible enough by the voters to be elected to serve in Congress would work together, bridge our differences, and solve our problems in a constructive way. While H.R. 719 doesn't cut as much spending as I would like, it adheres to the statutory budget caps that Congress set into law in 2011, and it adheres to the overall spending limits for FY16 that Congress agreed to as part of the bicameral balanced budget conference bill that Congress voted for earlier this year.

One of the main reasons that many of my colleagues voted against the CR is their belief that the CR contained funding for Planned Parenthood. They objected to that funding because of the alleged illegal practice that Planned Parenthood might be selling baby body parts for profit. That practice, should it be proven true, is horrific and illegal, and Planned Parenthood should be held accountable under the law for that truly heinous activity. That said, the CR does not fund Planned Parenthood. As such, I see no reason to abdicate my Constitutional duty to fund the government in order to win a hollow political victory. Our Republic is better than that, and I believe that we -- the responsible voters of the 7th District of Georgia -- are more willing to stand up and fight for the protection of our Constitution and the success of our self-government than for a short-term political win.


This week the House is expected to consider a number of important pieces of legislation: H.R. 3192, the "Homebuyers Assistance Act," H.R. 538, the "Native American Energy Act," and H.R. 702, a bill allowing U.S. crude oil exports.

In addition, the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Power is holding a hearing on Wednesday, October 7th examining the "EPA's CO2 Regulations for New and Existing Power Plants." You might remember that this particular EPA regulation could significantly affect energy costs for Georgians in the coming years.

On Thursday, October 8th, the House Judiciary Committee is holding its second hearing on the allegations that Planned Parenthood is selling baby body parts for profit. As I said before, I am deeply disturbed by the videos of medical personnel picking through the remains of aborted babies, and I am grateful to Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) for taking a serious and honest look into this issue.