Washington Watch - 2/17/15



After years of unnecessary delays from this Administration, legislation to immediately authorize the construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline has passed Congress and will at last be sent to the President's desk. Given that this pipeline will create jobs, lower energy prices for American families, and move North America closer to energy independence, it is a wonder that the Obama Administration has worked so hard to stop it from coming to fruition. The President's own State Department has conducted multiple reviews that confirm this pipeline would benefit our nation, but sadly, the President has refused to act. Bowing to an agenda from the far left, he has refused to help our friends in Canada get their oil to market.

While the President could have approved this international pipeline at any time following the positive reports from his State Department about safety, efficiency, and the environmental soundness of the project, he has not. Though the House has passed many bills to force an approval, we have never had a cooperative partner in the Senate. This year, with America's new Congress, and after the most open debate and deliberation that the Senate has seen this decade, the approval has passed both chambers of Congress and is ready to go to the President's desk. The far left believes he will veto it, but the unions are encouraging him to sign the bill. They know that this bill is about jobs. While the President may be satisfied with the economy today, the unions are not. I am not. And I know you are not. Together, we must make our voice heard and provide the President with the support he needs to side with hard-working American taxpayers rather than the fringe left of his party.

While I am disappointed by the President's threats and delays, I am not discouraged. You can be sure that I will spend the rest of the 114th Congress working hard with the new Republican Senate majority to continue pressuring this Administration to carefully consider and support more common-sense ideas like Keystone.


Last Wednesday, the House unanimously passed a bill -- H.R. 431 -- to award a Congressional Gold Medal to the brave individuals who participated in Bloody Sunday, Turnaround Tuesday, and the Selma to Montgomery Voting Rights Marches in 1965. A Congressional Gold Medal is the highest civilian honor that Congress can bestow, and we should be proud to have a leader of these marchers as a member of our Georgia Congressional Delegation -- Representative John Lewis.

We take for granted these days how easy it is to register and cast our votes. We vote by mail, we vote early, we vote on weekends, and some of us still show up on Tuesday morning in November to vote in person. But when these marchers peacefully protested in March 1965, it wasn't easy to cast a vote in many parts of our country if you were African-American. These marches led many Americans to embrace the very bond that we all share as citizens of this great country -- the right to vote. I'm proud to say that H.R. 431 passed with unanimous support. The great success that Americans can achieve when we work together gives me great hope for the future.


On Wednesday, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee held its first hearing on surface transportation reauthorization. Secretary Anthony Foxx, who heads the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), was on hand to present his testimony and respond to questions from committee members. I used my time to ask the Secretary about a case that had been brought to my attention by a constituent. This constituent owns a family-operated trucking business and has received routine health examinations by his personal physician throughout his life. For public safety reasons, these routine health examinations have long been required by the DOT for commercial truck drivers. However, in 2014, DOT began enforcing a new federal regulation that forced drivers to use only health practitioners who had completed certain federal training requirements and had been approved for listing on a new national registry for DOT health examinations. This means that instead of relying on information from the medical doctor who knows him best, he was forced to consult the new federal list of approved practitioners and receive his health certificate through a provider he had never met before.

While well-intentioned, this new regulation has created a new federal barrier for aspiring and existing small business owners. It's increased the cost of business, made life tougher on small business owners, and offered no public safety benefits that I can see. Shockingly, veterans in the trucking industry often can't even rely on their VA doctor for their routine DOT health examination due to this regulation. I'm committed to fixing this problem, and I am encouraged by the Secretary's response.


As many of you know, our current tax code includes several temporary provisions -- including deductions for certain charitable contributions and business investments -- which expire each year unless they are renewed by Congress. Passing short-term tax extender bills at the last minute (like Congress did last December) has become the norm in Washington, and I'm pleased to report that last week the House took its first steps toward bringing more certainty to American tax policy. My colleagues and I approved and sent two bills over to the Senate that will permanently extend several key provisions of our tax code on which many hard-working Americans and their businesses depend. I hope to see the new Senate majority quickly take up and pass these bills and send them to the President's desk.

Thinking more about the new Senate majority, my colleagues and I on the House Budget Committee have a great opportunity in the coming months to craft a federal budget that can pass both chambers of Congress through regular order for the first time in years. As you know, the House has passed a responsible budget each year that I have been your representative in Washington, but the Democrat-led Senate always struggled to do so. This year, the House finally has willing partners in the Senate to help advance our shared goal of reining in federal spending, and I couldn't be more excited.


Since its inception in 1982, the Congressional Institute has sponsored a yearly Congressional Art Competition to celebrate the artistic creativity and talent of our nation's high school students. More than 650,000 students have participated in this program, and I am excited to be hosting the 7th District's Congressional Art Competition this March.

The competition is open to all high school students who reside in the seventh district of Georgia, and I can tell you that every year, the talented students in our community have submitted exceptional works of art. Not only does the first place winner have his or her art displayed in the U.S. Capitol for a year, but he or she will receive a scholarship from The Savannah College of Art and Design.

The deadline for submitting artwork is Friday, February 20, 2015, by 5:00 P.M. All artwork must be submitted to my Lawrenceville office in the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center, and the artwork must comply with these regulations. For more information, please call my office at 770-232-3005.


I'm happy to be home in Georgia this week visiting with local business and community leaders. After having spent the past few weeks working with my colleagues in Washington, D.C., it's wonderful to come home and have the opportunity to hear directly from the residents of the 7th District.

I'm also hosting my February in-person Town Hall Meeting on Thursday evening, and I hope that you will be able to attend.