Newsletter: Washington Watch - 6/22/15



Last week the House approved two health reform bills that repeal unnecessary programs created by Obamacare: H.R. 160, the "Protect Medical Innovation Act of 2015," and H.R. 1190, the "Protecting Seniors' Access to Medicare Act of 2015."

H.R. 160 repeals an onerous 2.3% excise tax on the sale of medical devices. That's right; the law that was supposed to make it cheaper and easier for you to get health insurance is actually erecting barriers to that goal. Obamacare taxes the very medical devices that our health professionals use to save our lives. We're talking about things like pacemakers, dentures, x-ray machines, defibrillators, and even tongue depressors and bedpans. Almost any device on the market can be taxed.

As you know, the more you tax something, the less you get of it, and that's why this tax is such a major problem for Georgia. According to the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, there are over 200 companies and organizations in Georgia that are engaged in research, development, commercialization, or manufacturing of medical devices, and those companies account for over 5,000 high-quality Georgia jobs. These companies already pay taxes at the local, state, and federal levels, but Obamacare wants to squeeze a little more money out of them and make them a little less competitive. This hurts Georgia's economy and Georgia's workers who could be seeing that extra money go to reinvestment in the company, more generous benefits, or higher salaries, but instead, are seeing that money earmarked for the tax man. H.R. 160 puts an end to this tax, and I'm proud to have supported its passage.

The other Obamacare repeal issue the House dealt with this week was a complete repeal of something called the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB). IPAB is a 15-member panel appointed solely by the President that would have the power to decide how to cut costs in Medicare, and it's expected to do so by cutting payments to physicians and hospitals. What's worse than a Presidentially-appointed board? How about the fact that IPAB's recommendations are binding. That's right; Obamacare gave IPAB the power to unilaterally change payments for doctors and hospitals. An unelected board of Presidential appointees -- not Congress -- will soon get to decide how much your doctor gets paid for taking care of you. That's wrong, and that's why I was proud to support H.R. 1190, the bill to repeal IPAB. Congress needs to be in charge of these decisions because Congress is immediately accountable to the voters.

I look forward to seeing both of these common-sense bills pass the Senate. While the President has indicated he may veto them, I also hope that he sees the error of these Obamacare provisions and works with Congress to ensure that Obamacare isn't costing Americans good-paying jobs or access to their physicians.


Over the past month, the House has been working hard to pass a series of annual authorization and appropriations bills to carry out the missions of our federal agencies. A number of these bills contain funding for programs that allow our government to carry out activities that help keep our nation's citizens safe from terrorist attacks and other evolving threats.

Last week, I joined my colleagues in support of H.R. 2596, the "FY2016 Intelligence Authorization Act," when it passed the House by a 247-178 vote. Though some of the specific provisions in the bill are classified, you should know that H.R. 2596 broadly authorizes programs and funding for the CIA, the National Security Agency (NSA) and the Director of National Intelligence (DNI).

I also proudly voted against an amendment to the bill that would have allowed detainees at Guantanamo Bay to be transferred to the United States or nations and places that we have either placed on the State Department's Foreign Terrorist List or that we characterize as Countries of Particular Concern. Though I know many would like to see Guantanamo Bay closed, we cannot forget that these detainees either attempted to or participated in the killing of innocent American citizens. They cannot be permitted to be released to any affiliates of terrorism.

There is widespread agreement that threats to our homeland are evolving and will continue to do so. My hope is that these threats will diminish over time, but it is important to ensure that we provide our intelligence community and other personnel with the tools and resources they need to keep us safe from these complex and evolving challenges and threats. We worked hard to pass a measure that enhances the measures we use to protect our nation while reducing ill-performing or less successful programs. My hope is that the Senate will work quickly to pass this bill.


As you know, for the past ten months, President Obama has engaged a number of our military personnel in operations against ISIS in Iraq and Syria even though Congress has not provided him with the explicit and direct authority to do so. The President is required by the War Powers Resolution to notify Congress within 48 hours of committing armed forces to military action. The Resolution also requires that any troops deployed in support of military operations be brought home after 90 days if there is no authorization for use of military force (AUMF). President Obama has claimed that the 2001 AUMF, though it clearly contains a 9/11 nexus, allows him to deploy troops to Iraq and Syria is support of current coalition efforts to defeat ISIS. I disagree.

That is why I supported H.Con.Res. 55, an important resolution sponsored by Representatives Jim McGovern (D-MA), Walter Jones (R-NC), and Barbara Lee (D-CA), which requires President Obama to bring our troops in Iraq or Syria that were deployed on or after August 7, 2014, home, as soon as our military leaders deem it safe to do so. The only service members that would be permitted to stay in Iraq and Syria, under H.Con.Res. 55, are those that protect our diplomatic service staff. The President and Congress have an obligation to authorize any war and to give out troops a clear mission. We have failed to do either. I hope that we will, but if not, our troops should be here at home.

To move this issue forward, I also signed onto a letter to Speaker Boehner asking him to schedule a debate and vote on a new AUMF against ISIS. Only Congress can declare war, and only the President can outline the clear goals and plan for victory. We need to have this debate so that we can provide the American people and Congress with an opportunity to decide whether or not we ought to commit our young men and women to this fight. That is the least we can do for those who sacrifice their lives on our behalf, and if America is unwilling to commit to goals and a plan, we must bring our troops home.


Last week the House passed a series of bills that all aim to increase the integrity of the Medicare program and protect beneficiary choice.

H.R. 2505, the "Medicare Advantage Coverage Transparency Act of 2015," requires the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to report detailed Medicare enrollment information to relevant congressional committees every year so that members of the House and Senate can have all the information they need to ensure that Medicare is appropriately providing care for our nation's seniors.

H.R. 2507, the "Increasing Regulatory Fairness Act of 2015," requires HHS to provide more detailed information to Medicare Advantage health plans on a regular basis early on in the year so that those plans can better adjust their coverage determinations to best suit the needs of Medicare Advantage beneficiaries. Giving stakeholders more time and information with which to assess their needs and provide information to HHS will only lead to more positive outcomes for seniors.

H.R. 2852, the "Seniors' Health Care Plan Protection Act of 2015," ensures that seniors who are benefitting from their participation in a Medicare Advantage plan of their choice will not be forced out of that plan simply because Medicare bureaucrats have arbitrarily decided -- based on flawed "quality" studies -- that the plan isn't good enough. We've seen this happen in Obamacare already where people were told they couldn't keep the plan they wanted, and we need to stop that from happening in Medicare.


On Tuesday night, I hosted a Telephone Town Hall Meeting, and I was so pleased to have over 1,000 of our neighbors take some time to listen in and ask questions. I know how hard it is to take time out of your busy work week and your time with your families to take part in a Town Hall Meeting, so if you weren't able to join us, I want to highlight for you some of the most frequently asked questions from the event. As you might imagine given its prevalence in the news lately, much of the conversation focused on foreign trade.

Question: Why is TPA being done in secret?

Answer: For those of you who don't know, "TPA" stands for "Trade Promotion Authority," and it is a process bill that enables America to negotiate trade deals with other countries. TPA is not a secret bill. In fact, you can read the TPA bill by clicking here. TPA is just a regular bill through which Congress tells the President what he can and can't do as he and his team negotiate trade agreements. TPA is not a trade bill. TPA is a series of rules that the President must follow in order for Congress to agree to consider a trade agreement in the future.

TPP, the Trans Pacific Partnership, sometimes gets confused for TPA. TPP is a trade deal, but it's still being negotiated right now, so Congress is not voting on it anytime soon. Once the President and our negotiating partners from the 11 other countries that are party to the agreement have reached an initial agreement, TPA specifically requires the President to publish the text of that agreement for the American people to read for at least 60 days before he signs it. What's more, even after that 60 day period is over, he will have to submit the agreement to Congress for approval, meaning that it will have additional months of public debate before it ever becomes law. This is great news for the American people and a victory for transparent government.

Question: Why are so many members supporting the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal?

Answer: First things first, free and fair trade is good for America. According to the House Ways and Means Committee, 95% of the world's consumers live outside the United States. Keeping U.S. businesses from being able to compete on a level playing field with businesses from other countries and gain access to those billions of consumers is detrimental to our workers and our economy.

Though TPP is still being negotiated, expanding our trade with the Asia-Pacific region is critical. From 2000-2010, the share of goods and services being imported to Asia from the U.S. has fallen by over 40%. Since 2000, 48 free trade agreements have been signed between countries in the Asia-Pacific region, and the U.S. has only been party to 2 of them. That means that while other nation's businesses are competing for consumers, U.S. businesses are sitting on the sidelines.

For Georgia specifically, free and fair trade is a categorical win. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative have shown that approximately 37% of Georgia's exports go to TPP countries right now, and that's worth about $14 billion to the state's economy. But those numbers could be better with TPP. Georgia's forest products face an up to 40% tariff in TPP countries. Georgia's chemical products face an up to 35% tariff in TPP countries. Georgia's poultry products -- one of our state's top two exports -- face an up to 240% tariff in TPP countries. Eliminating these tariffs will increase exports, and that means the over 460,000 Georgians whose jobs are supported by trade will see job growth in the coming years.

With all that said, though, no one is supporting a TPP agreement yet. A TPP agreement doesn't exist yet. Only after Congress passes TPA, will America reach agreement on TPP, and only after America has had a chance to read TPP for at least 60 days will Congress even consider voting on it.

Question: Why do Social Security beneficiaries have to pay taxes on their benefits?

Answer: Social Security benefits are treated as regular income, just like money withdrawn from your 401(k) or your IRA. You probably know that your Social Security benefit is made up half by your contribution and half by your employer's contribution, and your employer's contribution was never taxed. That's why 50% of all Social Security checks have always been subject to the individual income tax. You might be interested to learn that in 1993, President Clinton added a tax on an additional 35% of Social Security checks received by the so-called "wealthy" seniors.

In 2014, about half of all Social Security beneficiaries paid taxes on their benefits.

Question: What is happening with Obamacare and its repeal?

Answer: The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to announce its decision in the case of King v. Burwell any day now. The Court will decide in this case whether the federal government unlawfully provided Obamacare subsidies to individuals in states -- like Georgia -- that are using the federal health care exchange instead of a state-based exchange. If the Court decides that the federal government overstepped the letter of the law in providing these subsidies, Congress will have to figure out what to do next for the roughly 7 million people -- over 48,000 of which live in the 7th District -- who will see their health care bills skyrocket almost immediately. Obamacare has been increasing costs since day one, and this will be just another tragic example that will harm even more American families.

Let me be clear. I oppose Obamacare and will continue to support repealing the taxes and mandates in this law. While the Court's decision in King v. Burwell might undermine Obamacare, I doubt very much that it will kill the law. In fact, I expect that the Court will allow every other part of Obamacare to remain intact should it rule against the government in this particular case. We simply aren't going to repeal Obamacare while President Obama is in the White House, and we should not count on the Court to do it for us either. Repealing Obamacare will take the concerted and combined efforts of the majority of the American people.


This week the House is expected to consider its 7th Appropriations bill of the year -- the FY16 Interior and Environment Appropriations Act -- which provides funding for the Department of the Interior and the Environmental Protection Agency. Many folks have contacted me over the years with concerns about EPA overreach, and the good news is that this bill significantly reins-in the EPA. It prohibits the EPA from implementing new greenhouse gas regulations for new and existing power plants. It prohibits the EPA from implementing its "Waters of the U.S." rule that would harm Georgia. It also prohibits the EPA from regulating lead in ammunition and fishing tackle so that anglers and hunters don't have to worry about being caught in a back-door anti-gun, anti-fishing ban. I look forward to supporting this bill.