Newsletter: Washington Watch - 5/18/15



Last week I was proud to join my friend and colleague Representative Tom Price (R-GA) in becoming an original cosponsor of his fundamental health care reform bill, H.R. 2300, the "Empowering Patients First Act." Instead of creating a new government bureaucracy and telling Americans what kind of health care is best for them, this bill empowers patients to be in charge. There are no top-down federal mandates regarding which doctor or insurance company you must use or which benefits you must buy.

Right now we're seeing the deleterious effects of Obamacare on businesses and employees. Businesses are cutting-back on health care options and increasing costs for employees. This isn't what Obamacare promised to do, but it is what is happening.

In just over a month from now, we expect the U.S. Supreme Court to offer another Obamacare decision, this time on the lawfulness of taxpayer-provided subsidies for folks who are not part of a state-based exchange. This is a complicated issue, and a decision ending the IRS's to redistribution of money from hard-working taxpayers to Obamacare will have far-reaching consequences and will demonstrate that Obamacare's costs are entirely unsustainable. That is why I am proud to join Representative Price in crafting an alternative to Obamacare that puts in place free-market, patient-centered ways to empower you to make your own decisions about your and your family's health care.


Every year, around this time, we come together in Congress to debate the programs and funding for our national defense. Last week, I was proud to join my colleagues in support of House passage of H.R. 1735, the FY2016 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). H.R. 1735 provides $604 billion in support of our national defense programs at home and overseas. This year, we worked hard to craft a bill that provides the very best resources, tools, and compensation packages for our military men and women and makes marked improvements to the procurement process in support of our national security interests. We improved efficiency and transparency at the U.S. Department of Defense and in the theater by cutting $7.25 billion in duplicative and outmoded programs and negligible reporting requirements and instead used this money to enhance our readiness efforts at every stage of the mission.

Among its specifics, H.R. 1735 provides our troops with the resources they need to continue transitional training and peacekeeping operations in Afghanistan, continues to fund operations to isolate and destroy ISIS, prohibits the President from unilaterally making decisions to transfer detainees currently held at Guantanamo Bay to countries that are incapable of containing them, and reinforces our commitment to providing our military with the best fleet of fighters, missile defense systems, and support equipment to date.

Congress also took a tough vote on an amendment that removed a provision related to our immigration policies. We all need to remember that this bill is meant to provide for our national defense. I want to have a debate about our immigration policies, but this is not the appropriate vehicle to do that.

There is no question that we are facing a series of challenging threats today and the FY2016 NDAA will ensure that we can continue to fight successfully to keep Americans and our allies safe while providing our service members with the best benefits and hardware they need to win and return home safely.


Following 9/11, we all worried about the future of America with a heavy heart. It was not clear when or where the next threat would materialize, but the danger felt imminent. We all agreed that we had to do everything possible to stop another attack on America. At that time, Congress passed the original PATRIOT Act, which was designed to help our intelligence community more rapidly and efficiently gather information about terrorist activity in order to prevent another 9/11. What was designed to be a temporary set of provisions to deal with the terrorist attack on our homeland, has expanded over the years and become seemingly permanent.

Striking the right balance between maintaining our national security and preserving our civil liberties is no easy feat. As you read this today, courts are ruling that our federal law enforcement and national security agencies have gone outside the lines that federal law has drawn. No one wants America to be at risk, and I applaud all of the men and women who protect us. They are the best in the world at their jobs, and we must be the best in the world at ours: making laws that strike the right balance and then following them. We can do better by the American people, and my commitment to you is that I will work to make sure that we do. There are virtually no limits on what I would authorize to pursue foreign terrorists on foreign soil, but there are strict limits on what the government can do to pursue American citizens on American soil. Those limits exist not to protect the criminals, but to protect you and me and the legacy of free speech, free thought, and free assembly that has been left to us by all the patriots who have served since 1776.


Since 2013, you and I have been engaged in a discussion about the ongoing negotiations between Iran and a group that's called the "P5+1" -- the U.S., Germany, Great Britain, France, Russia, and China regarding the future of Iran's nuclear program. As you may remember, in April, President Obama announced that he had reached a tentative deal with Iran and the other members of the P5+1 which would lift economic sanctions if the Iranian regime agrees to reduce its nuclear activities. The final deal is expected to be signed at the end of June.

Like many of you, I have been very concerned about the President's complete disregard for congressional input and any kind of collaboration throughout the negotiation process on this nuclear deal so far. Just as Congress had an important role in working together with the Administration in the past to place sanctions on Iran and ensure their enforcement, Congress also has a role in determining the removal of those sanctions. Decisions affecting our foreign policy and national security cannot be made inside a vacuum.

That is why I was proud to see the U.S. Senate and House pass bipartisan legislation, the "Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015," which will prohibit the President from circumventing Congress and making any more unilateral decisions about the Iranian nuclear deal.

No bill is perfect, but Congress put together a strong piece of legislation that will prevent the President from removing sanctions on Iran without congressional approval, requires that Congress be provided with all details of the final nuclear agreement, mandates congressional review periods for Congress to periodically examine the agreement, requires that the President verify that Iran is fully cooperating with the inspections and terms of the agreement, and provides a way for Congress to quickly re-impose sanctions on Iran if it violates the agreement.

Iran cannot be allowed to pursue its nuclear ambitions. The Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015 will help make sure they never do.


Last week the House passed, with my support, H.R. 36, the "Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act." This bill dew attention from all parts of the pro-life community -- some ardently supporting it and others opposing it. The support came because if this bill is signed into law, lives will be saved. The opposition came because it would not save every life.

I can tell you that Washington is a terrible arbiter and enforcer of morality, but the Supreme Court forced the federal government into this role with its Roe vs. Wade decision. Now, the question for Congress isn't "does the bill do it all" -- instead, the question is "does it make a difference." This bill can make a difference, and that is why it received my support.


This week the House will consider its third appropriations bill of the year, the FY16 Legislative Branch Appropriations bill, as well as a short-term extension of the highway bill through July 31, 2015. In addition, the House will vote on H.R. 1806, the "America COMPETES Act," H.R. 2262, the "SPACE Act of 2015," H.R. 1335, the "Strengthening Fishing Communities and Increasing Flexibility in Fisheries Management Act," and H.R. 880, the "American Research and Competitiveness Act of 2015."

In the Senate this week, they will be discussing a short-term patch to keep funding flowing for surface transportation programs, which will expire at the end of this month. Last week, Senator McConnell began the process for considering S. 1350, which would provide for a two-month extension of highway programs. While my colleagues and I are working hard to craft a long-term solution and reauthorization, the Senate and the calendar may dictate that a short-term extension is necessary.

This is a full week in Washington, D.C., as we work to support private sector job growth, protect our natural resources, and ensure that our transportation infrastructure continues to be funded.