Newsletter: Washington Watch - 5/4/15



As many of you know, the House and Senate have been working for weeks to reconcile their respective budgets into a single, unified FY2016 budget resolution. Those weeks of hard work paid off last week, as House and Senate budget negotiators unveiled the first bicameral, balanced budget resolution since 2001. The bicameral FY2016 budget resolution reduces federal spending by more than $5 trillion compared to current polices, leading to billion dollar surpluses by the end of the decade. According to the Congressional Budget Office, it will grow the U.S. economy by $400 billion dollars and create 1.2 million jobs by 2025. The budget agreement also provides Congress a path to repeal the President's failed heath care law and replace it with a patient-centered health reform proposal that benefits all Americans. Last Thursday, the bicameral FY2016 budget resolution passed the House with my support, and I expect the Senate to pass it as soon as this week.


Last week I supported and the House passed a very important bill to fulfill our obligation to our nation's veterans. The FY2016 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations bill passed with bipartisan support and provides funding to ensure that our veterans receive the benefits and health care that they have rightly earned for the sacrifices they made for this country. Even though we are tightening our fiscal belt in many other areas in Washington, I think we can all agree that we should not balance the books on the backs of our nation's veterans, and that commitment is reflected in this year's bill, which increases funding for our veterans programs by over 5% from last year. Specifically, this funding will go towards important priorities such as addressing the unacceptable claims backlog and modernizing the VA's health records system to ensure timely care.

We must do better for our nation's heroes, and while there is certainly more work to be done, this bill is a strong step in the right direction. It's no secret that Washington is divided on a number of different issues, but I hope you are as proud as I am to see both sides come together and support this important legislation.


Last week the House passed, with my support, the FY16 appropriations bill for the Department of Energy, the Army Corps of Engineers, and the Bureau of Reclamation. This was the second appropriations bill that the House passed last week, and I hope that this success is a positive sign for the appropriations process to come this year. We have ten more appropriations bills to pass, and I know that we can work together to get that done. We have started this process at the earliest point in more than 40 years because of the success that the House and Senate have had agreeing on a budget pathway forward. My hope and expectation is that we will turn this cooperation into much needed productivity for America.

This energy appropriations bill was a comprehensive, bipartisan effort to support our nation's energy and water infrastructure systems so that we can facilitate commerce and energy independence. For Georgia, I'm happy to say that the bill included a provision that would bar the Army Corps of Engineers from implementing its short-sighted proposal to use the auspices of the Clean Water Act to take control over Georgia's waterways. You and I know that Georgians are more concerned about preserving clean water in our communities than the federal government ever could be. In fact, Georgia has done a tremendous job with our water, and we should be allowed to continue supporting our high standards, instead of being forced to bend to the will of the federal government. This bill also included promised federal funds for the expansion of the Port of Savannah. The port expansion isn't simply a Georgia priority; it is a national priority to insure that American businesses and jobs remain competitive in an increasingly competitive world.


Last week I was proud to join with 27 of my House colleagues on both sides of the aisle in asking Speaker John Boehner to instruct the relevant House committees to bring forward a new Authorization of Use of Military Force (AUMF) resolution that would provide the appropriate statutory authority to continue our military's operations with our allies against the Islamic State in the Levant (ISIL). The Constitution declares that only Congress can declare war. Too often, the Administration under the control of both parties has committed U.S. troops and treasure to a global overreach, and sometimes, it is the result of a Congress reluctant to take a stand. The role of the U.S. in the world and the lives of our military men and women who protect us are too important for Congress to sit on the sidelines. This issue of American forces deploying in a dangerous world is too important to the future safety of our nation, our allies, and our world to ignore Congress' necessary role in ensuring that the President, as our Commander in Chief, and our military men and women are fighting a battle that is supported by the American people and that is fully authorized by Congress.


As a member of the House Rules Committee, I led the resolution and the debate to bring three important bills to the House floor: first, a resolution of disapproval on a District of Columbia law that infringes upon the First Amendment rights of all Americans living in DC; second, a bill that the House will continue to debate in the coming weeks, H.R. 1732, which will protect Georgia's and all states' ability to ensure that it can maintain its current clean water rules and regulations; and third, the FY16 Conference Report on the Budget. As your voice in Congress, I am one of the most frequently called on members to lead debate on the House floor. Leading these debates in just one of the ways that I ensure that your voice influences and changes the direction of the U.S. House of Representatives.


I want to highlight just a few of the more than three dozen committee hearings held last week. In committee, much more so than on the House floor, we are able to dig deeply into issues of security and policy affecting families in our communities.

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee held a hearing to delve into the issue of the District of Columbia's restricted air space. You might remember that just two weeks ago a man from Florida flew a small gyrocopter over the Capitol area and landed on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol. Thankfully, the gentleman meant no harm and there were no injuries from this incident, but I know how concerning it is for all Americans just how close to the Capitol this came and what that might mean in the future for terrorists who wish to do America harm.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee held another in a long line of hearings to investigate how best to reform the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and to bolster our nation's premier medical research initiatives at the National Institutes of Health. All Americans know how fast medical research develops and how important it is to have the most updated research, medicines, and medical devices ready for use by patients who are struggling to find cures to life-threatening diseases. Our 20th Century federal approval process for new drugs and devices is not keeping pace with the tremendous innovation coming from our nation's brightest medical minds -- some of which are based right here in Georgia at our world class institutions like Emory University, Georgia Regents University, and the University of Georgia. As such, the Energy and Commerce Committee has been working on a bipartisan reform of the FDA and the NIH so that we can move innovative products from the lab to the marketplace.

The House Education and the Workforce Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training held a hearing last week examining how best to improve college access and completion rates for low-income and first-generation students. The Seventh District of Georgia is blessed with thousands of first-generation Americans who are the sons and daughters of hard-working immigrants who have come to America for a better life, and a key to attaining that life is a quality education. We know that college graduates have higher long-term earning potential and are best able to take advantage of the high-tech workforce needs of our nation's fastest growing businesses. Finding conservative solutions to support these students is in our nation's best interest, and working with local colleges, like Gwinnett Tech or Georgia Perimeter College, that provide real skills that students can translate to the workforce is possible when we work together across party lines for the good of all Americans.


While my focus will be in the district this week, there will be important work happening in Congress on the Senate side of Capitol Hill that you should keep an eye on.

BUDGET: The Senate plans to take-up the House-adopted Conference Report on the FY16 Budget, S.Con.Res. 11, the first balanced budget conference report since 2001.

IRAN: The Senate continues consideration of amendments to a bill dealing with Iran nuclear negotiations which would give Congress the authority to review any nuclear agreement with Iran for a minimum of 52 days. President Barack Obama would be barred from suspending, waiving or reducing congressionally-enacted economic sanctions against Iran while lawmakers are studying the deal.

UNION ORGANIZING: Senate Republicans will attempt to override Obama's March 31st veto of S.J. Res. 8, which would scuttle a NLRB proposed rule that would speed up workplace elections when unions seek to represent employees in collective bargaining.

I hope to see you at my upcoming town hall meeting, and as always, if I can assist you in any way please do not hesitate to call on me.