Newsletter: Washington Watch - 3/2/15



Last week the House focused on the critical issue of education reform for our nation's children. We expanded the use of 529 savings plans so that parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles can put money aside for a child to use for college. We reauthorized a successful program that awards competitive grants to organizations that provide students with high quality educational opportunities in the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) fields, and we had a robust three-day debate on the House floor about a bill to repeal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and replace it with a student and parent-centered approach to education that returns power to the states. I expect that we'll vote on the NCLB repeal and replace bill in the coming weeks.

H.R. 529

The appropriately numbered H.R. 529 is a giant step forward for hard-working middle class Americans who are saving money today so that their children can go to college in years to come without incurring tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars in student loan debt. Did you know that parents, grandparents, godparents, aunts, and uncles have started almost 12 million 529 accounts totaling nearly $245 billion for our nation's children? The average size of each account is over $20,500, and it's continually growing. That money is an investment in our children's higher education futures, and I'm so proud of the House for coming together by a vote of 401-20 to support expanding and strengthening 529 plans.

Though it didn't receive much press attention last week, the House passed, by a vote of 412-8, a bipartisan bill expanding our nation's STEM education programs at the National Science Foundation and ensuring that the field of computer science -- which is an integral and growing part of our tech economy -- is supported and included in STEM. The United States has long been at the forefront of technological progress, and the only way to ensure that we will continue leading the world's innovators is to focus on STEM education for our nation's children.


On Friday, the House passed legislation that would fund the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for another week while Congress continues working to ensure that our nation's security priorities are protected and our Constitution is respected by the President. While I am disappointed that we couldn't come to a long-term agreement to fund DHS and block all of the President's unlawful executive actions on immigration, the good news is that since the Senate has finally passed a bill, we can go to Conference and hammer out the differences between the two chambers as our Founding Fathers had always intended.

While political maneuvering in the Senate is slowing progress, the House is staying the course and allowing our governing process to work as intended. It is my sincere hope that the Senate will in good faith agree to go to Conference with the House so we can quickly move a long-term bill to fund the critical work of keeping America safe while continuing to defend the Constitution against Executive overreach.


Last week the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) made good on President Barack Obama's promise to regulate the Internet. Make no mistake about it -- the FCC's regulation has nothing to do with keeping the Internet "neutral." It has everything to do with the desire of the FCC to expand its regulatory reach. The FCC is using a telecommunications law from 1934 as its justification for regulating the Internet. It makes no sense to me to regulate a 21st Century innovation like the Internet that is constantly evolving and innovating using a law that's over 80 years old and was written when radios, telegraphs, and land-line telephones were the most widely used communication tools. You can expect Congress to aggressively push back on this rulemaking to protect the Internet from innovation-quashing government interference.


As you may know, the new chairman of the House Budget Committee is Georgia's very own Representative Tom Price from the 6th Congressional District. Chairman Price has been actively working with our fellow Budget Committee members on the Republican side of the aisle for weeks now to craft a fiscally responsible budget for FY2016 that will reduce our deficit and provide hard-working Americans with the service that they expect and deserve from their government. We have met to discuss ways to move forward on health care, national defense, Social Security, energy, transportation infrastructure, welfare reform, and more. And we are making real progress in all these areas. What's even more exciting is that last week, Chairman Price and the Budget Committee opened up the budget process further by holding the committee's annual "Members Day," where any member of the House can testify before the committee on their preferred policies and priorities for our nation's budget.


This week the House is expected to move forward with consideration of H.R. 749, the "Passenger Rail Reform and Investment Act of 2015." This bill passed unanimously out of one of the committees of which I'm proud to serve, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and I'm so pleased that I will be able to talk about reforming Amtrak on the House floor this week and vote to send it to the Senate.

The House will also pass two bipartisan bills from the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee: H.R. 1030, the "Secret Science Reform Act of 2015," and H.R. 1029, the "EPA Science Advisory Board Reform Act of 2015." These bills have received broad support in the past, and I hope that they will be positively received by the Senate this year.

This Tuesday at 11am, a Joint Session of Congress will welcome Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Washington, D.C., as he speaks to Congress about the U.S.-Israel relationship, the situation in the Middle East, and Iran's nuclear ambitions.