From Congressional Politics

Rep. Westmoreland Won’t Seek Another Term. Who Will Replace Him?

Rep. Lynn Westmoreland at the Georgia GOP 2015 convention. Photo: Jon Richards
Rep. Lynn Westmoreland at the Georgia GOP 2015 convention. Photo: Jon Richards
In a move that some in Georgia’s third congressional district had been suspecting, Rep. Lynn Westmoreland announced today that he will be retiring from Congress at the end of the current term.

His statement:

After a busy fall in Congress, I finally had the opportunity for quiet reflection over the Christmas break. I spent time in prayer and with my family, and with their blessing, have decided I will no longer seek reelection for Georgia’s Third Congressional District.

It has been an honor to serve Georgia’s Third District for the last twelve years, and I believe it is time to pass the torch to our next conservative voice. Washington, D.C. is a much different environment in 2016 than when I was elected in 2004. I know all too well the challenges the new representative will face, and pledge to offer my support and guidance to the next candidate.

Joan and I want to thank the people of Georgia’s Third District. We are forever blessed to have received your support and friendship during my time in office. I look forward to this next chapter in my life; returning to my community and spending more time with family and friends.

So who will replace the six term congressman? Early bets for those likely to run for the seat include State Sen. Josh McKoon of Columbus, Senator Mike Crane of Newnan, Senator Marty Harbin of Tyrone, Rep. Matt Ramsey of Peachtree City, and Westmoreland’s current Chief of Staff Matt Brass.

All are Republicans. Do you have any other ideas for possible contenders? Let us know in the comments.

Two Georgia Reps Vote No on the Omnibus

The House of Representatives passed a $1.1 trillion spending bill by a vote of 316 to 113, with 5 not voting. A majority of the Republican caucus favored the measure, 150-95, with the Democrats strongly in favor, 166-18. The bill moves to the Senate for a final vote later today.

Georgia 10th District Republican Jody Hice and 4th District Democrat Hank Johnson voted against the measure. The remainder of the delegation voted yes. In a prepared statement, Hice said his no vote came about because the Omnibus funds Planned Parenthood.

While I believe this measure includes a lot that is good — and good for Georgia — I have several concerns about this legislation, chief among them the funding for the Syrian refugee program, overall funding levels that exceed the House passed budget, and continued funding for Planned Parenthood. In September, after the horrific actions of Planned Parenthood came to light, I joined a number of my colleagues in signing a letter stating I would not support any funding resolution or omnibus package that funds Planned Parenthood, which unfortunately this measure does. It is for these reasons that I fully support the spirit of the bill but was unable to support the legislation on the floor.”

Of interest to Georgians, the omnibus bill includes $21 million to deepen the Savannah Harbor, $90 million for military construction at Fort Gordon, money to pay for for 68 F-35 Joint-Strike-Fighters, and full funding for the poultry lab at UGA. Read more

House Passes Tax Extenders Bill; On to the Omnibus

This afternoon, the House passed H.R. 2029 by a vote of 318 to 109. All of Georgia’s representatives voted in favor of the bill with the exception of the 4th District’s Hank Johnson and the 5th District’s John Lewis. The Protect America from Tax Hikes Act of 2015 continues many popular tax breaks that are typically renewed each year.

This year’s version makes several tax breaks permanent, including the tax break for commuters using mass transit, the American Opportunity tax credit, which helps pay college costs, and enhancements to the child tax credit and the earned income tax credit. Other tax breaks are extended only through FY 2016.

Conflicting tweets show the good and bad sides of the proposed Omnibus spending bill.
Conflicting tweets show the good and bad sides of the proposed Omnibus spending bill.
The tax extenders bill is the next to last item on Congress’s agenda for the year. What remains is the omnibus spending bill, which will determine how $1.067 trillion in discretionary spending will be allocated for fiscal year 2016. And as you can see from the tweets at right, there are things to like and dislike about the spending plan. One of the things to dislike is language dealing with the water wars that could lead to the entire Georgia delegation voting no tomorrow, when the vote is expected to be taken.

No such opposition arose from Georgia’s House Republicans over the tax extenders bill. Below, statements of applause and support: Read more

Rob Woodall Addresses ISIS, Refugee Crisis in Tele-Town Hall

In a telephone town hall somewhat reminiscent of a FDR fireside chat, Georgia Seventh District Rep. Rob Woodall of addressed Saturday’s terrorist actions in Paris, the state of ISIS and possible American responses, and how the country should deal with Syrian and other refugees who want to enter the country, but could potentially be ISIS members.

The congressman stated that no one is more vested in humanitarian aid to assist refugees to assist refugees suffering from religious persecution than the United States, however the nation’s number one job is to protect Americans. He talked about the latest version of the National Defense Authorization Act, recently passed in the House. President Obama vetoed the previous version because off-budget funds were used to fund Defense. The current version adds a rider requiring the president to define a strategy to defeat ISIS.

Woodall asked listeners what they thought whether the United States should have a strategy to defeat ISIS, and 90% of those responding said it should. Yet, the congressman noted, President Obama has been reluctant to attack ISIS where it counts. He pointed out that the military hasn’t struck ISIS fuel supply lines because of the risk of killing civilians. In another poll of those listening, Woodall asked whether the US should put boots on the ground, and have a strong presence in the Mideast, whether the military’s approach should use air strikes and avoid ground troops, or whether the country could continue its hands-off approach. 60% of those responding favored air strikes, 35% wanted to send troops, and 5% said to stay the current course.

Winding up the town hall, Woodall asked those listening to pay attention to the issue of visa waivers as a possible avenue for ISIS radicals to enter the country. Many residents of European Union countries can fly into the US without having to obtain a visa as long as they have a passport. This is especially a worry for those Europeans who have become radicalized by ISIS. Woodall said this issue has been on Congress’s radar for a while, but with no perfect answer.

On Senate Floor, Perdue Addresses National Debt and Need to Better Fund National Defense

Georgia Sen. David Perdue addresses the Senate on global security and the need for a national defense
Georgia Sen. David Perdue addresses the Senate on global security and the need for a national defense
Noting that providing for a common defense is one of six reasons the original colonies came together to form the United States, yet, due to dysfunction and partisan politics, Congress has not been able to come together to properly fund the nation’s foreign policy, Georgia Senator David Perduce delivered a nine minute speech on the Senate floor this afternoon, calling for attention to reduce the nation’s debt load in order to properly address the situation.

“Washington is too often focused on the crisis of the day instead of getting at the true underlying problems and solving them,” Perdue said. “It shouldn’t take a tragedy like this for Washington to pay attention. The latest terror attacks only underscore that we are facing a global security crisis of increasing magnitude. And this is inextricably linked to our own national debt crisis.”

Perdue pointed out that the nation has spent $21.5 trillion over the past six years, and has borrowed $8 trillion of it. “That’s a tragedy of proportion we’ve never seen in America before,” said Perdue. The senator noted that when unfunded liabilities of approximately $100 trillion are added in, the total amounts to about $1 million per American household. And he noted that if interest rates were to rise to the 30 year average of 5.5%, the interest on the debt would amount to over $1 trillion annually, more than twice what is currently spent on national defense.

Listen to the entire speech below:

Senator Perdue To Address Senate at 2:20 PM

Georgia Senator David Perdue will address the issue of the recent terrorist attacks by ISIS in Paris and elsewhere during a speech from the Senate floor beginning approximately 2:20 PM. The senator will speak to the need to address the global security crisis, and is expected to tie the security crisis to the growing national debt.

You can watch the speech on CSPAN2 or the livestream from the Senate floor.

Congressman Doug Collins Highlights Anti-Competitive Behavior Of Pharmacy Benefit Managers

Congressman Doug Collins (R-GA-09) questioned witnesses during a House Judiciary Committee hearing about practices and behaviors of Pharmacy Benefits Managers and the impact to rural pharmacies that serve their respective communities. From the presser:

Today, in a House Judiciary Committee hearing examining “The State of Competition in the Pharmacy Benefits Manager and Pharmacy Marketplaces”, Congressman Doug Collins questioned witnesses about anticompetitive behavior by Pharmacy Benefit Managers (PBMs) and the resulting devastating impact on independent and community pharmacies, and the families they serve.

Community Pharmacies are on the healthcare frontlines in rural communities such as Northeast Georgia. Consolidation in the PBM Marketplace and the lack of transparency in the dealings between PBMs and community pharmacies has resulted in local pharmacies closing their doors for good. Congressman Collins and 30 of his colleagues have advocated transparency requirements for PBMs contained in H.R. 244, the “MAC Transparency Act”. This hearing was an important first step to level the playing field in the pharmacy marketplace, and brought to light the need for immediate Congressional action.

Here’s the video from yesterday’s hearing:

Woodall Focuses On Transportation, “Un-partisan” Collaboration

STRR Logo

On Monday, Representative Rob Woodall (R-GA7) delivered the keynote address at the Council For Quality Growth’s 6th Annual CID Recognition Event in Atlanta. Rep. Woodall’s remarks focused on his work on the House Committee for Transportation and Infrastructure, emphasizing how the Surface Transportation Reauthorization and Reform Act will benefit Georgia, and will – hopefully – give local governments greater control over their transportation priorities.

Georgia journalist Walter Jones noted that the Act will have a positive impact throughout Georgia, highlighting Woodall’s remark regarding Georgia’s major freight corridors:

“What have we done to get I-16 ready for Panamax [and New Panamax] ships? That’s a lonely stretch of road. It doesn’t have a big voice in terms of federal transportation policy, but critically important, not just to people who live along it, but also to the entire Southeastern region. … I’m optimistic that you’re going to see a greater investment in some of these projects that might not be as glamorous as a big new bridge inside the (Atlanta) Perimeter,”

In the Atlanta Business Chronicle, Dave Williams presented Rep. Woodall’s emphasis on local control of local priorities through the Act’s block grant program:

“Maybe Washington doesn’t have all of the solutions. … Maybe we can trust folks on the local level to make more of their own decisions. … The new block grant program is going to allow you to do that.”

Other highlights from Woodall’s remarks include:

Read more

Georgia Congressmen React to Election of Paul Ryan as Speaker

Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan was elected Speaker of the House this morning, receiving 236 votes to Nancy Pelosi’s 184. Rep. Daniel Webster, the initial choice of the House Freedom Caucus, received 9 votes. Three other candidates received a single vote, including Georgia’s Fifth District Rep. John Lewis. For the Georgia delegation, the vote was along party lines, with all Republicans voting for Ryan, and all Democrats voting for Pelosi.

Georgia’s two representatives that belong to the House Freedom Caucus issued statements following the election. 10th District Rep. Jody Hice said this:

The position of Speaker of the House was established by Article I, Section II of the United States Constitution in 1789, and it is the job of the United States House of Representatives to choose who should hold this position. Today, I cast my vote, ultimately in support of Congressman Paul Ryan (R-WI). Much has changed since 1789, but principles like limited government, regular order in the House of Representatives, and empowering Members to vote their conscience and their Districts— these principles are timeless.

As a proud member of the House Freedom Caucus, I have fought vigorously for institutional reforms. As I have said many times, in order for us to fix Washington, then all Members — whether they are in Leadership or part of the rank and file, whether they are a Democrat or a Republican, whether they are in the Freedom Caucus or the Tuesday Group — deserve for their voices and the voices of their constituents to be heard. After prayerful consideration and after many meetings with Paul, I am very encouraged by the institutional reforms he is willing to implement for the benefit of all Members of the House of Representatives, and for the United States.

Speaker Ryan promises real institutional reforms in the way of opening up the legislative process to all members, only moving legislation that has the support of the majority of the majority, changing the way our committees are selected, and implementing a bottom-up leadership approach. Speaker Ryan has assured us these reforms are coming. I have invested a lot of faith in Speaker Ryan’s word, and I will expect nothing less than a full return on that investment.

Accordingly, I think we all know that now is the time for unity. I have confidence that Paul will work tirelessly in order to unite our Conference. With the Speaker election behind us, I look forward to getting back to the work our constituents sent us here to accomplish, and look forward to working with Speaker Ryan.

11th District Rep. Barry Loudermilk:

This historic mid-term process of selecting a new Speaker has never been about a person, but revolutionizing the way Congress does business. The current leadership-centric, top down approach to governing is broken and prohibits members from truly representing their constituents. There is no better example of the failure of the current system than the two year budget deal which passed yesterday with a majority of Republicans rejecting it. The bill bypassed the entire legislative process and had no input from individual members of Congress or committee chairmen who have jurisdiction over these matters.

While there is no perfect candidate, Rep. Paul Ryan has openly committed to working with members to restore the rules, respect the legislative process, empower every member of Congress, and ensure the American people are represented.

Our nation’s Founders designed the House of Representatives to serve as the People’s House, not the speaker’s house. I believe that today gives us an historic opportunity to change the culture in Washington D.C., and shows that our government has responded to the millions of Americans who demanded change in the direction of their government.

I look forward to working with Speaker Ryan as we continue toward restoring an America for future generations that is free, safe, and full of opportunity.

More Reaction from Georgia are below the fold. Read more

Will Paul Broun Make Another Run for Office? Maybe.

Paul Broun campaigns to become the GOP Senate  nominee in a May, 2014 stop in Gwinnett County.  Photo: Jon Richards
Paul Broun campaigns to become the GOP Senate nominee in a May, 2014 stop in Gwinnett County.
Photo: Jon Richards
Following last week’s news that former 10th District Representative Paul Broun was one3 of the leaders behind an effort to discredit Kevin McCarthy in his run for Speaker of the House, Jim Thompson of the Athens Banner-Herald caught up with the Watkinsville doctor, and got him to admit he could consider another run at political office.

“Both political parties are responsible” for the country’s drift away from constitutional governance, Broun said, adding that America has “got to return to a policy of individual responsibility and accountability.”

Broun, whose bedrock conservative Christian faith has figured prominently in his public life, said Thursday his continuing interest in the political scene is now informed by a biblical verse, as he recited the third verse of Psalm 11, which reads, “If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?”

Broun added he believes he has “a calling to restore the foundational principles of this country.” Asked if that meant he might consider another run at public office, Broun said he would “prayerfully consider” any opportunities the might come his way to again run for office.

One possibile impediment to another run for public office could be an investigation by the U.S. House Ethics Committee over whether Broun used congressional staff to work on his Senate campaign. Broun left office before the investigation could be completed, although his former communications consultant pleaded guilty last month to making false statements in an ethics investigation. For his part, Broun told the Banner-Herald that he felt he would be exonerated in any federal investigation into the use of congressional funds for campaign purposes.

Congressman Tom Graves Reminds Us Of Some Victories We’ve Had

I attended a townhall, sponsored by the Walker County Republican Party, in LaFayette on Monday evening.  It was a well-attended event organized by Walker GOP Chairman Matt Williamson.  The topics covered federal, state, and local concerns.  I had to leave early, but I was able to catch the update from our own Congressman Tom Graves (R-GA-14).

One of the topics that the Congressman discussed were the victories that conservatives have actually made since taking the House in 2010.  Here are a few that he discussed:

  • The UN Arms Trade Treaty cannot be funded or implemented.
  • Obamacare’s Risk Corridor program is prohibited from receiving a taxpayer bailout.
  • There is no funding for the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
  • Race To The Top, a main driver of Common Core, was eliminated.
  • ACORN and its subsidiaries are prohibited from receiving federal funds.
  • The Export-Import Bank expired on June 30, 2015 and has not been renewed.
  • The House and Senate both passed legislation approving the Keystone XL pipeline (ultimately vetoed by President Barack Obama)
  • Actually passing a budget since President Obama took office in 2009.

With the exception of the Keystone pipeline, the list above is a sampling of the legislation signed into law by President Obama.  In addition to that, discretionary spending is lower today ($1.013 trillion) than what was proposed ($1.019 trillion) in the “Path To Prosperity” budget proposed by Congressman Paul Ryan and received overwhelming support from conservatives back in 2012.

We are on the right track and heading towards a good direction towards reducing federal spending.  I know there are some who want to use the fun words of “slash”, “gut”, “cripple”, “destroy”, “decimate”, etc. to describe how they would budget federal spending.  It’s not ideal, but in spite of the noise the “silent base of the Republican Party” is making about how awful everything our Party does, at least we can hang our hat on a few victories.  It doesn’t mean we should stop and say our mission is complete.  It’s not, but I believe it’s good to be encouraged by being reminded of what has been done.

The Elephant In The Room

Congressman Tom Graves (R-GA-14) spoke to the Floyd County Republican Women yesterday.  The Rome News Tribune covered the Congressman’s remarks and subsequent questions from the audience.  The elephant in the room is the motion to vacate the chair filed by Congressman Mark Meadows (R-NC-11) last week.

Congressman Graves said removal of Speaker John Boehner is an “open conversation” that Republicans will be having before traveling back to Washington after their summer break.  The Congressman has not said if he supports or opposes the motion.

It’s not secret that conservatives are upset with the Speaker, but it’s been mostly smoke with no fire.  Not one Republican congressman challenged Boehner in the Republican Conference Committee election of leadership that took place soon after the 2014 General Election in November.  The chest-pounding and grandstanding big challenge took place on the floor of the House in January when two or three decided to challenge the Speaker then.  They lost, and really I’m not surprised nor do I sympathize with their last minute revolt.

They took to the floor and made a show to pump up their image as being anti-establishment leaders raging against the Washington machine.  It looks good on TV and to the folks back home, but I’m willing to bet that they knew what they did in January was a lost cause that had no chance of gaining traction.

Now we have a motion filed.  The Speaker didn’t act upon the motion before the summer break.  Now, conservative media outlets are trumpeting that the Speaker doesn’t have enough votes to get re-elected.  I don’t know if that’s true or not, but what I’m more concerned with is who steps in to fill the vacuum.  It’s a big deal when there is a possibility of replacing someone who is the head Republican of the House and a man who is second in line to the presidency.  I’d venture to say that it would make the shock of Eric Cantor losing his primary pale in comparison.

If you’re rabidly advocating the toppling of Speaker Boehner and revolting against the current Republican leadership, then perhaps you should also be talking about who is going to be the new leadership rather than ousting someone and saying “gee, who do we elect now?”

It’s going to be talked about at the various townhalls that congressmen will be hosting across our great nation, and I believe it’s something that should be discussed openly and honestly.  I hope that more light is shown on the plan to see if it’s a well thought out plan to govern or just another half-baked plan to pump up conservative cred of a few congressmen among the conservative websites and talk show host outlets.

Price’s New Health Care Reform Plan Gaining Traction.

Republicans are criticized, sometimes fairly, for not offering solutions to the problems they complain about. One Republican in Congress who has been offering alternatives to Obamacare since before there was an Obamacare is Georgia Congressman Tom Price. His latest plan was introduced with 46 co-sponsors and is gaining national attention as evidenced by this article in National Review this morning.

The new model of H.R. 2300 differs from the prior model in several key ways. Instead of a combination, in the individual market, of income-based tax credits and tax deductions, it now calls for simple age-based tax credits, which will let people quickly see what they’ll receive, reduce the I.R.S.’s role, and avoid work-disincentives. In addition to making it easier for people to have and use health savings accounts, it now offers a one-time tax credit of $1,000 per person for having or opening an HSA. Instead of an open-ended tax break for employer-based insurance, it now closes that tax loophole while continuing to give those with employer-based insurance their full tax break on insurance that costs up to $20,000 for a family or $8,000 for an individual. In other words, the tax treatment of the typical person’s employer-based plan wouldn’t change one bit (and anyone with, say, a $23,000 plan, would still get the full tax break on the first $20,000).

Price’s alternative, therefore, would deal with both costs and coverage while finally fixing a longstanding inequality in the tax code for millions of middle-class Americans who have to buy health insurance on their own. Since the 1940s, those with employer-based insurance have gotten a generous tax break, while those without employer-based insurance generally have not. Obamacare’s 2,400-plus pages managed to assault Americans’ liberty without correcting this unfairness in the tax code. Price’s 242-page bill achieves what Obama’s could not — at one-tenth the length.

Kudos to Congressman Price for continuing to offer sound policy on this important issue.

House Votes For Resolution That Would Protect Farmers From EPA Overreach

Congressman Lynn Westmoreland (R-GA-03) voted in favor of HR 1732 in response to the EPA’s new proposed rule that would allow them to regulate man-made ponds, ditches, and other water areas usurping local and state environmental regulations. The regulations could potentially affect farmers and the agriculture industry. The resolution would require both the EPA and Army Corp of Engineers to withdraw the new regulation and propose new rules that would consider both local and state regulatory interests. From a presser released from Congressman Westmoreland’s office:

Last night, Congressman Lynn Westmoreland voted in support of H.R. 1732, the Regulatory Integrity Protection Act, to protect Georgia farmers from proposed regulations by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). H.R. 1732 upholds the integrity of the federal-state partnership to regulate our nation’s waters by preserving existing rights and responsibilities with respect to “waters of the United States” under the Clean Water Act.

“The EPA is constantly trying to bypass state and local governments, when they are the ones that know the land and water sources the best,” stated Westmoreland. “I’ve spoken to farmers across the Third District and the state of Georgia, and this overreach onto their property is a huge concern to them. We’ve seen the EPA regulating outside its authority time and time again, and we will continue to fight to put an end to it.”

Under the EPA’s proposed rule, the Clean Water Act could regulate waters in ditches, man-made ponds, floodplains, streams, and seasonally-wet areas – burdening and even threatening jobs in the agricultural industry. The Regulatory Integrity Protection Act gives the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers 30 days to withdraw the current proposed rule and requires them to develop a new proposed rule that must take into consideration local and state concerns.

“The Regulatory Integrity Protection Act requires the federal government to work with state and local communities to find a solution that best fits their needs. By restoring trust, transparency, and integrity to the decision making process, we can find a solution that protects both our water and our jobs, and isn’t just in the interest of Washington bureaucrats – but for the farmers and hard-working Americans who provide for our nation.”

Congressman Doug Collins On The 9th District “Great Lakes”

Congressman Doug Collins viewing plans for Lake Lanier’s Olympic Venue

Congressman Doug Collins (R-GA-09) sent out a newsletter discussing Lake Lanier and its economic impact to both Hall County and Georgia’s ninth district. He cites that Lake Lanier draws over 8 million people and adds $300 million to the Hall County economy. Congressman Collins goes on to talk about the creation of the Army Corp of Engineers caucus in Congress:

Not only do we have a piece of Georgia’s Olympic history, where rowing teams from around the world practice and compete, Northeast Georgia is also home to the country’s second largest man-made lake east of the Mississippi River — Lake Hartwell. I was recently there too, learning more about the vibrant lake economy that the Ninth District shares with neighboring South Carolina.

Across our district, local governments work with the Army Corps of Engineers, which helped to create these valuable resources, to preserve and improve them. In Congress, I launched the Army Corps of Engineers Caucus to increase the agency’s responsiveness and efficiency, so that it may better serve new arrivals, who visit Northeast Georgia for its natural beauty and stay for its residents’ warmth and hospitality.

I’m glad to see that Congressman Collins is working to better relations and increase communications of needs between constituents and government agencies, like the Army Corp of Engineers. A lot of times we get caught up in the red meat issues and enjoy casting aspersions towards government agencies, but sometimes it’s good to see our elected representatives work to enhance relationships for better responsiveness from those government agencies.

Sometimes good governance is working together on the seemingly mundane (i.e., why does someone in the 14th district care about lakes in the 9th district?) issues to the average voter to build better relationships….and then working to solve the tougher challenges that both our state and nation faces.