Your Washington Desk:
A Weekly Newsletter from
Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA)
Georgia experienced another major winter storm event this week, with power outages, downed trees and impassable roads due to ice and snow. As areas such as Augusta continue to recover, I thank all those neighbors who helped each other out, the DOT, power companies, first responders and all those who worked to keep so many Georgians safe.
The U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday voted to increase the nation’s borrowing limit – also known as “raising the debt ceiling” — through March 2015, by a vote of 222 to 201. On Wednesday, the Senate approved the House-passed measure by a vote of 55 to 43. The legislation that passed both chambers raised the debt ceiling without any provisions to reduce our debt and deficits. I voted against raising the debt ceiling because it should only be raised in tandem with structural entitlement reforms such as with Medicare and Social Security. This week’s vote was a missed opportunity to try to secure some real reforms.
This week, the House Budget Committee approved — with bipartisan support — a biennial budget bill that will reform the way federal dollars are budgeted and appropriated. The bipartisan biennial budgeting legislation that I have introduced with Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., and the Biennial Budgeting and Enhanced Oversight Act, sponsored by Rep. Reid Ribble, R-Wis.-8, and approved Tuesday, would reform the current budget and appropriations system by converting it from an annual process to a two-year cycle. The bill cleared the House Budget Committee with a strong, bipartisan vote of 22-10.
The House Budget Committee’s passage of biennial budgeting legislation marks another milestone in our efforts to reform our nation’s broken budget process. I applaud the Committee for its support, and I look forward to working with my colleagues in both chambers on this much-needed legislation as it will go a long way to get us back in the business of budgeting, appropriating and conducting oversight on a regular basis.
Pathway to Economic Health
On Wednesday, I spoke on the floor of the Senate, calling on President Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., to act on four things that would make an immediate, positive impact on our economy: passage of trade promotion authority, approval of the Keystone pipeline, reform of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and reauthorization of the Workforce Investment Act.
“The president has talked a lot about how he wants to create more jobs and how he can do this with the stroke of his pen. In response to these claims, I have several items for President Obama’s suggestion box that he and the Senate Democrats can act on to make a real and immediate difference in putting people back to work and growing the economy.
“First, the president said in his State of the Union speech that he is in favor of passing trade promotion authority. The president should talk to Sen. Reid about bringing this to the Senate floor for approval. We have pending trade opportunities before us – the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership – that will create jobs here at home by boosting the export of U.S. goods and services.
“Second, I continue to urge the president to allow the Keystone XL Pipeline to go forward. This project will create thousands of jobs and help secure our nation’s energy future. The State Department has signed off on this project and concluded that it would have no significant impact on the environment. This project makes sense for America.
“Third, we need to ensure that well-qualified homebuyers have access to affordable loans so they can realize the American dream of homeownership. I also continue to urge the administration and the Senate to support my efforts to reform government-sponsored entities, such as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, so we get taxpayers out of the business of bailing out the housing market.
“Finally, I urge the president and my colleagues to reauthorize the Workforce Investment Act to ensure that Americans receive the training they need to find jobs. This bill has languished for six years awaiting renewal. Let’s get it done today.”
For more information on these initiatives, click here.
Keystone XL Pipeline
This week, Sen. Saxby Chambliss and I joined all 45 Republican senators in writing to the president to again call for approval of the Keystone XL pipeline.
Our letter comes in response to the State Department’s release, as mentioned above, of the fifth and final environmental impact statement on the Keystone XL pipeline that found the project would have no significant impact on the environment, clearing the way for approval of the project.
The $7 billion, 1,700-mile, high-tech Keystone XL pipeline will carry 830,000 barrels of oil a day to U.S. refineries, including oil from Alberta, Canada, in addition to 100,000 barrels per day of light, sweet crude from the U.S. Bakken region in North Dakota and Montana. During the construction phase, the project will create thousands of jobs, according to the U.S. State Department.
Further Obamacare Delays
On Monday, the Obama administration issued a second round of delays to the employer mandate in Obamacare. The Treasury Department said businesses with fewer than 100 workers now will be allowed to wait until 2016 to meet the requirement of covering their workers or facing a fine.
The administration’s further delay of Obamacare is further proof that this terrible law needs to be repealed and replaced. It is simply wrong and unfair to continue to allow Obamacare to inflict pain on individual Americans who are seeing their plans canceled, seeing their premiums spike and losing their doctors. Every single American should be exempted from this monstrosity.
Preserving Free Speech from IRS Overreach
Also this week, I co-sponsored legislation to stop the Internal Revenue Service from implementing its proposal to severely curtail the political activities of 501(c)(4) groups.
S.2011, the Stop Targeting of Political Beliefs by the IRS Act, would protect the free-speech rights of 501(c)(4) organizations by prohibiting for one year the finalization of a proposed IRS regulation to significantly limit the advocacy and educational activities of these groups. The bill would also prevent additional targeting of 501(c)(4) organizations by restoring the IRS 501(c)(4) standards and definitions that were in place before the start of the IRS’ targeting of conservative groups in 2010.
Our Founding Fathers made freedom of speech the First Amendment right to the Constitution for a reason, and I am proud to join my colleagues in ensuring that our Constitutional rights are preserved for groups of all political beliefs. As a member of the Senate Finance Committee, I will continue to do all that I can to ensure that the corruption and politicization we’ve recently seen within the IRS never happens again. For more information, click here.
What’s on Tap?
On Friday, Feb. 21, I will host a town hall meeting in Savannah, Ga., at Armstrong Atlantic University’s Armstrong Center at 2 p.m. For more information on this event and other upcoming opportunities to meet with me or a member of my staff in your area, please visit the town hall meeting page of my website.
When the Senate returns on Feb. 24, 2014, the Senate will begin work on the veterans benefits legislation.