Sen. Johnny Isakson: Newsletter


Sen. Johnny Isakson: Newsletter

Your Washington Desk

From Senator Johnny Isakson 

Isakson 2016

The Isakson Newsletter

December 19, 2014

Dear Friends,
The Senate adjourned on Tuesday, ending the 113th Congress. The 114th Congress will convene at noon on Tuesday, January 6, 2015. 
Prior to the adjournment, the Senate voted on a number of pending nominations, as well as a bill to retroactively extend a number of tax deductions. 
As we move into 2015 with a Republican majority, I will work with Republican leadership to advance comprehensive changes to our tax system that are long overdue. 
I look forward to continuing my work on the Senate Committee on Finance in the 115th Congress, and I welcome your suggestions on how to simplify, make fairer and lower the current tax burden borne by taxpayers. Together, we can make a difference to craft a tax code for the 21st century.
Government Funding and Amnesty 
On December 13, 2014, the Senate passed H.R.83, the appropriations legislation to fund the government for nine months that was previously passed by the U.S. House on December 11, 2014. 
Unfortunately, there has been a great deal of confusion regarding this legislation and its impact on immigration funding and policy, as well as on Obamacare. While this is not the bill I would have written, I supported it because it included several key victories for conservative principles and for the state of Georgia, while also setting up the opportunity for the new Republican majority in the Senate to make more progress next year.

First, the appropriations bill does not authorize the Obama administration to spend a single dime on the president’s new immigration initiatives. I share the concern of many Georgians that it would be a blatant violation of the Constitution’s separation of powers for the president to unilaterally change immigration policy without the consent of Congress. That is why I voted to support a point of order raised by U.S. Senator Ted Cruz, R-Texas, declaring President Obama’s plan to halt the deportations of millions of illegal immigrants unconstitutional. Additionally, the funding bill gives the Department of Homeland Security, which funds immigration, only enough funding to operate until February 2015. This will allow Congress to revisit the agency’s budget in February and begin the process of de-funding and dismantling the amnesty plan. I am committed to working with the new Republican majority in the Senate next year to block the president’s unconstitutional power play.
As for Obamacare, the legislation prevented additional funding from reaching the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to pay for Obamacare, and it cut almost $350 million from the Internal Revenue Service, the administration’s primary tool for enforcing Obamacare. It also prohibits taxpayer funds from being used to bail out insurance companies that lose money on Obamacare, a key step toward reversing the administration’s efforts to hide the true cost of this law from the American people. I continue to fight to repeal and replace this terribly flawed law through legislation, funding cuts and through the courts.
Georgia’s priorities were at the forefront of my mind when making my decision to support this legislation. First, the bill included funding to ensure the federal share of funding for Georgia’s number one economic development project — the expansion and deepening of the Port of Savannah. The appropriations bill included $1.52 million in construction funding that will keep this project on track.
The bill also included a provision to rein in the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) overreach with respect to the ‘waters of the United States’ proposal, which would subject Georgia’s farmers to costly and intrusive federal regulation and would harm Georgia’s biggest industry.
As the 113th Congress draws to a close, Senate Republicans are gearing up for their new majority in January. Omnibus appropriations bills are never a good way to do business, and come January 6, 2015, the new Republican Senate majority will return to doing individual and transparent appropriations bills throughout the year in a timely fashion. The American people deserve no less.
Next year, I will continue my fight to reform America’s budget and spending process from an annual to a biennial budget, which would reserve every other year for mandatory oversight to ensure that we demand accountability from existing programs before we spend money on new ones.
Army Retirement Policy Reversal 
In November, U.S. Senator Patty Murray, D-Wash., and I led a bipartisan group of colleagues in sending a letter to U.S. Army Secretary John McHugh over the Army’s treatment of a significant number of captains and majors who are former non-commissioned officers and who were being forced to retire at their highest previous enlisted rank.
We were concerned about the Army’s use of Enhanced-Selective Early Retirement Boards, which would have resulted in a significant decrease in lifetime retirement benefits for the impacted soldiers — as much as $1,000 per month or more for some, or just more than $1 million over a 40-year retirement in the case of a captain forced to retire as a sergeant first class.   
This week, Secretary McHugh announced a reversal of this policy. I am thrilled Secretary McHugh responded quickly and is taking the steps necessary to rectify this situation and allow these deserving men and women to retire at the rank they have earned and appropriately honor their service to our nation. You can read more about this issue in the Army Times’ article here
On Wednesday, President Obama announced that the United States had been in long-time negotiations with Cuba regarding a prisoner exchange and that he plans to use executive actions to ease economic and travel restrictions on Cuba and to work with Congress to end the trade embargo.
I am pleased that Alan Gross has been safely reunited with his family after five years of unjust imprisonment at the hands of the Castro regime. However, I am deeply troubled to hear that three convicted Cuban spies were exchanged as a part of this deal. Mr. Gross did not commit any crimes and should have been released unconditionally.
As for the Obama administration’s plans for a major shift in policy toward Cuba, I look forward to hearing specific details on how the administration plans to hold Cuba accountable for its well-documented disregard for the basic rights of its people and the principles of democracy.
What’s on Tap? 
The Senate is not in session next week in observance of Christmas or the following week in observance of New Year’s Day. I look forward to sharing this special time of year with my family and friends. Dianne and I will be sharing a traditional Christmas Eve dinner with our children and nine grandchildren. We wish you all a Happy New Year, and ask you to join us in a prayer for those serving our nation especially at this time of year.
Johnny Isakson

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