Weekly Update: Washington Status Update
By Rob Wittman
With all that is going on in Congress, it can sometimes be hard to keep track. As my weekly update, I wanted to make sure that you are up to date on the happenings in DC. Although we should acknowledge accomplishments, I think it is more important to look forward at what else can be done.
Passing a Budget: DONE
This week, the House and Senate agreed on a proposal and voted to send it to the President. Passing this budget paves the way for a reconciliation process that allows Congress to move forward with tax reform. Check out my statement here.
Child Health Insurance Program (CHIP) Reauthorization: PENDING
I have been getting a lot of questions from constituents regarding CHIP reauthorization, so I wanted to let you know where it currently stands. For those who don’t know, CHIP provides low-cost health coverage to children in families that earn too much money to qualify for Medicaid. Although administered by states, the United States Department of Health and Human Services provides matching funds to states for this program. I have voted in favor in the past for CHIP and the funding of community health centers, as they are critical to our children’s health. I have a passion for public health that dates back to the early 1990s. When I was on the Board of Supervisors in Westmoreland County, I worked with my colleagues to start one of the first community health centers in the First District of Virginia, now there are over a dozen throughout the area. Last week, while back home in the First District, I spent time at several of these health care centers learning about ways that we, on a federal level, can support them.
The program was reauthorized in 2015 through the end of FY17. Therefore, in September, Congress passed a Continuing Resolution that reauthorized the program through December 8, 2017. As many of you know, I did not vote in favor of this CR; however, it was not because I do not believe CHIP should be funded. A CR keeps last year’s funding the same until a budget can eventually be passed. In addition to stagnant funding, a CR does allow for new starts of programs and leaves many, including our armed forces, with uncertainty. You can read my statement on my CR vote here.
However, the process to reauthorize this important program is still ongoing. In October, the House Energy and Commerce Committee passed a bill reauthorizing CHIP. This means, the next step is coming to the full House floor for a vote. Unfortunately, the Ranking Member on the Energy and Commerce Committee, Congressman Frank Pallone (D-NJ-01) has blocked its progression. Health care for our children is not a partisan issue, and I hope that it is able to move forward. I will be sure to keep you updated as this legislation moves through the legislative process.
Tax Reform: PENDING
Passing the budget this week paves the way for a reconciliation process that allows Congress to move forward with tax reform. At the end of September, Congressional leadership in conjunction with the Administration released a framework that sets the stage for creating a new tax system that is simple, fair, and creates jobs. This plan achieves fiscally responsible tax reform by broadening the base, closing loopholes, and growing our economy.
The framework doubles the standard deduction, which allows single filers to keep their first $12,000 in income untaxed, enhances the child tax credit to make sure we keep American families strong, repeals the death and alternative minimum tax, drastically lowers tax rates for Main Street job creators to create jobs in communities across the country, and lowers the corporate tax rate so that America can compete on a level playing field with the rest of the world.
We should be seeing specific bill text in the near future, and I will be examining it closely to make sure that we achieve our goals. At the end of the day, Americans should be paying less in taxes than before, and I believe Congress will deliver a tax plan that supports middle-class families, protects jobs, and gives the American economy the boost it needs.
Securing Proper Defense Spending: INCOMPLETE
I have serious concerns about defense funding levels included in this recently-passed budget. The resolution puts defense funding back at sequestration levels, which is inadequate to remedy the very serious readiness challenges we currently face. However, this budget also creates a mechanism that permits both the House and Senate Budget Committee chairmen to adjust budget allocations and other spending levels if there is future legislation signed into law that revises the Budget Control Act [bca] discretionary spending caps for defense and national security. Trust me, I am going to fight as hard as I can to make sure that our defense topline spending gets up to the $631 billion passed in the House version of the National Defense Authorization Act. I have spoken to Speaker Ryan personally and he shares my concern regarding defense spending, and I plan to work closely with him to ensure adequate funding for our military.
Now more than ever we must come together to work quickly and efficiently. It is critical that we put our constituents and America first to get us back on the road to recovery. We currently have unprecedented momentum; the American people are eager for Congress to do its job. I’m tired of Washington’s gridlock, stalemating, and postponing. Let’s make getting legislation to the president’s desk our new “business as usual.”