Congressman Griffith's Weekly E-Newsletter 1.18.16
A Year of Ideas and a Bold, Pro-Growth Agenda
For several days each year, Republicans and House Democrats gather for separate annual policy retreats. At the Republican retreat, which was last week, Republican members of the House and Senate joined together in an effort to sort out our bold, pro-growth agenda for this year.
Five areas in which we are planning to make a mark are national security, jobs and economic growth, restoring the Constitution, health care, and poverty and opportunity.
Meanwhile, I and others are continuing to push for more change towards a better internal procedure, including a more transparent rules process, greater input on legislative action from the House Republican Conference membership at large, and considering more bills of consequence.
One of the more specific processes we are working on is the appropriations process. There are 12 appropriations bills which authorize funding for certain government activities such as national defense, homeland security, education, etc. These bills require regular (usually annual) authorization. Under the Constitution, all appropriations bills must begin in the House. But like any other bill, the Senate must agree to it and it must be signed by the President in order to become law.
However, as reported by Roll Call, “Last year, Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev and his caucus imposed a blockade on moving spending measures to force budget negotiation, a strategy that proved successful.” We in the House passed several appropriations bills, but because Senate Democrats hijacked the process, Congress as a whole wasn’t able to pass any.
Doing so would have allowed Congress and the President to work out differences of opinion within each of the government activities without the threat of shutting down the whole government. Health and Human Services (HHS) funding would have been approved separately from national defense, etc.
As the result of this broken process, Congress passed without my support a massive “omnibus” bill that will fund the government for the remainder of Fiscal Year 2016.
I am cautiously optimistic that this year we can restore the appropriations process to what it once was.
But in the weeks that have passed since Congressman Paul Ryan (R-WI) became Speaker, progress has already been made on other objectives.
Legislation to form our agenda is now being crafted from the bottom up, meaning that Members of Congress will have a more equal say than in a top-down speakership.
Broader steps have been taken toward reforming this body, and I am proud to have served on working groups tasked with doing so. One of these working groups is to propose rules changes, and another was to reform the House Republican Steering Committee, which determines committee chairmanships and helps to set policy.
Additionally, under Speaker Ryan, we have been able to do what hadn’t been done previously (due in part to the Senate’s modern filibuster rules), sending to the President’s desk a bill repealing the Obamacare health care law. Congress also sent two Resolutions of Disapproval (H.J.Res 71 and H.J.Res 72) under the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to block two final rules for new and existing power plants issued by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
President Obama vetoed this legislation, and is expected to soon veto legislation on his desk that would use the CRA to block the President’s Waters of the United States rule, which seeks to assert federal control over puddles, ditches, areas that are occasionally wet, etc.
While I regret his vetoes, I am glad we are sending him bills that not only make clear what we stand for and believe in, but also what he believes. We will continue to do things like this whether the President likes it or not.
A more detailed legislative agenda is still under development, as crafting such detailed policies in a short amount of time is difficult. However, this plan could be unveiled as early as March. I would encourage votes on these legislative proposals at the proper time so as to help further create a clear contrast between the policies of this Administration.
Realistically, we will need to elect a President who will work with us in order to see the most profound difference. But in the interim, to borrow from Speaker Ryan: “If we’re ever going to get our country back on track, we need to make this year about ideas, not about Obama’s distractions,” he said. “And that is exactly what we’re going to do.”
If you have questions, concerns, or comments, feel free to contact my office. You can call my Abingdon office at 276-525-1405 or my Christiansburg office at 540-381-5671. To reach my office via email, please visit my website at www.morgangriffith.house.gov. Also on my website is the latest material from my office, including information on votes recently taken on the floor of the House of Representatives.