This week we considered three major bills on the House floor, all three of which are Republican message bills, and I had several significant committee hearings. I will discuss the bills first.
1. H.R. 1734, “Improving Coal Combustion Residuals Regulation Act of 2015”. My friend David McKinley, a Republican from West Virginia brought it to the floor. Unfortunately, the bill’s overall impact would be to reduce the ability of federal and state agencies to be able to regulate coal ash management in order to address environmental and public health concerns. I opposed this bill.
2. H.R. 1599, “Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2015”. Basically, this bill creates a very weak federal ceiling for Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) labeling on food products, with no mechanism for monitoring or enforcement, and preempts all state and local laws to this same ceiling. It would do nothing to prevent GMO’s from contaminating non-GMO products or provide protections to organic growers, including oversea sales of their produces. I had to oppose this bill.
3. H.R. 3009, “Enforce the Law for Sanctuary Cities Act”. This bill uses the tragedy of a murder in San Francisco committed by an undocumented man, who had been deported several times to date, to reduce the ability of law enforcement officials to work with their local communities to fight crime. I strongly opposed this bill.
There were also two committee hearings of interest. The first was the full Veterans’ Affairs Committee. The Veterans Administration revealed in July that it faces a $3 billion shortfall for this fiscal year, which ends in August. If it does not receive this funding by the end of August, there would be cutbacks in health care service to veterans – including possibly shutting down VA Medical Centers. In his testimony, VA Secretary McDonald requested flexibility to access money in different accounts within the VA budget to help address the shortfall. There was a good exchange of information and possible solutions were discussed. It appears that action will be forthcoming. My questioning centered on the fact that the VA’s shortfall should have been made clear much earlier in the fiscal year.
The Energy and Power Subcommittee of the Energy and Commerce Committee also discussed some interesting topics. This included the introduction of Chairman Upton’s proposed Architecture of Abundance draft energy legislation. I gave an opening statement that focused on the bipartisan nature of the project, and on the need to include a hydropower section that would streamline hydropower licensing and re-licensing, while also protecting our natural resources. I’m very happy that the Committee is working in a bipartisan fashion to craft legislation to modernize our nation’s energy policy.