President Trump Visits West Virginia
On Monday, it was an honor to join President Trump as he made his first visit to West Virginia since taking the oath of office on January 20th. The President was in West Virginia to speak at the Boy Scouts of America National Jamboree in Glen Jean, WV. At the event, President Trump addressed over 40,000 boy scouts from all over the United States and world. While it was a short visit for the President, it was still an excellent opportunity to showcase some of the great things West Virginia has to offer.
As an Eagle Scout, it was exciting to be able to attend the National Jamboree with the President. The Boy Scouts of America is a fantastic organization, and during my time with the Scouts I learned many skills, lessons, and virtues that I still carry with me to this day. In addition to attending the event with President Trump, I was also privileged to return to Washington, DC on Air Force One with the President and discuss a number of issues important to West Virginians. I am thankful to President Trump for continuing the longstanding tradition of presidents speaking at the National Jamboree, becoming the 8th president to do so and the first since 2005.
House Passes Bipartisan GI Bill Reforms, Including STEM
This week, the House overwhelmingly passed the Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2017 (H.R. 3218). This bill will make a series of common-sense improvements to the GI Bill, including a provision I introduced that will give veterans pursuing an education in a STEM field additional time to complete their degree.
After over 100 meetings with veterans since 2011, we had a chance to listen to their concerns and develop legislation that would positively impact them going forward. By adding the STEM education provision, not only will we help provide veterans the flexibility they need to complete their degree, we will also help address the shortage of STEM graduates entering the workforce. Other improvements to the GI Bill include extending the eligibility for the GI Bill through their lifetime for new recruits, making the benefits more user friendly for veterans and their families, and helping ease the transition from the military to civilian life by expanding access to education and workforce training.
Four Appropriations Bills Pass the House
A package of four appropriations bills were passed this week in the House, providing funding for defense, energy and water, legislative branch, and Milcon/VA. These are four out of twelve appropriations bills that we will ultimately vote on. With the Defense appropriations, the United States will be safer, and more secure. We are improving our military preparedness, maintaining our technological advantage, and most importantly are providing our troops with their largest pay raise in eight years.
In the Energy and Water appropriations, we are promoting programs that will help boost our economy. Included in the energy and water appropriations was my amendment to increase funding to Fossil Energy Research & Development, which is run out of NETL. This research has been crucial in energy advancements such as reducing acid rain and CO2 emissions, and it is important we continue to provide the research with adequate funding. I helped to oppose and defeat amendments that looked to take away funding from Fossil Energy R&D, and I am pleased that my amendment was passed and included in the Energy and Water appropriations bill.
The Legislative Branch appropriations bill makes sure taxpayer dollars are spent wisely by continuing the pay freeze for members of Congress, and increasing transparency and oversight. Meanwhile, the Milcon/VA appropriations is focused on taking care of our veterans, and helping to ensure a safe America. In this bill, we provide the Veterans Administration with their highest funding level ever in order to better care for our veterans. Along with that increased funding comes updates in the record keeping system to ensure our veterans have access to their medical records, and an oversight that will hold the VA accountable. This bill also boosts funding for military infrastructure by 25%, and prohibits the closure of Guantanamo Bay prison or funding for any similar facility within the United States. Additionally, the Milcon/VA appropriations will allocate funding for a border wall along our southern border in an effort to prevent illegal immigration.
Energy and Commerce Committee Activity
It was a busy week in the Committee on Energy and Commerce. We held our second hearing in the Powering America series. It is crucial that our electricity grid be reliable, regardless of the physical or cyber risks it may face. In addition, our electricity must also be affordable. While we should continue our all-of-the-above plan for American energy, clean coal needs to play an essential role in our energy market going forward.
The E&C Committee also had a full-committee markup of seven bipartisan bills focused on health care, drinking water, and autonomous vehicles. Our committee continues to advocate for and protect consumers and patients while advancing public health. Also, passed out of committee was a bill to modernize and improve Americas drinking water infrastructure. Finally, we passed the SELF DRIVE Act by a vote of 54-0. This is a bill that will help to protect consumers and reduce traffic-related fatalities, while also addressing the opportunities presented with self-driving cars. Even though this is technology that has exciting potential, we still need to ensure the safety of consumers.
It has not only been a busy week in the E&C Committee, but it has been a busy six months. Our committee has held 50 hearings and 12 markups. In addition, we have had 45 bills from E&C passed through the House, with 38 of them receiving bipartisan support. I look forward to continuing our hard work in the Committee on Energy and Commerce going forward.
Sanctions for Russian, North Korea, and Iran
We must do all we can to keep America safe. This week, a bipartisan bill passed in the House will place heavy sanctions on Russia, Iran, and North Korea. The sanctions this bill imposes are some of the strongest sanctions issued in American history. These countries have made efforts to directly contradict the United States' interests on the global stage, and will now be held accountable through these sanctions.
In Case You Missed It
Despite the negativity you may see in the media, this Congress has been one of the most productive in recent history. Be sure to read my op-ed highlighting many of the major accomplishments we have achieved in Congress in through President Trump's first six months.
While we should continue our all-of-the-above energy strategy, there is no doubt that coal must continue to play a vital role in our nation's need for dependable energy. This week, the Morning Consult published my op-ed discussing the importance of reliable and affordable energy to America.
Have a great weekend!
David B. McKinley, P.E