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Friday, December 21, 2018

The latest from the Senate

Dear friends,

As of the time we distributed this newsletter on Friday afternoon, the leaders of the Senate and House were still negotiating with the president on a path forward to fund the rest of the federal government and avoid a partial government shutdown.

Criminal Justice Reform

On Tuesday, I voted for bipartisan legislation to reform the criminal justice system in the United States and make our communities safer. The First Step Act of 2018 passed the Senate by a vote of 87-12. After passing the U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday, the legislation was signed into law by President Trump today.

In addition to lowering crime rates, enhancing prison security and improving officer safety, the First Step Act of 2018, also reforms mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines and prepares inmates for a successful return to society.

In Georgia, we’ve already seen positive results from our criminal justice reform efforts led by Governor Nathan Deal, and I’m glad to see this push at the federal level, because we know it can work. Representative Doug Collins deserves real credit for this bipartisan effort, which has earned widespread support in Congress, from our state and law enforcement officials, our churches and faith communities. These reforms can help change lives and help ensure a better long-term outcome by focusing on rehabilitation of low-level, non-violent offenders so that they can become productive members of our society. 

Record Two Years of Accomplishments for Veterans

On Wednesday, I was pleased to see the Senate pass a package of 18 pieces of veterans’ legislation to improve veterans’ education and burial benefits, prevent veteran homelessness, and improve the transition process for veterans and their families. The passage of this legislation caps off a remarkable two years in Congress. We have passed significant reforms to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to improve the daily lives of our nation’s veterans. 

During this 2017-2018 Congress, the Senate passed 25 pieces of legislation, which have all been signed into law or await the president’s signature, to reform veterans’ health care and benefits and to make the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) more responsive to the veterans it serves. Of those bills, some of the most significant reforms include the VA MISSION Act, the Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act, the Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2017, and the Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act of 2017.

At the start of this Congress in January 2017, we set political party differences aside and vowed to find common ground on behalf of veterans. We now have significant, positive results to show for it. I look forward to continuing our efforts into the new year by working with my colleagues in Congress, President Trump and VA Secretary Wilkie to meet these challenges head on and transform the VA into a department worthy of our veterans.

In Other News

  • On Wednesday, I spoke on the Senate floor to honor two-term Governor Nathan Deal and thank him for his eight years of leadership that have led to positive results for Georgia. Governor Deal, First Lady Sandra Deal, and his chief of staff Chris Riley have made a huge difference for our state – the eighth largest in population, and the number one state for business. Their leadership will be missed. 

  • This week, Senator Lamar Alexander announced his retirement in 2020. Senator Alexander’s decision to retire in 2020 is a great loss to me personally, because he has been a great friend. More importantly, he has been a great son of Tennessee, U.S. secretary of education, president of the University of Tennessee and a committed public servant. I can’t thank Lamar enough for his work, and I look forward to continuing to work together with him during the next two years.

What’s on Tap?

Dianne and I wish everyone celebrating a blessed Christmas and a happy New Year. The next Congress is scheduled to convene on Jan. 3, 2019.


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