Reviewing Rob Wittman’s Legislative Wins

Heading into the final stretch of his re-election, Congressman Rob Wittman sent out a helpful infographic detailing the successes of the GOP Congress, and the bills that he got passed in particular.

It’s an impressive list, covering a range of issues that 1st District and Virginia voters care about and includes real bi-partisan achievement. This fits Wittman’s lower-key style that eschews provocative headlines and works with all parties to get things done.

Understanding how powerful Rob Wittman’s accomplishments are, his opponent sent out a desperate press release, casting doubt on the achievements. Instead, it merely cast doubt on her understanding of how the legislative process works.

With all due respect to Schoolhouse Rock, there are a lot of ways for a bill to become a law, beyond simply introducing some text and hoping for the best. Oftentimes, a bill might be folded into a must-pass bill, like an appropriations bill or a defense authorization. In these cases, even though the actual introduced bill technically stalls in committee, the text of the bill finds its way into a piece of legislation that is then passed, signed into law, and goes into effect.

Schoolhouse Rock doesn’t tell you that most bills aren’t introduced by a single patron. Typically, there is a bloc of Congressman who have worked behind-the-scenes, typically for weeks if not months or years, to find a consensus approach they feel has the best chance of passing. When this happens, one person in that bloc is put forward as the “sponsor,” while the others are touted as “original co-sponsors.” This is easy to spot, because initial press releases touting a new bill will often list all of those original co-sponsors. Also, Congress.Gov denotes who was an original co-sponsor and who jumped on board later.

For example, you may remember the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2001. Or maybe not; it’s a bland title. It’s commonly referred to as “McCain-Feingold,” after its two primary sponsors. However, only one person (McCain) can introduce the bill, while the other (Feingold) is listed as an original co-sponsor. It’d be downright silly, however, to claim that Russ Feingold was “taking credit for bills written by other members” of Congress.

So as we go through the list of Rob Wittman’s accomplishments, it’s important to remember this: Vangie Williams is downright silly.

The first is H.R.984 – Thomasina E. Jordan Indian Tribes of Virginia Federal Recognition Act of 2017.

Congressman Wittman introduced this with four other Virginians, from both parties, as original co-sponsors. It passed both chambers unanimously and was signed by the President on January 29th, 2018. This is uncontested.

The second is H.R.2994 – SHIPS Act.

This was introduced by Wittman in the House, and Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS) in the Senate; there were eight other original co-sponsors in the House, from both parties. The bill was introduced in the House on June 21st, 2017, and referred to Committee on July 17th, where it has sat ever since. End of story, right? Hardly.

At the end of the year, Congress moved to pass H.R.2810 – National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018. This is considered a “must-pass” bill that authorizes spending for the Defense Department for the upcoming year; as such, it is typically used as a vehicle for defense-related legislation. For example, a bill that moves to increase the naval force to 355 ships, as the bi-partisan SHIPS Act does. Sure enough, if you review the text of the SHIPS Act:

It shall be the policy of the United States to have available, as soon as practicable, not fewer than 355 battle force ships, comprised of the optimal mix of platforms, with funding subject to the annual authorization of appropriation and the annual appropriation of funds.

And compare that to Section 129 of the Defense Authorization Act:

Not later than March 30, 2018, the Secretary of the Navy shall submit to the congressional defense committees a report that describes and assesses the capacity of the Navy to increase production of the aircraft described in subsection (b), taking into account an increase in the size of the surface fleet of the Navy to 355 ships.

It turns out that the text of the SHIPS Act found its way into another bill, which subsequently passed both houses and was signed into law by the President.

Now, there’s no real reason for a common person to look up individual sections of a lengthy bill like the Defense Authorization Bill, and match that with introduced legislation from Congressmen. That’s why Congressmen have to take the extra step of properly informing their constituents exactly what has happened, particularly if their district, like the 1st District, is interested in matters like the size of the U.S. Naval Force. It doesn’t help any voter for partisan opponents to lie about duly passed legislation.

BTW, this isn’t just me saying this. It was reported in the news, like DefenseNews.com, after the passing of the Defense Authorization bill:

When U.S. President Donald Trump signed the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act on Tuesday, it included a provision sponsored by Senate Seapower Subcommittee Chairman Roger Wicker and his House counterpart, Rep. Rob Wittman, that calls for the country to build up to 355 ships “as soon as practicable.”

That’s 2/2 for Wittman so far.

Next up is H.R.3979 – Keep America’s Refuges Operational Act

This was introduced by Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), but had six original co-sponsors of a bi-partisan nature, including Rob Wittman. The bill was passed 371-14 in the House, and unanimously in the Senate, then signed by the President on April 23rd of this year. When it passed, Congressman Wittman again dutifully informed his constituents of his efforts through Prince William Living. Much like Russ Feingold in McCain-Feingold, Wittman wasn’t the patron, but as an original co-sponsor, he introduced the bill to Congress along with his colleagues.

That’s 3/3 for Wittman.

Next up is H.R.2286 – Domestic Maritime Centers of Excellence Act of 2017.

This one is a combination of what we’ve already seen above. The bill was introduced by Gene Green (D-TX), but had three other original co-sponsors, including Rob Wittman. That’s why when Congressman Green introduced the bill, his office sent out a press release with the headline: “Reps. Green, Wittman Introduce Domestic Maritime Centers of Excellence Act.”

The bill, along with the SHIPS Act, got folded into the same Defense Authorization Bill. Compare the text of H.R.2286 with the text of the Defense Authorization Bill, Title XXXV (“Maritime Matters”) Section 3507 (“Centers of Excellence”). Honestly, this isn’t rocket science.

Afterwards, Tidewater Community College issued a news bulletin on the matter:

Rep. Rob Wittman (VA-01) was an early sponsor of the legislation.

“My legislation, added to the NDAA, advances the capabilities of two-year community and technical colleges to assist the federal government and industry in securing the talent pipeline for domestic maritime industry jobs,” he said in a statement. “This means more shipbuilders and repairmen to sustain and expand trade and grow our Navy’s fleet.”

So did San Jacinto College in Texas:

The U.S. House of Representatives recently passed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that authorizes $696 billion in defense spending in fiscal year 2018. This includes the Domestic Maritime Centers of Excellence Act, H.R. 2286, sponsored by Reps. Gene Green (D-TX) and Rob Wittman (R-VA) to provide assistance and designate San Jacinto College and other selected community and technical colleges and workforce training centers as “Centers of Excellence.”

That’s 4/4 for Wittman.

Finally is H.R.4694 – Federal Employee Retroactive Pay Fairness Act.

This makes sure that federal employees get their full paychecks, even in the unfortunate event of a government shutdown. It was technically introduced by Rep. Don Beyer, but had 26 original co-sponsors, including Rob Wittman. In the press release sent out by Beyer’s office, lists Wittman (and Wittman alone) as a partner in this effort:

Beyer and Wittman Introduce Bill To Protect Federal Workers’ Pay As Threat of Government Shutdown Grows

Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA) and Rep. Rob Wittman (R-VA) today introduced the Federal Employee Retroactive Pay Fairness Act, legislation to guarantee back pay to furloughed workers in the event of a government shutdown. Funding for the federal government expires at midnight tomorrow.

The bill, of course, didn’t go anywhere. It didn’t have to. The text was simply copied into the Continuing Resolution that was ultimately passed to re-open the government. This was pointed out by DefenseNews.com:

The continuing resolution mirrored language in the Federal Retroactive Pay Fairness Act — offered by Virginia Reps. Don Beyer, a Democrat, and Rob Wittman, a Republican and chairman of the House Armed Services Committee’s sea power panel — aimed at the pay issue. Together, the two represent nearly 120,000 federal employees.

That’s 5/5 for Wittman.

It turns out every bill that he described as one of his bills was also described by news outlets and other Congressmen, including Democrats, as one of his bills. And every one of his bills that he said was signed into law was ultimately signed into law, whether it was the bill itself or the text was wrapped into a larger bill.

In short, this is the sign of an effective legislator who knows how to work across party lines and get things done. It is also the sign of a legislator who knows how the legislative process works. Vangie Williams and her campaign team might want to put away the partisan press releases and instead take notes on how a skilled public servant like Rob Wittman gets things done.