Excessive Suspensions Raise Conservative Concerns
This week the House of Representatives is expected to pass a large number of bills (49) under the suspension of the rules, a procedural mechanism that allows Leadership to fly through the consideration of legislation, potentially even passing the bills by voice vote (which avoids accountability to their constituents). If a bill considered under suspension of the rules ends up receiving a recorded vote, it requires a 2/3 majority to pass, as opposed to the typical simple majority. Because of the higher threshold for passage, Republican House Leadership must secure Democrat votes for these bills. Legislation considered under suspension should not make any substantial policy changes or incur significant costs to the taxpayers. Unfortunately, many of the bills on the suspension calendar regularly violate these principles, and this week is no exception; in fact, it is worse than most.
Through A Terrible Process
The process of underlying the bills being considered this week falls short of at least four main reasons:
- Considering almost 50 bills under the suspension of the rules avoids accountability and is an irresponsible way to govern. Most Members of Congress and their staff do not have time read each one of these bills, and even if they did, if the bills pass by a voice vote (which is often the case), constituents have no record of how their Representative voted on most of these bills.
- The Republican controlled Congress should be focused on more pressing matters, such as fighting for a conservative spending bill that avoids a lame duck session of Congress. Spending two days passing legislation that is meaningless at best, and liberal at worst, with Democrat support is an example of misplaced priorities.
- Many of the bills were scheduled for a vote before they had a Congressional Budget Office score available. While some of the scores may be made available later, Members of Congress and their staff will not have adequate time to fully grasp how much the legislation would cost and whether or not it would add to the debt or deficit. Furthermore, this violates the Majority Leader’s Floor Protocols.
- On the schedule are a number of Democrat bills from members who actively participated in the “sit in” that violated House Rules. This means that Democrats are being rewarded who broke House rules regarding decorum and behavior of Members of Congress.
Results In Bad Policy
Of the 49 bills on suspension, conservatives should be particularly opposed to two:
- H.R. 670, the Special Needs Trust Fairness Act, offered by Rep. Glenn Thompson (R-PA). The bill expands Medicaid, uses budgetary gimmicks, and provides $24 million for a slush fund at HHS. Along with creating a new $11 million Medicaid program to help women in post-pregnancy to quit smoking (even though it only has an expected 10% success rate), it appropriates an additional $24 million over two years (2020-2021) into the Medicaid Improvement Fund (a slush fund) and uses a budget gimmick (temporarily ending Medicaid payments for hair growth drugs like Rogaine) to offset the expansion of special needs trusts to non-elderly individuals with disabilities. Medicaid needs reform, not a piecemeal expansion of eligibility or benefits. The bill’s approach only undermines an already vulnerable program.
- H.R. 5859, the Community Counterterrorism Preparedness Act, offered by Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX). This bill creates another new (and duplicative) federal grant program for counterterrorism training in major metropolitan areas and also authorizes $195 million for its implementation. This is despite the fact that earlier this year the Department of Homeland Security announced Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 Notices of Funding Opportunity for ten DHS preparedness grant programs totaling more than $1.6 billion. Furthermore, this bill brings back echoes of the failed Countering Violent Extremism policy promoted by the Obama Administration, DHS, and the Homeland Security Committee. Like other bad CVE bills Heritage Action has opposed, H.R. 5859 contains no effective prohibition against funding groups like CAIR, and other unindicted co-conspirators from the Holy Land Trial, or other potential Muslim Brotherhood front groups, or from receiving the grants and participating in the “community outreach.”
A Republican Congress should not be legislating through an expedited process that obscures transparency and grows government with little to no accountability. House Republicans should ensure that all 49 of these bills receive a recorded vote, evaluate each bill on their merits, and especially ensure that these two bills receive recorded votes and then vote against them.