Bill Lifting Crude Oil Export Ban Contains $500 Million Earmark for Labor Unions

On Friday, the House is scheduled to vote on H.R. 702, a bill which would lift the decades-old embargo on exporting crude oil.  Under current law, companies must refine crude oil domestically before they are allowed to export the resulting petroleum products.  The policy changes made in H.R. 702 are commendable, but a last minute addition to the bill has entangled good policy in corporate welfare and a $500 million labor union buyoff.

According to the Section-by-Section summary provided by the House Rules Committee, a newly added section would “increase the annual operating stipend for the 60 ship Maritime Security Fleet.”  The Maritime Security Program (MSP) was established in 1996 and currently provides contract payments of $3.1 million a year to vessels participating in the program.  The program was reauthorized for ten years on January 2, 2013.  Last week, 270 Representatives voted for the FY2016 National Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 1735), which included the following language:

SEC. 3504. PAYMENT FOR MARITIME SECURITY FLEET VESSELS. (a) PER-VESSEL AUTHORIZATION.—Notwithstanding section 53106(a)(1)(C) of title 46, United States Code, and subject to the availability of appropriations, there is authorized to be paid to each contractor for an operating agreement (as those terms are used in that section) for fiscal year 2016, $3,500,000 for each vessel that is covered by the operating agreement. (emphasis added)

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MEMO: Conservative Expectations on House Leadership Races

To:                  Interested Parties
From:            Heritage Action for America
Date:              September 30, 2015
Subject:         Conservative Expectations on House Leadership Races

Read the entire memo.

The upcoming leadership races should not be driven by personality, quid pro quo committee assignments and fundraising prowess.  Instead, those races should be determined by policy and process.  Which candidates will promote a conservative policy agenda that advances opportunity for all and favoritism to none?  Which candidates will fight for those policies and seriously challenge President Obama?  Which candidates will reform the internal workings of the House to ensure a more open and deliberative process with less top-down management, and end the culture of punishment and retribution?

A Real Governing Vision. The complete absence of a conservative agenda by the Republican-controlled Congress must change. In evaluating leadership candidates, members should demand clarity as to how each one would put forward a positive conservative agenda that promotes opportunity for all and favoritism to none.[1] For example:

Higher Education. Younger Americans (and in many cases their parents) are suffering from the high cost and rigidity of our nation’s higher education system. The new leadership team should use the upcoming reauthorization of the Higher Education Act to embrace bold reforms. The Higher Education Reform and Opportunity (HERO) Act would break up our nation’s accreditation cartel and open the doors of opportunity for all Americans.

Entitlement Reform. The House-passed budget promised a myriad of important reforms, though none have moved through the House as standalone legislation. Sending real entitlement reforms – Medicare, Medicaid, welfare and even Social Security – to the Senate would demonstrate the new leadership is serious about advancing conservative policy and serious about forcing Senate action on those priorities.

Tax Reform. Advancing a sweeping, pro-growth tax reform that removes entrenched favoritism buried in the current code should be a priority. Doing so would demonstrate a much-needed seriousness when it comes to policy and continue to emphasize the party’s move away from K Street.

Religious Liberty. Americans should be free to practice their religious beliefs without fear of oppression or discrimination, especially from the federal government. New leadership should embrace that fundamental right by advancing the First Amendment Defense Act.

Significant Internal Reforms. More often than not, process and personnel are policy. As things stand, the House and GOP conference rules concentrate power in the hands of a few individuals, thus marginalizing conservatives and rank-and-file members. In evaluating leadership candidates, members should demand key reforms that decentralize power in the House and empower members to better represent their constituents.[2]

Near-term Trust Building. In evaluating leadership candidates, members should demand clarity as to how each one would fight the numerous legislative battles that will emerge over the remainder of the year. Members should evaluate the next Speaker and his or her leadership team on the following issues:

Planned Parenthood. Taxpayer funding of abortion giant Planned Parenthood cannot continue. A key test will occur today as outgoing Speaker John Boehner plans to use Democrats votes to continue the organization’s funding. Those seeking a leadership position should fight his plan using every tool at their disposal.

Reconciliation. The Republican budget passed, primarily, because leadership and the budget chairmen promised “the use of reconciliation for the sole purpose of repealing the President’s job-killing health care law.” Failure to uphold that promise will jeopardize the likelihood of passing a budget next year. It will also hamper efforts to fully repeal the law in 2017.

Budget Caps. In 2011, the Republican-controlled House forced President Obama to sign spending caps into law. Those caps have been raised once before and many suggest they will be raised once more, in an effort dubbed Ryan-Murray 2.0. A near-term spending increase would further undermine the party’s claim to fiscal responsibility.

Debt Ceiling. The debt ceiling is a legitimate tool to control spending and enact major pillars of the GOP budget. The next GOP leadership team must pledge to use that tool. Additionally, they should pledge to tie the debt ceiling to an actual number, as opposed to a date change that hides the true cost of such actions.

Export-Import Bank. The new leadership team must promise to keep the Export-Import Bank shuttered and limit its funding to ensure it only conducts activities necessary to winding down. Additionally, the next Speaker and his or her leadership team must stop any attempt to resurrect the bank, which has been closed for 92 days.

Highway Bailout. According to the Department of Transportation, the federal Highway Trust Fund currently has more resources than previously projected, and should have plenty of funding to continue operating well into next year. The next GOP leadership team must ensure the October 29 reauthorization deadline is not used as an excuse to pass a massive extension and expansion of federal highway funding.

No Child Left Behind. House Republicans rightly criticized the Senate’s reauthorization of No Child Left Behind. There is no reason for the House to proceed to a conference with such a bill.

The opportunity for a change in leadership should empower rank-and-file lawmakers. The Republican-controlled House should embrace this as an opportunity to align itself with the conservative grassroots and increase the likelihood the party will actually fight for conservative policy priorities. That will not happen through inertia, though. It will take a concerted effort to ensure the meaning of the moment is not lost.

No one should need an army of lawyers, lobbyists and accountants to succeed in this great nation. We have a chance to take back America, but it will require the Republican Party to fight for all Americans, not the powerful and well connected.

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MEMO: How to Repeal All of Obamacare with Reconciliation

To:                   Interested Parties
From:              Heritage Action for America
Date:               July 28, 2015
Subject:          How to Repeal All of Obamacare with Reconciliation

Three years ago, Senate Republicans committed to using the budget reconciliation process to repeal Obamacare.  As such, it is no surprise the Republican budget conference agreement “affirms the use of reconciliation for the sole purpose of repealing the President’s job-killing health care law.”

Today, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senator Mike Lee issued a joint press release pledging to, as McConnell said, “continue our effort to use reconciliation — as the budget makes clear — to fulfill the promise we made to our constituents.”  Earlier this month, McConnell sought to downplay expectations by saying the Senate would “consider using budget reconciliation for repealing as much of Obamacare as is reconcilable” but cautioned “there are certain rules that have to be applied to what is reconcilable.”  His comments raised concerns — especially among conservative House members — that the Senate is procedurally unable to place a reconciliation bill that fully repeals Obamacare on the president’s desk.

Those concerns are overblown as a clear path forward exists.

Read the entire memo.

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Memo: Export-Import Bank Amendment is Dawn of New Era in McConnell-run Senate

“Looks to me like they have the votes, and I’m going to give them the opportunity.”

With those 16 words to the Associated Press about the future of the Export-Import Bank, Senator Mitch McConnell began charting a new course just six months into his tenure as majority leader.  As Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn explained earlier this year regarding amendments and ending debate, “The only person who makes the decision is the leader.” To date, Majority Leader McConnell has not allowed a non-budget amendment to pass that he and a majority of his conference opposed.

Read the entire memo.

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Memo: Path to Ex-Im Reauthorization Rapidly Closing

To:                   Interested Parties
From:              Heritage Action for America
Date:                May 18, 2015
Subject:          Path to Ex-Im Reauthorization Rapidly Closing

Because the House appears poised to allow the Export-Import Bank to expire on June 30th without taking any action, proponents of reauthorizing the bank are staking their hopes on the Senate jamming the House.  That path seems to be increasingly difficult to walk. While it is conventional wisdom to believe the Senate can “jam the House” the reality is that doing so is extremely difficult. There are two general scenarios in which Senate action could spur House action, but those situations are unlikely to materialize into significant threats.

Read the entire memo.

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