Excessive Suspensions Raise Conservative Concerns

Avoiding Accountability

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

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Heritage Action Supports Olson’s Civil Rights Uniformity Act (H.R. 5812)

Background: On May 13, 2016, the Obama Administration’s Department of Education and Department of Justice issued a joint “Dear Colleague Letter on Transgender Students, declaring that the agencies would “treat a student’s gender identity as the student’s sex for purposes of enforcing Title IX.”  This brash claim clearly ignores the letter and the spirit of the 1972 Civil Rights Act, which intended to protect against discrimination based on individual’s biological sex, not their subjective self-perceived gender identity.

Problem: In his article responding to the guidance, Obama Unilaterally Rewrites Law, Imposes Transgender Policy on Nation’s Schools, Ryan T. Anderson, Ph.D., the William E. Simon senior research fellow in American Principles and Public Policy at The Heritage Foundation, points out three major problems with this sweeping and illegal executive overreach:

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Heritage Action Supports Lee-Jordan Welfare Reform and Upward Mobility Act (H.R. 5360/S. 3047)

Background: In 1996 President Clinton signed the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act, which became popularly known as “welfare reform,” into law. The legislation transformed the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) into Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), a program intended to provide temporary financial assistance to low-income families while encouraging work and self-sufficiency. Most significantly, the 1996 welfare reform included mandatory federal work requirements, stipulating that welfare recipients must be engaged in work or some type of work activity in order to receive TANF benefits.

As Robert Rector and Rachel Sheffield of the Heritage Foundation have written:

“Mandatory federal work requirements for recipients were at the heart of the change, which led to significant decreases in the program’s rolls, increased work among former recipients, and historic reductions in child poverty.”

Problem: Despite the success of the 1996 welfare reform, 20 years later there’s still much to be done to ensure that the welfare system moves people towards work and self-sufficiency rather than towards government dependency. According to Rector and Sheffield’s paper Setting Priorities for Welfare Reform:

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Heritage Action Supports Hensarling’s Financial CHOICE Act (H.R. 5983)

In response to the housing collapse and financial crisis of 2007-08, Congress rushed to pass the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act under the guise of “consumer protection.” But instead of addressing the root causes of the financial crisis, such as the government’s reckless efforts to expand housing affordability and implied guarantee to bail out large financial institutions, Dodd-Frank empowers the very regulatory establishment which created the environment that led to the financial crisis in the first place.

Heritage Foundation Financial Regulations expert Norbert Michel writes:

“The 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act is among the most inappropriately named laws ever enacted in the U.S. It neither reformed Wall Street nor protected consumers, and it imposed massive new regulations on banks far away from Wall Street.”

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Want to talk to your Members of Congress? Check this list

Conservative accountability goes beyond casting a vote. Building a society in which freedom, opportunity, prosperity, and the civil society flourish requires a sustained effort.  That is why we have compiled a non-exhaustive list of upcoming townhalls, all of which provide excellent opportunities to discuss important issues with members of Congress.

As always, make sure to confirm the details with the Representative or Senator’s office.

Email Matthew.Lauer@heritageaction.com for any further details.

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