Heritage Action has agreed and continues to agree with The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page on many of the important issues facing our nation. And The Heritage Foundation had a long and enduring relationship with late conservative icon Robert Bartley, who served as the editorial page editor for decades. Upon Bartley’s passing in 2003, then-Heritage Foundation President Edwin J. Feulner said “His commitment to the free society was extraordinary.” Today, however, the right faces new challenges that call for new solutions. Meeting those challenges will require resolving disagreements internal to the right as much as overcoming the challenges to the free society posed by the left. And on these debates, the Journal has consistently positioned itself against the forces advocating much-needed change.
One of the core challenges facing conservatives in the 21st Century is how to build upon rather than merely wax nostalgically for Ronald Reagan’s America. The unconventional politics of the right in 2016 have demonstrated that it was naively simplistic — and, as it turns out, politically tone deaf — to assume that the messages that proved successful in 1980 and 1984 would be received in the same manner decades later when the problems facing families and communities had changed.
In 2011, Heritage Action’s chief operating officer Tim Chapman and I began our own effort to sketch a vision of the future in an op-ed for Real Clear Politics explaining the challenges facing our nation. We argued the “corrupt nexus” of the Big Wall Street, Big Government, Big Labor, and Big Business — all of which are protected classes in the American political system — was “at the heart of the dissatisfaction across the country towards Washington.” So long as it was the party of Wall Street and K Street, we argued, the Republican Party would not be trusted by its own voters as agents of the change they demanded. A new approach was required if conservatism was to be advanced.
To: Interested Parties
From: Heritage Action for America
Date: October 18, 2016
Subject: How Congress Can Stop the Impending Obamacare Bailouts
There is widespread agreement that Obamacare is on the verge of collapse, and while that should prompt calls for full repeal, the reality is that many in Washington are instead contemplating how the law can be propped up. Much of this will play out in 2017 and beyond with a new administration and a new Congress, but some of it will come to a head in the last two months of 2016. In fact, a multi-pronged taxpayer bailout of Obamacare could be in the works. Fortunately, Congress can take three relatively easy steps to stop this from happening. It needs to 1) allow temporary programs to expire as scheduled; 2) reassert current law that has previously been signed by President Obama, and 3) block illegal payments.
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.
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:
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: