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)

Read More

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.

Read More

Defunding Planned Parenthood

Background: Abortion giant Planned Parenthood has been a recipient of federal dollars under Title X of the Public Health Service Act and via Medicaid reimbursements, among other sources. Last reporting year, Planned Parenthood received $528 million in taxpayer dollars – 41% of its total revenue – a significant portion of which comes from these federal government programs.

In July 2015, the Center for Medical Progress began releasing a series of undercover videos documenting leading Planned Parenthood executives haggling over fetal body parts, as well as describing the use of the illegal partial-birth abortion procedure to secure intact organs. These videos have galvanized the conservative movement to demand that Congress finally defund Planned Parenthood.

Devaluing Life: Last year, Planned Parenthood was responsible for performing over 327,000 abortions – 1 in 3 abortions performed in the United States. While arguing that preventive care constitutes the bulk of their operations, the number of cancer screenings provided by Planned Parenthood has decreased by 50% since 2004, while the number of abortions performed annually has increased over the same time. In fact, abortion constitutes 94 percent of Planned Parenthood’s pregnancy-related services (number of abortion, prenatal care, and adoption referrals). Furthermore, Planned Parenthood has even opposed legislation that would protect infants born alive after a failed abortion.
Power of the Purse: Defunding Planned Parenthood involves attaching a legislative rider to a ‘must pass’ bill (a debt limit, annual spending bill, etc.) that withholds all federal dollars from Planned Parenthood. This would include the tax dollars received from both Title X family planning funds and Medicaid. There will be an opportunity to defund Planned Parenthood in the fall as funding for the federal government expires on September 30 and will need to be renewed.
Claim: Planned Parenthood cannot be defunded via the appropriations process, as its money comes from a mandatory funding stream.

Response: Annual appropriations bills routinely carry funding limitations to block all sorts of activities, as well as make changes to mandatory spending. One particular rider, the Hyde Amendment (which bars the use of federal funds to pay for elective abortion), has been attached as a rider to a number of appropriations bills since 1976.

Additionally, Medicaid’s budget is appropriated annually. According to the Congressional Research Service:

While most mandatory spending programs bypass the annual appropriations process and automatically receive funding each year according to either permanent or multi-year appropriations in the substantive law, Medicaid is funded in the annual appropriations acts. For this reason, Medicaid is referred to as an ‘appropriated entitlement.’ … While most changes to the Medicaid program are made through statute, the fact that Medicaid is subject to annual appropriations process provides an opportunity for Congress to place funding limitations on specified activities in Medicaid, including the circumstances under which federal funds can be used to pay for abortions.

Claim: Medicaid is a state-run program and the federal government doesn’t have the jurisdiction to stop funding to Planned Parenthood.

Response: Medicaid is a federal program. Though much of it is administered by states, it is funded by federal dollars and subjected to restrictions in federal law. As such, it is under the jurisdiction of the federal government. In fact, when certain states have attempted to remove Medicaid funding for Planned Parenthood in the past, their attempts have been struck down by federal courts precisely because such a measure is under the jurisdiction of the federal government.

Claim: States have already tried to defund Planned Parenthood, and federal courts have struck down the attempts.

Response: It is true that some state attempts to defund Planned Parenthood, such as Indiana’s, have been struck down by federal courts. Part of Planned Parenthood’s funding comes through Medicaid, a program that, though administered by the states, is still subject to a number of federal regulations. States which sought to restrict Medicaid funding to Planned Parenthood ran afoul of a provision in federal law that allows recipients of Medicaid to choose their own provider.

In short, states and localities face obstacles because of federal law. This isn’t an obstacle for Congress, since Congress is the body that creates and amends that law.

Claim: No federal dollars that Planned Parenthood receives are allocated to abortions.
Response: It is true that federal dollars cannot be used to directly fund elective abortions. However, the government funding that American taxpayers have provided to Planned Parenthood for other services has freed up other resources that allowed the organization to become the nation’s largest abortion provider. During its last reporting year, Planned Parenthood received over $528 million in government funding, which made up 41% of the organization’s total revenue. Because of the fungible nature of money, government funding for one program frees up resources to be allocated elsewhere. Federal dollars ultimately do end up funding abortions, even if they are listed elsewhere on a ledger sheet.

Claim: Defunding Planned Parenthood is an unconstitutional bill of attainder.

Response: Article I, Section 9 of the U.S. Constitution states that “No Bill of Attainder or ex post facto law shall be passed.” In Selective Service v. Minnesota Public Interest Research Group, the Supreme Court defined a bill of attainder as a “law that legislatively determines guilt and inflicts punishment upon an identifiable individual without provision of the protections of a judicial trial.” In order to be ruled a bill of attainder, a legislative act must 1) specify the affected persons, 2) include punishment, and 3) lack a judicial trial.

In ACORN v. United States, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that a 2009 law defunding ACORN by name did not constitute a bill of attainder because it did not meet the historical, functional, or motivational tests for punishment. Historically, the statute did not involve traditional forms of punishment, such as imprisonment, banishment, death, or other similarly severe consequences. Functionally, the statute furthered non-punitive purposes. Motivationally, there was no legislative record overwhelmingly reflecting a clear intent to punish, as opposed to merely ensuring that tax dollars no longer flowed to the organization.

A statute defunding Planned Parenthood would similarly fulfill the historical, functional, and motivational criteria. Defunding Planned Parenthood would not involve consequences historically recognized as punishment, it would further the non-punitive legislative purpose of protecting human life, and it would not overwhelmingly reflect a clear legislative intent to punish.

Claim: Defunding Planned Parenthood would result in a government shutdown, causing conservatives to lose face.

Response: This effort will set up a major political confrontation with President Obama, but it is the sort of conflict that will allow conservatives in the House of Representatives to remind the American people that it is taxpayer dollars that enable the horrors we’ve witnessed from Planned Parenthood, and that a defunding rider could pull out the supports propping up the abortion industry.

If House conservatives insist on defunding Planned Parenthood, it is possible that the Obama Administration will shut the government down. This would not be the end of the world, and it needs to be an option. President Clinton shut the government down in 1995 by refusing to sign legislation funding the government. While most pundits in Washington, DC believe this was a catastrophic political failure for Republicans, it is a fact that the House Republicans maintained their majority in 1996, even with a popular president of another party on the ticket. Their willingness to not accept all of Clinton’s demands was crucial towards eventually balancing the budget and reforming welfare.

Similarly, in 2013, House Republicans fought to defund Obamacare, and President Obama with Senate Democrats ultimately shut the government down. Again, pundits have heralded this as a political failure for the Republican Party, but the fact remains that Republicans grew their majority to their largest since 1929-30, and took control of the Senate. Meanwhile, Obamacare continues to be destabilized.

Claim: Planned Parenthood can dissolve and reform under a different name. ACORN did this in response to a bill from Congress cutting off their funding.

Response: ACORN did dissolve in 2010, after a bill passed Congress specifically defunding the organization. But they did not reform as a national organization. Instead, various state organizations splintered off and formed their own groups. While remnants of the organization were able to survive defunding by Congress, the blow to the organization was decisive.

Each organization has different structures and streams of revenue. Though Planned Parenthood’s path to becoming the nation’s abortion giant was made possible by federal funds (which provided 41% of the organization’s revenue in 2014), they still receive considerable funding from private donors. Dissolving and reforming would be a significant blow to Planned Parenthood’s branding, as well as their corporate sponsorships. Transferring ownership of facilities and resources is also a long and arduous process. If Planned Parenthood decides to dissolve and reform, it will still be a significant blow to their ability to perform 327,000 abortions a year, and a significant blow to the abortion-on-demand movement as a whole.

Claim: Congress should ban funding flowing to any abortion provider.

Response: Congress could attach a broader rider aimed at all taxpayer funding of abortions, and we would support such a policy. But given the blatant disregard for human life showed by this particular organization – which happens to perform 1 out of every 3 abortions in the country – Planned Parenthood is a good place to start.

Read More

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.

Read More

Claim and Fact: Transportation Empowerment Act (TEA)

Claim: TEA does not fix the Highway Trust Fund (HTF)

TEA reduces the federal role in transportation once prior obligations of the HTF are met.  The bill does not (and should not) propose a solution to past mismanagement and past commitments that were based on unrealistic projections of revenue and/or the assumption of a general fund bailout.  Conservatives have proposed numerous offsets and reforms that would enable the HTF to be brought to solvency through spending reductions and devolution of responsibilities to the states.

Claim: TEA will require states to raise their gasoline taxes.

TEA gradually reduces the federal gas tax over a five-year period, while block-granting a portion of those revenues to states over that same time period. This is intended to allow states to transition to a funding structure that allows them the independence to manage their unique infrastructure requirements. Under the current HTF financing structure, one in four of the dollars states send to the federal government are diverted to non-highway spending.  Eighteen percent of gasoline taxes go to the account dedicated to mass-transit within the Highway Trust Fund.  Transit users do not pay anything into the Highway Trust Fund.  There is more than enough funding at the current taxation levels to fund the maintenance of the national highway network—the issue is the wasteful federal diversions and mandates that increase project costs.  State tax burdens will be much lower without federal mandates and wasteful spending absorbing billions of dollars in revenue.  TEA returns the responsibility for raising revenue to the states, gradually phasing out federal gas taxes to a low, but sufficient level.  States then have the flexibility to fund right-size transportation budgets how they see fit.

Claim: TEA will damage the national transportation network.

Read More