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 Emily.Stewart@heritageaction.com for any further details.

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How to Repeal and Replace Obamacare under a Trump Administration

Background: Republicans promised the American people a full repeal of Obamacare dating back to 2010, when the health care law was first passed. In fact, since Republicans took control of the House in 2010, Congress voted over 60 times to repeal parts or all of the law. Republican Congressional Leadership and President-elect Donald Trump have all promised to repeal this unaffordable, unworkable, and unfair law.

In 2015, Congress used a filibuster-proof process known as budget reconciliation to pass an Obamacare repeal bill (H.R. 3762), that was ultimately vetoed by former President Barrack Obama in 2016. Now that the American people voted to keep Republican majorities in both chambers of Congress and give Republicans the White House, Congress must act immediately to repeal Obamacare once and for all. There are no more excuses.

Obamacare “Two Budget” Repeal Strategy: Just as they did in 2015, Republicans should use budget reconciliation to repeal Obamacare. Budget reconciliation allows Congress to pass legislation with a simple majority in order to avoid a filibuster in the Senate. Ironically, Democrats used this same method to help pass parts of Obamacare in the first place. Due to conservative opposition, Congress failed to pass a budget for fiscal year 2017, creating an opportunity to pass two budgets, each with reconciliation possibilities, this year.

In the first budget, Congress should include the full repeal of Obamacare. This budget should pass the House and Senate easily and be placed on President Trump’s desk for his signature soon after he takes office. The next best option would be for Congress to take the reconciliation bill that repealed Obamacare, but was vetoed earlier last year (H.R. 3762), and pass it again with additional language repealing the Obamacare insurance mandates – a central reason health insurance premiums continue to rise. The third and minimal option would be for Congress to simply re-pass H.R. 3762, which does not include the repeal of insurance mandates and other important provisions. Repealing Obamacare does not mean that individuals on the federal and state Obamacare exchanges would immediately lose their health care plans. Instead they would have an ample period of time to transition back to an insurance plan on the individual market without losing coverage.

Congress should then pass the normal budget for fiscal year 2018 that lowers spending levels and includes other conservative priorities. This will give Congress time to work on an Obamacare replacement plan that restores consumer choice, strengthens the doctor-patient relationship and lowers costs. Replacement reforms Congress should consider include improving and expanding health savings accounts, removing government barriers that stop patients from participating in direct primary care arrangements, allowing patients to buy health insurance across state lines, and equalizing the tax treatment of health insurance for individuals and businesses, among others.

Obamacare Repeal Timeline Slipping: This January, Congress took an import first step to repeal Obamacare by passing the FY 2017 “shell” budget resolution (S. CON. RES. 3). Heritage Action key voted “Yes” on the resolution since it’s “the only way to expedite the repeal of Obamacare.” This resolution begins the process of budget reconciliation by setting up instructions for the House Ways & Means Committee, the House Energy & Commerce Committee, the Senate Finance Committee, and the Senate Health & Education & Labor & Pensions Committee to write a budget reconciliation bill that repeals Obamacare. Once the bills pass out of their respective committees they move to the Budget Committee. The Budget Committee then passes one unified repeal bill which the House and the Senate can then pass with a simple majority and President-elect Trump can sign into law.

Unfortunately, despite passing the budget resolution in early January, Congress has still not written the budget reconciliation bill repealing Obamacare. Seven in ten Americans believe the longer Congress waits, the less likely Obamacare repeal becomes a reality. Congress cannot allow the timeline to continue to slip. Not only does it delay work on other legislative priorities, but millions of Americans are suffering from the harmful side effects of Obamacare as premiums and deductibles continue to rise and health insurance choice falls.

Conclusion: Some repeal proponents assume Republicans must have a replacement plan at the same time as repeal, but this ensures momentum for full repeal stalls. Republicans may have a difficult time agreeing on any one single replacement plan, and Democrats will refuse to negotiate, instead doing everything in their power to sink the replacement plan and therefore Obamacare repeal.

Congress will use any excuse to avoid doing the right thing. As former Senator Jim DeMint and current President of the Heritage Foundation strongly wrote: “When I was in the Senate, they would use every excuse to avoid fighting for conservative priorities. “Wait until we get the House.” Done. “Wait until we get the Senate.” Done. “Wait until we get the White House.” Done and done. There are simply no alternatives left but to repeal Obamacare and win the fight (a shocking prospect for some!)”

Members who truly want to repeal Obamacare must insist on repeal immediately. This proposed two-step process gives Republicans the best chance to repeal Obamacare and honor their commitment to the American people who put them in power while providing plenty of time to enact a replacement plan. Conservatives must continue to urge their member of Congress write and pass the budget reconciliation bill to repeal Obamacare as soon as possible.

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Zika: Conservatives should be prepared to hold the line

Since last week, the House and Senate have been engaged in formal conference committee negotiations over the chambers’ respective Zika response and MilCon-VA packages. Reports indicate the the final compromise product could come this week, and the House already has a vote scheduled.

To recap: The House bill (H.R. 5243) contained $622 million in fully-offset fund transfers to combat Zika, while the Senate bill (H.R. 2577) contained $1.1 billion, none of which was offset, and which included their FY17 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs appropriations bill. The chambers went to conference using H.R. 2577 as the vehicle, and the House, as part of H.Res.751, included the combined text of their Zika response, MilCon-VA bill (H.R. 4974), and the Zika Vector Control Act (H.R. 897). As such, the conference agreement will likely produce compromise legislation covering both Zika and MilCon-VA.

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Forcing American Daughters into the Selective Service

Background: In January 2013, then-Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta directed the military services to review policies with the goal of integrating women into all combat roles by January 2016. On December 3, 2015, Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter confirmed the decision without exception, and directed that all gender-based requirements for military service be removed by January 3, 2016. This order came despite military evaluations that raised concerns on this issue.

The decision to allow women to serve in all combat units has sparked a debate on whether women should be required to register for the Selective Service, making them eligible for conscription if Congress reinstates the draft for future military needs.

Forcing women to register for the draft a premature conclusion: Leading up to the decision to open all combat positions to women, evaluations raised questions about the effectiveness of mixed gender units in ground combat tasks. According to an extensive 9-month Marine Corps’ Gender Integration Task Force study, which evaluated mixed gender units in 134 combat training activities, all-male units outperformed mixed units in 69 percent of the tasks while mixed units outperformed male units in just 2 tasks.

Additional evidence from the Marine Corps evaluation showed that women had an injury rate twice that of men when performing combat-related tasks. The increased risk of injury could threaten their personal safety as well as the safety of their fellow soldiers in combat situations.

Supporting equality does not require forcing women to register for the draft: Conservatives believe women and men have equal natural rights, and equality means that law should treat things that are the same in the same ways. But when it comes to combat-related tasks, there are differences between men and women that are relevant to accomplishing the military mission.

According to former Marine Corps servicewoman and current Sentinel Jude Eden, “Combat is not an equal opportunity for women because they don’t have an equal opportunity to survive.” If women’s increased risk of injury makes them more vulnerable when engaging the enemy, why would Congress ever want to require women to be registered for the Selective Service, and ultimately the draft?

Women can and do contribute significantly to the overall mission of the military. But military personnel policy, particularly when it comes to combat, should be determined based on military objectives and preparedness, not President Obama’s social agenda.

Conclusion: Congress should prohibit the drafting of our daughters into military services through the Selective Service. The Conference Committee is set to resolve the differences between the Senate’s National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for fiscal year 2017 (S. 2943), which currently includes a provision forcing women ages 18-26 to sign up for the Selective Service, and the House’s NDAA (H.R. 4909), which does not. Congress should strip out the provision forcing women into the draft by adopting the House’s bill in Conference Committee.

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A Vote for a Maloney-style Amendment is a vote for President Obama’s Radical Transgender Bathroom Guidance

Tomorrow the House of Representatives will most likely vote on an amendment that supports President Obama’s executive order elevating sexual orientation and gender identity into a federal protected class.

In July 2014, President Obama issued E.O. 13672, unilaterally elevating sexual orientation and gender identity to special status for purposes of federal contracts. This means that federal bureaucrats could discriminate against, and strip contracts from, contractors that, for example, do not give biological men unfettered access to employee bathrooms designated for women. Congress has repeatedly voted down ENDA — the so-called Employment Non-Discrimination Act — to avoid forcing just such a radical national bathroom policy on American business.

The Maloney Amendment would constitute Congress’s blessing and ratification of the President’s end-run around Congress. It constitutes bad policy that unnecessarily regulates businesses on sensitive matters. Finally it risks undoing the Russell Amendment which was included in the House-passed NDAA, which takes longstanding protections in civil rights law and makes clear that the president’s orders are not exempt from them.

According to Roger Severino, the Director of the DeVos Institute for Religion and Civil Society, the Maloney-style amendments would:

  • “Ratify and give Congress’s blessing to Obama’s executive overreach, thereby encouraging him to do more of it.Solidify SOGI protection as national policy.

    • This would be cited by judges as a reason to uphold Obama’s overreaching and often lawless executive actions imposing SOGI policies (including bathroom access) on schools, private employers, housing providers, medical professionals, and health insurers.
    • This would be used by judges as further reason to declare SOGI a protected class under the Constitution.
  • Affirm the left’s propaganda that SOGI is equivalent to race and that there is massive unjust discrimination against LGBT persons in America today that requires a federal response.

  • Effectively impose ENDA on federal contractors.

    • This would require contractors to grant biologically male employees who identify as women unfettered access to women’s lockers, showers, and bathrooms. It would also require employees address co-workers by the pronouns of their choice regardless of biological sex. It would also require contractors to provide spousal employee benefits to same-sex spouses to the same extent provided to husband-wife couples.
  • Harm religious liberty.

    • Although Maloney contains some protection for employers to hire according to their “particular religion,” it protects only religious non-profits and the Obama administration or courts can interpret the protection narrowly to deny protection of religiously-motivated employee conduct standards. The Obama administration has explicitly refused to say that such conduct standards are protected for religious non-profits. As a result, courts and the administration may (and likely will) say that contractors like Catholic Charities are free to hire only baptized Catholics, but may not deny employees access to the bathroom of their choice or same-sex spousal benefits.
    • For-profit contractors that exercise religious beliefs while they earn a living, such as Hobby Lobby, would get no protection whatsoever under Maloney.
  • May undo the Russell Amendment.

    • The Russell Amendment protects religious non-profit contractors by applying the ADA’s explicit protection of faith-based employee conduct policies. Depending on the timing of when Russell vs. Maloney become law, Maloney may be interpreted to supersede this vital protection.

Conscience, freedom of speech and association, and religious freedom would suffer as an unavoidable consequence of Maloney (some on the left consider this the goal, not byproduct of Maloney). Although some harms can be mitigated through aggressive subsequent amendments, no amendment will eliminate those harms completely. Some harms, such as ratifying overreach, elevating SOGI to a protected class, and harming the culture cannot be mitigated at all by any amendment short of striking Maloney completely.”

As we saw last week, undermining religious liberty is not a prerequisite to passing appropriations measures in the House. Moving forward, it will be critical that House Republicans defeat any attempt by Democrats to further erode our First Amendment rights by codifying President Obama’s executive order through the appropriations process. House Republicans should expect Democrats to offer similar amendments on every appropriations bill moving forward, and must be prepared to defeat these amendments that threaten the very foundations of our civil society.

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