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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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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Puerto Rico and the PROMESA Act: Claims and Responses

Claim: If conservatives don’t agree to this bill, the alternative is  a $72 billion bailout package.

Response: Things are going to get worse in Puerto Rico before they get better. Even though there is no reason to believe a Republican-controlled Congress would ever pass a direct taxpayer bailout, calls for such action are likely to increase whether or not PROMESA (H.R. 4900) is passed, as Puerto Rico will likely continue to experience economic and fiscal troubles. Congress and Puerto Rico need to pass economic reforms to slow and reverse the ruinous outmigration of Puerto Rico’s young workers. PROMESA reshuffles the deck, but it doesn’t change the game.

Claim: If Congress doesn’t pass some sort of assistance package, Puerto Ricans are just going to abandon the island and move to the mainland, causing an economic death spiral.

Response: Puerto Ricans are moving to the mainland in large numbers because of the lack of economic growth and opportunity on the island — not, for the most part, because of the government’s financial distress and liquidity issues. Regardless of what happens with Puerto Rico’s government debt, this exodus will continue if Puerto Rico can’t return to growth, which it can only do by creating opportunities for young adults and attracting and keeping businesses on the island. There is no reason to believe this bill would create those economic opportunities.

Claim: The fiscal oversight board has the tools it needs to jumpstart Puerto Rico’s economy.

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