The Wrong Way to do Postal Reform

This week the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee will hold a markup of the 2016 Postal Service Reform Act. Postal reform has been a priority of the Heritage Foundation since at least 2003, and Heritage Action since its formation. Heritage Action is opposed to this legislation. Below is run down of the major concerns with the legislation as drafted.

Bailout

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“Countering Violent Extremism” Bill is Wrong Response to Orlando Terrorist Attack

In the wake of the Islamic terrorist attack in Orlando that left 49 people dead and 53 injured, Americans expect a strong and serious Congressional response to make our country safer and help prevent future attacks. Today, the House will vote on H.R. 5471, the Countering Terrorist Radicalization Act. Unfortunately, the bill is neither a serious response nor will it help make our country safer.

The bill is actually a combination of three previously passed bills. The main provision (H.R. 4401) perpetuates the failed and misguided strategy of “Countering Violent Extremism” (CVE) as an approach to fighting terrorism. The Heritage Foundation’s Robin Simcox explains the purpose of CVE in his recent article The Unmentionable Origins of Terrorism:  

There has been a concerted attempt to scrub any religious aspect from the actions of ISIS and al-Qaeda: That is why phrases like “violent extremism” even exist. (First mainstreamed by the British government, “violent extremism” was dreamed up as a way to avoid saying “Islamic” or “Islamist” extremism in the months after the July 2005 suicide bombings in London. The phrase swiftly traveled across the Atlantic and into the U.S. government’s vocabulary.)”

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Red Lines: Energy Policy Conference

This week, the House will vote on and amend S. 2012, the Energy Policy Modernization Act of 2016, to include a number of previously House passed legislation. Separately, the House will also vote to go to conference with the Senate on this same legislation.

Earlier this year, Heritage Action key voted final passage of S. 2012 in the Senate because the bill contained very few meaningful conservative victories and included numerous provisions that expanded the government footprint. Even worse as the bill worked its way through the Senate it was continually made worse by Democrat and Republican amendments.

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President Obama’s Unilateral Transgender Policy for School Bathrooms

Background: On Friday May 13, 2016, President Obama’s Department of Justice (DOJ) and Department of Education (ED) issued a letter of joint guidance on transgender bathroom access for America’s school system. Using Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, the Obama administration is reinterpreting discrimination against “sex” to include “gender identity.” The new guideline directs any educational institution which receives federal funds to allow transgender students to use bathrooms and locker rooms that correspond to their gender identity, rather than their birth certificate.

Unlawfully Rewriting Law: Biological sex and gender identity mean two very different things. When Congress passed the Education Amendments back in 1972, the purpose was to protect women and girls from discrimination based on sex and ensure equal opportunity in education programs. The Obama administration has no right to unlawfully rewrite federal law in order to advance its own liberal social agenda in the wake of transgender bathroom disputes, must notably in North Carolina.

Violating Federalism: All across the country, state and local governments are working with parents, teachers, and school districts to determine how best to accommodate the privacy and safety of transgender students along with those students who feel uncomfortable going to the bathroom and changing with the opposite sex. For example, many schools have created new single-occupancy bathrooms and changing facilities for transgender students. The Obama administration’s decision to unilaterally impose a one-size-fits all policy for every school in the country undermines the ability of state and local governments to enact and enforce policy that’s best for their communities.

Bad Policy: Sex-specific bathrooms and locker rooms were created for a legitimate reason. Allowing boys who identify as girls to have unfettered access to girls’ bathrooms, locker rooms, shower facilities, and dorm rooms violates the privacy and safety of women. Sex-specific bathrooms serve a valid purpose of protecting the privacy and safety of girls and women, especially those who have been sexually abused.

Frequently Asked Questions:

How will President Obama enforce the guidance?
The joint guidance issued by the DOJ and ED does not have the force of law, though activist courts may interpret it as such, leaving schools under immense pressure to comply. President Obama is attempting to bully state governments into compliance by threatening to strip schools of federal funding. Until the guidelines are upheld by the courts, schools should refuse to comply with President Obama’s overreach.

What schools are affected by the guidance?
If the courts uphold the President’s guidelines, all schools, including colleges, universities, trade schools – public, private, and charter – that receive federal funding will have to comply or lose their federal funds. This could have significant negative repercussions on the school choice movement as well.

How does the federal government define “gender identity?”
According to the Obama administration’s guidelines, “Gender identity refers to an
individual’s internal sense of gender.” Furthermore, a “school may not require transgender students to have a medical diagnosis, undergo any medical treatment, or produce a birth certificate or other identification document before treating them consistent with their gender identity.” Essentially, a student is transgender if and when they say they are.

Can schools provide separate bathrooms and locker rooms for transgender students?
No. The Obama administration explicitly rejects compromises including single-occupancy facilities. According to the guidelines, “A school may not require transgender students to use facilities inconsistent with their gender identity or to use individual-user facilities when other students are not required to do so.”

Do these guidelines apply to housing policy as well?
Yes. Separate accommodations for transgender students are not permitted. This applies to campus housing and hotels for off-campus trips as well, “A school must allow transgender students to access housing consistent with their gender identity and may not require transgender students to stay in single-occupancy accommodations.”

What can be done to reverse the DOJ/ED guidance on transgender bathrooms?
Congress can actively push back against President Obama’s overreach by passing legislation clarifying that for the purpose of all federal law, “sex” does not mean “gender identity” or passing legislation that “sex” does not mean “gender identity” for the purpose of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968. Congress can also defund the guidance by attaching a defund rider to an appropriations bill(s) that stops the DOJ/ED from using federal funds to enforce the guidance.

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House Should Continue Rejecting Amendments that Undermine Religious Liberty

Last Thursday, Republicans in the House of Representatives defeated an anti-religious liberty amendment offered by Rep. Sean Maloney (D-NY) 15% to the 2017 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs (MilCon/VA) appropriations bill (H.R. 4974).  Though not immediately clear at first glance of the actual amendment text, the Maloney amendment would have further ratified an overreaching executive order issued by President Obama in 2014, which threatens religious liberty for private institutions who may contract with the federal government.  As The Heritage Foundation’s expert on religious liberty Ryan Anderson wrote in 2014,

“[President Obama’s executive] order disregards the consciences and liberties of people of goodwill who happen not to share the government’s opinions about issues of sexuality. All Americans should be free to contract with the government without penalty because of their reasonable beliefs about morally contentious issues.”

How does the EO disregard conscious and liberty, infringe upon the First Amendment, and the free exercise of religion?  There are at least 4 main policy problems, which Ryan Anderson also detailed last week after the Maloney amendment failed:

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