CO-SPONSORSHIP of the First Amendment Defense Act (H.R. 2802)

The First Amendment Defense Act (H.R. 2802), introduced by Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) 100% and Rep. Raul Labrador (R-ID) 91%, would prevent the federal government from discriminating against any individual or group, whether nonprofit or for-profit, based on their beliefs that marriage is the union of a man and woman or that sexual relations are reserved for marriage.  That protection would extend to tax policy, employment, licensing, accreditation, contracting and grants.

Unfortunately, the need for this legislation is real. The Obama administration’s Solicitor General Donald Verrilli admitted during Supreme Court oral arguments that religious schools may lose their tax-exempt status for continuing to affirm marriage as the union of a man and a woman if the Supreme Court redefines marriage. Those involved in the wedding industry, including photographers, florists, and reception hosts have been hauled into court for declining to use their artistic talents to participate in same-sex wedding ceremonies.  And faith-based adoption agencies in Massachusetts, Illinois, and Washington, D.C. have been forced to end foster care and adoption services rather than abandon their belief that children do best with a married mother and father.

To be clear, the First Amendment Defense Act simply protects religious liberty and the rights of conscience. Americans are free to live and love how they choose and everyone should respect the intrinsic dignity of all human beings.  The bill simply affirms that the federal government respects the rights of individuals, businesses, and organizations that wish to act in accordance with their beliefs about marriage, without taking away federally funded benefits or services from anyone.

Heritage Action supports the First Amendment Defense Act and will include CO-SPONSORSHIP of the legislation on our legislative scorecard.

“NO” on the Trade Act of 2015 (H.R. 1314)

On Friday, the House plans to vote on Trade Act of 2015 (H.R. 1314).

Last month, Heritage Action said it was “incumbent upon House conservatives to use their leverage on TPA to extract ironclad public commitments” from Republican leaders in the House and Senate that the Export-Import Bank would not be reauthorized.  Instead of working to kill the bank, one Republican lawmaker said House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) has “given assurances to outside groups that he’s in support of it and that we’ll see a vote.”

Absent ironclad public commitments from Boehner and Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) 61% that the Export-Import Bank will not be reauthorized, Heritage Action will key vote against H.R. 1314.  The bill combines President Obama’s request for fast track authority or Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) with a stimulus-level extension of the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) program and, as mentioned above, has become inextricably linked to the passage of the Export-Import Bank.

“NO” on Transportation, Housing, Urban Development Appropriations (H.R. 2577)

On Tuesday, the House will vote on the FY16 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act (H.R. 2577).  The bill, commonly referred to at T-HUD, provides $55.3 billion in discretionary budget authority, which is a $1.5 billion increase above the current funding.

The commonly cited $50 billion figure only tells half the story, though.  As The Heritage Foundation explains, various provisions in T-HUD mean “budget authority doubles to $108 billion.”  Heritage continues:

“The bill assumes a highway authorization extension with funding for fiscal year (FY) 2016 at current levels, or about $51 billion in contract authority (the ability of the government to contract for work to be done). Therefore, the bill provides $41.6 billion for spending from the Highway Trust Fund on highway projects and $8.6 billion for spending on transit formula grants. However, the Congressional Budget Office projects revenues flowing into the Highway Trust Fund to be roughly $40 billion in 2016—not enough to cover the spending authorized in the bill.”

Since 2008, the federal Highway Trust Fund (HTF) has required $54 billion in bailouts.  Absent serious change, another $11 billion will be required this year.  Put another way, a vote in favor of T-HUD is an explicit endorsement of bailing out our nation’s surface transportation program.

In addition to the concerns surrounding transportation, T-HUD contains increasing spending levels for project-based rental assistance ($10.6 billion) and tenant-based rental programs ($19.9 billion) by $1.54 billion above current funding levels.  The bill funds more than a dozen programs that deserve elimination, including $1.14 billion in subsidies to Amtrak.  Earlier this year, more than 100 lawmakers opposed long-term reauthorization.  Not only did that reauthorization fail to make serious reforms is also called for increasing the authorized subsidy for money-losing long distance routes rather than placing these routes on a path to fiscal sustainability.

Rather than provide “tremendous budgetary resources to a bankrupt Highway Trust Fund” and continue the cycle of taxpayer-funded bailouts, Congress should pursue reforms that empower states and localities while reducing federal control, both in terms of finances and regulations.  The soon-to-be-introduced Transportation Empowerment Act would do just that.

Heritage concludes:

“There are also numerous opportunities to save money. More than half of the funding in the Department of Housing and Urban Development could be devolved to states or eliminated outright. The THUD appropriations bill provides conservatives an excellent opportunity to reduce government spending.”

Heritage Action opposes H.R. 2577 and will include it as a key vote on our legislative scorecard.

“YES” on McClintock Amendment to Eliminate Essential Air Services (EAS) Program

Today, the House will vote on an amendment offered by Rep. Tom McClintock (R-CA) 89% to the FY 16 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act (H.R. 2577) The amendment would save $155 million by eliminating funding for the Essential Air Services (EAS) program.

The EAS program provides subsidies to commuter and regional airlines in order to provide service to rural airports that are not economically viable absent federal subsidies. Earlier this year, CBS explained “There are more than 100 different routes under the program today, and most of them offer multiple flights each day, but in many cases, the planes are virtually empty.”  CBS continued:

Government data shows that on average last year, 44 of the 113 routes flew at least two thirds empty; among them, flights to Devils Lake.

One 9-seat Cessna flies twice daily from Kansas City, Missouri, to Great Bend, Kansas. The government kicks in $1.4 million each year, even though there is usually just one passenger on board.

Another $2.5 million per year goes to maintain near-empty daily flights to and from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, even though it’s just a 40 mile drive to the larger Harrisburg airport that serves the same routes.

The subsidies can reach hundreds of dollars per ticket and simply subsidize rural airports that could not otherwise compete and survive. Taxpayers should not be subsidizing airline tickets for other fliers.

Heritage Action supports the McClintock Amendment and will include it as a key vote on our scorecard.

Related Links:
Heritage Action’s Scorecard

“YES” on Buck Amendment to Fund Federal Firearm Restoration

Tonight, the House could vote on an amendment offered by Rep. Ken Buck (R-CO) 100% to the FY16 Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act (H.R. 2578).  The amendment would ensure the Attorney General could process applications for relief from Federal firearms disabilities under section 925(c) of title 18, United States Code.

Current law allows individuals to apply for relief from not being able to purchase a firearm legally.  Since 1992, however, a legislative rider has prohibited the Attorney General from investigating and processing such applications.  Then-Representative Charles Schumer (D-NY) 8% was the genesis of the rider.

In the United States v. Bean, 537 U.S. 71 (2002), the Supreme Court put the onus on Congress, saying “Inaction by ATF does not amount to a ‘denial’ within the meaning of § 925(c).” Congress should not deny individuals the ability to apply for the restoration of their Second Amendment rights, as prescribed in statute.

Heritage Action supports the Buck Amendment and will include it as a key vote on our legislative scorecard. 

Heritage Action Scorecard