“NO” on Amtrak Reauthorization (H.R. 749)

This week, the House is expected to vote on Passenger Rail Reform and Investment Act of 2015 (H.R. 749).  Introduced by Rep. Bill Shuster (R-PA)Heritage ActionScorecardRep. Bill Shuster60%House Republican Average39See Full Scorecard60%, Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR)Heritage ActionScorecardRep. Peter DeFazio17%House Democrat Average39See Full Scorecard17%, Rep. Jeffrey Denham (R-CA)Heritage ActionScorecardRep. Jeffrey Denham36%House Republican Average39See Full Scorecard36%, and Rep. Michael Capuano (D-MA)Heritage ActionScorecardRep. Michael Capuano9%House Democrat Average39See Full Scorecard9%, the bill authorizes $7.2 billion in spending for Amtrak and other rail programs through 2019 and claims to make numerous reforms, though those reforms are suspect.

The bill’s sponsors misleadingly claim the bill “reduces Amtrak’s authorized funding levels by 40 percent.”  This is a reduction in previous authorization levels, but does not represent an actual reduction in spending, as authorizations for Amtrak have consistently exceeded appropriations.  For instance, Amtrak received $1.4 billion in FY 2015.  According to the Congressional Budget Office, H.R. provides $1.4 billion for Amtrak in FY 2016.

“NO” on DHS Funding Bill: A Blank Check for Amnesty (H.R. 240, as amended by Senate)

This week, the House could vote on  the Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act (H.R. 240), as amended by the Senate.  The Senate amendment, offered by Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY)Heritage ActionScorecardSen. Mitch McConnell67%Senate Republican Average29See Full Scorecard67% removed essential language included by the House.  As amended, H.R. 240 does nothing to prevent the President Obama’s unconstitutional amnesty.

“NO” on No Child Left Behind Reauthorization (H.R. 5)

On Friday, the House is scheduled to vote on the Student Success Act (H.R. 5), which would reauthorize the Bush-era No Child Left Behind law until 2021.  Introduced by Rep. John Kline (R-MN)Heritage ActionScorecardRep. John Kline50%House Republican Average39See Full Scorecard50%, the bill represents a missed opportunity to show a clear contrast with the progressives’ failed big-government education agenda because it does not “take the necessary steps to genuinely limit federal intervention in education.”

In December, The Heritage Foundation’s Lindsey Burke put forward four crucial benchmarks for any overhaul of No Child Left Behind.  Despite the presence of a historic Republican majority in the House, H.R. 5 fell short on each and every requirement.

H.R. 5 does not enable states to completely opt out of the programs that fall under No Child Left Behind. The bill does not include language that would allow states to opt out of all the programs that fall under NCLB, along with the law’s mandates, and utilize those dollars for any lawful education purpose under state law.

H.R. 5 does not eliminate programs or reduce spending.  The bill consolidates more than 65 programs into a Local Academic Flexible Grant, which requires states to submit detailed documentation, follow prescriptive rules, and comply with onerous reporting requirements.  This is not a block grant.  Furthermore, H.R. 5 does not appreciably reduce spending in relation what was actually spent.

H.R. 5 does not eliminate all the burdensome federal mandates.  Although the proposal wisely eliminates counterproductive and prescriptive Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) mandates, H.R. 5 maintains the current NCLB mandates for states to establish standards in reading and math and to test kids annually between grades 3-8 and once in high school. H.R. 5 orders that academic achievement standards “include the same knowledge, skills, and levels of achievement expected of all public school students in the state.” States must also use “the same academic assessments…to measure the academic achievement of all public school students in the state.” Taken together, these twin mandates direct the state to establish a single uniform assessment, limiting the ability of local schools to determine their own curriculum.

H.R. 5 does not provide states the option of full Title 1 portability.   H.R. 5 provides increased portability, but only to public schools and public charter schools. Adequate portability would extend to private schools of choice, if a state chose.

For each of the substantial shortfalls described above, an amendment was submitted to the House Rules Committee for consideration.

“YES” on Full Repeal of Obamacare (H.R. 596)

On Tuesday, the House will vote on a bill to repeal Obamacare in its entirety (H.R. 596).  Reaffirming support for full repeal of Obamacare is important, but not sufficient.  Tuesday’s vote is the beginning of a multi-month effort that should culminate with the House and Senate using the reconciliation process to send a bill that fully repeals Obamacare to the President’s desk.

The Heritage Foundation’s Alyene Senger lists five reasons to repeal Obamacare:

  1. Obamacare creates $1.8 trillion in new health care spending and uses cuts to Medicare spending to help pay for some of it.
  2. Millions of Americans already have lost, and more likely will lose, their coverage because of Obamacare.
  3. Many Americans have not been able to keep their doctors as insurers try to offset the added costs of Obamacare by limiting the number of providers in their networks.
  4. In spite of the president’s now-infamous promise, the law increases the cost of health coverage.
  5. Obamacare contains 18 separate tax increases, fees and penalties.

Heritage also notes “Obamacare has made yet another problem worse—creating a government exchange that is less competitive than the prior individual market.”

Heritage Action supports H.R 596 and will include it as a key vote on our scorecard.

Related Links:
Heritage Action Scorecard

“YES” on No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act (H.R. 7)

Today, the House will vote on the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion and Abortion Insurance Full Disclosure Act of 2015 (H.R. 7).  The bill, sponsored by Rep. Christopher Smith (R-NJ)Heritage ActionScorecardRep. Christopher Smith43%House Republican Average39See Full Scorecard43%, would establish a permanent, government-wide prohibition on federal taxpayer funding of abortion and health benefits plans that include coverage of abortion, as well as prevent federal tax dollars from being entangled in abortion coverage under Obamacare.

The No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act is a good pro-life, pro-taxpayer bill that has earned Heritage Action’s support in the past.  However, the merits of this bill do not justify the House’s refusal to consider the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (H.R. 36)–a bill that would have saved 11,000 lives each year and had broad support among men, women, independents and all age groups, including millennials.  The Republican-controlled House should bring this bill to the floor without delay and without watering it down.

Regarding H.R. 7, The Heritage Foundation notes Congress failed to apply longstanding protections against federal funding of abortion or abortion coverage to the totality of Obamacare, potentially allowing large taxpayer subsidies to flow to health plans that cover elective abortion.   They explain, “taxpayers will now foot the bill for federal subsidies for the purchase of health plans on the exchanges… and some of those plans could cover elective abortion.”

Heritage added:

Under Obamacare, individuals and families who live in states that allow abortion coverage on their exchanges could end up paying directly for coverage of elective abortions, possibly without their knowledge. Individuals enrolled in one of the federally subsidized exchange plans that cover abortion will be forced to pay a surcharge of at least $12 per year – and possibly much more – out of their own pockets. Many individuals and families who would otherwise object to paying for abortion coverage may not even be aware of the surcharge. Insurers are allowed under Obamacare to disclose the existence and amount of the abortion surcharge only at the time of enrollment, and that warning may be as little as a single sentence in a massive plan document.

Taxpayers should be protected against all funding of abortion and abortion coverage.  Of course, to truly protect Americans’ freedom to purchase the health care plans that meet their needs and respects their values, Obamacare must be repealed.  In the meantime, this legislation provides essential protections to federal taxpayers from being forced to fund abortion or abortion coverage.

Heritage Action supports H.R. 7 and will include it as a key vote on our legislative scorecard.  

Heritage Action Scorecard
Key Vote: “YES” on 5-Month Abortion Ban (H.R. 36)