“YES” on the REINS Act of 2015 (H.R. 427)

Today, the House is scheduled to vote on the Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny Act of 2015 (H.R. 427) This bill would increase accountability for and transparency in the federal regulatory process by requiring Congress to approve all new major regulations.

The Heritage Foundation explains lawmakers should be held accountable for the regulatory policies of the federal government; specifically, Congress should be explicitly responsible for major federal regulations.  The REINS Act would restore a level of accountability to the legislative process by preventing Congress from simply passing legislation that delegates significant discretion to the executive (i.e., Obamacare, Dodd-Frank, etc.) and then denying further responsibility.

“NO” on $4.75 Million Earmark for Susan G. Komen (H.R. 2722)

UPDATE (7/15/15): By unanimous consent the House amended H.R. 2722 to strip Susan G. Komen from the bill.  Komen (and thus abortion giant Planned Parenthood) will no longer benefit from the sale of the commemorative coins.  Due to longstanding opposition to the commemorative coin process, Heritage Action remains opposed but will not key vote against the bill.

CO-SPONSORSHIP of Transportation Empowerment Act (H.R. 2716)

The Transportation Empowerment Act (H.R. 2716), introduced by Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) 88%, would turn back control of the federal highway program (including transit) to the states by incrementally decreasing the federal gas tax and the size of the federal program, and in turn empower the states to fund and manage their transportation programs and priorities—not those of Washington bureaucrats or influential lobbyists.

“YES” on Walker’s A-PLUS Amendment

This week, the House will finally vote on an amendment offered by  Rep. Mark Walker (R-NC) 83% and Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) 88% to the Student Success Act (H.R. 5).  The amendment, known as A-PLUS, would give the states the ability to escape No Child Left Behind’s prescriptive programmatic requirements, consolidate their federal education funds and use them for any lawful education purpose they deem beneficial.

The Heritage Foundation’s Lindsey Burke explains that the Academic Partnerships Lead Us to Success (A-PLUS) proposal “has long been part of the conservative vision for restoring state and local control of education.”  In fact, between 110th and 113th Congresses, 91 current members of the House Republican Conference sponsored some version of A-PLUS.

The concept behind A-PLUS is simple: States can opt out of NCLB by making a “declaration of intent.”  End of story, Burke explains:

“The Education Department does not have veto power over these declarations; they’re not like a waiver which can be approved or disapproved depending on the whims of federal bureaucrats. The A-PLUS proposal allows states to opt-out, no strings attached.”

At its core, A-PLUS delivers on the promise of “restoring state and local control over the 10 percent of education funding financed by the federal government,” moving dollars out of the hands of federal bureaucrats and political appointees and into the hands of those closer to the students.

Now is the time for Congress to restore federalism in education, empower parents and students instead of bureaucrats and unions, and remove archaic obstacles that have prevented true opportunity for all.  If A-PLUS is adopted, Heritage Action will support final passage of the underlying bill.

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

Related:
Allowing States to Opt Out of NCLB Through A-PLUS: Empowering Parents and State and Local Leaders—Not Teachers Unions
The A-PLUS Alternative to Reauthorizing No Child Left Behind
The Conservative Education Debate (and Solution)

“NO” on the 21st Century Cures Act (H.R. 6)

Later this week, the House will consider the 21st Century Cures Act (H.R. 6).  Sponsored by Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI) 44% and Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO) 12%, the bill would create a new mandatory funding stream outside the Budget Control Act (BCA) caps and make a number of changes to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Conservatives are rightly concerned about the amount of the federal budget that is classified as “mandatory” (also known as “direct” or “autopilot” spending). Many budget reform ideas put forward by conservatives throughout the years have sought to incorporate more of the federal budget into the normal, annual, discretionary budget process, so that spending programs have to re-justify themselves every year and so Congress must re-prioritize spending as new information and priorities present themselves. H.R. 6 moves in the opposite direction.

What’s more, the NIH already has a standard discretionary funding stream, and Congress can decide to increase spending to those accounts within the BCA caps. In fact, both the relevant House and Senate Appropriations Committees bills contain spending increases for NIH as part of bills that cut spending elsewhere in order to maintain overall spending reductions from FY15.  That represents Congress making necessary spending choices – the exact kinds of spending choices this bill would allow future appropriators to avoid making.

While some may be tempted to dismiss the mandatory-discretionary argument, it is impossible to ignore woefully insufficient offsets that are meant to mask the very real and immediate spending increases contained in H.R. 6.  A fraction of the offsets are small administrative changes to Medicare and Medicaid payments to providers — these are not the structural or behavioral changes the programs need. Worse, however, the vast majority (about $7 billion out of $9.2 billion, or roughly 75%) of the offset comes from tapping the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR), starting in 2018. The SPR is not a piggy bank for lawmakers to use to offset their desire for immediate spending increases. If and when it becomes appropriate to tap the SPR, those savings should go towards deficit reduction – not more spending.

There is no excuse for evading the BCA caps. The House could pass the NIH and FDA reforms in this bill and give appropriators the ability to further prioritize the NIH and FDA within the BCA caps. By choosing to bypass the BCA caps, H.R. 6 represents a dangerous precedent for other authorizing Committees and an ominous foretaste of Congress’s willingness to abide by the BCA caps.

Heritage Action opposes H.R. 6 and will include it as a key vote on our legislative scorecard.