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.
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.
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)
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.