On Thursday, the House is scheduled to consider H.R. 5278, the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act (PROMESA), which attempts to address Puerto Rico’s current debt crisis.
Since June 2015, The Heritage Foundation has written over 20 reports and commentary pieces analyzing the situation in Puerto Rico, proposing needed reforms, and analyzing Congressional proposals. In March 2016, Heritage Action laid out what a conservative response to Puerto Rico’s debt crisis would look like. To summarize those efforts:
- Pro-growth reforms are essential, particularly exemptions from the Jones Act and federal minimum wage
- No direct cash bailouts or indirect bailouts of any kind
- No coercive debt restructuring or other violation of creditors’ legal claims
Unfortunately, PROMESA falls woefully short on pro-growth reforms. The legislation does nothing to limit the Jones Act’s restrictions on Puerto Rico’s ability to openly trade with the U.S. mainland, and its minimum wage provision is extremely limited, even if Puerto Rico’s governor decides to implement it. In fact, Puerto Rico’s non-voting member of Congress Pedro R. Pierluisi told CQ “that in his interpretation it was mostly ‘meaningless’ in that it will never be implemented.” Without these measures, Puerto Rico has little chance to grow, making it more likely that Puerto Rico will be back again soon asking for a bailout.
Today, the House is scheduled to vote on H.R. 5055 the FY 2017 Energy & Water Appropriations bill. The bill spends a total of $37.4 billion, which is $259 million above FY16 enacted levels and $168 million above the President’s request. Furthermore, it aligns with the higher spending caps enacted as part of the Bipartisan Budget Act (BBA) last fall, which was opposed by an overwhelming majority of House Republicans. As a result, H.R. 5055 is $2.8 billion above the last E&W bill crafted during Nancy Pelosi’s reign as Speaker. To make matters worse, the bill now contains an amendment by Rep. Sean Maloney (D-NY) 15%. Even as modified, the inclusion of the Maloney amendment further ratifies an overreaching executive order issued by President Obama in 2014, which threatens religious liberty and personal privacy for private institutions who may contract with the federal government.
Each individual appropriations measure should be evaluated on the following three criteria: 1) level of spending; 2) funding of bad programs; and 3) exclusion of conservative policy riders. On the first two counts the House’s version of the FY17 Energy & Water Appropriations bill certainly falls short. On the third, the bill includes some of the key riders conservatives demand. That said, few are likely to become law — as last year’s House-passed E&W demonstrated when important riders were ultimately left out of the December omnibus — while the elevated spending levels appear on track. In this environment, with the Senate seemingly even less interested in policy riders, it is more incumbent than ever for the House to put forward as conservative a bill as possible.
First, on spending, this year’s bill is in stark contrast to the House passed FY 2016 bill, which came in at $35.4 billion ($2 billion below the bill before the House now). Even worse, this bill is $7 billion above the House passed FY 2014 bill that served as the low spending point for the House Republicans.
Tonight the House will vote on an amendment by Rep. Sean Maloney (D-NY) 15%. The Maloney amendment — even as modified — further ratifies an overreaching executive order issued by President Obama in 2014, which threatens religious liberty and personal privacy 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.”
Heritage Action will key vote the following amendment(s) to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017 (H.R. 4909):
Key Vote Alert: “YES” on Buck DoD Energy Reform Amendment (#245)
The House will vote on an amendment by Rep. Ken Buck (R-CO) 100% to H.R. 4909, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017. The amendment would prohibit funding for the renewable energy mandate at DOD and prohibit the Secretary of Defense from purchasing alternative energy unless it is equivalent to conventional energy in terms of cost and capability.
On Wednesday, the House will vote on the Email Privacy Act (H.R. 699). Introduced by Rep. Kevin Yoder (R-KS) 84% and cosponsored by over 190 Republicans, this bill would update the Email Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) by bringing privacy protection standards for electronic communications into the 21st Century.
When ECPA became law in 1986, it was intended to extend Fourth Amendment protections to communications conducted over the Internet. Since 1986, technology has changed rapidly, but the law remains virtually the same. As such, it fails to provide much needed privacy protections. The goal of the Email Privacy Act is to improve these standards, providing stronger privacy protections for communications in response to changes in technology. As Heritage has written:
“To read Americans’ mail as it is in transit with the Postal Service, the government generally needs a warrant issued by a neutral magistrate and must have probable cause to believe the search will provide evidence of a crime.
“To read the content of email messages stored on a cloud server, the government does not need a warrant at all—it can view the content by issuing a subpoena to the cloud service provider.”