“NO” on No Child Left Behind Reauthorization (S. 1177)

This month, the Senate will likely vote on the Every Child Achieves Act of 2015 (S. 1177), which would reauthorize the Bush-era No Child Left Behind law until 2021.  Introduced by Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) 46% and Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) 0%, the 792-page bill represents a missed opportunity to show a clear contrast with the progressives’ failed big-government education agenda.

In December 2014, The Heritage Foundation’s Lindsey Burke put forward four crucial benchmarks for any overhaul of No Child Left Behind.  S. 1177 falls short on each and every requirement.

S. 1177  does not eliminate programs or reduce spending. The bill “fail[s] to actually eliminate the dozens upon dozens of ineffective and duplicative programs that have accrued over the decades.”  What’s more, the proposal does not provide a funding level; instead the bill simply offers “such sums as may be necessary.” A blank check is unlikely to produce any slowing of federal spending or intervention in education.  

S. 1177 does not eliminate all the burdensome federal mandates. Although the proposal eliminates counterproductive and prescriptive Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) mandates, it would require states to submit accountability plans that the U.S. Secretary of Education must approve. “It’s clear,” Burke says, “that the federal government will retain significant say in defining what the U.S. Department of Education believes to be appropriate state assessment systems and testing schedules for schools.”

S. 1177 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.

S. 1177 does not provide states the option of full Title 1 portability.  True Title I portability would extend choice to public schools, public charter school and private schools.

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.

Heritage Action opposes S. 1177 and will include it as a key vote on our legislative scorecard.

“NO” on Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act of 2015 (H.R. 2146)

This week, the Senate will vote on the House-passed Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act of 2015 (H.R. 2146), which would grant President Obama fast-track authority, also known as Trade Promotion Authority (TPA).

While the bill does not contain the ineffective Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) program, Republican leaders made clear in a joint statement that they will ensure the “President can sign [TAA] into law.”  They even acknowledged “It’s a little bit of a high wire act” and that “Everybody knows we can’t have TPA without TAA, so we’ve got to get it passed.”

In addition to the procedural gimmickry, the underlying substance has gotten worse.  At the behest of Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) 18%,  House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) N/A% abandoned the Senate-passed plan to use Medicare savings to pay for the renewal of TAA.  The new pay for — included in H.R. 1295 which the Senate will also consider this week — increases revenue by raising certain tax penalties.  New spending should not be offset by new revenues.

Finally, the agreement to advance the Export-Import Bank remains unaddressed by Republican leaders.  On May 21, Senator Lindsey Graham tweeted that the “Most important aspect of agreement is [that] we will also have the opportunity to vote on #ExIm reauth attached to the Highway Trust Fund reauth.”

Over the past month, the congressional process has spawned a special interest boondoggle that does more to advance big government than promote the virtues of free trade.

Heritage Action opposes H.R. 2146 and will include it as a key vote on the legislative scorecard.

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

CO-SPONSORSHIP of the First Amendment Defense Act (S.1598)

The First Amendment Defense Act (S. 1598), 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.

“YES” on Motion to Table Kirk Export-Import Bank Amendment

On June 10, the Senate voted on the motion to table an amendment introduced by Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL) 23% to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank.  The motion failed, but the amendment was withdrawn.  Though the vote was dubbed a “test vote” by proponents like Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) 47%, it revealed the bank’s waning support.  In 2012, 78 Senators voted to reauthorize the bank.  Three years later, that total fell to 65, and more than half the Senate Republican Conference is now on record opposing the bank.

Heritage Action supported the motion to table the Kirk Amendment and included the vote on our legislative scorecard. 

“YES” on Flake Motion to Strike Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) from Trade Promotion Authority (TPA)

This week, the Senate will vote on a motion to strike Title II from the Trade Act of 2015 (H.R. 1314), which is the president’s request for fast track authority.   The amendment, offered by Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) 69%, would strike the extension of the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) program.  If adopted TAA would be removed from the bill and senators would have the ability to debate and vote on the Trade Promotion Authority on its merits.

The Heritage Foundation’s David B. Muhlhausen, Ph.D. and James Sherk explain TAA is an ineffective and wasteful program funded by gimmicks: