Amendments to Murkowski-Cantwell Energy Bill (S. 2012)

Heritage Action will key vote the following amendments to the to the Energy Policy Modernization Act of 2015 (S. 2012):

Key Vote Alert: “NO” on Bennet-Isakson FHA Amendment

Today, the Senate could vote on an amendment by Senators Michael Bennet (D-CO) 4% and Johnny Isakson (R-GA) 59% to S. 2012, Energy Policy Modernization Act of 2015.  The Bennet-Isakson amendment would force the Federal Housing Authority (FHA) to further subsidize government-backed mortgage loans under the pretense of energy efficiency.

As Heritage analysts Norbert Michel and Nick Loris explain, this amendment “requires the ‘expected energy cost savings’ from conservation programs to be included in borrowers’ debt-to-income test. In other words, loan applicants will effectively have their income increased because underwriters will be required to reduce borrowers’ estimated future living expenses.”

This is problematic because it:

  • further subsidizes taxpayer-backed home mortgages under the pretense of energy efficiency;
  • dictates an increase in the amount of money that people will be able to borrow with a Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loan;
  • requires underwriters to reduce borrowers’ estimated future living expenses, thus having the effect of increasing borrowers’ income for the purpose of qualifying for a (larger) loan;
  • counts on savings that may never actually be realized;
  • further degrades FHA’s standards which are already very low; and
  • magnifies these effects by compelling appraisers to add the alleged value of estimated energy savings to the property under consideration for a mortgage.

The net effect of this amendment would be to inflate home prices, burden individuals with higher loans than they need or can afford, and increase the number of risky government backed-mortgages in the housing  market – all at the taxpayer’s expense.

Heritage Action opposes the Bennet-Isakson Amendment and will include it as a key vote on our legislative scorecard.

Daily Signal: Proposed Legislation Would Increase Bureaucratic Interference in Housing Market
Heritage: Bipartisan Senate Energy Bill Full of Poison Pills (October 2015)
The Hill: Conservative group warns against House energy bill (October 2015)
Heritage: 5 Reasons Why Senate Energy Modernization Bill Is Anything but Modern (January 2016)
Heritage Action: “NO” on Energy Policy Modernization Act (January 2016)

Key Vote Alert: “YES” on Cassidy Amendment to Repeal RFS Mandate

This week, the Senate could vote on an amendment by Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) 62% to S. 2012, Energy Policy Modernization Act of 2015.  The Cassidy amendment would completely repeal the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). Signed into law in 2005 and expanded in 2007, the RFS forces American oil refiners to include a minimum amount of renewable fuel each year.

Nick Loris, energy analyst at the Heritage Foundation, previously summed up the concerns with the mandate:

“The mandate promised less dependence on foreign oil, lower fuel prices, and fewer greenhouse gas emissions. Instead of delivering on these promises, the mandate delivered concentrated benefits to politically connected producers and higher costs to America’s energy consumers.”

Like Obamacare, this program forces a product on the American people whether they want or need it. It is the perfect example of Washington playing favorites at the expense of the American people.

The principled position would be repeal of the entire mandate.  Some have tried to advance a middle road that would primarily repeal the corn ethanol part of the mandate while leaving in place the most expensive parts of the mandate dealing with advanced and cellulosic biofuels.  This approach continues to play favorites in the market and would continue to leave consumers on the hook for increased gas prices.

After a decade of preferential treatment by the federal government, it is time for the ethanol and biofuels industry to stand on their own merits.

Heritage Action supports the Cassidy Amendment to repeal the RFS and will include it as a key vote on our legislative scorecard.

Heritage: Bipartisan Senate Energy Bill Full of Poison Pills (October 2015)
The Hill: Conservative group warns against House energy bill (October 2015)
Heritage: 5 Reasons Why Senate Energy Modernization Bill Is Anything but Modern (January 2016)
Heritage Action: “NO” on Energy Policy Modernization Act (January 2016)

Key Vote Alert: “YES” on Lee Amendment to Block Permanent LWCF Extension

This week, the Senate could vote on an amendment by Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) 100% to S. 2012, Energy Policy Modernization Act of 2015.  The Lee amendment would prevent a permanent extension of the Land & Water Conservation Fund (LWCF).

At the end of 2015 the House and Senate passed an omnibus appropriations bill that included a three-year extension of the LWCF. Now the Energy Policy Modernization Act seeks to permanently reauthorize the program in perpetuity.

The LWCF is one the ways the federal government increases its footprint by buying more land. As The Heritage Foundation notes the federal government already has sizable land assets:

“The federal government owns between 635 million and 640 million acres of land in the entire United States, nearly 30 percent of the country and nearly half of the western U.S.”

Federal government management of these lands often comes at the expense of economic development and limits the opportunities for the individuals in those areas. Furthermore, proponents of the program assume that the federal government acquiring more lands in the name of conservation is a net positive for the environment. As Heritage points out this is sadly not the case:

“Eliminating the LWCF will not create more environmental degradation; in fact, just the opposite. America’s largest land holder, the Department of the Interior, has a maintenance backlog of $13.5 billion to $20 billion for the land it already owns—a deficit leading to environmental degradation, soil erosion, gross amounts of littering, and land mismanagement.”

The federal government should allow states, local communities, and individuals who are closest to the land and the most responsible for its economic and environmental outcomes to determine the right path for its use.

Heritage Action supports the Lee Amendment to strip the LWCF language and will include it as a key vote on our legislative scorecard.   

Heritage: Bipartisan Senate Energy Bill Full of Poison Pills (October 2015)
The Hill: Conservative group warns against House energy bill (October 2015)
Heritage: 5 Reasons Why Senate Energy Modernization Bill Is Anything but Modern (January 2016)
Heritage Action: “NO” on Energy Policy Modernization Act (January 2016)


“NO” on Energy Policy Modernization Act (S. 2012)

On Wednesday, the Senate will begin consideration of the Energy Policy Modernization Act of 2015 (S. 2012). The 420-page bipartisan bill, introduced by Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) 32% and Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) 0%, seeks to promote energy efficiency, infrastructure, supply, accountability, and land conservation through federal intervention.  According to The Heritage Foundation, the provisions are simply a “continuation of government meddling in the energy economy” and would “waste taxpayer resources, override consumer preference, direct money toward politically preferred technologies, and appease special interests.”

Proponents of the bill will point to a few encouraging, small-scale provisions, like expediting LNG export applications.  True energy reform, however, would reduce government barriers by eliminating mandates, subsidies, regulations, and other programs that hinder the development and use of our natural resources, allowing consumers and the market to determine our country’s energy future. This legislation falls far short of that goal; in fact, it goes the opposite direction by continuing and expanding the ‘government knows best’ model that has failed our country for decades.

“NO” on Nomination of Wilhelmina Wright for US District Court for Minnesota

On Tuesday, the Senate is scheduled to vote on the nomination of Wilhelmina Wright for the United States District Court for the District of Minnesota.

Wright, who currently serves on Minnesota’s Supreme Court, has a troubling track record, which includes racially-charged accusations against President Ronald Reagan and statements indicating previous opposition to the constitutional understanding of property rights. Justice Wright once wrote in a law review that:

“White people are running and hiding.  Their mad scramble is aided by a Chief Justice [Justice Rehnquist] who owned racially restrictive property and a Presidential administration [President Reagan] that believes bigotry, poverty, and poor educational opportunities for most public school students are the unavoidable fruits of a “thriving” free market economy.”

And later in the same review, she wrote “the sanctity of property and the belief in the hierarchy of races” undergirds racism in America. According to a recent Daily Signal article, when questioned by the Senate Judiciary Committee about these statements, she qualified them by saying “the writing was ‘inartful’ and made without ‘all of the training and experience that I have now.’” The fact that her nomination has been guided through the process by two liberal Democrats, Senators Al Franken (D-MN) 4% and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) 4%, should also raise concerns.  

“NO” on $1.1 Trillion Omnibus Spending Bill

On Friday, the Senate will vote on the year-end omnibus spending bill. The omnibus should have been an opportunity for conservatives to reassert their prerogatives on a host of important issues, ranging from appropriate spending levels to substantive action on refugee resettlement, executive amnesty, Planned Parenthood, and many more.  Last year, one Republican leader explained a Republican-controlled appropriations process would “have a lot of restrictions on the activities of the bureaucracy” and that this would be “something [Obama] won’t like, but that will be done.”  Unfortunately, the omnibus spending bill falls far short of achieving substantive policy victories on the issues Americans care about.

Heritage Action recommends the following votes to senators opposed to the omnibus: NO on cloture; YES on the motion to table (i.e., kill) House amendment #1 (the $1.149 trillion omnibus spending bill) to the Senate amendment to H.R. 2029; and, NO on final passage.

Notably, the bill fails to achieve any significant victories on some of the key national security issues facing our nation, including refugee resettlement.  Less than one month ago, a veto-proof House majority passed a bill that would have set up a more stringent vetting system for Syrian refugees.  Many conservatives considered it to be merely a first step because it would have relied solely on President Obama’s appointees to carry out the new vetting process.  Indeed, some GOP leaders acknowledged the bill was “just a first step” and others suggested it would “likely” be addressed in the omnibus.  It was apparently neither. To be clear, tweaks to the Visa Waiver Program are just “feel good” measures that will do absolutely nothing to mitigate the serious national security risks posed by Obama administration’s current resettlement plans.

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

This week, the Senate will vote on the conference report for S. 1177, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). This long sought-after revision of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) falls well short in rolling back federal intervention in education, and in many ways represents a step backwards for conservative education policy.

Last December, The Heritage Foundation’s Lindsey Burke put forward four crucial benchmarks for any overhaul of No Child Left Behind. ESSA falls well short on each and every requirement. Importantly for the context of this conference agreement, ESSA represents a retreat on nearly all of the selling points for the House-passed H.R. 5 bill, and in some respects represents a “bait-and-switch” from that effort. As CQ Roll Call noted, the “the final agreement largely resembles” the Senate-passed bill.  Specifically, the conference report:

  • extends K-12 authorizations through FY2020, thus balking on the very-important amendment to H.R. 5 offered by Rep. Todd Rokita (R-IN) 69%, and very likely taking K-12 reform out of the hands of the next president;
  • does not eliminate or significantly roll-back NCLB’s annual testing mandates, as the amendment by Rep. Matt Salmon (R-AZ) 87% sought to accomplish;
  • does not freeze K-12 spending, but rather allows it to continue its rapid growth; and
  • retreats in every meaningful way on the House-passed bill’s (H.R. 5) efforts to enhance Title I portability and school choice.

The conference report also represents a step backwards in many respects. The bill contains new programs that represent new federal encroachment on parents’ and local communities’ abilities to determine how their children are educated. ESSA codifies a new $250 million per year pre-K education program, thus asserting federal intervention even earlier in children’s lives. Even proponents of the bill acknowledge this “rais[es] concerns that this will open the door to further federal meddling in pre-K.” It also creates other unneeded programs, like the new Civics Education Program and the new STEM Master Teacher Corps program, again reflecting the conceit that children will only learn important topics if Washington intervenes.

Some proponents of ESSA have argued that the bill is worthy of conservative support, claiming it stops Common Core, reins in Obama’s Department of Education, and consolidates a number of federal education programs. On the first two issues, the damage has largely already been done, and it is up to states to peel themselves away from Common Core and other unauthorized federal incursions on their programs by retaining the annual testing requirement result in “students in large districts taking an average of 112 mandated standardized tests by the time they graduate.”  And on program consolidation: the fact that ESSA maintains the current accelerated spending pace shows that the federal footprint has not been reduced in any meaningful way.

Education is an issue that is second-to-none in importance to many American families, and conservatives have the kinds of bold solutions that will empower parents and local school districts to do what is best for their children. Unfortunately, the S. 1177 conference report represents a missed opportunity to provide a contrast with the left on this important issue, and to enact legislation to significantly improve our nation’s K-12 education system.

Heritage Action opposes the ESSA conference report to S. 1177 and will include it as a key vote on our legislative scorecard. 

3 Big Shortfall of ‘Every Student Succeeds Act’
Not Much For Conservatives to Love in ‘Every Student Succeeds Act
Student Success Act Does Not Repeal Common Core. States Must Take the Lead
Memo: NCLB Reauthorization Proposals: Missed Opportunities for Conservatives
The A-PLUS Alternative to Reauthorizing No Child Left Behind