“NO” on DHS Funding Bill: A Blank Check for Amnesty (H.R. 240)

On Friday, February 27, the Senate adopted a substitute amendment (#255) offered by Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY)Heritage ActionScorecardSen. Mitch McConnell67%Senate Republican Average29See Full Scorecard67% to the Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act (H.R. 240).  Heritage Action was key voting in favor of the House-passed DHS funding bill prior to the adoption of the McConnell Amendment, which essentially removed language that would have denied funding and resources for the President’s unconstitutional amnesty.  With the adoption of the substitute amendment, Heritage Action will key vote against H.R. 240 and include it as a key vote on our legislative scorecard.

Text of the original key vote, which was posted on February 2, 2015, is below.

“NO” on the Heitkamp Amendment Supporting the Wind Production Tax Credit

This afternoon, the Senate will vote on an amendment (SA 133) to the Keystone XL Pipeline Act (S. 1).  The amendment, introduced by Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND)Heritage ActionScorecardSen. Heidi Heitkamp5%Senate Democrat Average29See Full Scorecard5%, expresses the sense of the Senate that the Wind Production Tax Credit and seven other now-expired tax credits for green energy production should be reauthorized and extended until 2020.

At the beginning of the year, special interest tax breaks for wind, closed-loop biomass, open-loop biomass, geothermal and solar energy facilities,  landfill gas facilities, trash facilities, qualified hydropower facility, and marine and hydrokinetic renewable energy facilities expired.  The Heitkamp amendment goes to great lengths to defend the renewal of the Wind PTC in particular:

“the wind energy industry and utilities require long-term certainty regarding the Production Tax Credit for project planning in order to continue build out of this valuable natural resource”

Although the subsidy has been on the books for more than two decades, the wind energy industry is still reliant upon taxpayer handouts.  As one CEO said two years ago, the “extension [of the Wind PTC] makes it all finance-able. It will get us through another year.”  The most recent one-year retroactive extension of the Wind PTC is estimated to cost taxpayers $6.4 billion. Lobbying for taxpayer dollars should not make-or-break someone’s business model. The Heritage Foundation’s Nick Loris explains:

“YES” on Keystone XL Pipeline Act (S. 1)

This week, the Senate began consideration of the Keystone XL Pipeline Act (S. 1), which mirrors the bill (H.R. 3) approved by the House on January 9th. The project would increase America’s energy security, create thousands of jobs, and increase revenue in the states it runs through.

The 1,200 mile pipeline, which enjoys broad bipartisan support, would transport 380,000 barrels of oil daily from Alberta, Canada to the Gulf Coast and would create an estimated 15,000 jobs.  The State Department conducted numerous reviews of the environmental impacts of the project on soil, wetlands, water resources, vegetation, fish, wildlife, and endangered species and repeatedly confirmed it would be safe.

For too long, the politics of the left, radical environmentalists, and President Obama and his congressional allies have stood in the way of Keystone’s construction.  Approval of H.R. 3 would represent a small but notable first step towards creating thousands of jobs for hardworking Americans.  The Heritage Foundation’s Nicolas Loris outlined additional five easy steps for Congress to take:

“YES” on Coburn Motion to Remove Lands Package from NDAA

Today, Senators will vote on a motion to refer the National Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 3979) back to the committee.  The motion, which will be made by  Sen. Tom Coburn, would instruct the Senate Armed Services Committee to remove the 450-page lands package that was inserted into the NDAA behind closed doors.

Heritage Action’s Michael A. Needham and The Heritage Foundation’s Steven Bucci, a former Pentagon official who oversees defense policy, explained:

“Undermining policies that are literally life-and-death is not in our nation’s interest, but that is the path this Congress is preparing to take.  Congress has successfully passed the NDAA every year for the past half century, overcoming ideological divides in order to appropriately authorize and prioritize defense measures needed to defend the United States. That trend should continue. That means treating the NDAA with the seriousness that it deserves, not as a legislative Christmas tree for Congress to ornament with unrelated pet projects.”

In a letter to Congress, groups such as Concerned Women for America, Eagle Forum and March for Life Action made the following argument: 

“NO” on Cromnibus: A Blank Check for Amnesty (H.R. 83)

The Senate will soon vote on the cromnibus, formally entitled Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, 2015 (H.R. 83).  The $1.1 trillion, 1,700+ page bill would fund most of the federal government through September 30, 2015 while extending funding for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) until February 27, 2015.  Importantly, the bill does nothing to block President Obama’s unilateral, unlawful actions which include granting quasi-legal status, work permits and Social Security numbers to those who are in the country illegally.

When President Obama took action to, as he said “change the law”, the outcry from Congress was widespread.  Republicans and Democrats alike took issue with the President on the process and the policy.  The half-measures and strongly worded statements that followed have been insufficient given the magnitude of the challenge.  As Mitch McConnell, the incoming Senate Majority Leader, observed, “The only tool we have is the power of the purse.”

Some have suggested the short-term funding for DHS will provide conservatives another opportunity to block President Obama’s actions in early 2015, but that approach is problematic because: 1) it forces Senate Republicans, who are virtually unanimous in their opposition to the President’s actions, to cast an initial vote to fund that lawless action; 2) it would occur 100 days after the President’s announcement, meaning the program is likely to be up and running; 3) it removes nearly all the pressure on President Obama and his partisan allies to choose between defending their lawless amnesty policies and funding all other areas of government; and 4) leading Republicans have refused to offer up a viable plan to stop the President’s executive amnesty in February.

In addition to funding President Obama’s amnesty with no strategy to stop it in 2015, the cromnibus makes use of $19 billion worth of changes in mandatory programs (CHIMPS) to make it appear as if it is staying below the Ryan-Murray discretionary budget caps. The bill also makes full use of the “disaster” and “emergency spending” loopholes, authorizing $5.7 billion in disaster spending (only $321 million of which to actually be spent this fiscal year), and another $5.4 billion (only $1.5 billion to actually be spent this year) in emergency spending for Ebola response and preparedness.

There are also dozens of examples of funding increases that reflect liberal, big-government priorities: $456 million extra for federal weather forecasting,  $636 million in new money for the Department of Energy, $250 million more than requested for the Environmental Protection Agency, $200 million more for Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) than requested, $127 million more for Section 8 housing,  $150 million more for the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC), $35 million more for the Commodities Future Trading Commission, $42 million more for the legislative branch (i.e., Congress), $141 million more for mass transit, $500,000 for the Peace Corps and many more.

Furthermore, the spending bill includes a host of policy riders that conservatives find objectionable: