“YES” on CRA to Block the Catfish Program (S.J. Res. 28)

On Tuesday, the Senate is expected to vote on S.J.Res.28, a resolution offered by Sen. John McCain under the Congressional Review Act (CRA) that would block the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) catfish inspection rule.

For over a century, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has been responsible for inspecting and regulating the nation’s food supply, including both domestic and imported seafood. That was, however, until the 2008 Farm Bill carved out catfish to instead be regulated by the USDA. As a result, facilities that process seafood will now have to comply with both USDA (for catfish) and FDA (for all other seafood) regulations. These overlapping, duplicative, and possibly conflicting regulatory regimes will cost taxpayers an unnecessary $140 million.

There is no policy justification for carving out catfish from the broader seafood regulatory structure. To wit, the Government Accountability Office (GAO), a non-partisan group generally reserved and measured in its conclusions, entitled its report on the program: “Responsibility for Inspecting Catfish Should Not Be Assigned to USDA.” GAO has elsewhere concluded (as part of it’s “High Risk” of waste series) that the catfish program results in duplication and wasted spending while in no way enhancing food safety.

Amendments to T-HUD and MilCon-VA Appropriations Minibus (H.R 2577)

Heritage Action will key vote the following amendment(s) to the Senate’s T-HUD and MilCon-VA appropriations minibus (H.R. 2577):

Key Vote Alert: “YES” on Lee Amendment Defunding HUD’s Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing Rule 

This week, the Senate could vote on an amendment offered by Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) 100% to H.R. 2577, which includes the Senate’s 2017 Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development (T-HUD) Appropriations Act. His amendment would defund the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) rule.

Finalized in July 2015, the AFFH rule massively expands federal intervention into local communities all across the country. The rule empowers the federal government to audit the demographic and socioeconomic status of local communities and essentially force state and local governments to remake neighborhoods as envisioned by progressive elites.

The 377-page rule conditions receipt of Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds to stringent requirements forcing neighborhoods to organize themselves around goals prescribed by Federal bureaucrats. Simply put, the AFFH effectively turns HUD into a National Zoning Authority for every locality across the country.

According to Stanley Kurtz at National Review:

“AFFH is an attempt to radically reinterpret FHA by creating a basis for de facto federal control of suburban zoning and planning, and a mandate for economic integration that exists nowhere in the original Fair Housing Act. AFFH is federal overreach on steroids, and deserves to be repealed and repudiated, not only on policy grounds but out of basic respect for the democratic process.”

Senator Lee fought to defund the AFFH rule last Congress, and was joined by Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) 92%, who had a similar amendment successfully adopted by the House of Representatives into the 2016 T-HUD Appropriations Act by a vote of 229 to 193. However, that measure did not become law, which is why Senator Lee is offering an amendment to the 2017 T-HUD appropriations act to restrict any federal funding from being used to implement or enforce this rule. In an op-ed for the Daily Signal on Monday, Senator Lee argued that:

“Instead of helping all American families by lowering housing costs, the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule would only add yet another layer of bureaucratic red tape on developers, making it less likely—not more—that they will find it worthwhile to build more housing units.”

The Republican Senate majority must use the power of the purse to stand up to the Obama Administration’s unending executive overreach.  Stoping this egregious effort to bring Big Brother into local neighborhoods would be a great start.

To this end, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) 42% should ensure that this germane, conservative amendment does not receive the same treatment as conservative amendments — i.e., those offered by Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND) 45% and Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) 81% — did during the Energy and Water Appropriations debate. As an aide to a conservative senator told the Daily Signal:

“The strategy is designed to let moderate[s] …  get on record voting for nominally good conservative policy while still allowing bad liberal policy to move forward”

The proliferation of political cover votes — as seen with the Zika amendments early in the week — appears likely to continue, as a Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) 12% amendment could be offered as a side-by-side to the Lee Amendment.  The Collins Amendment would serve as a mere talking point, as opposed to actually preventing HUD from becoming a “National Zoning Board.”

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

“NO” on Un-Offset Emergency Zika Funding

On Tuesday, the Senate will vote on three separate proposals to provide emergency supplemental appropriations to combat the growing threat of the Zika virus.

Zika is a significant and growing threat that lawmakers should take seriously. However, it should not be used as an excuse to play politics, spend in excess of the budget caps, provide long term spending like enhanced Medicaid funding for Puerto Rico, or appropriate beyond what is needed before the beginning of the next fiscal year. The Obama administration’s demand for $1.9 billion in emergency spending combined with its lack of responsiveness to Congress on the subject suggests it is trying to accomplish one or more of those goals.

“NO” on Nomination of Paula Xinis for the District of Maryland

This evening, the Senate is scheduled to vote on the nomination of Paula Xinis for a lifetime appointment on the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland.  

In a letter to all Senators earlier today, the Baltimore City Fraternal Order of Police cautioned against confirming Xinis:

“[O]ur membership is urgently concerned about her obvious disdain for the law enforcement profession as expressed time and again through various court appearances in which she has represented citizens claiming harm caused by police personnel. In fact, her current partnership in the Baltimore law firm of Murphy, Falcon & Murphy itself is a concern as this is a firm well known in our area for hostility toward our profession and our members…”

The President of the Maryland State Lodge Fraternal Order of Police also sent a letter today:

“NO” on Senate’s FY17 Energy & Water Appropriations Bill (H.R. 2028)

This week, the Senate began consideration of H.R. 2028, the vehicle for its version of FY17 Energy & Water Appropriations bill.  The $37.5 billion spending bill aligns with the spending caps enacted as part of the Bipartisan Budget Act (BBA) last fall, and would raise spending by $355 million above FY16 levels and $261 million over President Obama’s request.

Conservatives should evaluate each individual appropriations measure on the following three criteria: 1) level of spending; 2) funding of bad programs; and 3) exclusion of conservative policy riders.  On all three counts, the Senate’s version of the FY17 Energy & Water Appropriations bill falls short.