“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:

“YES” on Keystone XL Pipeline Approval Act

On Tuesday, the Senate will vote on Keystone XL Pipeline Approval Act (S. 2280), introduced by Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND)Heritage ActionScorecardSen. John Hoeven41%Senate Republican AverageSee Full Scorecard41%.  The project would increase America’s energy security, create thousands of jobs, and increase revenue in the states is runs through. Pipelines are the safest way to transport oil, yet Keystone’s approval has been stalled in the upper chamber for six years.

The House has voted to approve the pipeline nine times, most recently last week.  Heritage Action key voted in favor of the House passed bill in May of 2013, noting how beneficial it would be for job creation, the environment, and energy security.  The construction of the Keystone pipeline is still in the best interest of the American people, though it is evident political calculations are a motivating factor for the current push by many Senate Democrats, most notably Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA)Heritage ActionScorecardSen. Mary Landrieu4%Senate Democrat AverageSee Full Scorecard4%.

The 1,200 mile pipeline would transport 380,000 barrels of oil daily from Alberta, Canada, to the Gulf Coast and would create an estimated 15,000 jobs, something conservatives have long stated.

Although the project has also long enjoyed bipartisan support, President Obama has worked on behalf of radical environmentalists to delay its completion.  The State Department has conducted numerous reviews of the environmental impacts of the project on soil, wetlands, water resources, vegetation, fish, wildlife, and endangered species and has repeatedly confirmed it would be safe and not contribute significantly to climate change.  As the Heritage Foundation’s Nick Loris notes, “Even those who believe that climate change is heading toward catastrophic outcomes note that Keystone XL is only 0.2 percent of the ‘carbon budget.’”

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, despite clear evidence it would produce thousands of jobs for Americans with no significant negative impact on the environment.

Heritage Action supports S. 2280 and will include it as a key vote on our legislative scorecard.

Heritage Action’s Legislative Scorecard

“NO” on Continuing Resolution and Extension of the Export-Import Bank (H.J. RES. 124)

Today, the Senate is expected to vote on the House-passed Continuing Appropriations Resolution (H.J. Res. 124), which would fund the government through December 11, 2014, reauthorize the Export-Import Bank until June 30, 2015 and serve as a vehicle for a key component of President Obama’s Syria strategy.

Despite his current affinity for the Ex-Im Bank, President Obama once denounced the bank, saying it “has become little more than a fund for corporate welfare.”  That characterization is undeniable — participating banks call it “free money” and multinational conglomerates like Boeing, Caterpillar and General Electric account for the bulk of the bank’s financing.  Boeing, for example, received roughly two-thirds of the bank’s loan guarantees in 2013.

“NO” on Miller-Sanders Veterans Bill (H.R. 3230)

This week, the Senate will vote on the Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act of 2014 (H.R. 3230). The conference committee report, agreed to by Rep. Jeff Miller (R-FL)Heritage ActionScorecardRep. Jeff Miller72%House Republican AverageSee Full Scorecard72% and Sen. Bernard Sanders (I-VT)Heritage ActionScorecardSen. Bernard Sanders7%Senate Independent AverageSee Full Scorecard7%, would, according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), increase direct spending by $15 billion over 10 years. Of that cost, $10 billion in emergency mandatory funding would go towards an external care option for vets who face wait times of longer than 30 days or live more than 40 miles from a VA facility. The remaining $5 billion would expand existing VA operations and other miscellaneous veterans-related programs. This $5 billion would be offset over 10 years from reforms within the VA, though the merits of those offsets are highly questionable.

Though the CBO’s recent projection reflects a total emergency cost of $10 billion, properly understood, the conference committee’s solution to the VA’s systemic inefficiencies amounts to the creation of a new entitlement that will likely increase at a rapid rate.