“NO” on Leahy Amendment

Today, the Senate will vote on the Runaway and Homeless Youth and Trafficking Prevention Act (S. 262) as an amendment to the long-stalled  Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act of 2015 (S. 178).  Introduced by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT)Heritage ActionScorecardSen. Patrick Leahy%Senate Democrat Average0See Full Scorecard%, the amendment contains language that would undermine basic civil rights and our nation’s commitment to religious freedom.

Every organization should respect the intrinsic dignity of every individual who seeks help from them, but Leahy’s language is vague and overly broad.  Absent clear definitions of what conduct can and cannot be penalized, it will empower the federal government — specifically the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) — to discriminate against faith-based organizations that currently form the backbone of the nation’s social services.

At issue is the amendment’s prohibition on “discriminating” on the basis of “actual or perceived” gender identity or sexual orientation.  These kinds of broad non-discrimination policies violate our nation’s commitment to reasonable pluralism and reasonable diversity. The Heritage Foundation’s Ryan T. Anderson, Ph.D. explains:

“YES” on Lee Motion to Strike Pay-Go Exemption from “Doc Fix” Package

Today, Senators will vote on a motion to strike Sec. 525 from the House-passed Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 (H.R. 2), the so-called permanent doc fix. The amendment, offered by Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT)Heritage ActionScorecardSen. Mike Lee%Senate Republican Average0See Full Scorecard% would strike the bill’s provision exempting it from PAYGO.  If adopted with a majority vote, the change would require Congress to offset the $141 billion cost of the bill, including at least $7 billion this year.

According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), H.R. 2 would add $141 billion to the federal debt within the traditional ten-year budget window, while some estimates place the 20-year cost to taxpayers at roughly $500 billion.  The Lee Amendment would not kill the bill or its underlying changes, it would simply guarantee Congress another bite at the apple to enact further entitlement reforms.

“NO” $500 Billion Doc Fix (H.R. 2)

This week, the Senate will vote on the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 (H.R. 2). The bill, negotiated by Rep. John Boehner (R-OH)Heritage ActionScorecardRep. John Boehner%House Republican Average0See Full Scorecard% and Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA)Heritage ActionScorecardRep. Nancy Pelosi%House Democrat Average0See Full Scorecard%, would permanently repeal Medicare’s Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) while making some small-scale reforms to the entitlement program and extending other programs such as the Clinton-era Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).  The package will likely increase America’s debt by $500 billion over the next two decades.

Medicare’s SGR is far from a budget gimmick.  Past doc fixes have contained small, but important structural reforms to Medicare as well as reductions in other areas of federal spending. According to the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget (CRFB), roughly 98% of the doc fix-related spending has been offset.  As Rep. Joe Pitts (R-PA)Heritage ActionScorecardRep. Joe Pitts%House Republican Average0See Full Scorecard%, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce’s Subcommittee on Health said in January: “[N]ot paying for SGR reform would ignore past precedent from Congress – whether it was controlled by Democrats or Republicans.”

Is the latest plan paid for?  According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) the plan would add $141 billion to the federal debt within the traditional ten-year budget window.

Don’t structural changes to Medicare more than offset SGR in the long run? While certain changes to Medicare have major long-term savings, H.R. 2 does not contain reforms of this magnitude.  Instead, it appears that the gap between the costs of SGR repeal and the savings from the accompanying offsets only grows in the out years. A new  estimate from CRFB found H.R. 2 would add $500 billion to our national debt over the next two decades based on a current law baseline, which doesn’t “assume away” the costs of the SGR repeal itself in the out years.

CBO confirmed “Enacting H.R. 2 would raise federal costs relative to current law during the decade after 2025.”  Even under the misleading assumption that there is no cost associated with repealing SGR in the second decade, CBO cautioned “budgetary effects of the legislation could represent net savings or net costs in the second decade after enactment.”

“NO” on the Confirmation of Loretta Lynch for Attorney General

This month, the Senate is expected to vote on the nomination of Loretta Lynch to serve as Attorney General.

Lynch’s testimony raises serious questions about her ability to represent the nation in legal matters, as well as give advice and opinions to the rest of the administration.  Unsurprisingly, Lynch defended the President’s executive amnesty, saying the “legal opinion was reasonable” and it was a “reasonable way to marshal limited resources to deal with the problem.”

The Heritage Foundation’s John Malcolm argues the President’s executive amnesty moves well beyond his limited, constitutional authority:

“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 McConnell%Senate Republican Average0See Full Scorecard% 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.