“NO” on Revised 21st Century Cures Act (H.R. 34)

On Monday, the Senate is expected to vote on an updated version of the 21st Century Cures Act (H.R. 34), sponsored by Rep. Fred Upton. The 21st Century Cures Act was originally a bill that provided additional funds to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for medical research and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for accelerated approval of new treatments.  Heritage Action key voted against the original House version of the bill in 2015. Though the original version of Cures ultimately passed the House, it was never considered by the Senate.  

Now Congress has taken this legislation, which was initially a 300 page bill, and turned it into an almost 1,000 page omnibus health care spending bill. The negotiators have added pieces of a mental health bill, makes changes to Medicare Part A and B, another bill making significant changes to the federal foster care system, a “cancer moonshot” requested by Vice President Biden, additional funding for opioid abuse prevention, etc., in addition to the NIH funding and the FDA funding, for a grand total of over $6.3 billion dollars. In Washington terms, backroom negotiators have turned the Cures bill into a Christmas Tree, loaded with handouts for special interests, all at the expense of the taxpayer.  Therefore, conservatives should oppose the 21st Century Cures Bill for four main reasons.

“NO” on Lame Duck Continuing Resolution (H.R. 5325)

This week, the Senate will vote on a 10-week continuing resolution (H.R. 5325), which in its current form is a substitute amendment (#5082) introduced by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) 40%. The amendment — the Continuing Appropriations and Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2017, and Zika Response and Preparedness Act — falls far short of conservative expectations. Throughout the summer and into the fall, conservatives said Congress should ensure the length of any continuing resolution did not require a post-election session of Congress. And throughout the appropriations process, Heritage Action evaluated 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. Heritage Action also uses these criteria to evaluate any continuing resolution, as well as factoring in a fourth, additional, and critical criteria: length of time.  

Length of Time.The current bill would allow funding to lapse on December 9, requiring a post-election lame duck session of Congress. Some will argue that bill could be worse, but requiring a lame duck session will ensure things do get worse. A recent report from The Heritage Foundation outlines the history of lame duck sessions:

“NO” on Nomination of Carla Hayden to be Librarian of Congress

It has been reported that the Senate, at the request of Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) 47%, may vote on the confirmation of President Obama’s nominee for Librarian of Congress, Carla Hayden, before the end of the week.  With less than six months left before President Obama leaves office, there is absolutely no need for the Republican Senate to confirm Obama’s unqualified nominee to a 10 year renewable term as our nation’s Librarian of Congress, who oversees all the operations of the Congressional Research Service (CRS).

As Hans von Spakovsky, a senior legal fellow at the Heritage Foundation, has written:

“In his statement nominating Carla Hayden to become the librarian of Congress, President Obama didn’t even try to sell Dr. Hayden as a distinguished scholar, author, historian, or public intellectual. The president had no choice. Any claim that Hayden possessed credentials that match those of her distinguished predecessors over the last 40 years would have been dismissed as false.”

“YES” on Senator Toomey’s Stop Dangerous Sanctuary Cities Act, S. 3100, and Senator Cruz’s Stop Illegal Reentry Act (Kate’s Law), S. 2193

 

This afternoon the Senate will vote on the motion to proceed to both Senator Toomey’s Stop Dangerous Sanctuary Cities Act, S. 3100, and Senator Cruz’s Stop Illegal Reentry Act (Kate’s Law), S. 2193.  These bills will take positive steps towards better enforcement of current immigration laws and ending dangerous practices that have cost American lives. All Senators should support both of these bills.

Last July, an illegal alien, who had previously been deported 5 times, killed 32-year-old Kate Steinle in San Francisco. This horrific incident shed light on serious issues plaguing our immigration system, including the proliferation of “sanctuary cities” and the abject failure of federal, state, and local law enforcement to enforce detention, sentencing, and deportation laws.

As Hans von Spakovsky, Senior Legal Fellow Edwin Meese III Center for Legal and Judicial Studies at The Heritage Foundation, explains:

“San Francisco and other cities across the United States have created so-called “sanctuaries” for illegal aliens. These municipalities are defying federal immigration law, just like some Southern jurisdictions that defied federal civil rights laws in the 1960s.

But unlike that earlier era, today’s sanctuary cities are creating safe havens for known criminals. Their policies have victimized innocent Americans, enabling illegal aliens to commit thousands of crimes that would not otherwise have occurred.”

To help end this unlawful practice of Sanctuary Cities, Senator Toomey (R-PA), has introduced S. 3100, the Stop Dangerous Sanctuary Cities Act.  The bill would define a “sanctuary jurisdiction” as a state or locality that prohibits any government entity from communicating with Federal immigration officials or from complying with a DHS detainer (a notice to hold an individual due to their immigration status). It also provides immunity for state and local law enforcement to fully comply with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainers without threat of being sued. Additionally, the legislation withholds certain Federal grants (public works and economic development grants and community development block grant funds) from states or localities that persist in flaunting Federal law and endangering their citizens by maintaining sanctuary city policies.

While San Francisco’s dangerous sanctuary city policy was a large factor in the death of Kate Steinle, her murderer had also previously been deported 5 times. Under current law, illegally entering the United States a second time after an initial deportation is punishable as a felony – – and yet there are no mandatory minimum sentences for illegal reentry.  According to Senator Cruz’s background on his bill, Stop Illegal Reentry Act (Kate’s Law), S. 2193:

“Illegal reentry is a widespread phenomenon. In 2012, for instance, just over a quarter (27%) of the illegal aliens apprehended by the Border Patrol had prior removal orders—in other words, they had already been deported once before….

These numbers demonstrate that, for too many illegal aliens, the perceived rewards of reentering the United States after deportation outweigh both the likelihood and the consequences of being apprehended, prosecuted, imprisoned, and then deported again. Current statutory penalties for illegal reentry are an inadequate deterrent given the poor state of immigration enforcement. Indeed, according to DHS’s enforcement priorities, illegal reentry is not even considered a first-tier priority.”

Senator Cruz’s bill amends the Immigration and Nationality Act to strengthen criminal penalties for illegal reentry.  As Cully Stimson, Manager of the National Security Law Program in Heritage’s Davis Institute for International Studies, explains:

“[The bill] would increase the punishment from its current penalty of imprisonment of not more than two years to imprisonment not less than five years and not more than six.  In other sections, it changes the penalty from not more than 20 years to not less than five and not more than 20, or, not more than 10 years to not less than five years and not more than 10 years.

These modest increases in sentences for recidivist criminal aliens makes sense given the scope of the problem.”

The Cruz and Toomey bills are modest, common-sense improvements to current law.  Both Republican and Democrat Senators have no excuse for voting against the motion to proceed onto these bills today. To do so would be to side with liberal extremist groups like La Raza in support of open borders policies that threaten Americans’ safety and our national sovereignty.

Heritage Action supports both Senator Toomey’s Stop Dangerous Sanctuary Cities Act, S. 3100, and Senator Cruz’s Stop Illegal Reentry Act (Kate’s Law), S. 2193, and will include these votes on our legislative scorecard.

Key Vote Alert: NO on Mandatory GMO Labeling Act

Later this week, the Senate is scheduled to vote on S. 764, the GMO labeling compromise reached by Senators Pat Roberts (R-KS) and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), which would create a federal labeling requirement for GMO products.

The Roberts-Stabenow bill is in response to an onerous Vermont law that requires GMO labeling on product packages themselves. S. 764 would preempt this law to allow for alternative disclosure methods, such as bar codes and websites, but it would still create a nationwide requirement that information about genetic engineering be conveyed. As such, S. 764 takes one bad law in one state and expands its premises to all 50 states. While it may make it easier for companies doing business in Vermont, this legislation ignores all the food manufacturers that do not do business in Vermont. Those companies will now have to comply with a massive new federal regulatory regime that they otherwise would not have to address.

While the food industry has legitimate claims against the burdens of the Vermont law, S. 764 is a misguided overreach by the federal government. If the burden of Vermont’s food labeling law is so bad, the food industry could simply stop selling its food in Vermont, thereby forcing them to face predictable consequences of their own bad law. There is also not yet an overly burdensome “patchwork” of state laws that would even begin to justify federal preemption in this manner. As the Heritage Foundation’s Daren Bakst explains:

“The food industry has a legitimate concern regarding labeling costs. However, these costs pale in comparison to the much bigger problems with mandatory labeling in general; problems that are made far worse by the federal government ensuring that labeling requirements exist in all states and providing legitimacy to mandatory labeling.”

Perhaps worst of all, this bill puts federal legitimacy behind a dangerous movement intent on American agriculture. Just in recent weeks, the House of Representatives released their “Better Way” regulatory paper, which correctly touched on this issue, noting:

“a vocal minority of citizens are creating doubt in the minds of many consumers and policymakers through misinformation about the safety of genetically engineered inputs. This misinformation is influencing policymakers at the local, state, and federal levels and could threaten our farmers’ ability to feed an ever-growing population and increase the cost of food for consumers.”

And, as Heritage’s Bakst continues:

“Genetic engineering is widely used in agriculture. Genetically engineered crops include alfalfa, canola, corn, cotton, papaya, soybeans, squash, and sugar beets. About half of U.S. cropland (169 million acres) was used to grow genetically engineered corn, cotton, and soybeans in 2013. Policymakers should be aware of the harm that labeling would create for farmers and states that grow a significant amount of genetically engineered crops, as well as for consumers.”

Instead of overreacting to one bad law in one state, Congress should take a step back before instituting a new labeling mandate. For instance, the House approach, H.R. 1599, which passed with 275 votes, simply preempted Vermont’s law and instead created a voluntary labeling standard. The heavy-handed Senate approach, in contrast, will lead to harmful repercussions for consumers, agriculture, and technological innovations that can help feed the world.

Heritage Action opposes S. 764 and will include it as a key vote on our legislative scorecard.