Key Vote: “YES” on the Nomination of Senator Sessions for Attorney General

Tonight, the Senate is expected to vote on the confirmation of Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) to be the next Attorney General of the United States. Senator Sessions was nominated by President Donald Trump on November 18, 2016.

There is no question that Senator Sessions is an excellent choice to restore law, order and a respect for the Constitution to a Justice Department that became little more than a radical political operation under former President Obama. In his opening remarks, Sessions made clear he would change course:

“In the last several years, law enforcement as a whole has been unfairly maligned and blamed for the unacceptable actions of a few bad actors. They believe the political leadership of this country abandoned them.”

It should come as no surprise then that numerous federal and state law enforcement officers, including former National Drug Control Policy Director Bob Bennett, National Sheriffs’ Association Executive Director Jonathan Thompson, and former Deputy Attorney General of the United States Larry Thompson, have praised President Trump’s nomination of Sessions.

Former Justice Department official Hans A. von Spakovsky, who is currently a Senior Legal Fellow at The Heritage Foundation, explains the importance of Sessions nomination at this moment in our nation’s history:

“In a time where we face a federal government that has expanded its power far outside the boundaries set by the Constitution, often with the help of the U.S. Supreme Court, having an attorney general who believes in the limited government intended by our Founders and respects the sovereignty of local governments is essential to preserving our freedoms, our liberties, and our constitutional republic.

“Sessions’ experience as a U.S. senator also gives him a valuable perspective on the job at Justice.  He understands and appreciates the importance of the constitutional oversight role of Congress.  This is important given the dismissive and contemptuous attitude displayed by former Attorney General Eric Holder and other Obama political appointees towards congressional oversight.”

During his confirmation hearing, Sessions made clear the lack of enforcement of existing laws is causing problems in our nation. In particular, America’s immigration system “has not been working right,” Sessions said. “We’ve entered more and more millions of people illegally into the country. Each one of them produces some sort of humanitarian concern. But it is particularly true for children. We’ve been placed in a particularly bad situation.”

Sessions also realized there are key areas of overreach, specifically noting a secretive DOJ program known as Operation Choke Point. “A lawful business should not be attacked by having other lawful businesses pressured not to do business with the first business,” Sessions said.

Prior to serving four terms as Senator from Alabama, Sessions was an Army Captain, and the Assistant United States Attorney for the Southern District of Alabama. In 1981 Senator Sessions was nominated by President Reagan and confirmed by the Senate to serve as the United States Attorney for Alabama’s Southern District, serving from 1981 until 1993. Sessions was then elected Alabama Attorney General in 1995, serving as the state’s chief legal officer until 1997, when he was elected to the United States Senate.  

His experience, record and commitment to the United States Constitution make Sessions a tremendously well-qualified and much-need nominee.  

Heritage Action supports the Sessions nomination and will include his confirmation vote on our legislative scorecard.

“YES” on Disapproving the Stream Protection Rule (H.J.Res. 38)

This week, the Senate will vote on H.J.Res. 38, a House-passed resolution disapproving of the rule submitted by the Department of the Interior’s Office of Surface Mining (OSM) known as the Stream Protection Rule (SPR), which would ensure that final SPR has no force or effect, and that OSM cannot issue a rule that is substantially the same without subsequent authorization from Congress.

While initially proposed in 2008, the rule wasn’t finalized until December 19, 2016.  During the intervening time, The Heritage Foundation wrote extensively about the profoundly negative impact this rule would have on the coal mining industry. In his paper The Assault on Coal and American Consumers, Heritage Foundation scholar Nick Loris writes:

“YES” on Obamacare Repeal Budget Resolution (S. CON. RES. 3)

This week, the Senate will consider a concurrent resolution (S. CON. RES. 3). While the resolution will technically set the congressional budget for the United States Government for the remaining eight months of fiscal year 2017, its only functional purpose will be to produce reconciliation instructions that unlock fast track authority that Congress can then use to repeal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA). Separately, there is an expectation that the fiscal year 2018 budget resolution will reflect the longstanding conservative values embedded in previous GOP budgets. But to be absolutely clear, adopting S. CON. RES 3 is the only way to expedite the repeal of Obamacare.

In November, the Mercatus Center’s Brian Blase and The Heritage Foundation’s Paul Winfree, who was recently appointed Director of Budget Policy and Deputy Director of the Domestic Policy Council for The White House, laid out a “roadmap” on how to repeal Obamacare. The first step is to adopt the unpassed FY 17 budget that “include[s] instructions to the relevant committees in Congress” to repeal Obamacare. “This will set up the ability for Congress to pass a reconciliation bill repealing all the budgetary components of the ACA immediately after Trump is sworn into office,” Blase and Winfree continued.

“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: