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.
This week, the House will vote on the Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny Act of 2017 (H.R. 26). The bill, introduced by Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA) 79%, would increase accountability for and transparency in the federal regulatory process by requiring Congress to approve all new major regulations.
The Heritage Foundation explains lawmakers should be held accountable for the regulatory policies of the federal government; specifically, Congress should be explicitly responsible for major federal regulations. The REINS Act would restore a level of accountability to the legislative process by preventing Congress from simply passing legislation that delegates significant discretion to the executive (i.e., Obamacare, Dodd-Frank, etc.) and then denying further responsibility.
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.
UPDATE (11/30): While the likely adoption of the manager’s amendment will address isolated problems within the bill — i.e., the Family First Prevention Services Act of 2016 — it would not change the gimmicky nature of the pay fors, the newly creating funding mechanism designed to bypass spending caps, or the overall level of spending. Unfortunately, members will not be given the opportunity to make additional changes to the bill. Heritage Action will continue to oppose the 21st Century Cures Act and will include it as a key vote on our legislative scorecard.
This week, the House will vote on a 10-week continuing resolution (H.R. 5325). 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: