UPDATE (4/26/17): Heritage Action will withdraw the current House key vote against the American Health Care Act (H.R. 1628) if the MacArthur-Meadows Amendment, as currently understood and drafted, is adopted.
This week, the Senate is expected to vote on the confirmation of Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to be the next Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Pruitt was nominated by President Donald Trump on December 7, 2016.
Attorney General Pruitt has a long and distinguished record of defending American values and prioritizing the wellbeing of American families over big government policies, which makes him an excellent choice to lead one of the largest regulatory agencies in our country. During his confirmation hearing before the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, Pruitt demonstrated expertise on environmental laws and championed the states’ roles in implementing those laws, highlighting the importance of cooperative federalism. Previously, he served as an Oklahoma State Senator from 1998 to 2006 and then as Oklahoma’s Attorney General from 2011 until he was nominated to lead the EPA.
During his time as AG of Oklahoma, Pruitt led the charge against then-President Obama’s repeated regulatory overreach, filing briefs in 14 lawsuits against the EPA. Most notably, he led the fight against the egregious “Waters of the United States” rule – a regulation so overreaching that it would have subjected even small ditches to federal regulation. He also worked to protect small businesses and hardworking Americans from the devastating impacts of the EPA’s mercury regulation for power plants and climate change regulations. Heritage Foundation expert Nicolas Loris writes in his article Scott Pruitt Provides an Opportunity to Rein in a Rogue EPA:
“…critics of Pruitt questioned his ability to lead an agency he has sued as a state attorney general. But as attorney general, that’s exactly what he is supposed to do: protect his state from overreach when the EPA does not comply with the law.
“And he wasn’t the only one. Twenty-seven states sued the Obama administration over the Clean Power Plan global warming regulations, and similarly, 27 states sued over the EPA’s Waters of the United States regulation that is a massive threat to private property rights.
“If you’ve heard anything from the activists protesting Pruitt’s nomination, you’d think he’s going to lead the United States on a path to the air and water quality of China. But the truth is that Pruitt has an opportunity to lead a responsible EPA, not an overzealous one like it is today.”
Mr. Pruitt’s commitment to prudent environmental protections that help ensure American’s have access to clean air and water is evident. During his time as AG he negotiated a deal to protect the Illinois River by reducing phosphorus via runoff controls. He also negotiated a water deal with between the state, local Tribes and Oklahoma City to protect the environment and water sources, ending a 19th century dispute. Pruitt even sued BP for double-dipping in the reclamation fund.
At the same time, Mr. Pruitt has demonstrated an even more fundamental commitment to the Constitution and rule of law. His leadership is exactly what is needed at this time to rein in an out-of-control EPA. Confirming Mr. Pruitt as EPA Administrator is a critical first step toward restoring the appropriate balance between both economic growth and environmental protection, limited regulation, a timely approval process, and prioritizing the role of states in local regulation by the EPA, instead of promoting a liberal agenda.
Heritage Action supports the Pruitt nomination and will include his confirmation vote on our legislative scorecard.
This week the House of Representatives is expected to vote on H.J.Res. 43, sponsored by Rep. Diane Black (R-TN), a disapproval resolution of the final rule submitted by Obama’s Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) relating to compliance with Title X requirements by project recipients in selecting sub-recipients. Title X of the Public Health Service Act provides federal funds to states for family planning grants. Once states receive the funds, they have the ability to prioritize sub-recipients, directing funds to organizations like community health centers and family health clinics. While federal law prohibits government funding for abortion, it does allows certain public dollars, like the Title X grants, to support abortion providers if the funds are directed to non-abortion related health services. Under this exception, Planned Parenthood has been eligible to receive Title X funds, per the states’ discretion.
However, after the Center for Medical Progress released videos suggesting that Planned Parenthood Federation of America affiliates are harvesting and selling the body parts of aborted unborn children, many states, including Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, Louisiana, Kansas, Missouri, Ohio, Oklahoma, and Wisconsin, took steps to ensure that Title X funds were flowing to real health care clinics – – and not the abortion industry. But, as Melanie Israel at The Heritage Foundation explains in her article Obama’s Last Gift to Planned Parenthood, the Obama Administration’s HHS stepped in to protect Planned Parenthood’s federal funding stream:
“President Barack Obama has given Planned Parenthood a parting gift in the final weeks of his administration….the Department of Health and Human Services proposed a rule that would prohibit states from blocking Planned Parenthood from receiving Title X family planning services grant money for reasons “unrelated” to its ability to provide family planning services….The rule was proposed in response to several states’ attempt to defund Planned Parenthood after the nation’s largest abortion provider was featured in a series of undercover videos released by the Center for Medical Progress last year.”
Despite this parting gift, Israel goes on to explain that the new Congress, and President Trump, have a unique opportunity to overturn this rule by using the Congressional Review Act:
“According to the Congressional Review Act, Congress and a new president can overturn rules issued in the waning days of a previous administration…The Congressional Research Service has estimated that anything submitted to Congress after the end of May 2016 can be undone in this manner, meaning there are many rules and regulations that the incoming Congress could and should vote to rescind….Incoming members should put Planned Parenthood’s parting gift on the list of items to address using the Congressional Review Act when Congress returns in the new year.”
Overturning this rule is the appropriate step for Congress to take, to both protect life and reassert that the states have Tenth Amendment rights to allocate Title X family planning grants in such a manner as to prioritize community health clinics and true family planning over the industrial abortion industry represented by Planned Parenthood. The HHS rule is a classic example of excessive federal rulemaking and executive overreach for partisan political gain, making it a perfect target for nullification under the CRA.
Heritage Action supports H.J.Res. 43 and will include it as a key vote on our legislative scorecard.
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.
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: