Amendments to House Security Minibus (H.R. 3219)

Heritage Action will key vote the following amendments to H.R. 3219, or Security “Minibus,” which provides fiscal year 2018 appropriations for Defense, Military Construction and Veterans Affairs, Energy and Water, and Legislative Branch.

In addition to the key votes specified below, Heritage Action intends to key vote against at least one of the amendments (Castor #38, Norcross #39, Quigley #40, Polis #41, Perry #43, Esty #44, Larson #45) that increase funding for the Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy. The Heritage Foundation’s budget blueprint recommends eliminating the entire office:

“YES” on the Congressional Disapproval of the CFPB’s “Arbitration Rule” (H.J. Res. 111)

Today the House is scheduled to vote on a Joint Resolution (H.J. Res. 111) providing for congressional disapproval of the rule issued by the Consumer Financial Protection Protection Bureau (CFPB) related to “Arbitration Agreements.” Sponsored by Rep. Keith Rothfus (R-Pa.), H.J. Res. 111 would use the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to overturn a new rule issued by the CFPB intended to ban financial service providers (banks, credit card companies, small dollar lenders, etc.) from using mandatory arbitration clauses to resolve their disputes and avoid class action lawsuits.    

Arbitration has a long history of providing consumers with efficient, cost-effective and fair results in disputes with financial service providers. The Heritage Foundation explains the “only real alternative” to arbitration is “expensive and time-consuming litigation that in many cases does more to line trial lawyers’ pockets than redress consumers’ injuries.” In other words, “any action to curtail arbitration would only injure consumers and workers.” In a recent commentary, Norbert Michel, Director of the Center for Data Analysis at The Heritage Foundation, elaborated:

“Many trial lawyers oppose arbitration because it denies them of exorbitant class-action lawsuit fees—it is an inexpensive alternative to courtroom litigation. Arbitration is undeniably a fair and effective alternative for resolving disputes, particularly between businesses and consumers. Proponents of the bureau’s rule are upset that financial services companies often use mandatory arbitration clauses in their contracts, thus preventing customers from resolving disputes through class-action litigation.”

Congress authorized the CFPB to study arbitration agreements in the misnamed Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act in 2010. According to Diane Katz, Senior Research Fellow in Regulatory Policy at The Heritage Foundation:

“The statute also authorized the bureau to regulate arbitration agreements “if the bureau finds that such a prohibition or imposition of conditions or limitations is in the public interest and for the protection of consumers. The findings in such rule shall be consistent with the study conducted under subsection (a).” The bureau produced an arbitration study in 2015, but the content was methodologically meaningless and the rule is not, in fact, consistent with the study.”

In response to the CFPB study, more than 50 members of Congress called upon Director Richard Cordray to reexamine the bureau’s “fatally-flawed study.” The Arbitration Rule is just the latest of many unwarranted and costly regulations perpetrated by the CFPB that undermine consumer choice and offend the Constitution’s separation of powers.

Ultimately, Congress should act to eliminate the CFPB altogether or at least dismantle the Bureau as outlined in the Financial CHOICE Act of 2017 (H.R. 10). In the meantime, passing H.J. Res. 111 will protect consumers and send a clear message to federal agencies that Article I’s legislative powers are vested in Congress, not Washington, D.C. bureaucrats.

***Heritage Action supports H.J. Res. 111 and will include it as a key vote on our legislative scorecard.***        

Related:
Heritage Foundation: The Unfair Attack on Arbitration: Harming Consumers by Eliminating a Proven Dispute Resolution System (2013)
Heritage Foundation: Time to Eliminate the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (2016)
Heritage Action: Congress Must Roll Back CFPB’s Costly Arbitration Rule (2017)
Heritage Foundation: This Official Had the Spine to Stand Up to the Powerful CFPB. Congress Should Follow His Lead (2017)
Heritage Foundation: House and Senate Set to Protect Consumers From an Overreaching Federal Agency (2017)

Co-Sponsorship of the Welfare Reform and Upward Mobility Act (H.R. 2832 / S. 1290)

The Welfare Reform and Upward Mobility Act (H.R. 2832 & S. 1290), introduced by Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) and Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), would help reduce poverty and government dependency, increase self-sufficiency, restore families, and strengthen the effective and popular work requirements on means-tested welfare programs that have been gutted by the Obama administration.

In 1996, President Clinton signed the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act, which became popularly known as “welfare reform,” into law. The legislation transformed the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) into Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), a program intended to provide temporary financial assistance to low-income families while encouraging work and self-sufficiency. Most significantly, the 1996 welfare reform included mandatory federal work requirements, stipulating that welfare recipients must be engaged in work or some type of work activity in order to receive TANF benefits.

According to Robert Rector, Senior Research Fellow in Domestic Policy Studies in the Institute for Family, Community, and Opportunity at the Heritage Foundation, and Rachel Sheffield’s paper Setting Priorities for Welfare Reform:

“Mandatory federal work requirements for recipients were at the heart of the change, which led to significant decreases in the program’s rolls, increased work among former recipients, and historic reductions in child poverty.”

Despite the success of the 1996 welfare reform, 20 years later there’s still much to be done to ensure that the welfare system moves people toward work and self-sufficiency rather than toward government dependency. Rector and Sheffield continue:

“The United States’ means-tested welfare system [still] consists of over 80 programs that provide cash, food, housing, medical care, and social services to poor and lower-income Americans. Total annual spending on these programs reached $1 trillion in 2015. More than 75 percent of this funding comes from the federal government….

“Although the welfare reform of the 1990s was popular and initially successful, it was actually quite limited. Of 80 welfare programs, only TANF was reformed, and even in TANF, the vigor of reform has nearly disappeared.”

Rep. Jordan and Sen. Lee have restarted the conversation, advocating for conservative reforms that will help reduce poverty and government dependency, increase self-sufficiency, restore families, and strengthen the effective and popular work requirements that have been gutted by the Obama administration. These ideas, and more, are found in the most comprehensive and serious welfare reform legislation introduced since Republicans regained control of Congress in 2010: The newly reintroduced Welfare Reform and Upward Mobility Act (H.R. 2832/S. 1290).

The bill contains five major policy reforms:

  1.      Improves accounting of government welfare spending by requiring the federal government to report all means-tested welfare spending–including state and local––as well as to report estimated spending levels over the next decade.
  2.      Strengthens work requirements for all able-bodied adults without dependents (ABAWDS) who receive food stamps (SNAP). Similar reforms have been implemented in Maine, Kansas, and Alabama with great success. It also creates a new work requirement for parents in SNAP, modeled after the 1996 TANF law.
  3.      Strengthens TANF work requirements by implementing a new “work preparation requirement” for the 50% of the TANF caseload that is currently completely idle.
  4.      Phases down the federal involvement in subsidized housing programs by decreasing the federal share of funding by 50% over ten years and transferring fiscal responsibility for these programs to the states.
  5.      Prohibits any funding for abortion.

While there is more to be done to achieve comprehensive welfare reform, such as rooting out fraud in the Earned Income Tax Credit and Additional Child Tax Credit and eliminating marriage penalties, Senator Lee and Congressman Jordan’s Welfare Reform and Upward Mobility Act is not just a white paper, but a serious and significant first step toward real welfare reform.

This bill builds on the successful 1996 law by restoring and strengthening TANF work requirements and by placing real work requirements into SNAP, the second largest means-tested welfare program in operation today. It requires accountability for welfare spending and moves toward creating true federalism in America’s welfare system. If enacted, this legislation would be the start of Welfare Reform 2.0, by compassionately encouraging work while saving the taxpayers trillions of dollars over the next twenty years.

Heritage Action supports H.R. 2832 / S. 1290 and will include CO-SPONSORSHIP of this legislation in our scorecard.

 

Co-Sponsorship of the Academic Partnerships Lead Us to Success (A-PLUS) Act (H.R. 719 / S. 221)

The Academic Partnerships Lead Us to Success (A-PLUS) Act (H.R. 719 & S. 221), introduced by Rep. Mark Walker (R-NC) and Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT), would allow states to opt out of programs that fall under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) — formerly known as No Child Left Behind (NCLB) — and repurpose those federal funds on a consolidated basis “to advance the educational policy of the State.”

During the presidential campaign, then-candidate Donald Trump promised to return educational decision making back to the state and local level by ending common core and prompting school choice. A-PLUS would go a long way in fulfilling this promise by potentially transferring $23 billion in funding that currently goes to ineffective and duplicative federal programs authorized by ESSA, to state-run educational programs that better target the needs of local communities.

According to Lindsey Burke, Director of the Center for Education Policy at The Heritage Foundation, the A-PLUS Act would:

“Give flexibility to states and local communities, reduce administrative costs and the federal compliance burden associated with accessing federal education funding; and free states and localities from their role as compliance entities subordinate to the federal government, making them accountable to parents and taxpayers instead.”

State and local governments finance 90 percent of all K-12 education spending but must comply with burdensome federal mandates and regulations or risk losing billions in federal funding. This federal overreach hinders the ability of state and local governments from engaging in innovative educational initiatives, such as school choice programs like the successful D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program.

School choice programs put parents, not federal bureaucrats or unions, in charge of their children’s education and makes local schools more accountable to parents and taxpayers. The A-PLUS Act would free up states through additional resources and less federal mandates, allowing them to pursue student-centered education reforms. Burke writes:

“Language within the A-PLUS proposal explicitly recognizes that accountability is strengthened when directed toward parents. Allowing states to put their dollars toward state and locally determined priorities would enable them to respond more directly to parents and taxpayers. Specifically, and with conservative leadership at the helm in most states, it would create space for states to establish and grow choice-based options for families—the ultimate accountability mechanism.”

With a unified Republican government and the vast majority of House Republicans having already voted for A-PLUS last session, now is the time for Congress to begin to restore federalism in education, empower parents and students, and remove archaic obstacles that have prevented true opportunity for all.

Heritage Action supports H.R. 719 and S. 221 and will include CO-SPONSORSHIP of this legislation in our scorecard.

Co-Sponsorship of the Agency Accountability Act (H.R. 850 / S. 299)

The Agency Accountability Act of 2017 (H.R. 850 & S. 299), introduced by Rep. Gary Palmer (R-AL) and Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), would restore Congress’ power of the purse found in Article I of the Constitution over unelected federal bureaucrats by requiring “any agency that receives a fee, fine, penalty, or proceeds from a settlement” to “deposit such amount in the general fund of the Treasury.”  

Under current law, federal agencies that confiscate taxpayer dollars through fines, fees and proceeds from legal settlements — such as the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Financial Stability Oversight Council — may repurpose those dollars as they see fit. The Agency Accountability Act would subject this revenue to the regular appropriations process and empower lawmakers, not federal bureaucrats, to determine how best to allocate scarce resources.

Justin Bogie, The Heritage Foundation’s Senior Policy Analyst in Fiscal Affairs, explains:

“Under current law, agencies have the ability to use funds received through fines, fees, and proceeds from legal settlements without going through the formal appropriations process, thus avoiding congressional oversight.

“The Agency Accountability Act seeks to correct this problem by requiring that (with limited exceptions) any fees, fines, penalties, or proceeds from a legal settlement be deposited into the Treasury’s general fund. The funds would then be available to the respective agencies, but only through the formal appropriations process.”

This legislation restores power back to Congress to make funding decisions. It also increases transparency within federal agencies by shining a light on the amount of revenue raised from agency fees and penalties, and the source of that revenue. Bogie continues:

“According to a report from the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, agencies collected $83 billion in fines between fiscal years 2010 and 2015. The committee found that the amount of power given to agencies to pursue penalties and legal settlements allows them to act as both judge and jury.

“By forcing agencies to return these revenues to the Treasury’s general fund before they are appropriated back to the agencies, Congress would be able to fully account for how much revenue these agencies collect and what sources they collect from.”

Under this legislation, lawmakers would also have the option of keeping this revenue in the general fund for the purpose of deficit reduction. In fiscal year 2015 alone, agencies collected $516 billion through a wide array of user fees.

The Agency Accountability Act is a win for lawmakers who want to reclaim their rightful power of the purse and for those who care about fiscal sustainability and the negative economic effects of our growing national debt. With nearly two-thirds of the annual federal budget already consisting of “auto-pilot” mandatory spending, Congress should use this opportunity to pass the Agency Accountability Act and take back the power of the purse.

Heritage Action supports H.R. 850 / S. 299 and will include CO-SPONSORSHIP of this legislation in our scorecard.