Capitol Hill Update, 29 July, 2013

Capitol Hill Update, 7-29-2013

House& Senate/Schedule: Both chambers are in session this week, after which both will leave town for five weeks for the annual August recess. The session will resume on September 9th.

Legislative Highlight of the Week: Senator Mike Lee and Representative Mark Meadows have drafted letters for Members of Congress to sign to pledge their allegiance to voting against any government spending bill that includes continued funding for ObamaCare. While the implementation of ObamaCare continues to fall apart, the Obama administration’s response has merely been to give businesses a one-year waiver, while forcing individuals to comply as scheduled. In response, Senator Mike Lee wisely said, “if the administration will not enforce the law as written, then the American people should not be forced to fund it.” FreedomWorks agrees with Senator Lee, and has taken the extraordinary step of counting signatures on the Lee and Meadows letters as a Key Vote for our online scorecard.

House/Appropriations: On Tuesday afternoon the House will begin consideration of the appropriations bill for the Departments of Transportation and Housing & Urban Development (T-HUD) spending bill, H.R. 2610. The bill reduces spending by $4 billion under the sequester level, bringing the total down to $97.6 Billion (with $44.1 Billion in discretionary spending and $53.5 Billion in mandatory spending). The House will consider a large number of amendments to this bill on Tuesday and Wednesday.

House/Regulation: Rep. Todd Young (R-IN) has introduced the “Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act,” H.R. 367, which will require executive agency regulations that will have a major economic impact to be subject to a vote in Congress. This bill would prevent agencies like the EPA and the NLRB from passing economically-devastating regulations without a congressional vote. The REINS act would restore accountability and protect citizens’ rights by giving elected officials a voice in all major regulations issued. Congress is expected to vote on this bill on Thursday; FreedomWorks has issued a Key Vote in favor.

House/Health Care: On Friday, the House is expected to vote on Rep. Tom Price’s (R-GA) “Keep the IRS Off Your Health Care Act,” H.R. 2009. The bill would completely sever the IRS from any role in implementing or enforcing ObamaCare. Under the law as it currently stands, the IRS is set to have a primary role as the enforcer of ObamaCare’s mandates, which will require it to collect, in the words of one congressman, “every bit of sensitive information one would need to know to completely take over the identification of a person.” In light of recent scandals, having the IRS this directly involved with our health care is a frightening prospect. The support of FreedomWorks activists was instrumental in getting this vote to the floor, and FreedomWorks has issued a Key Vote in favor of the bill.

House/Education: The House this week will vote on the Rep. John Kline’s (R-MN) Bipartisan Student Loan Certainty Act of 2013, H.R. 1911, which the Senate passed last week. This legislation would tie the interest rate on loans to the yield of a ten-year Treasury bond, instead of directly fixing interest rates as it has done in the past. The argument is that it allows more market forces to work. However, interest rates will still have a cap and will be distorted by the Federal Reserve (which controls the cost of Treasury bills). Thus, this approach is a marginal improvement at best, and will continue the government’s poor track record on tuition costs, credential inflation, and educational choices. Read more here.

House/Government Oversight: The House will also be considering a large number of smaller bills relating to government oversight and reform. A number of these bills have good ideas, such as stopping the pay to government employees who are placed on administrative leave, and making it easier to fire federal employees who have committed a criminal act on the job. To see the full list of bills that the House will be working on this week, check out the Majority Leader’s floor schedule HERE.

Senate/Appropriations: Early this week the Senate is expected to vote on their own version of the T-HUD appropriations bill (S.1243), which sets the departments’ discretionary spending at $54 billion for fiscal year 2014. Sponsored by Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), the bill would greatly exceed the spending caps set by the Budget Control Act of 2011 and is nearly $10 Billion above the House version of the bill. This is part of a larger movement by the Democrats to eliminate the sequestration cuts leading up to the renewal of the Continuing Resolution to fund the federal government. Accordingly, FreedomWorks will be issuing a Key Vote against this bill.

Senate/Energy: Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Rob Portman (R-OH) recently introduced the Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act, S. 761, and it could come to the floor this week. The bill is problematic for a variety of reasons. Chief among them is that the bill would allow the Department of Energy (D.O.E) to set up new standards and reward states for abiding by them. Additionally, the bill would make the Federal Data consolidation center more accessible, and would allow the D.O.E to start conducting studies and making suggestions to congress on national building standards, an effective assault on federalism. FreedomWorks opposes this bill.