“YES” ON THE RSC’S Budget: Securing America’s Future Economy

On Thursday, the House will vote on the Fiscal Year 2018 (FY18) Budget offered by the Republican Study Committee (RSC) as an amendment to the committee-approved FY18 budget resolution. The RSC’s Budget: Securing America’s Future Economy, introduced by RSC Budget and Spending Task Force Chairman Tom McClintock (R-Calif.), would balance in 2023, reduce non-defense discretionary spending, reestablish national defense spending to support the military, break the “firewall” between defense and nondefense discretionary spending, fully repeal and replace Obamacare, repeal Dodd-Frank by implementing the Financial CHOICE Act, reform entitlement programs, and finally, enact pro-growth tax reform. If passed, the RSC’s budget would give lawmakers a serious conservative blueprint for reform.

Pro-Growth Tax Reform. Republicans campaigned and promised to fix America’s broken tax code. The current code has become a significant obstacle to economic growth, job creation and higher wages for American workers. The RSC budget would fulfill the Republican campaign promise by enacting tax reform that cuts taxes for families, makes American businesses competitive around the globe, ends double taxation, and simplifies the code.  

Repealing Obamacare. Republicans owe their majorities to their unwavering opposition to Obamacare, a reality that is reflected in the RSC’s budget. The budget remains committed to fully repealing the law despite recent Republican failures, and sends a signal to the American people that conservatives will continue to push for free-market, patient-centered health care reforms.

Funding Defense. Although the Budget Control Act of 2011 has put significant pressure on our military, a conservative budget would align military spending with strategic priorities by breaking the firewall. The RSC’s budget does not rely on the much-discussed OCO gimmick, but increases defense spending to a total of $668 billion in FY18, which is $119 billion above the current defense cap. Importantly, that cost is offset by lowering non-defense discretionary spending to $394 billion in FY18, which is $122 billion below the cap.

Reforming Entitlements. The RSC’s budget maintains the Medicare premium support reforms, which are widely established and broadly supported. In addition, the budget lays down bold markers on Social Security, Social Security Disability Insurance and Medicaid. It takes a similarly aggressive approach on mandatory program spending like food stamps (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP) and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) by building on the success of the 1996 welfare reforms and enacting work requirements as outlined in the Welfare Reform and Upward Mobility Act (H.R. 2832/S. 1290) and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Reform Act (H.R. 2996).   

Other important items in the budget include: Enacting the Financial CHOICE Act, eliminating the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), holding federal agencies accountable, reducing funding for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), separating food stamps and farm programs, ending commodity subsidy programs, reforming crop insurance, ending unconstitutional amnesty for illegal immigrants, enforcing existing immigration laws, securing our borders, delegating elementary and secondary education to states and localities modeled after the Academic Partnership Leads us to Success (A-PLUS) Act, reforming Higher Education by passing the Higher Education Reform and Opportunity (HERO) Act, eliminating Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, returning transportation and infrastructure policy to the states, reorganizing the executive branch, and protecting the life of the unborn.

Taken as a whole, the RSC’s “Securing America’s Future Economy” demonstrates a seriousness of purpose when it comes to governing. If passed, this budget would provide a fiscally responsible path forward for our nation, limit the size and scope of our bloated federal government, and unleash economic prosperity for all Americans.  

***Heritage Action supports the RSC’s Blueprint for Securing America’s Future Economy and will include it as a key vote on our legislative scorecard.***

RSC Budget: Securing America’s Future Economy


This week, the House will vote on the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (H.R. 36), introduced by Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.). This legislation would protect unborn children by preventing abortions 20 weeks after conception, at which time scientific evidence suggests the child can feel pain. In 2015, a similar bill passed the House by a 242-184 vote.

In her report “Defending Life: Opportunities for the 115th Congress,” research associate in the DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society at The Heritage Foundation Melanie Israel writes:   

“Congress should pass the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act to protect women and unborn children from gruesome late-term abortions performed after 20 weeks. The U.S. is one of only seven countries in the world that allows elective abortion past 20 weeks (5 months), at which point scientific evidence suggests that the baby is capable of feeling excruciating pain during an abortion procedure. A poll released in January 2017 found that 74 percent of Americans want abortion restricted to, at most, the first trimester. At the state level, over a dozen states across the country have enacted 20-week bills. Congress is overdue to pass the bill at the federal level.”

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that passing this bill could potentially save 10,000 lives each year—a number widely considered to be on the conservative side. As Rep. Franks has explained in sponsoring the bill, “More than 18,000 ‘very late term’ abortions are performed every year on perfectly healthy unborn babies in America,” explaining these lives are often taken “torturously.”

More than a dozen states have implemented similar legislation so far, and the time has come to protect the sanctity of life at the national level. Our representatives have a responsibility to push this debate into the political forefront. By refusing to shy away from tough votes and embracing the pro-life principles on which many were elected, members can save thousands of innocent lives. As Justice Anthony M. Kennedy explained in the case of Stenberg v. Carhart, “The fetus, in many cases, dies just as a human adult or child would: It bleeds to death as it is torn limb from limb.”

This legislation should not represent an aberration on the congressional voting record, but rather should mark the beginning of a true fight on behalf of the unborn. Israel concludes in her report: “With pro-life majorities in the House and Senate, and a President who has committed to defend innocent life, Congress has the opportunity of a generation. Passing key pro-life legislation should be among the highest priorities in the 115th Congress.”

***Heritage Action supports H.R. 36 and will include it as a key vote on our legislative scorecard.***

The Heritage Foundation: Defending Life: Opportunities for the 115th Congress (2017)
Heritage Action: Key Vote “YES” on 5-Month Abortion Ban (H.R. 36) (2015)

Amendments to House 2018 Omnibus Spending Package (H.R. 3354)

Heritage Action will key vote the following amendment(s) to the Department of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act of 2018 [Make America Secure and Prosperous Appropriations Act of 2018] (H.R. 3354).

Key Vote Alert: “YES” on McClintock Amendment to reduce funding for the Essential Air Service Program by $150 million (#85)

The House will vote on an amendment offered by Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Calif.) to H.R. 3354, the fiscal year 2018 omnibus spending measure. The amendment would reduce funding for the Essential Air Services (EAS) program by $150 million and apply the savings to the spending reduction account.

The EAS program provides subsidies to commuter and regional airlines to increase service to rural airports that may not be economically viable absent federal subsidies. Michael Sargent, Policy Analyst in the Thomas A. Roe Institute for Economic Policy Studies at The Heritage Foundation, specifically critiques the EAS program in his report on the Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization Act of 2016:

“Furthermore, the bill maintains the wasteful Essential Air Service program, which subsidizes rural flights that are less than half full on average and often nearly empty. This inefficient program was originally intended to be temporary and subsidizes convenience for a small group of travelers at the expense of taxpayers and the overall aviation system. It should be eliminated.”

Conservatives have long sought to eliminate, reduce or otherwise reform the EAS program as it has outgrown its original purpose and continues to grow in cost. The Congressional Budget Office identified the program in its deficit reduction options report released in December. The Government Accountability Office recommended in its annual report on duplicative government programs that Congress pursue more efficient alternatives to EAS.

While the program should be eliminated altogether (and doing so on the mandatory side would save $299 million in FY 2018), the $150 million discretionary reduction proposed in the McClintock Amendment is a good first step to reduce spending on a program that has increased 600 percent since 1996. As lawmakers struggle to reduce America’s crushing debt and deficits, eliminating this subsidy should be an easy lift.

Heritage Action supports the McClintock Amendment and will include it as a key vote on our legislative scorecard.

Key Vote Alert: “YES” on Budd Amendment to eliminate a $900 million Amtrak ‘earmark’ between Newark and New York City (#83)

The House will vote on an amendment offered by Rep. Ted Budd (R-N.C.) to H.R. 3354, the  fiscal year 2018 omnibus spending measure. The amendment would eliminate $900 million in specifically designated spending contained in the Transportation-Housing and Urban Development (T-HUD) appropriations bill that would go directly to the Gateway project – a $29.5 billion tunnel, bridge and infrastructure project intended to improve Amtrak’s passenger rail service between Newark and New York City. Partial funding for this project comes from eliminating the wasteful Obama-era Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant program.

Including $900 million in an underlying appropriations bill to the benefit of two states is not the right way to fund our nation’s infrastructure projects. The Gateway project may deserve funding, but this should be done at the state and local level, or at the very least through a fair and open legislative process. The Trump administration agrees with this perspective. In its Statement of Policy on T-HUD, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) writes:

“The Administration appreciates that the bill supports the FY 2018 Budget request to eliminate funding for TIGER Grants, given that Federal funding should not be directed to projects with localized benefits that often do not rise to the level of national or regional significance.”   

By eliminating the TIGER grant program and the Gateway Project earmark, the Budd Amendment honors both the Trump administration’s position and the spirit of the six-year commitment to ban earmarks made by congressional Republicans. This amendment would transfer $474 million from the TIGER grant program toward deficit reduction. The rest of the $900 million earmark would go into the national New Starts Account rather than a single pet project, allowing projects around the country, including the Gateway project, to secure funding in a transparent way.

Michael Sargent, Policy Analyst in the Thomas A. Roe Institute for Economic Policy Studies at The Heritage Foundation, issued the following statement:

“By eliminating the TIGER program and allocating the savings to deficit reduction, the Budd amendment will end federal funding of streetcars, pedestrian promenades, and countless other wasteful local projects, laudably allocating the savings not for more spending elsewhere (as is general practice), but to limit the fiscal burden on future generations. Furthermore, while the amendment could go further by reducing funding for Capital Investment Grants, ridding the bill of a questionably inserted earmark is good policy that will prevent the future Congressional malpractice of directing spending to politically favored projects.”

Heritage Action supports the Budd Amendment and will include it as a key vote on our legislative scorecard.

Key Vote Alert: “YES” on Grothman Amendment to reduce funding for the Project-Based Rental Assistance Housing Program by $266 million (#69)

The House will vote on an amendment offered by Rep. Glenn Grothman (R-Wis.) to H.R. 3354, the fiscal year 2018 omnibus spending measure. The amendment would reduce funding for the Project-Based Rental Assistance Housing Program at the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) by $266 million and apply the savings to the spending reduction account.

H.R. 3354 currently funds several project-based and tenant-based programs that are duplicative or inefficient, including $10 billion for the Project-Based Rental Assistance Housing Program, which the Grothman Amendment reasonably proposes to reduce by $266 million.

In its “Blueprint for Reorganization: An Analysis of Federal Departments and Agencies,” The Heritage Foundation recommends transferring housing assistance programs to the states to cut waste and better address the needs of local populations:

“Returning financial responsibility for subsidized housing programs to the states is appropriate because housing needs, availability, and costs vary significantly across states and localities, as do the levels of needed and available assistance. Instead of primarily federally funded programs that often provide substantial benefits for some while leaving others in similar circumstances with nothing, the federal government should begin transferring the responsibility for both the administration and costs of low-income housing programs to the states. States are better equipped to assess and meet the needs of their populations, given their unique economic climates and housing situations.”

State and local governments are simply better equipped to navigate local housing needs. The Grothman Amendment is consistent with the conservative principle of federalism and seeks to protect taxpayers by cutting wasteful programs. A dose of fiscal restraint in our current legislative environment deserves the support of all Republicans.  

Heritage Action supports the Grothman Amendment and will include it as a key vote on our legislative scorecard.

Key Vote Alert: “YES” on Norman Amendment to cut EPA funding (#64)

The House will vote on an amendment offered by Rep. Ralph Norman (R-S.C.) to H.R. 3354, the fiscal year 2018 omnibus spending measure. The amendment would reduce total appropriations to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) by $1,869,087,000.

The cuts proposed in the Norman Amendment align with the Trump administration’s fiscal year 2018 budget proposal for the EPA. Diana Katz, Senior Research Fellow in Regulatory Policy, Roe Institute for Economic Policy Studies, Institute for Economic Freedom and Opportunity at The Heritage Foundation wrote about the plan (which amounts to a “24 percent proposed cut to the EPA’s $8 billion budget”) shortly before its submission:

“In many respects, the need for an overhaul of the EPA has never been greater. The nation’s primary environmental statutes are woefully outdated and do not reflect current conditions. EPA officials routinely ignore regulatory costs, exaggerate benefits, and breach legislative and constitutional boundaries.”

The EPA is in a position to make this turnaround a reality. Heritage Action supported current EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s nomination earlier this year. Pruitt and the Trump administration have already taken positive steps forward on the regulatory side, including rolling back an Obama administration overreach known as the “Waters of the United States” (WOTUS) rule.  

Nicolas Loris, Herbert and Joyce Morgan Fellow in Energy and Environmental Policy, Center for Free Markets and Regulatory Reform at The Heritage Foundation summarized priorities on the funding side:

“Cutting the EPA’s budget does not mean a world of unchecked polluters and environmental degradation in America. Tightening the agency’s purse will rein in the EPA’s heavy-handed, unilateral reach into the economy.”

The Norman Amendment would help restore the EPA to its role as a regulatory agency, not an environmental left-wing activist organization.

Heritage Action supports the Norman Amendment and will include it as a key vote on our legislative scorecard.

Key Vote Alert: “YES” on Palmer Amendment to prohibit funding for D.C.’s Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Amendment Act (#33)

The House will vote on an amendment offered by Reps. Gary Palmer (R-Ala.) and Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) to H.R. 3354, the fiscal year 2018 omnibus spending measure. The amendment would prohibit funding to implement the D.C. Reproductive Health Non Discrimination Amendment Act (RHNDA).

As Heritage Action previously noted following RHNDA’s passage, the D.C. law would force pro-life employers in the District of Columbia to cover elective, surgical abortions in their health plans. The D.C. city council later amended RHNDA to clarify that the language should “not be construed to require an employer to provide insurance coverage related to a reproductive health decision.”

This clarification, however, is insufficient in addressing concerns because the act could still force religious and pro-life employers opposed to abortion to hire openly pro-choice employees. For private organizations to be required to hire someone with a viewpoint diametrically opposed to their core principles is a serious infringement on the right of free association.

The Heritage Foundation’s Ryan Anderson, William E. Simon Senior Research Fellow in American Principles and Public Policy, and Sarah Torre, Visiting Fellow, Richard and Helen DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society, explain: “[r]ather than tinker with the legislation after the fact, the city should have never passed such a legally suspect law in the first place.”

RHNDA passed the D.C. city council in January of 2015. Following initial approval by the mayor, Heritage Action supported a congressional resolution of disapproval under the D.C. Home Rule to nullify the act. Despite passing the House, this push ultimately failed and the timeframe to outright nullify RHNDA under the Home Rule has since expired.

Fortunately, Congress remains within its constitutional authority to prohibit funding to implement RHNDA. This is exactly what the Palmer Amendment proposes. The Heritage Foundation explains:

“Congress has a special responsibility to protect the freedom of the people of the District of Columbia because of the power delegated to Congress by the U.S. Constitution (Article 1, Section 8) to “exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever over such District”. Congress should, therefore, displace the effects of RHNDA…by appropriate provisions in the federal DC Appropriations Act to the extent necessary to protect religious liberty and the exercise of conscience.”

Failure to act on RHNDA would further embolden D.C. city council’s extreme political agenda, which continues to threaten pro-life organizations based in the District of Columbia and the religious liberty of all Americans.

Heritage Action supports the Palmer Amendment and will include it as a key vote on our legislative scorecard.

Amendments relating to the Davis-Bacon Act and Project Labor Agreements

The Heritage Foundation has long opposed Davis-Bacon prevailing wage provisions, which “inflate federal construction costs by approximately 10 percent.” Similarly, Heritage notes that PLAs raise “the cost of public construction projects by 12 to 18 percent.” Heritage Action expects multiple amendments to suspend or otherwise eliminate the Davis-Bacon Act or Project Labor Agreements. Heritage Action encourages  lawmakers to support all those amendments and intends to add one Davis-Bacon vote and one PLA vote to the scorecard.

“YES” on the 21st Century Aviation Innovation, Reform, and Reauthorization (AIRR) Act (H.R. 2997)

In September, the House could vote on the 21st Century Aviation Innovation, Reform, and Reauthorization (AIRR) Act (H.R. 2997), introduced by Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.). The bill would turn the Air Traffic Control (ATC) system into a standalone government-sanctioned, non-profit corporation and reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for fiscal years 2018-2023.    

While not perfect, the 21st Century AIRR Act represents a substantial improvement over American’s current aviation system that has fallen well behind our foreign counterparts due to excessive government regulation and a broken aviation finance system. Separating air traffic control services from federal government bureaucrats will allow the new entity to innovate and improve while ensuring safety remains the number one priority of FAA oversight.   

Heritage Action expressed a number of concerns with last year’s version of this bill and laid out four critical changes before moving forward, including the Budget Committee “ensur[ing] that the BCA caps in 2020 and 2021 are adjusted down” to reflect the bill’s projected savings and the Ways and Means Committee “report[ing] their tax-reducing portion of the bill.”

In addition to tackling those problems, H.R. 2997 addressed several critically flawed labor provisions identified by conservatives. Michael Sargent, Policy Analyst in Transportation and Infrastructure at The Heritage Foundation explains in his recent report 2018 FAA Reauthorization: Potential for Positive Air Traffic Control Reforms, But More Policy Improvements Needed:

“Significantly, the bill also improves on the 2016 AIRR Act by explicitly laying out penalties for workers who participate in a strike, work stoppage, or slowdown against the corporation, and ensures speedy resolution of labor disputes (Sections 91109 and 91107, respectively). Furthermore, Section 91104 prohibits supervisors and managers from joining a union, another improvement over the 2016 AIRR Act.”

Reforming our nation’s air traffic control services would not represent a significant improvement over the status quo if the new corporation is hamstrung by union demands. These updated labor provisions in the 21st Century AIRR Act ensure air traffic control services cannot be held hostage by labor unions — ensuring a key Reagan legacy is preserved.

Congress could take additional steps to strengthen the bill by 1) uncapping the Passenger Facility Charge (PFC) and lowering Airport Improvement Program (AIP) grants and ticket taxes proportionally so our nation’s airports can become self-sufficient, 2) eliminating the wasteful essential air service (EAS) program that “subsidizes convenience for a small group of travelers at the expense of taxpayers and the overall aviation system,” and 3) establishing federalism in the regulation of small unmanned aircraft operations in low altitude airspace. These are important policies that deserve full, open debate and votes on the House floor.

These conservative reforms would benefit both the consumer and taxpayer, but as Sargent acknowledges, the bill is still “an improvement over the existing system and a step in the right direction for establishing an independent, market-driven provider of air traffic control” especially in light of the disappointing Senate proposal that “solidifies the broken status quo and exacerbates many existing problems.”

Some members of Congress remain opposed to the 21st Century AIRR Act due to concerns expressed by the General Aviation (GA) community. Those claims stand in stark contrast to the degree to which the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee attempted to appease their concerns. For example, the bill exempts GA aircraft from all future fees levied by the new corporation in Section 90313(d)(7) while also providing them two seats on the new corporate board. These provisions alone are generous considering under the current system, business jets pay less than 1 percent of total aviation taxes that support air traffic control but account for more than 10 percent of controlled operations.

Congress should not allow special interest groups to undermine substantial reforms to our broken aviation system in an effort to protect the status quo. As The Heritage Foundation wrote in 1982, “The only interest groups likely to oppose [a private sector approach] are general aviation and the FAA bureaucracy itself.” The reforms included in the 21st Century AIRR Act will help modernize and improve the system, spur innovation, and increase consumer choice to the benefit of the aviation community as a whole.

***Heritage Action supports H.R. 2997 and will include it as a key vote on our legislative scorecard.***        

Heritage Foundation: Another Bogus Score for Air Traffic Control Reform (2017)
Heritage Foundation: 2018 FAA Reauthorization: Potential for Positive Air Traffic Control Reforms, But More Policy Improvements Needed (2017)
Heritage Foundation: End of the Runway: Rethinking the Airport Improvement Program and the Federal Role in Airport Funding (2016)
Heritage Foundation: Senate’s FAA Authorization Perpetuates Big-Government Intrusion into Aviation Industry (2016)
Heritage Action: Concerns Emerge on House FAA Overhaul (2016)

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: