Co-Sponsorship of the Employee Rights Act (H.R. 2723)

The Employee Rights Act (H.R. 2723), introduced by Rep. Phil Roe (R-Tenn.), would protect workers from union pressure by putting power in the hands of employees and making union leaders more accountable to their members. As the Heritage Foundation notes, if union bosses “were angels, such changes would be unnecessary” but “since they are not” new protections are necessary.

Heritage explains the legislation would guarantee employees the rights to:

  • Vote privately in a secret ballot election before forming a union;
  • Opt out of having their personal contact information provided to a union during an organizing drive;
  • Hear from employers at least 40 days prior to voting in a union election;
  • Vote in a secret ballot election before accepting a contract or going on strike;
  • Vote regularly on re-electing their union;
  • Decide whether their union can spend their dues on matters unrelated to collective bargaining; and,
  • Be free from union interference or extortion in exercising their legal rights.

Workers should not be pressured or coerced by unions or union bosses to take actions that undermine their rights. Protecting the voting rights of employees is essential:

“Under general union representation, employees relinquish their individual negotiating authority to a union. The union becomes the sole representative of the employees in negotiations with their employer. Unionized employers must negotiate employment terms with the union and the union alone. They may not bargain with individual workers.”

Though the purpose of unions is ostensibly to protect workers, they often fail to do so because they are motivated by the “institutional objectives” of expanding in size, income and influence. They want “contracts that protect their institutional powers.” When the interests of unions come in conflict with the interests of workers, unions often make decisions that benefit them rather than employees. In an effort to expand power and influence, unions discourage secret ballot elections or work to eliminate them altogether; this results in the loss of privacy benefits for workers. Unions can also call for a strike without first consulting workers.

Workers deserve a say in decisions that put their jobs at risk. The Employee Rights Act would amend this by requiring a secret ballot vote before a union can call a strike. Furthermore, the bill would solidify paycheck protection provisions, provide a mechanism for union re-certification, and finally criminalize union threats under federal law.

David W. Kreutzer, Ph.D., Senior Research Fellow in Labor Markets and Trade in the Institute for Economic Freedom and Opportunity at The Heritage Foundation, issued this statement:

“All union members deserve the protection of secret ballots and reasonable choice over who represents them. Ninety-four percent of union members are represented by unions for whom they never voted.  Let the dues-payers decide whether their union is an effective advocate for them or not. Competent, worker-focused union leadership has nothing to fear from members’ freedom to choose.”

The Employee Rights Act would solve many problems workers face today, including problems enshrined in current labor law. The bill would help restore a balance of power in the workplace from unions to workers and help ensure labor unions best serve the interest of employees, not union bosses.

Heritage Action supports H.R. 2723 and will include CO-SPONSORSHIP of this legislation in our scorecard.

Amendments to House NDAA (H.R. 2810)

Heritage Action will key vote the following amendment(s) to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018 (H.R. 2810).

Key Vote Alert: “YES” on McClintock Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) Amendment (#67)

The House will vote on an amendment offered by Rep. Tom McClintock (R-CA) to H.R. 2810, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2018. This amendment would strike Section 2702 of the NDAA that prohibits the Department of Defense (DOD) from conducting an additional round of Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC).

Allowing the DOD to save precious resources and better manage military bases should not be controversial. Unfortunately, for the past five years, Congress has denied the Pentagon’s request to conduct a new round of BRAC that could generate $2 billion in annual savings by shutting down military bases and infrastructure that waste taxpayer dollars. As made clear in the Trump administration’s Statement of Administration Policy, the DOD could apply these valuable resources “to higher priorities such as readiness and modernization.”   

By prohibiting a new round of BRAC, members of Congress are undermining Pentagon priorities in order to protect unnecessary military infrastructure in their district or state. But as Secretary of Defense James Mattis argued in his written testimony to the House Armed Services Committee last month:

“In order to ensure we do not waste taxpayer dollars I would therefore greatly appreciate Congress’ willingness to discuss BRAC authorization as an efficiency measure. That authorization is essential to improving our readiness by minimizing wasted resources and accommodating force adjustments. Waste reduction is fundamental to keeping the trust of the American people and is a key element of the efficiency/reform efforts that Congress and the Administration expect of us. Of all the efficiency measure the Department has undertaken over the years, BRAC is one of the most successful and significant.”    

Frederico Bartels, policy analyst for Defense Budgeting in the Center for National Defense at The Heritage Foundation agrees with both the Trump administration and Secretary of Defense James Mattis. In his recent report, “Four Priorities for the New Round of Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC), Bartels provides four principles that should shape a new round of BRAC:  

“Congress should authorize a new round of BRAC that (1) mandates savings; (2) sets a specific infrastructure reduction goal; (3) assesses any reductions against the force structure contemplated in the new National Security Strategy; and (4) improves Cost of Base Realignment Actions (COBRA) and tracking of BRAC actions.”

After five years of denying the Pentagon’s request for BRAC, Congress should prioritize military readiness and taxpayer dollars over their own political interests by voting for the McClintock Amendment. The amendment would not impose a BRAC, but it removes the bill’s prohibition against conducting one. Bartels concludes his report writing:

“The 115th Congress should have the courage and discipline to authorize a new round of BRAC. The authorizing legislation should avoid cost overruns, emphasize closings and realignments that save money in five years, and be based on a realistic future force structure. U.S. Armed Forces and tax dollars are too precious to waste on needless bases, infrastructure and maintenance.”

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

Key Vote Alert: “YES” on Hartzler Amendment to Prohibit Medical Treatment Related to Gender Transition (#315)

The House will vote on an amendment offered by Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-MO) to H.R. 2810, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2018. This amendment would prohibit funds from being used by the Department of Defense (DOD) to provide medical treatment (other than mental health treatment) related to gender transition for members of the military.  

On June 30, 2016, then-Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter announced a change in military policy to allow transgender individuals to serve openly in the armed forces effective at the start of this month. Secretary of Defense James Mattis has delayed final decision on this matter for another six months. At his confirmation hearing in January to become the next Secretary of Defense, Mattis pledged his first priority would be to “strengthen military readiness,” adding “the primitive and often primalistic aspects of the battlefield test the physical strength, the mental ability of everyone.”

Congress should embrace the sentiment of Defense Secretary Mattis and pass the Hartzler Amendment. Doing so would send a clear signal to the American people and to our armed forces that the 115th Congress is committed to keeping politics out of the military and giving our troops the support they need and deserve.

Director for the Center for National Defense at The Heritage Foundation, Thomas Spoehr, released the following statement in reference to the amendment:

“At a time when growing foreign threats are stretching our military’s resources, our priority should be on maintaining military readiness and directing taxpayer funds towards mission critical purposes. Respecting the dignity of all people does not mean subjecting taxpayers to the high and recurring medical costs of sex reassignment which carries uncertain impacts on military readiness.”

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

Key Vote Alert: “NO” on Tenney Amendment to Reinstate Berry Amendment Requirements for Stainless Steel Flatware (#205)

The House will vote on an amendment offered by Rep. Claudia Tenney (R-NY) to H.R. 2810, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2018. This amendment would reinstate stainless steel flatware to the Berry Amendment, effectively limiting the Department of Defense (DOD) to just one source for flatware products.

The Berry Amendment was first passed during World War II to ensure the U.S. military was contracting with U.S. companies that produced certain goods domestically. While the amendment may have made sense during WWII for national security purposes, the need for this protectionist policy is no longer justifiable.

Tori Whiting, research associate in the Center for Free Markets and Regulatory Reform at The Heritage Foundation, writes in a recent report called “Buy American Laws: A Costly Policy Mistake That Hurts Americans”:

“Domestic content requirements (including the Berry Amendment) create costly regulatory hurdles for producers, costing American taxpayers more than they would otherwise pay for government projects, and are unlikely to result in job growth in target industries. Rather than strengthening these laws, Congress and the Administration should eliminate all domestic content laws and create an economic environment in which private business can grow and flourish.”

The amendment offered by Rep. Tenney would not only increase costs for American taxpayers, it would limit choice for the DOD to the current benefit of a single company that is ironically located in the Congresswoman’s district. Whiting called the policy proposal “a textbook example of the type of government cronyism that plagues Washington” because it “would currently benefit a single domestic company, Sherrill Manufacturing,” which is in the district of the amendment’s primary sponsor. “This move would result in higher prices for flatware for the military, a wasteful use of scarce defense dollars,” Whiting concluded.

Injecting protectionism, parochialism and cronyism policy into U.S. armed forces is misguided. This amendment fails to advance U.S. national security interests or increase military readiness and should be rejected by the House of Representatives.

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

Key Vote Alert: “YES” on Gosar Amendment to End Davis-Bacon Act Wage Requirements at the Department of Defense (#111)

The House will vote on an amendment offered by Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) to H.R. 2810, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2018. This amendment would direct the Secretary of Labor to determine the prevailing wage of federal construction contractors with the Department of Defense (DOD) using proper random statistical sampling techniques rather than arbitrary Davis-Bacon Act wage requirements.   

Enacted in 1931, the Davis-Bacon Act (DBA) requires contractors to pay no less than the local prevailing wage to on-site workers working on federally funded construction projects costing more than $2,000. Originally passed during the Great Recession to prevent the federal government from driving down construction wages, the DBA has long outlived its purpose. According to Heritage Foundation research, DBA inflates the cost of federal construction, wastes taxpayer dollars, and reduces American jobs. Applying Davis-Bacon wages to the U.S. military would have the same effect.

David Kreutzer, Senior Research Fellow in Labor Markets and Trade in the Institute for Economic Freedom and Opportunity at The Heritage Foundation, released the following statement:

“Davis-Bacon is a costly penalty the federal government inflicts on itself. On average it adds an extra 22 percent to labor costs. In our world of tight budgets, striking Davis-Bacon from the NDAA is a must if Congress wants to build the military we need for today’s dangerous world.”     

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

Key Vote Alert: “YES” on Buck Amendment to Alternative Energy Requirements (#398)

The House will vote on an amendment offered by Rep. Ken Buck (R-CO) to H.R. 2810, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2018. This amendment would prohibit funding for the renewable energy mandate at the Department of Defense (DOD) and prohibit the Secretary of Defense from purchasing alternative energy unless it is equivalent to conventional energy in terms of cost and capability. Alternative energy research is exempted under this amendment.

Over the past eight years, the Obama administration steadily introduced its radical energy agenda to the DOD at the detriment of the American taxpayer and military readiness. Our military cannot afford to be taking resources away from its most pressing needs, which is exactly what these DOD energy mandates do.

Heritage defense analysts Rachel Zissimos and Brian Slattery detailed the determinants of some of these renewable energy policies in a research paper on DOD Solar installations:

“…conventional energy sources are employed intermittently as needed to fill gaps left by solar power, but they do so without a decrease in their fixed operations and maintenance costs, which leads to a higher cost per kWH and increasing energy costs across the board. In other words, reliable sources of energy are run less efficiently for the sole purpose of meeting arbitrary political mandates to accommodate more renewable energy…The Administration justifies the excessive costs associated with solar power in the name of energy security, claiming that diversification of energy sources will make the DOD more resilient. In reality, voltage fluctuations that are inherent to solar power can put existing energy infrastructure at risk, resulting in poor power quality and reliability, additional costs, and even safety concerns.”

Heritage is not alone in highlighting these challenges. In January 2016 the GAO wrote a report on DOD energy infrastructure that noted similar concerns:

“Military service officials we spoke with generally stated that it is difficult to integrate intermittent sources of renewable energy (e.g., solar and wind power) into existing infrastructure. For example, in Hawaii, Navy and Army officials stated that because the amounts of intermittent renewable energy can vary significantly, it can cause fluctuations in power quality such as voltage and frequency on small or isolated electricity systems, which can damage equipment connected to them.”

The DOD should pursue renewable or alternative energy options only when it makes economic sense and when it advances our national security — not simply because it fits a political agenda. In a time with increased strain on the military budget, we cannot afford to waste precious military resources on ideological pet projects.

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

“YES” on the Financial CHOICE Act (H.R. 10)

This Thursday, the House is scheduled to vote on the Financial CHOICE (Creating Hope and Opportunity for Investors, Consumers, and Entrepreneurs) Act (H.R. 10), introduced by Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-TX). The bill would repeal or replace some of the worst provisions established by the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.

In response to the housing collapse and financial crisis of 2007-08, Congress rushed to pass Dodd-Frank under the guise of “consumer protection.” But instead of addressing the root causes of the financial crisis, such as the government’s reckless efforts to expand housing affordability and implied guarantees to bailout large financial institutions, Dodd-Frank empowers the very regulatory establishment that created the environment that led to the financial crisis in the first place.

Heritage Foundation Research Fellow in Financial Regulations Norbert Michel writes:

“The 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act is among the most inappropriately named laws ever enacted in the U.S. It neither reformed Wall Street nor protected consumers, and it imposed massive new regulations on banks far away from Wall Street.”

The CHOICE Act would enact a number of significant financial service reforms including:

  • Mitigate “too big to fail” policies and bank bailouts by repealing most of Title I and all of Title VIII of Dodd-Frank.
  • Stop the government from seizing troubled financial firms through orderly liquidation and return to a time-tested bankruptcy system by repealing Title II of Dodd-Frank.
  • Fundamentally reform the CFPB:
    • Rename it as the “Consumer Law Enforcement Agency”
    • Governed by a single director removable at will by the president along with a deputy director appointed by the president
    • Restructure into an enforcement agency only, with no supervisory authority
    • Subject it to congressional oversight and the appropriations process
  • Rein in the Federal Reserve’s emergency lending authority by making it more difficult for the Fed to conduct bailout-style loans to insolvent firms.
  • Unleash small business creation, innovation and entrepreneurship by eliminating the misguided Volcker rule which has limited capital formation over the past few years.
  • Subject all new major rules imposed by financial regulatory agencies to congressional approval under the Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act.
  • Strengthen penalties on Wall Street for those who engage in fraud, insider trading and other corrupt practices.

The original bill also included the repeal of the so-called “Durbin Amendment” that allows the Federal Reserve to price-fix interchange fees from debit card purchases, but unfortunately House Republicans removed this provision due to pressure from big box retailers.    

Along with imposing 3,500-plus pages of new rules and regulations on the financial industry, Dodd-Frank codifies “too big to fail” policy, runs local community banks out of business, restricts access to credit for investors and homebuyers, raises lending costs, and reduces access to capital for small businesses. It also created one of the most powerful and unaccountable federal agencies — the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). Evidence shows Dodd-Frank is one of the major factors responsible for the country’s historically slow economic recovery.

Research conducted by Norbert Michel and Salim Furth, Research Fellow in Macroeconomics at the Heritage Foundation, demonstrate that passing the Financial CHOICE Act would increase U.S. income by an average of one percent of GDP a year from 2017 to 2026 while also increasing federal revenue by $340 billion as businesses choose to increase investment.

Contrary to the charges levied by some Democrats, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) recently found that community banks, not Wall Street, would reap the most benefits from the CHOICE Act by taking advantage of a provision that frees financial institutions from onerous federal regulation if they maintain a capital election leverage ratio of at least 10 percent. Wall Street is actually opposed to the bill as “CBO expects that most of the financial institutions that chose to maintain a leverage ratio at 10 percent would be those with assets below $10 billion, commonly known as community banks.” In addition to the economic benefits, CBO concluded that the CHOICE Act would save taxpayers billions of dollars by reducing federal deficits by $24.1 billion from 2017-2027.

Summarizing the core principle of the bill, Norbert Michel issued this statement:

“Dodd-Frank enshrined too big to fail with several key changes that make future taxpayer bailouts likely. The Financial CHOICE Act of 2017 repeals those key provisions and reduces the likelihood of future bailouts by providing regulatory relief for firms that absorb their own losses. Specifically, The CHOICE Act provides relief to banks that choose to fund themselves with more equity, thus lowering the probability of failure and taxpayer bailouts. Thus, the Financial CHOICE Act emphasizes the key principle that should drive any financial regulatory reform effort: there’s no justification for heavily regulating companies that bear their own losses.”  

Thanks to the courageous leadership of Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling, dating all the way back to June 2016 when he first introduced legislation, Republicans will finally have the chance to end bank bailouts and follow through on their campaign promise to undo Dodd-Frank — the Obamacare of the financial service sector of the U.S. economy.

***Heritage Action supports H.R. 10 and will include it as a key vote on our legislative scorecard.***        

Heritage Action: Legislative Endorsement: Hensarling’s Financial Choice Act (H.R. 10)
Heritage Foundation: The Case Against Dodd-Frank (2016)
Heritage Foundation: The Macroeconomic Impact of Dodd-Frank-and of Its Repeal (2017)
Heritage Foundation: Repeal The Durbin Amendment: Restore The Rule Of Law (2017)
Heritage Foundation: Consumer Protection Predates the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (2017)

Key Vote: “NO” on FY17 Omnibus Spending Bill (H.R. 244)

This week, the House and Senate will consider the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2017 (H.R. 244), a 1,665-page omnibus spending package that would fund the federal government through September 30, 2017. The Heritage Foundation explains that while the bill, which was released publicly at 2 AM Monday morning, “does make progress” on some issues, “it woefully fails the test of fiscal responsibility and does not advance important conservative policies.”  

Many conservatives went along with a short-term continuing resolution last December based on a promise that the current deadline would be used to advance key policy priorities. Instead, the bill is widely viewed as a rebuke to President Trump’s agenda and conservative priorities.

Overall, the Trump administration requested an additional $30 billion in military, $1.5 billion to continue construction of the southern border wall, and $18 billion in discretionary cuts. The bill provides only $15 billion for defense (of which $2.5 billion is withheld until the administration submits a plan to combat ISIS), provides no funding for the border wall, and actually increases domestic discretionary spending. Through a combination of emergency funding and overseas contingency operations funds, the bill pushes discretionary spending $93 billion above the budget caps.

The Trump administration was rebuked at the program level as well. The Department of Energy’s Office of Science will receive an additional $42 million, whereas the administration requested a $900 million reduction. Funding for Community Development Block Grants was kept level despite a $1.5 billion requested reduction. The list goes on, as CQ Roll Call reported (sub. req’d) earlier this week: “Trump proposed killing off more than a dozen federal programs in his fiscal 2018 budget outline, but it doesn’t appear appropriators are inclined to reduce or eliminate federal funding for any of those line items.”

Liberals celebrated the bill as a victory over President Trump and claimed they successfully blocked “more than 160 Republican poison pill riders.” Heritage notes the omnibus “fails to advance almost any key conservative policies” as “it would continue to provide funding for Planned Parenthood and do nothing to restrict funding to sanctuary cities.”

Along with a lack of conservative policy riders, the bill contains a $1.3 billion bailout for the United Workers of America, a union that represents about 10 percent of all coal production in the U.S. today. Coal miners deserve proper health care and retirement benefits, but it is the job of the union and private companies that made those promises, not taxpayers, to provide those benefits.

H.R. 244 contains a second health care bailout to Puerto Rico. In passing a bill to help Puerto Rico restructure its debts last year, lawmakers promised there would be no cash bailout. Yet, this bill would give the mismanaged and politically corrupt Puerto Rican government $296 million in taxpayer dollars to cover their shortage in Medicaid funds.  

Coupled with these two bailouts, the omnibus spending bill also funds liberal priorities and initiatives. H.R. 244 includes millions in increased funding for Department of Energy (DOE) pet projects, national parks, Amtrak, Head Start, college tuition assistance, the National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), and even a Bureau of Land Management (BLM) sage grouse conservation project.

When spending bills provide more funding to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) than border security, as this bill does, it’s fair for conservatives to ask if this resembles more of an Obama administration-era spending bill than a Trump one.

The Heritage Foundation’s Justin Bogie and Rachel Greszler acknowledge the bill “does make progress” on some issues, but they add:

“Unfortunately, the additional $15 billion in defense spending is only half of what President Donald Trump requested earlier this year and is inadequate to meet global threats facing the country.

“The additional $1.5 billion for border security is important in the battle to curb illegal immigration. However, none of these funds can be used for construction of a border wall, one of the president’s top priorities.

“Unfortunately, none of the increases in spending proposed by this bill would be offset. Earlier this year, the president released a ‘skinny budget’ which proposed $18 billion in 2017 cuts, yet none of those cuts made it into the latest budget deal.”

Heritage Action opposes H.R. 244 and will include it as a key vote on our legislative scorecard.  

Heritage: Massive Spending Bill Fails to Meet Conservative Priorities

“NO” on American Health Care Act (H.R. 1628)

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.