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Shari Rendall

House Legislative Update for November 14, 2014

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The House is back in session this week for the first time after elections!  Newly elected representatives are here in D.C. this week for their orientation. Returning Members of Congress are having initial meetings on what to do to fund the government for the rest of the fiscal year which began on October 1. Currently, the government is funded through December 11. Leaders will decide whether they will pass an omnibus that will go the entire year and allows changes to be made on how money is spent or whether they will pass another continuing resolution that keeps the money being spent on current programs. Concerned Women for America Legislative Action Committee is working with House leadership on efforts to try to include conscience protections in whichever spending vehicle moves in the House.

California Abortion: On August 22, the California Department of Managed Health Care (DMHC) issued a directive mandating that all plans under its authority include coverage for all legal abortions, even if a plan that had previously excluded abortions had been approved by DMHC. This mandate includes religious institutions like churches and is contradictory to the Weldon pro-life rider passed annually which prohibits state or local governments that receive federal funds from discriminating against a health care entity (including health insurance plans) because they do not include abortions. CWALAC is working with Representatives Diane Black (R-Tennessee), John Fleming (R-Louisiana), and Andy Harris (R-Maryland) to get Members of Congress to sign on to a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary (HHS) Sylvia Burwell, urging the agency to act quickly in response to DMHC’s violation of the Weldon amendment. Because it is unlikely that HHS Secretary Burwell will act expediently, CWALAC is urging House leadership to make permanent the Weldon amendment and include the Abortion Non-Discrimination Act in whichever spending vehicle will be considered on the House floor.

Landrieu’s Sexist Bigots

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There were three races since the onset of the election campaign that most pundits believed would flip from Democrat to Republican: Arkansas, Louisiana and North Carolina. Most voters would’ve guessed that if any of those three candidates were to slip up, it would have been Sen. Kay Hagan, a candidate who was facing re-election for the first time. For this reason, it came as a huge surprise when the two more seasoned candidates, Mark Pryor and Mary Landrieu, made obvious mistakes.

Sen. Mary Landrieu in the waning days of the campaign said that the “South hasn’t always been the friendliest place for African Americans. … [i]t’s not always been a good place for women to present ourselves. The South is more of a conservative place.” This desperate move underlines Sen. Landrieu’s complete lack of understanding regarding the issues most important to Louisiana voters. This ploy implied that the South was racist and sexist; Sen. Landrieu’s comment is flat out deplorable. Thankfully, voters in South Carolina seem not to have heard Sen. Landrieu’s comments, as they chose Tim Scott to represent them. Scott is the first black candidate to win a statewide election in South Carolina since Reconstruction. By the way, Landrieu has already been elected to three Senate terms. And it looks like enough voters have sided with her to at least ensure a run off. If the citizens of Louisiana were really the sexist bigots she claims they are, wouldn’t that have been an impossibility?

Sen. Landrieu continues to ignore the simple reality that Obama’s failing policies – which she heartily supported – are the real issue, not all this silly rhetoric. There is no more “war on women.” Maybe Sen. Landrieu needs to grasp that fact instead of grasping at straws!

House Legislative Update for September 15, 2014

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The House is expected to finish its legislative business and wrap up.  It may reconvene if needed based upon Senate action.

GAO Report:  Several House leaders requested that the Government Accountability Office (GAO), an independent watchdog agency, investigate abortion in ObamaCare.  This week, the GAO released its report that showed that all Americans, even in states that have excluded abortion from their exchanges, are being forced to subsidize abortion services.  The report also discovered that when Americans tried to determine whether abortion coverage is included in their plan, that information was not readily available.  To read the full report online, click here.

To read Concerned Women for America’s (CWA) press release, click here.

Benghazi Hearing: This week, the House special committee investigating the Benghazi terrorist attacks held its first public hearing.  The hearing focused on determining what progress has been made since the attacks in implementing security improvements at U.S. embassies and other missions abroad.

Preserving Welfare for Needs Not Weed Act: The House by voice vote passed legislation that closes a loophole and ensures that taxpayers will not be funding welfare recipients’ marijuana use.  Welfare benefits were designed to help low-income families make ends meet.  These benefits should not be used to subsidize drug use.  Congress has prohibited welfare funds from being used for alcohol and gambling.  Similarly, taxpayer monies should not be used for marijuana.  Concerned Women for America Legislative Action Committee (CWALAC) supported this legislation and will include this vote in our annual scorecard.

Continuing Resolution: This week, the House passed a clean continuing resolution to fund the government through December 11 by a vote of 319-108.  The continuing resolution included all of the current pro-life provisions.  Some of the changes to existing law include:

  • A provision to extend expiring Department of Defense activities, including counter-drug operations, support to the Office of Security Cooperation in Iraq, and rewards for assistance in combating terrorism.
  • A provision to continue a surge in funding for State Department programs to counter regional aggression toward Ukraine and other former Soviet Union countries.
  • Several provisions to ensure appropriate treatment of veterans and continued oversight of the Department of Veterans Affairs, such as additional funds for disability claims processing and funds for investigations into potential improper conduct, including “wait list” and “whistleblower” allegations.
  • A provision allowing funding flexibility for Customs and Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement to maintain staffing levels, border security operations, detention space, and immigration enforcement activities.
  • Provisions to address the recent Ebola crisis, including additional funding to accelerate HHS research on Ebola therapies and additional funding for the Centers for Disease Control’s response to the growing outbreak in Africa.
  • A provision allowing additional funds to offset food price increases in the Commodity Supplemental Food Program to ensure that no current recipients are removed from the program.
  • A provision allowing funding flexibility to maintain weather satellite programs, ensuring the continuation of data for weather warnings and forecasts, including forecasts of severe weather events.
  • A provision allowing the continuation of current funding for the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) program.
  • A provision extending the operating authority for the Export-Import Bank through June 30, 2015.
  • A provision extending the Internet Tax Freedom Act through the period of the CR ending on December 11, 2014.

ISIS: As part of the continuing resolution to fund the government, the House approved President Obama’s plan to arm and train rebels in Syria to fight ISIS.  The vote was 273-156.  This was not a comprehensive plan to address the situation and CWALAC is continuing to urge Congress and the Administration to do more to protect women, children, and our fellow Christians in the region.  The House this week held more hearings on ISIS, including hearings in the Intelligence and Armed Services Committees.

House Legislative Update for September 8, 2014

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The House returned to Washington, D.C., this week after its August recess, and it was a busy week!

ISIS:  This week President Obama briefed House Members of Congress on the ISIS situation.  As part of that briefing, President Obama has requested $5 billion in counter-terrorism funds to fight ISIS.  However, the terror posed by ISIS requires a more comprehensive solution.  Two House committees also held hearings this week about ISIS.

Employee Health Care Protection Act:  The House passed the Employee Health Care Protection Act by a vote of 247-167, which included 25 Democrats.  This legislation fulfills the promise made by President Obama by allowing American workers to keep their health plans.  Concerned Women for America Legislative Action Committee (CWALAC) sent a letter of support to the Hill.

Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act:  This legislation will ensure that faith-based adoption and foster-care providers are not forced out of the adoption and foster-care services because of the religious belief that children belong with both a mother and father.  Listen here to Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Pennsylvania) discuss his bill.

Act Now:  Please call your representative and ask him/her to support H.R. 5285, the Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act.

Next Week:

Continuing Resolution: The House will consider legislation that will fund the government through early December.  This spending bill will protect all of our current pro-life provisions.

Benghazi: Next Wednesday, the House Benghazi Select Committee will hold its first public hearing to determine what the Obama Administration has done to improve security at U.S. embassies since the attack two years ago.  It does not look like this hearing will focus on why U.S. forces were directed not to respond nor will the focus be to seek answers about why administration officials lied about the nature of the attack.  CWALAC will continue to push to get answers to these questions surrounding Benghazi.

House Legislative Update for August 1

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By a vote of 370-40, H. Con. Res. 105 passed the House on July 25.  This concurrent resolution states that the president may not, under any circumstances, deploy or maintain U.S. Armed Forces “in a sustained combat role” in Iraq without specified and enumerated Congressional authorization. Both Republican and Democratic congressmen rallied behind this measure, hoping to send a strong, unified message to the current administration. Placing a necessary check on the president’s war-making powers, H. Con. Res. 105 will require that President Obama first go to Congress for permission before employing tactics that could potentially escalate and intensify any future military actions or conflict in Iraq.

Lawsuit against President Obama: A monumental and hotly contested piece of legislation, H. Res. 676 was taken up by the House this week and, on Wednesday, passed nearly along party lines. This bill authorizes Congress (via the Speaker of the House) to initiate litigation against the current administration for unconstitutional actions. Specifically, this bill empowers Congress to file a lawsuit against the president to address and amend his failure to uphold his constitutional duties in regards to the individual mandate in ObamaCare.

Religious Freedom: Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Pennsylvania) sponsored the Child Welfare Provider Act of 2014 and introduced it in the House of Representatives on Wednesday. This bill will grant faith-based child welfare providers, such as ChildShare, Catholic Family Services, FosterHope, and the Salvation Army, the freedom to select future foster and/or adoptive parents based on their religious belief that children belong with both a mother and a father. In some states, such as Massachusetts, California, and Illinois, as well as the District of Columbia, faith-based child welfare providers have been coerced by state law to leave their convictions at the door and, in turn, been forced to license unwed and homosexual couples as foster/adoptive parents. The Child Welfare Provider Act legislation upholds our fundamental “first freedom” and protects an individual’s right (and the institutions they operate) to act upon their moral and religious convictions without fear of “adverse actions” by the government. Ever since the concept of this bill was discussed a couple of years ago, Concerned Women for America Legislative Action Committee has been on the front lines as a supporter of this legislation. We look forward to seeing this bill move forward with bipartisan support.

Take Action: Please urge your representative to cosponsor and support the Child Welfare Provider Act, H.R. 5285.  To find you representative, please click here.

House Legislative Update for July 25, 2014

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Sexual Exploitation: On Wednesday, the House of Representatives passed five bills designed to fight human trafficking.  Collectively, these resolutions amend the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 and aim to further “deter, detect, and disrupt” the vast trafficking network manifested on our soil.  Highlights of the legislation passed include H.R. 5116, which requires that Department of Homeland Security employees working within anti-trafficking units participate in advanced trainings and attend comprehensive briefings on trafficking detection tactics.  This is a vital step in light of the current crisis at our southern border.  Additionally, H.R. 5135 calls for in-depth surveys to be conducted, aimed at obtaining new data regarding sex trafficking of runaway and homeless youth — vital information never before collected or analyzed.  H.R. 2283 designates the Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Office an official Bureau, putting it on equal footing with the other Bureaus in the State Department.

National Sovereignty & Support for Israel: H.R. 4411, the Hezbollah International Financing Prevention Act of 2014, passed without opposition this week.  This bill has many noteworthy provisions centered on the ultimate goal of protecting both the American and Israeli governments from this dangerous terrorist organization.  Not only does H.R. 4411 aim to sever Hezbollah’s access to the international financial system, but this resolution also enacts U.S. sanctions on foreign groups that are knowingly funding Hezbollah’s efforts.  With Israel under constant attack in recent days, it is right and proper that this type of legislation be initiated in an attempt to isolate and extinguish the ever-present threat of Hezbollah.

Tax Extenders: H.R. 4935, offered by Rep. Lynn Jenkins (R-Kansas), is being considered this week by the House of Representatives.  This resolution helps families by adjusting the child tax credit for inflation.  It also eliminates the penalties currently incurred by married couples filing for these types of tax credits.  Now, mothers and fathers are encouraged to file as individuals (and both be at tax return thresholds of $75,000 each) rather than as a married couples (where they would be capped at $110,000 collectively).  The “Child Tax Credit Improvement Act of 2014” disincentivizes cohabitation by raising the cap from $110,000 to $150,000.  This bill eliminates any monetary penalty for filing as a married couple or fiscal incentive for remaining unwed and promotes strong, stable, unified families.

Reps. Diane Black (R-Tennessee) and Danny Davis (D-Illinois) sponsored a bipartisan tax extender bill that came out of the Rules Committee and was considered on the House floor this week.  H.R. 3393, the Student and Family Tax Simplification Act, consolidates and simplifies a myriad of “tax benefits for educational expenses” such as tuition and other costs.  Congresswoman Martha Roby (R-Alabama) summarized it well when she stated, “You shouldn’t need a degree in tax law to understand what tax credits are available for college tuition.  H.R. 3393 ensures that you don’t.”

House Update for May 30, 2014

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Ways and Means Committee: This week, the House Ways and Means Committee marked up three important pieces of legislation that focused on charitable giving.

  • HR 4619 makes permanent the rule allowing certain tax-free distributions from individual retirement accounts (IRAs) for charitable purposes.  It allows Americans who are 70½ and older to donate up to $100,000 from their IRAs and Roth IRAs without having to treat the withdrawals as taxable income.
  • HR 4719 permanently extends and expands charitable deductions for contributions of food donated to places like food banks or local pantries.  These donations will count as tax deductible charitable contributions.  This resolution encourages Americans to help fight hunger by permitting restaurants, grocery stores, farmers, and other small businesses to donate food and get a tax deduction. According to the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Tom Reed (R-New York), “instead of wasting perfectly good food, it’s common sense to care for and feed our neighbors in need.”
  • HR 3134, the Charitable Giving Extension Act, allows for any charitable contribution made after December 31 and before April 15 to be deducted in the taxable year that ended December 31.  Congress wants to make charitable giving a priority and allow American taxpayers to be able to save more money. With nearly 88 percent of Americans donating to charity, this will help families in today’s tough fiscal environment.

Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2015 (CJS):  The House passed the CJS Appropriations bill, H.R. 4660, by a vote of 321-87.  We were pleased that all of the pro-life provisions that need to be passed annually were included in this bill.  We were also able to hold off a hostile life amendment.

CWALAC supported a couple of amendments offered by Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Arizona) to the CJS bill that were adopted.

The first takes money from Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives salaries and expenses and gives it to the Veterans’ Treatment Courts program.  Veterans often face significant challenges as they transition back into civilian life.  Sometimes, they turn to illegal drugs.  Veterans’ treatment courts are designed specifically for veterans, and the judges themselves understand the issues surrounding veterans.  These courts provide a pathway for veterans to get the help they need and don’t just lock them up with other drug abusers.

The other redirects money allocated to the Department of Justice for office space towards bolstering prescription drug monitoring programs.  Abusing prescription drugs is often a gateway towards abusing other illicit drugs.  Drug abuse is destructive to families and society.

CWALAC also supported increasing funds to test backlogged rape kits.  There are estimates that 400,000 rape kits sit untested in labs and on police storage shelves across the nation.  Without testing, criminals remain on the streets able to commit other rapes and victims are denied justice.  This increase in funding will facilitate the testing and reporting of this important evidence which will prevent additional crimes and provide rape victims with closure.

Despite CWALAC efforts, an amendment by Rep. Rohrabacher (R-California) to block the Justice Department from prosecuting medical marijuana users and providers who are abiding by state laws that have legalized the substance passed by a vote of 219-189.

CWALAC was concerned that Rep. Rohrabacher’s amendment will come at the expense of our children and public safety. Marijuana is a gateway drug to other illicit drugs and behaviors. It is mind-altering and inhibits decision making and discretion, affecting not only the user but others around them.

Further, this amendment would allow state laws to supersede the federal government’s legitimate interest in controlling the use, distribution, possession or cultivation of marijuana.  This could have a detrimental impact on neighboring states.