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House Legislative Updates

Another Hard-fought Victory This Week – Sex Trafficking

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This week the House passed a sex trafficking bill (H.R. 1865) that would allow state attorneys general and victims to sue websites that knowingly facilitate sex trafficking. This bill was created to target sites like Backpage.com, which is currently under Senate investigation because of the hosting of ads that promoted the trafficking of minors. The legislation passed changes Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act, which the first circuit ruled shields websites from lawsuits over user-generated content.

This bill was a fight from the very beginning. Fortunately, human trafficking is a big issue nationally, and generally, everyone agrees it is a horrid practice that must be stopped. However, this issue has a lot of money surrounding it, and that means there are a lot of anti-sex trafficking groups with a lot of opinions about how this type of legislation should be handled. This issue also touched the bipartisan golden child of Congress: the tech industry. Democrat and Republican leadership are both heavily funded by the tech industry, and, unfortunately, they hated this bill when it was originally introduced, so we had our work cut out for us.

CWA worked with Rep. Ann Wagner’s (R-Missouri) office almost weekly for a year, meeting and strategizing how to get people in D.C. on board with something for which states were asking. The original bill was altered several times to appease not only the trafficking groups, but also was altered per DOJ’s request. When it passed, it was supported by all 50 state attorneys general. The final bill is a reflection of what should happen in Washington. Everyone: groups, congressional Democrats and Republicans, and the administration, worked together (eventually, not everyone was on board initially) to make a stronger and better piece of legislation.

We were not happy with the Senate counterpart for the House bill. It is what I would refer to as a “pat ourselves on the back” bill; it seems like it is accomplishing something, and it sounds really good, but ultimately it was not as strong as the House bill, and we had major concerns. Unfortunately, we were one of the few who did have major concerns with only the Senate language, and many sex trafficking groups loved the Senate language, but we vocalized those concerns and worked with Rep. Wagner’s office to educate members and leadership on why the House bill is better.

H.R. 1865 passed the U.S. House by a vote of 388-25.   The Senate will take up the House-passed bill the week of March 12.  Congratulations to Rep. Wagner who led the charge on the passage of this bill.  CWA worked long and hard on this legislation.  We look forward to seeing it through to passage in the Senate, also.

 

What’s the latest on tax reform?

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This week, the Republicans finished up their plan to overhaul the tax code. There is always a lot of work behind the scenes on big issues like this, and CWA has been working with the Senate, the House and the Administration to advocate for a pro-family tax code. Families are the foundation of civil society, and tax reform that is pro-family is an investment in our future.

A huge part of our work surrounds the Child Tax Credit (CTC). Concerned Women for America was an original advocator for the CTC, and we are continuing the legacy of our founder, Mrs. Beverly LaHaye, by continuing to work toward a tax system that does not penalize families. Not only are we working to increase the Child Tax Credit from $1,000 annually to $2,500 annually, we are also working to remove the cap on the number of children for which the credit applies; we are pushing to have this credit apply against payroll taxes, and we are working to get rid of the marriage penalty.

As a whole, this tax reform package must provide a net gain for families, because as any parent knows, having a child is expensive. The Department of Agriculture estimates that for a middle-income family to raise a child born in 2016 until he/she is 17, it will cost $233,610. The national average of the annual cost of childcare is 31% of the median household income, and in 33 states, the cost of infant care is higher than paying for college tuition. Increasing the CTC allows for more take home pay and, therefore, more financial flexibility raising children. For a family with four children, $4,000 annually may not make a huge impact, but $10,000 annually with the expanded CTC may allow a mother to work part time instead of full time and, therefore, spend more time at home with her children.

Ivanka Trump’s office has been leading the charge on this issue from the early days of the Trump Campaign and Penny and CWA’s legislative team (Caroline Aderholt, Ashley Traficant, and Jaime Ballew) have all met with Ivanka personally about modernizing our tax code so that it helps families. Additionally, Ashley and Jaime have been meeting with key Senate and House staff as well as senators and members of Congress to reiterate to the authors of this legislation that the tax code must help families.

Now that the tax reform package has been revealed, we will continue working with the administration, House and Senate leadership as well as with other groups to get the expansion of the CTC and tax reform, as a whole, accomplished.

House Republicans unveil tax reform

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Washington D.C. – Today the House Ways and Means Committee unveiled the Republican tax reform bill, the Tax Cuts and Job Act.  Among many changes, it was revealed that a typical family of four earning $59,000 (median household income) will receive a $1,182 tax cut. The child tax credit will be raised to $1,600 per child from the previous $1,000 per child while providing a credit of $300 for each parent and non-child dependent to help all families with their everyday expenses.

Penny Nance, CEO and President of Concerned Women for America had this to say:

“Thank you House Republicans for working to provide tax reforms that will directly impact the American family. Our nation has not seen an overhaul of our tax system since 1986 – we recognize that this was no easy task.

“I am encouraged by the pro-family focus of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act which will better support American families who are struggling to keep up. An investment in American families is an investment in the future of America, and I hope that continues to be the focus as this bill moves to the Senate.

“Both the increase in the child tax credit and the preservation of the Child & Dependent Care Tax Credit are a step in the right direction. Americans should never be forced to choose between earning a paycheck and taking care of their children or parents.

“Reforming the tax system is not easy, but it is vital, and every step needs to be taken to ensure that money is being given back to hard-working American families. And so I look forward to seeing the Senate take this even further, specifically in the area of the child tax credit. CWA has been working with Ivanka Trump and the Trump Administration on increasing the Child Tax Credit in this tax reform package to $2500 per child. These reforms demonstrate the fact that America’s economy is not only business-driven but fueled by the family.”

Penny Nance Reacts to Resignation of House Speaker John Boehner

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CWALAC_MediaStatementWashington, D.C. – Today, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) announced he would be resigning at the end of October. Concerned Women for America Legislative Action Committee CEO and President Penny Nance had this to say:

“We are thankful for the pro-life efforts and legislation that Speaker Boehner was able to influence during his time in office. His deeply held religious beliefs have informed his fight for the unborn, and I know that is a torch he will pass on. I wish him the best with all of his future endeavors.”

For an interview with Penny Nance, please contact Janae Stracke at [email protected] or 712-269-1724.

Concerned Women for America Legislative Action Committee is the legislative arm of Concerned Women for America, the nation’s largest public policy women’s organization with 500,000 participating members across the country, over 450 Prayer/Action Chapters and Home Teams, 600 trained leaders, and over 30 years of service to our nation. For more information visit www.concernedwomen.org

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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.

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.