The week in Congress: NDA, Zika, Catfish, and Intelligence

The House of Representatives was in session Monday and considered thirty bills under suppression of the rules, including the Kelsey Smith Act. After Campaign for Liberty and other organizations expressed concerns about this bill, it did not gain enough support to pass on suspension of the rules. Roll-call vote here.

The House also considered H.R. 2077, the Intelligence Agencies Authorization Act. This act authorized funding for the government's intelligence agencies--although most of the spending figures and others details of the bill are "classified" so we do not know how much these agencies are getting or how they are spending it.

By putting this bill on the suspension calendar, the House leadership prevented members from offering any pro-liberty amendments, such as an amendment forcing intelligence agencies to abide by the Fourth Amendment.

Even worse, the House leadership was going to pass the bill on "suspension of the rules." Thankfully Representative Justin Amash insisted on a roll-call vote, which was held yesterday. Roll-call vote here.

The House also passed H.R. 2589, which requires the Federal Communications  Commission to post new regulations on its website within 24 hours of adoption.

One good bill on the calendar was H.R. 4465. This bill requires each federal agency to submit a report to the General Accounting Office on recommendations on federal property that the federal government does not need (they should ask me what properties the federal government should get rid of....)

The recommendations will be evaluated by the Public Buildings Reform Board, which will then submit their recommendations to the OMB. OMB will then begin to dispose of federal properties. The bill also allows HUD to use some surplus federal properties as homeless shelters.

The House will also once again consider H.R. 897, the Zika Vector Control Act.  Last week, the bill failed to gain significant support to pass under suspension, so this week it will be brought up under a rule.

This act lifts some requirements that business get a permit from federal or state governments before putting pesticides into "navigable waters." The point of the bill is to make it easier to control the spread of the Zika virus. These seems like a good idea, however the fact that this applies to state governments is troublesome.

The major legislation on the House calendar this week is the Energy and Water Appropriations bill, which provides funding for the unconstitutional Department of Energy, as well as the Corp of Engineers.

The Senate will consider the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). One of the big debates will be an amendment prohibiting women form being drafted. Sadly, the Senate will not be voting to get rid of the draft.

Today, the Senate will consider legislation (H.J.Res. 88) overturning the Labor Department's Fiduciary rule. Campaign for Liberty has joined a coalition against this rule. The letter we cosigned on this issue is available here and below:

April 28, 2016

Members of Congress:

We, the undersigned organizations and individuals, represent millions of Americans in defense of free markets and constitutional liberties. As such, we believe Congress must exercise its authority granted by the Constitution to halt the Obama administration's executive overreach.

This is particularly true when such action by the administration has attracted bipartisan opposition owing to the massive negative effects it would have on Americans' retirement savings.

We urge you to support H.J. Res. 88, introduced by Reps. Phil Roe (R-Tenn.), Charles Boustany (R-La.), and Ann Wagner (R-Mo.), which uses the Congressional Review Act to disapprove of the Department of Labor’s (DOL) fiduciary rule and prevent it from going into effect.

Under the fiduciary rule, the DOL claims authority never granted by Congress to greatly restrict investment choices for 401(k)s, individual retirement accounts (IRAs) and other saving vehicles.   In the earlier, proposed regulation, referred to by many as “Obamacare for your IRA,” the DOL did not even bother to hide its contempt for the intelligence of American savers.

It said most Americans can't "prudently manage retirement assets on their own." Based on this paternalism, the administration now mandates that investment professionals—even if they are serving self-directed investors—must adhere to the government's one-size-fits-all definition of "best interest" for the investment products they offer.

The final rule leaves no room for individual savers to decide what their own "best interests" are.   Ninety-six House Democrats have expressed concern that the fiduciary rule could limit access to retirement planning for poor and middle-class Americans.

Center-left economists from the Brookings Institution and Progressive Policy Institute have concluded that the rule would cause many Americans to lose their current brokers and could cost savers $80 billion over the next decade.   Put simply, the rule would make it much more difficult for individuals to open and maintain an IRA, and for companies to offer 401(k)s. As leading experts say, many brokers will stop serving households with less than $50,000 in assets.

The restrictions, therefore, amount to a higher tax burden on Americans by making it harder for the vehicles for retirement saving, designed by Congress, to lower that burden.   IRA holders could also lose their ability to invest in gold, real estate, and other nontraditional assets if DOL bureaucrats deem these choices to be not in their "best interests."

We believe the federal government should vigorously prosecute actual fraud by financial professionals, but otherwise leave savers free to seek guidance and make investment choices they deem in their own best interests, taking account of their own individual circumstances and preferences. We urge Congress to do everything in its power to defeat the DOL's destructive fiduciary rule, including passing this resolution of disapproval under the Congressional Review Act.   Sincerely,

Kent Lassman President Competitive Enterprise Institute

Lisa B. Nelson Chief Executive Officer American Legislative Exchange Council

Grover Norquist President Americans for Tax Reform

Carrie Lukas Managing Director Independent Women’s Forum

Heather Higgins President & CEO Independent Women’s Voice

Phil Kerpen President American Commitment

Coley Jackson President Americans for Competitive Enterprise

Brent Gardner Vice President of Government Affairs Americans for Prosperity   D

an Weber CEO Association of Mature American Citizens

Norman Singleton Senior Vice President Campaign for Liberty

Andrew Quinlan President Center for Freedom and Prosperity

Timothy Lee Senior Vice President Center for Individual Freedom

  Tom Schatz President Council for Citizens Against Government

Waste   Wayne Brough Chief Economist & Vice President for Research FreedomWorks Foundation

George Landrith President Frontiers of Freedom

Andrew Clark President Generation Opportunity

Andresen Blom Executive Director Grassroot Hawaii Action, Inc

Andrew Langer President Institute for Liberty

Seton Motley President Less Government

Gregory T. Angelo President Log Cabin Republicans

  Kyle S. Hauptman Executive Director Main Street Growth Project

  Dee Hodges President Maryland Taxpayers Association

Willes K. Lee President National Federation of Republican Assemblies   Lewis Uhler President National Tax Limitation Committee

Pete Sepp President National Taxpayers Union

Dave Wallace Founder Restore America’s Mission

  Karen Kerrigan President & CEO Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council

David Williams President Taxpayers Protection Alliance

Lisa Miller Founder Tea Party WDC

Kevin L. Kearns President U.S. Business and Industry Council

H.J.Res 88 passed the House today. Here is the roll-call vote.

The Senate will also consider S.J Res. 28, which overturns the agriculture department's catfish inspection program. Campaign for Liberty has signed the following coalition letter on this issue:

Senator Kelly Ayotte

144 Russell Senate Office Building

Washington, D.C. 20510

May 23, 2016

Dear Senator Ayotte,

As organizations that represent millions of taxpayers across the country, we write to support your efforts to repeal the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) catfish inspection program.

We are pleased to see you and your cosponsors, Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), using the Congressional Review Act to repeal one of the most demonstrably wasteful and duplicative programs ever enacted.

The unnecessary and duplicative bureaucracy created by this program has now been targeted by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) a record ten times: February 2011, March 2011, May 2012, February 2013, April 2013, April 2014, December 2014, February 2015, April 2015, and April 2016.

The USDA spent $19.9 million to develop and study the catfish inspection program then told GAO it would cost the federal government an additional “$14 million annually” to run the program. This after GAO found the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) currently spends “less than $700,000 annually to inspect catfish.”

If the cost of other, similar regulatory programs is any guide, the USDA program will cost far more than the estimated $14 million. The GAO also notes that it not only wastes taxpayer dollars and duplicates work already being done by the FDA, it actually weakens, rather than strengthens, our food safety systems: “…the agency’s proposed catfish inspection program further fragments the federal oversight system for food safety without demonstrating that there is a problem with catfish or a need for a new federal program.”

Eliminating wasteful federal spending and burdensome regulation is a very difficult task, especially when proceeding one program at a time. But the value to taxpayers of doing so is undeniable. Thus, as you gather support for S.J. Res 28, please know we strongly support this effort to close the book on this now infamous and embarrassing example of government waste.

The USDA catfish work is an embarrassing waste of tax dollars and so overtly duplicative a program it belongs in the annals of Washington waste history. Sincerely,

David Williams, President Taxpayers Protection Alliance

Norm Singleton, President Campaign for Liberty

Jeff Mazzella, President Center for Individual Freedom

Tom Schatz, President Council for Citizens Against Government Waste Sabrina Schaffer, Executive Director Independent Women’s Forum

Heather R. Higgins, President & CEO Independent Women’s Voice

Brandon Arnold, Executive Vice President National Taxpayers Union

Andrew Moylan, Executive Director & Senior Fellow R Street Institute

Karen Kerrigan, President & CEO Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council

Steve Ellis, Vice President Taxpayers for Common Sense

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