TO: House Republicans
FR: Eric Cantor
DT: Friday, February 21, 2014
RE: Winter 2014 Legislative Agenda – An America that Works
At our issues retreat last month, we discussed our priorities and legislative agenda for the year to build an America that works again. Our plan is to reduce the middle class squeeze; create an environment for economic growth and job creation; reform our health care system to one of patient centered care and lowers costs; and ensure that all Americans have the opportunity to get ahead by accessing a quality education.
House Republicans reject the Obama administration's notion of the new normal. One in six working age men being unemployed isn't normal; nor are the stagnant wages and growing costs that squeeze middle class families. Nor should a government run healthcare system that discourages work, raises costs and denies the opportunity to see one’s doctor become the new normal. And neither should a K-12 education system that fails our most vulnerable children or a college system that is only accessible to the rich become the new normal.
This year, we will reject the status quo and will continue to build a policy agenda focused on bold, conservative solutions to these and other pressing problems facing working middle class families. Our efforts over the next three weeks will include:
30 Hour Work Week
Restoring Wages to Hourly Employees
Hourly employees can lose up to 25 percent of their hours/wages as a direct result of Obamacare’s 30 hour work-week provision. Coincidentally, the President has proposed an increase in the minimum wage just large enough to cover the wages lost from a reduction in hours under Obamacare. The CBO says that the President’s minimum wage proposal could cost America 500,000 to one million jobs. Rather than lose more jobs and hours in this economy, we should protect middle class workers from the destructive consequences of Obamacare and restore up to 25 percent of their paycheck.
According to a Hoover Institution study, 2.6 million Americans are especially at risk of having their hours and wages cut as a result of Obamacare’s 30-hour rule. Of that, 59% are between the ages of 19 and 34, 63% are women, and 90% do not have a college degree. Further, families most at risk have a median income of $29,126.
Investor’s Business Daily has compiled a database of examples of where employees have had their hours cut. As of the end of January, the database included 401 employers with more than 100 school districts among them. In addition, the House Education and Workforce Committee has been collecting and compiling stories about school districts and colleges impacted by the 30-hour rule. I encourage you to likewise collect personal stories from your district and be prepared to highlight them over the coming weeks.
Chairman Dave Camp and the Ways and Means Committee recently reported Representative Todd Young’s bill, H.R. 2575, the Save American Workers Act, to stop Obamacare from cutting the wages of hard working Americans and put the middle class back to work. We will consider this proposal in March.
Middle Class Squeeze
Reducing Home Heating Costs
Three out of four Americans say they are living paycheck to paycheck. With the median household income lower today than it was in 2000, increased energy costs are squeezing more from an already smaller paycheck for middle class Americans. Last fall, the Energy Information Administration predicted that 90% of U.S. households would see higher home heating costs this year. This is bad for middle-class families that have seen utility costs consume significantly more of their household budgets over the past decade and especially bad news for low-income families who already spend over 12% of their household budget on energy costs (home and vehicle). More acutely, the 5% of American households that heat their home with propane have seen shortages this winter and skyrocketing bills – nearly 70% higher than a year ago – in part because the infrastructure to deliver propane to high-demand areas is insufficient. The price of natural gas – which is used by half of American households to heat their homes – is up 45% so far this year. And there is growing concern about our current storage levels and about the infrastructure necessary to get natural gas where it is needed most.
We will tackle these problems the week of March 3rd.
The House will take up legislation by Chairman Bill Shuster to make it easier to transport propane to areas with shortages.
We will consider Representative Tom Marino’s proposal to expedite federal permitting for construction projects – including the 351 proposed coal, wind, nuclear, and natural gas projects identified in a 2011 study that will create more abundant energy supplies reducing costs and increasing reliability.
Recognizing that 30% of households heat their homes with electricity, we will also take up Representative Ed Whitfield’s proposal to protect electric utility plants from excessive EPA regulation as well as Representatives Bill Johnson and Doug Lamborn’s proposal to protect coal mining from excessive and unnecessary federal regulation.
We will consider a number of proposals, including from Representative David McKinley, to promote energy efficiency in federal and commercial buildings recognizing that we can also lower costs by improving energy efficiency.
Many of your constituents currently are struggling with their most expensive home heating bills of the season. I encourage you to reach out to them and bring their stories and their energy bills back to Washington with you to highlight their struggles.
Job Creation and Economic Growth
The cost of excessive and burdensome Washington regulations means fewer jobs and reduced salaries for those with a job. Studies have shown that regulatory costs imposed by Washington already amount to $7,755 per employee for large businesses and an astonishing $10,585 per employee for small businesses.
Next week House Republicans will consider a package of bills to protect jobs and wages from runaway Obama regulators.
- Chairman Bob Goodlatte's Regulatory Accountability Act increases transparency in the regulatory process, offers impacted entities the opportunity to weigh in regarding proposed regulations and requires agencies to write regulations so as to impose the least cost necessary.
- Representative Doug Collins's Sunshine for Regulatory Decrees and Settlements Act addresses one of the most abusive practices whereby liberal groups sue federal agencies and the agencies "settle" by agreeing to impose new costly regulations on business.
- Representative Spencer Bachus's Regulatory Flexibility Improvement Act requires agencies to identify and reduce the cost of new regulations on small businesses.
- Representative George Holding's ALERT Act requires federal agencies to publish more timely information on the status and cost of planned new regulations, preventing regulators from hiding the ball and helping the public to plan better for new requirements.
In addition to these four bills, I expect we will have the opportunity to consider amendments to require regulators to take into account the impact of regulations on wages and on employment in specific industry sectors. This will prevent, for example, EPA from downplaying the loss of mining and manufacturing jobs as a result of their regulations by arguing that new jobs will be created in regulatory compliance!
Protecting the First Amendment and Stopping Government Abuse
As if the IRS targeting conservatives because of their political beliefs wasn't bad enough, now Obama's IRS is attempting to move forward with regulations that, as the Ways and Means Committee has uncovered, appear to be reverse-engineered to silence conservative organizations. Chairman Dave Camp's STOP Targeting of Political Beliefs by the IRS Act will halt this regulation and protect the First Amendment rights of all Americans. We will vote on this bill next week prior to the Administration closing the public comment period.
Government abuse takes many other forms as well, from unfunded mandates, to abuse of eminent domain, to wasteful spending, to ridiculous regulations that restrict our freedom. The House will consider a series of bills next week designed to address these abuses. These include:
- Representative Virginia Foxx's Unfunded Mandates Information and Transparency Act, which will enhance transparency, accountability, and awareness of federal mandates.
- Chairman Darrel Issa's FOIA Act which directs federal agencies to process FOIA with a presumption of openness, placing the burden on them to justify withholding information. The bill also creates a pilot FOIA online program, which allows users to submit requests at one location, and for agencies to automatically post responsive records online.
- The Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act, authored by Chairman Darrel Issa, reforms the procurement management process the Government uses to purchase approximately $80 billion annually in IT products and services.
- Representative James Lankford's Taxpayers Right-To-Know Act requires every federal agency to provide taxpayers an annual report card on all of its programs, providing administrative costs and staffing information, expenditures for services, and number of program recipients.
- Representative Billy Long's Taxpayer Transparency Act of 2013 requires executive branch agencies to include a disclaimer to alert the public to any communication (mailers, brochures, TV/radio ads, billboards, emails, etc.) paid for at taxpayer expense.
- The Private Property Rights Protection Act authored by Representative Jim Sensenbrenner denies some federal economic development funds to states and localities that abuse eminent domain powers by taking private property from one private entity and giving it to another private entity, and provides for causes of action to enforce the law in court.
- Chairman Bob Goodlatte's Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act allows wireless phones to be “unlocked,” thus giving consumers the ability to connect to different wireless communications networks.
- Representative Sean Duffy’s Consumer Financial Protection Safety and Soundness Improvement Act of 2013 would bring much needed accountability and oversight to the CFPB, which is one of the most powerful agencies in the U.S.
- Finally two bills by Representative Peter Roskam would protect Americans from further abuses by the IRS. The Taxpayer Transparency and Efficient Audit Act would require the IRS to disclose to the taxpayer when the IRS has shared their tax information with another government agency and place a time limit on how long an individual can be subjected to an IRS audit. The Protecting Taxpayers from Intrusive IRS Requests Act would prevent the IRS from inquiring on an individual’s religious, political, or social beliefs.
The Imperial Presidency
President Obama has provided new clarity as to what constitutes an "imperial presidency." Declaring that he has a "pen and a phone" he has acted to effectively rewrite the laws of the United States. The House will consider a number of bills the week of March 10th designed to restore the balance of power created by our Founders and require that the President faithfully execute our nation's laws. I urge you to tune into the Judiciary's Committee's hearing this week entitled "Enforcing the President’s Constitutional Duty to Faithfully Execute the Laws." I want to thank Representatives Jim Gerlach, Trey Gowdy, Ron DeSantis, and Mike Kelly for their work on this issue.
As we continue to work to finalize our Obamacare replacement plan, we will also act to highlight and address the serious consequences of the law. In addition to the 30 hour workweek issue, we will focus on:
- the negative impact on seniors from the Medicare Advantage cuts and the proposed changes to the Medicare prescription drug program (see the letter Republican Leaders and Committee Chairs sent to President Obama: LINK); and
- the Administration's decision to delay the employer mandate while continuing to force American families to work through a broken system to purchase insurance that is too expensive and often doesn't meet their needs OR pay a brand new tax equal to up to 1% of their income.
Action in both of these areas is possible in the near future.
Finally, next week, the House will consider a modified version of the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act. Representatives Michael Grimm, Bill Cassidy, Steve Scalise, Shelley Moore Capito, Richard Nugent, Gus Bilirakis, Steven Palazzo, Frank LoBiondo, Mario Diaz-Balart, Vern Buchanan, and Dennis Ross have been leaders on this issue and I thank them for their effort in crafting a responsible bill. The Senate bill unfortunately removes much needed reforms and imposes additional costs on taxpayers and is a non-starter in this body. The House will act to protect the flood insurance program but also protect homeowners from unreasonable and unrealistic premium increases.
Thank you for all your efforts on behalf of your constituents and the American people. I look forward to working with you to build an America that works!