Heritage Action’s Week in Review 4-2-12

A temporary extension of the highway bill, which passed last week, lead to a multitude of press mentions, citing our opposition to the current bill and our skepticism of the extension:

Roll Call: Heritage Action for America today repeated its warning against passing a transportation bill that is not fully paid for by the Highway Trust Fund.

“Rather than continuing a process of uncertainty that has become emblematic of everything Congress touches, lawmakers must begin the process of turning authority back to the states. Heritage Action remains opposed to any transportation measure that exceeds incoming revenues to the federal Highway Trust Fund,” Heritage Action for America CEO Michael Needham said.

However, Needham stopped short of outright opposing the 90-day extension, saying, “That said, if an extension does become law, Congress should use the brief reprieve to do transportation policy right.”

Politico: But bringing it up later in the week isn’t a sure thing either. The conservative Heritage Action for America warned members against voting for an extension, saying the group “remains opposed to any transportation measure that exceeds incoming revenues to the federal Highway Trust Fund.”

National Journal: It doesn’t help that the conservative grassroots group Heritage Action for America also is protesting the stopgap bill. Heritage Action CEO Michael Needham said that a three-month extension is “continuing a process of uncertainty that has become emblematic of everything Congress touches.” Any highway extension goes against fiscal conservatives’ philosophy that infrastructure should only be paid for out of the Highway Trust Fund, according to the group.

Heritage Action doesn’t hate the three-month extension as much as it hates the Senate bill, however. The group considered a vote in favor the Senate bill to be a mark against true conservatism. The extension, by contrast, is simply an annoyance. If it does become law, “Congress should use the brief reprieve to do transportation policy right,” Needham said. But if Heritage Action had its way, federal highway funding would be cut by nearly one-third, something GOP leaders are not willing to do.

National Journal: Heritage Action, the grassroots and lobbying wing of the Heritage Foundation, went so far as to place the two-year, $109 billion Senate surface-transportation bill as a “key vote” on its legislative tracking list; a vote in favor was a mark against a conservative lawmaker. The bill passed handily, but Heritage was happy that 22 Republicans voted against it.

“We’re asking questions that people haven’t been asking in 30 years,” Heritage Action CEO Michael Needham said. “With the highway bill and many other things, we’re trying to say, ‘What is the appropriate role of the federal government?’ … The entities that should be funding highways are the states.”

CQ: A number of conservative Republicans have publicly and privately voiced a desire for “devolution” measures that would return responsibility for transportation funding to the states. Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., saw a devolution amendment he offered to the Senate’s transportation bill draw only 30 votes, but conservative groups including Heritage Action for America, FreedomWorks and the Club for Growth have eagerly pushed House Republicans to embrace the idea.

The Energy Collective: Sadly I suspect that the Leadership’s difficulty springs moreso from those they cater to relentlessly: the right flank of the GOP caucus. And this minority group is, I’m sure, taking its cue in turn from right-wing lobby groups including from harsh if mealy-mouthed statements like this one from Heritage Action. By their lights, the only good transportation bill seems to be one that dismantles the federal program, either entirely or nearly so.

Budgets were also a hot topic this week, as several different budgets (including House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s and President Obama’s). President Obama’s 2010 debt commission – commonly referred to as Simpson-Bowles – was finally brought to a vote on the House floor. It failed, and our opposition to the bill was cited as influential:

RedState: There would have been more supporters if not for the fact that Heritage Action and other organizations scored against the vote.

The Hill: Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho), who is also involved in the deficit-reduction talks, said Norquist and Heritage Action spooked many GOP members who had been prepared to vote “yes.”

Our scorecard also continues to be used to measure conservatism. OK Politechs and a Senate candidate used our scorecard in order to call out members of the Establishment.

When Sen. John Thune (R-SD) introduced a bill that would repeal the estate tax, our support was mentioned:

“Senator Thune’s legislation is supported by a wide variety of organizations, including American Conservative Union, American Family Business Institute, Americans for Prosperity, Americans for Tax Reform, Club for Growth, Farm Bureau, Heritage Action for America, Hispanic Leadership Fund, National Black Chamber of Commerce, National Federation of Independent Business, National Taxpayers Union, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.”

The Senate also voted to hike taxes on oil and gas companies (disguised as a “repeal” of supposed subsidies, which are actually tax credits afforded to a broad swath of industries). Our opposition to this targeted tax hike did not go unnoticed:

Sustainable Business.com: The bill was supported by clean energy, environmental and consumer groups and opposed by guess who? Multinational oil & gas producers and refiners,  Republican/Conservative Senators (except for the two Maine senators who broke ranks), the American Petroleum Institute, Heritage Action for America, National Association of Manufacturers, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and the National Taxpayers Union.

MapLight: The bill is opposed by Major (multinational) oil & gas producers, Petroleum refining & marketing, Republican/Conservative, Manufacturing, Chambers of commerce, and Fiscal & tax policy interest groups such as ExxonMobil, the American Petroleum Institute, Heritage Action for America, National Association of Manufacturers, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and the National Taxpayers Union.

Our communications director, Dan Holler, discussed President Obama’s views towards missile defense as evidenced by his “hot mic” incident with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. And our deputy political director, Jessica Anderson, moderated a debate between three Congressional candidates in North Carolina.

Knowing that we’re helping to influence the political conversation as well as the continued use of our scorecard as the measure of conservatism is a huge win, and it’s all thanks to supporters like you who work to hold Congress accountable.

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