Morning Action: Obamacare Must Be Defunded
OBAMACARE. Heritage Action CEO Mike Needham explained Wednesday that Obamacare must be defunded to prevent a fiscal catastrophe when the law goes fully into effect:
IST. The Internet sales tax fight is moving to the House:
The battle over a proposed Internet sales tax has moved to the House, with interests on both sides pouring money into the campaign coffers of potential allies.
The bill passed the Senate in May, and the fight for votes in the House is focused on tax-leery Republicans; most Democratic lawmakers appear to be behind the measure. Opponents argue that it’s a new tax, while supporters say it simply compels enforcement of existing local and state sales levies.
Major retailers, including some online ones, have thrown their weight behind the initiative, and in the last few days of June a number of their PACs made significant contributions to key Republican House members. Opponents, such as eBay, also wrote some big checks, though far fewer, as talks began to heat up.
Conservatives strongly oppose this tax, which would harm consumers, especially young people, and degrade federalism.
STUDENT LOANS. The Senate passed a student loan bill Wednesday (sub. req’d):
Senators passed a bill Wednesday that would tie federal student loan interest rates to the government’s borrowing rate, despite divisions among Democrats on the issue.
The bill (HR 1911), which the Senate backed 81-18, would link student loan interest rates to the 10-year Treasury note. Senators adopted a substitute amendment by voice vote that would add 2.05 percentage points to the rate for both the subsidized and unsubsidized portions of undergraduate loans, 3.6 points for graduate loans and 4.6 points for PLUS loans.
The bill, as amended, would cap the rates for undergraduate loans at 8.25 percent, graduate loans at 9.5 percent and PLUS loans at 10.5 percent.
Meanwhile, the House is apparently eager to pass the student loan bill as well (sub. req’d):
The student loan interest rate legislation approved Wednesday by the Senate appears to face a clear path in the House, where Republicans wasted no time pointing out that the proposal closely mirrors their original plan.
The office of House Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, blasted out an email before the Senate vote noting the similarities between the bipartisan Senate compromise and the House bill (HR 1911) passed in May. Both shift from a fixed interest rate to variable, market-based rates pegged to the 10-year Treasury note, similar to what President Barack Obama proposed in his fiscal 2014 budget.
“I’m pleased that Senate Democrats finally joined Republicans to pass a bill to provide a permanent, market-based solution on student loans,” Boehner said in a statement after the Senate vote. “The House will act expeditiously.”
ENERGY. The Heritage Foundation explains that the Shaheen-Portman energy bill is the wrong place for a Keystone amendment. The underlying bill is seriously flawed; adding the keystone amendment does not improve it:
The Shaheen–Portman bill would set up a “voluntary” national building code that induces states into taking federal money and the strings that go with it to implement federal standards for homes and other buildings.
Adding an amendment calling the Obama Administration out on its unreasonable handling of the Keystone project won’t make the Shaheen–Portman bill itself any less unreasonable itself.
DEFENSE SPENDING. The House passed a defense spending bill after defeating an amendment offered by Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI):
The House endorsed the bill by a 315-109 vote. Eight Republicans joined a nearly evenly split Democratic caucus in voting for the measure.
The bill’s passage came less than an hour after lawmakers defeated 205-217 an amendment that would bar the use of funds in the bill to execute Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court orders unless they specify that they are limited to “tangible things” related to those under investigation.
“We are here today for a very simple reason, to defend the Fourth Amendment, to defend the privacy of each and every American,” Amash said.
Amash has argued his amendment intends to rein in the NSA’s “blanket authority” under the Patriot Act (PL 107-56) to collect communications records and metadata.
Rogers suggested that the amendment could potentially make the nation more vulnerable to terrorist attacks.
Heritage has explained that the Amash amendment would probably have been unwise and would have possibly also been unconstitutional.
POSTAL SERVICE. A House panel Wednesday advanced a bill to overhaul the Postal Service (sub. req’d):
The bill would allow an immediate change to five-day-per-week delivery of letters, with the caveat that there be no more than two consecutive days without mail delivery, including federal holidays. It would require the Postal Service to continue delivery of profitable products, which include packages, six days a week through the end of 2018.
It also would require the Postal Service to move from door-to-door delivery of mail, which less than a third of customers receive today, to cluster mailboxes and curbside delivery. Customers would be able to pay a fee to maintain their to-the-door delivery, and the Postal Service could provide waivers to those with physical hardships. The Postal Service would have to convert 30 million addresses within 10 years.