Amendments to Financial Services Appropriations (H.R. 5485)

Heritage Action will key vote the following six amendments to H.R. 5485, the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act:

Key Vote Alert: “YES” Davidson “Draft Our Daughters” Prohibition

This week, the House will vote on an amendment offered by Rep. Warren Davidson (R-OH) 86% to H.R. 5485, the Financial Services Appropriations bill for Fiscal Year 2017. His amendment would prohibit the use of funds to change the Selective Service System registration requirements to force young women between the ages of 18 and 26 to sign up for the Selective Service. This amendment would confirm the previous House opposition to this policy during consideration of the National Defense Authorization Act.

In January 2013, then-Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta directed the military services to review policies with the goal of integrating women into all combat roles by January 2016. On December 3, 2015, Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter confirmed the decision without exception, and directed that all gender-based requirements for military service be removed by January 3, 2016. This order came despite military evaluations that raised concerns on this issue.

The decision to allow women to serve in all combat units has sparked a debate on whether women should be required to register for the Selective Service, making them eligible for conscription if Congress reinstates the draft for future military needs.

Leading up to the decision to open all combat positions to women, evaluations raised questions about the effectiveness of mixed gender units in ground combat tasks. According to an extensive 9-month Marine Corps’ Gender Integration Task Force study, which evaluated mixed gender units in 134 combat training activities, all-male units outperformed mixed units in 69 percent of the tasks while mixed units outperformed male units in just 2 tasks.

Additional evidence from the Marine Corps evaluation showed that women had an injury rate twice that of men when performing combat-related tasks. The increased risk of injury could threaten personal safety as well as the safety of their fellow soldiers in combat situations.

Conservatives believe women and men have equal natural rights, and equality means that law should treat things that are the same in the same ways. But when it comes to combat-related tasks, there are differences between men and women that are relevant to accomplishing the military mission.

According to former Marine Corps servicewoman Jude Eden, “Combat is not an equal opportunity for women because they don’t have an equal opportunity to survive.” If women’s increased risk of injury makes them more vulnerable when engaging the enemy, why would Congress ever want to require women to be registered for the Selective Service, and ultimately the draft?

Women can and do contribute significantly to the overall mission of the military. But military personnel policy, particularly when it comes to combat, should be determined based on military objectives and preparedness, not President Obama’s social agenda.

Congress should prohibit the drafting of women into military services through the Selective Service and direct military leaders to rethink the policy of opening all combat units to women. 

Heritage Action supports the Davidson Amendment and will include it as a key vote on our legislative scorecard.

Key Vote Alert: “YES” on Roskam (#40) Iran Aircraft Export Prohibition 

This week, the House will vote on an amendment offered by Rep. Peter Roskam (R-IL) 67% to H.R. 5485, the Financial Services Appropriations bill for Fiscal Year 2017. The amendment would effectively prohibit the export of commercial passenger aircraft to the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Earlier this week, Boeing announced it signed a “Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with Iran Air, expressing the airline’s intent to purchase Boeing commercial passenger airplanes.” The Wall Street Journal reports that the deal, worth as much as $25 billion, “could take months [to complete] amid uncertainty from lenders about financing deals with Iran and the need for the U.S. government to sign off on any sale.” The Roskam Amendment would ensure the deal could not be completed.  

As Rep. Roskam notes in a USA Today op-ed, Iran Air’s current Airbus fleet is “not ferrying tourists to and from the war-torn nation.” Instead, the “Iranian regime is using commercial airlines to send troops, weapons, missiles and cash to assist the Syrian dictator Bashar Assad in his slaughter of innocents; 400,000 have been killed so far.” Roskam continues:

“The Islamic Republic of Iran is the world’s foremost state sponsor of terrorism. It systematically uses commercial aircraft to sow the seeds of death and destruction around the globe. Iran’s terror proxies have killed and wounded thousands of Americans troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. They’ve murdered civilians from Beirut to Buenos Aires.”

The Obama administration’s Iran nuclear deal prohibits the export of aircraft and parts to Iran — which it notes as having “one of the world’s worst aviation safety records” — except for “civilian uses only.” As Iran Air’s actions indicate, the country’s rulers make no distinction between military and civilian.  Rep. Roskam concludes “the decision to sell militarily-fungible products to terrorism’s central supplier is just plain wrong.”

Heritage Action supports the Roskam Amendment and will include it as a key vote on our legislative scorecard.

Key Vote Alert: “NO” on Crawford Cuba Ag Export Expansion (UPDATED)

This week, the House will vote on an amendment offered by Rep. Rick Crawford (R-AR) 68% to H.R. 5485, the Financial Services Appropriations bill for Fiscal Year 2017. This amendment would allow for the financing of agriculture sales by defunding the Trade Sanction Reform and Export Enhancement Act (TSRA) of 2000 requirement that agriculture sales to Cuba to be carried out on a cash basis.

In December 2014, the Obama Administration made the misguided decision to normalize relations with the Cuban government, without demanding the dictatorship change its behavior. Since then, U.S. agricultural interests have been angling to increase their access to the Cuban market by removing this cash basis restriction in the TSRA.

This is problematic change of policy. According to Ana Quintana, The Heritage Foundation Policy Analyst for Latin America and the Western Hemisphere, this amendment would:

“Extend financing to Cuba’s state run agriculture monopoly ALIMPORT, which is run by the Cuban military. The Heritage Foundation has long opposed expanded trade with Cuba, as the economy is operated by Castro regime run entities.”

Even the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (“USDA”) report on Cuba stresses that “the key difference in exporting to Cuba, compared to other countries in the region, is that all U.S. agricultural exports must be channeled through one Cuban government agency, Alimport.”

Lastly, this change is not likely to help the Cuban people. The Castro regime continues to control all levers of power in the government and the economy, which they use primarily to enrich themselves, at the expense of the people. This will only provide them more wealth and more power to continue to repress their people.

Heritage Action opposes the Crawford Amendment and will include it as a key vote on our legislative scorecard.

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Key Vote Alert: “NO” on Sewell CFPB Payday Loan Regulation Amendment

This week, the House will vote on an amendment offered by Rep. Terri Sewell (D-AL) 11% which would strike section 639 from the underlying bill.  This section prohibits funds from being used by the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection (CFPB) to enforce regulations or rules with respect to payday loans, vehicle title loans, or other similar loans during Fiscal Year 2017.

Currently, the CFPB is working on new regulations that may shut down payday, or small dollar, lenders.  According to Dr. Norbert Michel, The Heritage Foundation Expert on Financial Market Regulation, this effort “starts with a badly flawed premise: the industry harms consumers.” He goes on to explain:

“The main reason the premise is flawed is that it is simply impossible for any third party to objectively state that, in general, short-term lenders are charging consumers too much for their services and trapping them with unmanageable debt…As difficult as it may be for some people to admit, payday lenders provide a valuable service for which countless consumers have demonstrated they are both willing and able to pay…

“Many of the companies that provide these loans, particularly installment loans, have been around for more than a century precisely because they help people. Consumers use all types of small-dollar loans to help with all kinds of expenses, some of which arise unexpectedly.”

Conservatives believe that the CFPB shouldn’t exist in the first place, but as long as it does, it certainly shouldn’t be picking winners and losers in the loan industry, or picking on a certain subset of that industry because they have a nanny-state based objection to the services provided. While the CFPB argues that this industry negatively impacts the economically disadvantaged, ironically, the CFPB’s own data doesn’t back this up.  As Dr. Michel records in his Issue Brief Dodd–Frank and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Put Squeeze on Private Payday Lenders:

“Furthermore, the CFPB’s own complaint database does not support the claim that there is a systematic problem in this industry. From July 2011 to August 2015, consumers lodged approximately 10,000 complaints against payday lenders. Ignoring the fact that these are unverified complaints, the figure pales in comparison to the more than 12 million people per year using payday loan services. Certainly, some customers have legitimate complaints, but four years of raw complaint totals represent less than one tenth of one percent of the number of annual payday loan customers.”

The Financial Services Committee made the right choice to include the underlying section blocking the implementation of the harmful regulation which may end small dollar lending.  Rep. Sewell’s amendment is simply a liberal effort to attack an industry because of emotion, rather than record.

Heritage Action opposes the Sewell Amendment and will include it as a key vote on our legislative scorecard.

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Key Vote Alert: “YES” on Palmer RHNDA Amendment

This week, the House is expected to vote on an amendment offered by Rep. Gary Palmer (R-AL) 95% that would prohibit funds from being used to implement D.C.’s Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Amendment Act (RHNDA).  

Passed by the District of Columbia in January 2015, RHNDA would force religious organizations who operate in DC to violate their religious beliefs, or face penalties.  The law would coerce organizations who operate with pro-life convictions to provide coverage for elective, surgical abortions in their health plans and it would require specifically pro-life organizations to hire individuals who advocate for abortion

Ryan Anderson and Sarah Torre explain:

“The threat against conscience rights is serious for many organizations in D.C. like Americans United for Life, March for Life, Family Research Council and the Archdiocese of Washington, among others. Organizations whose mission is to empower women facing unplanned pregnancies with physical and emotional support or who advocate for policies that affirm the dignity and value of both mother and child in law could be forced to provide health insurance for the life-ending procedure they oppose.”

Under the 1973 Home Rules Act, Congress has the authority to override bad policies enacted by the D.C. government. Last year the House of Representatives used this authority and passed a H.J.Res. 43, a resolution of disapproval of RHNDA.  Heritage Action key voted in favor of this legislation, saying “Preventing the Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Amendment (RHNDA) from going into effect and restoring pro-life conscience by passing H.J. Res. 43 is important.”  However, the Senate has yet to consider the resolution, failing to act in the face of a grave threat to religious freedom and conscience protection.

In light of the Senate’s failure, Rep. Palmer should be commended for continuing this effort to protect pro-life residents and organizations in DC who operate in accordance with their conscience and their First Amendment rights. After introducing his amendment, Rep. Palmer released a statement saying:

“This amendment protects life and religious liberties…RHNDA could force employers in DC to cover abortions in their health insurance plans and require pro-life organizations to hire individuals who advocate for abortion. Freedom of religion does not stop at the District of Columbia’s borders. Federal dollars whether in D.C. or otherwise must not be used to take lives or deny religious freedoms. This amendment would prohibit D.C. from promoting policies to do that.”

Heritage Action supports the Palmer Amendment and will include it as a key vote on our legislative scorecard.

Key Vote Alert: “YES” on Garrett “Too Big To Fail” Amendment 

This week, the House is expected to vote on an amendment offered by Rep. Scott Garrett (R-NJ) 81% that would prohibit the use of funds to designate any nonbank financial company as “too big to fail” or as a “systemically important financial institution” or to make a determination that material financial distress at a nonbank financial company could pose a threat to U.S. financial stability.  In short, this amendment would end the financially dangerous practice of considering an institution as “too big to fail.”

In response to the 2008-2009 housing market collapse and recession, Democrats passed the 2010 Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.  A partisan and misguided response, Dodd-Frank essentially codified the irresponsible financial practices that led to the collapse, while adding additional layers of regulations, and regulating bodies, like the Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC).  

As Dr. Norbert Michel, The Heritage Foundation Expert on Financial Market Regulation, notes in his report The Financial Stability Oversight Council: Helping to Enshrine “Too Big to Fail”: “The Financial Stability Oversight Council was created based on the faulty premise that financial market deregulation caused the 2008 financial crisis…future government bailouts are now more likely because the council identifies firms whose failure financial regulators would consider catastrophic.”

One of FSOC’s main responsibilities is to identify systemically important financial institutions (SIFIs).  But SIFI is simply “too big to fail” by another name. And continuing this practice is dangerous.  Dr. Michel explains in his report on ending “Too Big to Fail”:

“When mortgage lenders, large banks, and other financial firms got into trouble, U.S. citizens were forced to pay for their life support. Such is the privilege of favored institutions deemed too big to fail. But while some companies, such as Bear Sterns and General Motors were bailed out, other large companies, such as Lehman Brothers, did not get special treatment from the government and were allowed to go under.

“Creating an environment in which certain large firms expect to be supported with taxpayer dollars, or in which various market participants expect such support, is dangerous for several reasons. First, this process ultimately allows government officials to decide which firms survive and which companies fail. Providing government authorities with this sort of power all but ensures less economically beneficial activity precisely because inefficient and unprofitable firms are the ones most likely to fail. Furthermore, socializing financial firms’ costs while leaving profits mainly private makes it more likely that managers will take on too much risk and that creditors will provide too much credit.”

By ensuring that the Secretary of the Treasury and the Chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), in their roles as members of the Financial Stability Oversight Commission (FSOC), cannot designate any additional non-bank financial companies as “too big to fail”,  the Garrett amendment protects American taxpayers from being on the hook for significant bailouts.

As Rep. Garrett noted in his Dear Colleague:

“We cannot allow the corrupt doctrine of too-big-to-fail to take root in our non-bank financial institutions.  These institutions provide too important a competitive counterbalance to the mega-banks to allow them to be captured in the same misguided regulatory scheme.  In its reckless designation of SIFIs, FSOC is not making our markets safer; it is making them more dangerous and unstable.”

Putting Americans on the hook for reckless financial market practices like we saw Freddie and Fannie engage in is the opposite of opportunity to all and favoritism to none.  The Garrett amendment will help ensure a level playing field and a free financial market.  

Heritage Action supports the Garrett Amendment and will include it as a key vote on our legislative scorecard.

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