Madison Project Scores 11 Spending Amendments in Transportation-HUD Bill

Tuesday, June 17th, 2014 and is filed under Blog, Debt, Issues

Amidst the political turmoil in the House last week, members of Congress voted on a number of spending amendments to the annual Transportation-HUD appropriations bill.  This is not exactly the most exciting topic in light of the political gamesmanship involved in running for leadership posts, but it is quite revealing when attempting to ascertain the commitment of some members to reducing the size of government.

The bill, HR 4745, appropriates roughly $52 billion for FY 2015.  Put simply, this bill encompasses more wasteful government that almost any other appropriations bill.  It spends almost $8 billion more than last year’s draft bill from the House and it contains a number of programs that should not be administered at a federal level, such as subsidies for mass transit and rural air service.   The bill also contains a number of programs that were instituted under the Obama stimulus bill in 2009.

Several members of the conference offered amendments to cut back wasteful spending, particularly among programs that subsidize housing, yet most of them were rebuffed by a coalition of Democrats and liberal Republicans.  We’ve created a scorecard of 11 amendments detailing how each member of the GOP conference voted.

Click here to view the scorecard

Please find the descriptions of these amendments from the Republican Study Committee pasted below:

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Scorecard of Amendment Votes on CJS Appropriations Bill

Monday, June 2nd, 2014 and is filed under Blog

Last week, the House conducted a marathon session voting on amendments to the annual Commerce, Justice, and Science (CJS) appropriations bill.  As always, there were a number of votes on spending cut amendments.  In addition, there was a rare gun control amendment snuck into the bill.  An amendment sponsored by Rep. Mike Thompson (D-CA) dumped another $20 million into state grants for beefing up background checks on gun purchases.  This will essentially give a green light to blue states to continue their overzealous regulation of firearms.  Sadly, it passed with a majority Democrat support.

As always, we have put together a color-coded scorecard to track the way Republican members voted on key amendments.  You can view the spreadsheet here.

Below the fold is a brief summary of the amendments scored in the spreadsheet from the Republican Study Committee:

1)      Pompeo (R-KS):  Eliminates funding for the Economic Development Administration (EDA).  The underlying bill funds EDA at $248 million.  According to the amendment sponsor, “the Administration uses the EDA as a vehicle to spend taxpayer money on its own personal pork-barrel projects.”  The GAO has said that EDA grants “did not have a significant effect” on project success, and the EDA IG has found that up to 29 percent of grant money has been wasted.

The EDA has not been authorized since 2008.  The RSC budget proposed to eliminate this program.  Conservative Support:  American Conservative Union, Americans for Prosperity, and Club for Growth (Key Vote).  Many outside groups have supported eliminating the EDA, including: Cato, Citizens Against Government Waste, FreedomWorks, Heritage Action, and National Taxpayers Union.

2)      Thompson (D-CA):  Increases funding for National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) Initiative grants by $19.5 million.  These funds are meant to provide federal grants to states to upgrade criminal and mental health records for NICS, as authorized by the NICS Improvement Amendments Act of 2007.  NICS is already funded at $58.5 million, a level that is already $3.5 million above the President’s budget request.

This increase is offset by reducing Commerce Departmental Administration by $1 million, Justice Information Sharing Technology by $3 million, Federal Prison System Buildings and facilities by $5.5 million, and National Science Foundation Agency Operation and Awards Management by $10 million.

3)      Cicilline (D-RI):  Increases funding by $8.5 million for DOJ State and Local Law Enforcement Assistance and reduces NASA Construction and Environmental Compliance and Restoration by $8.5 million.  This funding is meant to support Project Safe Neighborhoods, a grant program that is meant to reduce gun and gang crime.

4)      Smith (R-TX):  Would reduce National Science Foundation (NSF) Social-Behavioral-Economic (SBE) Directorate by $15.35 million and refocus those funds on science and technology NSF research directorates.  This would freeze the SBE Directorate at the current FY14 level.

This amendment is consistent with the goal of prioritizing NSF research that is in H.R. 4186, the Frontiers in Innovation, Research, Science and Technology (FIRST) Act, which was approved by the Science, Space, and Technology Committee yesterday.

The underlying legislation funds the NSF at $7.404 billion, $149 million above the President’s request, $232 million above the FY14 enacted level, and $409 million above the level proposed by the House Appropriations Committee for FY14.  The NSF has not been authorized since 2013.  The RSC budget called for reducing funding for the NSF due to the number of wasteful grants funded by the NSF.

5)      Scott (R-GA):  Would eliminate funding for the Legal Services Corporation (LSC).  In the underlying legislation, the LSC is appropriated $350 million, $80 million below the President’s request, $15 million below the FY14 enacted level, and $50 million above the level proposed by the House Appropriations Committee for FY14.

The LSC has not been authorized since 1980.  The RSC Budget calls for the elimination of the LSC, explaining “the LSC has evolved into an organization that also takes part in the advocacy of political causes and lobbying.  Coupling the misuse of taxpayer funds with the redundancy of free legal services provided by states and other organizations eliminates the need for this federally funded entity.”  Several outside groups have advocated eliminating the LSC, including Heritage, Citizens Against Government Waste, and Cato.

6)      Blackburn (R-TN):  Would reduce the bill across the board (other than the FBI) by one percent ($400 million).

GOP House Passes Big Government Energy Bill

Thursday, March 6th, 2014 and is filed under Blog, Economy

The reason many of us don’t trust the current crop of Republicans to actually downsize existing federal programs is because they often agree to create new government interventions into the private sector.

Case in point?  Yesterday’s obscure vote to create a new program within the Department of Energy.

It has become clear this year that House Republicans have no interest in forcing a fight on must-pass legislation nor do they have the stomach to pass stand-alone bills that draw a sharp contrast on contentious issues, such as illegal immigration, religious liberty, and gay marriage.  They don’t want to address other conservative solutions, such as devolving transportation and education to the states or repealing the pernicious ethanol mandate, which raises the cost of food and fuel – all great issues to promote during an election year.  Instead, they want to run out the clock and squander their time in the majority passing the most innocuous bills.

To that end, they have spent most of their time pushing these “non-controversial” suspension bills, which need a two-thirds majority to pass.  One of those bills that passed the House yesterday was H.R. 2126 – Energy Efficiency Improvement Act of 2014, sponsored by liberal Republican David McKinley (WV) and Reps. Peter Welch (D-VT).  Here is a synopsis of the bill from CRS:

Amends the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 to require the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Assistant Secretary of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy to study the feasibility of: (1) significantly improving energy efficiency in commercial buildings through the design and construction of separate spaces with high-performance energy efficiency measures, and (2) encouraging owners and tenants to implement such measures in separate spaces. Requires the Secretary to publish such study on DOE’s website.

Requires the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to develop a voluntary Tenant Star program within the Energy Star program to recognize tenants in commercial buildings that voluntarily achieve high levels of energy efficiency in separate spaces. Requires DOE’s Administrator of the Energy Information Administration to collect data on categories of building occupancy that consume significant quantities of energy and on other aspects of the property, building operation, or building occupancy determined to be relevant to lowering energy consumption. Prohibits the impact on climate change from being a factor in determining energy efficiency of commercial building tenants.

Talk about picking winners and losers!  This opens the door to the government collecting data on construction of private buildings and incentivizing specific behavior through green venture socialism.  As always, these things start out as voluntary propositions, but quickly morph into full-blown mandates.

Also, like most green energy programs, the DOE will carefully craft the grant programs to benefit liberal crony capitalists who can’t sell their sub-par product or service in the free market without the extra boost from government.

Moreover, why are we adding another program to a department that Republicans [were supposed to] believe serves no constructive purpose?

At some point we need to ask why Republicans feel so uncomfortable being in the majority that they have to fill their time passing Democrat bills.

And unlike some of the other suspension bills, this is not an isolated measure that will stall out in the Senate.  The Welch/McKinley bill overlaps with a broader Shaheen-Portman bill that has been percolating through the Senate for the past few years.  They recently introduced another iteration of the bill and can now point to the fact that 86 percent of House Republicans supported much of the foundation for their legislation.  Rep. Welch has already said that passage of this bill “provides a clear path to conference” with the Senate.  They might take up this bill as early as next week.

Passage of this bill marks a new milestone for the GOP establishment. First they gave Senate Democrats a de facto super-majority with a number of Republicans voting with them on key issues.  Then House Republicans began rubber-stamping some of their bad bills, often in violation of the Hastert Rule.  Now they are pre-emptively passing Senate Democrat legislation in the House even before Reid takes up the bill!

At some point we are going to learn that a GOP majority does not have much utility unless we replace the current roster of failed leaders.

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Mitch McConnell, the Farm Bill and the Power of Logrolling

Wednesday, January 29th, 2014 and is filed under Blog, Debt, Economy

[The voting spreadsheet has been updated due to some errors taken from an old roster of Congress.  We apologize for the mistake. – Madison Project Staff]

Earlier today, the House passed the Farm/Food Stamp bill boondoggle.  Sadly, only 63 Republicans opposed it.  The bill locks in Obama’s food stamp regime, creates and expands numerous Soviet-style agriculture subsidies and conservation regulations, and authorizes more spending on the biofuels fiasco.  House Republicans got rolled in the conference committee by Senate Democrats, yet almost 75% of the conference dutifully followed leadership.

Click here for a color-coded spreadsheet of the GOP vote.

There is also one other point overlooked in this bill – earmarks.  You will notice that some good members voted for this terrible bill.  In particular, Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY) voted for the bill!

Why?

Well, knowing Massie he wasn’t too enthralled about the underlying piece of legislation.  Presumably, he supported the bill because a provision to allow a pilot program growing industrial hemp was inserted into the legislation. And, guess who is now bragging about his involvement in this form of logrolling? That’s right, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY).

Thanks to Mitch McConnell, he made it easier to grow government and increase spending.  Industrial hemp is very popular in the state, and what better way to buy off votes than by inserting this provision into the bill.  While this provision might not meet the technical definition of an earmark, it has all of the harmful characteristics of one.

We’ve always noted that the problem with earmarks or extraneous provisions is not the “small potatoes” expenditure.  The problem is that the $500,000 earmark is then used to buy off a conservative vote for a $1 trillion omnibus, farm bill or some other terrible transformational legislation.  The earmarks are used as the magic “grease” to garner majority support for big-government legislation.  Once we reinstate the practice of earmarking, we will never be able to mobilize a majority within the Conference to oppose any big-government legislation.  Most of them will be seduced into supporting bad legislation through personal earmarks for their districts.  This is the “multiplying factor” of earmarks.

This hemp provision is a superlative example of how Mitch McConnell and others quietly enable the growth of government.  If this is something that is necessary and popular then pass it in a separate bill.  Placing it in a massive welfare/subsidy bill only helps advance the liberal agenda.  Would McConnell and others have supported Obamacare if it had a hemp provision attached?  We’d hate to see what finds its way into the immigration bill!

It is precisely because of leaders like McConnell and the use of logrolling provisions that we are stuck in the situation we are in today.

And this is another reason why we must change leadership.  I’m not here to dump on Massie.  He’s a great conservative.  But that’s the point.  The way GOP leaders do business is so antithetical to our values that it creates a “meat grinder” dynamic in which even the best members are faced with tough decisions on bad votes.

Business as usual in Washington will never change with current leadership.  They are not a symptom of the problem.  They are the problem.  Not only do people like Mitch McConnell enable the growth of government, they corrupt an entire state delegation and act as a malignant force on the broader effort to downsize the federal government.  That is why we need game-changers like Matt Bevin in the Senate.

Bryan Smith for Congress in Idaho’s Second District

Tuesday, September 10th, 2013 and is filed under Blog, Elections, News

Last year, The Madison Project started a national conversation about the lack of elected conservatives in Congress – even from some of the most conservative parts of the country.  One of the most obvious examples of Republicans wasting a solid red state is Congressman Mike Simpson’s representation of east Idaho with his progressive values.

We have long dreamed of replacing Rep. Simpson with a constitutional conservative.  Now we have the chance with Idaho Falls attorney Bryan Smith.

Congressman Simpson doesn’t feel as comfortable in Idaho as he does in Washington, D.C..  And that feeling is mutual.  Republicans in south Idaho have been looking to the northern part of the state for conservative leadership from Congressman Raul Labrador, often wondering why they are stuck with a progressive.  Rep. Mike Simpson is the embodiment of what is wrong with Republicans in Washington.  As a Cardinal on the House Appropriations Committee, Simpson worships big government and has always been a reliable vote for any backroom deal that helped expand the size and scope of the leviathan.  Additionally, Congressman Simpson is extremely weak on social issues fighting against conservatives on: abortion, marriage, guns, and illegal immigration.

Idaho Republicans are ready for change; they are ready to send two Republicans to Washington who will force Idaho values on the federal government, not the other way around.  And gauging by the amount of grassroots support that Bryan Smith has already received, it looks like Simpson’s days are numbered.

While Smith has never been elected to any prior office during his distinguished career as a top Idaho attorney, he has already used his natural gifts of passion and persuasion to fight corrupt government at the local level.  Last year, Bryan Smith forced the Idaho Falls city solicitor to resign after exposing his pay-for-play corruption of directing superfluous city lawsuits to his own law firm.  He also single-handedly organized against a planned property tax hike that was slated to go towards an increase in government salaries at a time when city employees were already enjoying higher salaries and more benefits than their private sector counterparts.  And in 2008, Smith was part of the group that defeated the moderate state party Republican chairman.

Conservative Idahoans have long sensed the vulnerability in Simpson, but a strong challenger had not emerged until this year.  When the Club for Growth solicited challengers to come forth as part of their “Primary My Congressman” program, a number of people in the district submitted Bryan’s name.  Sensing that nobody else could mount a serious challenge, Bryan heeded the call.  He jumped in immediately, raised an impressive sum of money from within the state, and organized a solid campaign.

Not only is Bryan a full-spectrum conservative – from fiscal issues to social issues, guns to illegal immigration – he is willing to fight for those values.  He has watched the failure of the Boehner House in restoring our Republic and is committed to shaking up the core of the establishment when he goes to Washington – even if that means “eating lunch by himself.”  He is willing to articulate the message that rugged individualism, free markets, and productivity raises the level of prosperity for all Americans; that Washington central planning has foisted upon us a 50-year failed experiment in fighting poverty. Our only regret is that we cannot clone Bryan and support him in other races across the country.  Bryan Smith brings a degree of ideological fervor and viability to the race that few conservative challengers are able to match.

The simple fact is that we will never win this fight to restore our Republic if we cannot elect constitutional conservatives from the most conservative parts of the country.  Bryan Smith is giving us a golden opportunity to turn over a slam dunk House seat and elect someone who has no fear of the GOP establishment.  This is why we are proud to endorse Bryan Smith in his fight to repaint Idaho red.  This will take an army of grassroots support within Idaho, and if the past few months are any indication, Bryan has come a long way in accomplishing that goal.

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Bill Shuster Flip Flops on Another Spending Cut

Wednesday, July 10th, 2013 and is filed under Blog, Elections, Issues, News

Wow – what a difference a primary challenge makes.

Yesterday, conservative Rep. Tom McClintock offered an amendment to the FY 2014 appropriations bill funding the Energy Department which would cut $1.5 billion from energy subsidy programs.  If Obama has taught us anything it is that government should never distort the energy sector and pick winners and losers (usually losers) in the market.

Amazingly, Shuster voted the right way.  He didn’t join the 50% of Republicans who helped vote down this commonsense free-market spending cut.

The only problem is that when a similar amendment was proposed by Mr. McClintock to last year’s energy appropriations bill, Shuster voted against it…along with his RINO buddies.  Additionally, Mr. McClintock offered another amendment last year to eliminate the Office of Fossil Energy and save taxpayers $428 million in special interest handouts to green energy social engineering.  Shuster voted no.  In 2011, Shuster voted against cutting $3.25 billion from the Innovative Technology Loan Program, which was responsible for Solyndra and some other Obama venture socialist activities.

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Good Riddance to Joe Bonner

Thursday, May 23rd, 2013 and is filed under Blog, News

If we are ever going to obtain a conservative majority within the House GOP Conference, we must utilize our most conservative districts.  While it would be nice to knock off the red district statists in primaries, the easiest way to pick up a seat is through a vacancy.  Today, Jo Bonner just gave us such an opportunity by announcing his plan to resign from this conservative Alabama seat based in Mobile.

During the past Congress, Bonner scored a -38.5 on our index, the seventh lowest score in the party.  Here is what I wrote last year on Bonner in a piece advocating for the replacement of the entire state House delegation sans Mo Brooks:

He was elected to the House in 2002 during a good Republican year, and has held his seat for five terms.

While conservatives cheered on the effort to keep the GOP pledge by cutting $100 billion from the 2011 budget, this member deemed it “misguided.”

This member is one of those who used his membership with the Republican Study Committee as a means of concealing his affinity for big-government from his conservative constituents.  After years of voting against every single RSC proposal, and after realizing that the group would not roll over and genuflect before leadership, he summarily terminated his membership.

Throughout his career, he has been a reliable vote for CAFE standards, ethanol, and all sort of subsidies.

No – he doesn’t represent a Democrat-leaning district in the northeast, even though he scored a dismal 54% on the Heritage Action Scorecard.  He represents an R+14 district in this staunch conservative state.  In fact, it is such a conservative district that he faced no Democrat opponent in 2010.  His nearest competition was from the Constitution Party.

Well, one down, four more to go.

We look forward to finding a comprehensive conservative to fill this red seat – one who is committed to challenging the current direction of the party leadership.

Dems Vote Down Bill to Ban Tax Delinquents from Federal Jobs

Wednesday, April 17th, 2013 and is filed under Blog, Issues, News, Taxes

Is there no degree of commonsense that Democrats will adhere to?

The media is pining for bipartisan cooperation in Washington.  Well, on Monday, the House brought a bill to the floor that should have passed unanimously.  On Tax Day, Rep. Jasson Chaffetz (R-UT) wanted to draw attention to the fact that there are some federal employees that are delinquent on their taxes.  He brought the Federal Employee Tax Accountability Act of 2013 (H.R. 249) to the floor under suspension, requiring a 2/3ds threshold to pass.  All this bill would do is make any person who has a seriously delinquent tax debt ineligible for federal employment or to continue serving as a federal employee.  Chaffetz explained the problem in his floor remarks:

In 2011–the most recent year for which the IRS data is available–they tell us that 107,658 civilian Federal employees owed more than $1 billion. Now, the statistics say they have a greater compliance than the rest of the public. But let’s remember, when you’re unemployed, you’re probably going to have a hard time complying. Employment for those that are Federal workers is 100 percent. They have a job. They have a responsibility to pay their taxes.

It was reasonable to assume that he could bring this bill up even under suspension.  How could it fail to garner 2/3ds support?  Well, it did.  It got 250 yea votes and 159 no votes, but fell shy of the 2/3ds supermajorty.  152 Dems, or 75% of the caucus voted it down.

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16 Republicans Give Cover to Dems on Gun Bill

Thursday, April 11th, 2013 and is filed under Blog, Issues, News

Moments ago, 16 Republicans joined with Democrats to vote for cloture on the biggest gun grabbing bill since 1994.  In doing so, they gave cover to Senators Pryor (AR) and Begich (AK), allowing them to vote no, while still granting Harry Reid the votes needed to break the filibuster. The names of the traitors are Sens. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, Richard M. Burr of North Carolina, Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, Susan Collins of Maine, Bob Corker of Tennessee, Jeff Flake of Arizona, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Dean Heller of Nevada, John Hoeven of North Dakota, Johnny Isakson of Georgia, Mark S. Kirk of Illinois, John McCain of Arizona, Patrick J. Toomey of Pennsylvania and Roger Wicker of Mississippi.

They will contend that they are merely allowing debate to proceed and will not vote for a bad bill in the end.  The problem is that once cloture is invoked, Reid will cut a deal to move some sort of compromise, such as the Toomey-Manchin expanded background check deal, which will undoubtedly garner enough support to win passage.

Although Mitch McConnell personally voted no, he failed to enforce party discipline by whipping up the vote.  This is exactly why we must change the leadership and the members of the GOP Senate Conference.

20 Republicans Vote for Liar Jack Lew

Thursday, February 28th, 2013 and is filed under Blog, Issues, News

If you want to know why conservatives are losing the battle for this country, look no further than the imbalance in presidential nominees.  When Republicans are president and they nominate strong conservatives to the cabinet, Democrats move heaven and earth to oppose them.  Republicans just genuflect before Democrats now that Obama is president.

Aside for the fact that Jack Lew is the architect of Obama’s socialist fiscal policy, he also lied before the Senate Finance Committee concerning his role in the sequester, as confirmed by Bob Woodward.  Yet, 20 Republicans voted to confirm him as the next Secretary of Treasury.

This idea that the president is entitled to appoint anyone he chooses is absurd.  The Constitution grants each individual senator the authority to reject that nominee.  Yes, there has been a tradition (not a Constitutional mandate) to grant the president leeway in appointing cabinet members.  But that tradition was broken long ago by Democrats.  We are in a war for the heart and soul of the Republic and we have no requirement to confirm people who themselves have no regard for the Constitution.  We have no requirement to confirm people like Chuck Hagel, who are not qualified to serve in the Defense Department.  Nor are we required to confirm socialist liars to the Treasury.  The Democrats will never reciprocate this courtesy for controversial Republican nominations.

The 20 Republicans who voted for Lew are listed below the fold. Read More