WASHINGTON, D.C. -- In response to President Trump’s offer to Stephen Moore, FreedomWorks Senior Economic Contributor, to join the Federal Reserve Board, FreedomWorks President Adam Brandon, commented:
“FreedomWorks is proud to see President Trump offer such a prestigious position to one of our own, Stephen Moore. As FreedomWorks Senior Economic Contributor, Stephen Moore has continued to provide key insights on President Trump’s pro-growth economic agenda.
“President Trump’s economic policies have led to record economic growth and unemployment, especially when compared to the Obama administration. The American people have taken notice, with seven in ten Americans now holding a favorable view of the economy.
“I have no doubt that Stephen Moore would make an excellent member of the Federal Reserve Board-- exactly the reason he’s been nominated by President Trump.”
Welcome to FreedomWorks Foundation’s sixth regulatory review of 2019! Our Regulatory Action Center proudly updates you with our favorite tidbits from the swamp. We want to smash barriers between bureaucracy and the American people by delivering regulatory news straight to FreedomWorks activists. Check back in two weeks for the next edition.
1) Video of the Week: In this video, Professor Antony Davies of Duquesne University explains the unintended consequences of governments implementing price controls. Prices are not “levers” that set value, but responses to actual market value.
Unintended Consequences of Price Controls - YouTube
2) Price Controls Disorganize the Market Economy: “Prices are not the sum of the parts of a good or service, although such can definitely influence a price. Prices are information about the entire economy. The amount of information in a price is almost endless. Prices certainly provide clues as to what went into creating a given thing, but they also tell us how much of something is demanded versus supplied. Prices send signals to the market that allow for people and firms to allocate resources to their most efficient uses. Newsflash: we need more plumbers than liberal arts majors.”
5) Mississippi Has Over 100,000 Regulations on the Books: “The time that it takes to read Mississippi’s regulations is dwarfed by the three years it’d take to read the 112 million words in the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations. Sixty-eight percent of those regulations, Broughel said, have never been amended, which means they’ve never been re-evaluated for relevancy or economic impact.”
6) Sprint, T-Mobile Merger (and 5G) a ‘Tremendous’ Win for Rural America: “The Sprint, T-Mobile merger further shakes up the wireless industry by challenging the duopoly of Verizon and AT&T with a true third national carrier. It speeds our nation to 5G, strengthens U.S. leadership in technology and innovation, and brings the promise of true connectivity to everyone, from the most densely populated cities to the most sparsely populated counties. Billions of dollars invested in faster and more accessible technology can only benefit rural America, a fact even merger opponents would have difficulty disputing.”
7) Maryland’s Nanny State Targets Foam Cups and Containers: “Maryland consumers may soon be deprived of one of [its] favorite products: plastic foam coffee cups. The Maryland House of Delegates has already passed a bill that would ban all containers made with polystyrene foam, which—if eventually signed by Gov. Larry Hogan—would be the first statewide foam container ban. But that move will likely do more environmental harm than good, despite claims to the contrary.”
House Democrats could soon bring legislation to the floor to expand Social Security, a failing wealth redistribution program. Last week, the House Subcommittee on Social Security held two hearings on the Social Security 2100 Act, H.R. 860, which has 203 cosponsors, all of whom are Democrats. According to the Office of the Chief Actuary, the Social Security 2100 Act would increase taxes by $18.9 trillion.
Before we dive into the Social Security 2100 Act, let’s recap some of the history of Social Security and its current financial status.
On August 14, 1935, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act into law. Initially, Social Security covered only old-age assistance and survivors, with the retirement age set at 65. At the time, the average life expectancy in the United States was 61 years of age. Disability insurance was added in August 1956. The Supplemental Security Income program was created in 1972. These social insurance programs are administered by the Social Security Administration.
There are other programs -- including Medicare, Medicaid, and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) -- that were created by amendments to the Social Security Act. These programs, however, are administered by other agencies. Medicare and Medicare, for example, are administered by the Centers for Medicare and Medicare Services (CMS), which is housed under the Department of Health and Human Services.
Social Security benefits are paid out of two separate trust funds, the Old-Age and Survivors Insurance (OASI) Trust Fund and the Disability Insurance (DI) Trust Fund. These trust funds are largely through the taxation of wage under the Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA), more commonly known as the “payroll tax.” When Social Security was created, the payroll tax was 2 percent of gross income, split between the employer and employee, up to $3,000, or about $51,667 in 2017. Today, the payroll tax is 12.4 percent of gross income up to $132,900.
As we’re reminded every year when the Social Security and Medicare trustees report comes out, Social Security faces significant funding problems. This is because there aren’t enough people working to sustain the number of beneficiaries. In 1945, there were 41.9 covered workers per beneficiary. In 2018, there were 2.8 workers per beneficiary, and that ratio is expected to continue to decline. We’re also living a lot longer. The average life expectancy in 2016 was 78.69 years. We’re also not producing as many children as we used to.
According to the 2018 report, Social Security faces $13.2 trillion in unfunded liabilities over the next 75 years. Some may say that this isn’t a big deal. After all, 75 years is a long time. But the concern is actually rather immediate. The DI Trust Fund will be depleted in 2032 and will pay out 96 percent of benefits. The OASI Trust Fund will follow suit in 2034, at which point be able to pay out only 77 percent of benefits.
This brings us to the Social Security 2100 Act. The bill was introduced in February by Rep. John Larson (D-Ct.), who chairs the House Subcommittee on Social Security. The Social Security 2100 Act would expand Social Security benefits, change how the cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) is calculated, incrementally increase the payroll tax on employers and employees to 7.4 from 6.2 percent by 2043, gradually eliminate the wage cap, and combine the existing Social Security trust funds into a single trust fund.
Overall, the Social Security 2100 Act would increase taxes by $18.9 trillion over the 75-year period scored by the Office of the Chief Actuary of Social Security. The bill would increase benefits on net by $3.7 trillion over the time frame. It would eliminate the current unfunded liability of $13.2 trillion and create a surplus of $2.1 trillion.
All of that may sound good, but the chief actuary doesn’t score dynamic impacts on the economy. The payroll tax increase will hit every American employer, regardless of size, and employee, regardless of income level. This will have a markedly negative impact. Andrew Biggs of the American Enterprise Institute mentioned this in his written testimony last week to the subcommittee.
“Payroll taxes reduce take-home pay both directly and indirectly. The direct effect is via the employee share of the tax, which would gradually rise from 6.2 to 7.4 percent in the Social Security 2100 Act,” Biggs wrote. “The indirect effect is via the rising employer payroll tax. Most economists, as well as both the SSA actuaries and the CBO Social Security analysts, assume that employers fund payroll tax or other employee benefit increases by holding back on employee wages. Thus, employees would bear the full cost of higher Social Security taxes.”
Whether it’s the Social Security 2100 Act or Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-Vt.) proposal, the Social Security Expansion Act, phasing out and/or eliminating the wage cap is a priority of Democrats. The wage cap, currently $132,900, gradually rises every year with inflation. Every dollar earned beyond this amount is not subject to the payroll tax. Democrats see the elimination of the wage cap as a way to bring in more money for Social Security.
In the case of the Social Security 2100 Act, the wage cap would be eliminated for wages above $400,000. Wages under this level aren’t indexed to inflation, so, over time, the wage cap would be eliminated. The chief actuary estimates that this will happen around 2048. This would have the effect of increasing the top marginal income tax rate by almost 15 percent. The top marginal rate will be 37 percent until January 1, 2026, at which point it will rise to 39.6 percent. Assuming the top marginal rate the individual tax code changes under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act aren’t made permanent, this means the top marginal tax rate will effectively be 54.4 percent.
Social Security has to be addressed; there’s no question about that. Benefit cuts are likely to bring public backlash. As Rep. Henry Wadsworth (R-N.Y.) said during the floor debate on the Social Security Act in June 1935, “Pensions and annuities are never abandoned; nor are they ever reduced. The recipients ever clamor for more. To gain their ends they organize politically. They may not constitute a majority of the electorate, but their power will be immense.” (The quote is on page 6061 at the link.)
There are much better ways to address Social Security’s insolvency than the Social Security 2100 Act. Back in December 2016, then-Rep. Sam Johnson (R-Texas) introduced the Social Security Reform Act, which increased benefits and raised the retirement age to 69 for those who turned 62 in 2023. The bill means-tested benefits for higher income earners through a lower COLA increase and lower payouts to higher income survivors. Importantly, the Social Security Reform Act didn’t raise taxes, and it still created a $600 billion surplus for the program. This was a better way to reform Social Security, but since it doesn’t involve a tax hike, Democrats and special interest groups, who constantly rely on scaring seniors to push their policies, blasted it.
In the end, the Social Security 2100 Act may get a vote in the House, but it won’t go anywhere in the Senate. Of course, that’s the point. It’s not a serious proposal; it’s a messaging bill that Democrats want to use ahead of the 2020 presidential election. We need to have a serious conversation about the sustainability of Social Security, but the Social Security 2100 Act just is a barrier to that conversation.
Radical changes to federal election law have become cause célèbre of Democrats. The House has already passed the For the Politicians Act, H.R. 1, on party lines. Although H.R. 1 has no chance of passage in the Senate, Democrats are discussing other changes to federal elections, including abolishing the Electoral College.
During a CNN town hall on Monday, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) called for abolishing the Electoral College. She said that “every vote matters,” adding that “the way we can make that happen is that we can have national voting and that means get rid of the Electoral College.” Sen. Warren isn’t alone.
Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) has introduced a constitutional amendment that would make his state virtually irrelevant in presidential elections. H.J.Res. 7 would abolish the Electoral College. The winner of a presidential election would, instead, be determined by the popular vote. The proposed amendment is not the first of its kind, but the effort to abolish the Electoral College has picked up steam over the past several years.
Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution defines the process for the election of the president. Electors are chosen to cast ballots by the respective political parties in their state. Alexander Hamilton explained the thinking behind the Electoral College in Federalist No. 68. This process may vary by state. Although a voter is casting a ballot for president, in reality, he or she is voting on the slate of electors, who will cast their ballots in a manner prescribed by state law.
The day on which electors are required to meet and cast their ballots is in statute, 3 U.S. Code 7, which states: “The electors of President and Vice President of each State shall meet and give their votes on the first Monday after the second Wednesday in December next following their appointment at such place in each State as the legislature of such State shall direct.” Electors for the 2016 presidential election met on December 19.
The Electoral College has its quirks, of course. The election of 1800 was thrown to the House of Representatives. There was a stalemate between Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr, both Democratic-Republicans who each received 73 electoral votes. The House finally selected Thomas Jefferson as president on the 36th ballot after Federalist members from Delaware, Maryland, South Carolina, and Vermont abstained, denying Aaron Burr the White House.
The Twelfth Amendment would resolve the issues that came to light during this election. The amendment, which was ratified in 1804, required separate votes for president and vice president. Of course, the Twelfth Amendment didn’t solve the (non)issue of presidential candidates who win the popular vote but lose the Electoral College.
Now, 48 states and the District of Columbia have a winner-take-all system. The presidential candidate who wins the most votes in the state wins the electoral votes. Only Maine and Nebraska have, to this point, deviated from this. Both states give two electoral votes for the winner of the popular vote. However, they award electoral votes for the winner of each congressional district. Donald Trump won all three of Nebraska’s congressional districts, so he took the state’s five electoral votes. Although Hillary Clinton won the popular vote in Maine, Trump won Maine’s 2nd Congressional District, allowing him to pick up an electoral vote in the state.
According to National Popular Vote, as of January 2018, 13 states representing 181 electoral votes have passed legislation to award their electoral votes to the winner of the popular vote. The legislation in these states will take effect after states representing 270 have passed the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact legislation. States that have passed the compact include California, New York, and Illinois. Colorado joined the list of compact states on Monday.
Under a popular vote concept, large population centers would the most influence over presidential elections in the states. This is already true under the Electoral College, but this influence is confined to the state’s electoral votes. Spreading that influence out nationally would tilt would give Democrats a leg up on presidential elections.
Perpetuating a national popular vote concept as a way to make sure that “every vote matters” just doesn’t pass scrutiny. A review the election data from 2016 reveals that 50.5 percent of the votes that Hillary Clinton received came from the 100 most populous counties in the United States. (California has 15 of these counties, Texas has ten, and Florida and New York have nine each.)
Considering that there are 3,007 counties in the United States, this is an eye-popping statistic. In fact, Clinton won 87 of these counties on her way to winning a plurality of the popular vote. Conversely, Donald Trump received 29.1 percent of his total votes from these counties, and he won only 13 of them.
Another issue with the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact is that it’s almost certainly unconstitutional. Article I, Section 10 of the Constitution states, “No state shall, without the consent of Congress...enter into any agreement or compact with another state.” According to the Council on State Governments, more than 200 interstate compacts are currently in effect. “Twenty-two of them are national in scope, including several with 35 or more member states and an independent commission to administer the agreement,” the group’s fact sheet notes.
A compact for a presidential election would undoubtedly have significant national implications and would be far outside the scope of what Congress has previously approved. “Although states sometimes did submit their compacts to Congress for ratification,” Hans von Spakovsky of the Heritage Foundation explained, “there has been an implied understanding that interstate agreements were legitimate as long as they had a limited, specifically local impact and did not affect national prerogatives.”
Supporters of the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact say that approval from Congress isn’t needed, although the group is pushing for approval. Von Spakovsky has the Supreme Court already an existing test would likely require congressional approval of the compact. He also explained that the compact would be problematic because it’s tantamount to an Article V convention that “deprives non-participating states of their right...decid[e] whether the Twelfth Amendment, which governs the Electoral College, should be changed.”
Many say that the Electoral College is undemocratic and that a popular vote concept is democratic, which is why states should dump the former. Undoubtedly, some who make such statements also believe the Senate is undemocratic because it lacks proportional representation. Put simply, the United States isn’t a democracy; it’s a constitutional republic.
State legislators should work to defeat National Popular Vote Interstate Compact legislation. The Electoral College isn’t perfect, but it has served the United States well. Although partisan voters may not always like the outcome when their candidate loses a presidential election, the system has served the country well and will continue to serve us well as long as we stick to it.
On behalf of FreedomWorks’ activist community, I urge you to contact your senators and ask them to cosponsor the Competitive Health Insurance Reform Act, S. 350 and H.R. 1418. Introduced by Sens. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) and Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Reps. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) and Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.), the Competitive Health Insurance Reform Act would help lower the cost of health insurance coverage for Americans by eliminating the antitrust exemption that the health insurance industry currently has under the McCarran-Ferguson Act of 1945.
While intended to allow new insurance companies to set sustainable premiums, over 70 years later, we have seen that this special carveout has created an entirely non-transparent and anti-competitive health insurance market. This weighs heavily on consumers’ wallets and more importantly on their health.
As Sen. Daines said in his press release, “For far too long, health insurance companies have gotten away with taking advantage of consumers and charging them outrageous prices for their health care. It’s time we look into these companies practices by demanding transparency in order to hold them accountable.”
The key to healthcare freedom and a reformed system is encouraging competition and free markets at every turn, and removing this exemption -- and stopping the government from choosing winners and losers -- would take a much-needed step down this road.
Furthermore, this legislation has a long history of broad bipartisan support. It passed the Democratic-led House in the 111th Congress by a vote of 406-19, the Republican-led House in the 112th Congress by voice, and most recently passed the Republican-led House in the 115th Congress by a vote of 416-7.
However, as has unfortunately become routine but is no longer surprising, the Senate remains the chamber where good legislation goes to die. The Competitive Health Insurance Reform Act has been no exception to this. Congress should reverse this trend in the 116th Congress and see this bill signed into law for the good of all consumers. For these reasons, I urge you to contact your senators and ask them to cosponsor the Competitive Health Insurance Reform Act, S. 350 and H.R. 1418.
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- In response to Democratic Presidential Candidates’ comments that they would not rule-out adding additional Justices to the United States Supreme Court, Adam Brandon, FreedomWorks President, commented:
“Democrats still haven’t come to grips with the fact that the days of an activist Supreme Court that legislates from the bench are over. These Democratic 2020 hopefuls are also out of touch with reality if they think that packing the court won’t backfire on them in the future. This is an act of desperation by a Democratic Party that is on the ropes.
“If you can’t beat them at the ballot box, just change the rules. That’s how Democratic 2020 hopefuls obviously see things. The American people elected President Trump and a Republican Senate to confirm conservative justices who will uphold the Constitution and the rule of law. By packing the court to advance their far-left agenda, Democrats seek to circumvent the will of the American people.”
This issue brief, Presidential Impeachment in History and Procedure, was co-authored by Bob Barr, who represented Georgia’s 7th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1995 to 2003.
To an increasing degree, impeachment has become a tool of contemporary American public policy. Since 1973, for example, at least 30 impeachment resolutions against sitting presidents have been introduced in Congress. Given his well-documented participation in the coverup of the Watergate scandal, President Richard Nixon was the subject of 17 impeachment resolutions. Five have been introduced already against President Donald Trump, three were introduced against President George W. Bush, and President Ronald Reagan and President George H.W. Bush were the subject of two resolutions each. Only one impeachment resolution was introduced against President Bill Clinton.
In the modern day, the course of action has been a directive from the House as a whole to the Judiciary Committee to begin an investigation of impeachable possible offenses. Impeachment resolutions are “privileged,” which means that a Member of the House of Representatives can, if he or she wishes, force a vote from the floor. For example, in 2018 Rep. Al Green (D-Texas) forced votes on two of the impeachment resolutions against President Trump. Both resolutions were tabled, effectively closing the door to future consideration. Rep. Green has indicated he plans to reintroduce an impeachment resolution in the First Session of the 116th Congress and force another vote on the floor. Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) introduced a separate impeachment resolution at the beginning of the 116th Congress, which convened January 3, 2019.
Because of this activity, and the virtual certainty that the notion of impeaching President Trump will continue throughout the 116th Congress, an objective historical and procedural analysis of impeachment is deemed crucial to understanding the environment in which the remainder of the President’s first term of office will unfold (on both sides of the political divide); regardless of whether formal impeachment proceedings actually take place. This paper explains the background of and procedures applicable to impeachment, summarizes the impeachment proceedings against the three presidents who have been subject to it, and concludes with a summary of several aspects of impeachment that are relevant to the current situation involving the Trump administration.
While not advocating for or against impeachment, this paper casts doubt on the known public case against President Trump. At the outset, for example, in the authors’ view, any potential attempt to impeach President Trump based on allegations of wrongdoing that occurred before he took the oath of office would be illegitimate.
As of this writing, House Democratic leadership has downplayed any attempt to impeach the President. Committees of the House, however, appear to be quietly attempting to build a case for impeachment. “Every day it becomes more and more difficult to say we’re not interested in impeachment,” one House Democrat has reportedly said.
Policy disagreements, differing interpretations of statutes, or anger and resentment over an election are not legitimate grounds for impeachment. Violations of the law while in office or the deliberate refusal to enforce the law, however, would be. Whether the House will move forward with impeachment is of course an open question; but the effort, barring evidence of serious impropriety while in office, likely would be futile considering the Senate is controlled by Republicans; few, if any of whom, would be willing to cast a vote for conviction and removal from office. This scenario makes it no less important that we undertake to study the history, procedures and particular relevant aspects of impeachment in the current environment, to best prepare for such eventuality.
Following the Senate’s passage yesterday of the joint resolution to disapprove of President Trump’s recent emergency declaration to use existing funds to construct a barrier along some portions of our southern border, it is clear that some in Congress are finally picking up an important message. Congress has to put a stop to and reverse course on its slow-but-steady ceding of its constitutional powers to the executive branch. On everything from trade and regulation to war and now the power of the purse, the executive branch and the president are much more powerful than was intended as outlined in Article I of the Constitution.
The blame for this shift, while partly on the executive branch for taking advantage of the situation, lies almost exclusively with the legislative branch. Congress, in its frequent state of not wanting to take tough votes or be held accountable, has allowed the executive branch to instead decide these matters. Unfortunately, it has taken until now for most in Congress to realize that this is wrong and dangerous to the separation of powers that undergirds our representative democracy.
Regardless of the legality of President Trump’s recent emergency declaration, then, a larger question remains. This is the appropriateness of such executive action in the context of our Constitution and its dictation of separation of powers. Congress has spoken this time and will force President Trump to veto their disapproval of his executive action. However, again, the problem is much deeper than any one emergency declaration.
The work necessary to reclaim Congress’ Article I powers must begin by reevaluating the roots of where Congress’ abdication of power to the executive has come from. In the case of emergency declarations, this root is the National Emergencies Act of 1976, and any effort to rebuke President Trump’s emergency declaration must be seriously paired with modifying this law to prevent unchecked emergency declarations for future presidents as well.
Many in Congress have been vocal about their opposition to President Trump’s declaration. Most Democrats cite opposition to the ends of the declaration along with decrying the action itself as an “abuse of [the President’s] constitutional oath and an affront to the separation of powers,” as House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) put it. Outspoken Republicans’ criticism falls in line with the latter of the Democrats’ arguments, and rightly so.
As Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) wrote in a recent op-ed, “There are really two questions involved in the decision about emergency funding. First, does statutory law allow for the president’s emergency orders, and, second, does the Constitution permit these emergency orders? As far as the statute goes, the answer is maybe — although no president has previously used emergency powers to spend money denied by Congress, and it was clearly not intended to do that.”
To be clear, though, it is not only President Trump who has taken advantage of Congress’ willingness to give its constitutionally-granted powers to the executive branch without fuss. Since the National Emergency Act of 1976 became law, 58 national emergencies have been declared, for any number of different projects and purposes, and by Democratic and Republican presidents alike. A total of 31 of those declared emergencies are still in effect today, stemming from the Carter, Clinton, W. Bush, Obama, and Trump presidencies. Congress, however, plays little meaningful role in deciding whether these emergencies are truly worth continuing, decades after their declaration.
If Democrats, who all voted to disapprove of President Trump’s recent emergency declaration, are to not be viewed as hypocrites on this issue, they need to back an effort to prevent such abuse of executive power in the future. Fortunately, there is a proposal that has gained traction among skeptics in Congress of unchecked executive power, put forth by Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) that Republicans and Democrats alike can and should unite behind.
The ARTICLE ONE Act would quite simply provide for the termination of any national emergency declared under the National Emergencies Act absent the enactment of a joint resolution of Congress affirming the national emergency within 30 days of the emergency declaration. An affirmed emergency would be valid for one year, at which point it would have to be extended by the president and affirmed again by Congress.
This reasonable change creates a more constitutionally-aligned process for congressional review of emergency declarations, where Congress must exercise a larger role in determining the legitimacy and necessity of declarations. Politically, this is a necessary move for Republicans and Democrats both.
Republicans should want to avoid a situation where a future Democratic president takes currently existing power further and declares national emergencies to enact his or her agenda on climate change, healthcare, “free” college, or any other number of radical, detrimental progressive priorities. Democrats should want to avoid being seen as hypocritical when they have decried President Trump’s declaration as unconstitutional but say nothing in the future for one of the aforementioned hypothetical emergency declarations under a future administration.
Thus far, Congress has done an underwhelming job of retaining its powers as outlined in the Constitution, on regulations, on trade, on foreign policy, and on emergency declarations and power of the purse. It is long past time for Congress to right this wrong, and the ARTICLE ONE Act offers one solution to that end.
The discussion around how and why the executive branch has so much latitude to carry out actions much out of line with the Constitution is far from over. Proponents of separation of powers should seize on the current appetite in Congress to act in some form on this issue and hold their colleagues on both sides of the aisle accountable to their recent rhetoric.
On behalf of FreedomWorks’ activist community, I urge you to contact your senators and ask them to cosponsor the Cost Openness and Spending Transparency (COST) Act, S. 807. Introduced by Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) and co-sponsored by Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and James Lankford (R-Okla.), the COST Act would enhance transparency in federal spending.
The COST Act is relatively straightforward. The bill would simply require entities, including state and local governments, that receive grants funded either in full or partially through federal funds to make certain disclosures related to the cost of the project or program funded.
The disclosure would be required on “any statement, press release, requests for proposal, bid solicitation, or other document describing the program, project, or activity, other than a communication containing not more than 280 characters.” The entity receiving the funds must disclose the percentage of the total costs of the project or program paid for by federal funds, the dollar amount of federal funds, and the percentage of the cost and the dollar amount paid for by funds that come from other sources.
Entities that receive grants through the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education appropriations are already required to disclose this information. This has been federal law for roughly 30 years. Unfortunately, noncompliance with the law is significant. A new report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) concludes that the law is largely not being followed. In fact, some agencies told GAO that they “did not monitor for...compliance because monitoring is not explicitly required under the statute.”
The COST Act would add another approach to address noncompliance. It would allow the Director of the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to withhold up to 25 percent of federal funds for a project or program until the entity receiving the funds is in compliance with the law.
The COST Act would increase transparency in federal spending, providing Congress and taxpayers with more knowledge about where tax dollars are going and for what purposes. For these reasons, I urge you to contact your senators and ask them to cosponsor the COST Act, S. 807, if they haven’t already done so.
On behalf of our activist community, I urge you to contact your representative and ask him or her to cosponsor the Assuring that Robust, Thorough, and Informed Congressional Leadership is Exercised Over National Emergencies (ARTICLE ONE) Act. Introduced by Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), the ARTICLE ONE Act would amend the National Emergencies Act of 1976 to require congressional approval of an emergency declaration made by a president.
Over the past several years, there has been a movement in Congress to reassert the original intent of Article I of the Constitution, which vests all lawmaking authority to the Legislative Branch. Congress has, however, ceded some of this authority to the Executive Branch. Regardless of one’s view of the legality of the emergency declaration at the southern border, it’s essential that Congress reclaim the authority the Constitution provides under Article I.
History shows, regardless of which party a president belongs to, the power of the Executive Branch grows with each successive president. Each president takes the power left by his or her predecessor as a floor, not a ceiling. Although members of Congress from the president’s party may cheer such action, the end result is increased executive power, at the expense of Congress, and blurred constitutional lines that pose a greater threat to the individual liberties protected by the Bill of Rights.
Concerned members of Congress have introduced legislation, such as the Regulations From the Executive in Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act and the Bicameral Congressional Trade Authority Act, to reclaim some of this authority through joint resolutions of approval that would have to be passed by both chambers of Congress and signed by a president to approve a major rule, in the case of the REINS Act, or a unilateral trade action, in the case of the Bicameral Congressional Trade Authority Act, in order for it to take effect.
The ARTICLE ONE Act is similar in approach. Under the ARTICLE ONE Act, a president would still have the power to declare a national emergency, but the declaration of a national emergency will terminate after 30 days, absent the House and Senate passing a joint resolution of approval. The only exception is if Congress is physically unable to convene. In such a case, the 30-day clock would begin running when Congress does reconvene. For true emergencies, 30 days is ample time for Congress to act.
In the case of the approval of a joint resolution, the national emergency may last for one year after the transmission of the joint resolution to the president. The national emergency may be extended if the president publishes it in the Federal Register and sends Congress an executive order that renews the declaration. Congress would treat renewal of the declaration by the same process as the initial approval. This legislative input is crucial to ensuring unnecessary emergency declarations don’t stay on the books for decades, and is a key part of reasserting Article I.
The ARTICLE ONE Act would add reporting requirements on an emergency declaration. This is similar in concept to the reporting requirements under the War Powers Act. The reporting requirements would mandate that the president describe the circumstances of a national emergency, the estimated duration, and a summary of the actions that the administration will take. In the case of a renewal of an emergency declaration, the president would also be required to summarize the actions take under the previous authority. The report would have to be submitted at least every 180 days.
Whether it’s the REINS Act, the Bicameral Congressional Trade Authority Act, or the ARTICLE ONE Act, Congress must reclaim its power from the Executive Branch or continue to see its constitutional authority diminished at the hands of executive overreach, of which presidents of both parties are guilty. For these reasons, I urge you to contact your senators and ask them to cosponsor the ARTICLE ONE Act, S. 764.