Why I Voted for the 2015 Omnibus:
December 17, 2015 -- With legislation of this magnitude, it's important to understand how we got here in the first place. One of the most important roles of Congress is to pass a budget (a guide to spending of the government) and then to pass appropriation bills, which authorize spending levels. The House passed a budget in 2015 and actually passed 7 out of 12 appropriations bills. The remaining 5 bills were passed out of the Appropriations Committee, but never made it to the House floor. When the Senate failed to act on any of the appropriations bills, we had to authorize spending under a Continuing Resolution (CR). A CR takes the “power of the purse” away from Congress and gives the President authority to spend taxpayer dollars on virtually anything he wants, up to a specific spending cap, without Congressional input. After several short-term extensions, we were faced with two options: a spending Omnibus that included many key conservative funding and legislative priorities or a long-term CR. Those were the only two options. Both were less than ideal options and quite frankly a CR is not even envisioned by the Constitution. So as your Representative, I had two choices: the Omnibus or a CR.
It's important to note, the Omnibus is not new spending. The bill is actual spending that will occur over the next nine months by the federal government. All we are talking about is how it is authorized.
I never judge a book by its cover. True, the Omnibus was made up of about 2,000 pages. However, it is not a new bill that, as some critics have said, was entirely negotiated behind closed doors. Rather, it is primarily made up of 12 authorization packages already approved out of committee, 7 of which were approved out of the House, as mentioned above. Thus, it included many provisions that I had already reviewed earlier this year. After thoroughly reviewing the entire package, I found that many important priorities were included in the bill. Specifically:
- This bill restores and actually increases our military funding and funding for the Department of Homeland Security so that our troops and national security officials can confront today’s challenges and defeat ISIS.
- The bill also includes a pay raise for military personnel as proposed in the budget request and included in the FY 2016 National Defense Authorization Act.
- It contains the Cybersecurity Act of 2015, which directs the Department of Homeland Security, Department of Defense, the Department of Justice, and the Intelligence Community to jointly develop procedures to share cyber-threat information with private entities, nonfederal government agencies, and the public to keep Americans safe.
- This legislation includes the House-passed bill to strengthen our Visa Waiver Program and tighten the security requirements under the program. Specifically, it would deny Visa Waiver Program status to individuals who have recently travelled to terrorist hotspots.
- It ensures regional security during the 2016 Convention in Cleveland with dollars allocated to the city.
- It restores full funding for NASA Glenn in Cleveland to assure jobs are not lost in NE Ohio.
- It restores funding through the end of September for the Piketon Nuclear facility in Piketon, OH.
Other Conservative Victories-
- Free Trade: Repeals the 40 year old crude oil export ban that will create more energy sector jobs and will solidify America's place as an energy super power.
- EPA: Limits the EPA to the lowest funding levels since 2008 and prevents funds for new or expanded EPA regulatory programs.
- IRS: Freezes most IRS funding at last year’s level (except for direct taxpayer services including prevention of refund fraud and identify theft).
- Stops the IRS harassment of tax-exempt organizations and targeting organizations based on their ideological beliefs.
- Prohibits funds for the IRS to finalize any regulation or other guidance to clarify the tax-exempt status of an organization.
- Reforms the broken H-2B visa program that countless small business owners in Northeast Ohio have told me they rely on to maintain their business and American jobs.
- Maintains the Hyde, Tiahrt, Helms and Kemp-Kasten amendments for supporting pro-life bans on federal funding for abortions and for abortions in DC.
- Prevents discrimination against providers who refuse to provide, pay for, or refer abortions.
- Bans gene editing of human embryos and prohibits funds for creating embryos for research.
- Cuts funding for the United Nations Population Fund by 2.5 million.
Begins to Dismantle Obamacare-
- Prohibits any new funding for Obamacare.
- Cuts the controversial Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB) by $15 Million.
- Two-year delay (2018 and 2019) of the Obamacare excise tax on supposedly “high cost” health plans (Cadillac Tax). If the tax is implemented, an increasing number of middle-class workers with modest health plans could experience reductions in benefits and increases in out-of-pocket expenses.
- One-year delay (2017) of the Health Insurance Tax (HIT). This was another key “pay for” for Obamacare.
- Prohibits funds from being used for insurance risk corridors which are meant to subsidize the insurance industry.
What it doesn’t do-
- It does not specifically include a rider to disallow funding for the Administration’s plan to allow in certain Syrian Refugees. That said, last month the House passed a bipartisan bill to prohibit Syrian Refugees from entering the United States unless the Administration can assure safety of Americans. The Senate Majority Leader has committed to take up that bill in the Senate next month.
- It does not have a rider prohibiting funds to be used for Planned Parenthood.
It is important to keep in mind that if Congress had rejected this bill and passed another Continuing Resolution, the status quo would have continued and the riders not included in the Omnibus would also not have been included in a CR. In the end, I analyze bills on their content and here, on balance, the Omnibus provided more wins than the alternative. A CR which would have secured zero additional funds for our national and regional security or any of the other conservative provisions noted above. For so-called conservative bloggers to suggest any other outcome is disingenuous.
Despite the broken process and last-minute legislating, I supported the Omnibus because there was no alternative other than a CR. I strongly believe I voted for the best outcome. I will continue my efforts to restore regular order in Congress by passing all 12 appropriations bill before the end of each fiscal year, providing certainty and stability for the American people.