Justin Sykes

ATR Supports the "Stop Settlement Slush Funds Act of 2017" (H.R. 732)

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Posted by Justin Sykes on Wednesday, February 1st, 2017, 5:23 PM PERMALINK

Americans for Tax Reform this week released a letter to Congress urging lawmakers to support H.R. 732, the "Stop Settlement Slush Funds Act of 2017." H.R. 732, introduced by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, would ensure money recovered by the government as part of Department of Justice (DOJ) settlement agreements is returned to the American people.

Currently, whenever the DOJ settles a lawsuit with a corporation or individual, DOJ officials can require defendants to "donate" money to activist groups as part of the terms of the settlement. These groups are typically working towards the same ideological goals as the Executive Branch, and are engaged in activities such as voter registration, community organizing, and donating money to similar ideological groups. 

In 2016 similar legislation was passed out of the House with both Democrat and Republican support, but failed to pass the Senate.

With a new Congress, House and Senate lawmakers should again look to pass this common sense legislation that will hold the Executive Branch accountable for its practices and ensure money recovered by the government is returned to the American people.

 

The language of the letter is below and can also be found here:

February 1, 2017

The Honorable Bob Goodlatte
Chairman, House Judiciary Committee
2138 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515 

Dear Chairman Goodlatte and Members of the Judiciary Committee:

I write in support of H.R. 732, the Stop Settlement Slush Funds Act of 2017, legislation that would prohibit Department of Justice (DOJ) officials from crafting settlement agreements that require donations to activists groups that are favored by the Administration. All members of Congress should support this important legislation. 

As it currently stands, when the DOJ settles a lawsuit Department officials can require defendants to donate money to certain activist groups as part of the terms of the settlement. Not only are these funds not going to deserving victims but more often than not are awarded to activist groups that hold the same ideological views as the Executive.

According to House Judiciary Committee findings, roughly half-a-billion dollars has been diverted away from victims and directed to activist groups in just the last 20 months. Such “slush fund” payments occur outside of the Congressional appropriations and oversight process. 

H.R. 732 would prohibit abusive DOJ slush fund payments to activist groups and ensure money recovered in settlements is returned to the American people where it belongs. This bill ensures settlement money goes directly to victims or alternatively to the Treasury where elected officials determine how it is spent.

I urge the Judiciary Committee and all members of Congress to support H.R. 732, the Stop the Settlement Slush Funds Act of 2017.

Sincerely,                               

Grover G. Norquist                                                    

President                                                                     
Americans for Tax Reform

 

Photo credit: Phil Roeder   

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ATR Urges Congress to Repeal SEC Resource Extraction Rule (Sec. 1504)

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Posted by Justin Sykes on Wednesday, February 1st, 2017, 1:55 PM PERMALINK

Americans for Tax Reform this week released a letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell urging Congressional lawmakers to use the authority granted under the Congressional Review Act to repeal the Securities and Exchange Commission's (SEC) rule relating to resource extraction pursuant to section 1504 of the Dodd-Frank Act - commonly referred to as the Resource Extraction Rule. 

While the SEC's stated mission is to "protect investors, maintain fair, orderly, and efficient markets, and facilitate capital formation", the Resource Extraction Rule accomplishes none of these goals. Instead, the SEC rule's required disclosure of proprietary information and resulting compliance burden actually harms, not helps, investors and impedes capital formation.  

The content of the letter to Congress is below and can also be found here

January 31, 2017

The Honorable Paul Ryan
Speaker
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515

The Honorable Mitch McConnell
Majority Leader
U.S. Senate
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Speaker Ryan and Majority Leader McConnell:

On behalf of Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) I write to express ATR’s strong support for using the Congressional Review Act to repeal the Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) rule relating to resource extraction pursuant to section 1504 of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.

While increased transparency is a laudable goal, the SEC rule falls short of achieving this goal in a sensible and productive manner. Instead, the SEC’s Resource Extraction Rule under section 1504 of the Dodd-Frank Act has created an excessive compliance burden that puts U.S. companies at a competitive disadvantage internationally, and actually harms rather than protects investors.

The SEC rule adds to an already unreasonable compliance burden on U.S. companies. The SEC’s own estimates found that the ongoing compliance costs of the resource extraction rule would between $173 million and $385 million annually.

Additionally, by requiring U.S. companies to publicly disclose proprietary information under the rule, the SEC is giving America’s international competitors an enormous advantage in the global market. Such unnecessary and self-inflicted regulatory wounds only serve to reduce American prosperity by harming U.S. competitiveness and consumers in the long run.  

The SEC’s stated mission is to “protect investors, maintain fair, orderly, and efficient markets, and facilitate capital formation.” However the required disclosure of proprietary information and resulting compliance burden from the Resource Extraction Rule serves only to harm investors and shareholders and impede capital formation. 

I urge you and your colleagues in Congress to use the authority granted under the Congressional Review Act to repeal the SEC’s Resource Extraction Rule.

Sincerely,                               

Grover G. Norquist                                                    

President                                                                    
Americans for Tax Reform

 

Photo credit: Guy Middleton

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ATR Urges Repeal of Stream Protection Rule Under Congressional Review Act

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Posted by Justin Sykes on Monday, January 30th, 2017, 10:00 AM PERMALINK

Americans for Tax Reform this week released a letter for House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell urging Congressional lawmakers to use the authority granted under the Congressional Review Act to repeal the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement's (OSM) Stream Protection Rule. 

The letter expresses the concern that the OSM's Stream Protection Rule is an egregious and unlawful example of federal regulatory overreach that infringes on the authority of state regulatory bodies, is wholly unnecessary, and will impact the livelihoods of millions of Americans. 

The letter can be viewed below or here

January 30, 2017

The Honorable Paul Ryan
Speaker
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515

The Honorable Mitch McConnell
Majority Leader
U.S. Senate
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Speaker Ryan and Majority Leader McConnell:

On behalf of Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) I write to express ATR’s strong support for using the Congressional Review Act to repeal the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement’s (OSM) Stream Protection Rule.

The OSM’s Stream Protection Rule is an egregious and unlawful example of federal regulatory overreach that infringes on the authority of state regulatory bodies, is wholly unnecessary, and will impact the livelihood of millions of Americans.      

The Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act instructs that States are to be the primary regulators of coal mining. In drafting the Stream Protection Rule, OSM failed to comply with these instructions, instead moving forward without real or meaningful involvement from the public or the relevant state agencies that are tasked with regulating 97 percent of the coal mines in the U.S.

The Department of Interior’s own reports show that essentially all coal mines have no off-site impacts, that lands are being restored successfully, and mines are being operated safely and in accordance with existing state and federal regulations. The Stream Protection Rule is simply a regulation in search of a problem.    

It is also the case the OSM rule will have far reaching impacts on the American economy. The rule threatens one-third of the nation’s coal mining work force and would remove half or more of total U.S. coal reserves from future production. The rule would also drive up electricity costs for American consumers and could reduce state and federal tax revenue by over $6 billion annually.

I urge you and your colleagues in Congress to use the authority granted under the Congressional Review Act to repeal the OSM’s Stream Protection Rule.

Sincerely,                               

Grover G. Norquist                                                    

President                                                                    
Americans for Tax Reform

 

Photo credit: wbeem

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ATR Urges Repeal of BLM Methane Rule Under Congressional Review Act

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Posted by Justin Sykes on Monday, January 30th, 2017, 9:00 AM PERMALINK

Americans for Tax Reform this week released a letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell urging Congressional lawmakers to use the authority granted under the Congressional Review Act to repeal the Bureau of Land Management's (BLM) Waste Production, Production Subject to Royalties, and Resource Conservation Rule - commonly referred to as the BLM Methane Rule. 

The letter expresses the concern that BLM not only lacks the statutory authority to enact the Methane Rule, but that the rule is also duplicative and wholly unnecessary. 

The letter can be viewed below or here:

January 30, 2017

The Honorable Paul Ryan
Speaker
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515

The Honorable Mitch McConnell
Majority Leader
U.S. Senate
Washington, DC 20510

 

Dear Speaker Ryan and Majority Leader McConnell:

On behalf of Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) I write to express ATR’s strong support for using the Congressional Review Act to repeal the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) Waste Production, Production Subject to Royalties, and Resource Conservation Rule – commonly referred to as the BLM Methane Rule.

The BLM Methane Rule is a product of federal regulatory overreach, released in the eleventh hour by the Obama Administration, serving only to preserve the former President’s legacy at the expense of responsible U.S. energy production.

BLM not only lacks the statutory authority to enact the Methane Rule, but the rule is also duplicative and wholly unnecessary.      

Under the Clean Air Act the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in conjunction with the states, is vested with the sole authority to regulate air quality. By releasing the Methane Rule, BLM is attempting to regulate air quality and has thus exceeded its statutorily granted authority.

It is also the case that EPA last year finalized rules to regulate methane emissions on top of existing state regulations. Thus the BLM’s rule is wholly duplicative and adds to an already substantial regulatory burden on American energy production.      

Furthermore, the Methane Rule is a regulation in search of a problem. Since 1990 natural gas production has increased by almost 50 percent, while methane emissions from oil and gas development have declined by over 20 percent thanks to advances in technology.

I urge you and your colleagues in Congress to use the authority granted under the Congressional Review Act to repeal the BLM’s Methane Rule.

Sincerely,                               

Grover G. Norquist                                                     

President                                                                     
Americans for Tax Reform

 

Photo credit: Roman Boed

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ATR Joins Coalition Urging Confirmation of Scott Pruitt as EPA Head

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Posted by Justin Sykes on Thursday, January 12th, 2017, 1:26 PM PERMALINK

Americans for Tax Reform this week joined over 20 other free market organizations in sending a letter to U.S. Senators supporting and urging confirmation of Attorney General Scott Pruitt as Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Highlights from the letter are below with a PDF of the full letter

"Attorney General Pruitt has consistently fought for Oklahoma families and communities and has been a stalwart defender against federal intrusion into state and individual rights. Notably, Mr. Pruitt led a multi-state effort opposing the EPA's unlawful attempt to take over the nation's electricity grid under section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act," the letter states. 

In addition to Mr. Pruitt's work fighting Obama's Clean Air Act overreach, the letter also cites that, "Attorney General Pruitt has stood up for states, families, and the Constitution by opposing the Administration's unconstitutional regulatory overreach through the re-definition of the waters of the United States." 

Both the Clean Power Plan and Waters of the U.S. Rule infringe state sovereignty, impede the Constitution, and will have far reaching negative impacts on jobs, income, and economic prosperity across America if they are allowed to move forward.

Americans for Tax Reform supports all the work Mr. Pruitt has done to fight these instances of overreach and others, and urges Senators to support his confirmation as EPA Administrator. 

 

Photo credit: Gage Skidmore

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ATR Statement on Obama's Offshore Ban

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Posted by Justin Sykes on Thursday, December 22nd, 2016, 11:31 AM PERMALINK

Washington – ATR President Grover Norquist issued the following statement this week in response to President Obama’s announcement that he will indefinitely ban new oil and gas offshore drilling leases in vast areas of the Arctic and Atlantic oceans:

“President Obama’s announcement this week that he will ban oil and gas drilling leases in large parts of the Arctic and Atlantic oceans is an unprecedented and ideologically driven move to appease far left environmentalists undertaken in the waning hours of his administration.   

“Obama’s move to ban oil and gas drilling chokes off the vast economic potential these areas would offer the American economy through increased energy production and the creation of good paying jobs. In the Arctic alone, these areas are estimated to hold 27 billion barrels of oil and over 130 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.

“Obama’s actions are all too typical of a president concerned only with ‘green’ vanity at the expense of American prosperity. ATR looks forward to working with President-elect Trump to undo this and a number of other economically disastrous policies put forth under the Obama administration.”  

 

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Toomey Targets Dodd-Frank with Reconciliation

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Posted by Justin Sykes on Friday, December 9th, 2016, 3:22 PM PERMALINK

This week Senator Pat Toomey (R-Penn.) called on the Senate to begin reforming the Dodd-Frank Act through a legislative procedure known as reconciliation. Senator Toomey’s call to rein in Dodd-Frank through reconciliation is a positive step toward protecting taxpayers, consumers, and U.S. businesses from the crushing and burdensome tangle of regulations that is Dodd-Frank.

Speaking on the Senate floor, Senator Toomey stated:

“For too long now we’ve been putting up with a Dodd-Frank bill that is costing us a lot of economic growth and opportunity. I am hoping our Democratic colleagues will work with us so that we can begin to make the constructive changes that we need. But if not, I think we should use all tools available to get this job done.”

One of tools available that Senator Toomey suggested is a process known as reconciliation. By using the reconciliation process, lawmakers could make legislative changes to the Dodd-Frank Act with a simple majority in the Senate. Since Senate Republicans will occupy 52 seats in the Upper Chamber next year, this would allow them to make changes to the law and prevent Senate Democrats from filibustering those efforts.

Senator Toomey has also made it clear one of the first targets of reform will be the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), an independent agency created by the Dodd-Frank Act. Created less than six years ago, the CFPB has developed into a regulatory monster issuing nearly 50 rules at a rate 3.5 times faster than any other government agency.

The CFPB is currently not subject to the Congressional appropriations process, and “their funding makes them completely unaccountable to anyone other than themselves,” Senator Toomey said.

His fellow Republican colleagues in the Senate echoed the sentiments expressed by Toomey this week regarding Dodd-Frank reforms. Chairman of the Senate Baking Committee Richard Shelby (R-Alaska) stated Wednesday, “I’d like to repeal the whole thing, period.”

Dodd-Frank reforms are also receiving increased attention on the House side as well. House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) this year introduced the Financial CHOICE Act to overhaul Dodd-Frank, an effort that will see a reenergized push in 2017 with Republicans controlling both the legislative and executive branches.  

Photo credit: Gage Skidmore

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Mnuchin: Dodd-Frank Reform “Number One Priority”

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Posted by Justin Sykes on Thursday, December 1st, 2016, 2:23 PM PERMALINK

It was announced Wednesday that President-elect Donald Trump has tapped Steven Mnunchin, formally with Goldman Sachs, to the lead the Treasury. Following the announcement, Mnuchin wasted no time laying out his general priorities for financial services reforms in 2017, which included reforming the Dodd-Frank Act and the Volcker Rule in particular, easing the burden on regional banks, and potentially returning Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to private control. 

Appearing on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” Wednesday, Mnunchin expressed intentions to target the costly and burdensome Dodd-Frank Act, stating:

“The number one problem with Dodd-Frank is it’s way to complicated and it cuts back lending, so we want to strip back parts of Dodd-Frank that prevent banks from lending and that will be the number one priority on the regulatory side.”

Since enactment over six years ago, the Dodd-Frank Act has unleashed a slew of costly and burdensome regulations that have forced many community banks out of the market, chilled small business lending, and general reduced American financial competitiveness, among other problems.

Mnuchin will be in good company for prioritizing Dodd-Frank reform next year, as President-elect Trump has already vowed to “dismantle Dodd-Frank” and freeze or scrap other financial regulations such as the Department of Labor’s Fiduciary Rule.

President Trump and Mnuchin will have their work cut out for them somewhat, as House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling has laid out a financial reform blueprint with the Financial CHOICE Act he introduced this year.

Hernsarling’s CHOICE Act looks to repeal burdensome regulations such as the Volcker Rule and Durbin Amendment, and rein in out of control regulators such as the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and Financial Stability Oversight Council, in addition to a number of other reforms.  

 

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ATR Statement on EPA’s Newly Released Fuel Economy Standards


Posted by Justin Sykes on Wednesday, November 30th, 2016, 5:45 PM PERMALINK

Washington – ATR President Grover Norquist issued the following statement this week in response to the EPA’s unprecedented push to finalize strict new fuel-economy standards for 2022-2025:
 

“The EPA’s push this week to finalize burdensome and costly new fuel-economy standards is clearly an affront to the incoming Trump administration. The EPA’s actions disregard the appropriate and in-depth analysis needed to ensure that the new standards take into account fuel efficiency, affordability, and the impact on the economy.  
 

“The overly strict standards proposed by the EPA will only make cars and trucks increasingly more expensive and unaffordable for American consumers. As a result, American families and workers will be forced to look to less efficient and less safe used cars and trucks.
 

“Such stringent and premature standards are unrealistic, and effectively put the government in between consumer choice and American mobility.”   


Top 5 Financial Regulations Trump Should Repeal

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Posted by Justin Sykes on Monday, November 28th, 2016, 2:57 PM PERMALINK

Throughout his campaign Donald Trump pledged to repeal and “dismantle” burdensome financial regulations such as the Department of Labor’s (DOL) “fiduciary rule” and regulations enacted under the Dodd-Frank Act. Now that President-elect Trump has clinched the Whitehouse and has the backing of a Republican House and Senate, he now has the ability to act on his campaign pledge.                                                   

Looking ahead to 2017, there are five financial reforms that Trump can undertake to relieve the burdensome and costly regulatory impact left over from the Obama administration.

  1. Repeal the DOL’s Fiduciary Rule. Trump should look to repeal the DOL’s costly fiduciary rule before it takes effect April 2017. The massive rule spans over 1000 pages and reduces the ability of financial advisors to give advice to IRA and 401(k) holders. Estimates show the fiduciary rule could disqualify up to 7 million IRA holders from investment advice, and reduce the number of IRAs opened annually by up to 400,000.
  2. Repeal the Durbin Amendment. The Durbin Amendment, passed as part of the Dodd-Frank Act, requires the Federal Reserve to fix the price of fees charged to retailers for debit card processing. Prior to Dodd-Frank, issuers of debit cards received a fee from the merchant to offset the cost of running the debit card system. This has increased the cost of accepting debit cards for many small businesses, which in turn pass those costs onto consumers.
  3. Repeal the Volcker Rule. Passed as part of the Dodd-Frank Act, the Volcker Rule, named for former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker, limits the type of trading activities that banks can engage in, specifically proprietary trading (trading for ones own accounts). Volcker has since acknowledged however proprietary trading did not lead to the financial crisis, calling the justification behind the rule into question. As a result, U.S. financial institutions have become less competitive globally, the cost of raising capital for small businesses has increased, and market liquidity has been reduced. 
  4. Stop or repeal the Arbitration Rule. The CFPB is currently racing to finalize the proposed Arbitration Rule before President Trump takes office in January. The proposed rule would ban arbitration clauses in consumer finance contracts such as those used by lenders and credit card companies. The rule would be a boon for trial attorneys and a burden for consumers. The CFPB’s own study found arbitration clauses result in better outcomes for consumers, with awards being given in a matter of months, while class-action awards take years and have average payouts of less than $2 per person.  
  5. Reform the CFPB. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is the fastest rulemaking body in the federal government. Of the nearly 50 rules the CFPB has imposed, 26 of them have directly resulted in $2.8 billion in costs and 16.9 million hours of increased paperwork.  Two primary CFPB reforms Trump can focus on are subjecting the bureau to Congressional oversight and shifting CFPB leadership from one unaccountable bureaucrat to a 5-member board. 

 

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