Tom Hebert

Rep. Scalise Holds Democrat Governors Accountable for COVID-19 Nursing Home Deaths

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Posted by Tom Hebert on Monday, June 15th, 2020, 5:14 PM PERMALINK

House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) is leading the effort to hold Democrat governors accountable for their nightmarish policy of sending Coronavirus patients to nursing homes, a recklessly incompetent decision that needlessly sent tens of thousands of American seniors to an early grave. 

In a briefing Thursday in the House Select Committee on the Coronavirus Crisis, Scalise said that he plans to request more information from each governor that implemented this policy.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) created the Select Committee in an effort to politicize our nation’s Coronavirus response and damage President Trump’s reelection effort. House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.), the Congressman who told lawmakers the pandemic was an “tremendous opportunity to restructure things to fit our vision,” chairs the sham committee.

Clyburn held the hearing on nursing home fatalities to try and shift blame away from Democrat governors that sent COVID-19 patients to nursing homes. This blatant attempt to blame Trump for a tragedy that Democrat governors created is a shameful weaponization of the pandemic for political gain. 

The Coronavirus pandemic is an unprecedented public health crisis. There’s a lot we still don’t know about the disease, but one clear trend is that elderly populations are most at risk of contracting and dying from COVID-19. 

As Scalise notes, nursing home residents comprise 0.6 percent of the American population, but account for 42 percent of nationwide COVID-19 deaths. This is a tragedy that could have been avoided if governors like Andrew Cuomo (D-NY) and Gretchen Whitmer (D-Mich.) followed Trump Administration guidance for handling the pandemic.

As early as February, guidance from the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) noted that elderly populations in Europe were especially vulnerable to the Coronavirus. On March 13, CMS Administrator Seema Verma explicitly stated: “[u]nder no circumstances should a hospital discharge a patient to a nursing home that is not prepared to take care of those patient’s needs.”

Democrat governors disregarded these warnings and put nursing home workers and residents in danger. For example: 

  • On March 25th, Cuomo’s health department mandated that nursing homes take Coronavirus patients, andsaid that nursing homes “don’t have the right to object” to the order. After Cuomo’s abject failure became apparent and over 5,300 New Yorkers died in nursing homes, he backtracked and reversed the order. 
     
  • On March 31st, Governor Phil Murphy (D-N.J.) issued an executive order that essentially mirrored Cuomo’s. Since then, there have been more than 6,327 coronavirus deaths in long-term care facilities, and the New Jersey State Senate is investigating the state’s disastrous handling of the pandemic.
     
  • On April 15th, Governor Gretchen Whitmer (D-Mich.) issued a similar executive order that forced nursing homes to accept patients regardless of testing positive for COVID-19. This caused a bipartisan uproar among Whitmer’s constituents, with a Democratic State Representative calling the order an “epic fail.” Since Whitmer’s order, there have been over 2,297 Coronavirus-related deaths in Michigan nursing homes.
     
  • Governor Tom Wolf (D-Penn.) also failed to keep his elderly constituents safe by ordering nursing homes to accept Coronavirus patients. In a stunning display of hypocrisy, Pennsylvania’s health director moved her own mother out of a nursing home as the pandemic rippled through the state’s nursing home community.More than 2/3rds of Pennsylvania's COVID-19 fatalities have been in nursing homes.
     

Governors that took the time to look at the data and follow the Trump Administration’s guidelines have had very different results. In early March, Governor Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.) locked down Florida’s nursing homes and banned COVID-19 patients from entering. Even in a state with a large elderly population that was a landing spot for tens of thousands of Americans fleeing other states, Florida has seen significantly less nursing home deaths than in states with this disastrous policy. 

As Rep. Scalise notes:

"The decision of several governors to essentially mandate COVID positive patients go back to their nursing homes ended up being a death sentence.  New York has suffered 6,318 deaths in nursing homes.   New Jersey, 6,327.  Compare that to Florida - a retirement state - 1,454.  On a per capita basis, nursing homes deaths in New York are 500% higher than Florida and New Jersey is 1,120 percent higher than Florida."

States that followed the Trump Administration’s nursing home guidance were largely successful at drastically lowering the number of seniors that died in assisted living facilities. In contrast, states like New York, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey, flouted the guidance under the direction of their Democrat governors and saw tens of thousands of American seniors die from Coronavirus.

Instead of letting these Democrat Governors escape accountability thanks to Pelosi and Clyburn, Rep. Scalise is rightly demanding answers for the sake of these seniors and their families. 

Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore


Rep. Brady Legislation Holds Governors Accountable for COVID-19 Relief Funds

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Posted by Tom Hebert on Thursday, June 11th, 2020, 10:00 AM PERMALINK

The Coronavirus pandemic has imposed enormous damage to local communities across the country. However, many governors are withholding relief federal relief funds from localities and rural communities. In response to this, House Ways and Means Ranking Member Kevin Brady (R-Texas) has introduced H.R. 7065, legislation that would prevent governors from hoarding Coronavirus relief funds appropriated for local governments.

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act established a $150 billion Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF) for states, territories, tribes, and local governments. Much of this funding is being withheld, according to a May report from the National League of Cities.

The report found that 32 states are withholding COVID-19 relief funds from local governments and rural towns, preventing critical resources from being used to help Americans in need. Democrat governors like J.B. Pritzker of Illinois, Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan, and Laura Kelly of Kansas have come under fire for failing to get these funds to their constituents.

Rep. Brady’s legislation would fix this by requiring any state that received CRF dollars to provide the Treasury Department with a plan for how they will distribute the money to local governments. If states fail to provide a detailed description of their process by June 12, 2020, Treasury’s Inspector General will claw back 25 percent of the funds previously provided to the state.

The fact is, any effort to deny localities CRF dollars is a blatant violation of Congressional intent.

As Treasury Department guidance has indicated, these funds were intended to help states and localities operate basic functions and cover costs directly related to the pandemic, like testing or procuring personal protective equipment.

Despite this clear intent, states are still “withholding funding from most” localities “with no indication when, or if, funds will ever be made available.”

Much like American businesses, these localities are struggling to keep basic functions in operation, and doing the best they can to serve their people in an unprecedented situation. If governors are hoarding funds Congress has expressly approved for these communities, it means that millions of Americans do not have access to critical resources they need to get through the pandemic.

Ironically, many of these states are run by Democrats that are pushing for the $1 trillion no-strings-attached state and local bailout in Pelosi’s misleadingly-named “HEROES Act.”

In contrast, Republicans have led the way to ensure that governors get resources to those that need them as quickly as possible. For instance, Republican members of the Michigan Delegation sent a letter to Democrat Governor Gretchen Whitmer requesting an outline of how federal money is being spent, saying:

“It was never Congress’ intent that these taxpayer dollars be kept from our local governments, many of which not only have urgent needs but also have the ability to quickly put these resources to work in rural and remote communities.”

Republican members from the Illinois delegation sent a similar letter to Democrat Governor J.B. Pritzker, noting that Illinois’s smaller towns were being left behind in accessing federal relief funds:

“We continue to hear from many of our local governments who are struggling because of the pandemic and stay-at-home orders that remain in place…This funding was passed on a bipartisan basis and released to states nearly a month ago to help local governments continue basic functions and we remain concerned that this funding has seemingly not been distributed.”

While these efforts are commendable, more action is needed to ensure governors are disbursing the funds appropriately.

As the focus turns towards reopening the economy and getting Americans safely back to work, it is critical that states and localities work together to mitigate the further spread of the Coronavirus.

If governors continue withholding this funding, the reopening process for localities could be complicated or delayed thanks to the artificial scarcity of resources the hoarding has created.

Congressman Brady should be applauded for holding governors accountable. Now, Congress should take up and pass H.R. 7065 so that localities receive the resources to help Americans in need.

Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore


Senator Cruz Legislation Reforms FDA To Fight COVID-19

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Posted by Tom Hebert on Monday, June 8th, 2020, 9:38 AM PERMALINK

In responding to the Coronavirus pandemic, President Trump’s leadership has spurred sweeping deregulation to promote medical innovation and protect patient access to the healthcare system. Nationwide, over 600 rules and regulations have been waived and suspended at all levels of government.

Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) has introduced two pieces of legislation that will build on this success by ensuring that Food and Drug Administration (FDA) rules and bureaucracy do not needlessly interfere with America’s Coronavirus response. 

Getting the FDA out of the way to better fight COVID-19 has already been one of Trump’s deregulatory priorities. The administration has enacted numerous reforms including:

  • Giving states the power to allow their laboratories to develop COVID-19 diagnostics and testing, waiving the requirement of labs pursuing Emergency Use Authorization from the FDA.
     
  • Loosening FDA requirements around distribution of newly-developed tests, allowing states to get tests into the hands of American patients as swiftly as possible.
     
  • Easing FDA rules to increase ventilator production.
     
  • Issuing several FDA emergency authorizations for COVID-19 diagnostic and antibody tests.
     

Cruz’s bills build on the Trump Administration’s deregulatory response to the Coronavirus pandemic.

S. 3545, the “Reciprocity Ensures Streamlined Use of Lifesaving Treatments for Coronavirus Patients Act of 2020,” establishes a reciprocal marketing approval process for COVID-19 drugs, biological products, and medical devices. 

This bill allows the sale of COVID-19 in the United States that have not yet been approved by the FDA if the product has already been approved in other countries.

Product sponsors must meet several criteria in order to sell in the U.S., including:

  • The product has been approved to treat or prevent the spread of COVID-19 in another specified country. 
     
  • The FDA and specified countries have not rescinded support or approval because of safety or effectiveness concerns.
     
  • There is a public health or unmet medical need for the product.

 

In order to withdraw approval, the FDA must determine that the product is unsafe or ineffective in treating COVID-19, and has 30 days to make such a determination after receiving a request.

The FDA is notoriously slow at approving new drugs. On average, it takes 90.3 months for pharmaceuticals to go through the development and approval process, imposing immense R&D costs on manufacturers. In the middle of a global pandemic, we simply can’t afford to have the government slow things down more than they already do.

The pharmaceutical industry is working at an unprecedented pace to develop and bring a COVID-19 cure to market. Even though the U.S. is leading the way on developing a vaccine, S. 3545 will ensure that the FDA does not needlessly prevent Americans from accessing a Coronavirus cure or treatment if it has been approved in other countries. 

S. 3769, the “Right to Test Act,” would allow states to approve and distribute Coronavirus tests as long as the state or federal government has declared a public health emergency. This would empower states to bypass FDA approval and drastically ramp up our testing capacity. 

We already know what happens when Washington bureaucrats are in charge of developing and producing Coronavirus testing. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) took weeks to develop a Coronavirus test after the pandemic reached our borders, only to contaminate the first round of testing kits and completely botch the rollout.

Widely-available Coronavirus testing will be a central part of safely reopening the American economy. S. 3767 will ensure that the FDA doesn’t stand in the way of any American receiving a test as long as their state is under a public health emergency.

Ultimately, S. 3545 and S. 3769 will ensure that FDA bureaucracy does not stand in the way of any American receiving a Coronavirus test, cure, or preventative treatment.

Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore


Top 5 Wastes of Money in Nancy Pelosi’s “HEROES Act”

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Posted by Tom Hebert on Tuesday, June 2nd, 2020, 2:30 PM PERMALINK

The Democrat-controlled House of Representatives recently passed Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s “Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act,” a $3 trillion wishlist of long-held liberal priorities completely unrelated to fighting the Coronavirus pandemic.

This partisan legislation is being pushed even though Congress has already acted to help American workers, families, and businesses during the pandemic. 

In March, Congress passed the $2 trillion “Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security” (CARES) Act, the largest relief package in American history. In April, Congress authorized $310 billion in additional funding for the CARES Act’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) in the “Paycheck Protection and Health Care Enhancement Act,” pushing the cumulative Coronavirus relief Congress has already authorized to nearly $2.5 trillion. 

In stark contrast to the bipartisan CARES Act, Pelosi’s partisan HEROES Act is dead on arrival in the Senate and stands absolutely no chance of being signed by President Trump.

Here are five of the biggest wastes of taxpayer money in the Pelosi plan.

Over $1 trillion in federal bailouts to state and local governments

The HEROES Act contains $500 billion in bailouts to states, $375 billion in bailouts to local governments, and $40 billion in bailouts to tribal and territory governments.

On top of the $915 billion in direct relief, the Pelosi bill contains $81 billion in enhanced Medicaid funding and $100 billion for “dedicated expenses” that would have not existed prior to the pandemic, adding up to $1.08 trillion in bailout cash.

Pelosi is pushing this funding through despite the fact that states have already received funding to offset Coronavirus-related costs, including money for hospitals in both relief packages.

$714 billion of this bailout money is deemed “flexible,” meaning that states can use it to subsidize projects and programs completely unrelated to fighting the Coronavirus.

The $1.08 trillion Pelosi bailout equals the amount of revenue that states collected in FY2019., States and localities are projected to lose a combined $482 billion across FY2020 and FY2021, making this allocation more than double what states are projected to lose in revenue.

The Pelosi plan contains no limitations on how states should spend this money, so irresponsible states will use this windfall to wash away decades of fiscal mismanagement. For example, in 2017, the state pension gap was $1.28 trillion. This means that states would need $1.28 trillion just for their pension systems to be broke.

Federal bailouts in times of crisis has historically led to expansions in state spending, creating a moral hazard and disincentivizing decision-makers from being prudent stewards of taxpayer resources. Following a $20 billion federal bailout for state budgets after a market downturn in 2003, state spending rose by 33 percent in the subsequent five years and state debts increased by 20 percent in the following four years.

Pelosi’s trillion-dollar blank check to fiscally irresponsible states is the wrong approach and would put taxpayers in fiscally responsible states on the hook for bad decisions in other states. 

$25 billion bailout for the postal service

The Pelosi plan includes a $25 billion unconditional bailout for the United States Postal Service for “revenue foregone” during the pandemic. 

The government-run USPS has problems that far predate the Coronavirus. From October to December 2019, the USPS lost $748 million in revenue. The USPS has accumulated more than $70 billion in debt since 2007.

Without demanding structural changes to ensure the long-term solvency of the USPS, this bill is simply throwing good money after bad.

$3.6 billion to federalize election administration

The Pelosi plan contains a host of provisions that would consolidate federal control over election administration, including mandating 15 days of early voting for the 2020 election and beyond, mandating vote-by-mail for 2020 and beyond, permitting blanket same-day registration, and removing safeguards that prevent voter fraud by absentee ballot.

Congress has rightly worked in a bipartisan fashion to strengthen our elections in the past without pushing unrelated mandates, including approving $425 million in funding to shore up our voting systems in December. In the CARES Act, Congress approved $400 million in funding designed to help states deal with the added costs of safely conducting elections this fall. 

States are already taking abundant precautions to make the polls safe for voters, and Republican lawmakers are rightly open to the possibility of further funding for safety-related election measures in a future Coronavirus relief package. In addressing these issues, lawmakers should not follow Pelosi's lead by exploiting the crisis to push left-wing priorities.

$50 million in “environmental justice” grants that stifle economic activity in low-income areas

The HEROES Act contains $50 million in so-called “environmental justice” grants, a slush-fund for state and local governments to subsidize left-wing projects federal taxpayers shouldn’t be responsible for funding.

This program was created to protect low-income communities from unwanted landfills or industrial plants.

In practice, this program has stifled business development and crushed economic opportunity in low-income areas, doing the exact opposite of what left-wing advocates say the program is supposed to do.

Additionally, these grants subsidize projects completely unrelated to “environmental justice,” like litter cleanups, composting classes, and lectures on automobile dependence.

The facts are clear: these grants are left-wing social engineering under the guise of helping disadvantaged communities.

$25 million in arts funding

Democrats famously snuck in $25 million in funding to the Kennedy Center in the previous Coronavirus relief package. What happened? The Kennedy Center put 279 full-time employees and 725 part-time staff members on unpaid furlough.

The Pelosi plan wants to do it again by allocating $10 million for the National Endowment for the Arts, $10 million for the National Endowment for the Humanities, and $5 million for the Institute for Museum and Library Services. Adding insult to injury, this funding comes with no conditions that prevent Kennedy Center-style layoffs and furloughs.

All told, the Pelosi plan is a broadly unserious proposal that subsidizes liberal priorities over helping working Americans through the pandemic.

Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore


ATR Releases Letter Supporting Russ Vought for OMB Director

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Posted by Tom Hebert on Monday, June 1st, 2020, 11:37 AM PERMALINK

ATR President Grover Norquist has released a letter in support of Russ Vought's nomination for OMB Director. 

Vought has long been a champion of pro-growth, fiscally responsible regulatory reform, spending reform, and tax reform. He is the perfect choice to permanently lead the Office of Management and Budget and shepherd through policies that address Washington’s overspending problem and grow the economy. 

You can read the full letter here or below. 

Dear Chairman Johnson and Chairman Enzi:

I write in support of Russ Vought’s nomination to become the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).

Russ Vought has been a champion of pro-growth, fiscally responsible regulatory reform, spending reform, and tax reform. He is the perfect choice to permanently lead the Office of Management and Budget and shepherd through policies that address Washington’s overspending problem and grow the economy. 

The OMB is in charge of promulgating the President’s budget, supervising agency performance, and implementing the President’s regulatory vision.

While serving as Acting OMB Director since January 2019, Vought has been a leader in addressing Washington’s overspending problem and cutting the red tape that inhibits economic growth.

Throughout this tenure, Vought has overseen some of the most fiscally conservative Presidential budgets in history. For instance, President Trump’s Fiscal Year 2021 budget balances in 15 years, calls for making the middle class tax cuts permanent, and includes $4.6 trillion in deficit reduction.

Vought has also been a key player in developing and implementing Trump’s deregulatory agenda, which kickstarted one of the strongest economies in American history before the pandemic hit. In the first two years alone, the Trump Administration reduced regulatory costs by $33 billion.

More recently, the President signed two executive orders designed to make federal agencies more accountable to the taxpayer. Trump’s “Transparency and Fairness” order prohibits agencies from enforcing rules that have not been made public in advance. Trump’s “Bringing Guidance Out of The Darkness” order stops agencies from enforcing informal guidance documents that have not gone through public review.

Importantly, the administration has made deregulation a centerpiece of the response to COVID-19, leading to the suspension of nearly 600 rules and regulations across the country. Trump’s most recent deregulatory executive order authorizes agencies to permanently repeal regulations waived during the pandemic if agencies determine they were never necessary in the first place.

As Acting Director of OMB, Russ Vought has accumulated an impressive record of advancing free market policies. Moving forward, Director Vought’s leadership on deregulation, tax reform, and spending reduction will be key to ensuring the U.S. recovers from the economic damage caused by the Coronavirus pandemic.

Senators should support his nomination and vote to confirm him as Director of OMB.

Onward,

Grover Norquist
President, Americans for Tax Reform

Photo Credit: The White House


Biden Wants to Raise U.S. Corporate Tax Rate Higher Than Communist China

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Posted by Tom Hebert on Friday, May 22nd, 2020, 1:48 PM PERMALINK

Current rate: 21%

China’s rate: 25%

Biden’s rate: 28%

On CNBC’s Squawk Box this morning, Joe Biden vowed to raise the 21% U.S. corporate tax rate all the way up to 28% -- a 33 percent increase in the rate.

Biden would impose on Americans a higher corporate tax rate than Communist China’s 25%.

Biden’s 28% tax rate is also higher than the United Kingdom (19 percent), Canada (26.8 percent), and Ireland (12.5 percent).

President Trump and congressional Republicans lowered the federal corporate tax rate from the Obama-Biden era 35% rate down to the current 21% rate as part of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. When Trump took office, America’s corporate rate was the highest in the developed world. 

The corporate tax cut was the cornerstone of the previously robust American economy. Before COVID-19, the Trump economy routinely created well over 100,000 private sector jobs per month. Nominal wage growth enjoyed 19 consecutive months of over 3 percent growth, and unemployment was consistently below 4 percent, a 50-year record low. 

As the focus turns towards reopening the country and getting Americans safely back to work, Biden plan to raise the corporate rate would harm American workers, stunt job and wage growth, and erode our competitive advantage in the global economy.

Keep track of Biden’s tax hikes at www.ATR.org/HighTaxJoe

Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore


Trump's Regulatory Relief Executive Order Will Get Americans Safely Back To Work

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Posted by Tom Hebert on Wednesday, May 20th, 2020, 6:23 PM PERMALINK

On Tuesday, President Trump issued an executive order that will help Americans safely return to work by directing agencies to slash the red tape that inhibits economic growth.

As the focus turns towards restarting the economy, Trump’s new deregulatory executive order will give businesses the flexibility they need to safely reopen and create jobs.

Specifically, the order directs agencies to identify and rescind red tape on business in order to promote job creation and economic growth. The EO authorizes agencies to use the same emergency authority that they have used to fight the Coronavirus to waive regulations that stand in the way of our post-pandemic economic recovery.

ATR President Grover Norquist praised the executive order:

“President Trump’s executive order to slash red tape and directing all agencies to use their emergency powers to ‘rescind or temporarily waive damaging regulations’ is key to recovery. 

President Trump and the Republican congress brought us strong growth, job creation and increasing wages by reducing taxes and the regulatory burden.

We can return America to prosperity the same way.

The Democrat congress opposes tax reduction, but President Trump is leading on executive orders reducing the cost and unnecessary delays caused by overregulation.

President Trump’s drive for more deregulation—first to fight the virus and second to restore growth — is moving full speed ahead.”

Trump’s new EO also directs agencies not to over-enforce when American businesses are clearly working in good faith to follow the law and keep their workers and customers safe. The pandemic has put businesses in an extraordinarily difficult spot – not only are they struggling to keep the lights on and pay their employees, they must contend with rapidly-changing information to best protect the people they serve and employ. This provision mitigates the threat of an overzealous bureaucrat coming down on a business that is doing the best they can to keep people safe.

The EO establishes a “Regulatory Bill Of Rights,” a set of 10 regulatory principles that agencies will follow in the enforcement process to provide fairness to businesses that are reopening. This set of principles, which direct agencies to be fair and transparent in enforcing against any violations of law, will give businesses confidence as they begin to reopen their doors.

Finally, the EO directs agencies to review the impact of any regulations that they have waived or suspended during the pandemic and determine if they are necessary to reinstate. Permanently repealing these regulations – most of which were never necessary in the first place – will help grow our economy long after the pandemic has run its course.

Instead of using the pandemic as an excuse to consolidate more power in the federal government’s hands, the Trump Administration has made deregulation the centerpiece of its Coronavirus response. State and local governments have wisely followed suit, leading to the temporary suspension of over 500 rules and regulations as the pandemic runs its course.

Americans for Tax Reform has kept a running list of these suspended regulations, which you can view by clicking here.

Regulatory relief on the federal level has streamlined our national response to the Coronavirus. For example:

  • The FDA has given states the power to allow their laboratories to develop COVID-19 diagnostics and testing. This step waives the requirement of labs pursuing Emergency Use Authorization from the FDA, allowing states to take the responsibility for tests and diagnostics used within their borders.
     
  • The Department of Transportation has exempted commercial truck drivers transporting emergency medical supplies from regulations limiting how many hours they can drive. This rule change gave needed flexibility to drivers that transport goods like necessary medical supplies, testing equipment, hand sanitizer, disinfectants and food required for emergency restocking of stores.
     
  • The Trump administration has used its executive authority to temporarily cover telehealth services for Medicare beneficiaries during the pandemic.  This change allows patients to interact with their doctors via phone or video conferencing at no additional cost, covering commonly used services like Facetime and Skype.
     
  • Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar has waived telehealth laws that prevented doctors from treating patients in other states. This important step allows out-of-state doctors to treat patients in areas with high demand while greatly reducing the risk of transmission from in-person visits.
     

In sum, Trump’s new executive order builds on the Administration’s successful deregulatory response to COVID-19. As our country reopens, this new regulatory relief will jumpstart the economy and give businesses the flexibility they need to safely get Americans back to work.

Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore


Pelosi Plan To Expand Unemployment Subsidizes Welfare Over Work

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Posted by Tom Hebert, Samantha Capriotti on Thursday, May 14th, 2020, 6:27 PM PERMALINK

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi recently released the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act, a $3 trillion wish list of liberal priorities largely unrelated to mitigating the damage caused by the Coronavirus pandemic. 

As part of this proposal, Pelosi has proposed to expand the federal pandemic unemployment compensation (FPUC) benefit. This will threaten the economic recovery by extending a program that creates an incentive for Americans to choose welfare over work. This will particularly impact millions of small businesses as they attempt to survive through the pandemic.

The FPUC is a temporary $600-per-week increase in unemployment benefits, which beneficiaries receive on top of their regular unemployment compensation. It currently runs through July 31, 2020 but the Pelosi plan would extend the FPUC through January 31, 2021. 

This program is already creating a situation in which Americans are getting paid more on unemployment than they were making in the workplace. State unemployment ranges from $235 to $795 per week, and the $600 is being offered in addition to the recipient’s state rate. $600 per week translates to $15 per hour, almost double the federal minimum wage. 

Some workers are asking their employers not to apply for a loan under the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) so they can continue receiving the FPUC. The PPP is a federal loan program created by the CARES Act that offers businesses up to $10 million per company to fund eight weeks of payroll and other expenses. If certain criteria are met, the loans can be partially or fully forgiven.

 Jamie Black-Lewis, a Washington based small business operates two spas and was caught in between the wishes of her 35 workers and her business.  Her employees are making more money by collecting unemployment, but she needs the PPP to protect her business from further accruing debt.

In Detroit, Liz Blondy owns a dog day care that is now only operating for essential workers. She laid off 90 percent of her staff and her business has dropped by 95 percent. Blondy has applied for a PPP loan, but some workers have said that they would prefer to remain on unemployment. She told them she will not force them to come out of their homes during a pandemic, but she may not have work for them in the future.

The additional unemployment benefit will have a lasting negative impact on our economy. A recent study conducted by the Heritage Foundation found that due to the additional $600 in unemployment benefits, GDP will be reduced by between $955 billion and $1.49 trillion.  The CARES Act offers workers the ability to quit their job and opt for unemployment.  The study found that this option, coupled with the increased unemployment benefits, will lead to an additional 13.9 million people filing for unemployment.  

In reality, the UI expansion is a test run for a permanent $15 minimum wage, a long sought-after Democrat goal.  This idea has failed everywhere it has been tried.

In 2014, Seattle established a $15 minimum wage and found that in response to an average increase of pay by 3 percent, employers decreased hours by an average of 6 to 7 percent, meaning workers actually lost money.  Still, other employers reduced their existing staff and stopped hiring.  A 2017 study found that the policy was damaging to “unskilled workers” who were laid off in large numbers by employers looking for “skilled workers” since the employers would have to pay them a higher wage anyway.

Ultimately, the increased UI benefit is a disincentive to work, and is forcing employers to choose between applying for a PPP loan or shuttering completely. Of the three most recent recessions, 1991, 2001, and 2009, the labor market took an average of 51 months to recover. 

To be clear, American workers are struggling. Since the pandemic began, over 37 million Americans have filed for unemployment, a number that will continue to rise as the crisis continues. 

However, Pelosi’s plan to continue subsidizing welfare over work will only hinder the economic recovery and leave workers and businesses worse off over the long-term.

Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore


Congress Should Reject Proxy and Remote Voting for Lawmakers

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Posted by Tom Hebert on Thursday, May 14th, 2020, 5:31 PM PERMALINK

The House is set to vote on H. Res. 965, a measure that would allow lawmakers to vote-by-proxy for the duration of the Coronavirus pandemic and provides an on-ramp for members to vote remotely via technology. 

If implemented, this resolution would undermine our Constitutional system and delegitimize the lawmaking process. Congress should reject H. Res. 965. 

The Coronavirus crisis has completely upended normal life in the United States, with Americans all over the country complying with shelter-in-place and social distancing guidelines. 

Despite these restrictions, millions of workers are braving the pandemic in order to keep the country running. Essential workers, like postal workers, truck drivers, grocery store clerks, and police officers simply can’t perform the full extent of their jobs from home. 

Neither can members of Congress. 

Proxy voting would allow a member of Congress to serve as a “designated proxy” for up to 10 of their colleagues, a practice that would delegitimize the lawmaking process. 

As constitutional experts Timothy LaPira and James Wallner have pointed out, lawmakers legitimize the legislative process by participating in the “deliberation, persuasion, bargaining, and compromise that precede voting.” The informal and formal processes that precede the actual vote are crucial to ensuring that members are able to adequately represent their constituents’ interests in Washington. 

Proxy voting undercuts this process by restricting the ability of rank and file members to contribute to the legislative process, making members mere rubber-stamps for legislation they had no input in crafting. Proxy voting would especially be problematic when considering massive spending packages, where lawmakers are often left in the dark even in regular order.

Remote voting, where members of Congress use technology to vote from home, is an even worse idea. Enabling lawmakers to vote remotely violates existing rules in the House and Senate and raises critical Constitutional questions. 

Article 1 Section 4 of the Constitution states that “The Congress shall assemble at least once in every Year,” clearly communicating that the Framers intended lawmakers to conduct their business in person. 

Critically, Article 1 Section 5 establishes a requirement that a “quorum” of a majority of members have to be present in order for either chamber “to do Business.” Remote voting undermines the quorum requirement because members are not actually present in the chamber, clearly violating Constitutional intent. 

The fact is, Congress has already taken steps to protect lawmakers amidst the pandemic. The Capitol grounds are closed to the public and strictly restricted to members and staff. The Senate has changed its procedures to increase the time allotted for votes so less Senators have to be on the floor at any given time. 

Ultimately, Americans send their representatives to Washington with an expectation that they will represent their interests in person. Proxy voting would shirk this sacred trust and greatly restrict the influence of rank and file members on the lawmaking process. Remote voting would violate existing rules and run completely afoul of the intent of the Framers. 

If essential workers can adapt to the pandemic in order to keep the country running, our representatives in Congress should be able to do the same. 

Photo Credit: Kelli


RSC Framework Helps American Workers Through Tax Cuts, Regulatory Relief

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Posted by Tom Hebert on Thursday, May 7th, 2020, 2:15 PM PERMALINK

In a letter to Congressional Leadership, Republican Study Committee (RSC) Chairman Mike Johnson (R-La.) and RSC American Worker Task Force Chairman Andy Barr (R-Ky.) outlined a series of free market proposals that should be enacted to help American workers as the nation recovers from the Coronavirus pandemic.

The pandemic has taken a sledgehammer to the American economy, forcing millions of businesses to close and putting more than 22 million Americans out of work. As the focus turns towards reopening the economy and safely getting Americans back to work, the RSC plan offers several solutions that reduce barriers to employment that will restart the American economy. 

In contrast to Democrats who are pushing hundreds of billions of dollars in spending unrelated to the COVID-19 crisis, the RSC plan helps workers by getting government out of the way through targeted tax and regulatory relief. 

In order to make it easier for Americans to safely return to work, the RSC plan calls for several tax cuts for workers. Specifically, the plan levels the playing field for workers by expanding the ability of businesses to deduct education services for their workers. This would benefit employees and move the tax code in a pro-growth direction by incentivizing hiring and job training. 

The plan provides much-needed flexibility to workers by enacting Sen. Mike Lee’s (R-Utah) Working Families Flexibility Act, which would give employers the option to offer comp time or overtime pay to their employees. This would empower employees to select the option that best fits their individual needs, as well as allow them significant paid time off if needed to address issues at home due to COVID-19. 

The RSC framework also builds on the Trump Administration’s deregulatory response to Coronavirus. The RSC plan continues this effort by suspending occupational licensing requirements for healthcare workers across state lines, which hinders providers from easily shifting between outbreak epicenters. Many states have already waived these requirements for the crisis, and the plan encourages all states to do so.

Finally, in order to help Americans better prepare for their futures in a post-Coronavirus world, the RSC plan expands 529 education savings accounts to cover homeschool expenses. 529 savings accounts allow parents to save and invest after-tax income for education costs, and are broadly popular for the middle class.  

As Americans all across the country are self-isolating, students have been forced to learn from home, a situation that has led to additional costs stemming from the need to implement online and distance learning. Expanding 529s to include homeschooling would provide much needed assistance to parents and students across the country.

[See also: ATR Leads Coalition In Support of Expanding 529 Accounts]

Taken together, the RSC plan empowers American workers through targeted tax cuts, regulatory relief, and expanded flexibility. 

Photo Credit: John Williams


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