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Freedom Works
Tuesday October 23, 2018 @ 04:37:02 AM mt

Capitol Hill Update: October 1 2018




Schedule:

The Senate is in session. The House is in recess.

Senate:

The Senate will convene at 3:00 pm today. Judge Kavanaughs nomination is running in the background while the Senate tends to other business. At 5:30 pm today, the Senate will vote on the cloture motion for the House amendment to the Senate amendment to H.R. 302, which is now the FAA Reauthorization Act. H.R. 302, as amended, passed the House last week through H.Res. 1082. At some point in the coming days, the Senate will take up the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act, H.R. 6, the opioids package. The bill, as agreed to by the two chambers, passed the House on Friday.

There was a lot going on in the Senate Judiciary Committee on Friday. Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) started the day by saying publicly that he would vote for Judge Brett Kavanaughs nomination to the Supreme Court. Originally scheduled for 1:30 pm, the vote was delayed by around 20 minutes or so. Sen. Flake, who had been cornered in a Senate elevator after announcing his vote by a sexual assault victim, was wrestling with the decision, and members of the committee from both sides were lobbying him. Sen. Flake decided to vote for Judge Kavanaughs nomination in committee but wanted the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to examine the allegations of sexual assault made against Judge Kavanaugh for up to but not more than a week. The president directed the FBI to begin the supplemental investigation on Friday. The text of the order hasnt been released.

Reportedly, the FBI will investigate the claims of two accusers. The claims of the third accuser dont appear to be part of the supplemental investigation, although the White House has denied that its limiting the supplemental investigation. FBI agents will take statements and use a form, FD-302, to summarize or report on these interviews. The FBI doesnt come to a conclusion on the merits of the accusations, which Judge Kavanaugh pointed out during Thursdays testimony. The week limit on the supplemental investigation is already subject of criticism, as several Senate Democrats have said that there shouldnt be arbitrary deadlines set.

Most Senate Democrats had come out against Judge Kavanaughs nomination long before the accusations against him became public. Still, the votes of Sens. Flake, Susan Collins (R-Maine), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) are still at play. If the supplemental investigation doesnt reveal any new information or evidence, many believe it will mean that those on the fence may vote for confirmation.

After the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to approve Judge Kavanaughs nomination with a favorable recommendation by a party-line vote of 11 to 10, the Senate proceeded to the nomination by unanimous consent. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is honoring the week delay for the FBI to conduct the supplemental investigation.

House:

The email sent on Friday simply said, Members are advised that votes are no longer expected in the House during the weeks of October 1 and October 8, 2018. There were eight legislative days scheduled in October, but the early recess gives members two extra weeks to campaign before the midterm election on November 6. The House is in recess until Tuesday, November 13. The House will be in pro forma session on Tuesday, October 2 at 12:30 pm. We dont have the pro forma calendar for the recess, but we assume Tuesday and Fridays are the days the chamber will gavel in before almost immediately gaveling out.

The Protecting Family and Small Business Tax Cuts Act, H.R. 6760, passed the House on Friday by a vote of 220 to 191. The bill would make the individual and pass-through business tax cuts permanent. Ten Republicans, nearly all of whom hail from the Northeast, voted against the bill. Three Democrats -- Reps. Conor Lamb, Jacky Rosen, and Kyrsten Sinema -- voted for the bill. Reps. Rosen and Sinema are running for the Senate in Nevada and Arizona. The Protecting Family and Small Business Tax Cuts Act faces an uncertain future in the Senate. Given that the bill isnt working through reconciliation, the 60-vote threshold in the upper chamber comes into play.

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Freedom Works
Tuesday October 23, 2018 @ 04:36:54 AM mt

California Net Neutrality Law is a Fast Lane to a Court Loss




On Sunday, California Governor Jerry Brown (D) signed into law extreme legislation designed to protect so called net neutrality. The rules set forth by the legislation are not only a massive and unnecessary overreach based on faulty premises and wrought with unintended consequences but are also explicitly illegal under federal law. Thus, the federal Department of Justice filed suit against California mere hours later. In short, California has set forth on a fools errand guaranteed only to waste taxpayer resources on expensive litigation.

Net neutrality, in theory, is the idea that internet service providers should not block, slow, or prioritize certain internet traffic. While this sounds good in theory, net neutrality as a public policy is far from ideal. Internet service providers must be able to manage their networks as they best see fit and ultimately not all internet traffic needs or deserves to be treated equallyjust as the Post Office (i.e. the government) prioritizes and charges different rates for mail and packages. Prioritizing and zero-rating (which means not counting certain traffic towards a customers data caps) certain traffic have proven benefits for consumers such as the ability to tailor their internet plans to best fit their interests and needs. Further, restricting how private companies can use the networks they construct creates a strong disincentive for these companies to invest in deploying additional network infrastructure and improvements, which ultimately harms consumers. Regardless of the unintended harms to consumers, net neutrality regulations are an outright assault on the rights, particularly the property rights, of private companies who are severely restricted in their ability to control the networks theyve created.

For the reasons above and more, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rolled back federal net neutrality rules in 2017 via the Restoring Internet Freedom Order. Contained in the Order was a provision explicitly preempting states and local governments from enacting their own net neutrality rules. The reason for this is simple. The internet is inherently an interstate commerce platform (www does still stand for world wide web). Even if an individual sends an instant message to someone standing right next to them, it will undoubtedly actively involve companies and their servers in another, if not multiple other states. As a practical matter, it is best for such interstate commerce to be regulated at the federal level to prevent one state from creating chaos and dissuading commerce by imposing rules and regulations that extend beyond its own borders. Therefore, as a legal matter under the Constitution, interstate commerce is regulated at the federal level by Congress and, via delegation of Congress, by various agencies like the FCC.

Even without the explicit preemption contained in the Restoring Internet Freedom Order, Californias case for imposing its own net neutrality regulations would still be utterly hopeless. The Supremacy Clause of the Constitution invalidates any state or local law which contravenes federal law. Further, even the previous federal net neutrality rules make clear that regulation of the internet is an exclusive domain of the federal government. Those old rules state, broadband Internet access service is jurisdictionally interstate for regulatory purposes and note the previous FCCs firm intention to exercise our preemption authority to preclude states from imposing obligations on broadband service. California has sued the federal government to uphold these old rules. Since Californias Attorney General Xavier Becerra has vowed that the state will defend its new net neutrality law against the federal governments suit, the state will soon find itself in a position of simultaneously arguing effectively contradictory positions regarding federal preemption of state and local internet regulation.

The courts have also recently ruled on FCCs preemption authority related to information services like the internet. Just last month, the US Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit ruled in Charter Advanced Services LLC v. Lange that Minnesotas attempt to regulate voice-over-internet phone service (VoIP) was preempted by federal rules. Despite the fact the FCC has not explicitly classified VoIP as an information service subject to preemption, the Court still found the case for federal preemption compelling enough to bar Minnesotas rules. Given that the FCC has explicitly defined internet data service as an information service and explicitly preempted state regulations, its not even a matter of California walking a legal-tightrope in defending its net neutrality rulesthere simply is no rope.

Californias net neutrality law is equal parts unwise and unlawful. The law stands no chance of being upheld in the face of the Department of Justices lawsuit and the suits undoubtedly pending from the nations major telecommunications companies. The result for California, and indeed taxpayers and consumers nationwide, will be nothing more than an expensive distraction that further draws valuable resources away from developing and deploying new internet technology and infrastructure.

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Freedom Works
Tuesday October 23, 2018 @ 04:36:46 AM mt

FreedomWorks' Bills of the Month for October 2018: Election Security Legislation




FreedomWorks is proud to announce that our joint bills of the month for October 2018 are four election security measures in both chambers of Congress, the Secure Elections Act, S. 2261, introduced by Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.); the PAVE Act, S. 3049, introduced by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.); the PAPER Act, H.R. 3751, introduced by Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.); and the Securing Americas Elections Act, H.R. 5147, introduced by Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii).

These bills would give states the resources to audit the results of federal elections, to ensure accuracy, and to safeguard against cyber threats. They will allow states to use voter-verified paper ballots to ensure that any result obtained by electronic voting machines has not been tampered with.

Given this time in our nations history, it is vitally important that our governance not be hindered by constant questions regarding the legitimacy of our elections. Shortly after the 2016 election, DEFCON, the worlds largest hacking conference, demonstrated wide-ranging vulnerabilities in the U.S. election systems, with hackers being able to penetrate the systems in just a few minutes with limited resources. In a nation as advanced as ours, this is unacceptable.

Since that time, there have been questions about election security and integrity in places like Johnson County (Kansas), Georgia, and in the nation at-large, as the type of voting machine used by half the country was recently discovered to be susceptible to attacks. These potential vulnerabilities throw the health of our democracy into question, and throw a wrench into important foreign policy discussions due to paranoia about potential perpetrators.

Fortunately, the fix does not require new, expensive technology, but an old familiar one. Paper ballots cannot be hacked, and can be acquired cheaply by voting precincts across the country. This would not preclude states from using whatever technology they see fit, but would ensure that a paper backup was available to verify the accuracy of the results obtained through voting machines.

The Constitution vests the power of conducting elections to the states and localities. However, the federal government is tasked with providing for the common defense. Normally, big government advocates use the common defense clause to justify any invasive government policy. In this case, it actually applies.

The clause is derived from Article VIII of the Articles of Confederation, which states, All charges of war and others incurred for the common defense shall be defrayed by Congress through a national treasury assisted by funds from the states. It would seem that Congress appropriating funds to assist states in the verification of their election results would fit that description. It is a common sense measure that ensures the defense of our elections without dictating to states and localities how to manage their processes.

Now, each of these bills has its nuances and differences, but this is a debate well worth having. We hope to see, in the near future, a lively discussion surrounding all of these bills on the floors of both chambers of Congress, so we can get serious about protecting the right to vote for all Americans.

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Freedom Works
Tuesday October 23, 2018 @ 04:36:38 AM mt

ObamaCare's Poverty Tax Hit 20 Million People At a Cost of 8.4 Billion




The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act achieved many goals. It delivered a historic reform of the individual tax code, lowered individual and corporate tax rates, and boosted economic growth. Indeed, the United States economy will most likely see 3 percent annual growth this year for the first time since 2005.

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act not only achieved great things for the American economy, but the landmark bill also zeroed out ObamaCares individual mandate effective January 1, 2019. The individual mandate was a centerpiece of the so-called Affordable Care Act. If an individual is not enrolled a government-approved health insurance plan, he or she would have to pay a punitive tax of 2.5 percent of his or her income or $695, whichever is greater.

FreedomWorks pushed for the inclusion of including action on the individual mandate in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act because, although Republicans failed to keep their promise to repeal the law, it would show progress on chipping away at ObamaCare. Another reason we supported including action on the mandate is that the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) always overestimated the coercive power of the mandate, which is why ObamaCare enrollments never came close to meeting projections, and would score as pay-for to go bigger on the tax cuts. The CBO estimated that zeroing out or repealing the individual mandate would save $338 billion over ten years.

Finally, the primary reason FreedomWorks supported action to zero out the individual mandate was that it was a regressive tax. As we noted when the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act was being considered, nearly 80 percent of Amerian households subject the individual mandate earned less than $50,000 annually.

New Internal Revenue Service (IRS) data compiled by Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) reiterates that the individual mandate predominately hit lower- and middle-class income earners. In 2016, roughly 77 percent of those who were subject to the individual mandate earned $50,000 or less. Maryland and Ohio had the highest percentage of payers who earned $50,000 or less, at roughly 85 percent each. Alaska, California, and Wyoming had the lowest percentage, at roughly 68 percent or lower.

Overall, more than 4.9 million people were subject to the individual mandate in 2016, paying more than $3.6 billion. Around 33 percent of these payers earned $25,000 or less.

Between 2014, when the individual mandate took effect, and 2016, almost 20 million people have been subject to the tax, paying nearly $8.4 billion simply because they either didnt purchase a health insurance plan, the cost of which increased dramatically on the individual market because of ObamaCare coverage and actuarial requirements, or they didnt have a government-approved health insurance plan. More than 80 percent earned $50,000 or less.

Sen. Daines introduced an amendment to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act that would have reimbursed those who had been subject to the individual mandate. Unfortunately, the amendment didnt get a floor vote. The silver lining of the zeroing out of the individual mandate in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, though, is that a $43 billion tax -- essentially a poverty tax -- has been thrown into the dustbin of history.

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Freedom Works
Monday October 22, 2018 @ 05:59:51 PM mt

Trump Administration Releases Guidance Making ObamaCare's Section 1332 Waivers More Flexible




The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the Department of the Treasury, and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) have issued new guidance that will make it easier for states to get waivers from certain mandates under Section 1332 of the so-called Affordable Care Act, also known as the ACA or ObamaCare. The goal of the new guidance is to provide consumers with more private insurance options in the nongroup health insurance market.

Section 1332 created State Innovation Waivers, which allows a state to seek waivers from specific parts of the law provided the state meets other criteria. The waivers were meant to foster innovation in states and sustainable spending. Through September 2018, however, only eight states have successfully applied for a waiver. Waivable provisions of ObamaCare are:

  • Part I of subtitle D (Sections 1301-1304): This subtitle is part of Title I of the law related to the definition of a qualified health plan (QHP), including the metal tiers of health plans and actuarial values, and the ten essential health benefits (EHBs). It also included the annual limitations on out-of-pocket costs.

  • Part II of subtitle D (Sections 1311-1313): This is another part of Title I related the establishment of state health insurance exchanges, accessible both online and by phone, and grants to states to create the exchanges. It also established a single risk pool for the nongroup market.

  • Section 1402: This section established the cost-sharing subsidies for individuals or families who earn up to 400 percent of the federal poverty level, which were supposed to be used to lower out-of-pocket costs. These subsidies have never been authorized by law, although the Obama and Trump administrations unconstitutionally made the payments to health insurance companies until October 2017. A pending case in federal court could force the Trump administration to begin paying cost-sharing subsidies despite the subsidies not being appropriated by Congress.

  • Section 36B: This part of the Internal Revenue Code was created by ObamaCare and deals with the advanceable premium tax credit (APTC) under the law. Individuals or families who earn up to 400 percent of the federal poverty level may receive the tax credit, which is paid directly to health insurance companies, for qualified health plans purchased on the ObamaCare exchange.

  • 4980H: This is another part of the Internal Revenue Code established by ObamaCare. The section created the employer mandate, which requires employers with 50 employees or more to offer health insurance coverage to full-time employees. Full-time employees are defined by those who work 30 hours or more each week.

  • 5000A: This part of the Internal Revenue Code established by ObamaCare created the individual mandate, the penalties for which were set to $0 by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act beginning in tax year 2019, although the individual mandate remains in statute.

States still have obligations to qualify for waivers. Specifically, a state must be able to explain how it will provide coverage that is at least as comprehensive, affordable, and comparable. Also, a waiver may not increase the budget deficit. A waiver may be granted for uguidancee years, although a state may be able to request an extension.

The new guidence issued on Monday by HHS, Treasury, and CMS builds on the Trump administrations rule regarding the expansion of association health plans (AHPs) short-term, limited-duration (STLD) health insurance plans. The guidance updates the previous guidance released in December 2015. The previous guidance didnt provide much flexibility, which is why so few states were granted waivers.

The new guidance document focuses on the coverage that is made available on the exchanges by health insurance companies rather than what consumers had purchased. States must still meet statutory requirements to be eligible for a waiver, but the guidance explains that the comprehensiveness and affordability requirement may be considered met if access to coverage that is as affordable and comprehensive as coverage forecasted to have been available in the absence of the waiver is projected to be available to a comparable number of people under the waiver.

Basically, if an individual decides to purchase a more affordable, less comprehensive plan, the requirement under Section 1332 will be met because there will be more comprehensive offerings on the exchanged that they could have opted to purchase.

CMS Administrator Seema Verma explained that the administration the flexibility provided under the new guidance should allow states to focus on increased access to affordable private market coverage. She also noted that STLD plans are part of the equations, essentially urging states to take advantage of the rule.

STLD plans would be eligible for the ATPC under the new guidance. Allowing the use of APTC to be used to purchase these plans. STLD plans arent subject to ObamaCares costly Title I regulations, although these plans are subject to state regulation and a state could impose regulations and mandates. In fact, some states already do have mandates on these plans. Of course, the result of this will be that premiums for plans that are compliant with ObamaCare will increase if a significant number of people opt for STLD. As a result, subsidies for these plans will also rise.

The new guidance is positive on the whole. Virtually every effort to rollback or sidestep ObamaCare through the regulatory process should be applauded. Still, like every rule or guidance issued by the administration, its not a substitute for repeal, and Congress failed epically on that effort in 2017 because Republicans focused too much on a replacement that looked an awful lot like ObamaCare rather than thoughtfully crafting a real alternative.

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Freedom Works
Monday October 22, 2018 @ 07:47:05 AM mt

FreedomWorks Statement in Response to Democratic Proposal to Repeal of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act




WASHINGTON, D.C. -- In response to the proposal by prominent Democrats to repeal the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act and replace it with increased government transfer payments, Adam Brandon, FreedomWorks President, commented:

For years been a running joke amongst fiscal conservatives in America that the Democrats just want to raise taxes and enact a universal basic income. What was once a bad joke is now a bad policy proposal. On the eve of the 2018 midterms, Democrats have made clear they want to repeal 2017s tax reforms and expand the welfare state.

Since the passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, the American economy has experienced record success. We are looking at 4% GDP growth and unemployment at some of the lowest levels in history. Without a doubt, this is due to the Republican tax plan. Democrats would rather see Americans dependent upon the federal government than have them open businesses and provide for their families. The American people truly cannot afford to see Democrats in power.

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Freedom Works
Monday October 22, 2018 @ 05:28:49 AM mt

New Poll Shows Rep. Jim Jordan is Favored Candidate by Republican Voters to be the Next Speaker of the House




WASHINGTON, D.C. -- In response to the recent The Economist/YouGov poll of Republican voters, Adam Brandon, FreedomWorks President, commented:

We have seen a tremendous level of support for Rep. Jordan since he announced his bid for the Speakership this past July. The free-market grassroots base is clear in their desire for Rep. Jordan to be the next Speaker of the House.

Free-market grassroots activists want Rep. Jordan because he promises to simply do what we said-- that is, govern as he campaigns. Too often Republicans promise one thing on the campaign trail, but fail to deliver once elected. Based on Rep. Jordans record of fiscal responsibility and small-government principles, I am confident he is the man for the job. The potential for a Speaker Jordan would do wonders to fire-up the free-market grassroots base ahead of the midterm elections.

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Freedom Works
Monday October 22, 2018 @ 05:28:41 AM mt

New Poll Shows Rep. Jim Jordan is Favored Candidate by Republican Voters to be the Next Speaker of the House




WASHINGTON, D.C. -- In response to the recent The Economist/YouGov poll of Republican voters, Adam Brandon, FreedomWorks President, commented:

We have seen a tremendous level of support for Rep. Jordan since he announced his bid for the Speakership this past July. The free-market grassroots base is clear in their desire for Rep. Jordan to be the next Speaker of the House.

Free-market grassroots activists want Rep. Jordan because he promises to simply do what we said-- that is, govern as he campaigns. Too often Republicans promise one thing on the campaign trail, but fail to deliver once elected. Based on Rep. Jordans record of fiscal responsibility and small-government principles, I am confident he is the man for the job. The potential for a Speaker Jordan would do wonders to fire-up the free-market grassroots base ahead of the midterm elections.

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Freedom Works
Monday October 22, 2018 @ 05:28:35 AM mt

The Regulatory Action Center Review - October 11 2018




1) Video of the Week: In this video, American political scientist, Charles Murray, explains how deeply entrenched regulatory state tyranny is in our legal system, and how everyday Americans can fight back.

2) Why Stronger Privacy Regulations Do Not Increase Internet Usage: "Contrary to conventional wisdom in tech circles, stronger privacy regulations don't necessarily lead to more technology use. Beyond a baseline level of consumer protection, additional regulation restricts the supply of digital technologies by raising costs for users and reducing earnings for companies. Policymakers should reject proposals claiming that greater regulation of the digital economy will increase trust." https://www.realclearpolicy.com/public_affairs/2018/10/10/why_stronger_privacy_regulations...

3) California's New Net Neutrality Law Hurts Consumers: "But net neutrality advocates would rather have ISPs randomly drop packets of data when there is congestion instead of prioritizing one type of traffic over another. This approach is simply inefficient and bad for consumers. Instead, allowing for prioritization is a legitimate pro-consumer practice. It would increase overall welfare by prioritizing services that require low latency and delaying non-sensitive services by tens of milliseconds." https://www.realclearpolicy.com/articles/2018/10/08/californias_new_net-neutrality_law_hurts_consumers_110845.html

4) Bricks and Wood Heaters Also Need Relief from Obama-era Overreach: "Both industries are victims of Obama EPA excess. To put things in perspective, neither brickmaking facilities nor wood heaters were particularly serious polluters in the first place, and both had already seen emissions reductions by more than 90 percent as a result of previous standards. Its regulation for the sake of regulation, and all pain for little or no gain." https://cei.org/blog/bricks-and-wood-heaters-also-need-relief-obama-era-overreach

5) Washington Wonks Love Tech Regulation More Than Regular Americans Do: "Policy solutions to pressing problems highlighted by recent data breaches, repeated misinformation campaigns, and divisiveness fueled by online platforms must take into account what Americans value when it comes to the Internet not just what think tanks think is best." https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/washington-wonks-love-tech-regulation-more-than-regular-americans-do

6) Oil Industry, Green Groups Join Together to Oppose Trump's Ethanol Plan: "The groups have different reasons for pushing back against Trumps plan to remove a key barrier to selling gasoline with 15 percent ethanol (E15), but both say its a bad policy and are contemplating suing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) if it is finalized." https://thehill.com/policy/energy-environment/410675-oil-industry-green-groups-join-to-oppose-trumps-ethanol-plan

7) Why the Merger of T-Mobile and Sprint is a Great Idea: The combination of T-Mobile and Sprint will play an important role in realizing the enormous potential of 5G and in furthering disruptive innovation throughout the rapidly converging digital ecosystem. The absorption of a struggling Sprint by the unfailingly frisky and aggressively competitive T-Mobile will yield a stronger entity that is stout enough to take on the range of new competitors vying for customers in this space. https://www.forbes.com/sites/washingtonbytes/2018/06/27/why-the-merger-of-t-mobile-sprint-is-a-great-idea/#3a3e37f163b0

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Freedom Works
Sunday October 21, 2018 @ 02:48:16 AM mt

Key Vote NO on the CRMinibus H.R. 6157




On behalf of our activist community, I urge you to contact your senators and ask them to vote NO on the Defense, Labor, and Health and Human Services (HHS) minibus, H.R. 6157. The bill includes a short-term continuing resolution (CR) for remaining appropriations bills, continuing the excessive spending under the Bipartisan Budget Act, which was passed by Congress in February and spent nearly $300 billion more than the previously established spending caps.

Through August, Congress ran a budget deficit of $898 billion. With FY 2018 coming to a close at the end of September, a $1 trillion deficit is very possible and will become the new normal. Unfortunately, few in Congress are trying to resolve the fiscally unsustainable path our nation is on.

H.R. 6157 is more of the same profligate spending resulting from a broken budget process and members unwilling to stand up for their campaign promises of shrinking government and reducing spending. The bill appropriates $33 billion more for Defense than the FY 2018 omnibus and $16 billion more for Labor/HHS. It also includes a CR until December 7, setting up votes on a spending package during the lame-duck session that will almost certainly be packed with last-minute giveaways to special interests.

FreedomWorks will count the vote for H.R. 6157 on our 2018 Congressional Scorecard. The scorecard is used to determine eligibility for the FreedomFighter Award, which recognizes Members of the House and Senate who consistently vote to support economic freedom and individual liberty.

Sincerely,

Adam Brandon, President, FreedomWorks

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