Senate Solutions Center
A 21st Century Education System: Improving K-12 Education
Every child deserves a high-quality education in a safe and secure learning environment. Yet today, far too many children receive a mediocre education in a school that is neither safe nor secure. How to address this problem has been a major point of debate. For years, the Obama Administration and its allies pursued a “Washington-knows-best” approach. Using their regulatory authority and control over certain pots of federal funds, the U.S. Department of Education worked to impose a uniform curriculum – Common Core – and force teacher evaluation regimes on over 13,000 school districts across the nation. While the federal government only pays for about 10 percent of the cost of K-12 education, our schools are micromanaged by Washington bureaucrats who have never even visited our hometowns, let alone met our teachers or students.
We believe there is a better way. The federal government’s role in education should be limited. Rather than attempting to dictate curriculums or run schools from Washington, the federal government should focus on creating the platforms that empower parents, educators and local communities to improve their schools. These platforms include:
Ensuring that Schools Are Accountable to Parents and the Public: If you don’t know how your local school is performing, it’s impossible to know how to fix it. Unfortunately, there are far too many examples of schools that have papered-over the fact that their students are not acquiring the education and skills they need to succeed in life. The federal government should make sure that there is adequate, uniform public reporting on how schools are performing. For schools that are failing, rather than relying on fixes from Washington, parents deserve to know what state and local officials are doing to improve the school. Recently, Congressional Conservatives spearheaded a successful effort to reform our federal education programs. The Every Student Succeeds Act replaced the Washington-knows-best approach of federal regulation with just this type of reform. Parents and the public will receive annual data on school performance, but it will be up to state and local officials to develop and implement reforms when schools underperform.
Expanding Charter Schools: If we want all children to succeed, we must reject a one-size-fits-all approach to education. Thankfully, today charter schools provide over 2 million students with the opportunity to attend a school that meets their needs. Nearly 6,000 charter schools provide specialized curriculums and learning environments that help students reach their full potential. Unfortunately, nearly 600,000 students last year were on a wait list for an open slot in a local charter school. The federal government can help address this problem by providing financial support for the expansion and replication of high-performing charter schools. Recently, Conservatives in Congress approved a nearly one-third increase in federal funding to help states and local communities expand the number of charter schools.
Ensuring Adequate Funding for Disabled Student Education: In the late 1970s, Congress mandated that local schools provide a “free appropriate public education” to disabled students. At the time Congress said it would pick up 40 percent of the costs. Yet today, Congress only covers about 16 percent of the expenses of providing disabled student education, leaving the rest to be shouldered by local communities. Recently Conservatives in Congress approved a $400 million increase in funding for special education, relieving some of the financial pressure on school districts across the country.
Expanding Opportunities for Low-Income Students, Children with Disabilities, and Military Families: The federal government does provide significant funding to educate certain populations of students; including, as noted earlier, those with disabilities, students residing in high-poverty areas through the $15 billion-a-year Title I program, and students who live with their family on a U.S. military base. Currently these funds are distributed largely based on geography — the number eligible students who live within a school’s geographic boundary. Congress should make all the funds that it provides portable so that the money follows the eligible student to the school that is best equipped to meet their needs, whether that is their neighborhood school, another public school, a charter school, or even a private school.
A 21st Century Education System: Improving K-12 Education – Legislative Checklist
Every Student Succeeds Act – Enacted as P.L. 114-95
Expanding Opportunity Through Quality Charter Schools (S.316 – Kirk) – Largely Enacted in P.L. 114-95
Increasing Funding for Charter School – Enacted as P.L. 114-113
Increasing IDEA Funding – Enacted as P.L. 114-113
Expanding Opportunities for Children with Disabilities and Military Families (S. 265 – Scott) – Pending in the Senate
Expanding Opportunities for Low-Income Students (S. 306 – Lee) — Pending in the Senate
Senate Solutions Center
A 21st Century Education System: Higher Education
With over $1 trillion in outstanding student loan debt, Americans now owe more on their student loans than they owe in credit card or auto loan debt. Although higher education is seen as the gateway to better job prospects and economic security, most Americans are worried about their ability to pay for college either for themselves or their children. And for good reason: tuition at four-year public colleges has nearly quadrupled since the early 1980s. Growth in college costs regularly outpaces the price increases in almost every other sector of our economy.
Not surprisingly, politicians on the left are proposing more government spending to subsidize college costs. This is the same approach Washington has taken for decades, with the exact same results: colleges absorb the additional subsidies and plow the funds into ever-higher salaries and massive building projects; then they raise tuition even higher. Students are left with even more debt while taxpayers shoulder more and more cost.
We believe there is a better way.
Encourage Innovation and Competition: While there are a seemingly endless number of options when it comes to where to attend college, in reality most schools offer the same traditional mode of education. In order for a school to accept federal student aid, they must be accredited by one of a handful of federally recognized accrediting agencies. These accrediting agencies largely judge schools on the basis of traditional inputs such as the number of professors, size of the library and course offerings. In turn, students are granted degrees largely on the basis of “seat time,” or how many hours they spent in class. Allowing for greater competition and flexibility in accreditation would allow for innovative new approaches to higher education that utilize technology and alternative means of assessing learning. After all, if you can demonstrate that you have mastered the material, why should you be required to pay to attend a class to hear information you already know? Like in every other sector of the economy, more innovation and competition will lower costs.
Require Colleges to Have “Skin in the Game:” Today, colleges bear almost no risk if students incur a debt and then either fail to graduate or graduate with a debt burden they are incapable of repaying. Remarkably, several hundred colleges have student loan default rates that are higher than their graduation rates. Colleges should bear a portion of the risk if their students default. Not only will this encourage colleges to help make sure students are on track for employment post-graduation, but it will also provide a new incentive to help keep costs down and debt levels sustainable.
Empower Students and Parents with Better Data: Whether it is a community college, a four-year college, or a technical school, higher education is one of the largest life-expenses most people incur. Yet it can be very difficult to compare the post-graduate employment success of students from different schools or degree programs. Even worse, some schools promise outcomes that do not match the experience of their actual graduates. Graduates are left with large debts and few job prospects. If the federal government simply cross-referenced information it already collects, it could provide consumers with incredibly useful information about the employment outcomes of graduates of different schools. Yet, this is currently prohibited by federal law. Removing this prohibition and providing better information will help consumers make sure they are getting the type of education they need and that they are paying for.
A 21st Century Education System: Higher Education – Legislative Checklist
Accreditation Reform to Encourage Innovation (S.649 – Lee) – Pending in the Senate
Require Colleges to Have “Skin in the Game” (S.1939 – Shaheen / Hatch) – Pending in the Senate
Improve Information and Data for Students and Parents (S.1195 – Wyden / Rubio) – Pending in the Senate
Reforming the Tax Code to Grow the Economy and Help American Families
In 2016, the federal government collected a record $3.2 trillion in taxes, nearly 8 percent more than the year before. For the past two years, federal taxes as percentage of the economy have exceeded the average level of the past 50 years. This record level of taxation, and the complicated system used to collect it, holds back economic growth and job creation and makes it harder for families to make ends meet. Yet today, many on the left are calling for even higher taxes. That is the absolute last thing our economy or our families need.
What job creators and families across the country desperately need is tax reform. American businesses, small and large, face the highest tax rates in the world. On top of that, we are the only major developed country to tax our employers on their worldwide income when they bring that income back home, even if it is already taxed by another country. Thirty years ago America’s tax system made us one of the best places to do business in the world, today our tax system chases employers away.
With every April 15th, American families face a complicated maze of tax rules that essentially amount to this: if you did exactly what Washington wanted last year, you can keep a little bit more of your own money. For example, if you are one of the 33 percent of parents of a preschooler that used a day care center, you get a tax break; but if you are one of the 42 percent who asked a trusted relative to look after your child, then the government keeps your money.
Unfortunately, what many on the left describe as tax “reform” is really just a doubling down on the current system. Rather than reforming how we tax businesses to make America competitive again, some on the left are proposing an “exit tax” to trap job creators in our broken system.
We believe there is a better way.
Last year, Congress outlined the principles that ought to guide comprehensive tax reform, including lowering tax rates on families, reducing taxes on business, and adopting a more competitive international tax code. Expanding on those principles, we should provide:
Tax Relief for Working Families: Rather than making decisions for families, Washington should simplify the tax code, let families keep more of what they earn, and let them decide how to best spend their own money. Whether it is reducing the payroll tax (which is the largest federal tax most Americans pay today), raising the standard deduction, or increasing the child tax credit, there are a variety of ways we can let families keep more of their hard-earned money and force Washington to make do with less. Whether stand-alone or in combination, these proposals would make April 15th a little easier for families across the nation and would let them decide whether they want to spend the money on the things they desperately need.
Tax Reform to Make America Competitive Again: Pro-growth tax reform will level the playing field between the U.S. and our global competitors on the tax rates paid by businesses large and small. Reform will also encourage businesses to sell American products and services abroad and bring the profits home by ending the current system of worldwide taxation. Tax reform will eliminate the special industry carve-outs created by Washington and instead make it easier for every business to invest in their own expansion. These reforms will mean not only greater economic growth and more jobs, but ultimately higher wages.
Reforming the Tax Code to Grow the Economy and Help American Families – Legislative Checklist
Tax Reform Principles – Adopted by Congress as part of S.Con.Res.11
Ending Runaway Spending and Protecting Taxpayers
The federal government has a spending problem. In 2016, the federal government spent $3.7 trillion. That is more than $7 million every single minute of every single day of the year — or over $100,000 per second! Federal spending grew 5 percent last year and amounted to 20.4 percent of the entire economy – exceeding the average of the last 50 years.
Not surprisingly, when you are spending this much money, there is a lot of waste. Investigative reports released by the Senate Majority documented wasteful spending across the government, including nearly $3 million on a weight loss program for truck drivers, over half a million dollars to produce “silent” Shakespeare plays, and hundreds of thousands of dollars studying the dating habits of seniors.
We believe there is a better way.
A Balanced Budget Plan: It starts with adopting a plan to balance the budget by controlling spending. After years of gross financial negligence by the old management of Congress, the new Majority in Congress adopted a budget plan. That plan would balance the budget within nine years – all by controlling spending and growing the economy. Overall the plan would result in over $5 trillion in savings. It would reform Medicare for future generations of retirees to make it more like the health program that Members of Congress and other federal employees enjoy, while preserving the existing program as it is for those in and near retirement. In addition, the plan would repeal Obamacare and reform Medicaid, two of the largest sources of spending growth in recent years. Finally, the plan calls for consolidating redundant programs, improving transparency, and eliminating waste.
A Balanced Budget Constitutional Amendment: With the national debt now exceeding $19 trillion – over $58,000 per person, it is long past time to put a permanent end to Washington’s habit of borrowing and spending. It is time to amend the Constitution to require a balanced budget.
Dollar-for-Dollar Spending Cuts: Until such time as the Constitution is amended to require a balanced budget, we can take important steps to try and limit spending by requiring that every time the President requests an increase in the national debt limit, that he also identify spending cuts that can be adopted to offset the increase. Such a requirement will keep politicians focused on how to reduce spending, rather than just how to approve an increase in the nation’s credit limit.
Permanently Changing the Spending Culture: Part of protecting taxpayers’ hard-earned money from waste requires a cultural change in Washington. A few years ago Congressional conservatives took a first step in that direction by implementing a temporary moratorium on earmarks. It is time to make that moratorium permanent. The Executive Branch is in need of similar reforms. For example, remarkably agencies routinely award bonuses to employees who have just been disciplined for improper conduct. The IRS even awards bonuses to employees who haven’t paid their taxes! It is time to impose some common sense reforms on the Executive Branch.
Ending Runaway Spending and Protecting Taxpayers – Legislative Checklist
Balanced Budget Plan (S.Con.Res. 11 — Enzi) – Adopted by the House and Senate
Balanced Budget Constitutional Amendment (S.J.Res.6 — Hatch) – Pending in the Senate
Dollar for Dollar Deficit Reduction (S.333 — Portman) – Pending in the Senate
Stop Wasteful Federal Bonuses (S.742 – Ayotte) – Approved by Committee
Permanent Earmark Ban (S.309 – Toomey) – Pending in the Senate
Putting America Back to Work and Lifting Wages
While the previous Administration was quick to claim credit for the falling unemployment rate, what they didn’t want to talk about was the fact that millions of Americans are stuck in part-time jobs despite wanting full-time work. Once you add in those marginally attached to the workforce and those forced to work part-time, the official unemployment rate nearly doubles. Even worse, millions of Americans have left the workforce all together – many having simply given up. Workforce participation levels have fallen to a level not seen since Jimmy Carter was president 38 years ago.
Fast-growing new businesses represent a major source for new jobs and economic growth. That is why it is so disturbing that recently, for the first time, business deaths exceeded new business starts, creating another headwind for job creation.
Even for those who have a job, many have not seen real raises in years. Today, median household income is still lower than it was in January of 2000. As a result of years of economic mismanagement, the gap between rich and poor has widened dramatically as the middle class shrinks.
Liberals don’t like to talk about the weakness in the economy, because it calls into question their plan to double-down on higher taxes, higher spending, and more regulation.
We believe there is a better way.
America cannot tax, spend, or regulate its way into more jobs or higher wages. In fact what we need is tax reform that makes it easier to grow the economy, regulatory reform that makes it easier to start and expand businesses, and spending restraint to reduce Washington’s drag on the economy.
Tax Reform: While specific estimates vary depending on the specifics of the plan, most economists agree that comprehensive tax reform would significantly boost economic growth, creating more jobs and lifting wages. While efforts to enact comprehensive tax reform are likely to extend into the next few years, there are a variety of steps that can be taken now to boost economic growth, including:
- Making the Research and Development Tax Credit, which encourages innovation and has been temporary since 1981, permanent (recently enacted by Congress);
- Repealing the punitive medical device tax, a special tax on one of the fastest growing manufacturing sectors imposed in order to fund Obamacare; and
- Providing for the permanent ability of businesses to quickly write off the cost of the new equipment – called depreciation, which makes it easier for businesses to expand and grow.
Regulatory Reform: According to a recent study, in 2014 federal regulations cost American consumers and businesses an estimated $1.88 trillion in lost productivity and higher consumer prices, or a staggering $14,976 per household. Yet Washington regulators keeping churning out hundreds of regulations a year, including dozens that impose costs in excess of $100 million – all without Congressional approval. Even worse, some regulatory agencies don’t even bother to quantify the costs of their new regulations. The process for approving federal regulations is in need of serious reform. Reform should include requiring all regulations to undergo cost-benefit analysis and requiring regulations with costs in excess of $100 million to be approved by Congress before taking effect.
Making it Easier to Start and Expand a Business: Growing a new business takes more than just a good idea and hard work—it requires capital financing. Yet for too long, Washington regulators have imposed the same one-size-fits-all financial regulations on emerging growth companies as on large established firms. Recently, Congress enacted a series of reforms to make it easier for emerging growth companies to access vital job-creating financing.
Putting America Back to Work and Lifting Wages – Legislative Checklist
R&D Tax Credit (S. 537 — Carper / Toomey) – enacted as part of P.L. 114-113
Repeal of the Medical Device Tax (S.149 – Hatch) – Pending in the Senate
Permanent Bonus Depreciation (S.1660 – Roberts) – Pending in the Senate
Requiring Costly Regulations to be Approved by Congress (S.226 – Paul) – Pending in the Senate
Requiring Cost Benefit Analysis in Regulations (S.1607 – Portman) – Reported by Committee
Emerging Business Financing – Enacted as part of P.L. 114-94
Fixing a Broken Veterans Administration
The men and women who voluntarily put on the uniform of our Armed Forces and risk their lives in the defense of our nation, don’t just deserve our thanks—they deserve to come home to a veterans’ support program that heals their wounds and helps them successfully transition back to civilian life. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is fundamentally broken. Veterans routinely wait months for vital medical treatment. At some VA centers, wait lists became so long that officials began to manipulate the appointment lists to cover up the length of delays. Some veterans died waiting for care.
When the extent of the crisis in the VA was uncovered, Republicans and Democrats came together and began the process of reforming the VA while immediately creating a temporary program offering veterans the ability to access care outside of the VA if the VA was not able to provide them with a timely appointment. Since then, the bureaucracy within the VA – the same bureaucracy that has already failed our veterans – has become an obstinate roadblock to reform. For example, not only were some of those employees responsible for manipulating the appointment lists not fired, some actually received bonuses.
Now, as wait lists are growing again — according to recent figures, the number of veterans’ appointments with more than a 30-day wait total nearly 500,000 – VA officials may be slow-walking access to the very program that is supposed to allow veterans to seek care outside the VA.
We believe there is a better way.
Reforming the Department of Veterans Affairs, to ensure that our veterans receive the care and benefits to which they are entitled, requires a wholesale cultural change within the VA. While new leadership at the VA will certainly be an important part of those cultural changes, Congress can also act to adopt policies to make clear that there will be zero tolerance for VA employee misconduct or actions that lead to veterans not receiving the care they need in a timely manner. These reforms should include:
- Making it easier for whistleblowers to file complaints about misconduct and having their complaint acted on;
- Revoking and preventing bonuses to employees who have been disciplined for misconduct; and
- Making it easier to fire or demote employees for neglect of duty, malfeasance, and other serious forms of misconduct, such as manipulating patient wait lists.
In addition, the ability of veterans to access care outside the VA should be made permanent and expanded to cover all veterans. If a non-VA facility is more convenient for a veteran or if there is non-VA doctor or hospital that a veteran is more comfortable with, the veteran should have the ability to receive his or her care from that doctor or in that facility.
Fixing a Broken Veterans Administration – Legislative Checklist
Improving Whistleblower Process (S.2291 – Kirk) – Pending in the Senate
Preventing Improper Bonuses (S.627 – Ayotte) – Approved by Committee
Holding Employees Accountable (S.1082 – Rubio) – Approved by Committee
Expand Veterans Access to Non-VA Care (S.1991 – McCain) – Pending in the Senate
Expand American Energy Production and Lower Prices for Families
American families are enjoying lower gas prices and lower overall energy costs thanks to a renaissance in American energy production. Fracking technology and expansion of oil and natural gas recovery on private lands has made America, as of last year, the world’s largest oil and gas producer. As a result, the U.S. is importing less oil from abroad and prices have fallen. What makes this all the more remarkable is that this explosion in U.S. energy production was achieved despite efforts by the Obama Administration and its allies to raise energy costs, keep even more U.S. energy resources off-limits, and block cross-border trading of energy products.
The Obama Administration blocked the Keystone pipeline, fought efforts to lift the ban on the export of crude oil, and opposed the expansion of energy production on federal lands and off America’s coasts. At the same time, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) pushed new regulations aimed at killing off the American coal industry and ultimately increasing electricity costs. According to some estimates these regulations would ultimately cost consumers and businesses up to $39 billion a year as electricity prices go up 11% percent or more over what is expected to occur absent the regulations. More than half of the states have sued to stop the regulations and majorities in both Houses of Congress have voted to overturn them, yet the Obama Administration continued to move forward.
We believe there is a better way.
American energy policy should be guided by three key overarching goals: expand opportunities for domestic energy production, expand opportunities for American energy exports, and require that regulatory efforts balance cost and benefits.
Expanding American Energy Production: Congress is considering legislation to revise permissible energy activities in the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS). Approximately 87 percent of the U.S.’s OCS is off limits to energy production. Expanding oil and natural gas production in the OCS would increase America’s domestic energy supply and create thousands of jobs.
Expand Energy Exports: America’s growing energy production provides an opportunity to export both crude oil and liquefied natural gas (LNG) abroad. Exports would not only generate jobs at home but support an expanded domestic energy industry that makes America more energy independent. For nearly forty years, federal law has banned crude oil exports. After initially opposing repeal of the ban, President Obama signed a repeal into law as part of a broader budget bill. While LNG exports have been permitted, overly lengthy and bureaucratic approval processes have slowed the expansion of LNG exports. Congress should impose a strict timetable for the approval of LNG exports.
Reforming Energy Regulations: In addition to blocking the onerous regulations already put forward by the previous Administration, it is time to reform the process by which regulations increasing the cost of energy are issued. Specifically, new regulations should be evaluated for the impact on the economy and energy prices. Proposed regulations that are found to have a negative impact on the economy should be prohibited from being finalized.
Expand American Energy Production and Lower Prices for Families – Legislative Checklist
Increasing America’s Offshore Energy Production (S.2011 – Murkowski) – Reported by Committee
Repealing the Ban on Crude Oil Exports – Enacted as part of P.L. 114-113
LNG Export Permitting (S.33 – Barrasso and S.2012 – Murkowski) – Passed the Senate
Keystone Pipeline Approval Act (S.1 – Hoeven) – Vetoed by President Obama
Overturn Obama Administration’s Costly Regulations (S.J.Res.23 and S.J.Res.24 – McConnell and Capito) – Vetoed by President Obama
Reforming Energy Regulations (S. made156 — Cassidy) – Pending in the Senate
Supporting America’s Law Enforcement Officers
Over the past year, there has been a significant increase in scrutiny and second-guessing of America’s law enforcement officers. While inappropriate or illegal behavior or the excessive use of force by officers should never be tolerated, this new scrutiny has reached such a level that it has having a chilling effect on the ability of law enforcement officers to do their job and protect law-abiding citizens. None other than the FBI Director has linked less aggressive policing to increases in crime. In addition, there is concern that rising crime rates and efforts to demonize police officers results in increased violence against those who risk their lives to protect us.
Now is the time for America’s leaders to offer clear and unequivocal support for America’s law enforcement officers. And such words must be backed with action.
Penalties for Killing Law Enforcement Officers and Other First Responders: If a criminal targets or murders law enforcement officers, prosecutors, firefighters, or other first responders that fact should be an aggravating factor in favor of imposing the federal death penalty. In short, there must be no tolerance for the targeting of law enforcement officers.
Ensuring Law Enforcement Have the Tools Necessary for Their Own Protection: Congress should take steps to ensure that federal law enforcement officers always have the means to protect themselves, including providing corrections officers the ability to carry pepper spray at work and carry firearms to and from work.
To support local law enforcement, Congress should continue to support grant programs to help local law enforcement acquire bullet proof vests and, through the Byrne Justice Assistance Grants, other equipment necessary to help local law enforcement do their job.
In addition, Congress should reverse President Obama’s executive actions that impose restrictions on the ability of local law enforcement agencies to acquire surplus federal equipment, including riot helmets and shields.
Supporting the Families of the Fallen: When law enforcement officers die in the line of duty we have a duty to help support their families. For this reason, death benefit programs have been established. Until recently, however, it wasn’t clear whether or not these death benefits were subject to federal tax. Congress finally clarified that indeed these benefits for the families of the fallen are, as they should be, tax free.
Supporting America’s Law Enforcement Officers – Legislative Checklist
Death Penalty for Targeting Law Enforcement (S.2034 – Toomey) – Pending in the Senate
Support for Federal Corrections Officers (S.238 and S.368 – Toomey) – Respectively enacted as P.L. 114-133 and Pending in the Senate
Bulletproof Vest Grants (S.125 – Leahy) – Enacted as P.L. 114-155
Grant Program to Support Local Law Enforcement Equipment Needs – Funding Increased by $14 million in P.L. 114-113
Reversing Obama’s Executive Actions and Ensuring Law Enforcement has Access to Lifesaving Gear (S.2694 – Toomey) – Pending in the Senate
Don’t Tax Our Fallen Public Safety Heroes – Enacted as P.L. 114-14
Repeal and Replace Obamacare
Almost any way you measure it, Obamacare has failed to live up to the promises made by those who passed the law. President Obama and his congressional allies promised $2,500 in premium savings, near universal coverage, and that if you like your health plan you could keep it. Instead, today many families face rising out of pocket costs and double digit premium increases; even after the projected expansion, nearly 30 million people will remain without health insurance; and millions of Americans lost their prior health insurance coverage because it was deemed no longer compatible with the law.
While Obamacare hasn’t lived up to its promises, it has:
- imposed some 20 new and higher taxes,
- mandated that individuals buy government approved insurance that they often cannot afford,
- created incentives for business to limit their number of employees in order to avoid more onerous mandates,
- redefined full-time work to 30 hours and given employers an incentive to convert employees to part-time work, and
- dramatically increased federal spending.
The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that by 2018, eight million Americans will have lost their employer provided healthcare. Research by the U.S. Chamber indicates that up to 2.3 million Americans are at risk of having their hours reduced as a result of Obamacare mandates. Using CBO figures, the expected work hours lost is the equivalent of about 2 million full time jobs. CBO also estimates that repealing Obamacare would actually increase the size of the overall economy by 0.7%. With an economy that is struggling to grow at 3% a year, this means that Obamacare is a tremendous drag on the economy.
We believe there is a better way.
It begins with repealing Obamacare. But repealing Obamacare is only half the solution. Congress and President Trump must replace Obamacare with patient-centered health care reform. As part of the annual budget, Congress outlined the principles such reform should meet:
- Affordability – transparency and competition without unnecessary government mandates will help lower costs for all Americans.
- Accessibility – individuals should be able to own their own insurance that follows them from job to job, join individual or employer membership groups to lower the cost of insurance, and buy insurance across state lines.
- Quality – incentives for coordinating care that is focused on patient outcomes along with reducing administrative burdens will improve medical outcomes.
- Choice – individual and families must be free to select the health care coverage that best meets their needs, rather than being forced to choose a plan designed by Washington.
- Innovation – reform should encourage the development of new treatments and cures rather than taxing and attempting to ration them.
- Responsiveness – more authority should be turned over to states who can be much more responsive to the needs of its citizens than a distant Washington bureaucracy.
- Reforms – additional reforms, like medical liability reform, can lower costs and ensure that doctors are focused on a patients needs rather than a fear of lawsuits.
Repeal and Replace Obamacare — Legislative Checklist
Restoring Americans’ Healthcare Freedom (Obamacare Repeal – H.R 3762) – Vetoed by the President
Principles for Health Care Reform – Included in S.Con.Res. 11 Adopted by the House and Senate
Repeal and Replace Obamacare — Research
Addressing the Drug Addiction Crisis
The United States is in the midst of an epidemic of prescription painkiller abuse and heroin use. Because of their addictiveness and their relative availability (including to children accessing a relative’s supply in the home) addiction to prescription painkillers (opioids) knows no boundaries in terms of race, class, or age. Those addicted to painkillers often transition to heroin. Millions of lives are being destroyed; families are being torn apart. The epidemic is introducing criminal gangs into local communities and increasing crime rates. Perhaps the most innocent victims are the over 20,000 babies born each year to mothers addicted to opioids.
Consider these facts:
- In 2013 there were 1.9 million Americans who were addicted to or abused prescription painkillers (opioids). Among youth age 12 to 17, the non-medical use of prescription drugs was the second most prevalent type of illicit drug use after marijuana, with prescription pain-killers (opioids) being the most abused.
- Every day nearly 44 people die from overdoes from prescription painkillers.
- In 2013, an estimated 517,000 Americans, including 10,000 adolescents aged 12 to 17 and 182,000 young adults aged 18 to 25, were addicted to heroin. The number of Americans addicted to heroin is nearly three-times higher than a decade ago.
- Roughly 460 people each day use heroin for the first time, this includes approximately 57 adolescents age 12 to 17, and 180 young adults aged 18 to 25.
- Every day nearly 29 people die from a heroin overdose.
We must act.
We should begin by recognizing that this is a complex problem in need of a comprehensive solution including a focus on both prevention and treatment. Solutions should empower local communities to fight this epidemic.
Community Assistance: Congress should provide assistance to states, local governments, and non-profits in combatting the heroin and opioid epidemic, including the development of state and community plans, education efforts, and treatment programs and recovery services for targeted populations.
Prevention: Making changes to how prescription painkillers are prescribed can help prevent individuals from ever becoming addicted. The federal government should develop best practices for prescribing opioid-based painkillers, establish a national awareness campaign, support states in carrying out prescription drug monitoring programs, and establish a drug management program under Medicare to prevent possible opioid abuse.
Treatment: Congress should make treatment more accessible by lifting the current 100-patient cap on physicians who have waivers to prescribe medicine to opioid-addicted individuals and authorizing office-based opioid treatment programs. Recommendations should be provided to local hospitals on the best methods to diagnose and treat babies born to addicted mothers.
Addressing the Drug Addiction Crisis – Legislative Checklist
- The Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (S.524 – Whitehouse) – Enacted as P.L. 114-198
- Heroin and Prescription Opioid Abuse Prevention, Education, and Enforcement Act (S.1134 — Ayotte) – Portions incorporated into S. 524 and enacted as P.L. 114-198
- The Stopping Medication Abuse and Protecting Senior Act (S.1913 — Toomey) – Incorporated into S. 524 and enacted as P.L. 114-198
- The Recovery Enhancement for Addiction Treatment Act (S.1455 — Markey) – Portions enacted as part of P.L. 114-198
- The Opioid Use Disorder Treatment Expansion and Modernization Act (H.R.4981 — Buschon) — Portions enacted as part of P.L. 114-198
- The Protecting Our Infants Act (S.799 – McConnell) –Enacted as P.L. 114-91
Restoring Our National Security
Over the past seven years, the world has become a much more dangerous place for America and her allies. Radical Islamic terrorists have declared war on the West and on America in particular. Both coordinated and lone-wolf attacks are a real and present threat. ISIS has been allowed to gain control over a territory the size of European nations, providing a safe haven and source of revenue for terrorists. The Taliban is resurgent in Afghanistan. Russia is annexing the territory of free nations and boldly flexing its military power. China is constructing islands to expand its ability to exercise control over the seas and exert influence over America’s allies. The list goes on and on.
Faced with these threats, former President Obama:
- refused to identify Islamic terrorists as such;
- adopted a feckless policy in Syria and Iraq that has created a safe haven for ISIS and allowed Russia and Iran to expand their influence;
- concluded an agreement with Iran – the leading state sponsor of terrorism — that will provide it with approximately $150 billion which can be used to support its terrorist proxies, destabilize the Middle East, and threaten Israel;
- failed to confront Putin or provide necessary support for Ukraine;
- pushed through a fundamental weakening of America’s ability to track terrorists; and
- held necessary investments in national defense ransom for increased domestic spending.
National security experts in and out of Congress and from both parties have been sounding the alarm on these and other threats to our national security. Congress can take important steps now to support our men and women in uniform and to impose sanctions on regimes which continue to support terrorism and threaten the United States. Specific steps should include:
Supporting Military Families: In addition to maintaining adequate pay and benefits for men and women in uniform, it is important that federal policy take into account the demands military service places on service members with families. For example, when service members are deployed to a different duty station in the middle of their child’s school year or in the middle of a spouse’s work project, the service members is faced with disrupting their family life or incurring the cost of maintaining two households. Relocation programs and benefits should be redesigned to provide more flexibility to relocating spouses and dependent children, allowing them to move ahead of or behind a relocated service member.
Iran: Since President Obama finalized the nuclear agreement with Iran, Iran has tested and launched ballistic missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads in defiance of U.N. resolutions, captured and interrogated U.S. sailors, and has continued and in some cases increased support for terrorist organizations. It is critical that the U.S. maintain and strengthen sanctions against Iran for these activities.
Restoring Our National Security – Legislative Checklist
Military Family Stability Act (S.2403 – Blunt) – Incorporated into the pending National Defense Authorization Act.
Iran Ballistic Missile Sanctions Act of 2016 (S.2725 – Ayotte) – Pending in the Senate
Iran Terrorism and Human Rights Sanctions Act of 2016 (S.2726 – Kirk) – Pending in the Senate
Preventing the relocation of terrorists from GITMO into the United States or prematurely close or relinquish control over GITMO (S.2746 – Ayotte) – Pending in the Senate