Capitol Hill Report — 5/05/17


May 5, 2017

Hitting the Ground Running

Tabitha WalterThis week began my orientation to Eagle Forum.  Colleen Holcomb kindly introduced me to key players in the movement who have been long-standing Eagle Forum supporters.  They were more than willing to catch me up on the issues they are working on and offer their assistance.  I had the opportunity to introduce myself at two coalition meetings where I was welcomed very warmly.  I am looking forward to continuing to carry out Phyllis’s mission, and I am honored to represent all of you as Eagle Forum’s Capitol Hill representative.

Learn more about Tabitha here, and please join us in welcoming her!  Also, as you have questions or legislative concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact Tabitha directly via email at tabitha@eagleforum.org or phone at 202/341-5737.

 

Omni-bust

The House voted Wednesday afternoon to pass the FY17 Omnibus Spending Bill. Many of our conservative allies are extremely upset with the content of this bill.  A quick look at the roll call vote indicates whose priorities it reflects in this bill, as 178 Democrats supported the bill, while only 138 Republicans voted YES.

Of course, we share many Americans’ frustration that the bill does not fund one of President Trump’s most prolific campaign promises:  the border wall.

Additionally, Eagle Forum condemns the bill’s increasing HB-2 visas authorizing foreign workers to obtain temporary jobs in the United States. This is an affront to the “forgotten man,” U.S. citizens who are seeking jobs to support their families.

Although the Omnibus contains language preventing federal funding for abortions, the bill maintains funding for Planned Parenthood.  Our taxpayer money should never go to the number one abortion giant in the nation.  The good news is that a provision was included to increase the funding for sexual risk avoidance programming from $10 million to $15 million.  This is a small step in combating Planned Parenthood’s “sexual health” propaganda that does a greater job of preparing young women to be Planned Parenthood clients than of protecting them from risky behavior.

The Omnibus will fund the government through the end of the current fiscal year and will come up again for a vote in September. We are already working with our coalition partners to send Congress the message that government spending priorities must reflect the principles that won Republicans election last November.

No-bamacare

Colleen HolcombThe House passed the American Health Care Act by a 217-213 vote.  While we still have concerns about this bill, we applaud the House Freedom Caucus, which worked relentlessly to craft a replacement plan that will drive down premiums, redirect funds to community health centers rather than abortion providers, and allow families to make their own healthcare decisions.  We will continue to provide updates as the Senate takes up this legislation, and we will continue to advocate for full repeal of Obamacare!

We will keep you posted on these and other developments as we learn new information. Until then, please stay tuned to the Eagle Forum website and Facebook page.

Colleen Holcomb will continue working with Eagle Forum as Vice-President of Government Relations. You may continue to contact her with your questions or concerns at cholcomb@attorneyholcomb.com or phone: 757/277-4848

 

Religious Liberty Open letter

Eunie Smith, President Eagle Forum

Eagle Forum applauds the “Policy” statement included by President Trump in his May 4 Executive Order regarding religious liberty in America.  President Trump’s assurance of the “vigorous enforcement” of the rights of men and women of faith “to exercise religion and participate fully in civic life” is a breath of fresh air, and holds the promise of much-needed relief from stifling and unconstitutional restrictions imposed and promoted by the prior Administration. 

Eagle Forum agrees with the Order’s direction to the IRS aimed at alleviating the burden on the exercise by religious leaders of their First Amendment right to be part of the public discourse in America regarding politics and the policies resulting from our political choices – a right exercised energetically by religious leaders for the first 200 years of our history.  We likewise agree with the Order’s call for express regulatory relief from Obamacare’s contraception and abortifacient mandates, in line with the Supreme Court’s decision in Hobby Lobby.

However, while the Executive Order certainly is a welcomed change of direction, it does not directly address numerous alarming, ongoing violations of religious liberty in America today.  For example, an executive order is desperately needed to reverse Obama’s discriminatory order blocking those who adhere to traditional religious beliefs regarding marriage from being able to do business with the federal government.  Also needed is an order to protect faith-based adoption agencies from being forced to place children with gay and lesbian couples in violation of their sincerely held religious beliefs.  Similarly, an order is needed to prevent discrimination against social service providers and others who simply maintain traditional, separate bathrooms and locker rooms for men and women.

Religious liberty is not just the freedom to worship within the four walls of one’s church or synagogue.  As stated in the First Amendment, it is the right of free men and women to “exercise” their faith in everyday life — to participate fully in American business, academic and political life without being forced to violate the tenets of their faith.  The speed and scope of the left’s recent incursions upon that liberty are unprecedented in American history and call for a commensurate response.

Eagle Forum, therefore, urges the President, as well as the Attorney General, to consider carefully the wider variety of pressing concerns and solutions offered by the draft executive order considered by the President in February.  Author Ryan Anderson has described in The Daily Signal what that draft order would accomplish:

  • It tells the entire federal government to respect federal statutes and Supreme Court decisions that make clear the free exercise of religion applies to all people, of all faiths, in all places, and at all times—that it is not merely the freedom to worship.
  • It notes that religious organizations include all organizations operated by religious principles, not just houses of worship or charities. And it follows the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in saying that religious exercise “includes all aspects of religious observance and practice,” not just those absolutely required by a faith.
  • It instructs all agencies of the federal government, “to the greatest extent practicable and permitted by law,” to reasonably accommodate the religion of federal employees, as required by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. …
  • It instructs the secretary of health and human services to ensure that the federal government does not discriminate against child welfare providers, such as foster care and adoption services, based on the organization’s religious beliefs.
  • It adopts the Russell Amendment and instructs all agencies of the federal government to provide protections and exemptions consistent with the Civil Rights Act and Americans with Disabilities Act to all religious organizations that contract with the federal government or receive grants.
  • It instructs the secretary of the treasury to ensure that it does not revoke nonprofit tax status because a religious organization’s ordinary religious speech deals with politics, or because it speaks or acts on the belief that marriage is the union of husband and wife, that a person’s sex is based on immutable biology, or that life begins at conception.
  • It instructs all agencies of the federal government to refuse to recognize any decision by a federally recognized accrediting body that revokes or denies accreditation to an organization because of such beliefs.
  • It instructs all agencies that they may not take adverse action against federal employees, contractors, or grantees because of their speech about marriage outside of their employment, contract, or grant, and that agencies shall reasonably accommodate such beliefs inside of employment, contract, or grant.

This executive order is good policy …And to avoid any potential conflicts, the executive order explicitly states that it “shall be carried out … to the extent permitted by law” and that any accommodation must be “reasonable.”

Mr. President, it is our prayer that the May 4 Executive Order has set the stage for more comprehensive and meaningful relief from the left’s intolerant and unprecedented war against the free exercise of religion in America.  As you so forcefully proclaimed at the National Prayer Breakfast on Thursday, “My administration will do everything in its power to defend and protect religious liberty in America.”  Thank you.