June 6, 2014
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor says "a lot of misinformation" is circulating about a GOP proposal to cut Saturday postal delivery as a way to keep the Highway Trust Fund from going broke this summer, and he plans to clarify the plan for rank-and-file House Republicans next week.
In a memo to members Friday laying out the leadership's "June legislative agenda," Cantor signaled that he and other Republican leaders aren't backing down on the idea—even if it has been ridiculed by Senate Democrats, who say they are pursuing other avenues to resolve a looming highway-funding crisis.
Other parts of the Cantor memo Friday discuss plans next week for the House to take final action on its versions of the 2015 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development funding bill and the Agriculture appropriations bill. That will bring to five the number of annual spending bills finalized in the House, out of 12 that need to be completed for the next fiscal year that begins Oct. 1.
There is no mention, however, of the House advancing an immigration-reform plan or proposal before its July 4 break. Nor is there mention of House Republicans bringing any alternative to the Affordable Care Act to the floor.
"Our committees continue to work to expose the harmful effects of Obamacare and refine different policies that reduce costs, expand access and provide patients with greater control over their healthcare," explains Cantor. "We will be discussing these policy options with you in the weeks ahead in anticipation of additional floor action."
On another controversial item, Cantor does write that the House Republicans in June plan to also take up legislation that would, in his words, "provide meaningful relief from the overly burdensome requirements" from the little-known Commodity Futures Trading Commission.
Those efforts will be carried in the form of the Customer Protection and End User Relief Act, a bill authored by House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas. The last reauthorization of the CFTC occurred in 2008, before the height of the financial crisis and prior to the enactment of the Dodd-Frank Act.
Cantor writes that, since then, the CFTC has gained "broad new authorities to supervise the futures and swaps markets" and that "many of the CFTC's new rules have negatively impacted end-users, such as our farmers, ranchers, manufacturers, small businesses, and utilities, by making it more difficult and costly to manage risks associated with their businesses."
"This bipartisan legislation that would provide meaningful relief from overly-burdensome requirements from the CFTC at a time when we need less government involvement in our businesses," he writes.
Cantor goes on to mention in his memo that the Energy and Commerce Committee and the Natural Resources Committee are working to put together a package of bills for the week of June 23 "aimed at easing the middle class squeeze brought on by higher energy prices."
But his memo also indicates that a path to keeping the Highway Trust Fund from going broke could turn into a standoff with the Senate.
"As you may be aware, as a result of lower than anticipated revenues into the Highway Trust Fund, the Trust Fund will require an additional transfer of funds prior to the August District Work Period," writes Cantor. "Failing to provide additional funds would mean a disruption of ongoing construction projects—right in the midst of the construction season."
The House GOP's plan—first sent out to members last week—would use projected savings that would accrue over 10 years from scaling back most Saturday postal delivery as a way to keep the highway fund running and infrastructure projects going for one year, through May 2015.
But Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden is among key Democrats who have ridiculed the idea—calling it a "head-scratcher"—and he's said his panel is planning to decide on its "preferred" approaches as early as this week. One idea being considered by members of his panel is a new fee that would be paid by oil wholesalers, though House Republicans have indicated they will reject any hike in fuel taxes or tolls.
Cantor writes of the Postal Service cutback idea, "We firmly believe that this is the best way to ensure continued funding of highway projects in a fiscally responsible manner that implements a needed structural reform to a growing federal liability.
"Unfortunately, there has been a great deal of misinformation circulated about this proposal. I look forward to discussing this with you and clarifying any outstanding questions you may have," says Cantor.
June 6, 2014