09.23.2020 1

Republicans should drive a hard bargain on the continuing resolution

By Richard McCarty

It is that time of year again. The air is getting crisp. Air conditioners are finally getting a break. Sweaters are reappearing, and swimsuits are disappearing for another year. Stores are filled with rustic fall decorations and Halloween candy. The usual crowd is delighted that pumpkin spice lattes are once again available. The kids are back in school — sort of.

And Congress needs to pass a continuing resolution to keep the government running.

Continuing resolutions to fund the government are vital pieces of legislation; if they fail, then the government partially shuts down. Because this is the case, the 2020 continuing resolution provide opportunities for Senate Republicans to make budgetary and policy demands – just as Democrats will – and it is important that they have some useful riders ready to be attached to any continuing resolution. Here are a few suggestions.

Republicans should insist upon continuing to defund the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) regulation. Under Obama, the Department of Housing and Urban Development implemented an AFFH regulation, which empowered the federal government to shape what is built in localities that accept federal housing funding.

For generations, such decisions have been made at the local level. Rather than allowing the federal government to seize such power, Republicans in Congress pushed back and eventually managed to defund the AFFH regulation in the 2017 omnibus, the 2018 omnibus, the 2019 omnibus, and the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2020. After weighing the issue, the Trump Administration chose to replace the Obama-Biden rule and restore local control of zoning.

However, Joe Biden has promised to revive Obama’s AFFH regulation if he is elected. Therefore, Senate Republicans should not take any chances and should insist that this defund be carried forward both in the continuing resolution and any omnibus legislation that follows.

In addition, Senate Republicans should look at defunding the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and NPR. Each year, Congress appropriates over $400 million for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. With so many entertainment and educational options readily available on radio, TV, and the internet, it is difficult to justify the expenditure. Furthermore, because these organizations have been very successful at raising money, federal funds only accounts for a fraction of the annual revenues of NPR, public radio stations, and public television stations. In fact, only about 15 percent of public television stations’ funding is from federal taxpayers; about 10 percent of public radio stations’ budgets is from the federal government. NPR is even less dependent upon federal largesse: less than 1 percent of NPR’s budget is from the federal government, and it has an endowment of more than $300 billion. Why should taxpayers be compelled to fund radio and television stations that they do not listen to or watch when there are many viewers and listeners who are willing to donate to these stations?

Civil asset forfeiture could also be defunded. Under current law, the federal government is able to seize and keep property without compelling evidence. Consequently, the feds seize more than $1 billion in assets every year. Furthermore, the federal government helps localities circumvent the law in states that have already reformed their civil asset forfeiture laws. The current civil asset forfeiture process is unfair and undermines the support for the rule of law; it cannot be halted soon enough.

Defund sanctuary cities and other lawless localities. In recent years, liberal localities have refused to cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement making it easier for criminal illegals to continue to prey on innocent victims. Now liberal localities are refusing to take the necessary steps to halt left-wing riots, which have endangered the safety and livelihoods of law-abiding citizens. Perhaps cutting off federal funds would help local Democrat officials understand that it is unacceptable for them to continue to pander to the radical left.

The truth is, the continuing resolution and other appropriations bills give Senate Republicans a chance to shape public policy, and they should seize it. On policy matters, Republicans should insist that lawless localities are defunded, that civil asset forfeiture is defunded, and that Obama’s AFFH regulation, which allows unaccountable federal bureaucrats to meddle in local zoning decisions, is defunded. Biden has promised to revive this regulation were he to win, and Republicans should not take any chances. And Republicans should insist upon defunding the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and NPR, which do not need federal subsidies. At a time of spiraling deficits and divided government in Congress, defunds are a great way for Senate Republicans can begin to rein in the size and scope of government.

Richard McCarty is the Director of Research at Americans for Limited Government.

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