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Cramer: House Approves 2016 Omnibus Spending Bill

Dec 18, 2015
Press Release
Repeals Crude Oil Export Ban

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman Kevin Cramer announced today the U.S. House of Representatives approved H.R. 2029, the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2016.  The bill provides $1.149 trillion to fund the federal government through September 30, 2016. This includes $548 billion in defense spending, $73.7 billion in the Overseas Contingency Operations Fund, and $518 billion in non-defense spending. It complies with the budget caps established by H.R. 1314, the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015, which was enacted on Nov. 11.

“On balance, this Omnibus spending bill is really quite a victory for Republican principles and certainly for North Dakota and American values, beginning with the repeal of the antiquated oil export ban,” said Cramer.  “Repealing this ban will help bring stability to the global marketplace.  It will decrease the cost of gasoline, create a million jobs over the course of the next several years. And make us a much more secure world as we now compete with Vladimir Putin and Russia, with the Saudis and the other despots and dictators in the Middle East.” 

He said another major victory is how the bill strengthens the Visa Waver Program. Currently the program is vulnerable to terrorists who want to travel to the United States and this legislation tightens up the visa application process considerably. “The House already passed the Visa Waiver Reform Bill with 407 votes,” said Cramer.  “Unfortunately, the Senate has not acted on the bill.  Thankfully, we were able to include these reforms in must pass legislation.”

The legislation also protects many Americans from the disastrous effects of Obamacare.  “It prohibits new funding for Obamacare,” said Cramer.  “In addition to no new funding for Obamacare, we actually halt three major Obamacare taxes - the medical device tax, which has been a job killer from the day it was implemented; the “Cadillac” tax, which is the tax on employer and union based purchased healthcare plans; and the health insurance premium tax, which never made sense because we were going to force people to buy a product and then tax it so we can have universal healthcare. Those three taxes have been put on hold for a couple of years in this bill.“

The omnibus bill includes limitations on the use of private email accounts and servers by limiting federal employees from using private emails for official business, said Cramer.  “The use of private email servers may inhibit the preservation of all records and electronic communications which may be needed for Congressional, civil or criminal investigations,” said Cramer. 

Limiting the use of private email use for official purposes is at the heart of legislation introduced earlier this year by Cramer.  The Securing Every Relevant and Vital Record or  SERVER Act of 2015 ensures no Department Secretary may use a private server for emails and storage of electronic data.   “These provisions help ensure government employees and officials do not use their private email for work,” said Cramer.


Summaries of the 12 Appropriations bill within the Omnibus

AgricultureThe Agriculture portion of the omnibus provides $21.8 billion in funding, $925 million above the FY2015 funding level. Among other things, the bill delays FDA menu labeling regulations for one year for grocery stores and food retailers, amends an FDA policy relating to the regulatory treatment of partially hydrogenated oils to prevent frivolous lawsuits, and provides local schools increased relief from whole grain and sodium nutritional standards in school lunches.

Commerce/Justice/Science—The Commerce/Justice/Science portion of the omnibus provides $55.7 billion in funding, $5.6 billion above the FY2015 funding level. Among other things, the bill provides for an increase in funding for law enforcement by $2 billion to support FBI counterterrorism, cybersecurity, prosecution, and immigration courts. The House passed H.R. 2578, the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2016, by a vote of 242 to 183 on June 3, 2015.

Defense—The Defense portion of the omnibus provides $514.1 billion in base defense discretionary spending, $23.9 billion above the FY 2015 funding level. This includes $58.6 billion for Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) Fund. Among other things, the bill provides for a 1.3 percent pay raise for our troops, provides for important research on traumatic brain injury and psychological health, and ensures the military has the resources it needs to combat ISIS. The House passed H.R. 2685, the Department of Defense Appropriations Act, 2016, by a vote of 278 to 149 on June 11, 2015.

Energy and Water—The Energy and Water portion of the omnibus provides $37.2 billion in funding, an increase of $3 billion over FY 2015. Among other things, the bill provides $1.1 billion increase for the National Nuclear Security Administration to maintain the safety, security, and readiness of the nation’s nuclear weapons stockpile, restricts the application of the Clean Water Act in certain agricultural areas, including farm ponds and irrigation ditches, prohibits funding for the “light bulb” standard regulations, and continues prior-year funding for Yucca Mountain to maintain its viability for future use. The House passed H.R. 2028, the Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2016, by a vote of 240 to 177 on May 1, 2015.

Financial Services—The Financial Services portion of the omnibus provides $23.2 billion in funding, $1.7 billion above the FY2015 level. Among other things, the bill freezes funding for the IRS at the FY 2015 level ($10.9 billion), provides certain protections to ensure the IRS treats all individuals and entities fairly, requires a pay freeze for the Vice President and senior political appointees, includes a prohibition on the DC government from using federal and local funds to further legalize recreational marijuana, provides $15 million for scholarships to low-income students in DC to attend private schools, as part of the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program (OSP),and prohibits funds for the National Telecommunications and Information Administration to relinquish its responsibility over the Internet’s domain name system functions. 

Homeland Security—The Homeland Security portion of the omnibus provides $41 billion in discretionary funding for DHS funding, $1.3 billion above FY2015. Among other things, the bill provides $5.8 billion for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to strengthen enforcement of immigration and customs laws, and to hire an additional 1,080 ICE agents and support personnel, fully funds E-Verify, a program that helps companies check if their employees may legally work in the United States, and does not fund the President’s climate change initiatives within Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and National Protection Programs Directorate (NPPD) within DHS.

Interior and Environment—The Interior and Environment portion of the omnibus provides $32.2 billion in funding, $1.7 billion above the FY2015 enacted level. Among other things, the bill provides an increase of $670 million for wildfire fighting and prevention programs, funds the EPA at a lower level than FY 2010 ($8.1 billion), and prohibits the EPA from implementing greenhouse gas regulations for livestock producers, creating new wilderness areas, and regulating lead content in ammo and fishing tackle.

Labor/Health and Human Services/Education—The Labor/Health and Human Services/Education portion of this legislation provides $162.1 billion in funding, $5.4 billion above the FY 2015 enacted level. Among other things, the bill places restrictions on the Prevention and Public Health Fund (the Obamacare slush fund) to govern the allowable use of its funds, restricts the Department from lobbying for the ACA, provides a ban on creating embryos for research purposes or funding research in which embryos are destroyed, and rolls back Department of Labor (DOL) regulations that make it harder for employers to use the H-2B visa program.

Legislative Branch—The Legislative Branch portion of this legislation provides $4.4 billion in funding, $63 million above the FY 2015 level. Among other things, the bill maintains funding for House Operations and provides increased funding for the Capitol Police, the Architect of the Capitol, the Library of Congress, the Government Accountability Office, and the Government Publishing Office. The House passed H.R. 2250, the Legislative Branch Appropriations Act, 2016, by a vote of 357 to 67 on May 19, 2015 (this bill was then used as a vehicle for a Continuing Resolution, which funded the federal government from December 11, 2015 through December 16, 2015).

Military Construction/Veterans Affairs—The Military Construction/Veterans Administration portion of the omnibus provides $79.9 billion in funding, $7.8 billion above the FY 2015 enacted level. Among other things, the bill creates safeguards for VA construction project overruns, improves VA health recordkeeping, and expands whistleblower protections to assure that VA medical staff have the same protection as other VA employees. The House passed H.R. 2029, the Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2016, by a vote of 255 to 163 on April 30, 2015.  The Senate passed the bill, with an amendment by a vote of 93 to 0 on November 10, 2015.

State/Foreign Operations—The State/Foreign Operations portion of the omnibus provides $53 billion in funding, $3.4 billion above/below the FY 2015 enacted level, including $15 billion in the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) Fund. Among other things, the bill reduces funding by $2.5 million (7 percent) for the U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA) and restricts those funds from being used if UNFPA operates in China, prohibits funding for debt relief for foreign countries, prohibits aid to Libya until the Secretary of State confirms Libyan cooperation in the Benghazi investigation, and prohibits funding to implement the U.N. Arms Trade Treaty.

Transportation/Housing and Urban Development—The Transportation/Housing and Urban Development portion of the omnibus provides $57.6 billion in funding, $3.8 billion above the FY 2015 enacted level. Among other things, the bill provides no funding for high-speed rail, no funding for any new, unauthorized “sustainable,” “livable,” or “green” community development programs, prohibits funding for the Federal Housing Administration to finance mortgages seized by eminent domain, and includes provisions to ensure Amtrak is responsibly managing tax dollars. The House passed H.R. 2577, the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2016, by a vote of 216 to 210 on June 9, 2015.

General Provisions

9/11 Victim Compensation Funds Reauthorization—The bill provides for a five year extension of the 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund. Shortly after the attacks in New York City on 9/11, Congress established the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund to compensate families of those who died in the attacks, and survivors who suffered disabling injury during or in the immediate aftermath of the attacks. Under current law, the Fund is authorized to accept claims through October 3, 2016. The bill provides for a 5 year extension.

James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Fund Extension—The bill extends the authorization for the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act through FY 2090. After the attacked of 9/11 it became apparent that some people who worked at the WTC site, or who lived or worked near it, had become ill, possibly as a result of exposure to toxins and other hazards in the aftermath of the attack.  In 2011, Congress passed the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, which created the World Trade Center Health Program (WTCHP) to fund health services for survivors. The authority for the Act expired at the end of FY2015; however, annual funding caps were not met, so unexpended funds have been carried into FY2016.[13] The bill extends authorization for the fund through fiscal year 2090.

Repeal of the Crude Oil Export Ban—The bill includes a provision that repeals the export ban on crude oil in the United States. This provision is similar to H.R. 702, a bill to adapt to changing crude oil market conditions, which passed the House by a vote of 261 to 159 on October 9, 2015.

Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Prevention Act of 2015—The bill includes a provision to strengthen the security of the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) to better ensure that individuals entering the United States through the program are not security risks, while maintaining the program’s ability to facilitate legitimate foreign business travel and tourism to the U.S. This provision is identical to H.R. 158, the Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Prevention Act of 2015, which passed the House by a vote of 407 to 19on December 8, 2015.   

Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) Repeal— the bill amends the Agricultural Marketing Act of 1946 to repeal existing final point of sale country-of-origin labeling requirements for retailers of beef, pork, and chicken. Country of origin labeling requirements required by the 2008 Farm Bill for beef and pork were challenged by Canada and Mexico through the World Trade Organization (WTO) adjudication process.  These countries argued that such labeling requirements had a trade-distorting impact by discriminating against imported livestock, in violation of the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

The WTO ruled in favor of Mexico and Canada and has begun the process of determining the level of retaliatory tariffs those countries would be permitted to impose if the U.S. does not comply with the ruling. The bill repeals existing country-of-origin labeling requirements for retailers of beef, pork, and chicken to avoid these retaliatory tariffs. This provision is similar to H.R. 2393, the Country of Origin Labeling Amendments Act of 2015, which passed House by a vote of 300 to 131 on June 10, 2015.

Guantanamo Detainees— The bill prohibits closure of the Guantanamo Bay prison facility and prevents transfer of detainees into the United States. The bill also prohibits the construction or acquisition of facilities in the U.S. for the detention or imprisonment of Guantanamo detainees. The bill also includes a requirement that the State Department report to Congress on agreements with other countries to accept detainees from Guantanamo Bay.

Second Amendment Provisions—The bill prohibits funding for federal law enforcement to transfer firearms to drug cartels without specific monitoring and control of the firearm (also known as gunwalking); prohibits funding to require a license to export to Canada certain gun parts valued at less than $500; prohibits the Department of Justice (DOJ) from denying a permit to import “curios or relics” related to firearms, parts or ammunition of U.S. origin; prohibits DOJ from denying permits for the importation of certain types of shotguns; and prohibits funds to implement the United Nations Arms Trade Treaty.

Cybersecurity Provisions—The bill includes provisions to create “a voluntary cybersecurity information sharing process that will encourage public and private sector entities to share cyber threat information, without legal barriers and the threat of unfounded litigation—while protecting private information.”[15]  The bill also includes provisions “to improve federal network and information system security, provide assessments on the federal cybersecurity workforce, and provide reporting and strategies on cybersecurity industry-related and criminal-related matters.”[16]  These provisions are similar to those included in H.R. 1731the National Cybersecurity Protection Advancement Act of 2015, which passed the House by a vote of 355 to 63 on April 23, 2015, and H.R. 1560the Protecting Cyber Networks Act, which passed the House by a vote of 307 to 116 on April 22, 2015, and S. 754, the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act of 2015, which the Senate passed by a vote of 74 to 21 on October 27, 2015.

Pro-Life Provisions—The bill maintains existing protections that prohibit the use of federal funding for abortion, except in cases rape, incest, or endangerment of the life of the mother, and continues “an annual provision to prevent the Department of Health and Human Services from discriminating against health care providers that refuse to provide, pay for, or refer for abortions.”  The bill also includes a ban on creating embryos for research purposes, or federal funding of research in which embryos are destroyed.  The bill also includes restrictions on the use of funds by Legal Services Corporation grantees to participate in abortion-related litigation. The bill also includes a prohibition on the DC government using federal or local fund for abortion or abortion-related services.

Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2016—The bill authorizes appropriations for intelligence and intelligence-related activities of the U.S. government.  This provision is nearly identical to H.R. 4127, Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2016, which passed the House by a vote of 364 to 58 on December 1, 2015.

Private Email Servers- A prohibition on funding for the State Department for private email accounts or servers. The legislation also requires the Secretary of State to submit a report to Congress and the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) within 30 days detailing its policies regarding the use or the establishment of email accounts or email servers created outside the .gov domain.


Budgetary Provisions

PAYGO Exemptions—The bill provides that the budgetary effects of Division P (tax-related provisions) of the bill shall not be entered on the PAYGO scorecards under the Statutory Pay As You Go Act, and gives the Chairman of the Budget Committee the authority to adjust the allocations, aggregates, and levels of the Budget Resolution to be consistent with the Bipartisan budget Act of 2015.  

Financial Services Provisions

Disclosure of Political Activities—The bill prohibits the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) from requiring certain companies to disclose political contributions, contributions to tax exempt organizations, or dues to trade associations. 

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac Preferred Stock Sales—The bill limits the sale of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac preferred stock by the Secretary of the Treasury until 2018.  On September 6, 2008, the Federal Housing Administration exercised this authority and placed Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac into conservatorships.  At the same time, the U.S. Department of the Treasury entered into Senior Preferred Stock Purchase Agreements (PSPAs) with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to provide liquidity and stability to the mortgage market by purchasing shares of each company. In part, as a result of these actions, the U.S. Government owns a combined $187.5 billion of PSPAs of the GSEs and the rights to purchase up to 80 percent of their common shares. 

Hardest Hit Housing Fund and Making Home Affordable Initiative —The bill extends the Hardest Hit Fund (HHF) authority through 2017 and would terminate the Making Home Affordable initiative beginning in 2017.  On February 19, 2010, the Obama Administration announced that it would make up to a total of $1.5 billion available to the housing finance agencies (HFAs) of five states that had experienced the greatest declines in home prices, known as HHF. Funding for the program comes from the Targeted Asset Relief Program funds. The Making Home Affordable program is an initiative designed to make it easier for certain homeowners with little or no equity in their homes to refinance their mortgages and to help certain troubled borrowers obtain affordable loans.

Iraq Loan Authority—The bill authorizes up to $2.7 billion in direct loans to Iraq using the assistance provided to it through the Foreign Military Financing program.

Commodity End-User Relief— The bill exempts certain swaps and securities-based swaps executed by a central treasury unit (CTU) from the clearing requirements required for financial entities when that CTU is hedging or mitigating the risk of an affiliated commercial end-user; thereby, enabling such businesses to more efficiently hedge certain risks. This provision is similar to H.R. 1317, which passed the House by voice vote on November 16, 2015.

Miscellaneous Financial Services Provisions—The bill includes similar provisions to those included in the following House bills that passed in the 114th Congress: H.R. 3032 - the Securities and Exchange Commission Reporting Modernization Act of 2015; H.R. 2643 – the State Licensing Efficiency Act of 2015; and, H.R. 1478 – the Policyholder Protection Act of 2015.

Health Care Provisions

Reinsurance Risk Corridors—The bill continues the prohibition on fund transfers to the reinsurance risk corridors in the ACA. The ACA requires certain insurance companies to pay into a reinsurance risk pool to subsidize health insurance companies that incur deep losses.  Under the ACA’s original framework, if the amount paid to these pools is surpassed by the amount paid out, the federal government is required to make up the difference. In 2015 the shortfall was approximately $2.5 billion. 

Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB) Cuts—The bill cuts funding for IPAB by $15 million. IPAB was created by the ACA and is charged with developing proposals to "reduce the per capita rate of growth in Medicare spending.”

Puerto Rico Medicare Reimbursement Rates—The bill would modify Medicare inpatient hospital rates for Puerto Rico hospitals to create Medicare rate reimbursement parity in Puerto Rico.  This provision would also allow its participation in the Medicare Electronic Health Record (EHR) Incentive Program that is available to Hospitals in the 50 states. The bill does not include access to Chapter 9 municipal bankruptcy for Puerto Rico.

Tax Provisions

Solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC) Extension—The bill extends the 30 percent Solar ITC for solar residential energy-efficient properties from 2017 to 2019, reduces the rate to 26 percent for 2020, and 22 percent for 2021.

Wind and Renewable Resources Credit Extension—The bill extends the wind production tax credit (PTC) for wind and certain other certain renewable sources of electricity. The bill phases down the credit to 80 percent in 2017, 60 percent in 2018, and 40 percent in 2019. The renewable electricity PTC is a per-kilowatt-hour tax (kWh) credit for electricity generated using qualified energy resources.

Two-year delay on High Cost Employer-Sponsored Health Coverage Excise Tax Provisions “Cadillac Tax”—The bill provides for a two-year moratorium on the excise tax on high cost health plans (Cadillac Tax), provided under the ACA. Under current law, the tax 40 percent tax is set to take effect in 2018 and is imposed on plans that cost more than $10,200 for single health plans and $27,500 for family plans.

One-year delay of the Health Insurance Tax (HIT)—The bill provides for a one-year moratorium on the annual excise tax imposed on health insurers for calendar year 2017. The Health Insurance Tax is an annual fee charged to health insurance providers. Rather than a charging a fixed amount per health care provider, consumer, or a percentage of the price of insurance, the fee is set statutorily as a fixed amount each year and is split proportionally among most health insurers based upon their market share. Under current law, that amount will be $11.3 billion in 2015 and 2016, $13.9 billion in 2017, and $14.3 billion in 2018.

Permanent Internet Tax Freedom Act—The bill provides a one-year extension of the Internet Tax Freedom Act, which bans states and localities from taxing Internet access or placing multiple and discriminatory taxes on Internet commerce, but allows grandfathered states and localities through June 2020 to phase-out existing taxes. The House passed H.R. 235, the Permanent Internet Tax Freedom Act, by voice vote on June 9, 2015.

Independent Refiners Transportation Cost Tax Deduction— The bill temporarily exempts 75 percent of qualified transportation costs of certain independent refiners from calculating their domestic production activities. The provision would apply to taxable years beginning after December 31, 2015, and expire December 31, 2021.

Natural Resources Provisions

Reauthorization of Land Water Conservation Fund (LWCF)—The bill includes a three year reauthorization of the LWCF, which was created to help preserve, develop, and ensure access to outdoor recreation resources and is funded primarily by revenues from oil and gas leases on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS). The authority to transfer certain revenues into the Fund lapsed on September 30, 2015.

National Oceans and Coastal Security Act—the bill includes the National Oceans and Coastal Security Act, which establishes a new National Oceans and Coastal Security Fund that will provide grants to strengthen coastal roads, bridges, and other infrastructure that are critical to coastal economies. It will also support work by state and local governments, universities, and non-profit organizations to restore habitat, manage fisheries, plan for sustainable coastal development, enhance ocean monitoring and research, and acquire coastal properties for preservation.[27] This provision is nearly identical to S. 2025, the National Oceans and Coastal Security Act.

Prohibits listing the Sage Grouse on the Endangered Species List—The bill prohibits the Sage Grouse from being listed on the Endangered Species List. If the bird were put on the list, it could have resulted in the closure of public lands that that have been used for decades for cattle grazing in Western states. The Obama Administration announced on September 22, 2015, that it would not include the bird on the list.