House seeks to put Obama on the defensive in votes this week

July 31, 2013

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.)  (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

As part of their "Stop Government Abuse Week," House Republicans are considering 10 bills, several of which would overhaul the IRS, cap spending on conferences and compensation at federal agencies and curb the regulatory powers of the Environmental Protection Agency and other agencies. GOP lawmakers can be expected to tout passage of the bills during interactions with voters during the five-week recess.

1. Citizen Empowerment Act: This bill by Rep. Lynn Jenkins (R-Kan.) would allow people to record telephone conversations with most federal employees. Current law only permits Americans to record conversations with Internal Revenue Service officials, and only after providing at least 10-day advance notice.

2. Government Employee Accountability Act: This proposal by Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Pa.) would allow federal agencies to place employees on unpaid leave if they are under investigation for certain serious offenses. The GOP-controlled House has passed similar legislation for the past two years, but it has been ignored by the Senate.

3. Government Customer Service Improvement Act: This bill by Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Tex.) would require the Obama administration to establish government-wide customer service standards, including target response times for phone calls, e-mails and benefits processing. The House passed a similar version last year, but it was never considered in the Senate despite enjoying bipartisan support.

4. Government Spending Accountability Act: Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Tex.) hopes to place limits on non-military government travel spending and require detailed reports on conference spending by federal agencies. The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee unanimously approved the proposal in March in response to several stories of lavish spending by federal agencies on employee conferences.

5. Common Sense in Compensation Act: Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) wants to prohibit any pay bonuses for federal employees for the rest of fiscal 2013 and to cap bonuses at a maximum of 5 percent of salary through the end of fiscal 2015. Republicans have tried in vain since 2011 to enact significant restrictions on federal worker pay, but the Senate has never agreed.

6. STOP IRS Act: STOP stands for “Stop Targeting Our Politics,” and the bill, sponsored by Rep. James Renacci (R-Ohio), would require the IRS to fire any employees “who take official actions for political purposes.”

7. Stop Playing on Citizen’s Cash Act: This proposal by Rep. Peter Roskam (R-Ill.) is in response to the IRS’s high spending on employee conferences. The proposal puts a moratorium on IRS conference spending until the agency implements recommendations made by its inspector general.

8. Taxpayer Bill of Rights Act of 2013: This proposal, also by Roskam, would essentially codify a proposal already proposed by the IRS taxpayer advocate that would mandate better communication with and fairer treatment of U.S. taxpayers.

9. Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny Act: The REINS Act, sponsored by Rep. Todd Young (R-Ind.), would essentially give Congress final say on the implementation of new federal regulations. The measure would require that major regulations be contingent on congressional approval — if a majority in each chamber does not vote “yes,” the regulation is not enacted. The House passed a nearly-identical proposal in 2011, which was ignored by the Senate.

10. Keep the IRS Off Your Health Care Act: This is the “pièce de résistance” of the proposals. This bill by Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.) would prohibit the IRS from implementing or enforcing any aspect of the 2010 health-care reform law. This proposal amounts to the 40th attempt in recent years to repeal, defund or deconstruct the health law — all of which have been ignored by the Senate.

Before the House recesses Friday, lawmakers are also expected to approve a plan to restructure the government’s education loan program and complete consideration of an appropriations bill for the departments of transportation and housing and urban development.

Ed O’Keefe is a congressional reporter with The Washington Post and covered the 2008 and 2012 presidential and congressional elections.
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Chris Cillizza · July 31, 2013