House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., is telling rank-and-file Republicans to brace for a robust list of issues that need to be addressed this fall, including military action in Syria, federal spending, health care, national-intelligence programs, and cybersecurity.
In a memo sent out Friday, Cantor urges colleagues to remain focused "on our conservative policies that can help grow the economy, lessen the burden of government, and provide opportunity for working middle-class families."
The memo gives an outline of what Cantor says the House will contend with as members return from the summer recess Monday.
On Syria, Cantor, who has said he supports President Obama's call for military action there, acknowledges that there are differing opinions on both sides of the aisle. "It is up to President Obama to make the case to Congress and to the American people that this is the right course of action," he writes. "Members should expect a robust debate and vote on an authorization of use of military force pertaining to Syria in the next two weeks."
On federal spending, Cantor notes that a current government spending bill expires at the end of September. He does not explicitly mention it, but Republican leaders are already preparing to bring to the House floor—possibly as early as Thursday—a short-term continuing resolution to keep government running beyond Sept. 30.
House GOP sources say that the measure would fund operations at post-sequester annual levels of $988 billion, which would be a compromise with the Senate. Whether spending would be extended for one, two, or three months was still being worked out. A vote could be delayed until the following week because of the focus on Syria.
On the federal debt limit, Cantor notes that the administration announced it expects to run out of borrowing authority by mid-October. "While we do not know the precise date of when that authority will lapse, the House will act to prevent a default on our obligations before that point," he states.
But while Obama and Senate Democrats have said they will not bargain on the need to be able to pay the nation's debts, Cantor writes in his memo that "House Republicans will demand fiscal reforms and pro-growth policies which put us on a path to balance in 10 years in exchange for another increase in the debt limit."
Cantor also writes about action on the House's unfinished portion of the farm bill. So far the House has passed a bill dealing with agriculture programs without acting on food stamps and other nutritional programs that account for about 80 percent of the bill's nearly $1 trillion in funding authorization. However, Cantor writes that a working group within the GOP conference has come together on a new version of that portion that could save an estimated $40 billion over 10 years. That would almost double the savings tied to reforms initially proposed by the House Agriculture Committee.
Cantor's indication is that the House will soon take action on the unfinished part and then proceed to conference with the Senate, which passed its version of the farm bill in June. Cantor said that the bill will ensure that work requirements for able-bodied adults without children are enforced—not waived—and eliminate loopholes exploited over the last few years to avoid the program's income and asset tests.
As Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, has previously indicated, Cantor also states in his memo that the House will hold a series of votes throughout the fall to dismantle, defund, and delay implementation of the Affordable Care Act. "The coalition supporting Obamacare cracks when forced to vote on the most unpopular aspects of the law," Cantor writes.
On immigration reform, Cantor says that the current immigration system "should be fixed in a deliberate and responsible manner. "That is why the Judiciary and Homeland Security committees have produced a number of specific bills which the House may begin considering this fall," he writes.
But he adds, "Before we consider any other reforms, it is important that we pass legislation securing our borders and providing enforcement mechanisms to our law-enforcement officials."
Cantor says the House will take up bills to expand energy production, describing their approaches as environmentally friendly and designed to lower the price of energy for all Americans. This bipartisan legislation, he says, would include prohibiting the Interior Department from enforcing federal hydraulic-fracturing regulations in any state that already has existing regulations and recognizes states' rights to regulate this type of activity.
Cantor also notes the House will take up a bill designed to improve forest health and address catastrophic wildfires, while also providing a short-term extension of the Secure Rural Schools payments program, but some Democrats and environmental groups have raised concerns about aspects of that bill. He also notes that on tap for action this fall is the Water Resource Reform and Development Act of 2013, and that it contains no earmarks.
Cantor also says that House committees will continue to pursue inquiries into alleged government abuses, such as charges of political targeting by the Internal Revenue Service.
Noticeably absent from discussion is tax reform. House GOP leaders earlier this year had said they reserved the symbolic H.R. 1 designation for the legislation as a top priority. But Cantor does say, "We will need to address additional issues this fall, including a review of our intelligence programs and cybersecurity," and that "a variety of other items are likely to be considered."
This article appears in the September 9, 2013, edition of NJ Daily.