Cantor Plans to ‘Clarify’ Postal Service-Highway Fund Plan for Republicans

The House majority leader spells out the GOP’s June agenda.

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 08: House of Representatives Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) delivers remarks about his support of charter schools and tax-funded voucher programs that help pay for private and parochial schools at the Brookings Institution January 8, 2014 in Washington, DC. 'Right now, school choice is under attack,' Cantor said. He also said that the House Republicans will work to prevent anything that 'could devastate the growth of education opportunity,' including New York Mayor Bill de Blasio's pledge to charge rent to the wealthiest charter schools. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
National Journal
Billy House
June 6, 2014, 11:37 a.m.

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 this 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 this 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 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.

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