Heads Up: Bills Introduced While Americans Were Distracted by ‘Russian Spy Drama’-Truth! & Fiction!
Summary of eRumor:
A message circulating across social media, discussion forums and forwarded emails warns that while Americans were distracted by “Russian Spy Drama,” bills have been introduced to abolish the EPA, the Department of Education and public education, repeal the Affordable Care Act, criminalize abortion, and mobilize against sanctuary cities.
This warning about legislation introduced during the 115th Congress while most most Americans were “too sidetracked by the Russian spy drama” or accusations that President Obama wire tapped Trump Tower are a combination of truth and fiction.
It’s not clear where the warning originated, but it had been widely circulated by early March 2017. The message warned about specific pieces of legislation that had been introduced during the first 60 days of President Trump’s presidency: H.R. 610, establishing vouchers for public education; H.R. 899, terminating the Department of Education; H.J.R. 69 to repeal wildlife protections; H.R. 370 to repeal the Affordable Care Act; H.R. 354 to defund Planned Parenthood; H.R. 785, ending the right to unionize; H.R. 83, mobilizing against Sanctuary Cities; H.R. 147, criminalizing abortion; and H.R. 808, establishing new sanctions against Iran. We’ll take a look at each of these claims.
H.R. 610: Establishing Vouchers for Public Education-Mostly Truth!
We previously investigated rumors that H.R. 610 would establish a voucher system for public education — allegedly destroying public education — and found them to be a combination of truth and fiction.
The legislation, H.R. 610, is real. The bill was introduced by GOP Congressman Steve King of Iowa, and it would change the way the federal government funds public education. Under the bill, the Department of Education would only be authorized to administer federal education funding in block grants to states.
A portion of those funds would have to be set aside for vouchers for parents who elect to “opt out” of public education and have their children attend a private or charter school instead. It appears the bill would have a minimal impact on better performing public schools in more affluent areas. However, the bill would seemingly have a major impact on “Title I” schools in low-income areas where students would be more likely to opt out of public education with vouchers.
Click here for our full report on H.R. 610.
H.R. 899: Terminating the Department of Education-Truth!
It’s true that GOP Congressman Thomas Massie of Kentucky introduced H.R. 899, the purpose of which is “to terminate the Department of Education,” in February 2017.
The bill contains only one sentence: “The Department of Education shall terminate on December 31, 2018.”
After introducing the bill, Massie’s office released a press release to explain his position:
On the day of Betsy DeVos’ scheduled Senate confirmation for Secretary of Education, Massie said, “Neither Congress nor the President, through his appointees, has the constitutional authority to dictate how and what our children must learn.”
Massie added, “Unelected bureaucrats in Washington, D.C. should not be in charge of our children’s intellectual and moral development. States and local communities are best positioned to shape curricula that meet the needs of their students. Schools should be accountable. Parents have the right to choose the most appropriate educational opportunity for their children, including home school, public school, or private school.”
So, claims that H.R. 899 would terminate the Department of Education are true.
H.J.R. 69: Repealing Wildlife Protections-Mostly Truth!
It’s true that GOP Congressman Don Young of Alaska introduced H.J.Res. 69, which could lead to Department of Interior wildlife protections for wildlife refuges in Alaska being repealed.
The bill expresses congressional disapproval of a rule the Department of Interior printed in the Federal Register in August 2016. The rule was titled, “Non-Subsistence Take of Wildlife, and Public Participation and Closure Procedures, on National Wildlife Refuges in Alaska.” Official language from the rule in question reads:
We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service or FWS), are amending regulations for National Wildlife Refuges (NWRs) in Alaska that govern predator control and public participation and closure procedures. The amendments to the regulations are designed to clarify how our existing mandates for the conservation of natural and biological diversity, biological integrity, and environmental health on refuges in Alaska relate to predator control; prohibit several particularly effective methods and means for take of predators; and update our public participation and closure procedures. This rule does not change Federal subsistence regulations or restrict the taking of fish or wildlife for subsistence uses under Federal subsistence regulations.
The Congressional Review Act of 1996 enables Congress to pass a “resolution of disapproval” to overturn federal rules and regulations they deem unfavorable. The Hill explains the process:
The CRA created a period of 60 “session days” (days in which Congress is in session) during which Congress could use expedited procedures to overturn a regulation. During this period, Congress could pass a resolution of disapproval, and this resolution was not subject to the procedural requirements in the Senate that made a filibuster possible. However, in order to meet the requirements of the Supreme Court decision, the president could still veto the resolution.
So, we’re calling this one “mostly truth” because while the bill would enable the overturning of specific wildlife protections in Alaska, the general claim that H.J.R. 69 is “repealing wildlife protections” is overly broad.
H.R. 370: Repealing the Affordable Care Act-Truth!
GOP Congressman Bill Flores of Texas introduced H.R. 370 in January 2017 to repeal the Affordable Care Act and healthcare provisions of the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010 effective January 1, 2020.
However, at the time H.R. 370 was introduced, Republican plans to repeal Obamacare were in flux. Members of the conservative Republican Study Committee have been debating their preferred path to repeal and replace Obamacare, and no clear path has yet emerged. In February, Flores said those who received coverage under Obamacare would not have to worry about losing coverage, Modern Healthcare reports:
Taking aim at Democratic lawmakers who have said that Republicans will repeal the ACA with no set replacement plan, Rep. Phil Roe (R-Tenn.), argued, “That’s absolutely false. We have a plan.” Roe said he’s “willing to listen to Democrat ideas about this, to amendments to this bill, as opposed to what they did, which is completely shut the other side out.”
However, when asked whether the committee aims to repeal and replace the ACA simultaneously, Rep. Walker said the committee doesn’t yet “have the full timeline as far as replacement.” Rep. Bill Flores (R-Texas) said those who have gained coverage under the ACA could rest assured they would be safe during a transition.
Since that time, House Republican leaders have put forth another “secret” Obamacare repeal and replacement plan that had not been made public at the time of publishing. It’s not clear that Flores’ H.R. 370 factors into it, or if the bill was introduced as a symbolic gesture. Even so, we’re calling this one “truth” since the bill was introduced and would repeal Obamacare.
H.R. 354: Defunding Planned Parenthood-Truth! & Fiction!
GOP Congresswoman Diane Black of Tennessee introduced the Defund Planned Parenthood Act, H.R. 354, on January 6, 2017.
However, the bill wouldn’t “cleanly” defund Planned Parenthood. It would establishes a one-year window in which all federal funding to Planned Parenthood clinics would be cut off unless providers demonstrate they’re not providing abortions:
This bill prohibits, for a one-year period, the availability of federal funds for any purpose to Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Inc., or any of its affiliates or clinics, unless they certify that the affiliates and clinics will not perform, and will not provide any funds to any other entity that performs, an abortion during such period. This restriction does not apply in cases of rape or incest or where a physical condition endangers a woman’s life unless an abortion is performed.
The Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Agriculture must seek repayment of federal assistance received by Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Inc., or any affiliate or clinic, if it violates the terms of the certification required by this bill.
Given that the bill would temporarily defund Planned Parenthood if certain conditions weren’t met, we’re calling this truth and fiction.
H.R. 785: Ending the Right to Unionize-Truth! & Fiction!
GOP Congressman Steve King of Iowa and Joe Wilson of Iowa reintroduced the National Right To Work Act, H.R. 785, in the 115th Congress — but the bill technically doesn’t end the right of workers to unionize.
Rather, the bill would strip unions of the right to automatically deduct union dues from workers’ paychecks. The practice of “forced dues” would end under the bill, enabling unionized workers to “opt out” from paying union dues. Critics of the bill argue that it would weaken or effectively end unions — but the bill would not end the right of workers to unionize.
H.R. 83: Mobilizing Against Sanctuary Cities-Truth!
GOP Congressman Lou Barletta of Pennsylvania introduced the Mobilizing Against Sanctuary Cities Act, H.R. 83, in January 2017.
A summary of the bill states:
This bill prohibits a state or local government from receiving federal financial assistance for a minimum of one year if it restricts or prohibits a government entity or official from: (1) sending to or receiving from the responsible federal immigration agency information regarding an individual’s citizenship or immigration status, or (2) maintaining or exchanging information about an individual’s status.
The bill restores assistance eligibility upon a Department of Justice (DOJ) determination that the jurisdiction no longer restricts or prohibits such actions.
So it’s true that H.R. 83 would take steps to punish Sanctuary Cities that don’t enforce federal immigration laws by withholding federal funds.
H.R. 147: Criminalizing Abortion-Truth! & Fiction!
GOP Congressman Trent Franks of Arizona introduced the Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act, H.R. 147, to criminalize abortion in certain circumstances — but the claim that the bill would “criminalize abortions” is overly broad.
Specifically, the bill would establish criminal penalties for doctors who provide abortions based on the sex or race of a baby. Doctors found guilty of sex- or race-based abortions could face up to five years in prison and fines, the bill’s summary states:
This bill imposes criminal penalties on anyone who knowingly or knowingly attempts to: (1) perform an abortion knowing that the abortion is sought based on the sex, gender, color or race of the child, or the race of a parent; (2) use force or the threat of force to intentionally injure or intimidate any person for the purpose of coercing a sex-selection or race-selection abortion; (3) solicit or accept funds for the performance of such an abortion; or (4) transport a woman into the United States or across a state line for the purpose of obtaining such an abortion.
The bill would also authorize certain family members to sue doctors who are found to have committed abortions because of the sex or race of a baby. We’re calling this one truth and fiction because it would criminalize abortions under certain circumstances, but not all abortions.
H.R. 808: Establishing New Sanctions Against Iran-Truth!
GOP Congressman Peter Roskam of Illinois introduced the Iran Nonnuclear Sanctions Act, H.R. 808, on February 1, 2017, to establish new sanctions against Iran for supporting terrorism, human rights abuses, and its ballistic missile program.
The bill would take a series of specific steps to punish Iran following a nuclear agreement reached between the U.S. and Iran under the Obama administration that provided sanctions relief in exchange for Iran halting its nuclear program:
• Impose new sanctions against Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and Mahan Air, an Iranian airline that has helped the IRGC to spread terrorism and militancy;
• Create a new Treasury Department watchlist for entities in which the IRGC has an ownership interest of less than 25 percent;
• Expand current sanctions and imposes new sanctions against Iran for its egregious human rights abuses, while also mandating full transparency to Congress on all American citizens detained or kidnapped by Iran and U.S. government efforts to free them;
• Impose new sanctions against persons that knowingly aid Iran’s ballistic missile program;
• Mandate new sanctions against entities owned 25 percent or greater or controlled by Iran’s key ballistic missile organizations, including the Aerospace Industries Organization, the Shahid Hemmat Industrial Group, or the Shahid Bakeri Industrial Group;
• Require a presidential certification that persons listed in U.N. Security Council Resolutions are not engaged in activities related to ballistic missiles and requires the imposition of sanctions if that certification cannot be made;
• Impose sanctions on persons involved in sectors of Iran’s economy that support, directly or indirectly, Iran’s ballistic program; and
• Codify current prohibitions against Iran’s direct and indirect access to the U.S. financial system, while also streamlining and strengthening the requirements for the president to remove Iran or any other country from the state sponsors of terrorism list.
Given all that, we’re calling claims about H.R. 808 establishing new sanctions against Iran “true.”