Financial Services Appropriations Bill Presents Path Toward Regular Order

Michi Iljazi

July 6, 2016

Congress is back from their Fourth of July break and the House is moving closer to a vote on the fiscal year (FY) 2017 Financial Services and General Government Appropriations (Financial Services) Bill.  Aside from the obvious benefit of moving another appropriations bill forward and getting Congress closer to regular order, there are some very noteworthy pieces of the 2017 Financial Services appropriations bill that benefit taxpayers, consumers, businesses and the overall economy.  The overall spending levels in the bill show that the House of Representatives is serious about cutting spending.  The 2017 Financial Services appropriations bill provides $21.7 billion, which is $1.5 billion below FY16 and $2.7 billion below the President’s request.

FCC’s Set Top Box Regulation

The Federal Communication Commission’s (FCC) spending falls under the jurisdiction of the Financial Services appropriations bill.  The FCC’s latest attempt to regulate the video marketplace is an intrusion on Intellectual Property (IP) rights and a massive cost to taxpayers and consumers.  Commonly known as the new set top box rule, this new regulation is yet another attempt by a federal agency to interfere in the free market. It would require traditional pay-for-TV providers to make video programming available to third-party devices. The FCC and Chairman Tom Wheeler pushed through the proposal on a party line vote and did so without even considering the financial cost to any stakeholders that would be impacted by the new rules. However, contained in the 2017 Financial Services appropriations bill is language that requires the FCC to conduct economic impact studies for the set top box proposal before moving forward. This is a major victory that will save taxpayers and consumers money, while allowing businesses the continued benefit of competing in an open lightly regulated market.

Cuba

Two important amendments dealing with Cuba are being considered as part of the overall Financial Services appropriations bill. The first amendment, sponsored by Reps. Rick Crawford (R-Ark.), Ted Poe (R-Texas), Ralph Abraham (R-La.), Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), Sam Farr (D-Calif.), and Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.) would help United States farmers by opening up new opportunities to export food to Cuba while also making it cheaper for Cubans to buy food. The second amendment, sponsored by Reps. Mark Sanford (R-S.C.), Tom Emmer (R-Minn.), Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), Kathy Castor (D-Fla.), and Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) would prohibit the use of funds for the U.S. government to restrict American travel to Cuba. These two amendments are common sense approaches to food and travel that will be beneficial to American taxpayers, consumers, and help spread the message of freedom to Cuba. TPA supports both of these amendments and hope that they will be included once votes are held on the floor for the 2017 Financial Services appropriations bill.

Passage in the House is only the first step in the process of passing an appropriations bill.  As the Senate prepares to take up the Financial Services appropriations bill, TPA encourages similar fiscally responsible spending levels and amendments.

Even though Congress has very little time left in an already shortened calendar year, TPA hopes that Congress will be more responsible in the appropriations process and move closer to regular order.  That type of progress in Washington would be a welcome change for taxpayers.