Vote Explanation for H.R. 5063 — Stop Settlements Slush Funds Act of 2016

Today I voted against H.R. 5063, which would prohibit any government official from entering into a settlement agreement resolving a civil action on behalf of the United States, or from enforcing such a settlement agreement, if that agreement requires a payment to be made to any person other than the United States. The intended purpose of the bill is to eliminate settlement agreements which direct payments to politically favored groups, or which are aimed at circumventing Congress’ appropriations power.

However, this legislation is a solution in search of a problem: longstanding law and federal agency policy already prohibit agencies from directing settlement funds to politically favored groups and from using the settlement process to intentionally circumvent the congressional appropriations process.

H.R. 5063 intends to handcuff federal agencies attempting to negotiate relief to address injuries to the public that may be difficult to monetize — for example, the ecological impact or public health hazards caused by violations of environmental laws, the collateral consequences to communities resulting from predatory lending by financial institutions, or unknown health outcomes to individuals resulting from chemical exposures in the workplace.

Lastly, by limiting the breadth of the federal government’s discretion in settling regulatory violations, the bill will encourage unnecessary litigation and deter productive settlement of these types of cases.

For these reasons, I voted against the bill, which passed the House 241–174.