Tea Party Patriots Action Weekly Report from Washington 3/9/2020
The House and Senate will both come back Monday and stay in session through Thursday.
LAST TWO WEEKS ON THE HOUSE FLOOR:
The House came back to work on Wednesday, February 26. They passed three bills under Suspension of the Rules, including H.R. 35, the Emmett Till Antilynching Act, which will, for the first time, make lynching a federal crime. That bill passed by 410-4.
On Thursday, February 27, the House took up the Rule governing consideration of H.R. 2239, the Reversing the Youth Tobacco Epidemic Act of 2019. On Friday, February 28, the House took up and passed a bill under Suspension of the Rules, and then took up and passed H.R. 2239, the Reversing the Youth Tobacco Epidemic Act of 2019.
The House came back on Monday, March 2, and immediately took up and passed two bills under Suspension of the Rules.
On Tuesday, March 3, the House took up and passed two more bills under Suspension of the Rules.
On Wednesday, March 4, the House took up the Rule governing consideration of H.R. 1140, the Rights for Transportation Security Officers Act. They also took up and passed two bills under Suspension of the Rules, including H.R. 6074, the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2020. That bill spends $8.3 billon on federal efforts to contain and deal with the coronavirus, and it passed by a vote of 415-2.
On Thursday, March 5, the House considered amendments to H.R. 1140, the Rights for Transportation Security Officers Act. Then the House took up the underlying bill, and it passed by a vote of 230-171.
And then they were done.
THIS WEEK ON THE HOUSE FLOOR:
The House will return on Monday, with the first votes set for 6:30 PM. At that time, the House is scheduled to take up six bills under Suspension of the Rules.
On Tuesday, and for the balance of the week, the House will consider another four bills under Suspension of the Rules.
In addition, the House may consider S.J.Res. 68, to direct the removal of United States Armed Forces from hostilities against the Islamic Republic of Iran that have not been authorized by Congress.
And the House may also consider legislation related to FISA reauthorization, which we’ll talk about more in a moment.
LAST TWO WEEKS ON THE SENATE FLOOR:
The Senate came back to work on Monday, February 24. First up was a cloture vote on the nomination of Robert Anthony Molloy to be Judge for the District Court of the Virgin Islands.
Tuesday the 25th was a very busy day on the Senate floor. First was a vote to confirm Robert Anthony Molloy to be Judge for the District Court of the Virgin Islands. He was confirmed. Then came a cloture vote on the nomination of Silvia Carreno-Coll to be U.S. District Judge for the District of Puerto Rico, followed by a motion to invoke cloture on the nomination of Katharine MacGregor to be Deputy Secretary of the Interior.
Then came cloture motions on two abortion bills. First up was S. 3275, the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which would ban abortion after 20 weeks. That cloture motion failed by a vote of 53-44. Second up was a motion to invoke cloture on S. 311, the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act. That motion failed by a vote of 56-41.
Then it was back to nominations. In short order, the Senate voted to confirm Silvia Carreno-Coll to be U.S. District Judge for the District of Puerto Rico, and Katharine MacGregor to be Deputy Secretary of the Interior.
And then the Senate finished the day by voting to invoke cloture on the nomination of Travis Greaves to be a Judge for the U.S. Tax Court.
On Thursday, February 27, the Senate voted to confirm Travis Greaves to be a Judge for the U.S. Tax Court.
The Senate came back to work on Monday, March 1, and moved to invoke cloture on the Motion To Proceed to S. 2657. If you’re looking that up, you’ll find it listed as the Advanced Geothermal Innovation Leadership Act of 2019, and it has nothing at all to do with what they were actually debating on the Senate floor – because what they were actually debating is “the American Energy Innovation Act of 2020,” a massive energy bill that’s made up of dozens of smaller energy-related bills that all passed the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee under the leadership of Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski, Republican of Alaska. The cloture motion on the Motion To Proceed passed by a vote of 84-3, and the Senate began considering the new energy bill.
Two days later, after the 30 hours of post-cloture debate had expired, the Senate voted on the Motion To Proceed to S. 2657, the legislative vehicle for the energy bill. That Motion To Proceed passed by a vote of 90-4.
On Thursday, the Senate took up H.R. 6074, the coronavirus emergency supplemental spending bill. After tabling a Rand Paul amendment seeking to rescind unobligated balances for certain international programs to offset the amounts appropriated in the bill – because, apparently, under no circumstances will the Congress of the United States actually PAY FOR new emergency spending by rescinding previously appropriated funds that HAVE NOT YET BEEN SPENT – the Senate voted to pass the coronavirus emergency supplemental spending bill by a vote of 96-1.
And then they were done.
THIS WEEK ON THE SENATE FLOOR:
The Senate will come back into session on Monday afternoon. At 5:30 PM, the Senate will proceed to a roll call vote on cloture on the Murkowski substitute #1407, as modified, to S. 2657, the legislative vehicle for the Energy Bill.
On Wednesday, February 26, the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the Trump Administration can withhold millions of dollars in law enforcement grants to make states cooperate with federal immigration law enforcement officials. The decision conflicts with decisions by three other federal appeals courts in Chicago, Philadelphia and San Francisco, virtually guaranteeing that the cases will all end up in the Supreme Court.
On Friday, February 28, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals suspended its own order, which had been issued earlier the same day, blocking the Trump Administration from enforcing its “Remain-in-Mexico” policy, also called the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP). A three-judge panel of the Circuit Court had voted 2-1 to suspend the policy. The Trump Administration, not surprisingly, will appeal the ruling.
On Thursday, March 5, Customs and Border Protection Acting Commissioner Mark Morgan announced that over the past five months, 14,000 more people were removed or returned back across the Southwest border than crossed into the United States. Illegal immigration has been receding for the last eight months.
The baseline numbers themselves are truly remarkable – that is, if we just compare apprehensions in January 2019 to apprehensions in January 2020, we see a fall from 47,979 in January 2019 to just 29,206 in January 2020. That’s a 39 percent reduction. And if we compare apprehensions in February 2019 to apprehensions in February 2020, we see a fall from 66,883 in February 2019 to just 30,068 in February 2020. That’s a 56 percent reduction.
Remarkable. And that’s thanks to the “Remain-in-Mexico” policy, which disincentivizes illegal immigrants from trying to cross the border illegally or present themselves at a point of entry with a false asylum claim.
Let’s spend a moment talking about S. 2657, the American Energy Innovation Act of 2020. It was introduced by Chairwoman Murkowski and Democrat Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, the Ranking Member of the committee. The bill includes parts of more than 50 bills that were passed out of the committee last year.
Many conservatives do not like this bill at all. For instance, a recent Heritage Foundation paper says, “It includes regulatory energy-efficiency mandates, subsidies for specific energy technologies (fossil, renewable, and nuclear), increased government intervention in energy markets masked as federal research and development, expanded loan guarantees, public-private partnerships where taxpayer resources don’t belong, and taxpayer-funded job-training programs.” Not surprisingly, Heritage Action for America is key-voting against the bill. The Competitive Enterprise Institute opposes the bill. And FreedomWorks is threatening to key-vote against two amendments that they expect will be added to the bill.
On Monday, March 2, the Supreme Court announced it would consider a Republican legal challenge to ObamaCare later this year. The court had turned down a Democrat request to fast-track consideration of the lawsuit to allow for a ruling by June.
The case, Texas v. United States (or, in the Supreme Court, California v. Texas) will determine whether or not the individual mandate is constitutional, and, if not, whether or not the mandate can be struck and the rest of the law remain intact, or must the entire law by considered unconstitutional. In 2012, a five-judge majority of the court ruled in NFIB v. Sebelius that the individual mandate was a constitutional exercise of Congress’ taxing power. But in 2017, Congress passed and the president signed the Tax Cut and Jobs Act, which reduced the tax penalty portion of the individual mandate to zero. That led the state of Texas, under Attorney General Ken Paxton, to file a lawsuit challenging the Affordable Care Act. If the individual mandate was only a legitimate exercise of Congress’ power to tax because it provided revenue to the Treasury, the state reasoned, then why would it continue to be considered a constitutional exercise of Congress’ power to tax if the tax has been reduced to zero, producing zero revenue to the Treasury?
A trial court agreed with Texas, and ruled the individual mandate unconstitutional. In December 2019, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit confirmed the trial court ruling. But instead of deciding whether or not that meant the rest of the law must be struck down, the Circuit Court sent the case back to the trial court and asked for additional analysis. Meanwhile, parties supporting the law – led by the state of California – asked the Supreme Court to accept the case for review, and asked the court to expedite the review, with a view to issuing a ruling by the end of the court’s current term, in June of this year.
The court has declined to accept the case for a fast-track review, and instead will hear the case later this year, after the court reconvenes in October. That means it’s very unlikely that the court would issue a ruling before the November election.
On Friday evening, President Trump announced that North Carolina Republican Congressman Mark Meadows, one of the founding members of the House Freedom Caucus, and a congressman who had already announced he would not run for reelection, would become his fourth White House Chief of Staff, replacing White House Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney – himself a former Republican Congressman, and one of the founders of the House Freedom Caucus.
Mulvaney will become the U.S. special envoy for Northern Island.
Mulvaney had gotten himself in the president’s doghouse when he answered questions from the White House press room podium and put his foot in his mouth regarding the hold up of U.S. military aid to Ukraine.
Meadows, on the other hand, has been in the president’s wheelhouse since the very beginning. The two of them, it is widely reported, speak on the telephone several times a day. The president respects Meadows and has been relying on his counsel for some time now, so this move should not surprise anyone.
For those who don’t recall, Meadows is the Republican Member of Congress who filed paperwork in the summer of 2015 that eventually led to the resignation of John Boehner as Speaker of the House of Representatives.
Three sections of the Patriot Act that allow for surveillance of American citizens expire on March 15, and Congress has yet to pass legislation either extending the authorization or reforming the programs in question. This is going to be a focus of congressional activity over the next week, because the intelligence community views these surveillance programs as too valuable to allow simply to expire. So the intelligence community – in this case, led by Attorney General William Bar – has made clear its desire for a so-called “clean” reauthorization. That is, the IC wants the three provisions reauthorized without any changes.
Civil libertarians on the left and conservatives on the right disagree, and want to either eliminate or at least reform these programs. Sen. Rand Paul, perhaps the most vocal of the conservatives demanding reform of the government’s surveillance powers, insists that the president – who is still railing about the FISA warrants improperly issued against his former campaign volunteer, Carter Page – has said he will not sign a clean reauthorization.
My best guess is that both House and Senate will move this week to pass a 30-day extension of the authorizing legislation, just to buy some time for them to work out a deal of some kind.
And then there were two.
The last time we talked, two weeks ago, Joe Biden’s political career was on the line. He had finished way back in the pack in Iowa, New Hampshire, and Nevada, and was down to one final chance – he had to win the South Carolina primary, the fourth and final of the early-state contests that led up to Super Tuesday, to remain viable.
But he won South Carolina, and he won it convincingly – so convincingly that former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar both announced their withdrawals from the race and their endorsements of Biden before Super Tuesday voters went to the polls. Biden went on to roll through Super Tuesday, winning 10 of the 14 states and racking up the lion’s share of delegates awarded that day. Democrats and the media, predictably, went nuts.
By week’s end, former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren had also withdrawn from the race. While Hawaii Democrat Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard remains in the race officially, everyone paying attention now knows this is a two-man race – Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders against former Vice President Joe Biden.
Biden has a delegate lead, and that’s what counts. Under the rules of the Democrats’ nominating process – where there is no winner-take-all, and delegates are awarded on a proportional representation basis – it’s very difficult to catch up once you’re behind. Even if Sanders were to win the next several contests outright, the odds are very good that Biden would continue to win delegates even as he’s losing.
Clearly, the establishment of the Democratic Party wants to nominate Biden rather than Sanders. That’s because even as liberal as they might be, they’re not crazy, and they believe having Sanders as their nominee in the fall would lead to a guaranteed loss, with the potential for enormous losses in down-ballot races
JENNY BETH MARTIN/TEA PARTY PATRIOTS:
RUSSIA COLLUSION FALLOUT: