Tea Party Patriots Action Weekly Report from Washington for 01/06/20
The House will come back into session on Tuesday, and stay in session through Friday. The Senate will come back into session on Monday, and I’m not sure when they’ll go home – if an impeachment trial begins this week, presumably they would stay in session through Saturday.
TWO WEEKS AGO ON THE HOUSE FLOOR:
The House came back into session on Tuesday, December 17, and got right to work.
First up was a vote on the Rule to govern floor consideration of the Senate amendment to H.R. 1158 and the Senate amendment to H.R. 1865, the two minibus appropriations bills.
Then the House passed four bills under Suspension of the Rules.
Then the House voted back to back on the two massive spending bills – the minibuses. The first one passed by a vote of 297-120, and the second one passed by a vote of 280-138.
On Wednesday, the House considered the Rule governing consideration of the articles of impeachment against President Trump. Then the House voted on the two articles of impeachment. On the first article – the one charging President Trump with abuse of power – the House voted 230-197 to impeach, with no Republicans voting yes and two Democrats voting no. On the second article – the one charging President Trump with obstructing Congress – the House voted 229-198 to impeach, with no Republicans voting yes and three Democrats voting no. For the history books, the two Democrats who voted against both articles of impeachment were Collin Peterson (MN-07) and Jeff Van Drew (NJ-02). The third Democrat, who voted against the second article of impeachment, was Jared Golden (ME-02). Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02) voted “present” on both votes.
On Thursday, the House considered H.R. 5377, the Restoring Tax Fairness for States and Localities Act, a bill to restore the state and local tax deduction that had been eliminated in the 2017 Tax Cut and Jobs Act. The bill passed by a vote of 388-36.
Then the House took up H.R. 5430, the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement Implementation Act. The bill passed by a vote of 385-41.
And then they were done.
THIS WEEK ON THE HOUSE FLOOR:
The House will return on Tuesday, with a quorum call set for 6:30 PM to launch the Second Session of the 116th Congress.
Either Tuesday evening after the quorum call or Wednesday, the House is scheduled to take up eight bills under Suspension of the Rules.
On Wednesday, the House is expected to consider H.R. 535, the PFAS Action Act of 2019. And then they’ll be done.
And sometime this week, according to a Sunday statement from Speaker Pelosi, the House “will introduce and vote on a War Powers Resolution to limit the President’s military actions regarding Iran.”
TWO WEEKS AGO ON THE SENATE FLOOR:
The Senate returned to work on Monday, December 16, and moved to invoke cloture on the Conference Report to accompany S. 1790, the National Defense Authorization Act. On Tuesday, the Senate voted by 86-8 to agree to the Conference Report to accompany S. 1790.
Then, on Wednesday and Thursday, the Senate voted to invoke cloture on the nominations of, and then confirm, the following people to the following positions:
- Matthew Walden McFarland, to be U.S. District Judge for the Southern District of Ohio
- Anuraag Singhal, to be U.S. District Judge for the Southern District of Florida
- Karen Spencer Marston, to be U.S. District Judge for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania
- Daniel Mack Traynor, to be U.S. District Judge for the District of North Dakota
- Jodi W. Dishman, to be U.S. District Judge for the Western District of Oklahoma
- John M. Gallahger, to be U.S. District Judge for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania
- Bernard Maurice Jones II, to be U.S. District Judge for the Western District of Oklahoma
- Mary Kay Vyskocil, to be U.S. District Judge for the Southern District of New York
- Kea Whetzal Riggs, to be U.S. District Judge for the District of New Mexico
- Robert J. Colville, to be U.S. District Judge for the Western District of Pennsylvania
- Lewis J. Liman, to be U.S. District Judge for the Southern District of New York
- Sephen E. Biegun, to be Deputy Secretary of State
On Thursday, the Senate took up and passed H.R. 1865, the first of the two minibus appropriations bills from the House. The vote in favor was 71-23.
On Friday, the Senate took up and passed H.R. 1158, the second of the two minibus appropriations bills from the House. The vote in favor was 81-11.
And then they were done.
THIS WEEK ON THE SENATE FLOOR:
The Senate will return on Monday, and will resume consideration of the nomination of Jovita Carranza to be Administrator of the Small Business Administration. At 5:30 PM, the Senate will proceed to a roll call vote to invoke cloture on the nomination.
The rest of the Senate schedule for January has yet to be determined. The Majority Leader had issued a calendar for 2020 a few weeks ago, but had deliberately left January blank in the belief that the Senate would be conducting an impeachment trial. As of this writing, that’s still up in the air, so we’re not sure what the rest of the January Senate schedule looks like.
With about two weeks to go before celebrating the end of his third year in office, President Trump has remade the federal judiciary in his image. With 187 nominees confirmed to the federal bench – including two Supreme Court justices, 50 circuit courts of appeal judges, 133 federal district court judges, and two judges on the U.S. Court of International Trade – he has delivered on his promise to push the judiciary in a more conservative direction.
No sooner had the House of Representatives voted to pass two articles of impeachment against President Trump than Speaker Pelosi was announcing her decision to hold on to the articles until she had helped Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer negotiate better terms for the Senate’s impeachment trial.
According to some constitutional scholars – including, importantly, Noah Feldman, one of the three constitutional law professors House Democrats had as a witness before the House Judiciary Committee in one of the committee’s impeachment hearings – the House has not officially impeached President Trump until the Speaker of the House has transmitted the articles of impeachment to the Senate. Other constitutional scholars dispute this, but that’s of little importance to understand what’s going on here – what’s going on here is that whether or not the president is officially impeached, the Senate trial cannot start until the articles of impeachment are transmitted to the Senate, along with a list of the House “Managers” for the impeachment trial. (The “Managers” act as prosecutors for the House, presenting to the Senate the House’s evidence of impeachable offenses.)
So for now, the ball still sits in Speaker Pelosi’s court.
She says she believes that by holding on to the articles of impeachment and the list of House Managers, she can give additional leverage to Schumer, who is trying desperately to get Majority Leader McConnell to agree to demand that four key Trump Administration officials testify as witnesses in the Senate trial. For the record, those desired witnesses are White House Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, former National Security Advisor John Bolton, Mulvaney senior aide Robert Blair, and OMB official Michael Duffey. And no matter what Speaker Pelosi thinks, or what Minority Leader Schumer does, I think the likelihood of any of those four people testifying in the Senate impeachment trial is about as good as the likelihood that I’ll be voting for Pete Buttigieg for President.
Majority Leader McConnell has made clear his preference for the Senate to use essentially the same rules as those used in the 1999 Senate impeachment trial of Bill Clinton. Back then, the Senate was controlled by the Republicans, 55-45. Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott and Minority Leader Tom Daschle – pushed on by conservative Texas Republican Phil Gramm and liberal Massachusetts Democrat Ted Kennedy – came together to create a rules package that passed by a vote of 100-0. That rules package called for a presentation by the House Managers, then a presentation by the president’s defense team, then questions from the senators (questions to be handed in and forwarded to the Chief Justice to be read aloud, so as to prevent grandstanding by individual senators). Then and only then would the Senate decide on the question of whether or not they would call witnesses.
After the Senate had finished with all its questions – 150 of them – Sen. Robert Byrd of WV, the protector of the Senate’s traditions and protocols, was allowed to offer a motion to dismiss the articles of impeachment. His motion failed, by an almost party-line vote of 44-56. Democrat Russ Feingold of WI was the lone Democrat to vote against the Byrd resolution.
Ultimately, the Senate decided it wanted to hear from three witnesses, but none of them live – instead, they were all deposed on videotape, relevant portions of which were then shown on TV monitors in the Senate.
There is no 60-vote threshold to worry about in a Senate impeachment trial. A simply majority of 51 is all that’s needed to make a decision. There are 53 Republican senators, and there are at least three Democrats – Joe Manchin of WV, Kyrsten Sinema of AZ, and Doug Jones of AL – who appear to be willing to consider voting against impeaching President Trump.
Sen. Josh Hawley, Republican of MO, is offended by the Speaker’s holdup. He has announced that he intends to introduce a resolution this week that would dismiss the articles of impeachment. He tweeted: “Dems said impeachment was URGENT. Now they don’t want to have a trial, because they have no evidence. If prosecution doesn’t proceed with case, it gets dismissed. So on Monday, I will introduce measure to dismiss the bogus impeachment for lack of prosecution. This will expose Dems’ circus for what it is: a fake impeachment, abuse of the Constitution, based on no evidence. If Dems won’t proceed with trial, bogus articles should be dismissed and @realDonaldTrump fully cleared.”
I don’t think that resolution is likely to get a vote, let alone get passed, but it gives us something to talk about.
Late Thursday, a U.S. drone strike in Baghdad, ordered by President Trump, killed Qassem Soleimani, the commander of the Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, the second most powerful man in Iran, the general who commanded a terrorist force responsible for the murders of hundreds of American citizens. Predictably, Democrats and the media went nuts.
U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said DOD had taken what he called “decisive defensive action” against Soleimani. “Gen. Soleimani was actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region. This strike was aimed at deterring future Iranian attack plans,” he said in a statement.
Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi condemned what he called the U.S. “assassination,” and said that Soleimani’s killing was an act of aggression against Iraq and a breach of the agreement under which U.S. forces operate in Iraq. The Iraqi parliament responded a few days later by voting to direct the Iraqi government to ask for the withdrawal of U.S. forces from the country.
Democrats, not surprisingly, criticized the decision, slamming President Trump for failing to inform congressional leaders of his intended action or seeking their approval. Several congressional Democrats are talking about introducing resolutions to prohibit Trump from escalating further against Iran without congressional approval.
Stay tuned. This will get a lot bigger before it gets smaller.
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