Tea Party Patriots Action Weekly Report from Washington for 7/29/19
The Senate will return on Monday, and will stay in session until Thursday. At that point, the Senate will join the House in an extended district work period. Neither chamber will return until September 9.
LAST WEEK ON THE HOUSE FLOOR:
The House came back to work on Tuesday and took up three bills under Suspension of the Rules. Two of them passed, but H.R. 549, the Venezuela TPS Act, failed to garner the two-thirds majority it needed to pass under Suspension.
On Wednesday, the House took up H.R. 397, the Rehabilitation for Multiemployer Pensions Act. The bill passed by a vote of 264-169. Then the House took up H.R. 3239, the Humanitarian Standards for Individuals in Customs and Border Protection Custody Act. That bill passed by a vote of 233-195.
On Thursday, the House took up the PAST Act under Suspension of the Rules, and passed it by a vote of 333-96. Then the House took up H.R. 3877, the so-called “Bipartisan Budget Act,” and passed it by a vote of 254-149. More than two-thirds of House Republicans – 132 – voted against it, and even 16 Democrats voted against it. But 219 Democrats voted for it, and that was all that was needed. Following the vote to pass the budget-busting bill, GOP Congressman Thomas Massie of Kentucky was allowed to offer an amendment to the title – he wanted to rename the bill the “A Bill To Kick the Can Down the Road And for Other Purposes Act,” and he got 46 other Members of the House to join him in voting to rename the bill.
Then the House brought up H.R. 549, the Venezuela TPS Act, and it passed by a vote of 272-158.
And then they were done.
THIS WEEK ON THE HOUSE FLOOR:
The House is in recess until September 9.
LAST WEEK ON THE SENATE FLOOR:
The Senate came back to work on Monday, and voted to invoke cloture on the nomination of Mark T. Esper to be Secretary of Defense. On Tuesday, the Senate voted by 90-8 to confirm him to that position.
Then the Senate voted to invoke cloture on the nomination of Stephen M. Dickson to be Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration.
Then the Senate voted to reject the Lee amendment to H.R. 1327, which would have limited the amount available for the September 11th Victims Compensation Fund. The amendment failed by a vote of 32-66. Then the Senate voted to reject the Paul amendment to H.R. 1327, to require a sequestration of certain direct spending. That amendment failed by a vote of 22-77. Then the Senate voted on H.R. 1327, to extend the authorization for the September 11th Victims Compensation Fund through fiscal year 2092. The bill passed by a vote of 97-2, with only Senators Lee and Paul voting against it.
On Wednesday, the Senate voted to confirm Stephen M. Dickson to be Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration. He was confirmed by a vote of 52-40.
Then the Senate voted to confirm Wendy Williams Berger to be U.S. District Judge for the Middle District of Florida, and Brian C. Buescher to be U.S. District Judge for the District of Nebraska.
Then, on Thursday, the Senate voted to confirm General Mark A. Milley to be Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He was confirmed by a vote of 89-1, with only Jeff Merkley of Oregon voting against him.
And then they were done.
THIS WEEK ON THE SENATE FLOOR:
The Senate has a long to-do list before they break for the August recess. At 5:30 PM Monday, the Senate will begin voting – the first three votes will be attempts to override the President’s vetoes of S.J.Res. 36, 37, and 38, the arms sales resolutions that were passed last week. Then the Senate will vote to invoke cloture on the nomination of Michael T. Liburdi to be U.S. District Judge for the District of Arizona.
Based on the Majority Leader’s cloture filings, the rest of the week is going to be spent confirming 19 new U.S. District Judges. In addition, the Senate will take up the confirmations of David Norquist to be Deputy Secretary of Defense and Kelly Craft to be United States Ambassador to the United Nations. And at some point, I expect the Senate will be voting on H.R. 3877, the budget-busting Bipartisan Budget Act.
On Wednesday, a San Francisco-based Obama-appointed federal district judge ruled that the Trump Administration’s attempt to ban asylum-seekers who pass through another country en route to the U.S. southern border was illegal, and he issued a preliminary injunction that would halt the asylum ban nationwide. This happened on the same day, and just a few hours after, a federal judge presiding over a similar case in Washington, DC, ruled the other way.
But on Friday, in a win for the Trump Administration, the Supreme Court ruled that the Trump Administration can use military funds to construct a wall on the southern border. The decision makes it possible for the Administration to begin spending $2.5 billion in funds appropriated for the military to begin construction of a physical barrier while the case is litigated. The ruling overturns a decision by a lower court that had issued an injunction blocking any use of the funds while the case was being litigated.
On Wednesday, former Special Counsel Robert Mueller testified before both the House Judiciary Committee and the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. During the course of more than five hours of hearings, we learned the following:
- Mueller clearly did not write the report. In fact, he appeared so unfamiliar with its specifics that by the time he was finished testifying, many people wondered if he had actually read it.
- Mueller indicated in response to a question that he was “not familiar with” Fusion GPS, the opposition research firm that, under contract to the Hillary Clinton for President campaign and the Democratic National Committee, produced the Steele Dossier.
- Mueller indicated in response to a question that he and his investigative team had never investigated the origins and production of the Steele Dossier, and never sought to determine if the production of the Steele Dossier was itself an “active measure” by the Russian intelligence services.
- Mueller had good reason not to want to testify in public. He did not appear sharp – so much so that by week’s end, The Washington Post was running a piece entitled, “Mueller’s Team Is Said To Have Told Congress His Acuity Was Not an Issue. Some Lawmakers Privately Worry It Was.”
- In the hearing before the Judiciary Committee, Mueller “mangled one of his team’s most critical and controversial findings, suggesting that his team would have charged Trump with obstructing justice if not for Justice Department policy that prevents the indictment of a sitting precedent,” according to the Post’s account. “In fact, according to his report, Mueller’s team made no determination, even privately, of whether Trump could be charged, because of the Justice Department policy and because of concerns about fairness. Mueller corrected his testimony at the outset of his afternoon hearing before the House Intelligence Committee.”
By day’s end, Democrats were privately in despair, and the White House and most Trump supporters were in delight. Nevertheless, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler pressed Speaker Pelosi in a private meeting of the House Democratic Caucus again to allow him to open an impeachment investigation of the President. She turned him down flat, and her own supporters whispered to congressional reporters that the hearings vindicated her position.
Not surprisingly, the TV ratings for the hearings were disappointing for Democrats who hoped to use the hearings to drive their impeachment narrative. An average of just 13 million Americans watched the hearings on the major cable and broadcast networks over the 7.5 hours of questioning, according to Nielsen. That’s a smaller audience than the 19.5 million people who watched former FBI Director James Comey testify in June 2017, and it’s less than the 21 million who watched the Kavanaugh confirmation hearings.
On Monday, White House and congressional leaders shook hands on a deal to suspend the debt ceiling and dramatically increase federal spending, blowing the eight-year-old Budget Control Act sequester level spending limits to smithereens once and for all.
The budget agreement would suspend – not raise – the debt limit until July 31, 2021, about nine months after next year’s presidential election. That’s particularly offensive, because it allows the Congress to borrow as much as it wants for the next two years, and makes it far more difficult to hold big spenders accountable at election time. Saying, “My opponent voted to suspend the debt limit for two years!” just doesn’t pack the same rhetorical punch as “My opponent voted to raise the debt limit by $2 trillion!”
In addition, the deal increases federal spending over the next two years by about $326 billion over the spending levels set for fiscal years 2020 and 2021 in the 2011 Budget Control Act. Defense spending in FY 2020 would rise from $716 billion to $738 billion, while nondefense spending would rise from $605 billion to $632 billion.
In addition, the deal comes with an agreement by Democrats that they will not try to attach so-called “poison pill” policy riders such as a removal of Hyde Amendment language that blocks taxpayer funding of abortion, or further restricting the President’s use of military funding for construction of a wall along the southern border.
More than two-thirds of the Republicans in the House rebelled and voted against this bill, but 65 voted “Yes.” We’ll see if that ratio holds in the Senate when they get a chance to vote on it this week.
Meanwhile, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky is going to attempt to offer an amendment to the spending deal. His amendment would set up a two-year budget agreement based on the Penny Plan. I don’t expect it to pass, but it will be interesting to see where everyone stands on the one plan we’ve seen that would actually lead to a balanced budget.
Sunday afternoon, President Trump announced his intention to nominate Texas Republican Rep. John Ratcliffe to replace former Indiana Republican Senator Dan Coats as Director of National Intelligence. Coats will stay in his current position until mid-August.
JENNY BETH MARTIN/TEA PARTY PATRIOTS: