Tea Party Patriots Citizens Fund Weekly Report from Washington for 11/20/17

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CALENDAR:

The House and Senate are both gone for their Thanksgiving break. The House will return Tuesday, November 28, and will be in session through Thursday of that week. The Senate will return Monday, November 27, with first votes set for 5:30 PM. The Senate will stay in through Thursday of that week.

LAST WEEK ON THE HOUSE FLOOR:

The House returned to work last Monday and passed a resolution about Yemen and a bill under Suspension of the Rules.

On Tuesday, the House passed H.R. 2874, the 21st Century Flood Reform Act, by a vote of 237-189. Then the House took up the Conference Report to accompany H.R. 2810, the National Defense Authorization Act. That passed by a vote of 356-70.

On Wednesday, the House took up and passed the Rule for consideration of H.R. 1, the Tax Cut and Jobs Act. The Rule passed by a straight party-line vote of 235-191.

And on Thursday, the House took up and passed H.R. 1, the Tax Cut and Jobs Act, by a vote of 227-205, with no Democrats voting in favor, and 13 Republicans – 12 of whom were from either California, or New York, or New Jersey – voting against.

And then they were done.

THIS WEEK ON THE HOUSE FLOOR:

The House is in recess this week.

LAST WEEK ON THE SENATE FLOOR:

The Senate began its week last Monday, with a vote to confirm Derek Kan to be Under Secretary of Transportation. The vote to confirm was 90-7. Then the Senate invoked cloture on the nomination of Steven Bradbury to be General Counsel of the Department of Transportation.

On Tuesday, the Senate voted to confirm Bradbury to be General Counsel at DOT. The vote to confirm was 50-47. Then the Senate voted to invoke cloture on the nomination of David Zatezalo to be Assistant Secretary of Labor for Mine Safety and Health.

On Wednesday, the Senate voted to confirm Mark Esper to be Secretary of the Army. The vote to confirm was 89-6. Then the Senate voted to confirm David Zatezalo to be Assistant Secretary of Labor for Mine Safety and Health. The vote to confirm was 52-46. Then the Senate voted to invoke cloture on the nomination of Joseph Otting to be Comptroller of the Currency.

On Thursday, the Senate voted to confirm Joseph Otting to be Comptroller of the Currency. The vote to confirm was 54-43. Then the Senate voted to invoke cloture on the nomination of Donald C. Coggins, Jr., to be a U.S. District Judge for South Carolina. That was followed by a vote to invoke cloture on the nomination of Dabney Langhorne Friedrich to be U.S. District Judge for the District of Columbia. Then the Senate voted to confirm Donald Coggins, Jr., to be U.S. District Judge for the District of South Carolina. The vote to confirm was 96-0.

Somewhere in there Thursday, the Senate adopted by voice vote the Conference Report to accompany H.R. 2810, the National Defense Authorization Act. Since that Conference Report passed the House earlier in the week, it now goes to the President for his signature.

Also by unanimous consent, the Senate confirmed eight nominees to the Pentagon, four nominees to the State Department, and three nominees to the Federal Labor Relations Authority.

And then they were done.

THIS WEEK ON THE SENATE FLOOR:

The Senate is in recess this week. When the Senate returns on November 27, they’ll take up the confirmation vote on Dabney Langhorne Friedrich to be a U.S. District Judge for the District of Columbia, and then they’ll move to invoke cloture on the nomination of Greg Katsas to be a U.S. Circuit Court Judge for the District of Columbia Circuit.

AT&T-TIME WARNER MERGER:

On Thursday, The New York Times previewed what it calls potentially “the antitrust case of the decade” – a government attempt to block the merger of AT&T and Time Warner. Wrote the newspaper, “A lawsuit by the Justice Department, along with its earlier, widely reported demands that AT&T sell either DirecTV or Turner Broadcasting to gain approval for the deal, would mark a radical departure from decades of antitrust enforcement policy, both in defining what is an unlawful anticompetitive merger and in fashioning a remedy to cure the problems. That’s because the combination of AT&T and Time Warner is what’s known as a ‘vertical’ merger, meaning that the two companies don’t compete to any significant degree in their primary lines of business, which are telecommunications (AT&T) and entertainment (Time Warner). There would be the same number of competitors in both fields after the merger as there were before it.”

JUDICIARY:

Last Thursday, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley announced that he is overlooking the blue slip tradition and moving to confirm a nominee for a seat on a U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals whose home-state Senator hasn’t returned a blue slip. In this case, the Senator in question is Al Franken of Minnesota, and the nominee in question is David Stras, who’s been nominated to a seat on the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals. Franken opposes him on ideological grounds – Franken considers Stras too conservative for the court.

The hearing will be held on November 29, the Wednesday after the Senate returns from its Thanksgiving break.

OBAMACARE:

As we had hoped, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch added a provision zeroing out the tax penalties for ObamaCare’s individual mandate to his draft tax reform legislation. Under the rules of the Senate, he cannot simply repeal the entire provision, so he effectively repeals the individual mandate by making the tax penalty for not purchasing an approved ObamaCare plan zero.

This has at least one Republican Senator concerned – Sen. Susan Collins, who was one of the three Republican “no” votes on ObamaCare repeal last summer. She’s now telling people she wants to see the Alexander-Murray insurance company bailout passed before the tax bill, but isn’t committing to vote for tax reform if Alexander-Murray is passed. So we’ll see if she gets what she wants.

PERSONNEL:

Last Monday, President Trump announced his intent to nominate Alex Azar to serve as the replacement for former Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price. He spent ten years at Eli Lilly & Co., including five years as president of Lilly USA, and is a former General Counsel at HHS, and has two years’ service as HHS’s number-two executive.

He opposes ObamaCare, and thinks Medicaid should be block granted to the states.

And he’s close to Vice President Pence and others from Indiana who are serving in the Administration, including Seema Verma, the Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

RUSSIA PROBE:

Last Monday, Donald Trump, Jr. confirmed that during the summer of 2016, at the height of the presidential campaign, he occasionally exchanged private messages with WikiLeaks on Twitter.

The following day, Tuesday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions testified before the House Judiciary Committee and defended his previous responses to questions from Congress on his interactions with Russian officials, saying, “In all of my testimony, I can only do my best to answer all of your questions as I understand them and to the best of my memory. But I will not accept and reject accusations that I have ever lied under oath. That is a lie.”

SPENDING: 

House Speaker Ryan bowed to reality this week and acknowledged that the House and Senate will not be able to pass a nine-month omnibus spending bill in early December, so the House and Senate will instead move a short-term extension to get them through the end of December – as we predicted last week.

What’s really going on here is simple: Both House and Senate GOP leaders know that they’re planning to serve up a crap sandwich of a spending bill, and they don’t want anyone to know just how bad it’s going to be until after they pass tax reform and get it to the President’s desk. They’re worried that conservatives in either or both caucuses could threaten to torpedo tax reform unless they get satisfaction on the spending bill, and their solution is simply not to reveal what’s likely to be included in the spending bill before they’re done with tax reform.

Here’s what you need to know about that omnibus spending package:

First, despite current denials – including a denial by Speaker Ryan as recently as last Tuesday’s televised townhall meeting on FOX News – it’s very likely going to contain a DACA fix. Why? Because Democrats are going to threaten to vote down the omnibus, leading to a shutdown, if they don’t get their DACA fix in the bill. And congressional GOP leaders, being congressional GOP leaders – that is, spineless – will likely cave.

Second, the bill is very likely going to include a two-year increase to the spending caps contained in the 2011 Budget Control Act, just as we’ve had twice in the last four years. And those spending caps won’t just include increases on the defense side of the budget, they’ll also include increases on the domestic discretionary side of the budget. Because, again, Democrats will demand it, and congressional GOP leaders will likely cave.

Third, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if we saw a version of the Alexander-Murray legislation that bails out the health insurance companies with two years’ worth of Cost Sharing Reduction payments.

So … as I said, it’s going to be a crap sandwich. Is it any wonder they want to delay these negotiations until after they’ve passed tax reform through both houses and gotten it to the President’s desk?

TAX REFORM:

Tax reform moved ahead this week with a successful vote on H.R. 1, the Tax Cut and Jobs Act, in the House of Representatives on Thursday and, also on Thursday, the conclusion of a four-day markup session in the Senate Finance Committee that saw committee chairman Orrin Hatch’s chairman’s mark approved on a party-line 16-14 vote.

Along the way, Chairman Hatch decided to add a provision zeroing out the penalties for ObamaCare’s individual mandate, effectively repealing that provision of the law. The Congressional Budget Office projects that will save the federal government $338 billion over the next decade, and those projected savings can be used to offset tax cuts elsewhere.

In addition, Hatch’s draft raises the child tax credit from its original $1,650 to $2,000 per child, so Sens. Marco Rubio and Mike Lee are now happy.

On Wednesday, Wisconsin Republican Sen. Ron Johnson said that he would not vote yes on the current draft of the Senate legislation. He is not satisfied with the draft’s treatment of pass-through businesses. That’s interesting, because the National Federation of Independent Business – which opposed the first version of the House bill for the same reason – was eventually able to work out new language to their liking, and they’ve endorsed both the bill that passed the House and the current version of the Senate draft.

Majority Leader McConnell has announced his intent to bring the legislation to the floor when the Senate returns from its Thanksgiving break.

URANIUM ONE:

Last Monday, the Department of Justice sent a letter to the House Judiciary Committee acknowledging that the Department of Justice is considering naming a special counsel to lead an investigation into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s actions on a number of fronts, including the Uranium One scandal. According to The Hill, DOJ is also looking at Clinton Foundation donations, the unmasking of the identities of American citizens by the intelligence community, and former FBI Director James Comey’s handling of the investigation into Clinton’s private email server.

But on Tuesday, under questioning at a hearing of the House Judiciary Committee, Attorney General Sessions pushed back on the immediate need for the appointment of a special counsel to investigate Clinton. U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan pressed Sessions hard on the issue, but Sessions held firm. But he then acknowledged that he had directed prosecutors to determine whether appointing a special counsel was necessary.

So we know it’s now under consideration at the Department of Justice.

SUGGESTED READING:

JENNY BETH MARTIN/TEA PARTY PATRIOTS:

Hill: Jenny Beth Martin: Congress Owes Taxpayers Answers About Its Harassment ‘Shush” Fund

WT: Jenny Beth Martin: Tax Reform: How GOP Can Win Big

CBN: Conservatives Praise Trump for Additions to His List of Favorites for Constitutionally Faithful Judicial Picks

Axios: Congress Has Paid $17 Million in Sexual Misconduct and Discrimination Settlements

Breitbart: Tea Party Leader Jenny Beth Martin On Hannity Ad Boycott: Left Seeks To Shut Down Debate And ‘Punish’ Anyone Who Disagrees With Them

FO: Letter: Make Taxes Simple

AGENDA:

Reuters: Senate Sends $700 Billion Defense Bill To Trump, Funding Uncertain

AT&T-TIME WARNER:

NYT: With AT&T Time Warner, Battle Lines Form For An Epic Antitrust Case

JUDICIARY:

Hill: Judiciary Chairman Hints At Dissatisfaction With Sessions

Politico: Grassley Rips Up ‘Blue Strip’ For A Pair Of Trump Court Picks

OBAMACARE:

Forbes: How The CBO Drove ObamaCare’s Individual Mandate Repeal Into Tax Reform

Politico: How Cotton Brought ObamaCare Repeal Back From The Dead

PERSONNEL:

Politico: Trump Picks Ex-Pharma Executive Azar To Lead HHS

WaPo: Trump Picks Alex Azar To Lead Health and Human Services

RUSSIA PROBE:

WE: Jeff Sessions Rejects Accusations of Lying About Trump Campaign Russia contacts: ‘That Is a Lie’

Hill: Trump Jr. Corresponded Privately With WikiLeaks On Twitter

Hill: Trump and WikiLeaks: Five Things To Know

SPENDING:

RC: Republicans Considering Funding Stopgap, Ryan Says

Politico: Republicans Stall Budget Talks For Tax Reform

Hill: Ryan: DACA Fix Will Be Separate from Spending Bill

WSJ: Congressional Leaders Close In On Spending Deal

Politico: White House Seeks $44 Billion In Third Disaster Request

TAX REFORM:

Politico: Hatch Adds Repeal Of ObamaCare Mandate To Tax Bill

WSJ: Senate GOP Tax Plan To Include Repeal Of Health Law Individual Mandate

Politico: New Hatch Plan Makes Host Of Tax Cuts Temporary

Hill: Modified Senate Tax Bill Would Make Individual Cuts Temporary, Leave Lower Corporate Rate Permanent

RC: Analysis: New Senate Tax Bill Solves Some Issues, Raises Others

Politico: First Republican Senator Breaks With GOP On Tax Bill

Breitbart: Mitch McConnell’s Future Rides On Passing Tax Reform Bill

RC: House Rules Committee Adopts Closed Rule For GOP Tax Bill

CNBC: House Republicans Pass Tax Reform Bill; Senate Draft Advances

Hill: House Passes Sweeping Tax Bill In Huge Victory For GOP

Daily Caller: Here Are The GOP Representatives Who Voted Against Tax Reform

Politico: Senate Finance Committee Approves GOP Tax Reform Plan

RC: Murkowski Suggests Tax Vote Depends Upon Stabilizing Individual Health Insurance Market

Politico: Tax Reform Roadblocks Emerge in the Senate

NYT: Why a Firm Believer in Tax Cuts Could Derail the Senate Tax Cut Plan=

WE: Mulvaney: The White House Is Open To Dropping Individual Mandate Repeal from Tax reform

URANIUM ONE:

Fox News: Reps. Jordan And Gaetz: Special Counsel Needed As Questions Mount On Clinton, Comey, Russian Dossier And More

NYT: Justice Department To Weigh Inquiry Into Clinton Foundation

Hill: Sessions Weighs Second Special Counsel To Probe Clinton-Related Matters

Hill: Sessions Pushes Back On Calls For Clinton Special Counsel

Politico: What You Need To Know About Clinton And The Uranium One Deal

Reuters: Exclusive: Secret Witness In Senate Clinton Probe Is Ex-Lobbyist For Russian Firm

Daily Signal: 6 Key Elements In Understanding The Tangled Uranium One Scandal

MISCELLANEOUS:

Courier Press: Thomas: Congress And Sexual Harassment

Bloomberg News: Republican Governors Seek To Avoid 2018 Damage From Trump, Moore

Hill: Lawmakers Unveil The ME TOO Congress Bill To Overhaul Sexual Harassment Policies