Tea Party Patriots Legislative Update for 05/18/15
The House and Senate will both return to work tomorrow. The House will stay in session through Thursday, with no votes planned after 3 PM, and the Senate will stay in session through Friday. At the end of the week, both Houses will break for the Memorial Day recess, and they’ll return to Washington on Monday, June 1.
LAST WEEK ON THE HOUSE FLOOR:
The House came back into session on Tuesday, and took up several bills on the Suspension Calendar. They also passed H.R. 1732, the Regulatory Integrity Protection Act, which deals with Clean Water Act overregulation.
On Wednesday, the House took up and passed H.R. 2048, the Uniting and Strengthening America by Fulfilling Rights and Ensuring Effective Discipline Over Monitoring Act, by a vote of 338-88. For those keeping score at home, you’ve already figured out the acronym for that bill is the USA FREEDOM Act. I guarantee you that took several staff several hours to conceive.
More importantly, the 338 votes in favor of the bill is 35 votes more than a similar bill got last year, demonstrating that support for curtailing warrantless surveillance is growing.
The aim of the bill is to rein in the national security state by prohibiting bulk collection of cell phone metadata of U.S. citizens by the National Security Agency. And while it had overwhelming support in the House, it’s also true that most of the 47 Republicans who voted “No” on the USA FREEDOM Act did so because they didn’t believe the bill went far enough to rein in warrantless searches via bulk data collection by the National Security Agency.
Then the House took up and passed H.R. 36, the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, by a vote of 242-184. This, you may recall, is the bill that was unceremoniously yanked off the House floor in the third week of January when Republicans Renee Ellmers of NC and Jackie Walorski of IN led a group of GOP women in revolt. The objectionable language was removed, and the bill had no problem passing on its second go-‘round.
Next up was the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act, which had already passed the Senate. Leadership brought the bill to the floor under Suspension of the Rules, which allows for no amendments but requires a 2/3 majority for passage. Leadership brought it to the floor without amendments so they could avoid the same kind of amendment that Marco Rubio tried to offer in the Senate – a provision requiring Iran to recognize Israel’s right to exist before any congressionally-mandated sanctions could be lifted. Without any amendments, the bill passed by a vote of 400-25. Then came a follow on, no-brainer of a bill – H.R. 2297, the Hezbollah International Financing Prevention Act. Also brought up under Suspension, it, too, passed by a lopsided vote, 423-0.
Then the House took up H.R. 1735, the National Defense Authorization Act. Beginning on Wednesday, and consuming all of Thursday and part of Friday, the House debated and then took ten separate votes on the 135 amendments that had been made in order by the Rule. Eventually, the bill passed by a vote of 269-151.
One of our key areas of concern in the NDAA, as we discussed on our last call, was Section 538, which expressed the Sense of the Congress that the Secretary of Defense should review certain enlistment requirements, with a view to allowing illegal immigrants to enlist in the armed forces. Republican Mo Brooks of AL introduced an amendment – aided by Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions of TX – to strip out that provision. The Brooks Amendment carried by a vote of 221-202, with 20 Republicans joining 182 Democrats in opposition. So that provision was stripped from the bill.
You’ll also be glad to know that, during consideration of the National Defense Authorization Act, the House voted to de-list the American Burying Beetle as a threatened or endangered species under the Endangered Species Act, and also voted to reverse and prohibit until 2021 the listing of the Lesser Prairie Chicken as a threatened or endangered species.
THIS WEEK ON THE HOUSE FLOOR:
MONDAY, MAY 18TH
On Monday, the House will meet at meet at 12:00 p.m. for morning hour and 2:00 p.m. for legislative business. Votes will be postponed until 6:30 p.m.
Legislation Considered Under Suspension of the Rules:
H.R. 474 – Homeless Veterans’ Reintegration Programs Reauthorization Act of 2015 (Sponsored by Rep. Brad Wenstrup / Veterans’ Affairs Committee)
H.R. 1038 – Ensuring VA Employee Accountability Act (Sponsored by Rep. Ryan Costello / Veterans’ Affairs Committee)
H.R. 1313 – Service Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business Relief Act (Sponsored by Rep. Jerry McNerney / Veterans’ Affairs Committee)
H.R. 1382 – Boosting Rates of American Veteran Employment Act, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. Kathleen Rice / Veterans’ Affairs Committee)
H.R. 91 – Veteran’s I.D. Card Act, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. Vern Buchanan / Veterans’ Affairs Committee)
H.R. 1816 – Vulnerable Veterans Housing Reform Act of 2015, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. Joe Heck / Financial Services Committee)
H.R. 1987 – Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2015, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. Duncan Hunter / Transportation and Infrastructure Committee)
- 178 – Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act of 2015 (Sponsored by Sen. John Cornyn / Judiciary Committee)
TUESDAY, MAY 19TH
On Tuesday, the House will meet at 10:00 a.m. for morning hour and 12:00 p.m. for legislative business.
Legislation Considered Under Suspension of the Rules:
H.R. 874 – American Super Computing Leadership Act (Sponsored by Rep. Randy Hultgren / Science, Space, and Technology Committee)
H.R. 1162 – Science Prize Competitions Act, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. Don Beyer / Science, Space, and Technology Committee)
H.R. 1119 – Research and Development Efficiency Act (Sponsored by Rep. Barbara Comstock / Science, Space, and Technology Committee)
H.R. 1156 – International Science and Technology Cooperation Act of 2015, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. Dan Lipinski / Science, Space, and Technology Committee)
H.R. 1561 – Weather Research and Forecasting Innovation Act of 2015, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. Frank Lucas / Science, Space, and Technology Committee)
H.R. 1158 – Department of Energy Laboratory Modernization and Technology Transfer Act of 2015, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. Randy Hultgren / Science, Space, and Technology Committee)
H.R. 2353 – Highway and Transportation Funding Act of 2015 (Subject to a Rule) (Sponsored by Rep. Bill Shuster / Transportation and Infrastructure Committee)
H.R. 2250 – Legislative Branch Appropriations Act, 2016 (Subject to a Rule) (Sponsored by Rep. Tom Graves / Appropriations Committee)
WEDNESDAY, MAY 20TH
On Wednesday, the House will meet at 10:00 a.m. for morning hour and 12:00 p.m. for legislative business.
H.R. 880 – American Research and Competitiveness Act of 2015 (Subject to a Rule) (Sponsored by Rep. Kevin Brady / Ways and Means Committee)
H.R. 1806 – America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2015, Rules Committee Print (Subject to a Rule) (Sponsored by Rep. Lamar Smith / Science, Space, and Technology Committee)
THURSDAY, MAY 21ST
On Thursday, the House will meet at 9:00 a.m. for legislative business. Last votes expected no later than 3:00 p.m.
H.R. 2262 – SPACE Act of 2015 (Subject to a Rule) (Sponsored by Rep. Kevin McCarthy / Science, Space, and Technology Committee)
FRIDAY, MAY 22ND
On Friday, no votes are expected in the House.
So, this week, the three big bills to hit the House floor will be S. 178, the human trafficking bill that already passed the Senate; H.R. 2353, the Highway and Transportation Funding Act (the Highway bill); and H.R. 2250, the Legislative Branch Appropriations Act.
Republican Brad Wenstrup of OH is offering an amendment to the Legislative Branch Appropriations Act. He’s got it in front of the House Rules Committee tomorrow evening at 5 PM, and we’re pushing for the amendment – it would prohibit using any funds appropriated by the Act to pay any salaries or expenses of any House office that doesn’t reveal the status of all of its employees regarding “official” designation for purposes of purchasing healthcare through the DC Exchange.
LAST WEEK ON THE SENATE FLOOR:
A week ago Thursday, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell moved to invoke cloture on H.R. 1191, the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act. He did this to shut down debate and block consideration of amendments offered by both Tom Cotton and Marco Rubio. The Senate invoked cloture by a vote of 96-3, and then took up and passed the underlying bill by a vote of 98-1. Only Tom Cotton voted against it.
Last Tuesday, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell moved to invoke cloture on the Motion To Proceed to consideration of H.R. 1314, the legislative vehicle for the Trade Promotion Authority legislation. Democrats were adamant that they be allowed to vote on four bills, not just two, and jam all those votes together on the base bill, and McConnell wouldn’t budge, so Democrats voted en bloc to kill the cloture motion. McConnell flipped his vote from “Yes” to “No” so he could call up a Motion To Reconsider at a later date, after he had worked out a deal to the Democrats’ satisfaction.
That came a day later, on Wednesday. McConnell agreed to let the Democrats have the votes they wanted on the two extra bills, but insisted they vote on them as stand-alone votes, each requiring 60 to pass. Democrats agreed to take the stand-alone votes – it was better than nothing. Once that deal was in place, McConnell brought up the Motion To Proceed again, and this time it passed by a vote of 65-33.
In addition, Leader McConnell began the Rule 14 process – that’s the legislative procedure that allows the Senate Majority Leader to bypass the committee regular order and bring a bill straight to the floor of the Senate – on three pieces of legislation: 1) S. 1350, a two-month extension of the Highway Bill; 2) S. 1357, a two-month extension of the authorization for the Patriot Act; and 3) H.R. 2048, the USA FREEDOM Act.
THIS WEEK ON THE SENATE FLOOR:
Monday, the Senate will take up where it left off – with consideration of the Trade Promotion Authority bill. Sen. Hatch, the Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, has now offered the bipartisan substitute amendment that is, in essence, the real bill.
At 5:30 PM, the Senate will begin voting on amendments to the TPA bill.
In addition, the Senate is going to have to pass some kind of extension of Section 215 of the Patriot Act before the end of May, or the NSA’s authority to engage in the bulk collection of metadata is going to expire. That’s going to be a heavy lift. It’s even money that the Senate gets stuck in DC over the weekend to finish everything they have to get to this week before they break for the Memorial Day recess.
CLINTON EMAIL/CLINTON CASH:
On Monday, May 4, Hillary Clinton’s attorney announced she would be willing to testify once before the House Select Committee on Benghazi, but not twice. You’ll recall committee Chairman Trey Gowdy wanted to devote the first hearing to examining her use of a private email account while she served as Secretary of State, and then use the second hearing to examine her role in the Benghazi episode. Gowdy responded a few days ago, announcing that that he is unwilling to schedule her testimony until the State Department first turns over to his committee key documents he’s been seeking.
Testifying on Tuesday, May 5, before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Assistant Secretary of State for Administration Joyce Barr said that Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email account while she was Secretary of State was “not acceptable,” and said other State Department employees have been warned not to do it.
A report published on May 4 by the Inspector General of the Department of Homeland Security says that DHS “does not gather and analyze prosecutorial discretion data.” Thus, DHS does not have the ability “to fully assess its current immigration enforcement activities and to develop future policy.” And that means that because DHS isn’t collecting the data and “does not have a mechanism to continuously monitor its use of prosecutorial discretion,” it lacks the ability to “improve future policy.”
So the reason the Obama Administration is using to justify its deferred deportation schemes – to wit, using prosecutorial discretion to focus resources on illegal immigrants deemed threats to public safety – makes no sense at all. If they’re not collecting and analyzing this critical data, how they can properly target threats?
Further, points out the IG, field personnel told the IG that they don’t always “have access to an individual’s criminal history in his or her country of origin.” And, as a result, “aliens convicted or wanted for a felony committed in their home country, but not convicted of a felony or significant misdemeanor in the U.S. may not be identified as a DHS enforcement priority.”
This should give the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals some food for thought as it considers the lawsuit brought by the state of Texas and 25 other states to block implementation of the President’s November executive action.
Supporters of reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank are looking at attaching the reauthorization to the upcoming Highway Bill. They’re worried – rightly – that the bill won’t come out of the House Financial Services Committee under regular order, and are looking for another must-pass bill that can serve as a vehicle for the reauthorization.
One day after the House joined the Senate in passing the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act, an Iranian Ayatollah – the Ayatollah Mohammed Ali Movahedi Kermani, Tehran’s Friday Prayers imam, who is appointed directly by the nation’s Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, and has enormous influence – declared in remarks to Tehran University students that Iran would never allow Western powers or the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to inspect Iran’s military sites as part of a final agreement. Further, he said the West, and particularly the U.S., “are hallucinating” if they think Iran would allow such inspections.
IRS TARGETING SCANDAL:
On Tuesday, May 5, conservative columnist and Obama college classmate Wayne Root published an op-ed on the FOX News web site. Entitled, “IRS Scandal: I Was Targeted and I’ve Got Proof It Was a Democratically-Led Conspiracy.” It details a particularly chilling case of individual audits that seem, clearly, to have been directed at him for his political views, including the notation in one of his tax files that the examining IRS agent had spent “hours” researching Root’s political views – which, of course, would have nothing whatsoever to do with his tax status. I’ve included it in the Suggested Reading, and I highly recommend it.
As mentioned earlier, the House last week took up and passed the USA FREEDOM Act by an overwhelming margin. If Section 215 of the Patriot Act is not reauthorized by the end of May, the NSA will lose its current authority to engage in the bulk collection of cell phone metadata.
Senate Majority Leader McConnell responded to the passage of the USA FREEDOM Act in the House by immediately introducing a bill authorizing Section 215 for another two months, in hopes that it would buy him the time needed to work a deal. But, frankly, given that Rand Paul and Ron Wyden have already announced their determination to filibuster the McConnell bill, it doesn’t appear clear that there’s a path to passage in the Senate – and certainly not before they leave as scheduled on Friday for their Memorial Day recess.
The Senate will resume consideration of the Trade Promotion Authority bill this week, and we expect they’ll spend the bulk of the week on it.
CLINTON EMAIL/CLINTON CASH:
EXECUTIVE AMNESTY/ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION:
IRS TARGETING SCANDAL:
TRADE PROMOTION AUTHORITY/TRANSPACIFIC PARTNERSHIP: