Tea Party Patriots Weekly Legislative Update for 01/11/15
The House and Senate will both return on Monday, and stay in session through Wednesday, at which point the two chambers will recess for the joint House-Senate GOP retreat in Hershey, PA.
HOUSE RULES PACKAGE:
Immediately following the vote for Speaker, the House moved to adopt Rules for the 114th Congress.
Among the new Rules of the House:
- Dynamic Scoring, which orders budget referees – the Congressional Budget Office and Joint Committee on Taxation – to incorporate the economic effects of legislation into their cost estimates.
- Former Members of Congress who are now registered lobbyists can no longer use the Members-only gym.
- Expands “mandatory ethics training” requirement to new Members of Congress (no longer limited to just staff).
- Continues the ban on the Independent Payment Advisory Board by simply decreeing that Section 1899(A) of the Social Security Act shall not apply in the 114th
- Allows the U.S. House lawsuit against HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell to continue, and allows the lawsuit against the Justice Department over the release of documents related to the “Fast and Furious” program.
- Allows for the continuation of the special committee to investigate Benghazi, and confirms Trey Gowdy of SC as that committee’s chairman.
- Requires nongovernmental witnesses (read: civilians) to disclose money received from government contracts and foreign governments if they relate to the subject of the hearing.
- Gives staff deposition authority for four committees, including Ways and Means; Energy and Commerce; Financial Services; and Science, Space and Technology.
Unfortunately, the House Rules package did NOT duplicate the Senate GOP’s conference rules package, which mandates that all staff members of GOP offices, including professional committee staff, be designated as “official staff” for purposes of purchasing health insurance through an ObamaCare exchange, as required by the law.
HOUSE FLOOR ACTION LAST WEEK:
The House moved several pieces of legislation last week.
On Tuesday, following the election for Speaker, the House moved rapidly to adopt the Rules package for the 114th Congress, and to take up several measures under the Suspension Calendar. That’s how they passed H.R. 22, the Hire More Heroes Act; H.R. 26, the Terrorism Risk Insurance Program reauthorization; and H.R. 23, the National Windstorm Impact Reduction Act.
But House Democrats blocked H.R. 37, the “Promoting Job Creation and Reducing Small Business Burdens Act,” which is actually a package of 11 bills that were wrapped together to form a Dodd-Frank relief package. Virtually the same legislation passed the House last year by a lopsided 320-102 vote, so House GOP Leadership decided to bring the package to the floor under the Suspension Calendar. House Financial Services Committee Ranking Member Maxine Waters of CA objected to the bill coming to the floor so quickly, and she was able to scrape up enough Democrat “No” votes to block the package from passage under Suspension. So now the House GOP Leadership will schedule the package for consideration under Regular Order at a future date.
Later, on Friday, the House took up and passed H.R. 3, the Keystone XL Pipeline Act, by a vote of 266-153, with 28 Democrats crossing over to join the Republican majority. Not a single Republican voted against the bill.
The Senate, which began consideration of the legislation last Tuesday, will likely take up the measure tomorrow.
Incoming Senate Finance Committee Chairman (and, perhaps more importantly, President Pro Tempore of the Senate) Orrin Hatch said, “I’d be happy to have the CBO Director stay, but my understanding is there are those who think otherwise …”
This thing is not yet done. Current CBO Director Doug Elmendorf’s tenure expired a week ago yesterday, but he will stay in the job until a new CBO Director is appointed.
Incoming Budget Committee Chairmen Tom Price in the House and Mike Enzi in the Senate will meet later this week to discuss the appointment.
The House passed two ObamaCare-related measures fresh out of the gate last week.
On Tuesday, under Suspension of the Rules, the House passed H.R. 22, the “Hire More Heroes Act,” which would not take into account veterans who already have TriCare or get their health insurance through the Veterans Administration for purposes of determining whether the employer is large enough to be subject to the Employer Mandate under ObamaCare.
Two days later, by a vote of 252-172 (with 12 Democrats joining the Republican majority), the House passed H.R. 30, the “Save American Workers Act,” which redefines the work week as 40 hours instead of 30.
And, from the “What’s Good for the Goose Is Good for the Gander” files, last Monday, the New York Times published a report revealing that the faculty at Harvard University is in high dudgeon over recent changes to the university’s employee health care benefits wrought by ObamaCare. The university “must respond to the national trend of rising health care costs, including some driven by health care reform,” said Harvard’s health care enrollment guide for 2015. The changes are “deplorable, deeply regressive, a sign of the corporatization of the university,” said Richard Thomas, a professor of classics. “Oh, wait. You’re upset that you have to live under the law that you insisted be imposed on the rest of the country, and you’re finding it’s raised your deductibles and restricted your choice of doctors? Tough noogies,” said me.
Still in the If-It’s-Good-Enough-for-Us-It-Should-Be-Good-Enough-for-You Department, the government of the District of Columbia revealed in court filings that it does not believe the law as written allows for Members of Congress and their staffs to receive coverage on the city government’s small business exchange. The case, Kirby Vining vs. Executive Board of the District of Columbia Health Benefit Exchange Authority, was filed by Judicial Watch in October, 2014 on behalf of a DC taxpayer. Under DC law, participation in the small business exchange is limited to small businesses employing 50 or fewer full-time employees, and the small business exchange is officially known as “SHOP” – “Small Business Health Option Program.”
Here’s the relevant language from the DC government’s filing of Nov. 7, 2014: “By limiting the SHOP Exchange to ‘small employers’ with an ‘average of not more than 50 employees during the preceding calendar year,’ DC Code 31-3171.01 prevents Congressional enrollment in the DC SHOP Exchange because Congress does not fall within the definition of ‘small employer.’”
Believe it or not, the House and Senate each claimed to have only 45 employees each, despite the fact that Congress employs more than 20,000 people. Stay tuned.
EXECUTIVE AMNESTY/DHS FUNDING:
Tomorrow afternoon at 5 PM, the House Rules Committee will meet to consider the Rule to govern floor consideration of H.R. 240, the appropriations bill to fund the Department of Homeland Security for the rest of FY2015. As you’ll recall, the current appropriation expires Feb. 27.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, the House is likely to take up that DHS funding bill, which also includes funding for the office of Citizenship and Immigration Services – the office right at the heart of President Obama’s unlawful, unconstitutional executive amnesty.
On Wednesday of last week, Rep. Bob Aderholt of AL (along with Reps. Lou Barletta of PA, and Lamar Smith of TX) introduced H.R. 191, the strongest immigration enforcement bill introduced yet. It directly addresses not just the President’s unlawful November executive amnesty, but it also goes after the original DACA program, as well as other abuses of the parole and asylum regimes. It repeals section 235(a) of the William Wilberforce Trafficking law and places Unaccompanied Children from non-contiguous countries (El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala) into judicial proceedings just the same as those who came from Mexico. And the bill restores the Secure Communities program that requires state and local authorities to cooperate with federal immigration officials, and it contains a provision punishing localities that have designated themselves “sanctuary cities.”
That legislation has now been submitted to the Rules Committee for consideration to be offered as an amendment on the floor during debate Tuesday or Wednesday.
In addition, two other key amendments will be discussed as possible floor amendments:
- An amendment by Marsha Blackburn that would block funding for consideration of deferred action for childhood arrivals as authorized by Executive memorandum dated June 15, 2012, and effective on August 15, 2012; and
- An amendment offered by Ron DeSantis of FL and Martha Roby of AL that blocks funding for any policy that uses prosecutorial discretion to prioritize deportation of certain immigrants while providing waivers to others.
The likelihood is good that the Rules Committee will make all three amendments in order, and that all three amendments will pass on the floor, and be added to the bill. The likelihood is also good that the bill as strengthened by these three amendments will pass the House, and be sent to the Senate as amended.
At that point, though, its outcome will be in doubt – not just because it would require at least six Democrats to cross over and vote with the Republicans to break a Democrat filibuster, but because the President has said he will veto anything that blocks funding for his executive amnesty.
So … that’s why the House Leadership is moving this bill as early as they can. They’ve got six and a half weeks to figure out a way to get a DHS funding bill signed by the President, and this is the first step.
Speaker John Boehner won reelection to a third term on the first ballot with 216 votes, an absolute majority of the 408 votes cast. Yes, I said 408 votes cast, not the 434 we expected when we talked last Sunday night – that’s because 25 Members couldn’t make it to the House chamber in time for the vote, due to inclement weather, illness, and the funeral of former NY Governor Mario Cuomo, which kept home in New York many Members, particularly Democrats. The result of all the missing Members was to lower the threshold necessary to reach an absolute majority from 218 to 205. Boehner reached that threshold with plenty of votes to spare.
Nevertheless, even though they realized Monday night that rather than produce 29 anti-Boehner votes they would instead have to produce something closer to 35 – a tall order, indeed – no fewer than 24 Republicans chose to vote for someone other than Boehner, and one voted “Present.” So, in total, 25 Republicans refused to back the choice of their Conference for Speaker.
To put that in context, that’s a larger opposition to a sitting Speaker than at any time since the War Between the States, and it’s significantly more than the 12 or 15 who were originally expected to vote against Boehner for another term.
The key was the introduction Monday of a new, third candidate to oppose the Speaker. Daniel Webster of Florida, a former Speaker of the Florida Assembly and President of the state Senate – that is, a man who had been elected by his GOP colleagues in a large state to serve as head of not one, but two chambers of the state legislature, and who had in both cases demonstrated an ability to make the trains run on time – agreed on Monday to toss his hat in the ring. By Tuesday, his campaign worried Boehner and his allies so much that Boehner started working the phones and started strong-arming Members off the House floor before the vote. In the end, Webster garnered 12 votes from fellow Republicans.
This is important, because Webster is not the kind of conservative firebrand most would have thought to promote as the rebels’ choice for Speaker. He’s got a lifetime Heritage Action score of just 56 percent – five points lower than the average House Republican. But it’s precisely because he was NOT a conservative firebrand that his threat was real.
Why? Because, at its root, the rebellion against Boehner wasn’t about ideology, it was about process. The conservatives who opposed Boehner enough to vote against him did so not because they deemed him insufficiently conservative, but because they believed he wasn’t living up to the promises he made regarding regular order, and because he was deemed insufficiently strong in his opposition to President Obama.
In the wake of the Speaker’s reelection, two Members – Webster and his colleague Richard Nugent of FL – were removed from their positions on the House Rules Committee, sometimes called “The Speaker’s Committee” because of its control over everything that happens on the floor of the House. Two items of note: First, while both were removed, neither has been replaced, leaving the Committee’s membership right now set at seven Republicans and four Democrats; second, Boehner himself has indicated that either one or both could be reinstated on the committee.
Following this first blast of retribution, 23 conservative leaders – including Jenny Beth – sent a letter to Speaker Boehner demanding the reinstatement of Webster and Nugent and warning Boehner not to punish Republicans who voted against him. Conservatives like Scott Garrett of NJ and Mark Meadows of NC are both subcommittee chairmen who risked those positions by voting against Boehner.
I’ve included several pieces in this week’s Suggested Reading regarding the election for Speaker, and I would especially recommend to your attention South Carolina GOP Congressman Mick Mulvaney’s explanation of his vote for Speaker (he voted for Boehner), and John Hart’s piece, entitled “A Congressional Rebel’s Guide to ‘Hating Leadership.’”
Wednesday, Jan. 15 is the deadline for public comment on proposed new Federal Election Commission guidelines regarding the possible regulation of political speech on the Internet. If you have not yet taken the time to go to the FEC web site and leave a comment, please do so – and ask your colleagues to do so, as well.
You can comment here: http://sers.fec.gov/forces/addcomments.htm?pid=93617