Tea Party Patriots Weekly Legislative Update for 12/07/14
LAME DUCK CALENDAR:
The House will be in session tomorrow, and has canceled votes tomorrow night so they can all go to a White House Christmas party, so there are no votes scheduled until Tuesday. The plan is to be done with all legislation by Thursday, so they can adjourn and go home for Christmas.
The Senate will also return tomorrow, with first votes on nominations coming at 5:30 PM. As for going home, Majority Leader Harry Reid has threatened to hold the Senate in session through the third week of the month.
As expected, the House took up and passed H.R. 5771, the “Tax Increase Prevention Act” (also known as the tax extenders bill) by a vote of 378-46, and H.R. 647, the Achieving a Better Life Experience Act, by a vote of 404-17 on Wednesday. On Thursday, the House took up and passed H.R. 3979, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) by a vote of 300-119, and H.R. 5759, Rep. Ted Yoho’s bill declaring “null and void” the President’s executive amnesty, by a vote of 219-197 – except that it does NOT actually block the President’s executive amnesty, because of a sneaky maneuver pulled by the Rules Committee before the bill went to the floor, which we’ll get to in a moment.
HOUSE FLOOR ACTION NEXT WEEK:
The House will move to take up the government funding bill, probably on Wednesday. If all goes as the House Leadership plans, the bill will pass, and it will move to the Senate, where it will likely be taken up and passed Thursday, then sent to the President for his signature.
In addition, the House may try to move legislation extending the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act.
SENATE FLOOR ACTION NEXT WEEK:
Harry Reid only has a few more weeks before January 6 and the inauguration of the 114th Congress, and he’s trying to jam the Senate as much as he possibly can. But Mitch McConnell and the Senate Republicans are refusing to give back time on cloture, so the Senate is in Four Corners mode. Look for lots more confirmation votes on judicial and executive branch nominations. The Senate will also likely take up the NDAA and the CROmnibus.
The IRS will issue a new set of proposed rules governing nonprofit groups and their political or nonpolitical activities – that is, regulating political speech – in March of 2015, according to a regulatory agenda issued last week by the Treasury Department.
You’ll recall we’ve been through this drill before. A year ago, on the Friday after Thanksgiving, the IRS issued a set of proposed rules that created a firestorm. The result was more than 150,000 comments being posted in the comment period, the vast majority of which were negative, causing the IRS to back off. In May, IRS Commissioner John Koskinen announced the proposed rules would be rewritten.
So now the IRS is rewriting the proposed rules, and we’ll see the result in March. Will they be new rules, based on reaction to the original proposed rules? Don’t bet on it. Back in the spring, when the agency was being inundated with negative comments, an IRS official told Politico that the IRS “certainly is not starting over and certainly not starting from scratch.” So we’re going to have to go through the comment route again, and we’ll let you know as soon as we’ve gotten a look at the proposed new rules just how bad they are.
The House took up and passed the National Defense Authorization Act on Wednesday. In its current form, it authorizes $585 billion for the military, and – because it’s seen as a “Must Pass” – includes several unrelated bills to expand wilderness areas in the West and expand the program streamlining oil and gas permits. The bill would add 250,000 million new acres of wilderness, withdraw 400,000 acres currently designated for commercial use, add 15 national parks or expansions and add three designations for wild and scenic rivers, commission 11 studies for potential national parks and scenic rivers, and commission a study for a National Women’s History Museum on the National Mall.
In addition, it authorizes for two more years the President’s military operation against ISIS, and provides him $5 billion for stepped-up operation of air strikes and the dispatch of up to 1,500 more U.S. troops. And – despite opposition from the Obama Administration – it maintains the prohibition on transferring terror suspects from the federal prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to the U.S.
Sen. Tom Coburn – who is retiring at the end of this Congress, in just a few weeks – announced he will oppose the NDAA land grabs. Presumably, that means he will block any Unanimous Consent agreements to move the legislation unless and until he gets them removed or some other blocking action is taken to his satisfaction. Sen. Ted Cruz joins Coburn in opposing the land grabs.
ObamaCare architect Jonathan Gruber and Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services chief Marilyn Tavenner will both appear Tuesday morning in front of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee to answer questions about the lack of transparency in passing and implementing ObamaCare. Not surprisingly, the Assistant Secretary for Legislation at HHS sent a letter to OGR Chairman Darrell Issa requesting that Tavenner be allowed to testify by herself – that is, without having to be seated at a witness panel next to Gruber. The last thing the Obama Administration wants is a visual demonstration of just how close Gruber is to the Administration. Issa is considering the request … but I’m betting that the thought of a photo of the two of them, standing side by side being sworn in, with right hand raised to the sky, is simply too delicious for Issa to dispense with, so they’ll testify together.
Well … the fix is in. How can we tell? Because as mentioned above, the House GOP Leadership, acting through its agents on the House Rules Committee, pulled a sneaky maneuver on the Yoho bill and turned it upside down before it went to the floor.
When the original bill was introduced, it was entitled “The Executive Amnesty Prevention Act of 2014,” and it had just 20 lines in it. But when the Rules Committee met last Wednesday evening, an amendment in the nature of a substitute was offered, and that “amendment” – a new bill, actually – was different in very important but subtle ways:
- The title of the bill was changed to “The Preventing Executive Overreach on Immigration Act of 2014.” In other words, the new title removed the word “amnesty,” as if that word alone were somehow offensive to those seeking the amendment. Which, of course, it is.
- The original bill included no exceptions. The revised substitute bill contained an exception “for humanitarian purposes where the [illegal] aliens are at imminent risk of bodily harm or death” – in other words, exactly what the President said when he pushed his DACA program in the first place.
The House GOP Leadership literally snuck this provision in in the dark. Very few Members knew of the changes to the bill, and, according to our friend, Rep. Louie Gohmert of TX, no copies of the revised legislation were made available in the Speaker’s Lobby, where copies of legislation to be acted on that day regularly sit, right outside the House chamber.
The ironic – and possibly unintended (?) – effect of the subtle changes is to totally reverse the effect of the bill. If the bill as it passed the House were passed by the Senate and then signed by the President, it would CONFIRM, rather than deny, the President’s actions as lawful.
Clearly, House GOP Leadership has concluded that it’s in a strong enough position to strong-arm any remaining opposition to passing its “CROmnibus” legislation. If press reports are accurate, we’ll find out Monday morning what actually made it into the bill worked out between House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers of KY and Senate Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski of MD.
Here’s what we have reason to believe: The bill will be split into two parts. The first part – the Omnibus part – will contain funding through Sep. 30 of next year for 11 of the 12 appropriations bills needed to keep the government funded. The second part of the bill – the Continuing Resolution part – will contain funding for the Department of Homeland Security, and will last only a few months, until sometime in February, at which time the Congress will need to pass a new funding bill for the duration of the fiscal year.
We don’t have a bill number yet.
Here’s what I can tell you: On Thursday afternoon, 216 House Republicans went on record declaring the President’s executive action “is without any constitutional or statutory authority,” and, therefore, “shall be null and void and without legal effect.” How many of those 216 will choose to vote for a bill that allows the President to spend money to implement a policy they’ve deemed unconstitutional and illegal? I don’t know – but I’m pretty sure it’s going to be a healthy majority of them, because they’re more scared of the political consequences of a possible government shutdown than they are scared of their constituents, who, according to the polls, don’t want this executive amnesty to happen.
They have not yet seen the light, because they have not yet felt the heat. Members – including some of those we would otherwise have been counting on, including Members who stood with us last year on the Defund ObamaCare effort – have told the press in recent days that they just aren’t hearing from their constituents that this is a high-profile “must stop” thing. So tomorrow we’re launching an effort to target Members for phone calls from their constituents.