Tea Party Patriots Weekly Legislative Update for 9/7/14
House/Senate Action: Week of 8/25/14-9/7/14
The House and Senate both return tomorrow, and they’ve got a relatively light legislative agenda for the remainder of September. Remember, there are just ten legislative days scheduled as of right now – and I stress “as of right now,” because I’d be willing to bet the House is going to break two weeks from now, after just eight of those legislative days have passed, and not come back before the elections.
There’s really just one “Must Pass” bill that will see floor action before Congress breaks for the elections – the Continuing Resolution, which may come to the floor as early as this week in the House.
It’s clear that both Majority Leader Reid and Speaker Boehner – and just about everybody else – want to pass as close to a clean CR as possible, for political reasons. Neither side wants to get close to the edge on a potential shutdown. Though we have not yet seen the details of the CR, it’s expected that it will merely continue funding at FY2014 levels through December 11 or 12.
Consequently, the emergency supplemental spending request that the President sent to Congress in the waning days of July – remember that? – is nowhere to be found on the House GOP agenda for September. The House Leadership’s attitude is, “We passed a good bill in July, before we broke for the August recess. If the Senate wants to act, they should take up our bill and pass it.”
Let’s break for just a moment for a word from our sponsors.
More than a year ago, following the Senate’s bipartisan passage of S. 744, the amnesty bill, we were greatly concerned. We knew the GOP’s high-dollar funding base – the Chamber of Commerce and its allies – was going to push hard for House action on the bill, and we knew the Speaker wanted to get it done. He hired John McCain’s key immigration staffer, the woman who had largely coauthored the 2007 Kennedy-McCain amnesty bill, and he drafted Paul Ryan to buttonhole conservative House Republicans to build support for the issue in the GOP Conference.
But we have a few friends in the House, and we worked with them to push back. We used volunteer calls and paid robocall patch-through calls to jam congressional phone lines with a simple “No amnesty” message. We met with legislators individually, and in groups, we organized protests and rallies, we spoke out publicly, and if you remember my Legislative Updates, I’ve lost count of how many times I said something along the lines of, “If we can prevent them from bringing the bill to the floor before the 4th of July break … before the August recess … before the Thanksgiving break … before the Christmas recess … if we can just push it to next year (meaning this year) …”
We won. We kept that amnesty bill bottled up, and we’ve even prevented any of the smaller bills reported out of the House Judiciary Committee from coming to the floor of the House.
We accomplished what many didn’t think possible. And it was your hard work at the local level that, more than anything else, gave conservatives in the House the spine they needed to fight inside the Republican Conference and make amnesty the dog that didn’t bark of the 113th Congress.
Give yourselves a BIG pat on the back … and get ready for more work.
We now return you to your regularly scheduled programming.
Back to the September House agenda.
Another item left off the agenda is reauthorization of the Ex-Im Bank. We’ll hear more about that in a few moments.
As you may recall, the GAO issued a report recently confirming that the President violated the law when he released five Taliban terrorists from Guantanamo Bay without first providing Congress the notice the law requires. Consequently, the House WILL act on H. Res. 644, a resolution introduced by U.S. Rep. Scott Rigell of VA, which condemns the President’s failure to comply with that law.
On the healthcare front, the House will take up and likely pass H.R. 3522, the Employee Health Care Protection Act, introduced by U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy of LA, which would protect as many as 11 million small business employees who could find themselves negatively impacted by increasing premiums associated with ObamaCare by allowing them to keep the plans they have.
As we discussed before the break, the House will also package together a series of bills related to jobs and economic growth, and another series of bills regarding energy. Both combo packages will contain bills that have already passed the House, and the idea is merely to vote on them again to send them to the Senate one more time, to make the political point that House Republicans have acted responsibly to address faltering job growth and a sputtering economy and make American energy more abundant.
And on the IRS targeting front, the House will consider a series of bills out of the Ways and Means Committee that will authorize the Treasury Secretary to disclose information to victims about the investigations regarding leaked taxpayer information; prohibit any IRS officer or employee from using a personal email account to conduct official business; and codify the taxpayer right to appeal the IRS’s determination of a group’s application for tax-exempt status. And the House will also consider H.R. 5170, introduced by U.S. Rep. Mark Meadows, which establishes a process for removing a federal employee for the falsification, theft, or destruction of a federal record – like certain email communications.
A report surfaced in the middle of this week suggesting that Speaker Boehner and Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling had reached an agreement to add a short-term reauthorization of the Ex-Im Bank to the CR. Within minutes of that report appearing on Politico, Hensarling’s office had put out a statement denying any such accommodation had been reached.
HOUSE LAWSUIT AGAINST OBAMA:
Thirteen days ago, the House Administration Committee released a contract showing that the House had contracted with David Rivkin, a partner at the DC law firm of Baker Hostettler, to represent the House in a lawsuit against President Obama for executive overreach. The contract expires in January of next year. The House has agreed to pay $500 per hour, and value of the contract is capped at $350,000. Rivkin is one of the two lawyers who dreamed up the plan to sue the President, so it makes sense that he would get the gig once the House voted to authorize the Speaker to pursue the lawsuit.
Lots of tidbits on ObamaCare:
According to the head of health care programs at Jackson Hewitt Tax Service, more than one-third of ObamaCare patients receiving taxpayer-funded subsidies to help pay their premiums are at risk of having the IRS seize portions of their tax refunds next year due to unreported rises in income that translate to overpayments of subsidies.
The Inspector General at the Department of Health and Human Services says the Obama Administration is on track to spend far more than the $1.7 billion originally authorized for the budget of the Healthcare.gov web site. It’s taken 60 separate contracts with private companies to put together the web site, and less than a year into the site’s operation – and before it’s finished, mind you – a third of Healthcare.gov-related contracts are over budget, and seven of the contracts see billings more than twice as high as the Administration’s original cost estimates. The worst part of the report? The IG report was looking at spending obligations through February of 2014. God only knows how bad the cost overruns have been over the last seven months. We should find that out about this time next year.
On Thursday, the Wall Street Journal reported that a hacker broke into part of the Healthcare.gov website and uploaded malicious software – in JULY. But HHS didn’t realize it until last week. HHS insists that the server that was hacked did not contain personal information, that no data was transmitted outside the agency, and – this is the best part – the website was not specifically targeted. House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa immediately subpoenaed Marilyn Tavenner, the administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, to appear at a Sep. 18 committee hearing, to discuss the hack.
More on the Halbig case: Not surprisingly, a majority of the judges on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals has voted to hear the case en banc, meaning the entire case will be argued again in front of the full court. Remember, of the 11 judges on this court – the second most powerful court in the land – seven of them are Democrats, and four of them were appointed by President Obama, with three of them confirmed only after Harry Reid invoked the nuclear option in the Senate to prevent Republicans from filibustering Obama judicial nominees. Oral arguments are scheduled for December.
IRS TARGETING SCANDAL:
Two weeks ago Friday, Justice Department attorneys for the IRS told Judicial Watch that there are not, and never have been, any missing Lois Lerner emails. According to Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch, DOJ attorneys for the IRS told Judicial Watch that “Lois Lerner’s emails, indeed all government computer records, are backed up by the federal government in case of a government-wide catastrophe. The Obama Administration attorneys said that this back-up system would be too onerous to search. The DOJ attorneys also acknowledged that the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration is investigating this back-up system.”
On Tuesday, the Daily Caller reported that new information has surfaced showing that Lois Lerner in 2007 seems to have largely ignored claims that labor unions were not reporting millions of dollars in political spending, as required by law. Explains the DC, “In 2006, the year leading up to Lerner’s email, the national headquarters of the AFL-CIO reported no direct or indirect political expenditures with the IRS on their 990 form, leaving the line 81a blank. The same year, the AFL-CIO reported $29,585,661 in political activities with the Department of Labor. Also in 2006 the Teamsters Union reported no political expenditures with the IRS while at the same time reporting $7,081,965 with the Labor Department … In 2005, the National Education Association also reported no political expenditures with the IRS while at the same time reporting $24,985,250 with the Labor Department.”
On Thursday, Judicial Watch released a new set of IRS emails revealing that IRS officials had some sort of “secret research project” – that’s how it’s described in the emails – going on that related to the donor lists it had collected (inappropriately) from many conservative nonprofits.
On Friday, Sen. Carl Levin, Chairman of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, issued a 224-page whitewash of the IRS, in which he explained that the May 2013 report by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration overlooked IRS targeting of liberal groups, and, in so doing, besmirched the IRS. In other words, said Levin, the IRS didn’t just treat conservative groups inappropriately, it treated liberal groups inappropriately, too.
More than three decades’ worth of experience in the political wars teaches me this: When your opponent’s best defense is that he’s not being a schmuck just to conservatives, but to liberals, too, you know you’re on to something.
Of course, Levin’s report is full of it. But when would you expect from a report authored by one of the very Senators who kick started this whole scandal by publicly demanding that the IRS begin the targeting in the first place? In fact, Levin’s actions to get the targeting started led TPP to file an Ethics complaint against him in June, which is currently under review by the Senate Select Committee on Ethics. Specifically, we requested that the committee “investigate whether Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) violated Senate rules by unlawfully and unethically exerting pressure on the IRS on multiple occasions to investigate tea party, conservative, and free-market conservative organizations.”
Major news on the immigration front this week, as just yesterday morning the White House communications teams began putting out the word to the media that the President had decided to delay any action on amnesty by executive order until after the November elections.
This makes Red State Democrats happy, makes Sen. Mark Udall in Colorado uneasy, and infuriates leaders of pro-amnesty groups, or so they would have you believe.
Let’s back up a bit and put this in context.
Since the border surge began late last year and then accelerated through the spring and into the summer, Democrats on the ballot this year – meaning, those who are NOT named “Barack Obama” – have gotten increasingly nervous about the immigration issue. Note, I say “the immigration issue,” and not just “immigration,” because they’re still all in favor of amnesty for illegal immigrants – they want to add them first as legal immigrants, then as citizens, so they can harvest another 10 million votes nationally over the next decade. What they’re worried about right now is how it’s playing out as a campaign issue, and its potential to make reelection campaigns difficult, especially in Red States.
So an issue that one year ago seemed certain to play out in their favor in terms of its electoral impact began to look like it might bite them on the ass. Politicians being politicians, they adapted, and in recent weeks, under pressure from their GOP challengers, many of them began to publicly voice opposition to what most had assumed would be the President’s decision to announce some kind of executive amnesty before the elections.
Note again: They voiced opposition to what they all assumed would be the TIMING of the announcement, not the CONTENT of the announcement. Oh, they’re all still in favor of the President granting effective amnesty by executive order – that way, they’re not on the hook for it, he is, and he’ll never have to stand before the voters again, so why not let him take any short-term political hit? – it’s just that they didn’t want the announcement of this massive and what is certain to be controversial policy change to come before the elections, when their GOP opponents might be able to use it as an issue against them.
As part of their Kabuki Theater, U.S. Rep. Louis Gutierrez – the Congress’ top amnesty activist – loudly complained on Wednesday, threatening all sorts of terrible loss of support from the pro-amnesty crowd if they were once again “stiffed” by the Administration. Of course, Gutierrez isn’t really that dumb, he’s just playing his part in the drama, hoping that if he could make enough noise from the left, it would make the President’s decision to delay action by another 60 days look “reasonable” and “centrist,” and, hopefully, appealing to moderates and Independents. Having grabbed his screen time, he exited stage left and awaited further instruction.
So yesterday morning the word came down – the President wouldn’t do anything on this front until after the election. And then he went on the brand new, Chuck Todd-hosted “Meet the Press” this morning as Todd’s first guest on the new iteration of the show, a move guaranteed to catapult MTP back into first place in the Sunday morning talk show wars, if only for one week.