Tea Party Patriots Weekly Report from Washington for 07/11/15
The House will come back into session at noon Monday, with no votes scheduled before 6:30 PM. They anticipate staying through Thursday, with no votes later than 3 PM.
The Senate will come back into session on 3 PM Monday, with no votes scheduled before 5:30 PM. At that point, the Senate is expected to vote on two amendments to S. 1177, the Every Child Achieves Act, also known as Elementary and Secondary Education Reauthorization, or No Child Left Behind.
LAST WEEK ON THE HOUSE FLOOR:
On Tuesday evening of last week, the House adopted by voice vote three Democratic amendments that would restrict Confederate flag imagery on federal property. One would block funding from being used to decorate a grave in a federal cemetery with a Confederate flag, and a second would prohibit the National Park Service from spending any money to contract with gift shops that sell merchandise with Confederate flag designs. The third would prohibit the display of Confederate flag imagery on any graves on federal land.
The following day, the House took up H.R. 2822, the Department of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act. After dealing with 10 amendments over the course of about half an hour, the Leadership wrapped up the day’s discussion on the bill. And that’s when the
Appropriations Committee Interior Subcommittee Chairman Ken Calvert dropped a bomb on the House floor – he announced that on Thursday, the House would vote on a GOP amendment to strike the Democrat amendment that blocked the display of Confederate flag imagery on graves on federal land. Why? Because no Republican in the House chamber Tuesday evening, when the three Democrat amendments passed, realized at the time what was being passed by voice vote. When they found out Wednesday, there was objection, principally from southern Republicans who wanted to continue to allow their constituents to honor their ancestors when they visited grave sites in Mississippi and Georgia. And because virtually no House Democrats were going to vote for the Interior-Environment appropriations bill, the House GOP Leadership realized they couldn’t afford to lose more than a couple dozen GOP votes, or passage would be threatened.
It’s important to note that the substance of the GOP amendment in question – that is, allowing the display of Confederate flag imagery in federal cemeteries – would merely have codified the Obama Administration’s own directive to national cemeteries.
So Calvert, with Leadership’s blessing, announced that a vote would be held on Thursday on this GOP amendment, and the House then turned to H.R. 5, the so-called “Student Success Act.” We know that bill as the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, also known as No Child Left Behind. The House considered 12 amendments, including an amendment offered by Rep. Matt Salmon that grants parents the right to opt their children out of federally-required standardized tests (which passed by a vote of 251-178), and an amendment offered by Reps. Mark Walker and Ron DeSantis that would have allowed states to opt out of federal requirements without losing access to federal funds (which failed by a vote of 195-234, with 49 moderate Republicans joining 186 Democrats in opposition).
This bill is not as conservative as some wanted, but there’s plenty of stuff in there that’s got Democrats unhappy. One such provision is portability of funding, which ties federal aid for poor students to individual children rather than schools. Democrats dislike this bill so much that the Obama Administration has already threatened to veto it.
In the end, the vote on final passage was another drama, as the “No” votes outnumbered the “Yes” votes through most of the course of the voting period. Many Republicans either held out their votes until the end, or finally allowed Leadership flip them. Ultimately, 27 Republicans (most of whom are members of the House Freedom Caucus) joined 186 Democrats in opposition, and the bill passed by the slim margin of 218-213.
On Thursday, the House returned to consideration of H.R. 2822, the Interior-Environment Appropriations bill, but the Leadership pulled the bill from the floor before holding the vote on the GOP amendment. So Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi took the opportunity to throw a hand grenade into the offices of the House GOP Leadership, when she introduced a privileged resolution calling on the Speaker of the House to remove Confederate flags from the Capitol complex. A privileged resolution takes precedence over whatever is going on on the floor at the time, so she got immediate consideration of her resolution. The House GOP Leadership responded by moving to refer the measure to the House Administration Committee, as it had done two weeks earlier when Democrat Bennie Thompson of Mississippi – the only African-American member of his state’s congressional delegation – offered essentially the same resolution.
Remember, this was all happening at just the same time the South Carolina legislature was voting to remove the Confederate flag from the Statehouse grounds.
Ultimately, the resolution was referred to the Administration Committee by a vote of 238-176, with 19 “No Votes.”
On Friday, the House considered H.R. 6, the 21st Century Cures Act, a bill that came out of the Chairman Fred Upton’s Energy and Commerce Committee to great fanfare several weeks ago. The bill is designed to “modernize the healthcare innovation infrastructure, incorporate a patient perspective into the drug and device approval process, support advances in personalized medicine, streamline clinical trials, and provide more resources to support cutting-edge research and help young scientists.” If that sounds like boilerplate from the bill’s sponsor, it should, because it is.
There was little argument over what the bill does, but there was a lot of disagreement over how to pay for it. The Leadership wanted this bill to get a big bipartisan vote, and Democrats made it clear they’d vote for it only if the funding mechanism were made mandatory – that is, they didn’t want the funding stream to be subject to the whims of future Congresses. So the House GOP Leadership accommodated them, and that angered conservative House Republicans who argued that the funding mechanism would break the spending caps in the budget they passed less than 100 days earlier.
Leadership decided the best way to handle the situation would be to allow the conservatives an opportunity to strike the funding mechanism on the floor, by giving them a vote on an amendment offered by Dave Brat of VA that would have made the funding discretionary. The only way the conservatives could get to that amendment vote, of course, would be for the amendment to be included in the Rule that would govern the debate. That would mean that conservatives would have to vote for the Rule.
So on Friday morning, the House considered the Rule to govern debate on H.R. 6. The Rule passed, with no GOP votes in opposition. Then the Brat Amendment was considered. It was defeated by a vote of 141-281, with 11 “No Votes.” Then the underlying bill was passed by a vote of 344-77, with 70 of those 77 votes in opposition coming from conservative House Republicans.
And then they were done for the week.
THIS WEEK ON THE HOUSE FLOOR:
MONDAY, JULY 13TH
On Monday, the House will 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:
1) H.R. 1023 – Small Business Investment Company Capital Act of 2015 (Sponsored by Rep. Steve Chabot / Small Business Committee)
2) H.R. 2670 – Microloan Modernization Act of 2015 (Sponsored by Rep. Seth Moulton / Small Business Committee)
3) H.R. 2499 – Veterans Entrepreneurship Act of 2015 (Sponsored by Rep. Steve Chabot / Small Business Committee)
4) H.R. 208 – Superstorm Sandy Relief and Disaster Loan Program Improvement Act of 2015 (Sponsored by Rep. Nydia Velázquez / Small Business Committee)
5) H.R. 387 – Economic Development Through Tribal Land Exchange Act (Sponsored by Rep. Raul Ruiz / Natural Resources Committee)
6) S. 179 – To designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 14 3rd Avenue, NW, in Chisholm, Minnesota, as the “James L. Oberstar Memorial Post Office Building” (Sponsored by Sen. Amy Klobuchar / Oversight and Government Reform Committee)
TUESDAY, JULY 14TH
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:
1) H.R. 251 – Homes for Heroes Act of 2015 (Sponsored by Rep. Al Green / Financial Services Committee)
2) H.R. 432 – SBIC Advisers Relief Act (Sponsored by Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer / Financial Services Committee)
3) H.R. 1047 – Housing Assistance Efficiency Act (Sponsored by Rep. Scott Peters / Financial Services Committee)
4) H.R. 1334 – Holding Company Registration Threshold Equalization Act of 2015 (Sponsored by Rep. Steve Womack / Financial Services Committee)
5) H.R. 1408 – Mortgage Servicing Asset Capital Requirements Act of 2015 (Sponsored by Rep. Ed Perlmutter / Financial Services Committee)
6) H.R. 1529 – Community Institution Mortgage Relief Act of 2015(Sponsored by Rep. Brad Sherman / Financial Services Committee)
7) H.R. 1675 – Encouraging Employee Ownership Act of 2015(Sponsored by Rep. Randy Hultgren / Financial Services Committee)
8) H.R. 1723 – Small Company Simple Registration Act of 2015(Sponsored by Rep. Ann Wagner / Financial Services Committee)
9) H.R. 1847 – Swap Data Repository and Clearinghouse Indemnification Correction Act of 2015, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. Rick Crawford / Financial Services Committee)
10) H.R. 2064 – Improving Access to Capital for Emerging Growth Companies Act (Sponsored by Rep. Stephen Fincher / Financial Services Committee)
11) H.R. 2354 – Streamlining Excessive and Costly Regulations Review Act (Sponsored by Rep. Robert Hurt / Financial Services Committee)
12) H.R. 2482 – Preservation Enhancement and Savings Opportunity Act of 2015 (Sponsored by Rep. Erik Paulsen / Financial Services Committee)
13) H.R. 2722 – Breast Cancer Awareness Commemorative Coin Act, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. Carolyn Maloney / Financial Services Committee)
14) H.R. 2997 – Private Investment in Housing Act of 2015(Sponsored by Rep. Dennis Ross / Financial Services Committee)
WEDNESDAY, JULY 15TH AND THE BALANCE OF THE WEEK
On Wednesday, the House will meet at 10:00 a.m. for morning hour and 12:00 p.m. for legislative business.
On Thursday, the House will meet at 9:00 a.m. for legislative business. Last votes expected no later than 3:00 p.m.
On Friday, no votes are expected in the House.
H.R. 2898 – Western Water and American Food Security Act of 2015, Rules Committee Print (Subject to a Rule) (Sponsored by Rep. David Valadao / Natural Resources Committee / Agriculture Committee)
Possible Consideration of a Motion to Go to Conference on H.R. 644 – Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act
**Additional Items are possible**
So the consideration of appropriations bills has come to a grinding halt in the House. The Interior-Environment appropriations bill is still halfway done, but there’s no indication the House Leadership intends to bring it back to the floor this week to finish it. Instead, the House will spend most of Monday and Tuesday dealing with bills considered under Suspension of the Rules, which, we all remember, means that the Leadership considers them to be non-controversial.
Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who sets the floor schedule, has indicated that he’s leaving time later in the week for possible consideration of a Motion To Go to Conference with the Senate on H.R. 644, the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act.
LAST WEEK ON THE SENATE FLOOR:
The Senate came back from the July 4th break and began as it seems it always does, with a 5:30 PM Monday evening confirmation vote on a non-controversial judicial or executive branch appointment. This time it was a vote on a nominee to be a Circuit Judge on the U.S. Federal Circuit, and she sailed through by a vote of 95-0.
Then the Senate moved to take up Sen. Lamar Alexander’s revised S. 1177, the Every Child Achieves Act. You’ll recall this bill was pulled from floor consideration in the Senate earlier this year.
After considering a number of amendments through the course of the week, on Thursday the Senate took a break from the education bill and took up H.R. 1735, the FY 2016 National Defense Authorization Act. Cloture was invoked by a vote of 81-15, and then the Motion To Go to Conference was adopted by voice vote.
Then the Senate went back to the education bill before wrapping things up for the week.
THIS WEEK ON THE SENATE FLOOR:
The Senate will pick up where it left off, with consideration of S. 1177, the Every Child Achieves Act. There are still eight amendments pending to the legislation.
Last Tuesday, Hillary Clinton sat for an interview with CNN. In that interview, she insisted that she had never been subpoenaed for her emails related to Benghazi. “Everything I did was permitted by law and regulation,” she said. “Now, I didn’t have to turn over anything, I chose to turn over 55,000 pages because I wanted to go above and beyond what was expected of me, because I knew the vast majority of everything that was official already was in the State Department system.”
The next day, U.S. Rep. Trey Gowdy’s Select Committee on Benghazi released the subpoena it had issued to Secretary Clinton on March 4. Gowdy reminded us that she had a statutory duty to preserve records from her time as Secretary, and a further legal duty to cooperate fully and candidly with congressional investigators.
“Moreover, the timing of the secretary’s decision to delete and attempt to permanently destroy emails is curious at best,” he continued. “The secretary left office in February of 2013. By her own admission she did not delete or destroy emails until the fall of 2014, well after this committee had been actively engaged in securing her emails from the Department of State. For 20 months it was not too burdensome or cumbersome for the secretary to house records on her personal server, but, mysteriously, in the fall of 2014, she decided to delete and attempt to permanently destroy those same records.”
Needless to say, this will be an important topic of discussion when Secretary Clinton testifies before the Select Committee. That testimony is still waiting to be scheduled.
As discussed previously, the House and Senate both dealt with reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. See above.
Senator Lindsey Graham of SC is the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee Subcommittee on the State Department and Foreign Operations. Last December, when President Obama announced his opening to Cuba, reversing a half century of U.S. policy, Sen. Graham announced his opposition to the move, and declared that the President would have a hard time getting funding for a new embassy.
It seems, however, that Sen. Graham hadn’t checked first with the members of his Appropriations Subcommittee. Last week, his subcommittee marked up the State Department and Foreign Operations appropriations bill, and it did not contain any prohibitions on funding a new embassy.
Nevertheless, Graham says he’ll consider trying to amend the bill on the floor.
Appearing Sunday morning on FOX News Sunday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was asked whether the Senate would confirm a new U.S. Ambassador to Cuba, and whether the Congress would lift sanctions against the Castro regime.
“Let me quote somebody I rarely quote, former President Jimmy Carter who would be hard pressed to think of any place in the world where we were in better shape than we were when President Obama came to office. President Carter got it right. What this President has been involved in is talking to a lot of countries.
“Talk, talk, talk. Cuba is a good example. He thinks that simply by engaging with them we get a positive result. I don’t see any indication that Cubans are going to change their behavior. What are we getting as a result of normalization of relations? I think we will not confirm an ambassador. They believe they don’t need that. There are sanctions that were imposed by Congress. I think the administration will have a very hard time getting those removed. This is a policy that there is substantial opposition to in Congress.”
Meanwhile, on the House side, the State Department and Foreign Operations appropriations bill does contain language that would block the creation of a new U.S. embassy. That bill was reported out of committee on June 15, and is awaiting a floor vote in the House.
As we get closer to Congress taking up the highway bill – which, in one form or another, will have to be reauthorized in both Houses before the end of this month – opponents of reauthorizing the Export-Import Bank have identified a new tactic: They plan to block President Obama from filling vacancies on the board of directors of the bank.
This is crucial, because the bank’s charter requires that at least three of the five seats on the board of directors must be filled before the bank can approve transactions larger than $10 million. Within 10 days, there will only be three members of that board, and that number could drop to just two soon thereafter.
President Obama reappointed Patricia Loui, one of the current board members, in March, but the Senate has not yet confirmed her reappointment. The Senate has six months to confirm her reappointment. That six-month period ends on September 10. So if she isn’t confirmed before then, her reappointment dies, and the Ex-Im board will be left with just two members – not enough to approve transactions larger than $10 million.
Last Tuesday, the President hosted Democratic Senators at the White House, and told the assembled Senators that he would not accept a bad deal in the current negotiations with Iran. He also declared that the chances of an agreement with Iran were “less than 50-50.”
As you’ll recall, the last time we spoke about this, I mentioned that July 9 was a key date for the negotiations: Under the terms of the law, a deal submitted to Congress for review under the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act would sit before Congress for review for just 30 days, while a deal submitted after July 9 would be reviewed for 60 days.
The July 9 deadline came and went last week, and on Friday, the negotiators agreed to extend the interim agreement until Monday, July 13 to give themselves more time to work. That’s the third extension in just the last two weeks.