Tea Party Patriots Weekly Report from Washington for 07/19/15
The House will come back into session on Tuesday, with the first votes scheduled for 6:30 PM. The House will stay in session until Friday, with the last votes expected no later than 3 PM.
The Senate will come back into session at 10 AM Tuesday, with no votes scheduled before 2:15 PM. At that point, the Senate is expected to vote on cloture on the Motion To Proceed to H.R. 22 the vehicle for the surface transportation reauthorization bill, known more colloquially as the Highway Bill. They will still in session until Friday.
LAST WEEK ON THE HOUSE FLOOR:
The House began its work last week on Monday, taking up six bills on the Suspension Calendar. Five of them passed by voice vote, and one of them passed by a vote of 410-1, with Justin Amash casting the lone vote in dissent.
They came back on Tuesday and took up 11 bills on the Suspension Calendar. Seven passed by voice vote, and the other four all passed with more than the 2/3 majority required.
Wednesday was two more bills on the Suspension Calendar, both of which passed by voice vote, and then a vote on H.R. 3038, the Highway and Transportation Funding Act of 215, Part II, which passed by a vote of 312-119, with two “No Votes.” For those keeping score at home, it was designated “Part II” because the House had already passed an earlier extension of the Highway Trust Fund, in May.
This bill was introduced on Monday evening, July 13, less than two days before the House voted on it. It extends the expenditure authority of the Highway Trust Fund through December 18 of this year. It also authorizes appropriations for Federal-aid highway, highway safety, and public transportation programs.
So, why the five-month extension, and not a full 6-year authorization? Because the House hasn’t had time to figure out what it wants to do long-term, but House leaders wanted to pass a highway bill before the Senate could – that is, this was a deliberate attempt to jam the Senate, because House leaders know that the Senate is going to try to use its version of the highway bill as their vehicle to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank. Pro-Ex-Im Senators have made clear their determination to add an Ex-Im reauthorization amendment to the upcoming highway bill vote in the Senate; so, by acting first, and getting a big bipartisan majority, House opponents of Ex-Im reauthorization were trying to put themselves in a better position for that fight with the Senate.
Getting 312 votes for a clean highway bill, with no Ex-Im reauthorization amendment, serves that interest well. It means the House doesn’t have to take up the bill the Senate will likely pass this week, which will most likely include that amendment reauthorizing the Ex-Im Bank. And that means the House won’t have to try to strip the Ex-Im reauthorization amendment on the floor; instead, when the Senate passes its version of the highway bill this week, they’ll just go to conference with the House-passed bill.
The House finished its week Thursday, by passing H.R. 2898, the Western Water and American Food Security Act by a vote of 245-176, with 12 “No Votes.”
THIS WEEK ON THE HOUSE FLOOR:
MONDAY, JULY 20TH
On Monday, the House will meet at 2:00 p.m. in pro forma session. No votes are expected.
TUESDAY, JULY 21ST
On Tuesday, 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. 2256 – Veterans Information Modernization Act, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. Dan Benishek / Veterans’ Affairs Committee)
2) H.R. 237 – FTO Passport Revocation Act of 2015, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. Ted Poe / Foreign Affairs Committee)
3) H.R. 1557 – Federal Employee Antidiscrimination Act of 2015 (Sponsored by Rep. Elijah Cummings / Oversight and Government Reform Committee)
4) H.R. 1473 – John F. Kennedy Center Reauthorization Act of 2015 (Sponsored by Rep. Lou Barletta / Transportation & Infrastructure Committee)
WEDNESDAY, JULY 22ND
On Wednesday, the House will meet at 10:00 a.m. for morning hour and 12:00 p.m. for legislative business.
H.R. 1734 – Improving Coal Combustion Residuals Regulation Act of 2015 (Subject to a Rule) (Sponsored by Rep. David McKinley / Energy and Commerce Committee)
THURSDAY, JULY 23RD AND THE BALANCE OF THE WEEK
On Thursday, the House will meet at 10:00 a.m. for morning hour and 12:00 p.m. for legislative business.
On Friday, the House will meet at 9:00 a.m. for legislative business. Last votes expected no later than 3:00 p.m.
H.R. 1599 – Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2015, Rules Committee Print (Subject to a Rule) (Sponsored by Rep. Mike Pompeo / Energy and Commerce Committee / Agriculture Committee)
**Additional Legislative Items are possible**
This week’s action on the House floor will center on two bills regarding the EPA’s regulations on power plants’ disposal of coal ash, and the labeling of food products manufactured with genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
So the House will start the week on Tuesday with four bills on the Suspension Calendar. Wednesday, they’ll take up the coal ash bill. Thursday, they’ll take up the GMO labeling bill. And Friday may see action on the conference report on the defense authorization bill.
LAST WEEK ON THE SENATE FLOOR:
The Senate spent the early part of the week considering various amendments to S. 1177, the Every Child Achieves Act. On Tuesday, the Senate considered an amendment allowing for portability of funding for low-income children offered by Sen. Tim Scott of SC that mirrored a provision in the House-passed ESEA reauthorization. That amendment failed by a vote of 45-51. Then the Senate considered a parental notification and opt-out amendment offered by Sen. Mike Lee of UT, which failed by a vote of 32-64. Later that afternoon, the Senate considered an amendment offered by Sen. Ted Cruz of TX that would have provided for state-determined assessment and accountability systems, but it was defeated by a vote of 40-58. The previous week, the Senate had considered and rejected an amendment offered by Sen. Steve Daines of MT that would have allowed states to set their own education policies, by a vote of 44-54.
By the time the Senate was done with the amendment process on S. 1177, it had taken roll call votes on 20 amendments – that’s more roll call votes on amendments on that one bill than the Senate took all of last year, on all bills, combined.
On Thursday, the Senate wrapped up its work on the bill. Cloture was invoked by a vote of 79-18, and then the bill was passed by a vote of 81-17.
Here’s the problem: The Senate defeated the amendments offered by Sens. Lee, Cruz, Scott, and Daines. Taken together, these four amendments formed the core of the conservative attempts to modify the bill to truly put the states back in charge of education; with the failure of all four, the bill, unfortunately, is mostly talk and little action. That is, there’s nice language in there about putting the states back in charge, but no real teeth to the reforms. The Senate missed an opportunity to devolve power from the federal government to the states.
The good news is, this bill is not the final word; the bill now will go to conference with the House, which passed its version of ESEA reauthorization the week before last. The bad news is, even though the White House has threatened to veto that bill, it’s still not good enough to satisfy education reformers – and in conference, it’s not likely to get any better.
Later on Thursday, Majority Leader McConnell began the Rule 14 process on H.R. 3038, the House-passed highway bill, so it can come directly to the Senate floor.
THIS WEEK ON THE SENATE FLOOR:
The Senate will start the week Tuesday with a cloture vote on the Motion To Proceed to H.R. 22, the vehicle for surface transportation reauthorization. The bill still has not been finalized, and discussions continue. Contrary to what the House did when it voted for a 5-month extension of highway funding, the Senate is hoping to finish a 6-year authorization bill.
The Select Committee on Benghazi has confirmed that the State Department never turned over two emails from September 29, 2012 between then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and aides Cheryl Mills, Philippe Reines, and Jake Sullivan. The emails involved an exchange where the staffers were preparing Secretary Clinton for an upcoming conversation with a U.S. Senator about the events at Benghazi. State argued in a court filing that the two emails were protected from disclosure because they were “non-final drafts,” declaring that “the bodies of these messages consist in their entirety of information that is pre-decisional and deliverable in nature … Release of this material could reasonably be expected to chill the frank deliberations that occur when senior staff are preparing points or other draft remarks for us by senior Department officials in addressing a matter of public controversy.”
In other words, we’re not going to share anything with you that would indicate exactly how we guided the Secretary of State to dissemble.
Said the Select Committee’s spokesman in response, “There is no legal privilege which protects the administration from embarrassing emails, emails that substantially impeach previous administration positions, or evidence of wholly contradictory statements by administration officials … Chairman Gowdy believes these documents should have been produced to the Committee since the Committee is expressly charged with investigating all aspects of this administration’s response to the attacks in Benghazi including any efforts, however meager, to comply with congressional oversight.”
The Freedom of Information Act does, in fact, allow for exceptions of certain kinds of documents, including what’s known as the “Deliberative Process Privilege.” But the documents in questions aren’t being requested via a FOIA request – they’re the subject of a congressional subpoena.
At 4 AM on the morning of Monday, July 20, the flag of Cuba will be hoisted in the U.S. Department of State. Later that morning, the Cuban Interests Section in Washington, DC will become the Cuban Embassy, and Barack Obama’s Apology and Capitulation Tour will continue. The only thing I find surprising about this is that they chose the wrong date – if they had waited just six days longer, they could have officially reestablished diplomatic relations on July 26, a national holiday in Cuba that celebrates the anniversary of Fidel Castro’s failed attack on the Moncada Barracks in 1953. That’s the day that is honored as the first battle of the Castro Revolution, and typically celebrated throughout the island nation with distribution of an extra food ration and a seven-hour speech by Fidel.
EXECUTIVE AMNESTY/ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION:
A week ago last Thursday, Pennsylvania Congressman Lou Barletta introduced H.R. 3002, the Mobilizing Against Sanctuary Cities Act. The bill would prohibit “a state or local government from receiving federal financial assistance for a minimum of one year if it restricts or prohibits a government entity or official from (1) sending to or receiving from the responsible federal immigration agency information regarding an individual’s citizenship or immigration status, or (2) maintaining or exchanging information about an individual’s status.” The bill has 14 cosponsors.
House and Senate conservative leaders and leaders of several outside conservative organizations – including Jenny Beth Martin of Tea Party Patriots – held a press conference last Wednesday morning to make clear their determination to keep the Ex-Im Bank dead. In addition to Jenny Beth, Sens. Ted Cruz and Mike Lee, and Reps. Jim Jordan (chairman of the House Freedom Caucus) and Bill Flores (chairman of the Republican Study Committee) joined with leaders from Senate Conservatives Fund, Heritage Action for America, and Club for Growth. Sen. Cruz said he would use all the tools available to him – possibly including a filibuster – to keep the Bank dead. I’ve included several links in the Suggested Reading to show you the kind of coverage the event generated.
On Tuesday, July 14, after 20 months of negotiations between the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, Germany (that is, the so-called “P5+1”), and Iran – negotiations that resembled Bill Cosby’s pharmaceutically-aided seductions of young actresses, with Iran playing the Cosby role and the U.S. standing in for the drugged, naïve ingénue – negotiators announced they had reached agreement on a pact that would ensure Iran’s path to development and deployment of nuclear weapons 10 years from now, complete with ballistic missiles purchased from and supplied by Russia. Further, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action lifts international economic and financial sanctions not just on the Iranian mullahs – allowing them access to tens of billions of dollars they can use to increase their support for international terrorism – but also on 36 of the 43 individuals in Iran targeted by the international community for their roles in supporting international terrorism, while leaving at least three, and possibly four, American hostages languishing in Iranian prisons because the American negotiators chose not to insist on including their release as a condition of the agreement. Moreover, the deal lifts an international conventional arms embargo against Iran, and will require the U.S. to help secure Iranian facilities.
In exchange, the U.S. gets the right to argue with the Iranians any time we want to inspect one of their suspected nuclear weapons facilities, and allows the Iranians up to 50 days of bureaucratic delays – plenty of time in which to hide and move things – any time an inspection is proposed. And, of course, no U.S. inspectors will be allowed to inspect any Iranian facility.
As if the Administration wanted to grind its opponents into the dirt, we learned later in the week that the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Powers, had, at the direction of Secretary of State John Kerry, circulated a draft resolution at the United Nations that would enshrine the agreement as international law. Were the Congress of the United States to reject the agreement, and then override the President’s certain veto, the U.S. would be left alone on the international stage as the only actor determined to maintain economic sanctions against the mullahs.
The Secretary of State took to the Sunday shows this morning to make the argument that NO deal with Iran is a bigger fear than what we have now. Essentially, he argued that because the other members of the P5+1 have agreed to the deal, they’re all going to drop their sanctions, and if we don’t, we’ll be the odd man out. That’s like the kid who kills his parents and then throws himself on the mercy of the court because he’s an orphan. The Administration got us into this mess, and it’s wrong of them to argue that opposing it would make us worse off.
On Thursday, Rep. Peter Roskam introduced H. Res. 367, the official Resolution of Disapproval of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. As of right now, there are 165 cosponsors listed.
On Monday, we expect the U.N. Security Council to consider the Obama Administration’s resolution affirming the Iran deal. Seeing as how the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council have already signed off on the deal – they were the ones doing the negotiating – it won’t come as any surprise that the rest of the Security Council will likely go along.
That means the United Nations will have approved this deal before the U.S. Congress has had a chance to consider the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, and therein lies the trouble for Mr. Obama.
Remember, under the convoluted legislation that passed earlier this year – the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act, offered by Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker – the Constitutional treaty ratification process was turned upside down: Rather than needing to find a 2/3 majority in the U.S. Senate to vote in the affirmative to ratify the treaty before it could go into effect, the legislation requires the President to hang on to a mere 1/3 minority to get the deal through.
Here’s how it works:
Under the terms of the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act, Congress has 60 days to review the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. The first step is the Resolution of Disapproval. Rep. Peter Roskam has already introduced that, and as of Friday afternoon, it had 165 cosponsors. If that resolution garners a majority in the House (and it will), it will go to the Senate, and the Senate will consider it. If the Senate considers it, and it gets a majority there, too, it will go to the President. The President will veto it, and then it will go back to the House and Senate.
And that’s where the fun begins – because it will be a standard veto override, meaning you need 2/3 of the votes in each House to override the veto. That’s 67 votes in the Senate, and 290 votes in the House. Which means Democrats are going to be the key to rejecting this deal.
And that’s where the move to go to the United Nations first is backfiring on the President. He and his Secretary of State figured the best way to assure passage of the deal in Congress would be to jam the Congress by having the U.N. Security Council approve the deal first; how could Congress NOT approve a deal that our international allies had already agreed to, unless the rejection was simply done on the basis of partisan politics? Instead, it’s backfired on them – two key Democratic Senators, Ben Cardin of MD (the Ranking Member on the Foreign Relations Committee) and Bob Menendez of NJ (the former Ranking Member on Foreign Relations) have both expressed their displeasure at the Administration’s move.
This thing is not done. And there’s an August recess in between the INTRODUCTION of the Resolution of Disapproval and the VOTE on the Resolution of Disapproval. August recesses have not been good for President Obama and the Democrats. And, I suspect, this one won’t be any better.
Right now, I’d peg the odds of blocking this deal in the Congress at 40 percent – that is, it’s a 3-to-2 bet that it at least one House FAILS to block it. But those odds could and will change based on what happens over the August recess.
TEA PARTY PATRIOTS/JENNY BETH MARTIN: