Tea Party Patriots Weekly Report from Washington for 09/20/15
The House is out of session Monday through Wednesday, then will return Thursday for a Joint Meeting of Congress to receive Pope Francis. Then they will stay in session through Friday.
The Senate will return on Monday, with no votes scheduled until Tuesday, and stay in session through Friday.
LAST WEEK ON THE HOUSE FLOOR:
The House had a short week last week – they were out for Rosh Hashanah on Monday and Tuesday, and didn’t come back into session until Wednesday. That day was spent on bills brought up under Suspension of the Rules. Ten of them passed by voice vote, and two of them passed by roll call votes with more than 400 votes each, which begs the question – why the heck did someone demand roll call votes on them?
On Thursday, the House voted on one bill – H.R. 758, the Lawsuit Abuse Reduction Act of 2015, sponsored by Lamar Smith of TX, to amend Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure to improve attorney accountability by restoring mandatory sanctions against lawyers who file frivolous lawsuits.
All the real action in the House – or so the House GOP Leadership would have you believe – occurred on Friday, when the House took up and passed both H.R. 3134, the Defund Planned Parenthood Act of 2015, sponsored by Diane Black, and H.R. 3504, the Born-Alive Survivors Protection Act of 2015, sponsored by Trent Franks.
Of course, that’s not true at all, and we’ll talk more about that in a few moments.
NEXT WEEK ON THE HOUSE FLOOR:
The House had originally intended to take the entire week off, but that was before it was announced that the Pope would be coming. So now the House will come back into session on Thursday morning at 8:45 for legislative business, and then recess immediately. They’ll reconvene at 9:45 for a Joint Meeting of Congress to receive the Pope.
Later on Thursday, the House will consider 11 bills on the Suspension Calendar, and then they’ll take up H.R. 348, the RAPID Act – that’s the Responsibly and Professionally Invigorating Development Act – sponsored by Lamar Smith of TX. The bill establishes procedures to streamline regulatory review, environmental decision making, and the permitting process regarding major federal actions that are construction activities undertaken, reviewed, or funded by the Federal government.
The Rule for the bill makes in order 10 different amendments, so it’ll take them a while to get through this bill.
LAST WEEK ON THE SENATE FLOOR:
The Senate came back into session on Tuesday, and resumed its consideration of H.J. Res. 61, the vehicle for the Congressional resolution of disapproval against the Iran nuclear deal. Before the vote took place, Leader McConnell announced that if Senate Democrats again blocked a vote on the resolution of disapproval by filibustering the bill, he would then introduce and force them to vote on a new amendment that would block implementation of the Iran deal until the Iranian regime recognizes Israel’s right to exist AND releases the American prisoners held in Iran.
Nevertheless, Harry Reid held his Senate Democrats together, and they defeated cloture on the McConnell substitute amendment by a vote of 56-42. So McConnell filed cloture on his amendment #2656, prohibiting the lifting of sanctions until Iran releases Americans held in Iran and recognizes Israel’s right to exist; he filed cloture again on his substitute amendment #2640; and he filed cloture on H.J. Res. 61, the House-passed underlying vehicle.
On Thursday, the Senate began by voting on cloture on McConnell’s Israel and American prisoners amendment. Cloture failed by a vote of 53-45. Then the Senate turned to his substitute amendment #2640. Cloture failed by a vote of 56-42. McConnell never moved to vote on H.J. Res. 61.
Then he filed cloture on the Motion To Proceed to H.R. 36, the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, the Trent Franks-sponsored bill that passed the House on May 13 of this year by a vote of 242-184, which essentially prohibits abortions performed after 20 weeks. Yes, this is the Senate Majority Leader’s attempt to throw a bone to the pro-life community, which very much wants him instead to defund Planned Parenthood.
NEXT WEEK ON THE SENATE FLOOR:
The Senate will come back into session on Monday afternoon at 2 PM, with no votes scheduled until Tuesday.
The Senate will begin work on Monday to resume consideration of the Motion To Proceed to H.R. 36, the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act. Leader McConnell has set aside Monday for debate on the bill, but no votes will take place until Tuesday. McConnell filed cloture on that motion on Thursday, so, absent a Unanimous Consent agreement, the cloture vote on the Motion To Proceed will occur one hour after the Senate comes into session on Tuesday.
Politico reported last Monday that classified emails passed through commercial email services like Google and AOL on their way to or from Hillary Clinton’s private email server when she was Secretary of State, but the government appears not to have done anything to secure or retrieve those messages. At least 55 Clinton emails now deemed classified appear to have been to or from private accounts other than Clinton’s.
The Senate cast three more votes this week on the Iran nuclear deal – twice, Leader McConnell attempted to invoke cloture on his substitute amendment resolution of disapproval, and once, he attempted to invoke cloture on his amendment blocking a lifting of congressional sanctions until Iran recognizes Israel’s right to exist and releases American hostages.
And, near as we can now tell, that’s all the Senate is going to do on the issue. If you believe, as the Obama Administration does, that the 60-day clock mandated by the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act started ticking on July 19, then Thursday, September 17 was the deadline for passage of a resolution of disapproval in either house. But that resolution of disapproval was never passed in either house – the House never took one up, and the Senate could not get cloture to vote on such a resolution. And with that, it appears the President will consider the Iran deal sanctified by Congress, and no one in the Senate GOP leadership will fight on.
Of course, that does not sit well with many GOP members of the House, 57 of whom have signed a letter to Leader McConnell urging him to invoke the nuclear option and drop the threshold needed for passage of a resolution of disapproval to just 51 votes. It’s easy to understand why they feel this is necessary – heck, even House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy pointed out that the filibuster is nowhere to be found in the Constitution, it’s merely a Rule of the Senate, and Rules can be (and are) changed from time to time. But I can just about guarantee you that’s not going to happen, because McConnell is an Old School traditionalist, and he will not throw away the legislative filibuster – especially to pass a bill that the President would certainly veto, and for which that veto could not be overridden.
So … why wouldn’t the Republicans fight this deal harder, if they were really as opposed to it as they say they are? Some of us have been scratching our heads at that for months now, trying to figure it out. Andy McCarthy, writing at National Review Online, offers a suggestion, and it’s based on a question that goes back to Roman times: In Latin, it’s “cui bono?” In English, that translates as “Who benefits?” McCarthy thinks our premise is wrong, and suggests leading Republicans do NOT, in fact, really oppose this deal. Why? For the obvious, if despicable, reason – some of their biggest campaign contributors stand to gain a ton of money if the deal goes through. Case in point: Boeing, a huge contributor to GOP candidates and party organizations. Boeing stands to sell scores, if not hundreds, of new planes to the Iranian national airline the moment they are allowed to. And that would mean tens of billions of dollars to Boeing over the next decade.
Craven? Yes. Cynical? Definitely. Black helicopter-ish? Not at all. Such is the leadership of the congressional wing of the modern Republican Party. Am I saying I know for sure, or even believe, that the reason Mitch McConnell and Bob Corker set themselves up to fail in blocking the Iran deal is because they actually want it to go through? No, I’m not. But I AM saying it’s POSSIBLE that’s what is going on here. And the very fact that I could think it POSSIBLE is disturbing.
PLANNED PARENTHOOD FUNDING:
In ten days, the latest temporary, partial government shutdown will begin. How long it lasts is anybody’s guess, but I’m betting it won’t be that long, because John Boehner and Mitch McConnell will wave the white flag as soon as they can.
Let’s back up.
There are two major forces at play that lead me to believe we’re on our way to a shutdown:
First, congressional conservatives’ demands that no further taxpayer dollars be spent on Planned Parenthood, an organization apparently revealed by undercover video to be illegally trafficking in human body parts;
Second, Democrats’ demands – from the President on down – that Republicans agree to blow up the Sequester spending caps put in place by the 2011 Budget Control Act, which even Mitch McConnell acknowledges are the most effective spending restraint enacted during the Obama presidency.
Either one of these two dynamics would, on its own, make a shutdown a near certainty. Together, they combine to form such a toxin that I don’t see how a shutdown can be avoided.
When it comes to defunding Planned Parenthood, House GOP leaders are trying to figure out how to get a square peg in a round hole. They need to satisfy the demands of their hardest-core conservatives, while passing a funding bill – a Continuing Resolution – that keeps the government open, which is another way of saying, passing a funding bill that the President will sign. But the President has made clear that he will sign no C.R. that contains any provisions blocking funding to Planned Parenthood.
So there’s the dilemma for the House GOP Leadership: Satisfy their congressional constituents (that is, their own GOP Members), and you send a bill to the Senate that Harry Reid won’t allow on the floor – and, even if he did, the President would veto it. Or move left to satisfy Harry Reid and the President (which could involve adding something to the bill they want – Ex-Im reauthorization, or breaking the Sequester spending caps, for example), and leave your own congressional constituents hopping mad. It’s quite the sticky wicket.
So last week, the House GOP Leadership began musing out loud about the possibility of using the reconciliation process to get a Planned Parenthood defund bill past the certain Senate Democrat filibuster. If they used reconciliation, they figured, at least they’d be able to get the bill to the President’s desk, where he could veto it, and they could at least go home and say they did all they could. In the minds of the House GOP Leadership, that’s all that can fairly and reasonably asked of them, and our side gets a good vote out of the exercise – a vote we can use in next year’s campaigns against those Democrats who continued to vote to fund Planned Parenthood despite these gruesome videos.
Of course, using reconciliation to defund Planned Parenthood might not be as easy as they think. For one thing, it assumes that no more than three Republicans defect on the vote. But there are seven GOP Senators running for reelection in Blue States, and four or more of them might feel it the safer move, politically, to vote against defunding Planned Parenthood.
Perhaps more importantly, the reconciliation process was set up to make it easier to trim the deficit, and it’s quite possible the Senate Parliamentarian could decide that even though such a measure would, in fact, save money (in the short run, at least), the Parliamentarian could also just as easily rule that because the essential purpose of the measure has nothing to do with the deficit, but is instead really a statement of social policy, it’s not proper to use the reconciliation process.
Plus, the Leadership already promised to use reconciliation to repeal ObamaCare – that was why some conservatives, like Jim Jordan, voted for the GOP budget in the first place.
But even if the Leadership decided to use reconciliation to get a defunding bill past the Senate Democrats, it would still only get as far as the President’s desk, because he would certainly veto it. So all you’d get out of the exercise is another so-called “good vote.”
Sadly, the House GOP Leadership still does not understand its own membership. The conservatives who signed Mick Mulvaney’s letter couldn’t care less about getting a vote on a bill defunding Planned Parenthood; they actually WANT TO DEFUND THE ORGANIZATION. And they know that neither a vote on a standalone bill (like Diane Black’s Defund Planned Parenthood Act) or a reconciliation bill (like the one Leadership is considering) will do the job, because even if such a bill were to get through the Senate and get to the President’s desk, the President could and would veto it. So, they demand that the language be attached to the Continuing Resolution, because the President MUST sign a C.R. or have the government shut down.
But here’s the problem: Democrats WANT the government to shut down over funding for Planned Parenthood. Why? Because it will hurt congressional Republicans. Harry Reid is itching to block a vote in the Senate. For him, it’s a two-fer: He gets to rail at Republicans who, in his view, simply want to gut women’s healthcare, and he gets a shutdown he can blame on the GOP.
How is this going to be reported in the mainstream media, if it gets to that? We already know, because we’ve seen this movie for years – the mainstream media will report that congressional Republicans are gutting women’s healthcare, and they’re SO determined to gut women’s healthcare that they’re willing to shut down the government to do it. And then Barack Obama and Harry Reid will cackle with glee while they watch congressional Republicans go to war with themselves, and eventually cave. And how do I know they will eventually cave, and agree ultimately to send to the President a clean C.R.? Because THEY ALWAYS CAVE.
For any of you who might be thinking, “But, Bill, these videos have been so terribly graphic. Surely, there’s no way in the world that anyone would want to vote to defend those practices. The Democrats are crazy to go out onto that limb. This is a shutdown fight we can WIN!” … I say to you, “No. Trust me, you’re wrong.”
Think about two years ago, when Tea Party Patriots and others worked as hard as we did to block ObamaCare from going into effect. Mark Meadows circulated a letter and got 70 fellow Republicans to sign it, declaring their opposition to funding ObamaCare. Blood was spilled, and we finally convinced the House Leadership to defund ObamaCare in the Continuing Resolution. And how did the Senate Democrats respond? Harry Reid refused to even take up the bill in the Senate. The President never even had to veto a C.R. And the government went into a temporary partial shutdown that lasted 16 days.
We lost that fight in the eyes of the public. The GOP’s favorability ratings plummeted. And that was on an issue where we’d worked it for MONTHS ahead of time. Petitions had been signed, grassroots organizations had been mobilized. Jenny Beth and others went on a national fly-around, hitting more than a dozen media markets during the August recess, building support for strong action on an issue where more than half the country was already on our side. And yet we still lost that fight – ObamaCare was never defunded.
Guess what? Planned Parenthood is a lot more popular than ObamaCare. We’ve had no month-long national tour. We’ve had no mobilization of grassroots organizations. Mick Mulvaney has circulated a letter similar to the Meadows letter from two years ago – but where Meadows was able to get 70 signers, Mulvaney at last count had just 31 signatures, fewer than half as many as were on the Meadows letter.
That was lies defeat.
So, there are really only two questions if they follow that script: First, how long does it take them to cave, and, second, what do they have to give up in the end to get the Democrats to agree to allow them to walk back in off the ledge? Will it be Ex-Im reauthorization, or a major busting of the Sequester spending caps, or both, or something we haven’t even thought about yet?
I understand fighting for Lost Causes. Hell, I’m a Southerner, raised in Virginia, and I suckled at the teat of the Lost Cause. Then I reached adulthood, and, as a conservative Republican, I’ve run statewide races in places like New Jersey and Illinois. Trust me, I know all about the Valiant Effort on behalf of the Noble Cause.
But when it comes to this particular Lost Cause, I see no good to be gained by it.
And here’s the odd part – it doesn’t have to be this way.
Let me ask a rhetorical question: Is the problem with taxpayer funding of Planned Parenthood the fact that it’s Planned Parenthood, and it performs more than 300,000 abortions every year, and we know money is fungible, and we don’t want our taxpayer dollars going anywhere near abortion? Or is the problem with taxpayer funding of Planned Parenthood the fact that we’ve all now seen 10 grisly videos that sure make it look like at least some Planned Parenthood affiliates are trafficking in human body parts against the law, and we want to stop that?
It cannot be the former. How do I know? Because Planned Parenthood has been getting hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars for decades, and they have been performing abortions the whole time. And no serious effort to defund them has taken place during all that time – certainly not an effort serious enough to warrant consideration of legislative maneuvering that could result in a government shutdown.
So it must be the latter. The real problem is that we’ve now seen these videos, and it looks like Planned Parenthood is illegally trafficking in human body parts. That’s what we want to stop, and those who support the defund effort are trying to use the cudgel of taxpayer funding to give them leverage to end the practice.
But what if there’s another way to end the practice of trafficking in human body parts that doesn’t involve maneuvering around a Continuing Resolution? It’s already illegal to make a profit by selling body parts. Planned Parenthood gets away with what they get away with by claiming that the so-called “costs” we’ve all heard on the tapes relate to the “expenses” involved in harvesting the tissue. They are not profiting, they’re merely covering their costs, and that’s perfectly legal under current law. And guess what? That IS perfectly legal under current law.
So make it illegal to take ANY money, including expense money, for the sale or transactions relating to human fetal tissue. Not coincidentally, there’s a bill that’s been introduced that does exactly that. It’s called H.R. 3429, and it was introduced by Kevin Yoder of KS. It’s already got 58 co-sponsors as of last Friday.
The one downside with H.R. 3429 is that it’s a stand-alone. But two things occur to me:
First, even though it’s a stand-alone, it has all the trappings of a must-pass. How does someone argue against this? How does the President veto this?
Second, if it does NOT pass, then you really DO have an issue you can use against defenders of Planned Parenthood. We took what even the mainstream media would find to define as anything other than the so-called “reasonable” course, and it was only the die-hards on the left who refused to go along with that reasonable response.
It seems to me H.R. 3429 is a much better bill to move, if the goal is to stop the trafficking in human body parts.
As I mentioned, Planned Parenthood funding is one of two conflicts between Democrats and Republicans that could lead to a shutdown; the second issue is the Democrats’ insistence that the Sequester spending caps enacted as part of the Budget Control Act of 2011 be scrapped entirely and for good.
The President met at the White House Thursday with Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi. After the meeting was done, Reid and Pelosi took questions from the press and revealed that all three were united in their demands going into the budget negotiations – they pushed for a “clean” short-term Continuing Resolution, with no policy riders, to keep the government open, and insisted that any additional funding be split evenly, dollar-for-dollar, between defense and domestic discretionary spending.
Republican leaders on Capitol Hill still haven’t figured out how they’re going to handle this. They don’t know if the House is going to go first, or the Senate (remember, this is a spending bill, not a tax bill, so there’s no Constitutional requirement that it start in the House), and they don’t know if they’re going to offer up a C.R. that continues to spend money at this fiscal year’s spending levels, or this year’s spending levels plus 2% or 4% or 6% on the defense side, with no additional spending on the domestic discretionary side, or what.
But the clock is ticking. If SOMETHING is not passed by both houses and signed by the President before October 1, ten days from now, then the government will go into a temporary, partial shutdown.
Susan Collins of ME celebrated her 6,000th consecutive vote in the Senate on Thursday, and the Senate stopped so her colleagues could celebrate what they called her “legendary” work habits. Her streak goes back to 1997, when she cast a vote in favor of the confirmation of Madeleine Albright to be Secretary of State under Bill Clinton – but even at that, she’s still almost 1,500 votes behind the longest active consecutive voting streak in the Senate, held by Chuck Grassley of IA, who has 7,447 straight votes as of last week. THAT streak goes back to 1993.
Of course, the record for the longest all-time consecutive voting streak goes back to a Senator by the name of William Proxmire, who, during 22 years between 1966 and 1988, cast 10,252 straight votes.
Proxmire is a study in perseverance. He won his seat in the Senate in a special election held in 1957 to fill out the remainder of the term vacated by the death of Senator Joseph McCarthy on May 2 of that year. The Republicans had nominated a popular three-term former governor, and Proxmire had already lost three straight statewide elections. But Proxmire was a man with no quit in him, and, in a stunning upset, he prevailed on his fourth attempt.
His swearing-in two days after his election was historic, as well – the ceremony afforded South Carolina Democrat Strom Thurmond the only respite he took during his own 24 hour and 18 minute long filibuster, the longest one-man filibuster in the history of the Senate. The bill Thurmond objected to was the Civil Rights Act – and when Thurmond was finally done with his filibuster, Proxmire proudly cast his first vote FOR the bill.
PLANNED PARENTHOOD FUNDING: