Tea Party Patriots Weekly Report from Washington for 10/25/15
The House will return on Monday, October 26, with the first votes set for 6:30 PM. The House is currently scheduled to stay in session through Thursday, October 29, with last votes expected no later than 3 PM, but may stay later if legislative priorities demand it.
The Senate will return on Monday, October 26. The Senate will stay in session through Friday, October 30.
LAST WEEK ON THE HOUSE FLOOR:
The House returned on Tuesday of last week, and started its week by taking up six bills under Suspension. The fun one – which, sadly, will likely never see the light of day in the Senate – was H.R. 1315, offered by Rep. Luke Messer, which would require that the annual budget submissions of the President to the Congress provide an estimate of the cost per taxpayer of the deficit.
On Wednesday, the House took up another bill on Suspension, then took up both H.R. 692, the Default Prevention Act, and H.R. 10, the Scholarships for Opportunity and Results (SOAR) Reauthorization Act. H.R. 692 passed by a vote of 235-194, and H.R. 10 passed by a vote of 240-191.
On Thursday, the House took up and passed H.R. 1937, the National Strategic and Critical Minerals Production Act, which passed by a vote of 254-177.
And on Friday, the House took up and passed H.R. 3762, the Restoring America’s Healthcare Freedom Reconciliation Act – that’s the reconciliation bill sponsored by Budget Committee chairman Tom Price that repeals certain portions of ObamaCare and prohibits funding for Planned Parenthood.
This was an interesting exercise. In the days leading up to the vote, there was a disagreement inside the conservative movement, and inside the House GOP Conference. Everyone agreed that there was no way in hell that President Obama was going to sign a piece of legislation that repealed his namesake law, so all agreed out the outset that this was a messaging exercise.
But beyond that, disagreement set in.
Some took the position that because it was just a messaging exercise, they should try to repeal as much as could possibly be repealed via reconciliation (which, remember, requires that the bill reduce the deficit overall). In other words, they should live up to their campaign promises. That would have gotten through the House (presumably) but quite possibly wouldn’t have gotten through the Senate, because the rules of reconciliation in the Senate require that any provision in the reconciliation bill must either raise revenues or cut spending, and there’s lots of stuff in ObamaCare that doesn’t do either – creation of the Independent Payment Advisory Board, for instance, or community rating, or guaranteed issue.
Others took the position that even though it was just a messaging exercise, it should nevertheless stick to the rules in both House AND Senate, and be a serious attempt to show what repealing ObamaCare via reconciliation would look like.
Then, last weekend, we learned that the Senate Parliamentarian had told several GOP Senators that the House reconciliation bill as currently written wouldn’t pass its Byrd Bath because it contained repeal of the IPAB, which has no impact on revenues or spending. So at the very least, that provision
would have to be stricken. (Delightfully, Ted Cruz had a simple solution to that problem – he pointed out that “the Senate Parliamentarian works for us,” or words to that effect, implying that if the Senate Parliamentarian didn’t want to play ball, they could always fire her and hire a new one who’d be more … pliable.)
Heritage Action announced it would key-vote NO on the bill, and urged Members of Congress to vote against it, on the grounds that it didn’t go far enough to repeal ObamaCare, since it left intact community rating, guaranteed issue, Medicaid expansion, and exchange subsidies.
Problem was, voting NO on the bill would also mean you’re voting NO on blocking taxpayer funding of Planned Parenthood. Quite the dilemma.
But when it came time to vote, the disagreement appeared to have been settled. The overwhelming majority of House Republicans voted YES on the bill, leaving just seven – Ken Buck, Bob Dold, Richard Hanna, Walter Jones, Mark Meadows, Matt Salmon, and Mark Walker, only five of whom are serious conservatives – to vote against the bill.
So now it moves to the Senate.
THIS WEEK ON THE HOUSE FLOOR:
The House will open its business on Monday evening, with a vote on a bill considered under Suspension.
On Tuesday, and for the balance of the week, the House will take up seven bills on the Suspension Calendar, including H.R. 3819, the Surface Transportation Extension Act.
Further, though it’s not on the Majority Leader’s floor calendar, the House may be forced this week to take up H.R. 597, a bill reauthorizing the Export-Import Bank. You’ll recall that a week ago last Friday, 42 Republicans joined with 176 Democrats to sign a discharge petition to get TN Republican Stephen Fincher’s reauthorization bill on the floor. We expect it early in the week.
And, of course, there’s a big, bolded warning notice on the House Majority Leader’s floor calendar page of his web site – at the very bottom of the page, after listing everything that’s scheduled to be considered on the House floor this week, it reads, “Consideration of Legislation Related to the Debt Limit,” immediately followed by “Additional Legislative Items Are Possible.”
And there’s one other thing that’ll take place on the floor of the House this week, if all goes according to their current plan – on Thursday, October 29, there will be a vote on the floor to elect a new Speaker. And then there will be tearful tributes given by the Crybaby Caucus to the departing John Boehner, who likely already has his tee time set for Saturday morning in Marco Island, FL.
LAST WEEK ON THE SENATE FLOOR:
The Senate came back into session on Tuesday morning with a vote to confirm a U.S. District Judge. Later that afternoon, they took up the Motion To Proceed to S. 2146, the Stop Sanctuary Policies and Protect Americans Act. Cloture was NOT invoked, by a vote of 54-45.
On Thursday, the Senate took up S. 754, the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act, a bill to provide for stronger security against cyber attacks. The Majority Leader called for a vote on a Motion To Proceed to consideration of a manager’s amendment offered by Intelligence Committee Chairman
Richard Burr of NC, and that cloture vote succeeded by a vote of 83-14. So when the Senate returns, they’ll take up the CISA bill again, beginning with a vote on the manager’s amendment.
THIS WEEK ON THE SENATE FLOOR:
The Senate will return and gavel into session on Monday at 4 PM. The first vote of the week will take place at 5 PM Monday, on the confirmation of a U.S. District Judge.
On Tuesday, beginning at 11 AM, the Senate will complete its consideration of S. 754, the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act.
At some point, the Senate will consider legislation to raise the debt ceiling. And at some point, the Senate will take up H.R. 3762, the House-passed reconciliation bill that repeals certain portions of ObamaCare. That’s going to be interesting – because three Senators (Ted Cruz, Mike Lee, and Marco Rubio) have declared their intent to oppose the reconciliation bill because they believe it does not go far enough to repeal ObamaCare. That leaves Mitch McConnell between a rock and a hard place – with those three votes gone, he’s at 51 if he holds every other GOP vote. If just one more Republican Senator votes against that reconciliation bill, the bill would fall.
Enter Rand Paul and Lindsey Graham, who are also running for President, and who don’t want to be outflanked on their right by any other Senators who might be running for President.
Plus, you’ve got more liberal Republican Senators, like Mark Kirk of IL, and Susan Collins of ME, and Lisa Murkowski of AK, each of whom is running for reelection next year, and each of whom has previously voted against efforts to block federal funding for Planned Parenthood.
There may be attempts to challenge the inclusion of the provisions blocking funding for Planned Parenthood on the grounds that they don’t have a “significant” effect on the deficit. Or perhaps one or more of those three votes against the bill, and it falls. We’ll see.
And I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see the Senate take up a resolution to override the President’s Thursday veto of the National Defense Authorization Act. He said he vetoed the bill because of the way it would sidestep the Sequester spending cap for the military and because it would restrict the transfer of prisoners being held now at the U.S. base in Guantanamo Bay.
Trust me, he’s not as worried about Gitmo as he is about defense spending. Remember, he’s insisting that Congress blow through the budget caps he created four years ago in the Budget Control Act of 2011. He wants to increase both defense spending and discretionary domestic spending by about $38 billion each; congressional Republicans are with him on the increase for defense spending, but against him on the domestic spending front. So he’s used his veto pen here as a shot across the bow as he enters into budget negotiations with the Republicans.
It’s very rare that a President vetoes a defense authorization bill. This bill passed the House by a vote of 269-151, and it passed the Senate by a vote of 70-25. Then the two sides met in conference, and the House passed the Conference Report by a vote of 270-156, and the Senate passed it by a vote of 70-27. The Senate, clearly, has the votes to override the President; at this point, though, it appears the House is going to be about 20 votes short.
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton testified in a marathon session Thursday before the House Select Committee on Benghazi. Democrats on the committee did their best to make it a circus, while most Republicans on the committee played for the cameras. The most illuminating exchange I witnessed was the exchange she had with Jim Jordan, who used the A/V display to show images of her emails on the night of the attack. Even that early, while the attack was still going on, she revealed that she understood it was a terrorist attack, not a protest gone wild. She said so in an email to her daughter, and later, in conversations with Middle Eastern leaders. But there she was a week later, at Dover Air Force Base, welcoming home caskets, vowing to go after the guy who produced the nutty video.
The mainstream media is portraying this as a major victory for her – the Republicans didn’t lay a glove on her. Of course, that assumes that the purpose of the hearing was to lay a glove on her, and I’m not at all sure that’s what this hearing was about. As Chairman Trey Gowdy pointed out, there are still almost two dozen witnesses to interview, conclusions to be drawn, and a report to be written.
Republican Study Committee Chairman Bill Flores of TX introduced a RSC proposal to lift the debt ceiling by $1.5 trillion in exchange for a host of attached policy proposals, including: a prohibition on any new government regulations until July 2017, a requirement that the House stay in session until it completes the appropriations process, and a prohibition on the Senate filibustering any Motion To Proceed on spending bills after October 1.
Raising the debt ceiling a cool $1.5 trillion would have meant that Congress would not have had to deal with a vote to increase the debt ceiling again before the 2016 elections.
On Tuesday evening, the House GOP Conference met to discuss the bill. By the end of the week, after a whip count the following evening showed the bill “several dozen votes short,” GOP leaders had decided to scrap the bill. Instead, they turned to House Democrat leaders, saying the Democrats should give up something in exchange for House Republican votes. Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi got a good chuckle out of that.
The Senate had been prepared to take the House-passed bill, strip out whatever policy riders were attached and turn into a “clean” debt increase, pass it, and then send it back to the House. That plan is on hold, as the House GOP leadership tries to figure out how to move any legislation out of the House at all.
My best guess at this point is that the Senate will take up and pass a “clean” debt ceiling increase very early this week, then send it to the House, and the House will take it up before voting on Thursday to elect a new Speaker. The responsibility – and blame – for passing the clean debt ceiling increase through the House will fall on John Boehner’s shoulders, if he has anything to say about it. It’ll be his parting gift to the new Speaker.
See above. Republican Rep. Stephen Fincher’s H.R. 597 could come to the floor as early as Monday, under a discharge petition.
IRS TARGETING SCANDAL:
On Friday, the Department of Justice announced it would decline to prosecute Lois Lerner for her role in managing the targeting of Tea Party for additional scrutiny based on their political views. In other news of a similarly shocking nature, NASA confirmed that the earth is round.
Paul Ryan is going to be the new Speaker of the House. He will be selected by the House GOP Conference at a meeting of the House GOP Conference on Wednesday, and then elected by the entire House on Thursday.
During the brief period of a few days early last week when it appeared the House Freedom Caucus still had enough leverage – IF they stuck together as a 40-Member-strong bloc – to block Ryan’s ascension, they came under heavy pressure from their colleagues. And several of them got phone calls from former Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Senator Jim DeMint, telling them that they risked stretching for a bridge too far, that they would be marginalized entirely if they were seen as the ones preventing the closure of a breach that had been years in the making.
Moreover, they learned that liberal Republicans like Charlie Dent and Peter King were actually talking with Democrats about forming a so-called “coalition government,” where a rump group of liberal Republicans would offer a nominee for Speaker who would get elected on the backs of about 40 liberal Republican votes and 188 Democrat votes. In exchange for their votes, the Democrats would be rewarded with half the committee chairmanships.
Now, I have no idea whether this was a serious effort, or a fake. But I’ve heard from more than one member of the House Freedom Caucus that this was a concern of theirs as they considered their options.
After their Wednesday meeting with Ryan, the House Freedom Caucus gathered to discuss their options. They held at least three ballots, but failed to reach the 80% threshold necessary by their own rules to issue a formal endorsement of Ryan’s bid for the Speakership. But it was clear that a supermajority of them wanted to back Ryan. So, in the end, they issued a release declaring that a supermajority – all but nine or 11, depending on which account you read – chose to throw their support to Ryan in a tactical retreat to ensure a strategic victory.
Keep in mind, Paul Ryan will become the next Speaker because John Boehner concluded that rather than face an ignominious defeat, it would be best for him to resign his Speakership, and because, despite the certainty of the Washington Ruling Elite that the next Speaker would be Kevin McCarthy, he was blocked – two huge victories that very few believed possible even a month ago.
The question for us now, how will we respond to Ryan’s ascension?
TEA PARTY PATRIOTS/JENNY BETH MARTIN:
IRS TARGETING SCANDAL: