Tea Party Patriots Weekly Report from Washington for 11/08/15

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CALENDAR:

The House is in recess this week. The House will return on Monday, November 16.

The Senate, on the other hand, will return on Monday, November 9. They’ll stay in Monday and Tuesday, then take a break Wednesday for Veterans Day, then return Thursday and Friday.

LAST WEEK ON THE HOUSE FLOOR:

The House began its week Monday with nine bills on the Suspension Calendar.

On Tuesday, the House took up a bill on the Suspension Calendar, then moved to take up H.R. 22, House amendments to Senate amendments to the Developing a Reliable and Innovative Vision for the Economy (DRIVE) Act – otherwise known as the highway funding bill. The previous week, the House had passed a temporary extension of highway funding, good through November 20. That was the 35th temporary extension since 2009.

What was at stake was a six-year, $325 billion funding bill that would also reauthorize the Export-Import Bank. Speaker Ryan decreed at the outset of the process that he wanted to return to “regular order,” and that meant opening up the floor to amendments. In this case, the House Rules Committee made in order about 125 amendments of the 300 or so that were originally submitted to the committee. Ultimately, the House voted on roughly 125 amendments to the bill. As Speaker Ryan put it, they voted on more amendments in the last four days than they had all year.

But just because he decided he wanted a more open process didn’t mean the new Speaker was giving up ALL control over what the House would vote on. He decreed at the outset there would be no amendments allowed that would raise gas taxes, and he stuck to it. So there were no amendments to raise the gas tax.

In the midst of the deliberations over the highway bill, the House took a break Thursday morning to suspend the rules and vote on an amended version of S. 1356, the National Defense Authorization Act. The bill passed by a vote of 370-58.

After voting for two days on those amendments, the House passed the bill Thursday by a vote of 363-64. The vast majority of the “No” votes – 58 of them – were cast by Republicans, and the vast majority of them were cast by our allies in the House.

There was opposition inside the House GOP Conference to the open amendment process. Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers and other members of his committee warned that there were what he called “big risks” to allowing so many votes on amendments. Some members of the liberal Tuesday Group were also concerned about having to cast so-called “tough votes,” but Ryan was having none of it – he said it wasn’t his job to protect Members from tough votes, and he added that’s why were elected to Congress.

THIS WEEK ON THE HOUSE FLOOR:

The House is in recess this week.

LAST WEEK ON THE SENATE FLOOR:

The Senate came back in on Tuesday, and took up S. 1140, the Federal Water Quality Protection Act, a bill to require the Secretary of the Army and the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency to propose a regulation revising the definition of the term “waters of the United States,” essentially to overturn the EPA’s new “Waters of the United States” rule. The Senate moved to invoke cloture on the motion to proceed, but failed, by a vote of 57-41. The Senate then took up and invoked cloture on the motion to proceed to S.J.Res. 22, a joint resolution of disapproval of the EPA’s WOTUS rule. The vote on that cloture motion was 55-43, because only a simple majority was required.

Also on Tuesday, the Senate began the Rule 14 process on S. 2232, introduced by Sen. Rand Paul, a bill to audit the Fed. And Sen. McConnell filed cloture on the motion to proceed to H.R. 2685, the Department of Defense appropriations bill.

On Wednesday, the Senate passed S.J.Res. 22, the joint resolution of disapproval on the Corps of Engineers and EPA WOTUS rule. That vote carried by 53-44.

Then they moved to take up the motion to proceed to consideration of H.R. 2685, the Department of Defense Appropriations bill for FY 2016. But when it came time to vote, the cloture motion failed, by a vote of 51-44. Yes, Democrats filibustered the defense appropriations bill. Again.

Leader McConnell then entered a motion to reconsider the vote at a later time, and then he moved to take up H.R. 2029, the Military Construction and Veterans appropriations bill for FY 2016. The motion to invoke cloture carried by a vote of 93-0. I guess not even a Democrat wanted to be seen as casting a vote against funding America’s veterans the week before Veterans Day.

THIS WEEK ON THE SENATE FLOOR:

The Senate will pick up Monday where it left off, with consideration of H.R. 2029, the FY 2016 Military Construction and Veterans Appropriations bill.

On Tuesday morning, the Senate is expected to vote on S. 1356, the House-passed National Defense Authorization Act. The Senate will also adopt an enrollment correction to this piece of legislation, H.Con.Res. 90.

BENGHAZI/CLINTON EMAILS:

On Friday, the Washington Free Beacon, courtesy of a FOIA request from the Competitive Enterprise Institute, revealed that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had, in fact, signed a standard agreement governing her handling of classified information. On January 21, the day after she took office as Secretary, Clinton signed what’s called a “Sensitive Compartmented Information Nondisclosure Agreement” – an SCI/NDA – that laid out criminal penalties for “any unauthorized disclosure” of classified information.

As the nation’s top diplomat, she was responsible for determining whether or not the information in her possession was classified, and she acknowledged that “negligent handling” of such information could jeopardize national security.

The language of the SCI/NDA reads thusly: “I have been advised that the unauthorized disclosure, unauthorized retention, or negligent handling of SCI by me could cause irreparable injury to the United States or be used to advantage by a foreign nation … I understand that it is my responsibility to consult with appropriate management authorities in the Department … in order to ensure that I know whether information or material within my knowledge or control that I have reason to believe might be SCI.”

Not surprisingly, a Sunday morning search of Lexis/Nexis reveals that not a single major media outlet followed up on this report.

IRS TARGETING SCANDAL:

On Monday, Sen. Ted Cruz sent a letter to the Attorney General demanding that she preserve all documents on the Justice Department’s completed investigation into the IRS’s targeting of Tea Party groups.

Further, he said, she should send copies of all the documents to the National Archives, and to the Inspector General of the Justice Department so they could also preserve them.

NATIONAL SECURITY:

On Tuesday, Sen. Ted Cruz of TX introduced S. 2230, the Muslim Brotherhood Terrorist Designation Act of 2015. This is companion legislation to a similar bill in the House, H.R. 3892.

The legislation’s preamble notes approvingly that Syria banned the Muslim Brotherhood, and made membership in the organization punishable by death, as long ago as 1980; that the Russian Supreme Court described the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization and banned the organization from operating in Russia, as long ago as 2003; that in 2013, an Egyptian court banned the Muslim Brotherhood from Egypt, and that the Government of Egypt officially declared the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist group in 2014.

The legislation does not itself designate the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization. Instead, it requires the Secretary of State to submit a report to the appropriate congressional committees that 1) indicates whether the Muslim Brotherhood meets the criteria for designation as a foreign terrorist organization, and 2) “if the Secretary of State determines that the Muslim Brotherhood does NOT meet the criteria for listing, includes a detailed justification as to which criteria have not been met.”

SPENDING/TAXES:

The current Continuing Resolution runs out on December 11. That’s about five weeks from now.

The House has passed six appropriations bill so far this year, and bipartisan negotiations are already underway with the Senate on those. On the remaining six bills, Ryan announced at his regular Thursday press conference that Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers would lead executive sessions on those bills, giving every Member a chance to review the text and offer changes before they’re brought to the floor. That is, he wants to get buy in up front from the various factions of the House GOP Conference, and he doesn’t want to spring a fully-formed bill on them as a surprise two days before the current C.R. runs out.

And he’s added a new regular House GOP Conference to take place at the end of every week, so that all Members can discuss the upcoming agenda and the policy issues before them.

TRANS-PACIFIC PARTNERSHIP:

On Thursday morning, the White House released the text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement. It’s got 30 chapters, and more than 2,000 pages of text, and you can find a link to the entire agreement in this week’s Suggested Reading.

Now that the White House has released the text, it will be available for review by Congress and the public for at least 90 days before the President can sign the agreement. The release of the text will likely be followed by a message to Congress saying he intends to sign the agreement. After he signs it, the White House will send implementing language to Congress, and that will start the clock for the Senate Finance and House Ways and Means Committees to begin moving the agreement through their committees and to the floor of the House and Senate for their respective final up-or-down votes.

The agreement has already come under fire from some important voices on Capitol Hill. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch of UT, for instance, has already suggested the White House needs to renegotiate at least one element of the agreement – it only provides for eight years of data exclusivity on high-tech biologic drugs instead of the 12 years that’s currently written into U.S. law. That’s important for the drug companies, who rely on the longer exclusivity period to recoup the billions of dollars they invest in research.

Others, including the Senate Majority Leader, have warned of the lack of protections for tobacco products – they’ve been exempted from some trade protections in certain public health situations.

The bottom line is, this thing is going to be around for a while, and it’s by no means a done deal.

LEADERSHIP FIGHTS:

Kevin Brady of Texas, the second-ranking Republican on the Ways and Means Committee, won the endorsement of outgoing Ways and Means Chairman Paul Ryan over the fourth-ranking member, Pat Tiberi of Ohio, and, as a result, Brady is the new committee chairman. That’s good news – Brady is more conservative than Tiberi, who was a close ally of former Speaker John Boehner and whose bid for the chairmanship relied heavily on his K Street fundraising appeal.

On the reform front, new Speaker Ryan has, as mentioned above, added a new House GOP Conference meeting at the end of the week, to give Members an opportunity to discuss policy. That’s in addition to the regular meeting they have at the beginning of the week, to lay out the week’s schedule.

Further, Ryan wants to start having regular weekly meetings with the leaders of the three big caucuses inside the House GOP Conference – the Republican Study Committee, the liberal Tuesday Group, and the House Freedom Caucus.

He has also appointed a task force to review the current structure of the Steering Committee, the elected body that makes recommendations to the Conference on committee chairmanships and committee assignments. He anticipates that the task force will make recommendations on if and how to change the structure of the Steering Committee by Thanksgiving.

SUGGESTED READING:

BENGHAZI/CLINTON EMAILS:

Politico: House GOP Split Over Clinton’s Email Probe

WFB: Clinton Signed NDA Laying Out Criminal Penalties For Mishandling Classified Information

Lid: Lexis/Nexis Search Shows Mainstream Media Covering Up Hillary Clinton Scandal

WFB: Clinton Warned In 2011 Of Repeated Attempts To Breach State Officials Personal Email Accounts

EXECUTIVE AMNESTY/IMMIGRATION:

Hill: Leaked DHS Memo Shows Obama Might Circumvent DAPA

IRS TARGETING SCANDAL:

WT: Ted Cruz: Next President Will Get Do-Over On IRS Tea Party Probe

NATIONAL SECURITY:

NRO: Ted Cruz Is Right: The Muslim Brotherhood Is a Terrorist Organization

S. 2230: Muslim Brotherhood Terrorist Designation Act of 2015

OBAMACARE:

Hill: GOP Searches For ObamaCare Win

Hill: Supreme Court To Rule on ObamaCare Contraception Mandate

SPENDING/TAXES:

NYT: Highway Bill May Present Bumps For Ryan’s First Week As Speaker

RC: Obama Signs Budget Deal And Debt Limit Suspension

WE: Debt Ceiling Is Lifted, And Same Day, Debt Jumps $339Billions

NJ: For Better Or Worse, It’s “Regular Order” On Highway Bill

Hill: House Picks Up Pace On Highway Bill

WE: The Spending Fight Is Just Starting In Congress

Politico: Ryan Notches A Transportation Win

WSJ: Planned Parenthood Isn’t Main Target Of Some Republicans

WSJ: House Ways And Means Chairman Kevin Brady’s Tax Plans

WSJ: House Passes Highway Bill With Export Import Bank Renewal

WSJ: Pacific Trade Agreement Terms Herald Public Battle

Hill: House Approves $325 Billion Highway Bill

Hill: Ryan Defends Open Process In Spending Fight

Hill: Ryan Basks in Success of $325B Highway Bill

Hill: Ryan’s Trial by Fire Begins

WSJ: EPA Water Rules Withstand Senate’s Repeal Effort

TRANS-PACIFIC PARTNERSHIP:

Hill: White House Releases Text Of Trans Pacific Partnership Deal

USG: Full Text Of The Free Trade Agreement Trans Pacific Partnership

WaPo: Obama’s Last Battle with Congress Looms over Pacific Trade Deal

Hill: Finance Chair: Trade Deal May Need To Be Renegotiated

LEADERSHIP FIGHTS:

Politico: Ways And Means Brawl An Early Test For Ryan

Politico: Steering Committee To Meet Wednesday On Next Ways And Means Chairman

NYT: Paul Ryan Lands At Center Of Rivalry For The Soul Of The GOP

Politico: Freedom Caucus Gives Ryan Benefit Of The Doubt

Politico: The Ryan Revolution

Hill: Ryan, Obama Vie For Upper Hand

Politico: Paul Ryan: “I’m OK With Bills Failing”

NJ: Paul Ryan’s First Prescription For What Ails The GOP: More Meetings