Tea Party Patriots Weekly Report from Washington for 12/11/16
The House and Senate are both done, and the 114th Congress is in the history books.
LAST WEEK ON THE HOUSE FLOOR:
The House returned for action on Monday, and moved to take up 27 bills on the Suspension Calendar. On Tuesday, there were 21 bills on the Suspension Calendar. On Wednesday, there were 16 bills on the Suspension Calendar.
On Tuesday, leaders of the House Freedom Caucus decided to try one last effort to impeach IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. About ten days earlier, according to various reports, Freedom Caucus Chairman Jim Jordan had reached out to Speaker Ryan and offered an olive branch, in the form of an offer to move a resolution of censure instead of impeachment. The Speaker’s office was described as “noncommittal” on censure. So on Tuesday morning, Freedom Caucus members let the leadership know that they planned to move the impeachment resolution that evening.
Ryan staffers took action. Jordan got an unexpected call from Reince Priebus, who indicated that the Trump high command would prefer not to have the impeachment resolution offered or passed. Priebus made the call in response to a request from the Speaker’s office, apparently, but he was not able to convince Jordan to back off. Later, Priebus called Jordan again, this time to make clear that the Trump high command had no position on impeachment.
Later that afternoon, after Jordan offered the impeachment resolution, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi rose and offered a motion to table it. Remember, the motion to table is a motion to kill the bill. The motion to table was defeated, by a vote of 180-235, with all but two Republicans – Charlie Dent of PA and Don Young of AK – voting against tabling. Then House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte of VA rose to offer a resolution to refer the impeachment resolution to his committee, and that resolution passed by a vote of 342-72, with all 72 “no” votes coming from Republicans. Note – 72 “no” votes means that there were about twice as many “no” votes in the House GOP Conference as there are members of the House Freedom Caucus.
On Thursday, the House took up H.R. 2028, the Continuing Resolution. The bill passed by a vote of 326-96, with our own Usual Suspects split – Dave Brat, Ron DeSantis, Paul Gosar, Jim Jordan, and Mark Meadows voted in favor, while Justin Amash, Mo Brooks, Ken Buck, Trent Franks, Louie Gohmert, Tim Huelskamp, Walter Jones, Steve King, and Thomas Massie voted against it.
Then the House took up the House Amendment to S. 612, the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) Act, which is a bill that takes the language of the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) and sets that up as Title I, then adds two more titles – the Water and Waste Act of 2016, and a title on Natural Resources. That bill passed by a vote of 360-60, with 12 Members not voting. This is the bill that contains $170 million for relief of the water crisis in Flint, MI, and other similar locales.
LAST WEEK ON THE SENATE FLOOR:
The Senate came back into session on Monday afternoon, and voted by 85-13 to invoke cloture on H.R. 34, the 21st Century Cures Act. Then, on Wednesday, the Senate voted by 94-5 to pass the bill. Later on Wednesday, the Senate took up and, by a vote of 92-7, invoked cloture on the conference report on S. 2943, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The following day, by the same numbers, the Senate passed the conference report on the NDAA. Later on Thursday, Leader McConnell filed cloture petitions on both H.R. 2028, the Continuing Resolution, and S. 612, the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) Act.
On Friday afternoon, Leader McConnell revealed a Unanimous Consent Agreement (UCA) that passed an awful lot of legislation. In fact, on the final day of the session for the Senate, the Senate passed more than 70 items by Unanimous Consent or voice vote.
On Friday night, the Senate moved to invoke cloture on H.R. 2028, the Continuing Resolution. Cloture was invoked by a vote of 61-38. Then the Senate moved to consider the CR, and the bill was passed by a vote of 61-36, at 10:53 PM.
Finally, the Senate moved to invoke cloture on S. 612, the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) Act. Cloture was invoked by a vote of 69-30. Finally, the Senate took up and passed S. 612 by a vote of 78-21, and the Senate was done for the year – all that’s left now will be pro forma sessions to take place every three days through January 3 to prevent President Obama from making any ill-fated recess appointments.
The House and Senate passed the Continuing Resolution, which funds the government at current spending levels through April 28.
Passage in the Senate wasn’t a sure thing. Several Red State Democrats, led by West Virginia’s Joe Manchin, announced that they were going to delay consideration of the CR until and unless they got agreement from the Republicans to add a provision to extend miners’ and widows’ pension benefits for a full year – the provision Senate Republicans had already agreed to, and which was already included in the CR, extended them for four months.
Senate Republicans, led by Majority Leader McConnell, reminded Manchin and his colleagues that the House had already voted through the CR and had left town, and that meant there was no way to add anything or change anything in it in the Senate, because that would have required another vote by the House. In the end, Manchin and his Democrat colleagues caved, and the CR passed the Senate late on Friday night, just an hour before the deadline to shut down the government.
So, the good news is, Congress passed a short-term CR, rather than a full-year omnibus. That’s a win for us, because Congress did not use the lame duck session to pass a full Christmas Tree omnibus on the backs of votes from departing Members who can’t be held accountable by their voters. It also gives the incoming Trump Administration a say over spending for half of FY 2017.
The spending bill also contains a provision that greases the skids for the confirmation of retired Marine General James “Mad Dog” Mattis. Remember, he has not been separated from his military service for the seven years required by law before he can serve as Secretary of Defense, and he would need Congress to pass a new law waiving that requirement or lowering the time threshold for him to be able to serve. That new law would be just like any other law – it would be subject to filibuster in the Senate, meaning that if all 48 Senate Democrats held together, they could block consideration of the waiver and thereby prevent Mattis from being able to serve.
The provision that was added to the CR does not waive the requirement, or lower the time threshold. It merely says that the motion to proceed to consideration of the waiver cannot be filibustered. So that’s one 60-vote threshold Mattis will not have to surmount to take his new position. But Senate Democrats WILL still have a 60-vote threshold on final passage of that waiver, so they’ll still have a card to play, if they want to. I’m betting they won’t want to, when push comes to shove.
This week we learned about more of President-elect Trump’s cabinet picks:
- CKE Restaurant CEP Andy Puzder will be nominated to serve as Secretary of Labor
- Marine General John Kelly, ret., will be nominated to serve as Secretary of Homeland Security
- OK Attorney General Scott Pruitt will be nominated to serve as Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency
- IA Governor Terry Branstad will be nominated to serve as U.S. Ambassador to the People’s Republic of China
- ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson appears to have the inside track to being nominated to serve as Secretary of State
- Former US Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton appears to have the inside track to being nominated to serve as Deputy Secretary of State
- S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) appears to have the inside track to being nominated to serve as Secretary of the Interior
- Current Michigan Republican Party Chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel, niece of Mitt Romney, appears to have the inside track to serve as Chairwoman of the Republican National Committee
On Friday, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley of IA announced that the confirmation hearings for Jeff Sessions to serve as Attorney General would begin on January 10, and would run for two days. He wants to limit the time available for Democrats and their allied outside groups to attack Sessions, and he noted that “prior confirmation hearings for Attorneys General lasted one or two days and featured three to nine outside witnesses at each.” Two days is half the number of days Senate Democrats said they wanted for Sessions’ confirmation hearings.
CA Democrat Dianne Feinstein, in a letter to Grassley released Friday evening, said Sen. Sessions’ questionnaire – which was posted online on the committee’s website on Friday night – was not complete, and insisted on more time to review that and other documents before the hearings.
Grassley has said he wants to be able to vote on the Sessions’ confirmation on February 3.
On Friday afternoon, President Obama ordered the intelligence community to prepare a report on Russian efforts to influence the outcome of the presidential election. He wants to issue that report and share it with Congress before he leaves office on January 20, but initial reporting is unclear on whether or not the report will be shared with the public. Of course, given Congress’ inability to keep a secret, once that report is shared with Congress, it will only be a matter of hours, if not minutes, before it’s shared with the public.
Late on Friday, the New York Times and the Washington Post both reported that the Central Intelligence Agency had concluded that Russia had hacked not just the Democratic National Committee, and not just for the purpose of raising doubts about the legitimacy of the election; according to the reports, the CIA had concluded that, based on the fact that the Republican National Committee had also been hacked, Russia’s goal was not just to cause electoral chaos, but actually to elect Donald Trump president.
Speaking Saturday on CNN, RNC Chief Strategist and Communications Director Sean Spicer pushed back hard, denied that the RNC had been hacked, and then trashed the New York Times, whose reporters, he said, had refused the RNC’s offer to “see inside” the RNC for proof that the RNC had not been hacked.
On Sunday morning’s “FOX News Sunday,” President-elect Trump rejected the CIA conclusion as “ridiculous,” and said, “I think it’s just another excuse” being forwarded by supporters of Hillary Clinton, adding, “I don’t believe it.”
Later on Sunday, four Senators – incoming Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Democrat Jack Reed of RI, the Ranking Member on the Senate Armed Services Committee, along with Republicans John McCain, chairman of the Armed Services Committee and Lindsey Graham of SC, a senior GOP member of the Armed Services Committee – issued a joint statement announcing a bipartisan review of Russia’s actions, saying the CIA report “should alarm every American.” The joint statement continued: “While protecting classified material, we have an obligation to inform the public about recent cyber-attacks that have cut to the heart of our free society. Democrats and Republicans must work together, and across the jurisdictional lines of the Congress, to examine these recent incidents thoroughly and devise comprehensive solutions to deter and defend against further cyber-attacks.”
As this story plays out, keep this in mind: The CIA and the FBI are different agencies, with different missions, and different cultures. The CIA’s threshold of evidence is lower than that of the FBI, because the FBI knows it must be able to prove things in a court of law. So the two agencies could conceivably look at exactly the same evidence and yet still come to different conclusions – the CIA could conclude that yes, the preponderance of evidence indicates that Russian agents hacked into U.S. computer networks, while the FBI could conclude that the evidence isn’t strong enough to reach a firm conclusion.
JENNY BETH MARTIN/TEA PARTY PATRIOTS: