Tea Party Patriots Weekly Report from Washington for 3/13/16
The House returns Monday, and will be in session through Thursday.
The Senate will be in session on Monday, and will stay in through the rest of the week. At the end of the week, the Senate will recess for the Easter break, and won’t come back into session until Tuesday, April 12.
LAST WEEK ON THE HOUSE FLOOR:
The House was in recess last week.
THIS WEEK ON THE HOUSE FLOOR:
The House will return Monday, and kick off its week with votes on 14 bills to be considered under Suspension of the Rules. Two of those bills deal with the crisis in Syria – the first, H.Con.Res. 121, would express the sense of Congress “condemning the gross violations of international law amounting to war crimes and crimes against humanity by the Government of Syria, its allies, and other parties to the conflict in Syria, and asking the President to direct his Ambassador at the United Nations to promote the establishment of a war crimes tribunal where these crimes could be addressed.” The second, H.Con.Res. 75, would express the sense of Congress “that the atrocities perpetrated by ISIL against religious and ethnic minorities in Iraq and Syria include war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide.”
On Tuesday, the House will consider H.R. 3797, the Satisfying Energy Needs and Saving the Environment (SENSE) Act. This bill would, in the words of its sponsor, Rep. Keith Rothfus of PA, “ensure that the coal refuse-to-energy industry can continue its vital mission of providing affordable energy, supporting jobs, and remediating formerly-polluted sites across historic coal producing regions.”
On Wednesday and Thursday, the House may take up H.R. 4596, the Small Business Broadband Deployment Act, sponsored by Rep. Greg Walden of OR. The bill would expand the small business exemption from some of the rules adopted by the FCC as part of its Open Internet Order, most of the burden of which apparently falls on smaller wireless carriers, especially those in the rural areas of the country.
And listed on the Majority Leader’s floor calendar for the week, even though it has not yet been assigned a bill number, is a House Resolution authorizing the Speaker to file an amicus curiae brief on behalf of the House of Representatives in the matter of United States, et. al. v. Texas, et. al. – the case challenging the President’s executive amnesty of November 2014, which has now made its way to the Supreme Court.
And here’s a heads up – the House Budget Committee MAY vote on a budget resolution as early as Tuesday, though Wednesday is more likely, with a view to bringing the budget resolution to the floor of the House the following week, before they break for the Easter recess. We can’t wait to see what that budget resolution looks like – there’s no draft budget on the Budget Committee website (which appears not to have been updated in more than a month), and they don’t have the markup session listed on the calendar yet.
LAST WEEK ON THE SENATE FLOOR:
The Senate began its week by invoking cloture on the Grassley substitute amendment to S. 524, the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA). Cloture on the bill to address opioid addiction was invoked by a vote of 86-3, and the Senate went into its up to 30 hours of post-cloture debate.
Then, on Wednesday, the Senate adopted the Grassley substitute amendment by voice vote, and then moved to invoke cloture on the underlying bill itself. That cloture vote passed by 93-3, and by unanimous consent, the Senate agreed to take the vote on final passage on Thursday morning at 11:30 AM.
On Thursday morning, the Senate took up and passed S. 524, by a vote of 94-1. The lone “No” vote was cast by Nebraska Republican Ben Sasse, who explained his opposition by saying, “I’m not convinced fighting addiction – as opposed to stopping drug traffickers – is best addressed at the federal level.”
Later that day, the Senate took up Sen. Rand Paul’s motion to discharge S.J.Res. 31, a resolution that would block the sale of $700 million worth of F-16 fighter jets to Pakistan. Sen. Paul is using a rather obscure provision in the Arms Export Control Act of 1976 that allows any member of the Senate to get a floor vote on a resolution to disapprove an arms sale to a foreign nation. Under that law, a Senator must introduce a resolution of disapproval, then wait 10 days for the Foreign Relations Committee to act. If the Committee does not act, then the Senator can move to discharge the resolution from the Committee. So it’s a procedural vote, not necessarily a straight up-or-down vote on the merits of the arms sale. In the House, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher has introduced H.J.Res. 82, a companion resolution disapproving of the sale.
The Paul resolution was tabled by a vote of 71-24.
THIS WEEK ON THE SENATE FLOOR:
The Senate will open its week on Monday, with a 5:30 PM vote on the confirmation of Dr. John King to be the new Secretary of Education.
Later in the week, the Senate is likely to return to S. 2012, the Energy Policy Modernization Act. They may also take up S. 2609, Biotech Labeling; S.Res. 377, the Backpage.com Civil Contempt Resolution, to enforce a subpoena on a Senate Subcommittee on Investigations investigation of human trafficking on the Internet; and the FAA Authorization Extension.
As mentioned above, the House Budget Committee will hold a markup session this week on either Tuesday or Wednesday to pass a budget, with a plan to send it to the floor of the House next week.
The Senate Budget Committee, meanwhile, has gotten tired of waiting for the House to produce a budget. Senate Budget Chairman Mike Enzi said last week that his committee would delay consideration of a budget document this month, and noted that producing a budget was not necessary to move forward with the 12 appropriations bills that fund the government, since we already have budget topline numbers in place from the Boehner-Obama budget deal last October. Of course, those are the toplines set at $1.07 trillion.
And just to drive the point home, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday delivered a rather brusque message to House Republicans – we agreed last year we’re not cutting spending, so just get over it. McConnell agreed with Enzi’s point that there was no need for a budget this year, since the House and Senate agreed last year to a two-year topline. “We will be using the top line that was agreed to last year in order to move forward on the Senate appropriations bills,” he said.
In addition to the vote last week in the Senate on Rand Paul’s resolution attempting to block the sale of fighter jets to Pakistan, there’s movement in the House on H.Con.Res. 75, a resolution that declares that the Islamic State is committing genocide against Christians, Yazidis, and other ethnic minorities. That resolution has more than 200 cosponsors from both parties, and its aim is to raise pressure on the Obama Administration to declare on its own that ISIS is committing genocide ahead of a congressionally mandated deadline next Thursday. That deadline was written into law last fall, in the Omnibus appropriations bill that funds the government through the rest of FY 2016. This follows the Administration’s failure last month to meet a related congressionally mandated deadline – also written into law in the Omnibus appropriations bill last fall – to submit to the Congress a strategy to combat Islamic extremism.
The Pope and the European Parliament have already declared that ISIS is committing “genocide.” Meanwhile, on the other side of the Capitol dome, Sen. Bill Cassidy of LA has introduced a companion measure declaring that ISIS is committing “genocide.”
Why is the use of the word “genocide” so important? Well, first, there are certain conditions that must be met for genocide, according to the United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide. There must be an “intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial, or religious group.” The actions in question range from kidnapping to torture, murder, and deliberate starvation, among others.
A declaration of “genocide” has international legal consequences. The offending parties must be tried before an international court or by a tribunal of a state where the crimes were committed. And parties declaring genocide have an obligation to prevent further such violent acts from being committed.
We have a new topic for discussion this week – Executive Overreach. The Obama Administration has colored outside the lines for so long on so many different issues, we decided it was time to set up a file folder for this very broad topic.
Our first entry this week is Attorney General Loretta Lynch’s declaration before the Senate Judiciary Committee last Wednesday that not only has she discussed with her Department of Justice colleagues the possibility of pursuing civil actions against so-called “climate change deniers,” but she has, and I quote, “referred it to the FBI to consider whether or not it meets the criteria for which we could take action.”
Lynch was responding to a question from Rhode Island Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, who urged Lynch to prosecute those who “pretend that the science of carbon emissions’ dangers is unsettled,” as he put it, particularly those in the “fossil fuel industry” who, he alleges, have constructed a “climate denial apparatus.”
Whitehouse, you may recall, is a rather loathsome toad of a man. He was one of the liberal Democrat Senators who urged the Internal Revenue Service to begin targeting Tea Party groups in the fall of 2010.
Lest you think this is so crazy that no one in his right mind could possibly follow up on such a chilling use of the government’s coercive power to shut down political speech it opposes, the Attorneys General of both California and New York are both currently investigating whether or not ExxonMobil executives deliberately lied to the public and their shareholders about climate change.
Meanwhile, last Tuesday and Wednesday, the Islamic Revolutionary Guards in Iran conducted more ballistic missile tests. As a reminder, these tests do NOT violate the JCPOA agreed to last summer, because the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action specifically did NOT address ballistic missiles. The tests DO, however, violate United Nations Security Council resolutions.
The last time Iran conducted such ballistic missile tests, the Administration eventually determined that they DID violate the U.N. Security Council resolution, and imposed sanctions against businesses and individuals involved in the tests.
President Obama began meeting with prospective candidates for the Supreme Court last week. According to media reports citing Obama aides “close to the process,” the leading contenders are Chief Judge Merrick Garland of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia; Judge Sri Srinivasan, also of the Court of the Appeals for the District of Columbia; Judge Paul Watford of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, the most liberal Appeals Court in the country; Judge Jane Kelly of the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals (she’s from Iowa); and U.S. District Judget Ketanji Brown Jackson, who serves in Washington, DC.
JENNY BETH MARTIN/TPP: