Tea Party Patriots Weekly Report from Washington for 5/07/17
The House is in recess and will return on Tuesday, May 16.
The Senate will return on Monday, with the first vote scheduled for 5:30 PM. The Senate will stay in session through Friday.
LAST WEEK ON THE HOUSE FLOOR:
The House returned on Monday, and took up and passed three bills under Suspension of the Rules.
On Tuesday, the House took up another bill under Suspension, and then took up H.R. 1180, the Working Families Flexibility Act. The bill passed by a vote of 229-197. The bill would allow employers to offer employees paid time off in lieu of wage compensation for overtime hours worked by employees in the private sector. This equalizes the treatment of private sector employees with government employees, who have had this compensation option available to them for years.
On Wednesday, the House took up and passed H.R. 1665, the Disaster Declaration Improvement Act, under Suspension of the Rules. Later that afternoon, the House took up and passed H.R. 244, officially titled the HIRE Vets Act, which served as the vehicle for the omnibus appropriations act to fund the government through the rest of the 20178 fiscal year, which ends on September 30. The bill passed by a vote of 309-118, with 103 of the 118 “no” votes coming from Republicans.
On Thursday, the House took up and passed H.R. 2192, to amend the Health Service Act to eliminate the non-application of certain State waiver provisions to Members of Congress and congressional staff. The bill passed by a vote of 429-0, with two Members not voting.
Then the House voted on H.R. 1628, the amended American Health Care Act of 2017. The bill passed by a vote of 217-213, with one Member not voting.
Then the House took up and passed H.R. 1644, the Korean Interdiction and Modernization of Sanctions Act, under Suspension of the Rules. The bill passed by a vote of 419-1.
And then they skedaddled out of town.
THIS WEEK ON THE HOUSE FLOOR:
The House is in recess this week.
LAST WEEK ON THE SENATE FLOOR:
The Senate returned on Monday and, in their first vote of the week, voted to invoke cloture on the nomination of Jay Clayton to be a member of the Securities and Exchange Commission. The vote was 60-36.
On Tuesday, the Senate voted to confirm Clayton. The vote was 61-37.
On Wednesday, the Senate passed a motion to proceed to H.J.Res. 66, a Congressional Review Act Resolution of Disapproval cancelling the Obama Department of Labor’s regulation on State government-run retirement plans. The motion to proceed carried by a vote of 51-48.
Then the Senate voted to pass that CRA Resolution of Disapproval. The vote was 50-49. That’s the 14th CRA Resolution of Disapproval to pass the Senate this year.
On Thursday, the Senate voted to pass the five-month omnibus appropriations bill to fund the government through the end of the fiscal year in September. The vote was 79-18.
And then they were done.
THIS WEEK ON THE SENATE FLOOR:
The Senate will take up two confirmations on Monday – Heather Wilson to be Secretary of the Air Force, and a cloture vote on the nomination of Scott Gottlieb to be Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration.
As we discussed last Sunday, an amendment to the American Health Care Act offered by Congressman Tom MacArthur of New Jersey revived the possibility of the passage of a repeal bill through the House. The White House very much wanted the House to take up the amended bill last week, in time for the 100 day mark, but the GOP leadership didn’t think they had the votes yet, so they delayed.
It turned out they were right. Over the weekend, liberals and moderates in the House GOP Conference began to back off the bill. Early last week, Fred Upton announced he could not support the amended bill. Upton is important because he’s the former Chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, one of the committees with major jurisdiction over health care, and he had actually drafted several repeal bills himself in years past. The same day Upton announced he was opposed to the bill, Congressman Billy Long, a conservative from Missouri who endorsed Trump for president early, announced that he, too, was opposed to the bill.
Both were concerned about the bill’s treatment of patients with pre-existing conditions. They were reading headlines that said the amended bill would make life more difficult for those with pre-existing conditions, and they needed to be assured that those with pre-existing conditions wouldn’t fare any worse off under the terms of the new legislation.
So they got on the phone with the president, who agreed to add an amendment they wanted – they wanted more money. For another $8 billion set aside in a fund for those with pre-existing conditions, to be added to $130 billion already in the bill for the same purpose, the two – and several of their colleagues – were brought back on board.
So the House GOP leadership announced they were ready to vote, and the vote would be scheduled for Thursday.
Having tried once before and failed, this was a risk. But they knew what they were doing. And I would note that they borrowed a page from Nancy Pelosi’s playbook – when ObamaCare finally passed the House in March of 2010, it did so with 219 votes, rather than 218. That’s because Pelosi knew she needed to pass the bill with one extra vote to spare, so that none of her incumbents could be tagged by their GOP opponents as having cast “the deciding vote” for ObamaCare. If she had passed the bill with 218 votes, EVERY Democrat incumbent who voted for the bill could be tagged as having cast “the deciding vote.” So Ryan did the same thing. With five vacancies in the House, he only needed 216 votes to pass the amended AHCA, but he wanted 217, so he could protect his more vulnerable Members.
In the end, he got the 217 votes he wanted, and the amended AHCA passed. All but two members of the House Freedom Caucus voted for the bill. Even Justin Amash voted for the bill, and he almost never votes for these things.
Now the bill goes to the Senate, where it’s quite likely it will be scrapped. Leading Senate Republicans have indicated it’s dead on arrival there. Majority Leader McConnell has set up a working group with 13 Republicans from across the conference, and it appears they’ll work to fashion a bill that can pass the Senate without Democrat votes. This has upset some Senators, who want the bill to go through regular committees, but this is the way McConnell thinks he has the best odds of getting to 50.
Don’t expect this to move as fast as it did in the House. In less than four months, the House passed a bill that repeals much of the infrastructure of ObamaCare. We don’t think it repeals enough, but it does repeal an awful lot. I’d expect it to take at least until the end of July before we might see floor action in the Senate.
Last Sunday night, appropriators revealed the results of their bipartisan, bicameral negotiations over an omnibus appropriations bill to fund the government for the rest of the 2017 fiscal year that ends on September 30. By any objective standard, it was a win for the Democrats and a loss for the Republicans.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi began gloating almost immediately. Sunday night, the two of them issued statements lauding the spending agreement and bragging about how much they had won – they had stood up to President Trump’s demands for money for a border wall, and stood up to President Trump’s demand that there be included a provision blocking federal funding for sanctuary cities, and stood up to President Trump’s demand that there be funds included for a “deportation force.” They had stood up to Republican demands for defunding of Planned Parenthood. They had stood up to Republican demands to defund the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and they had saved the Environmental Protection Agency from massive budget cuts.
By Monday, the story was rocketing all over the news media – the Democrats had won, and the GOP had been taken to the cleaners. President Trump does not like looking like anything but a winner, so he sent out his Director of the Office of Management and Budget, Mick Mulvaney, to spin that in fact, the Republicans had “won” this round of budget negotiations. Three times, Mulvaney argued gamely that the Trump White House got what it wanted out of these negotiations.
Members of Congress didn’t seem to agree. When the House voted on the bill, Republicans split 131 in favor, and 103 against, with four not voting. Only 15 Democrats in the House voted against the bill. And when the Senate voted, Republicans split, 32 in favor, and 18 against, with two not voting. Not a single Democrat voted against the bill.
I think that says more about how bad this bill was from a conservative standpoint than anything that came out of the White House in terms of spin.
JENNY BETH MARTIN/TEA PARTY PATRIOTS: