Tea Party Patriots Weekly Report from Washington for 6/04/17
The House will return on Tuesday, with the first votes scheduled for 6:30 PM. The House will stay in session through Friday, with the last vote scheduled to be no later than 3 PM.
The Senate will return on Monday, with the first vote set for 5:30. The Senate is also scheduled to stay in session through Friday.
TWO WEEKS AGO ON THE HOUSE FLOOR:
Two weeks ago, on Monday, May 22, the House took up and passed two bills under Suspension of the Rules – H.R. 1862, the Global Child Protection Act of 2017, and H.R. 1842, the Strengthening Children’s Safety Act of 2017.
On Tuesday, May 23, the House took up and passed H.R. 2288, the Veterans Appeals Improvements and Modernization Act of 2017, under Suspension of the Rules.
On Wednesday, May 24, the House took up and passed both H.R. 2052, the PRIVATE Act, and H.R. 467, the VA Scheduling Accountability Act, under Suspension of the Rules. Then the House took up and passed H.R. 953, the Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act, by a vote of 256-165.
On Thursday, May 25, the House took up and passed both H.R. 1761, the Protecting Against Child Exploitation Act of 2017, and H.R. 1973, the Protecting Young Victims from Sexual Abuse Act of 2017.
And then they were done, and they left for 12 days.
THIS WEEK ON THE HOUSE FLOOR:
The House returns on Tuesday, with the first vote set for 6:30 PM. On Tuesday evening, they’ll attempt to take up and pass three bills under Suspension of the Rules.
On Wednesday, they’ll take up another bill under Suspension, and then two bills under regular order – H.R. 2213, the Anti-Border Corruption Reauthorization Act of 2017, and H.R. 10, the Financial CHOICE Act of 2017. “CHOICE” is actually the acronym for “Creating Hope and Opportunity for Investors, Consumers and Entrepreneurs,” and it’s the Republican attempt to repeal major sections of the Dodd-Frank Act.
TWO WEEKS AGO ON THE SENATE FLOOR:
Two weeks ago, on Monday, May 22, the Senate voted 82-13 to confirm former Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad as the new U.S. Ambassador to the People’s Republic of China.
On Wednesday, May 24, the Senate voted 94-6 to confirm John Sullivan to serve as Deputy Secretary of State. The Senate also voted 52-48 that day to invoke cloture on the nomination of Amul Thapar of Kentucky to be a U.S. Circuit Court Judge for the Sixth Circuit.
On Thursday, May 25, the Senate voted 52-44 to confirm Amul Thapar to be a U.S. Circuit Court Judge on the Sixth Circuit.
And then they were done, and they left for 11 days.
THIS WEEK ON THE SENATE FLOOR:
The Senate returns on Monday, with the first vote set for 5:30 PM on S.Res. 176, a resolution regarding the 50th anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem.
At 2:15 PM on Tuesday, the Senate will vote to confirm Courtney Elwood of Virginia to serve as General Counsel of the Central Intelligence Agency.
On Thursday, President Trump announced his intent to withdraw the United States from the 2015 Paris Accord on climate change, an international agreement negotiated by the Obama Administration that was never submitted to the Senate for ratification because it never would have garnered the 67 votes needed. The media and Democrats, predictably, went nuts, while Trump supporters were overjoyed by the president’s decision to stand up to the international community, the international left, many U.S. corporate leaders, his own daughter and his Secretary of State, all of whom lobbied hard for him to keep the U.S. inside the accord. As the president said in announcing his intent to withdraw, he was elected to represent the people of Pittsburgh, not Paris.
Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt, to the consternation of Trump opponents, celebrated Thursday evening by dining with his staff at a French restaurant in D.C.
In testimony before the House Ways and Means Committee on Wednesday, May 24, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the Trump administration wanted the Congress to move to raise the debt ceiling sooner rather than later, explaining that lower-than-anticipated tax receipts meant he was going to lose the ability to use smoke and mirrors to keep paying the government’s bills sooner than he had originally anticipated. Congress, he said, should raise the debt ceiling before it goes home for the August recess, rather than wait until October or November, as had originally been anticipated.
He also said he wanted Congress to send the president a “clean” debt ceiling increase, shorn of any spending cuts or other debt-reducing reforms.
Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney countered several days later, in an interview with the Washington Examiner, where he rejected the thought of a “clean” debt ceiling increase. In doing so, he lined himself up with the House Freedom Caucus – of which he had been a founding member – which ten days ago released a statement indicating its members could vote for a debt ceiling increase as long as it included spending reductions or other debt-reducing reforms.
Meanwhile, Democrats have their own thoughts on the matter. Because any legislation needs to get 60 votes in the Senate just to get to the floor, Democrats have leverage there. And, believe it or not, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer thinks a “clean” debt ceiling increase isn’t good enough to earn the Democrat votes needed to allow a bill on the floor – so he’s insisting that Democrats will only support a “clean” debt ceiling increase if the Republicans agree first that any tax reform bill they move to the floor will be revenue-neutral, meaning that it cannot be a tax cut over the ten-year budget window.
This is going to be a thing. Republicans are going to have to figure out first what their own position is, and then figure out how to deal with Schumer and his Democrats. Stay tuned.
On Thursday, May 25, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a federal district court’s ruling blocking implementation of President Trump’s temporary travel ban from six majority-Muslim countries. In a 10-3 ruling, the court said the executive order “speaks with vague words of national security, but in context drips with religious intolerance, animus and discrimination.”
One week later, on Thursday night of last week, the Trump administration appealed to the Supreme Court of the United States for an emergency decision on its temporary travel suspension. The Supreme Court responded by giving the plaintiffs in the case until 3 PM on Friday, June 12 to respond to the Trump administration’s request for the Court to allow the temporary suspension to go into effect while the case is being litigated. I wouldn’t bet on it, but that means it’s possible that the Supreme Court could hear this case before the end of its current term later this month. More likely, they’ll hear the case in October or November.
On Wednesday, May 24, the Congressional Budget Office released its assessment – in official language, its “score” – of the amended version of the American Health Care Act as it passed the House. According to CBO, enactment of the legislation would leave 23 million more Americans without healthcare coverage in ten years, and would reduce the deficit by $119 billion over a decade. That represents about $30 billion less in deficit reduction than the agency estimated would result from its first score of the draft legislation, largely because amendments added to the bill as it moved through the process added monies to be spent to help people with preexisting conditions and for health insurance subsidies.
Of course, the CBO has been off before – way, way off, in fact. The principal author of this particular CBO assessment, it turns out, is a federal bureaucrat by the name of Holly Harvey, who’s been the head of the CBO’s health analysis division since 2009, after having served in Bill Clinton’s administration as a senior analyst in the office of the assistant secretary for planning and evaluation at the Department of Health and Human Services, where she worked on Hillarycare. Not surprisingly, Ms. Harvey’s analyses exhibit a bias in favor of government-centric healthcare – and they tend to overestimate the strength of the individual mandate. So it’s no surprise that CBO believes that the removal of the individual mandate would result in far fewer people having health insurance than have it now. As an example, the CBO’s last estimate of enrollment in the individual marketplace suggested there would be 18 million enrolled in 2016, not the 10.8 million enrolled now, so take the CBO estimate with more than a grain of salt.
Nevertheless, the media and Democrats, predictably, went nuts, and many weak-kneed Senate Republicans – ah, but I repeat myself – headed for the hills.
Senate Republicans are still undecided on how to move forward on ObamaCare repeal. They’ve been meeting for weeks, and the leadership and Senate Budget Committee staffs – with help from staff from the Finance Committee and the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee – spent last week during the Memorial Day recess putting together draft language for a bill that would meet the reconciliation instructions. We haven’t seen it yet.
On Friday, May 26, the Washington Post reported that the Russian Ambassador to the United States, Sergey Kislyak, had told his superiors in Moscow that Jared Kushner had, during a December meeting with the Russian Ambassador, discussed setting up a secure communications channel with Moscow, so that Trump transition team aides could have their pre-inaugural communications with Moscow shielded from monitoring by the U.S. intelligence community. According to the current U.S. officials who leaked this classified intelligence illegally to the Post, Kushner suggested using Russian diplomatic facilities for the communications.
FOX News later reported that Kislyak had suggested the use of Russian diplomatic facilities, not Kushner.
Kislyak’s report was allegedly picked up in exchanges between Kislyak and Moscow, not by surveilling either the meeting itself or the communications of the American citizens involved in the meeting, said the U.S. officials who leaked the story to the Post.
Of course, if true, this raises an obvious question – if the Trump campaign had been colluding with the Russian government, why would they need to set up a secure communications channel in December for the transition team? Wouldn’t they already have established some kind of secure communications channel?
So that’s a new thing to investigate.
Meanwhile, the Senate Intelligence Committee announced that former FBI Director James Comey would testify this coming Thursday, in what is sure to be the investigation’s first major hearing. The Trump administration floated a trial balloon on Friday, suggesting the president might invoke executive privilege to prevent Comey from testifying, but that trial balloon was quickly shot down. The president made what might have been a reasonable case for executive privilege much more difficult by firing Comey (thereby preventing Trump from simply ordering his executive branch subordinate not to comply with the committee’s request) and by talking about his conversations with Comey himself, via Twitter.
So expect major coverage of the Thursday hearing.
JENNY BETH MARTIN/TEA PARTY PATRIOTS: