Tea Party Patriots Weekly Report from Washington for 6/25/17
The House will return on Monday, 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.
LAST TWO WEEKS ON THE HOUSE FLOOR:
Two weeks ago, the House returned on Monday, June 12, and took up two bills on the Suspension Calendar.
On Tuesday, June 13, they took up H.R. 2581, the Verify First Act, and S. 1094, the Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act. Both passed.
On Wednesday, June 14, operations of the House were suspended for the day in deference to the shooting of Congressman Steve Scalise and four other associates in Alexandria, Virginia.
On Thursday, June 15, the House took up and passed H.R. 2579, the Broader Options for Americans Act.
And then they went home for the weekend.
The House returned on Tuesday, June 20. They took up and passed two bills on the Suspension Calendar, both of which dealt with foster care.
On Wednesday, June 21, the House took up and passed H.R. 1873, the Electricity Reliability and Forest Protection Act.
On Thursday, June 22, the House took up and passed H.R. 1654, the Water Supply Permitting Coordination Act.
On Friday, the House took up and passed H.R. 2842, the Accelerating Individuals into the Workforce Act.
And then they were done.
THIS WEEK ON THE HOUSE FLOOR:
Upon its return Monday evening, the House will attempt to take up four bills on the Suspension Calendar.
On Tuesday, the House will try to take up eight bills on the Suspension Calendar.
Then the House will move to take up two bills – H.R. 3003, the No Sanctuary for Criminals Act, and H.R. 3004, Kate’s Law – that we’ll discuss at more length in a moment.
LAST TWO WEEKS ON THE SENATE FLOOR:
The Senate returned on Monday, June 12. The first vote up was a vote to confirm Kenneth Rapuano to be Assistant Secretary of Defense. He was confirmed by a vote of 95-1.
On Tuesday, June 13, the Senate considered a motion to discharge S.J.Res. 42, a joint resolution disapproving the proposed export of certain defense articles to the Government of Saudi Arabia. The motion to discharge failed by a vote of 47-53.
On Wednesday, June 14, the Senate considered the Russia sanctions amendment we discussed last time. The amendment passed by a vote of 97-2.
On Thursday, June 15, the Senate considered an amendment that would reaffirm the strategic importance of Article 5 of the NATO treaty. The amendment passed by a vote of 100-0.
Later that day, the Senate considered S. 722 as amended, the bill to provide congressional review and to counter Iranian and Russian government aggression. The bill as amended passed by a vote of 98-2.
The Senate then broke for the weekend.
When the Senate returned on Tuesday, June 20, they voted by 95-4 to confirm Brock Long to be Administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Then they voted to invoke cloture on the nomination of Sigal Mandelker to be Undersecretary of Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Crimes. The following day, the Senate confirmed her to the post by a vote of 96-4.
Later on Wednesday, the Senate voted to invoke cloture on the nomination of Marshall Billingslea to Assistance Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorist Financing. On Thursday, the Senate voted to confirm him to the position by a vote of 65-35.
Later on Thursday, the Senate voted to invoke cloture on the nomination of Kristine Svinicki to be a member of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
And then they were done.
THIS WEEK ON THE SENATE FLOOR:
The Senate will return Monday, with the first vote – on the confirmation of Kristine Svinicki to be a member of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission – set for 5:30 PM.
We expect the bulk of the Senate’s floor time will be taken up by the debate over the healthcare bill.
Politico reported last Tuesday that Senate Republicans are planning a vote to increase the debt ceiling in July, so they can get it taken care of before going home for the August recess. Both House and Senate GOP leaders, and the Trump Administration, are still looking favorably on a “clean” debt ceiling increase, given the need to win votes from eight Democrats to get the bill to the floor in the Senate.
That’s going to prove problematic for House conservatives, including some in the leadership, who think they should not be raising the debt ceiling without getting some kind of spending reduction in exchange for their votes. Members of the House Freedom Caucus, in particular, are loath to vote to increase the debt ceiling without such reductions. And they have indicated they want the increase to be in the $1.5 trillion range – long enough to get them past the next elections in 2018, but not long enough to get them past the next presidential election in 2020. Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows believes the Trump Administration and GOP congressional leaders want to see a debt ceiling increase in the $2.5 trillion range.
Meanwhile, a new poll shows that the majority of voters don’t believe Congress should raise the debt ceiling. The poll, fielded June 15-19, surveyed 2,051 registered voters across the country, and has a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percent.
Among Republicans, the percentage who oppose raising the debt ceiling is 64 percent; among Democrats, that percentage is a whopping 49 percent. By contrast, only 20 percent of Republicans and just 25 percent of Democrats believe Congress should raise the debt ceiling.
Not surprisingly, the demographic sub-sample that shows the greatest support for raising the debt ceiling is … government workers. But even there, only 31 percent support raising it, while 54 percent said they oppose it.
On Thursday, June 13, the Department of Homeland Security announced it was reversing its ongoing support for President Obama’s DAPA policy. DAPA, you will recall, is the acronym for Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents, and it’s the policy President Obama tried to put in place by executive order following the 2014 elections – the one he had resisted putting in place for years, acknowledging two dozen times that he did not have the constitutional authority to do so.
Texas led 25 other states in suing the federal government to block that program, and President Obama lost at the federal district court level and at the Circuit Court level. The Supreme Court took the case last year, but deadlocked 4-4, which had the effect of leaving in place the lower court’s ruling blocking the implementation of the order.
So the DHS memo was a simple acknowledgement that with the change of administrations came a change in policy, and the Trump Department of Homeland Security was no longer going to seek to implement the policy. It was the political equivalent of shooting a bullet into a corpse.
But eagle-eyed liberal mainstream media reporters caught a line in the DHS announcement that said that, for the time being, President Obama’s other amnesty program – DACA, the acronym for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals – would remain unchanged. The MSM, predictably, went nuts. Trump, they said, was leaving in place Obama’s DACA program!
The following day, responding to the outcry, DHS released a new statement, reading in part, “DAPA and DACA are two different programs … The fact that DACA was not rescinded by the same memo should not be interpreted as bearing any relevance to the long-term future of that program … The future of the DACA program continues to be under review with the Administration.”
So, it’s time to put pressure on the Trump Administration to rescind the DACA program, as then-candidate Trump promised he would do “on Day One.”
Meanwhile, House Republicans plan to vote on two immigration-related bills next week. H.R. 3004, “Kate’s Law,” is named after Kate Steinle, the young woman who was murdered in San Francisco by an immigrant who had been repeatedly deported yet returned. The bill would boost penalties for illegal immigrants who try to re-enter the United States after being deported.
The second bill – H.R. 3003, the “No Sanctuaries for Criminals” Act – targets so-called “sanctuary cities,” which limit cooperation with federal immigration authorities. The bill would toughen penalties by requiring that cities and counties comply with orders from federal immigration authorities, and would bar Homeland Security and Department of Justice grants from cities and counties that fail to comply.
Finally, with this week being the last week of the Supreme Court’s 2016-2017 session, we expect to see a ruling in the cases challenging the Trump Administration’s executive orders regarding a temporary suspension of travel from certain countries.
On Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell unveiled his long-awaited, drafted-in-secret, shown-to-lobbyists-before-his-own-members-saw it ObamaCare so-called “repeal and replace” bill.
As with the initial draft of the House’s “American Health Care Act,” Sen. McConnell’s “Better Care Reconciliation Act” has some positive things in it. Like the House bill, it effectively repeals both the individual and employer mandates in ObamaCare. And, like the House bill, it promises to reform Medicaid – in fact, more so than does the House bill.
But it stretches out the Medicaid reform even longer than did the House bill, and – because ObamaCare’s Medicaid expansion would go on longer than in the House bill – it is even less likely ever to be enacted, because there will be three more Congresses elected, along with a possible new president, before that reform ever takes place. And as we’ve learned from painful experience, this “I’ll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today” kind of plan never comes to fruition. The smart money bets that any Medicaid reform scheduled to take place in 2024 is a Medicaid reform that will never, ever happen.
Worse than the House bill, though – which at least gave states the option to apply for virtually automatic waivers of both the Essential Health Benefits and Community Rating requirements (that is, the core elements of ObamaCare that are driving premiums through the roof) – the Senate bill leaves in place the Community Rating mandate. As such, it fails to repeal the worst element of ObamaCare.
Worse, it funds ObamaCare’s so-called “Cost Sharing Subsidies,” payments to insurance companies to help them pay subsidies for lower-income recipients. That’s something not even ObamaCare did, and it’s something the House sued President Obama for paying out of unappropriated funds. A federal judge agreed with the House, and declared those payments unconstitutional.
This bill is so bad that even Jonathan Gruber – you remember him, he was one of the architects of ObamaCare, the one who got caught saying publicly, years after its passage, that it only passed because of what he called “the stupidity of the American voter?” – said on CNN Thursday, “ … [T]his is no longer an ObamaCare repeal bill. That’s good.”
Within hours of the discussion draft’s release, four conservative Senators – Rand Paul, Mike Lee, Ted Cruz, and Ron Johnson – issued a joint press release declaring that, in its current form, they could not support it. Cruz circulated among his colleagues a series of amendments he would seek to add during floor consideration this week.
One suggests adding “a provision that says that any insurance company that offers at least one plan that meets the [insurance company] mandates can also sell any other plans that consumers desire.” That would greatly increase choice and competition, and would help lead to lower premium prices.
A second possible Cruz amendment would “enact ‘consensus’ market reforms,” including: “(a) allowing consumer to purchase insurance across state lines; (b) expanding association health plans, so those in individual or small group markets can join together in large groups to get lower prices; (c) allowing people to pay health insurance premiums from health savings accounts, which lowers premiums immediately by letting them be purchased with pre-tax dollars; and (d) giving a bonus in federal Medicaid matching funds to states that enact caps on punitive damages in medical malpractice lawsuits.”
On Friday, Nevada Republican Sen. Dean Heller – the most vulnerable Republican Senator up for reelection next year – declared his opposition to the draft legislation.
So that’s five of the 52 GOP Senators who have publicly declared themselves opposed to the bill in its current form. In addition, McConnell has reason to be concerned about Rob Portman of OH, Shelly Moore Capito of WV, Cory Gardner of CO, and Susan Collins of ME, all of whom have concerns about the rollback of the Medicaid expansion. In addition, Sens. Collins of ME and Lisa Murkowski of AK have concerns over the bill’s defunding of Planned Parenthood.
That said, it’s also clear each of these GOP Senators is looking to make a deal. Johnson, Paul, and Lee were each reelected in 2016, so there’s little pressure that can be brought to bear against them; Heller and Cruz, on the other hand, are in cycle now.
Sen. McConnell says he plans to bring the bill to the floor this week. Because it is being brought to the floor under the complicated parliamentary procedure known as “reconciliation,” it is not subject to extended debate, and, hence, cannot be filibustered by Democrats. On the other hand, there may well be a “votearama,” where one amendment after another is proposed and debated for five or ten minutes before being voted on. So the voting could last until Saturday.
If Sen. McConnell can find 50 Republican votes, he can pass the bill with Vice President Pence in the chair to preside over the Senate and cast a tie-breaking 51st vote if necessary. Then the House would be faced with a choice – either take the Senate bill straight to the floor of the House for a vote, or go to conference with the Senate.
Meanwhile, Judicial Watch has filed a comment with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, calling on the Trump Administration to end Congress’ illegal ObamaCare exemption.
Last Wednesday, former Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson testified before the House Intelligence Committee. In his testimony, he said he was not aware that the FBI had opened a counterintelligence investigation into potential collusion between the Russian government and elements of the Trump campaign last year. He was criticized by both Republicans and Democrats on the committee for not doing more last year to oppose Russian government cyberattacks.
On Friday, The Washington Post published online an article entitled, “Obama’s Secret Struggle To Punish Russia for Putin’s Election Assault.” It’s a long piece, and you’ll find it in the Suggested Reading. I commend it to your attention because of at least one result – Democrats are now openly criticizing the Obama Administration for its failure to corral Putin. Rather than focus their fire on President Trump for having the gall to actually win the election, they spent at least part of last week dumping on former President Obama for not preventing the Russian interference that they still seem to believe cost them the election.
Meanwhile, a new poll shows voters are getting tired of it. A majority of voters now believe the ongoing Russia investigations are hurting the country and want Congress to shift its focus to other topics. The survey, conducted by Harvard-Harris, shows that “64 percent of voters said the investigations into President Trump and Russia are hurting the country.” And 56 percent of voters said “it’s time for Congress and the media to move on to other issues.” A full 73 percent say “they’re concerned that the Russia probes have caused Congress to lose focus on the issues important to them” – that includes 81 percent of Republicans, 74 percent of Independents, and even 68 percent of Democrats.
JENNY BETH MARTIN/TEA PARTY PATRIOTS: