Tea Party Patriots Weekly Report From Washington for 8/7/17
The House and Senate have both left for their August recess, and will not return until Tuesday, September 5.
LAST WEEK ON THE SENATE FLOOR:
The Senate returned on Monday and voted to invoke cloture on the nomination of Kevin Newsom of Alabama to be a U.S. Circuit Judge for the 11th Circuit.
The Senate also finally began to break the confirmation logjam on Monday. By voice vote – meaning a Unanimous Consent Agreement had been reached between Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer – the Senate confirmed 103 military promotions or confirmations.
The confirmation blockade had existed, said Schumer, because Republicans had early on announced they were going to try to repeal ObamaCare via reconciliation, meaning there was no need for Democrat votes, meaning there was no need for Democrat input. Now that the threat of repeal had been dealt with, the Democrats could let the Senate go back to its more typical working schedule.
On Tuesday, the Senate voted by 92-5 to confirm Christopher Wray to serve as the new Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Then the Senate voted to confirm Kevin Newsom to serve as a U.S. Circuit Judge for the 11th Circuit.
On Wednesday, the Senate voted by 50-48 to invoke cloture on the nomination of Marvin Kaplan of KS to be a Member of the National Labor Relations Board. Then the Senate voted by the same 50-48 margin to confirm Kaplan to that position on the board of the NLRB.
The confirmation bandwagon continued rolling on Wednesday, with unanimous consent or voice vote confirmations of another eight appointees to serve at the Pentagon.114, the VA Choice bill that passed the House the previous week, was passed by unanimous consent, as were a number of lesser bills.
S. 114, the VA Choice bill that passed the House the previous week, was passed by unanimous consent, as were a number of lesser bills.
On Thursday, the Senate voted by 79-17 to confirm Dan Brouillette of TX to be Deputy Secretary of Energy.
And the Unanimous Consent hits just kept a-comin’. On Thursday, the Senate passed another 10 bills by unanimous consent or voice vote. And then the Senate began to roll out the confirmations again – by unanimous consent, 18 State Department nominees were confirmed, as were four from the Senate Banking Committee’s jurisdiction, two from the Intelligence Committee, five from the Treasury Department, two from Homeland Security, two at the FCC, seven from the HELP and Finance Committees, six from the Department of Justice, six from Veterans Affairs, and 10 from Transportation and Commerce.
Two more nominees appointed to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission were then confirmed by unanimous consent.
Later on Thursday, the Senate voted by 94-1 to pass H.R. 2430, a bill to reauthorize Food and Drug Administration user fees.
And then, after announcing that the Senate would convene pro forma sessions, with no business conducted, every three days beginning on August 4 and continuing through September 1, the Senate went into its August recess one week later than originally planned but one week earlier than Leader McConnell had announced a few weeks ago, when he said the Senate would give up the first two weeks of its planned five-week August recess.
FBI Director Christopher Wray was sworn in Thursday after his confirmation vote.
As for the vacancy at the Department of Homeland Security created when former Marine Lt. Gen. John Kelly agreed to move to the White House to take on the job of serving as President Trump’s chief of staff, no nomination has yet been forthcoming. According to news reports, current Energy Secretary Rick Perry is under consideration for the job.
On Wednesday, President Trump appeared at the White House with Senators Tom Cotton of AR and David Perdue of GA to promote their new bill to cut legal immigration in half and re-cast the nation’s immigration regime into one which prioritizes economic benefit to America rather than family unification. The bill’s sponsors said this would be the biggest change to the immigration system in half a century.
Later, at the regular White House press briefing, Domestic Policy aide Stephen Miller got into a dust-up with Glenn Thrush of The New York Times and Jim Acosta of CNN. It made for quite entertaining video, and you’ll find a link to it in the suggested reading if you haven’t already seen it.
On Friday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions held a press conference to announce a crackdown on government leakers of classified intelligence. Given that this press conference occurred just one day after The Washington Post had published the classified transcripts of President Trump’s January phone calls with the Mexican President and the Australian Prime Minister, the timing could not have been better.
Even Democrats on Capitol Hill recognize the problem of leaks has grown far worse than it was under previous administrations. President Trump tweeted on Saturday indicating that he was pleased Attorney General Sessions had held the press conference.
President Trump last Monday tweeted, “If ObamaCare is hurting people, & it is, why shouldn’t it hurt the insurance companies & why should Congress not be paying what public pays?” That was his second tweet in two days mentioning Congress’ illegal special exemption from ObamaCare, and it became a focus of attention among conservative media. Both The Wall Street Journal and National Review editorialized in favor of repealing the illegal special exemption, and others joined our years-long call for its repeal.
The President still has not made a decision, but it’s clearly on his mind.
The big news of the week on the Russia probe front was the news that Special Counsel Robert Mueller has now impaneled a grand jury in the District of Columbia. That means we now have proof of two things: first, that this is now a criminal investigation, and not a counter-intelligence investigation, because you don’t impanel grand juries for counter-intelligence investigations; second, Mr. Mueller doesn’t like having to fight DC traffic to get all the way to the federal courthouse in Alexandria, VA, where there’s already been a grand jury impaneled to investigate the Michael Flynn material.
Other than that, this is not surprising. It does not mean any indictments are imminent, or even planned. Grand juries are useful investigative tools, because they can issue subpoenas and compel the production of evidence.
One other thing to keep in mind about grand juries – the media often refers to their work as “secret.” That’s half-correct. Grand jurors are under an obligation not to say anything to anyone about their work, and prosecutors are under obligation not to say anything to anyone about their investigations. But witnesses who testify before grand juries are perfectly free to speak about their experiences, including sharing what questions were asked and how they answered them. So bear that in mind in the coming months, when we hear about “leaks” from the grand jury deliberations. They may not be leaks at all.
On Wednesday, President Trump signed into law H.R. 3364, the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, which became Public Law 115-44. During the signing ceremony, the President criticized Congress for passing the law, arguing that it limits his executive power and his ability to negotiate with foreign governments.
The law limits the president’s ability to lift sanctions on Russia or return to Moscow the diplomatic compounds seized by the Obama Administration in response to Russian meddling in our 2016 election.
Last Monday, retired Marine Lt. Gen. John Kelly officially took over as White House Chief of Staff. One of his first actions was to fire Anthony Scaramucci from his position as White House Communications Director, a job Scaramucci hadn’t yet technically assumed – he wasn’t supposed to join the White House staff officially until the middle of August, when the paperwork on the sale of his company was supposed to have been finalized.
Apparently, Gen. Kelly didn’t take kindly to Scaramucci’s interview with The New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza. Press reports indicate he believed the language used was beneath the dignity of the White House, and Kelly believed Scaramucci would never be able to recover inside the White House. When the Trump children turned against Scaramucci in the wake of the interview, the writing was on the wall – and Gen. Kelly delivered the bad news to Scaramucci.
Kelly is reported to have begun the process of instilling a sense of military-style discipline in the White House. He’s drastically cut back on the number of people with so-called “walk in” privileges, and even Ivanka and Jared now make an appointment to see the President.
Another thing Gen. Kelly took care of on his first day on the job, according to press reports, was to call Attorney General Jeff Sessions and tell Sessions that he need not worry about his own personal job security – Kelly said the President was not going to fire him or ask him for his resignation. That, combined with Sessions’ Friday press conference announcing stepped-up investigations of leaks that the President very much wanted to see seems to have quelled that fire, at least for now.
JENNY BETH MARTIN/TEA PARTY PATRIOTS: