Tea Party Patriots Weekly Report from Washington for 9/25/16
The House will return on Monday, with first votes scheduled for 6:30 PM. They are scheduled to stay in town through whenever they get their work done – which means, whenever they pass a Continuing Resolution.
The Senate will come back on Monday and return to consideration of H.R. 5325, the vehicle for the FY17 Continuing Resolution, but the first vote will not be until 2:15 Tuesday afternoon, after the two parties’ weekly lunches. The first vote will be on a motion to invoke cloture on the McConnell substitute amendment to the bill, which is another way of saying the first vote will be on a motion to invoke cloture on the C.R. itself.
LAST WEEK ON THE HOUSE FLOOR:
The only thing of note that happened on the House floor last week were the two bills dealing with Iran – H.R. 5931, the Prohibiting Future Ransom Payments to Iran Act, which passed by a vote of 254-163, and H.R. 5461, the Iranian Leadership Asset Transparency Act, which passed by a vote of 282-143.
THIS WEEK ON THE HOUSE FLOOR:
The House will return on Monday evening and move to take up 16 bills under Suspension of the Rules. On Tuesday they’ll take up another three bills under Suspension, and then they’ll try to take up H.R. 5303, the Water Resources Development Act.
Assuming the Senate overrides President Obama’s veto of the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act, the House will vote this week on that veto override.
But the big action for the week, of course, will be the Continuing Resolution. Problem is, House leaders have no idea when that will come over from the Senate, so everyone is in limbo.
LAST WEEK ON THE SENATE FLOOR:
The Senate returned to work last Monday, resuming consideration of the motion to proceed to H.R. 5325, the House-passed Legislative Branch appropriations bill that will serve as the legislative vehicle for the FY17 Continuing Resolution. Negotiations over the weekend had failed to come to a conclusion, so the cloture vote on the motion to proceed was pushed back to 2:15 Tuesday afternoon.
On Tuesday afternoon, the Senate took up and passed the motion to invoke cloture on the motion to proceed to H.R. 5325. This was a rather odd thing actually because, at the time, there was no substitute amendment to show Senators what exactly was in the Continuing Resolution – that is, they were essentially voting to debate a blank piece of paper. Nevertheless, that cloture motion passed by a vote of 89-7. The Senate then went into it’s up to 30 hours of post-cloture debate time on the measure, which, I repeat, did not yet exist.
Later Wednesday, the Senate took up Sen. Rand Paul’s motion to discharge S.J. Res. 39, a resolution of disapproval regarding tank sales to Saudi Arabia. The Paul measure was rejected, by a vote of 71-27.
On Thursday morning, the Senate adopted by voice vote the motion to proceed to H.R. 5325, the legislative vehicle for the Continuing Resolution. Leader McConnell offered a substitute amendment and then filed cloture on both the substitute amendment and the underlying bill.
THIS WEEK ON THE SENATE FLOOR:
For the last three weeks, I’ve told you that I expect the Senate to take up and pass a Continuing Resolution, send it to the House, and get out of town. I’ve been wrong for three weeks in a row. But I’m pretty darn sure I’m gonna be right THIS week, because if they don’t pass a C.R. through the Senate and the House and get it signed by the President before midnight Friday, the government will run out of money.
So the only question is, just which C.R. will pass? Will it be McConnell’s version, or a version that’s even worse (because McConnell tried to accommodate Harry Reid’s demands)? Or will it be a VERY short-term C.R., maybe even for just a few days to get them through next weekend, if they think by Thursday they’re close but haven’t yet finalized everything? We’ll have more on this in a moment.
Also, Senate Majority Leader McConnell has indicated he expects to move a veto override against President Obama’s veto of the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act.
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s effort to block the Obama Administration’s plan to hand over control of the Internet domain registration function to an international body made it almost all the way to the final round of the Continuing Resolution, but was dropped at the very last minute. His legislative language is NOT included in the version of the C.R. that Senate Majority Leader McConnell offered on Thursday afternoon.
On Wednesday of last week, the House Judiciary Committee met for four hours to grill one witness – IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. Democrats – not a single one of whom appears to give a damn that one of the most feared agencies of the federal government used its coercive power against individuals and groups of individuals who were exercising their Constitutional rights – chose to lob softballs in Commissioner Koskinen’s general vicinity, when they weren’t asking him questions about Donald Trump’s taxes or other questions about the Trump Foundation. Perhaps if tea party groups had thought to advocate for some crazy left wing position – like, say, the Occupy movement or something similar – Democrats would care about their having been targeted. But it’s a bit late for that now.
Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan led the charge for our side, repeatedly grilling Koskinen. Trey Gowdy of SC was good, too, but we’ve seen no evidence since the hearing that Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte of VA is inclined to move toward impeachment.
One thing House GOP leaders had not counted on, apparently, is what happens with a Member you screw – I refer to Rep. Tim Huelskamp of KS, who, having been defeated for renomination, is a totally free agent for the duration of the 114th Congress, and has no reason at all NOT to move a privileged resolution calling for the impeachment of John Koskinen. We’ve heard nothing definitive from him on this since the hearing, but that possibility clearly remains, and there’s nothing Speaker Ryan or other members of leadership could do to stop him.
Republicans on the Hill are raising concerns that a new form of IRS targeting is about to begin – specifically, the IRS is about to start sending letters to 20 million American taxpayers “suggesting” they sign up for ObamaCare health insurance. At President Obama’s direction, the IRS is “reaching out” to taxpayers who paid the individual mandate tax penalty for not buying mandatory health insurance or who claimed an exemption. Why? Because without young and healthy people paying for more insurance than they need, the ObamaCare exchanges are failing. And so far, nowhere near enough young and healthy people have chosen to overpay for their health insurance. Solution? Have the IRS send a letter “encouraging” taxpayers who paid the penalty or claimed an exemption to buy insurance through the ObamaCare exchanges anyway.
GOP leaders on the Hill are not happy. Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Majority Whip Steve Scalise, and Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady sent a letter to IRS Commissioner Koskinen declaring, “We strongly object to any action by the Administration to improperly use sensitive taxpayer information to identify and harass individuals who have rejected the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) by choosing to pay a tax rather than be forced into a health care plan they don’t need and don’t want.”
On Friday, the last day he could legally veto the bill, the President vetoed S. 2040, Sen. Cornyn’s Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act. That’s the bill that would allow victims and family members of victims of terrorist attacks on U.S. soil to sue foreign governments and individual members of foreign governments.
Senate Majority Leader McConnell announced the Senate would stay in session long enough to hold a veto override vote, which might take place some time this week. Several Senate Democrats, under pressure from the White House, are rethinking their position on the issue, and even some Republicans – under pressure from House Armed Services Chairman Mac Thornberry of TX – are rethinking. So this thing is not over and done.
Another week, another week without an agreement on a Continuing Resolution that would fund the government beyond the current September 30 deadline. Late on Thursday afternoon of last week, after spending another several days working behind the scenes to come to an agreement, to no avail, Senate Majority Leader McConnell unveiled his proposal for a Continuing Resolution for FY2017. He filled the amendment tree, meaning there will be no opportunity to amend his proposal – it’ll be an up or down, yes or no vote. He set the first vote for Tuesday, meaning Senators and their staffs would have five days (two of them on a weekend) to digest the behemoth before deciding how to vote.
Frankly, from our point of view, this legislation sucks. It funds the government only through December 9, thereby necessitating a lame duck session of Congress, so it fails the very first test.
Here’s what’s NOT in it:
- No legislative language to block the transfer of the domain registration function from the ICANN to an international body
- No funding to help resolve the water crisis in Flint, MI
- No language that changes the Export-Import Bank’s requirement for a quorum of the board to be in place to backstop loans larger than $10 million – that is, a conservative win
Here’s what IS in it:
- Funding for the opioid crisis legislation that the President recently signed
- Funding for a down payment for flood relief in MD, TX, WV, and LA – that is, another $500 million for LA, for example, even though the Federal Emergency Management Agency already has $12 billion on hand and FEMA officials were quoted a month ago saying they had plenty of money to deal with flooding in LA
- Record levels of funding for veterans
- Funding for a Zika response, including funds for two Planned Parenthood clinics in Puerto Rico
- Language that prohibits the Securities and Exchange Commission from requiring public companies to disclose their political spending – that is, a conservative win
Conservatives aren’t at all happy with this turkey, but they are not the only ones panning the proposal. Democrats are seething, Appropriations Committee Ranking Democrat Barbara Mikulski – who’s leaving the Senate at the end of this Congress, meaning this is her last big spending bill – is upset that she was blindsided. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan is angry that there’s no funding for fixing the water problem in Flint, Michigan, included. And Harry Reid says he’s already talked to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, and they both agree this proposal is a non-starter.
McConnell’s response on why there’s extra funding for flood victims, but not funding for fixing the water problem in Flint, MI, is instructive – the difference between the two crises, he notes, is that flooding is a natural calamity, an act of God, if you will, while the water problems in Flint were the result of choices made by state and local governments. Consequently, in his mind, Flint can wait its turn and get funding from the regular appropriations process, while flood victims across the country will get federal relief on an expedited basis.
As to the rest of what made it into the C.R. and what did not, remember, he DID say he wanted to offer the Democrats a so-called “clean” C.R., shorn of any controversial riders. That explains the removal of the ICANN language, because it’s clear the ICANN language would have been controversial – as I reported last week, Illinois Democrat Dick Durbin (the number two Democrat in the Senate) already called out Sen. Cruz on that issue, saying he could not believe Republicans would risk a government shutdown over the issue. So McConnell knew that was an issue the Democrats would fight over, and he decided to remove it, all in the name of giving the Democrats a “clean” C.R.
On the other hand, that insistence on a “clean” C.R. helped on two conservative wins – the Export-Import Bank, and the language prohibiting the SEC from requiring public companies to disclose their political spending. In both cases, current law does what he wants it to do (that is, prevent the Export-Import Bank from approving loans larger than $10 million without a quorum of its board in place, and block the SEC from taking actions restricting free speech rights); to change those laws to do what the liberals want would require a positive action from the Congress changing the current law – in other words, a rider on the C.R. But since the Democrats made clear they do not want ANY riders on the spending bill, he’s now hoisting them on their own petard on those two issues.
Now, we can debate the merits of the decision to offer the Democrats a “clean” C.R. You probably wouldn’t get much argument from me, because I think that’s a dumb idea. Leader McConnell has made it clear many, many times that he has no backbone for a fight with the President, or even particularly with Harry Reid. If he’s not going to fight at all, then he should have just given them whatever they wanted, including the funding for Flint, MI. He caved on the duration of the C.R., he caved on funding for the two Planned Parenthood clinics in Puerto Rico via the Zika funding, he caved on blocking the Internet giveaway. And here’s what’s worse – he’s going to lose on the Flint, MI funding fight. Does he really think most Americans give a crap that the water crisis was caused by governments and not nature? That’s just silly. The Democrats are now set to argue that he’ll aid flood victims but not Flint residents, an awful lot of whom are poor, and black. He’ll cave faster than a coal mine built with balsa wood support struts.
And yes, that’s my prediction as to where this thing ends up – it will be a complete and total rollover by the Senate GOP under Leader McConnell, and that will jam the House.
About which … why in the world is Speaker Ryan going along with this? I could understand why, weeks ago, when he had been led to believe that a quick deal was just around the corner, and the Senate was going to move a bill and get out of town. But that was two weeks ago, and the Senate is dragging its feet, largely because Harry Reid WANTS the Senate to drag its feet. (The longer they’re in session, of course, the shorter they have to campaign back home, and that, presumably, makes it harder for Senators like Ron Johnson, Mark Kirk, Kelly Ayotte, Pat Toomey, Marco Rubio, Roy Blunt, Richard Burr, and Rob Portman to fend off their Democrat challengers back home.)
Ryan could have moved a bill a week ago. He could move a bill Tuesday. But instead, he’s waiting. And waiting. And waiting.
Meanwhile, Rep. Steve King plans to introduce his own Continuing Resolution, which we fully expect will be to our immense liking, and which we fully expect will go nowhere, because GOP congressional leadership clearly has little regard for either the Members who make the majority, or the constituents who put them there.
In addition, members of the House Freedom Caucus are thinking ahead, and have a plan to avoid a shutdown fight in December, during the lame duck session – they want an automatic extension of the Continuing Resolution that would last through January 18 if congressional leaders cannot come to agreement on a longer-term spending bill early in December.
Their thinking is simple: Every time Congress faces year-end spending decisions, with the Christmas recess hanging over their heads, conservatives end up getting screwed. The pressure to get out of town is used by leaders in both parties on both sides of the Capitol to get Members to just roll over and vote “yes.” They want to avoid that. How to do that? Add a provision to the current C.R. legislation that says it extends automatically for another five weeks or so if Congress does not pass a new spending bill that supersedes it by December 9. So Reps. Jim Jordan and Mark Meadows plan to introduce this amendment to the C.R. this week. And what are they offering House GOP Leadership to get them to go along? The prospect of winning Freedom Caucus votes for the C.R. Most of them are expected to vote AGAINST the C.R. because they don’t like it; but if GOP leaders allowed this amendment to be added to the C.R., that would reduce their opposition, and maybe even flip their votes from the “nay” to the “aye” column.
Funding for the government runs out on September 30, which is next Friday. The clock is ticking.
The former chairmen of the House Republican Study Committee met with both Reps. Mark Walker of NC and Andy Harris of MD, and decided to endorse Harris for chairman of the RSC in the next Congress. Historically – but not always – the endorsement of the former chairmen leads to victory for the endorsed candidate.
JENNY BETH MARTIN/TEA PARTY PATRIOTS: