House/Senate Action: Week of 7/14/14-7/20/14
Both the House and Senate are in session this week.
The House will be in session Tuesday through Thursday.
The Senate will be in session Monday through Friday.
On Tuesday, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew issued a call for Congress to enact new legislation that would prohibit U.S.-based multinational corporations from moving their headquarters overseas to take advantage of lower tax rates. In his letter to Sen. Ron Wyden, the new Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Lew urged what he called “a new sense of economic patriotism,” and asked that the law be applied retroactively, back to May.
This mirrors similar calls from House Democrats, led by Ways and Means Ranking Member Sander Levin of MI. But Wyden apparently wants to wait until he can oversee a comprehensive rewrite of the nation’s tax code.
Needless to say, this would NEVER get through the GOP-controlled House. I only mention it because it shows just how nutty these people are: After letting the American corporate tax rate remain the highest in the industrialized world for the entire duration of the Obama Administration – which has led, by some estimates, to American-based multinationals keeping upwards of $2 TRILLION in profits overseas, to avoid the ridiculously high U.S. corporate tax rate they’d have to pay if they brought those profits back – the Administration now has the gall to seek new legislation that would PREVENT companies from leaving, to take advantage of lower tax rates elsewhere. And they want it applied retroactively!
Directive 10-289 called, and wants its totalitarian language back!
On Tuesday, the House passed an $11 billion stop-gap transportation funding bill that would authorize spending through the end of May next year. The bill would replenish the Highway Trust Fund, which relies on the 18.4 cents/gallon federal gas tax (which hasn’t been increased since 1993, and which was not indexed for inflation), and which is about to run dry.
The White House signaled its support for the bill. The Senate, on the other hand, wants to pass an open-ended authorization bill, and then come back in the Lame Duck session to pass a six-year authorization bill. Senate Republicans are opposed to that.
Why? Because Senate Republicans think they’re going to take control of the Senate in the November midterms. If they succeed, a long-term authorization bill will have to wait until next year.
Meanwhile, there’s an alternative to the standard reauthorization bill – it’s called the Transportation Empowerment Act (TEA), and it was introduced in the House last November by Rep. Tom Graves of GA and in the Senate by Sen. Mike Lee of UT.
I’ve included links in the Suggested Reading so you can learn more about the TEA bill.
Contrary to what we expected, there was no ruling on the Halbig v. Sebelius case in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. Look for that decision to come out early this week. Hmm, that sounds familiar.
In response to Federal District Court Judge Reggie Walton’s order last week, the IRS swore under penalty of perjury that Lois Lerner’s hard drive crashed and was wiped clean in 2011. And the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration responded that he had 15 staff members working on the investigation into the missing emails.
BOEHNER LAWSUIT AGAINST OBAMA:
On Wednesday, the House Rules Committee held a hearing on the proposed lawsuit against the President for executive overreach. You’ll find a link to the testimony offered by four constitutional experts on the strengths and weaknesses of the proposed suit in the Suggested Reading.
Where to begin?
Let’s start with an extraordinary report in this morning’s Washington Post, detailing how the Obama Administration was warned repeatedly, beginning two years ago, about what would become the crisis we now see on our southern border. One of the key takeaways: They knew as early as the spring of 2012 that there was a problem brewing, but the views of the domestic policy aides in the White House trumped the concerns of the national security aides. Rather than take the actions necessary to stem the tide – actions that would have, necessarily, drawn negative attention the President’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program in the midst of the debate in the Senate over the Gang of Eight amnesty bill – the domestic policy aides squelched addressing the problem.
Another takeaway: funding for the HHS Office of Refugee Resettlement has exploded, from $149 million per year in FY2011 to $376 million in FY2013. The President’s budget request for the office for FY2014 was $495 million. But by the time Congress approved the omnibus spending bill for FY2014 in January, even that number had exploded, to $868 million. And then Kathleen Sebelius, then the Secretary of HHS, transferred another $44 million, bringing the total budget for this year to $912 million. So in just three years, funding for the Office of Refugee Resettlement has grown from $149 million per year to $912 million per year.
Meanwhile, the Border Crisis Working Group appointed by Speaker Boehner to make recommendations to the House on legislation to address the crisis teased us all week and led us to believe they would release their proposal by Friday. Final drafts of the recommendations were delivered to the seven members’ offices on Thursday, but on Friday chairwoman Kay Granger of TX announced that they were still working through some details, and would release their recommendations early this coming week.
The House and Senate are approaching the President’s $3.7 billion border bailout request from very different places. It looks like Harry Reid wants to pass the full request pretty much as is, but the House is rewriting it significantly – the Speaker knows he wouldn’t have the votes for the full funding request even if he wanted to. Look for the House to cut that $3.7 billion to less than $2 billion.
Too, the House seems to be convinced that amending the 2008 Victims Trafficking Act we discussed last week must be part of the package. That’s the law that says illegal minors from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador cannot be returned immediately, but have to be processed through an immigration court first – which means, in practice, that we accept them.
There’s been a lot of discussion on the blogs and among opponents of amnesty about this 2008 law, with many conservative amnesty opponents suggesting this is a shiny object conveniently serving as a distraction. I disagree. I agree with them that the 2008 law was not the cause of this crisis – that was, clearly, the announcement by the President in the summer of 2012 that he was establishing the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which leads to the belief in Central America that if you can get here, you can stay here – but I disagree with their conclusion that we shouldn’t amend it. I think we should, because we cannot legally deport these unaccompanied minors when our law enforcement authorities apprehend them.
But make no mistake, this crisis not going to end until we reverse the President’s DACA program, and secure the borders. To that end, look to Sens. Sessions, Cruz, and Vitter to take the lead in the fight.
Meanwhile, on Friday, the White House announced that next Friday, July 25, the President will host a meeting at the White House with the presidents of Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador.