Tea Party Patriots Citizens Fund Weekly Report from Washington for 9/10/18
The House and Senate will both return Wednesday, and stay in session through Friday.
LAST WEEK ON THE HOUSE FLOOR:
The House returned to work last Tuesday, and defeated a Democratic motion to instruct conferees on the Defense Department appropriations bill, and then, under Suspension of the Rules, passed H.R. 6439, the Biometric Identification Transnational Migration Alert Program Authorization Act of 2018.
On Wednesday, the House passed H.R. 1635, the Empowering Students Through Enhanced Financial Counseling Act, by a vote of 406-4.
On Thursday, the House defeated a Democratic motion to instruct conferees on the appropriations bill for the Department of the Interior, Environment, and related agencies. Then the House passed H.R. 4606, the Ensuring Small Scale LNG Certainty and Access Act. Then the House passed H.R. 6691, the Community Safety and Security Act, by a vote of 247-152.
And then they were done.
THIS WEEK ON THE HOUSE FLOOR:
The House will return Wednesday, with first votes scheduled for 6:30 PM. At that time, the House is scheduled to consider 21 bills under Suspension of the Rules.
On Thursday and Friday, the House is scheduled to consider another 12 bills under Suspension of the Rules.
In addition, the House is scheduled to consider H.R. 3798, the Save American Workers Act of 2017, and the House may consider the Conference Report to accompany H.R. 5895, the Energy and Water, Legislative Branch, and Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2019.
Last votes will take place no later than 3 PM, and then they’ll be done.
LAST WEEK ON THE SENATE FLOOR:
The Senate returned to work last Tuesday, and voted to invoke cloture on the nomination of Elad L. Rosman to be a member of the Securities and Exchange Commission. Then, on Wednesday, the Senate voted by 85-14 to confirm him to that position.
Then Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell shut down the Senate because Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer objected to the typical unanimous consent request to allow the Judiciary Committee to continue its hearing after the Senate had started its floor business. We’ll talk more about that in a moment.
On Thursday, the Senate confirmed two new federal judges – Dominic Lanza to be U.S. District Judge for the District of Arizona, and Charles Williams to be U.S. District Judge for the Northern District of Iowa.
And then they were done.
THIS WEEK ON THE SENATE FLOOR:
The Senate will return on Wednesday, and will pick up where it left off last week, with more votes to confirm federal district judges. Based on the cloture filings by Majority Leader McConnell last week, there will be votes to confirm six federal district judges this week.
The Senate is also expected to take action on an opioid response bill.
At 9:22 PM on the evening of Monday, August 27, The Daily Caller posted a blockbuster piece revealing that two sources had told the news outlet that “a Chinese-owned company operating in the Washington, DC area hacked Hillary Clinton’s private server throughout her term as secretary of state and obtained nearly all her emails … The Chinese firm obtained Clinton’s emails in real time as she sent and received communications and documents through her personal server, according to the sources, who said the hacking was conducted as part of an intelligence operation. The Chinese wrote code that was embedded in the server, which was kept in Clinton’s residence in upstate New York. The code generated an instant ‘courtesy copy’ for nearly all her emails, and forwarded them to the Chinese company, according to the sources. The Intelligence Community Inspector General (ICIG) found that virtually all of Clinton’s emails were sent to a ‘foreign entity,’ Rep. Louie Gohmert, a Texas Republican, said at a July 12 House Committee on the Judiciary hearing. He did not reveal the entity’s identity, but said it was unrelated to Russia.”
The FBI denied it had found any evidence of Chinese or other hacking of Clinton’s server, but refused to answer whether or not it had ever followed up on the information given it by the ICIG.
This report – if accurate – refutes virtually everything told us by Clinton herself, her presidential campaign, former President Obama, former FBI Director James Comey, and substantially the entire mainstream media, all of whom dismissed her use of a private, unsecured email system as much ado about nothing.
You can read more about it in the Suggested Reading.
On Tuesday, August 28, Department of Justice official Bruce Ohr spent the day being interviewed by members of the House Judiciary and Oversight and Government Reform Committees.
We had already learned that Ohr’s wife, Nellie, worked for Fusion GPS, the opposition research firm that produced the infamous Steele Dossier. And we had already learned that Ohr had had contacts of his own with dossier author Christopher Steele and Fusion GPS founder Glenn Simpson, and that Ohr had passed on information from those conversations to the FBI.
What we learned as a result of his committee session, which took place behind closed doors, is that Ohr’s “deliveries to the FBI came with a caveat,” as Wall Street Journal columnist Kimberly Strassel put it. “Congress already knew that Mr. Ohr had been aware of Mr. Steele’s political biases. In notes Mr. Ohr took of a September 2016 conversation with Mr. Steele, he wrote that the dossier author ‘was desperate that Donald Trump not get elected and was passionate about him not being president.’ Congressional sources tell [Ms. Strassel] that Mr. Ohr revealed Tuesday that he verbally warned the FBI that its source had a credibility problem, alerting the bureau to Mr. Steele’s leaning and motives. He also informed the bureau that Mrs. Ohr was working for Fusion and contributing to the dossier project. Mr. Ohr said, moreover, that he delivered this information before the FBI’s first application to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court for a warrant against Trump aide Carter Page, in October 2016. Yet the FBI made no mention of this warning in the application, instead characterizing Mr. Steele as a ‘reliable’ source. Nor does the application note that a senior Justice Department official’s spouse was contributing to the dossier and benefiting financially from a document the FBI was using in its investigation.”
As we learn more and more, it appears increasingly clear there was indeed corruption at the highest levels of the FBI in the application process for the FISA warrant to surveil former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.
Perhaps as soon as this week, according to an Axios report that just posted late this afternoon, President Trump is expected to declassify documents relating to the FISA surveillance warrant against Carter Page and documents related to Bruce Ohr’s investigative activities.
On Thursday, the Trump Administration announced its decision to abandon a 21-year-old court settlement that limits how long illegal immigrant children can be detained, proposing new rules that would instead allow the government to keep illegal immigrant families detained together until their cases are decided by an immigration court. This would effectively end the forced “catch and release” policy as it relates to illegal immigrant children.
The Departments of Homeland Security and Health and Human Services said in a joint notice of proposed rulemaking that this new policy would “satisfy the basic purpose” of the 1997 Flores Settlement Agreement by ensuring that these illegal immigrant minors “are treated with dignity, respect, and special concern for their particular vulnerability as minors.” The proposed new rules, say the two departments, would allow the government to detain illegal immigrant parents and children, or children who enter the country illegally without adults, for the duration of their immigration court cases. These take, on average, years to complete, but the Administration suggests that time would be minimized by holding them in detention – because they wouldn’t be skipping their scheduled court appearances.
Said Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielson, “Today, legal loopholes significantly hinder the department’s ability to appropriately detain and promptly remove family units that have no legal basis to remain in the country. This rules addresses one of the primary pull factors for illegal immigration and allows the federal government to enforce immigration laws as passed by Congress.”
The rule would also limit the release of illegal immigrant minors in government custody to their parents or legal guardians, thereby ending the practice of releasing illegal immigrant children to other family members, including siblings, grandparents, and aunts and uncles.
Democrats and the media, predictably, went nuts, and it won’t be long before the lawsuits are filed and the legal wrangling begins.
The proposed new rule was officially posted on September 7, and is now open for a 60-day public comment period. If you’d like to post a comment on the proposed new rule, you’ll find a link to the appropriate page on the Regulations.gov government website in the Suggested Reading.
On Tuesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee met to begin four days of hearings on the confirmation of Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh to be a Justice of the Supreme Court. All day Tuesday, and Wednesday, and Thursday, Judge Kavanaugh endured his trial by fire as senators of both parties grilled him on various subjects.
For the most part, committee Democrats tried to score points to burnish their credentials with their liberal base, and Republicans threw softballs at him – Sen. Cruz, for instance, asked Judge Kavanaugh if he intended to play basketball on the basketball court inside the Supreme Court building, which is often referred to as “the highest court in the land,” and Sen. Kennedy of Louisiana asked Kavanaugh, “Did you ever get in trouble? Were you more of a John Boy Walton type or a Ferris Bueller type?,” but Kavanaugh didn’t bite.
The first day was nothing but opening statements and stoppages to remove protesters. More than 60 people were arrested and removed from the committee hearing room on Tuesday. Each member of the Judiciary Committee was allowed to drone on as long as he or she wanted, and Judge Kavanaugh didn’t begin his opening statement until after 8 PM that evening.
The second and third day were devoted to questioning, and more protests. On Wednesday, protesters were so prevalent they stopped the proceedings momentarily so many times that it averaged out to a stoppage every minute.
Meanwhile, on the Senate floor, Minority Leader Schumer – determined to show left-wingers that he was fighting as hard as he could to defeat the Kavanaugh confirmation – refused to agree to a standard unanimous consent agreement that would allow the Senate to sidestep what is known as the “two-hour rule.” Paragraph 5(a) of Senate Rule XXVI, commonly referred to as the “two-hour rule,” restricts the times that most Senate committees and subcommittees can meet when the full Senate is in session. The rule is intended to help balance the Senate’s committee work with its floor work, and to minimize the scheduling conflicts that senators must deal with.
The rule states that no Senate committee or subcommittee – except for the Appropriations Committee and the Budget Committee, which in itself says something about the Senate’s priorities – can meet after the Senate has been in session for two hours or past 2 PM unless certain things occur, the most regularly used of which is a unanimous consent agreement to waive the rule and allow the committee(s) to continue to meet. Though this rule is regularly waived, it’s important, because if it’s violated without having been waived, one of the potential consequences is that any action that the committee takes in violation of the rule – such as ordering a bill or nomination reported to the Senate – is considered “null, void, and of no effect.”
But Sen. Schumer was in no mood to be waiving rules to make it easier for Senate Republicans to confirm Judge Kavanaugh. So, in defiance of long-standing precedent, he objected to the unanimous consent agreement, and tried to get the hearing shut down. Leader McConnell responded not by shutting down the hearing, but by shutting down the Senate, so the hearing could continue without violating the two-hour rule.
Late on Wednesday evening, California Democrat Senator Kamala Harris – who is widely considered to be thinking of running for the Democratic nomination for President in 2020 – opened a line of questioning against Kavanaugh that indicated she thought she had something up her sleeve. She asked Judge Kavanaugh if he had ever discussed the Mueller investigation with anyone at a particular law firm that once represented President Trump. Judge Kavanaugh replied that he wasn’t sure, because he didn’t know everyone who worked at the firm. For eight minutes, she pointedly demanded to know whether or not he had ever spoken to anyone at the firm about the investigation, and for eight minutes, he refused to give a definitive answer. She declared that it seemed he was, in her words, “thinking of someone,” but didn’t want to answer definitively. It was clear she was trying to lure him into a perjury trap – get him to say definitively “no, I have never had such a conversation with anyone at that firm,” so she could then spring the trap and produce a witness who would contradict him. She eventually gave up the line of questioning, and everyone expected we would all learn more the following day, when she revealed who it was she thought he had had a conversation with. But Thursday came, and instead, the law firm issued a statement saying none of its lawyers had had such a conversation with Kavanaugh, and she dropped it.
Instead, Thursday morning’s Kabuki Theater display was led by New Jersey Democrat Senator Cory Booker, who made a huge show of saying he was so determined to release “committee confidential” documents – that is, documents that had been made available to the members of the Judiciary Committee, but had not been released to the public – that he said he was willing to suffer the fate of those who violate Senate rules against releasing classified or confidential information, including expulsion. To make absolutely sure the import of the moment was not lost, he said, “This is about the closest I’ll probably ever have in my life to an ‘I am Spartacus’ moment,” and launched his bid for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.
There was just one problem – the documents he released had already been approved for release the preceding night, and he and his staff knew it. In fact, the documents had been approved for release the preceding night because he had requested it, and Sen. Mike Lee’s staff had worked with Sen. Booker’s staff to expedite the release approval process. So Sen. Booker’s grandstanding was literally much ado about nothing.
After testifying in front of the committee Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, Judge Kavanaugh was done. Friday’s hearing featured testimony from outside witnesses, the highlight of which was the testimony offered by the American Bar Association, which said Judge Kavanaugh had been unanimously rated “well qualified.” That’s the ABA’s highest possible rating.
The Democrats failed to dent Judge Kavanaugh’s armor. Pro-Kavanaugh forces will still be focusing their efforts on Senators Susan Collins of ME and Lisa Murkowski of AK on the Republican side, and Senators Joe Manchin of WV, Joe Donnelly of IN, Heidi Heitkamp of ND, Bill Nelson of FL, Doug Jones of AL, and Claire McCaskill of MO on the Democrat side.
Unless some kind of smoking gun is found, I think we’re on track for a confirmation vote in the Senate within two weeks.
By the time the House and Senate return on Wednesday, there will be precisely seven legislative days left before the September 30 end of the fiscal year.
At this point, precisely zero appropriations bills have passed both houses and been signed into law by President Trump.
But the House has passed six of the 12 annual appropriations bills, and the Senate has now passed nine of the 12 bills. And House and Senate leaders expect to be able to pass those various bills – wrapped into separate “minibuses” – before the end of the month.
That would leave the Department of Homeland Security without funding beyond September 30.
Keep in mind, these appropriations bills are based on the spending levels set several months ago, in the two-year budget agreement that was agreed to by congressional leaders of both parties and President Trump. Those spending levels bust the budget caps, and led to the $1.3 trillion omnibus spending bill we criticized so heavily back in the spring.
Not one of those spending bills reduces the amount of money spent on the various departments and agencies funded within it.
Last Wednesday, House and Senate GOP leaders went to the White House to meet with President Trump. They urged him to continue to follow the plan they had laid out for him earlier in the year – sign a whole bunch of spending bills before the September 30 deadline, then sign a Continuing Resolution to continue funding the rest of the government until after the election, when, they insist, a proper fight could be had. Of course, their insistence is a charade – they know that whether or not Republicans maintain their majority in the House, there will certainly be fewer Republicans in the House after the elections than there are now, and the president’s leverage in such a fight will be reduced, not increased.
At issue, of course, is the president’s insistence on getting $5 billion in funding for construction of a wall along the southern border. That money would presumably come from appropriations for the Department of Homeland Security, which has not had its appropriations bill passed yet.
House and Senate GOP leaders are doing everything they can to avoid any possibility of a government shutdown, or even a partial government shutdown, before the November elections. So they have urged the president to accept their plan and play along.
Throughout the course of the week, the president gave conflicting signals. He’s indicated he doesn’t want a government shutdown before the elections, but he looks forward to a fight – and the possibility of a partial shutdown – after the elections. And he’s said exactly the opposite thing, indicating that some of his outside advisers believe he would have more leverage before the election than after.
On Friday, in an interview with The Daily Mail, he said he’s considering using military resources – including the Army Corps of Engineers – to finish construction of the border wall, instead of using funds appropriated for the Department of Homeland Security.
Conservatives in the House are split over the issue. House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows agrees with the leadership strategy, and wants to avoid a government shutdown before the elections, but former House Freedom Caucus Chairman Jim Jordan thinks the fight should take place before the elections.
Later this week, Republicans on the House Ways and Means Committee will release legislative text of a new tax reform bill aimed at making the individual tax cuts from the 2017 tax reform bill permanent, and introducing new measures designed to help families save money, especially for their retirement, and to further spur innovation for businesses.
But this “tax cut 2.0” is encountering resistance from Republicans in high-tax states like California, New York, and New Jersey – the same ones who voted against the 2017 tax reform bill.
The new language will be marked up in the Ways and Means Committee Thursday, and may move to a floor vote on the House soon thereafter. But it’s unlikely to see action in the Senate this year, because Republicans don’t have the votes to pass it without help from the Democratic side of the aisle, and Sen. Schumer simply will not allow at least nine Senate Democrats to vote for it.
And it’s actually worse than that – bringing up the bill in the Senate would allow Schumer to tell eight Democrats they were free to protect their right flank by voting for the bill, secure in the knowledge that as long as ONLY eight Democrats voted to invoke cloture and bring the debate to an end, he could STILL keep the bill off the floor. In that scenario, bringing the bill to the floor of the Senate would actually be a GOOD thing for certain vulnerable Senate Democrats.
So expect to see this bill pass the House later this month, and then die in the Senate.
WOODWARD BOOK/NYT ANONYMOUS OP-ED:
Last Tuesday, as part of the promotional campaign for Bob Woodward’s new book, “Fear: Trump in the White House,” to be released on Tuesday of this week, excerpts of the Woodward book began to appear in mainstream news outlets. For the next 24 hours, senior Trump Administration officials ran to the microphones to put out statements denying the scathing quotes that had been attributed to them.
Reaction to the Woodward book’s juiciest and most salacious excerpts came to a screeching halt late Wednesday afternoon, though, after The New York Times published a Trump hit piece by what The Times described as an anonymous “Senior Administration Official,” who claimed to reveal the existence of a network of inside-the-Administration never-Trumpers, dedicated to saving the nation from the “reckless” president at whose pleasure they serve.
Again, senior Trump Administration officials ran to the microphones to put out statements denying they were the mysterious author, and a new guessing game overtook official Washington – who WAS the unidentified person labeled a “senior Administration official” by the editorial page editors of The New York Times?
The president, understandably, was outraged, and so were many identified senior Administration officials. Expect this guessing game to go on until such time as the identity of the mystery author is revealed.
Arizona Governor Doug Ducey announced that former Arizona Senator Jon Kyl would replace the departed Sen. John McCain in the United States Senate. Kyl agreed to serve in the post at least through the end of the current session of Congress, meaning he could step down in early January. If he were to do that, Governor Ducey would then be required to make a second appointment to fill out the unexpired portion of the term until the general election of 2020.
Interested observers have noted that this leaves an escape hatch for Kyl and the prospect of a head start for current Congresswoman and Senate nominee Martha McSally. If McSally were to lose her race against Democrat nominee Kyrsten Sinema, Kyl could step down, Ducey could then appoint the defeated McSally, and she would have two years in office to cement the advantages of incumbency before having to face the voters in 2020 for the final two year portion of the term to which Sen. McCain was elected in 2016.
JENNY BETH MARTIN/TEA PARTY PATRIOTS:
WOODWARD BOOK/NYT ANONYMOUS OP-ED: