Nel's New Day

August 4, 2014

House GOP Members Attempt to Govern

“GOP wants to show it can govern.” That’s the funniest headline I’ve read about the Congressional dysfunction—and it came from GOP-supportive The Hill. And that’s exactly what Republicans worked on during the past few weeks before they had to face their constituents this month.

Offshore-drilling Permits: Rep. Steve Stockman (R-TX) managed to push through a bill (218-204) to stop the Department of Energy from blocking offshore-drilling permits. His aides forgot to tell him that this agency has nothing to do with these permits; the Interior Department issues those.

Climate Change: The Department of Defense considers consideration of climate change to be vital to national security, but Rep. David McKinley, R-WV) succeeded in getting the House to prohibit both the U.S. Department of Energy and the Army Corps of Engineers from spending “to design, implement, administer or carry out specified assessments regarding climate change.” His amendment is part of the Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act which contained other anti-environmental measures which include slashing the Energy Department’s budget for renewable energy programs by $100 million. The proposal could stop Army Corps of Engineers programs in river and harbor construction, flood- and storm-damage reduction, and shore protection because the agency uses information about projected rising sea levels.

Dodd-Frank Law: In its continued attempt to weaken the Dodd-Frank financial law, the House passed a deregulation bill in late June by a vote of 265-143, benefiting the Koch brothers and the nation’s biggest banks. One provision would allow U.S. firms to skirt domestic regulations on some derivatives by conducting trades through offshore affiliates in other major financial centers. A nickname for this provision is the “London Whale Loophole Act” in fond memory of JPMorgan’s infamous trade that cost the bank over $6.2 billion in abrupt losses.

Border Issues: The infamous border bill passed last Friday evening after House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) told House members that they couldn’t go home until it was done. Architects were Reps. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) and Steve King (R-IA). The Iowa Republican became famous partly because of his comment about Mexicans having thighs like cantaloupes because of all the marijuana that they hauled across the border. King claimed that U.S. borders were established by God, and disrespecting the borders is really disrespecting God’s will. (He cribbed the idea from far-right Christian leader Bryan Fischer.)

Bachmann continues her own craziness. President Obama is bringing all the children across the southern U.S. border—“illegal aliens,” as Bachmann calls them—to be unwilling victims for medical experiments. When she called the president “lawless,” the House chair immediately rebuked her.

The bill allots $694 million ($3 billion short of what the president requested) for the problems of minors coming across the border in large numbers and eliminates the law that permits undocumented children to stay in the country to find assistance in the courts if their countries do not border the U.S. Texans already at the airport came back to vote for the bill because it includes $35 million to deploy National Guard troops to the border. Four Republicans–Paul Broun (GA), Stephen Fincher (TN), Thomas Massie (KY) and Walter Jones (NC)—voted against it, and one Democrat, Henry Cuellar (TX), voted for it.

Even the conservative Washington Post admitted that the vote was a farce when it conceded the legislation “would do little to immediately solve the crisis along the U.S.-Mexico border but would allow [Republican lawmakers] to go home and tell voters that they did what they could.”

After the House Republicans dithered for months about the bill, they insist that the Senate return immediately to approve the bill. President Obama has already said that he won’t sign the bill. Immigration and Customs Enforcement will run out of money by mid-August, and Customs and Border Protection has funding only until mid-September.

DACA: A separate bill passed in the House keeps the president from expanding the DACA (Deferred Action for Child Arrivals) program to provide two-year work permits for eligible undocumented immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as children before 2007. Eleven Republicans opposed this measure, and four Democrats supported it.

Child Tax Credits (CTC): House Republicans continued its practice of helping the wealthy by approving a tax break them while letting a tax benefit drop for low-income people. It works this way: The CTC drops tax bills for couples by $1,000 per child. The credit starts shrinking at an income of $110,000 and is capped at $150,000. Couples with income under $3,000 cannot collect it. The bill raises the amount for phasing out to $150,000 and indexed it to inflation at a cost of $115 billion to taxpayers for the next ten years.

According to the GOP, indexing the minimum wage to inflation is socialism, but doing it for tax credits is entirely appropriate. At the same time, the House let CTC for low-income people lapse in 2018. A single mother with two children making $14,500 will lose her entire CTC worth $1,725. In 2018, 12 million people, including six million children, will either fall into or fall deeper into poverty.  Rich kids are worth more than poor kids to the House GOP members.


Suing the President: The House GOP members are most proud, however, of their bill to sue the president. For the first time in U.S. history, all but five House Republicans approved a civil suit against the President of the United States because the White House shouldn’t circumvent Congress in making public policy. Their excuse was that President Obama had tweaked the Affordable Care Act to accommodate the needs of businesses by extending deadlines, something that the House GOP members wanted—when they weren’t trying to repeal the entire act.

The five representatives who opposed the lawsuit wanted impeachment instead: Paul Broun (GA), Scott Garrett (NJ), Walter Jones (NC), Thomas Massie (KY), and Steve Stockman (TX). Other GOP House members have argued for impeachment such as Michele Bachmann (MN), Kerry Bentivolio (MI), Louie Gohmert (TX), and Randy Weber (TX).

The lawsuit may not cost taxpayers much money. According to a trial lawyer, the federal court’s limited jurisdiction, as laid out in Federal Rules of Civil procedure, may result in a non-case. On the other hand, the White House can file counter-claims. Much more information is available here.

Rep. Virginia Foxx’s (R-NC) argued that this was not a political action, that she would vote to sue any president who did the same thing. In truth, George W. Bush did the same thing in 2006 when he extended deadlines and waived penalties for seniors in the new Medicare D prescription drug law. Foxx was in the House in 2006 but did nothing about Bush’s actions.

The conservative USA Today described the law as a “grudge match,” one in which the GOP is seeking an outcome it hasn’t been able to achieve at the polls or through the legislative process.

While the House GOP members were dithering about their border bill, Boehner declared that the president should do something about the problem. The man who is suing the president for circumventing ACA wants the president to take executive action to solve the border issues. Unfortunately for him, the president plans to do exactly that while Congress is out of town during the next five weeks.

Before leaving for vacation, the House Intelligence Committee, led by Republicans, issued its report on Benghazi. They found that the Obama administration is not at fault for deliberate wrongdoing in the deaths of four U.S. officials in the attack on the diplomatic outpost. The two-year investigation concluded that the administration’s process for developing “talking points” was “flawed, but the talking points reflected the conflicting intelligence assessments in the days immediately following the crisis.” Their conclusions will not stop the House Benghazi Select Committee which Chair Trey Gowdy (R-SC) will gavel into session in September. He said that it is about changes for the State Department to better protect diplomats.

The House does deserve credit for one of their actions late last month: it passed a resolution requiring authorization from Congress for a sustained presence of combat troops in Iraq. With a 370-40 vote, three Democrats and 37 Republicans voted against the resolution.

Tomorrow, the bills that the House rejected.

1 Comment »

  1. Holy borders! aargh


    Comment by Lee Lynch — August 4, 2014 @ 8:45 PM | Reply

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