Nel's New Day

August 2, 2017

Congress, DDT Leaving D.C. with Little to Show

The House left Washington, D.C. last week for an extended vacation, but not after they did a bit of harm. In an article for Nation, “Paul Ryan Hands Donald Trump a Blank Check for Endless War,” John Nichols refers to the House Speaker’s stripping an amendment from the defense budget that unanimously passed in committee. He did it after midnight and with no debate, floor vote, or consultation with anyone except the GOP House leadership. The U.S. Constitution does not give the president power to wage war, but Congress passed a 60-word bill allowing the president to send military forces against groups linked to the 9/11 attacks. DDT no longer restricts his hostile actions against countries throughout the world to fighting ISIS. The amendment would have required Congress to following the constitution by reverting to congressional approval for military action. It even has support from within the Pentagon. Even General Joseph Dunford Jr., the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, wants the 2001 law revoked.

The title of the article, however, could have been far more general: it could have been just “Paul Ryan Hands Donald Trump.” Republicans in the House have been largely mum after DDT’s egregious actions and proposals. Even when DDT suggested that he could pardon his family, his associates, and himself, few GOP representatives objected. To accept pardons from the president, people had to admit that they committed the crimes for which they are pardoned. Thus DDT is considering the admission that he committed crimes, but little word from Republicans in the House.

When Democrats requested documents in the House Judiciary Committee about the firing of former FBI director James Comey, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) flipped the proposal into an amendment to ask the Justice Department for documents related to Comey’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email service. The witch hunt is back on to divert attention away from DDT’s Russia collusion. In the new administration, only GOP congressional members are permitted to asked for any documents; no Democrats need apply. The committee passed Gaetz’s amendment on a partisan vote of 16-13.

A failure in the House is the D.C. Circuit Court’s ruling that state attorneys general can defend subsidy payments to the insurance industry for certain health care consumers. The GOP House sued in 2014 to stop these payments because Congress had not approved a specific appropriation, and DDT threatens to block the funding because Trumpcare failed. The insurance industry warned that instability could cause a 20-percent increase in premiums for 2018.

The House did buck DDT’s wishes when it passed—by 419-3!—increased sanctions on Russia and decreased presidential authority to change these sanctions. The Senate had already passed the bill by 98-2. The bill also includes sanctions on Iran, North Korea, and Ukraine. Furious about the bill, DDT waited a week to sign the bill into law with no ceremony but declared has “clearly unconstitutional provisions.” This from the man who has violated the constitution in so many ways. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that the bill will not “be helpful to our efforts.” Russian president Vladimir Putin is so angry that he reduced the U.S. diplomatic staff by 755 people, matching the number of diplomatic Russians in the U.S., and seized two properties used by U.S. diplomats.

Another irritant for DDT may be the Senate bill to protect special investigator, Robert Mueller. Any firing of a special counsel would demand judicial review if the bill passes by a veto-proof margin.

On the other side of Congress, senators have decided to go home tomorrow, or Friday at the latest, after Trumpcare went down in flames. (For a bit of satire regarding the upshot of the Senate Trumpcare vote, check out Andy Borowitz’s column about DDT supporters’ fury for still having healthcare.) In the midst of Trumpcare trauma, they planned to stay into their typical August recess until August 11th. The House is gone, however, and DDT plans to head out tomorrow if the flight restrictions around Bedminster (NJ) from August 3-20 are correct.

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) has already handed over another blank check from the Judiciary Committee to DDT by not requiring DDT associates—eldest son, Don Jr; son-in-law Jared Kushner; and former campaign manager Paul Manafort—to testify. They just “talked” and gave the committee some documents. One topic from the disappeared subpoenas was the once-secret meeting with a growing number of Russians when Jr, Kushner, and Manafort hoped to get dirt on Clinton. Grassley is also trying to prove that the former intelligence officer who prepared the dossier on Russian meddling really works for Russia, once again in a struggle to protect DDT.

The failure of Trumpcare in the Senate—thanks to “no” votes against it from GOP Sens. Susan Collins (ME), John McCain (AZ), and Lisa Murkowski (AK)—was followed by a failure for AG Jeff Sessions. The Appropriations Committee blocked the DOJ spending anything to undermine state medical marijuana laws. When Sessions isn’t trying to collect and keep money from innocent people picked up by the police, he has been salivating about destroying state laws regarding cannabis. Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) has proposed a bill to legalize cannabis because of its ability to solve the opioid abuse and relieve one racist approach toward imprisonment. GOP control of Congress will block Booker’s bill at this time, but approval of cannabis use is growing across the nation. Its use should be legal, according to 61 percent of people in the U.S., and 88 percent favor medical marijuana use. Another 71 percent oppose efforts to stop sales and use in states where it is legal, and 65 percent think that marijuana is less dangerous than most other drugs. In short, the vast majority of people disagree with Sessions.

The GOP senators have hit rock bottom after the failure of Trumpcare: they are offering to work with Democrats. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Senate Health Committee chair, will hold bipartisan hearings when Congress comes back in September to develop a short-term proposal to strengthen individual markets for the Affordable Care Act by mid-September. Female, Democrat Patty Murray (WA) will have a place at the negotiating table for the first time with Alexander’s decision. A bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus, consisting of 43 senators from both parties, praised Alexander for his initiative. Insurers are required to sign contracts by the end of September to sell plans on the exchanges.

Christopher Wray—DDT’s pick for FBI director—has been confirmed, but five senators voted against him. Two of them are from Oregon, making me very proud. After the illegal closing of the George Washington Bridge, Wray defended New Jersey governor Chris Christie. Wray hid Christie’s cellphone, and Christie escaped a guilty verdict. Wray’s law firm represents Russia-owned energy companies, and Wray deleted his representation of an energy company executive in a criminal investigation by Russian authorities from his biography. His career has been spent in defending criminals, not pursuing them, i.e., a major Swiss bank accused of laundering money for terrorists. In the history of confirming FBI directors, only one other senator has ever voted against a director. Rand Paul (R-KY) voted against James Comey because of surveillance issues.

Sens. Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) should be praised for introducing the Dream Act of 2017 granting legal status and a path to citizenship for DREAMers. Eight out of ten voters, including more than 7 in 10 Republicans, believe DREAMers should be allowed to remain in the US legally. Ending DACA would result in a loss of $460.3 billion from the national GDP over the next 10 years, and remove an estimated 685,000 workers from the nation’s economy.

The question now is what will happen on October 1 if the House doesn’t get around to passing the budget and increasing the debt ceiling. The Senate and House have 12 joint working days before Sept. 29. A shutdown means a stock market crash, surging interest rates, disruption to the world’s financial system, and a recession. Twelve days.

 

May 4, 2012

‘Do-Nothing’ House of Representatives Better than Damaging Bills

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 8:11 PM
Tags: , ,

The House of Representatives is in recess this week—nothing too shocking because they’ve worked in Washington only 41 days of the first 127 days so far this year with eight of those days marked on Rep. Eric Cantor’s calendar as not starting until 6:30 pm. During the 34 weeks until the end of 2012, they plan to be doing the nation’s work, making law and stopping progress, for only 17 weeks. That means a total of 51 more days. Their 92 days when they aren’t recessed comprises one-fourth of the entire year, nice work if you can get it.

What have they actually accomplished in these 41 days? Thus far, they have passed 106 laws, compared to the 908 laws passed by the notorious “Do-Nothing” Congress of 1947-1948. Okay, they do have at least 51 days to get 802 laws to match this Congress.

Of the 195 roll-call votes thus far this year, they have managed 60 pieces of legislation. Among these:

  • The Permanent Electronic Duck Stamp Act
  • The Sportsman’s Heritage Act
  • The Mark Twain Commemorative Coin Act
  • The World War II Memorial Prayer Act
  • The mandate that the Treasury mint coins commemorating the 225th anniversary of the U.S. Marshals Service

The House also voted overwhelming to award the Congressional Gold Medal to professional golfer Jack Nicklaus, the medal awarded for acts of heroism, especially during war. George Washington was the first recipient. Nicklaus got the medal for promoting excellence and good sportsmanship in golf.

The House also addressed the Polar Bear Trophy issue. The legislation was “to protect and enhance opportunities for recreational hunting, fishing and shooting.” Hunters who killed endangered polar bears can now legally bring these trophies into the United States.

Under duress on Republicans, the House managed to pass the payroll-tax break and the debt-limit increase, the only major actions in 41 days.

The benefit of their not creating laws for three-fourths of the time, however, is that the House can do less damage. They did pass the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) which would further take away privacy from people in the United States as well as a $46 billion small business tax cut bill. They also managed to pass the bill keeping federal student loans at 3.4 percent by eliminating $3.2 million for breast and cervical cancer screening for women, immunizations for children, and screening of newborns for congenital heart defects, hearing loss, etc. None of these bills has a chance of surviving a Senate vote or a presidential veto, but the representatives want to look busy.

Republican representatives hold themselves up as following the will of the people. All but five of the 234 Republicans present in the chamber at the time voted down the “Buffett Rule,” which would raise taxes on millionaires despite the nearly three-fourths of people in this country who want these taxes raised so that millionaires don’t pay a lower rate than those who make much less than they do. At the same time more anti-choice bills are wending their way through House committees, not only the Judiciary but also the Energy and Commerce. Those will show up in the 51 days that the House has left to meet this year.

The Senate can also be held up as an example of “do-nothing,” with the majority of the 87 votes on only three bills: highway (25), postal (16), and insider-trading (13). While Republicans sneer at Democrats for their inability to get anything accomplished, however, they neglect one fact. Whereas House Republicans need only a simple majority to pass a bill, the Senate is held to 60 of 100 votes to pass anything because of the Republican filibuster intransigence. Even so, the Senate Democrats have managed to get bills through recently: renewal of the Violence against Women Act, postal reform, a long-term renewal of the surface transportation bill, and one making it easier for companies to go public. Of course, despite passing the last of these, Republicans in the House plan to kill the others by voting against them or attaching damaging amendments to them. Congress remains at its infamous “gridlock.”

The House leadership does spend some of their time being clever. The Sportsman Heritage Act includes this provision: “Pending the adoption of a concurrent resolution on the budget for fiscal year 2013, the provisions of House Concurrent Resolution 112, as adopted by the House, shall have force and effect in the House as though Congress has adopted such concurrent resolution.” The House Republicans are trying to convince themselves that the Senate has passed the House budget—without passing the House budget.

With so few bills in evidence, what does the House do in its spare time? One example is HR 2087, “To remove restrictions from a parcel of land situated in the Atlantic District, Accomack County, Virginia.” The House is giving  full floor debates, and therefore full attention, to allowing development on a 32-acre property with five roll-call votes. They call this one of their “jobs” bills.

Where are the jobs bills that the freshmen legislators promised? Where are the infrastructure projects to repair our crumbling country? Where are intelligent ideas to move our economy forward? All these seem to be caught under the determination of Republicans to do nothing—except try to defeat the opposition.

The prior session of Congress, with its Democrat-controlled House and almost-60 Democrats in the Senate, moved toward economic recovery, saved the American auto industry, invested in energy research and infrastructure, somewhat reformed the financial sector, passed a health care act, reinstated equal pay for women, created hate crimes legislation, allowed gays and lesbians to openly serve in the military, and addressed many other critically important issues.  But 112th Congress, with the House controlled by Tea Party extremists, has either performed destructive acts or done nothing.

There are two solutions: the Tea Party leadership in the House of Representatives can realize that government is important to the nation and that it’s their job to solve problems, not create them. When you finish laughing about this solution, think about the other one. Vote them out. With 25 more seats, Democrats can take back the House majority. That, too, may be improbable with the massive amounts of funding from the Koch brothers, Karl Rove, and Dick Armey machines, but it’s more likely than a Grover Norquest sycophant changing its spots.

The Republican House Republicans have developed a bad case of megalomania. As soon as it became apparent that Mitt Romney would be on the ballot this coming November, they made sure that he understood their position, that the House is driving the policy agenda for the entire Republican party. “We’re not a cheerleading squad,” said Rep. Jeff Landry (R-LA). “We’re the conductor. We’re supposed to drive the train.” (The man has obviously lost his copy of the Constitution.)

The Ryan plan, which Romney endorsed at one time, cuts education, law enforcement, and health research by 25 percent if programs were permitted to grow with inflation or 21 percent below spending caps agreed to last July by President Obama and Congress, including those recalcitrant House Republicans. But Romney also said he could live with the law that allows women to sue in equal pay cases, opposed by all Republicans.

One of Romney’s priorities, according to one of his earlier statements, is dealing with China’s currency manipulation in the same way as a bill co-sponsored by Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Lindsey E. Graham (R-SC) which the Senate passed last year. Now languishing in the House, the bill would require tough tariffs on some Chinese goods, a measure that House Speaker John Boehner has called “dangerous.”

Now Boehner is complaining about President Obama spending his time campaigning instead of running the country. Boehner needs a mirror.

It’s going to be a wild and rocky year—not only between the two parties but almost within the multi-layered GOP.

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