The Weekly Watchman: Freedom requires vigilance

· July 3, 2018  
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The House outlook

The House of Representatives is in recess this week for Independence Day. Last week, House leadership surprisingly brought its “compromise” immigration amnesty bill to the floor despite being nearly 100 votes shy of passage. Needless to say, the Ryan bill went down in flames in a 121-301 vote, with stiff resistance from the House Freedom Caucus and the more conservative elements of the Republican Study Committee.

When the House comes back into session next Tuesday, it will have three straight weeks in session before the August recess. There have been calls from some Republicans to cancel the August recess — specifically from Rep. Mike Gallagher, R-Wis. However, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., has thus far stated that there are no plans for the House to stay in during the month of August.

Likely votes during the July work period include a conference on the much-maligned $1 trillion food stamp and farm welfare bill, a vote to reauthorize the subsidy-infused and debt-ridden National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), reauthorization for our intelligence agencies, and votes on individual appropriations bills to “fill in” the $1.3 trillion omnibus from this past February.

Committee spotlight

Last week, the House Committee on Natural Resources started to mark up a bill by Rep. Niki Tsongas, D-Mass., that would establish a new federal taxpayer-funded grant program for wind energy career training. The bill is called the Offshore Wind Jobs and Opportunity Act and is a prime example of a bad idea come to life on paper. Fortunately, the committee thought better of it for the time being and postponed consideration of the bill. In a sane world, this postponement would be permanent.

Offshore Wind Jobs and Opportunity Act

Sponsor: Rep. Niki Tsongas, D-Mass.

Committee of Jurisdiction: Committee on Natural Resources

What does the bill do? The bill would create a new federal grant program for wind energy career training that would cost $25 million per year in new spending. Specifically, it authorizes the secretary of the interior to award taxpayer-funded grant money to educational institutions for the purpose of developing and offering offshore wind energy career training.

Doesn’t Congress already subsidize the wind industry? To an insane degree. Taxpayers are currently shelling out nearly $5 billion per year through the Wind Production Tax Credit (PTC) to prop up the wind industry. If the tax credit were repealed, the entire wind energy industry would go belly-up. This is in large part because wind is neither viable nor sustainable for providing power and keeping the grid online, compared to traditional fossil fuels.

Should conservatives be concerned? Yes. It is outrageous that a GOP-controlled Congress is even considering marking up and passing progressive legislation at the committee level that grows government and doubles down on failed Solyndra-esque energy policies. Such legislation would spend taxpayer dollars on wasteful programs that do little more than keep K Street lobbyists employed.

Does the bill grow government? Definitely. This bill would create an entirely new federal grant program. These grant programs are often rightfully decried by conservatives for their waste and endemic cronyism to favored and well-connected interests.

Conservative contrast: Many conservatives might wonder why the Committee on Natural Resources is would even consider wasting precious time propping up the big-government interests of its Democrat members when they could be advancing freedom instead. Indeed, some conservatives might wonder why the committee is not instead marking up legislation that continues to curb the Department of Interior’s regulatory overreach, addresses the National Park Service’s billions of dollars’ worth of maintenance backlogs, or further protects property rights by reforming the Endangered Species Act and reining in the Bureau of Land Management’s activities in and around private property.

The Senate outlook

In a refreshing change, the Senate is also in recess this week and therefore cannot consider any further harm to our liberties and our nation’s fiscal solvency. Last week, the Senate passed an appropriations measure for the Department of Energy and the Department of Veteran’s Affairs, with record funding to the VA and its atrocious socialized care. The Senate then ended the week with the passage of an $867 billion food stamp and farm welfare bill that contained no work requirements to curb the costs of the food stamp program and actually help lift people out of dependency and into a booming job market. That would be asking too much, it seems.

The big news, of course, was the retirement of Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy and the looming nomination and confirmation battle likely to take place this fall prior to the November elections.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has stated his intention to move a nominee prior to the elections and to fill Kennedy’s seat as quickly as possible. The president and his team have signaled that a nominee will be announced early next week.

The White House’s short list of possible nominees is here. Senator Mike Lee, R-Utah, would be a fantastic choice!

Senator Susan Collins, D masquerading as R-Maine, has already stated that she will not vote for any nominee who “demonstrated hostility” to Roe v. Wade. Given the razor-thin margin in the Senate and the fact that there are far too many progressives with the letter R by their names in our august upper body, conservatives must be prepared to put no small amount of pressure on their senators, including red-state Democrats facing re-election this November.

The Senate is slated to return on Monday, July 9, to take up nominations. These nominations include the general counsel for the Department of Defense, the assistant attorney general for the Department of Justice, and a judicial nominee for the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Democrat obstruction of the president’s nominees

  • Compared to the previous four administrations, this Senate has confirmed the fewest nominees.
  • Over 40 percent of the president’s nominees are still awaiting Senate confirmation.
  • There are 162 nominees still pending in Committee.
  • There are 145 nominees still awaiting scheduling on the Senate floor calendar.
  • Democrats have forced five times more cloture votes on the president’s nominees in the past year than the cumulative total of cloture votes for the entire first terms of the last four presidents.

Bottom line: The Senate is likely to move the president’s nominees at a faster clip in July. Democrats have an incentive to clear the “lesser” nominees in order to focus their fire on the next SCOTUS pick and also to return to their home states for campaigning in August. While McConnell has stated that part of the August recess has been canceled, it’s possible he will find reason to send members home in August after Dems agree to clear a significant number of currently stalled nominees.

In many respects, letting members have August off would be a mistake. Denying red-state Democrats the ability to go home and campaign for re-election would be a sound political strategy, especially if it were mixed with a legislative agenda to advance strong, constitutionally minded judges, border legislation that funds the wall, ends chain migration, and bolsters interior enforcement, and legislation to make the recently passed tax cuts permanent for individuals.

Sadly, such a strategy requires vision. And Senate leadership has demonstrated precious little of that.

Liberty outlook

Summary: With Congress in recess this week and Independence Day almost upon us, it’s a wonderful time to reflect on the blessings that we enjoy as Americans. No other nation in the history of man has enjoyed the freedoms and liberties that our Founders set in motion some 242 years ago when they signed the Declaration of Independence. These liberties are never more than a generation away from extinction, and they have been bought with the blood and sacrifice of millions of Americans who answered the call to defend freedom.

The cost of our way of life has been and always will be very high. And the all-out assault by progressives on the American identity has not ceased. The election of a socialist last week in New York is yet more evidence of the Democrats’ continuing radicalization. And the timidity of far too many Republicans to advance sound policy that defends life, liberty, and the Constitution only gives oxygen to the progressive flame. Nevertheless, this week is a reminder of what we have and the vigilance required to keep it. That puts this week’s liberty outlook at: Code green.

Enjoy your Independence Day. God Bless America!


The Weekly Watchman

Welcome to the Weekly Watchman, a regular series at Conservative Review where we highlight and analyze legislation pending on the House and Senate floors so that you know exactly what your representatives are voting on — and the impact those votes will have on your freedom.

The truth is that every single vote cast in Congress either advances liberty or diminishes it. And in all the noise on social media and 24/7 cable news chaos, it can be difficult to keep track of what is really happening on Capitol Hill and what it means for you and your family.

Patrick Henry once stated, “The liberties of a people never were, nor ever will be, secure when the transactions of their rulers may be concealed from them.”


Editor’s note: This article has been corrected to note that the House will be in session for three weeks, not four, when it returns next week.


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Author: Drew White

Drew White spent three years at Heritage Action for America as a legislative strategist covering domestic policy issues. He then served as Sen. Ted Cruz’s domestic policy adviser for two years, working on issues including Obamacare repeal, educational freedom, elimination of federal agencies and departments, and defunding Planned Parenthood. Most recently, he served as senior federal policy analyst at the Texas Public Policy Foundation. He currently resides in Austin, Texas, with his wife and golden retriever, happily clinging to his guns and religion.