The Weekly Watchman: Senate stays swamped as House goes on recess

· July 31, 2018  
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UNITED STATES - JULY 29: Congressmen head up the House steps at the Capitol following for the final votes before the August recess on Wednesday, July 29, 2015. The House of Representatives will not meet again until September 8, 2015. (Photo By Al Drago/CQ Roll Call) (CQ Roll Call via AP Images)

The House outlook

The House of Representatives is officially in recess through the month of August and will not be returning (short of an emergency) until September 4 following Labor Day weekend. As we discussed last week, the House attempted to move into the August recess with some forward momentum by putting two health savings accounts bills on the floor. If these bills had significantly advanced healthcare freedom, this would have been a sound strategy. Sadly, the bills were sloppily crafted and possessed massive policy holes that would continue the funding of abortions and likely increase premiums for people with catastrophic coverage plans unless amended.

Additionally, the House passed an extension of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) with no debate and no amendments conveniently just as hurricane season begins. As reminder, the flood insurance program uses taxpayer-funded subsidies to pay for flood insurance for nearly 5 million Americans. The program is administered through FEMA and currently possesses over $25 billion of debt that it cannot repay.

Republican leadership opted to ignore the protests of retiring Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, who has spent much of his career trying to reform the program. Instead, House leadership decided to work with Democrats to saddle our children and grandchildren with billions more in debt and subsidies.

Cool.

Perhaps most incredibly, the vote was tucked under the banner of a “commemorative coin bill” which served as a shell for the NFIP extension. This essentially obfuscated the vote from the broader public. But don’t worry, this column is designed to keep an eye out for exactly those shenanigans.

See how your representative voted on the flood insurance bill…err, I mean, the “coin bill.”

Shutdown battle ahead?

When the House comes back into session, they’ll have to deal with a litany of issues leading up to the end of the fiscal year. These include additional appropriations bills, a final conference report on the $1 trillion food and farm welfare bill, and a continuing resolution to fund the government.

President Trump has doubled down on his willingness to veto the continuing resolution and allow federal funding to lapse at the end of September should Congress fail to secure funding for the border wall and border security measures.

Pass the popcorn, please. This could get really fun really fast.

The Speaker’s race

The announcement last week that Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, would be throwing his hat in the ring for the Speaker’s race should be welcome news for conservatives. He is one of the few honest and genuine members in Congress. And his tenure has been marked by principled leadership and consistent conservative votes.

He also has a Liberty Score of 98%.

Moderate Republicans undermining conservatives

An additional note is the introduction of legislation last week by Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-Fla., that would create a carbon tax scheme on greenhouse gas emissions. This virtue signaling to Gaia-worshipping climate cultists in an election year is little more than a cynical ploy designed to win over progressive voters. It’s also just as likely to lose conservative votes in Curbelo’s district.

A new carbon tax on greenhouse gas emissions would impose exorbitant costs on individuals and families. Fossil fuels currently supply over 80 percent of the world’s energy needs. Such a massive taxation regime on our primary source for power would immediately create thousands of new federal bureaucrats and greatly expand the power and reach of the Internal Revenue Service. To say nothing about the increase in fuel prices as well as the increase in the cost of most goods and services—food, clothing, power, and transportation being the most prominent.

The hardest hit from such a tax would, of course, be the poor.

While this legislation is highly unlikely to move—as of this writing it only has two cosponsors—this is case in point for how liberal Republicans openly work to advance the progressive agenda. It is also a reminder as to why efforts to advance healthcare freedom, repeal Obamacare, and repeal Dodd-Frank routinely fail despite GOP control of both Congress and the White House.

With Republicans like Carlos Curbelo undermining conservatives, who needs Democrats?

The Senate outlook

The Senate returned yesterday afternoon to vote on Britt Grant to serve as a judge on the Eleventh Circuit, which has jurisdiction over Alabama, Georgia, and Florida. She has served most recently on the Georgia Supreme Court and prior served as solicitor general of Georgia. She also clerked for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh on the D.C. Court of Appeals.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., has attempted to characterize Judge Grant as an “extremist” for her tenure as solicitor general in which she dared to represent the state of Georgia in order to defend some core constitutional rights of its citizens.

Outrageous, I know.

Afterwards, the Senate is expected to spend much of the week continuing votes on various amendments to the Interior, Environment, Financial Services, and General Government appropriations minibus that increases spending beyond both increased House levels and the President’s budget recommendations. Additionally, they’ll likely vote on passing the abhorrent NFIP extension and the conference report for the National Defense Authorization Act.

In a surprising twist of fate, however, there are two amendments of interest for conservatives in the Senate. The first is unlikely to receive a vote because the “world’s most deliberative body” doesn’t actually deliberate that much. The second still has an outside chance of getting a vote.

The Lee Amendment

Senator Mike Lee, R-Utah, has been fighting to get a vote on his amendment to the National Flood Insurance Program extension. After the House’s abysmal fiscal shenanigans last week, Senator Lee introduced an amendment that would place a cap on the eligibility of homes to receive taxpayer-backed subsidies for flood insurance.

The cap? $2.5 million.

That’s right. Senator Lee is arguing, quite rationally, that if you are in the top one percent of NFIP recipients and can afford a $2.5 million house in a flood-prone area, taxpayers shouldn’t be asked to pick up your insurance tab.

And Senate leadership—including their rank-and-file lackeys—seem more interested in preventing such a vote from happening.

The Cruz Amendment

Senator Ted Cruz, R-Texas, is also attempting to get a vote on an amendment that is identical to one offered by Rep. Gary Palmer, R-Ala., a couple of weeks ago. You may recall that Rep. Palmer’s amendment to prohibit the District of Columbia from imposing an Obamacare-style individual mandate on health insurance successfully passed the House.

Senator Cruz is making the very reasonable argument that the Senate should follow the House’s lead and have a similar vote.

Bottom Line: The Senate will likely move through the Interior and Financial Services minibus with ease. It’s unlikely that either the Lee or Cruz amendments will be adopted—especially since an amendment last week by Senator Rand Paul, R-Ky., to reduce spending back to 2011 levels once touted by Republicans went down in flames in a 25-74 vote.

The Senate will then head out on a brief recess next week before likely returning for another work week later in August. It remains unlikely that the Senate will stay in session for the rest of August.

Liberty outlook

Summary: The House is gone until after Labor Day weekend. This means they can’t do any further harm to our liberties for another five weeks. Thank God. The Senate, however, is advancing a minibus appropriations bill that increases spending and stands in stark contrast to the cuts proposed to these agencies and departments in the president’s budget. Additionally, the Senate appears to be stymieing good conservative amendments designed to roll back government and cut spending.

This week’s liberty outlook is: Code yellow.. Half of Congress is out so the damage that can be inflicted is relatively minimal compared to previous weeks. However, the Senate continues to advance a bipartisan agenda of heavy spending with procedural nonsense designed to box out the few conservatives daring to restrain government’s grip.

Par for the course.


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.”


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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.