The House outlook: Why bother?
The House returned yesterday for yet another week of largely useless and squandered floor time. It’s dealing with government-growing suspension bills that are little more than parochial votes for members looking to score some last-minute “wins” before the end of the 115th Congress. It’s almost as if the GOP majority neither cares that it lost last month’s elections nor is particularly interested in securing any conservative policy wins before Nancy Pelosi takes the speaker’s gavel.
So it’s a good thing the Republicans didn’t nominate the exact same failed leadership team to lead them as they head into the minority! Oh, wait.
Speaking of failed congressional leadership, Congress did exactly as predicted last week and passed a two-week extension of the continuing resolution, which now expires on Friday, December 21. This effectively punted — again — on having a border security funding fight and has all but guaranteed that there won’t be one. Indeed, the White House went along with this poorly conceived plan, and Republicans and the president now face the argument that they can’t possibly “shut the government down” a few days before Christmas, can they? Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., is already shamelessly stating as much.
This comes back to a common theme in this column: The Republican majority simply isn’t a conservative majority, and its legislation, legislative “strategies,” and priorities demonstrate this. A Republican majority and a pro-liberty conservative majority are two different things. That should be clear by now.
Despite full control over the legislative and executive branches, Republicans accomplished very little over the past two years.
They failed to repeal Obamacare. None of their legislative proposals would actually have repealed Obamacare. All their various iterations maintained the federal insurance regulations that have doubled premiums, constrained access to providers, and reduced the overall quality of care.
They failed to reduce the national debt and instead have returned us to the Obama era of $1 trillion annual deficits, which many of these same elected officials once decried.
They failed on border security and immigration enforcement. The border wall (or any barrier) remains unconstructed and without funding. Sanctuary cities have yet to be defunded. Asylum reform legislation is stalled. Chain migration remains the law of the land. And the diversity visa lottery program is intact.
Planned Parenthood remains funded. The Department of Education’s federal footprint has grown. The House passed its version of “criminal justice reform” with the First Step Act. It passed a nearly $1 trillion food stamp and farm welfare bill, and there are no reforms on either the food stamp side or the farm subsidy side of the bill that will make it into final law.
But sure, we got a marginal tax cut bill and some regulations repealed. Meanwhile, judges continue to subvert our sovereignty and enact the progressive agenda through the courts as freedom-hating socialists within the progressive movement grow their influence in the Democrat party.
The Republican majority in the House failed. And the twenty-three suspension bills on the floor this week, coupled with the complete disinterest from many Republican members in trying to make good on any of their broken promises before they lose their majority in a few weeks, suggest that it’s time for the House Freedom Caucus and more conservative elements within the Republican Study Committee to create their own separate identity. This is totally apparent in this week’s scheduled vote on extending the wind energy policy farce to the U.S. territories.
The Offshore Wind for Territories Act of 2018 (H.R. 6665)
Sponsors: Rep. Madeleine Bordallo, D-Guam
Committee of Jurisdiction: House Committee on Natural Resources
What does the bill do? The bill would amend the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act to create wind lease energy sale requirements for the U.S. territories. It would start with a feasibility study to be conducted on the viability of wind lease sales to the territories of Guam, American Samoa, Puerto Rico, the Marianas, and U.S. Virgin Islands. The legislation then presumes that such wind lease sales are indeed feasible, as it directs the administration to conduct no less than one wind lease sale in each territory. Additionally, it would create a new Coral Reef Conservation Fund that would receive 12.5 percent of the royalties brought in by wind lease sales to be used to preserve the reefs under the jurisdiction of the United States.
Should conservatives be concerned? Laughably, yes. Wind energy is heavily subsidized by taxpayers in a cronyism scheme designed to enrich wealthy energy magnates who use taxpayer subsidies to line their pockets. Wind energy simply isn’t viable as a reliable or sustainable form of energy.
Furthermore, this bill expands the policy farce wherein taxpayers subsidize nearly $200 billion of the wind “industry,” the government carries out wind lease sales, a portion of the revenue from those subsidy-backed sales is then redirected to a government fund designed to bolster environmental conservation efforts, and lawmakers get to pretend that they’re somehow bringing in more revenue for the government and saving the environment.
In reality, it’s just a spin cycle of taxpayer dollars propping up an industry that can’t stand on its own.
With floor time being given to this kind of legislation and the GOP avoiding a fight on border security at all costs, perhaps it’d be better for Republicans to just stay home.
The Senate outlook: Stepping back on First Step
The Senate returned yesterday to another light floor schedule. The only scheduled vote this week is on Justin Muzinich to serve as deputy secretary of the Treasury. There also may be additional debate and a possible vote on legislation to end U.S. support for Saudi Arabia — specifically weapons and arms sales for the ongoing horrific war in Yemen. This is in light of reports about the Saudi regime’s complicity in the brutal murder of Jamal Khashoggi.
The president used his social media feed to prop up the First Step Act after it appeared that the legislation had stalled thanks to reservations from Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. And Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, has now suggested that the First Step Act may be included in the continuing resolution.
So, in summary, the GOP will push to ensure that criminals are released into our communities on a government funding bill, but are outright terrified to stop them from coming into our country in the first place.
This is an great example of why so many Americans hate their own government. Instead of fighting to secure our border and protect the citizens who put them in power — after promising to do just that — these gutless politicians look to release some of the drug traffickers responsible for the deaths of nearly 30,000 Americans last year from opioids pushed into our communities from Mexican drug cartels.
Summary: Both chambers remain in session this week. The House continues to waste its precious final few weeks under GOP control. The Senate continues to debate nominees, vote on punishing Saudi Arabia for the Khashoggi murder, and possibly put the First Step Act on the floor. And it looks increasingly likely that there may not be a border wall fight at all. Therefore, this week’s congressional Liberty Outlook remains: Code red.
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.”
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, son, and golden retriever, happily clinging to his guns and religion.