The Weekly Watchman: The House wastes its floor time; the Senate legitimizes a rogue agency

· November 27, 2018  
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Clock on the road
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The House outlook

The House is back in session for the first full week of the post-election lame-duck session. As I’ve discussed previously, there are many looming legislative items during the lame duck that pose significant danger to our economic vitality, our security, and most importantly, our ability to live freely. Among these are a nearly $1 trillion food and farm welfare bill conference report (75 percent of which is food stamp spending), the continuing resolution to fund the Department of Homeland Security, and a potential vote in the Senate on jailbreak legislation encapsulated in the Soros- and Koch-supported First Step Act.

For the House, most of this week will revolve around still more votes on renaming post offices and passing useless or marginally harmful bipartisan bills on the suspension calendar. Behind closed doors, GOP leadership will spend much of its remaining time in power trying to figure out how not to “shut down” the government in the DHS funding bill prior to the Hanukkah and Christmas holidays.

This is because GOP leadership, as well as many of the rank-and-file members, simply have no vision or appetite to fight for the policies they purport to support while on the campaign trail. They only care about being re-elected and fear “rocking the boat” more than anything else.

Their cowardice is why the Democrats easily took back the House just a few weeks ago. Their cowardice is why we have a national debt of nearly $22 trillion, why Obamacare remains the law of the land, and why they passed a mediocre tax cut instead of using the levers of power to build the wall, defund sanctuary cities, and reform our broken asylum system.

And their rush, immediately after the election, to reward the very same failed leadership team signals that most members have learned nothing.

Conservatives should pay close attention over the next few weeks and months. Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., is about to put on a clinic on how to use your majority to advance your agenda. And as we’ve seen before, she is not above sacrificing her majority if it means securing a long-term progressive policy win.

In many ways, it’s hard not to admire soon-to-be Speaker Pelosi. She rammed Obamacare through against the opposition of the American people without hesitation, suffered a historic electoral defeat, and has come back into power eight years later regretting nothing. If only conservatives had leaders even half as bold.

Floor focus

There are many bills coming to the floor this week. Of particular interest is a bill by Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., that would create a new interagency initiative in Washington to “prevent violence, stabilize conflict-affected areas, and address the long-term causes of violence and fragility” overseas.

The Global Fragility and Violence Reduction Act of 2018 (H.R. 5273)

Sponsors: Rep. Eliot Engel, D-NY., Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, and Rep. Ted Poe, R-Texas

Committee of Jurisdiction: House Committee on Foreign Affairs

What does the bill do? The bill would create a new interagency initiative that would evaluate “at risk” countries under a newly devised criteria to justify spending vast amounts of unspecified American tax dollars on foreign aid and nation-building exercises under the fundamentally flawed notion that such taxpayer pilfering can stop violence overseas, stabilize other nations, and eliminate poverty. 

Should conservatives be concerned? Yes. And not just because of the fundamentally flawed philosophy behind the legislation. Despite decades of failed consensus policies that have emanated from the bipartisan foreign policy establishment, this legislation, which will pass overwhelmingly on the floor or unanimously by voice vote, will be used to justify increased foreign aid to nations that hate the United States or resent our involvement.

It is the brainchild of individuals who lack the ability to think creatively about the problems we face. They also believe hardworking Americans should be forced by the power of their own government to transfer their money to nations and peoples who hate them.

This is what your Republican leadership has deemed worthy of floor time for their final hours of majority control. Is it any wonder they were thrown out?

The Senate outlook: Playing the Left’s game

The Senate came back into session yesterday to begin a series of votes on presidential nominees, including two judicial nominees — one for the eastern district of North Carolina and one to serve on the Eight Circuit. Additionally, there will be a vote on Kathleen Kraninger to serve as the director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).

Since the inception of the CFPB, following the passage of Dodd-Frank, conservatives and the GOP have repeatedly called for the full removal of the rogue agency. Legislation has been introduced in both chambers to accomplish this.

The CFPB ostensibly issues regulations on financial institutions such as banks, credit services, and payday lenders for consumer transparency. In reality, it harms the very consumers it claims to protect by restricting information from consumers, arbitrarily regulating industries it deems “risky,” and disproportionately targeting smaller community banks with its regulatory reach.

Furthermore, the agency is funded almost entirely by the transfer of earnings within the Federal Reserve System and sits outside the congressional appropriations process. It is therefore almost entirely immune to congressional oversight, since Congress doesn’t have even the basic Article I power of the purse over this agency. Because of this fact, current Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh declared the agency’s very structure unconstitutional when he sat on the D.C. Court of Appeals.

This structure was intentional on the part of Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., one of the agency’s primary proponents, and other progressive statists in the Obama administration who wanted to create an agency capable of regulating specific markets without the inconvenience that comes from oversight of democratically elected members of Congress.

After former Director Richard Cordray resigned for his failed bid to be the next governor of Ohio, the president appointed Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney to oversee CFPB’s operations on an interim basis. Progressives cried foul as Mulvaney began tying the hands of the unaccountable bureaucrats running the CFPB.

Some right-leaning outlets have praised Kraninger as the reformer needed to bring the agency to heel. That may very well be true. But reform is not what the CFPB needs. It needs termination. The United States Senate, ostensibly guided by the “visionary” leadership of Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., should refuse to appoint anyone to an agency that is self-evidently unconstitutional.

Instead, Senate Republicans are content to play the same tired Washington game. Progressives create a new unconstitutional agency or program. Conservatives lambast it and promise to eliminate it. And within a relatively short amount of time, repeal turns to “replace” or “reform,” and progressivism marches on unimpeded.

The solution is to stop playing the game altogether. If the agency’s removal cannot be accomplished in the short term, then Congress should refuse to appoint anyone to lead this rogue agency. Legislators should begin to dry up CFPB’s funding through the appropriations process. They should change the statute to put the CFPB’s budget under appropriations control and then shut down the bureaucrats working there by freezing their pay, limiting their ability to hire new people, and inflicting severe morale issues so that these people either quit or are forced to undo the regulatory damage they’ve inflicted.

Instead, Senate Republicans will simply nominate someone on Team Red to run this rogue agency in a slightly more acceptable manner and call it a victory, while the agency continues to target entire industries for destruction in the name of “consumer protection.”

Liberty outlook

Summary: Both chambers are back in session this week. The House is wasting its precious final few weeks under GOP control to rename post offices, pass meaningless or harmful suspension bills, and avoid “shutting down” the government over funding border security provisions. The Senate is actively working to cement a rogue and unconstitutional agency while working behind the scenes to bring the First Step Act to the floor. Therefore, this week’s congressional Liberty Outlook is: 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.”


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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, son, and golden retriever, happily clinging to his guns and religion.