Tea Party Patriots Action Weekly Report from Washington for 5/20/19
Both the House and the Senate will return Monday and stay in session through Thursday.
LAST TWO WEEKS ON THE HOUSE FLOOR:
The House came back to work on Tuesday, May 7, and passed three bills under Suspension of the Rules. The next day, they passed another two bills under Suspension of the Rules.
On Thursday, May 9, the House began consideration of H.R. 986, the Protecting Americans with Pre-Existing Conditions Act. After considering four amendments, the bill moved to final passage, and passed, by a vote of 230-183. The House then moved to consideration of H.R. 2157, the disaster emergency supplemental appropriations bill. On Friday, that bill passed, by a vote of 257-150.
The House went home for the weekend, and then came back on Tuesday, May 14. The House passed two bills under Suspension of the Rules.
On Wednesday, the House passed two more bills under Suspension of the Rules.
On Thursday, the House passed H.R. 987, the MORE Health Education Act. And on Friday, the House considered and passed H.R. 5, the so-called “Equality Act,” by a vote of 236-173.
And then they were done.
THIS WEEK ON THE HOUSE FLOOR:
The House will return on Monday, with the first vote set for 6:30 PM. At that time, the House is scheduled to consider seven bills under Suspension of the Rules.
On Tuesday, the House will consider another nine bills under Suspension.
On Wednesday and Thursday, the House will consider H.R. 1500, the Consumers First Act, and H.R. 1994, the Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement Act of 2019.
And then they’ll be done.
LAST TWO WEEKS ON THE SENATE FLOOR:
Over the last two weeks, the Senate has been hard at work on confirmations. Rather than take you through it day by day, I’ll save us all some time by telling you who the Senate confirmed to what position in that two-week stretch:
- Joseph Bianco, U.S. Circuit Judge for the Second Circuit Court of Appeals
- Kimberly Reed, President of the Export-Import Bank
- Spencer Bacchus, Member of the Board of Directors, Export-Import Bank
- Judith DelZoppo Pryor, Member of the Board of Directors, Export-Import Bank
- Janet Dhillon, Member of the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission
- Michael H. Park, U.S. Circuit Judge for the Second Circuit Court of Appeals
- Michael J. Truncale, U.S. District Judge for the Eastern District of Texas
- Kenneth Kiyul Lee, U.S. Circuit Judge for the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals
- Wendy Vitter, U.S. District Judge for the Eastern District of Louisiana
- Brian J. Bulatao, Under Secretary of State
- Jeffrey A. Rosen, Deputy Attorney General
In addition, the Senate confirmed by voice vote:
- Matthew H. Tueller to be Ambassador of the U.S. to the Republic of Iraq
- Jane L. Corwin to be a Commissioner on the part of the United States on the International Joint Commission, United States and Canada
- Robert C. Sisson to be a Commissioner on the part of the United States on the International Joint Commission, United States and Canada
- Lance V. Yohe to be a Commissioner on the part of the United States on the International Joint Commission, United States and Canada
THIS WEEK ON THE SENATE FLOOR:
Based on the Senate Majority Leader’s cloture filings at the end of the week, I’d say the schedule for this week in the Senate will be confirmations in the following order, with the first vote of the week set for 5:30 PM Monday:
Daniel P. Collins to be a U.S. Circuit Judge for the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals; Howard C. Nielson, Jr. to be a U.S. District Judge for the District of Utah; Stephen R. Clark, Sr. to be a U.S. District Judge for the Eastern District of Missouri; Carl J. Nichols to be a U.S. District Judge for the District of Columbia; and Kenneth D. Bell to be a U.S. District Judge for the Western District of North Carolina.
On Thursday, after months of planning and weeks of briefings of allies, President Trump released a new proposal to enhance border security and reform our nation’s immigration regime. The effort was led inside the White House by Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner, and assisted by Stephen Miller, and it focuses on trying to bring together Republicans around things they can all support. Consequently, it doesn’t say anything about DACA or family reunification, which means, as far as the mainstream media and the Democrats are concerned, that it is not a serious proposal.
Described by the President as a “pro-American, pro-immigrant, and pro-worker approach,” the proposal says the President’s goals for a modern immigration system are to:
- Fully secure the border
- Protect American wages
- Attract and retain the best and brightest talent
- Prioritize immediate families
- Strengthen our workforce
- Preserve humanitarian values
The proposal is broken into two segments – border security and immigration reform – and begins by saying, “full border security is the bedrock of a functioning immigration system and it must come first.” As to the importance of border security, it properly recognizes that after decades of failing to secure the border, and the concomitant loss of public trust, you cannot begin to attempt to reform immigration without first securing the border.
The proposal includes a “self-sustaining and renewable border security fund,” “will continue to add to the 400-plus miles of border wall underway in strategic locations,” and “will enable public donations for the wall.” Further, the proposal “will fully empower immigration officials to protect American communities, including by strengthening their ability to remove criminal aliens and alien gang members.” The proposal will “close legal loopholes” while simultaneously working to “strengthen our asylum system and expedite the review process for immigrants seeking asylum.” Moreover, the proposal will “change the law to stop the flood of child smuggling and to rapidly reunite unaccompanied children with their families back home.” Finally, the proposal will include “structural changes to immigration agencies [that] will improve coordination and enforcement to combat longstanding problems, such as visa overstays,” and “will ensure that all employees are legally authorized to work.”
The second part of the proposal focuses on reforming our immigration regime, moving it from a family-based system to a merit-based system that protects American workers.
Under the current system, 66 percent of the immigrants who are admitted legally come in based on family relationships, 21 percent come in through humanitarian visas or through the visa lottery, and just 12 percent through employment or skills-based visas. The new system would institute the “Build America Visa,” which will select immigrants based on a point system, and features three high-skill categories – extraordinary talent; professional and specialized vocations; and exceptional academic track records. And under the new proposal, those numbers I just gave you would be reversed – 57 percent would be allocated to employment and skill, 33 percent to family, and 10 percent humanitarian. But – and this is a big but – the level of legal immigration under the new proposal would be the same as it is now, but with a different emphasis on different categories of immigrants. So some of President Trump’s supporters who want lower immigration levels are not happy with this proposal.
I cannot tell you a bill number, because this has not been introduced as legislation yet. And I honestly do not know when, or even if, it will be. The point was not to draft legislation that would be approved by Congress – without anything in this bill to win Democrat support, no one thinks there’s any chance of that happening as long as Democrats control the House of Representatives – but to put down a marker that says “This is what Republicans want to do on border security and immigration.”
House Democrats are getting more and more antsy about scheduling former Special Counsel Robert Mueller for testimony before the Judiciary Committee, but they still have not scheduled him yet. The President, despite misgivings, has deferred to the Attorney General to make the decision as to whether or not Mueller should be allowed to testify. Attorney General Barr, for his part, has said he has no problems at all allowing Mueller to testify.
But the testimony still has not been scheduled, and it’s because there are still ongoing discussions about whether or not a White House assertion of executive privilege would limit his testimony.
House Judiciary Committee staff and members of Mueller’s team have been negotiating for some time now about the parameters of Mueller’s expected testimony. Attorney General Barr released a redacted version of Mueller’s 448-page report, but the House Judiciary Committee subpoenaed the full report and the underlying evidence. The week before last, the White House asserted executive privilege over the subpoenaed documents, and that raises legal questions that will need to be answered before Mueller testifies. For instance, the privilege claim could prevent Mueller from discussing the details of activities undertaken by President Trump and/or his associates beyond what is included in the redacted version of the report. The Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel is considering the matter, and is expected to provide guidance.
On Friday, The Wall Street Journal published the Attorney General’s first interview since he was sworn in. Said Barr of his review of the origins of the Russia probe, “Government power was used to spy on American citizens. I can’t imagine any world where we wouldn’t take a look and make sure that was done properly.” He added, “Just like we need to ensure that foreign actors don’t influence the outcome of our elections, we need to ensure that the government doesn’t use its powers to put a thumb on the scale.”
Most troubling, Barr indicated that he was surprised that officials have been unable to answer many of his questions. “I have more questions now than when I came in,” he said.
Meanwhile, we may have a showdown on Tuesday. That’s the day House Judiciary Committee Democrats have invited former White House Counsel Don McGahn to testify. The White House Counsel’s office views McGahn differently from Mueller – they’re using executive privilege to prevent his testimony and document production. The Counsel’s office has already told McGahn not to hand over documents the committee has subpoenaed, and has told him not to testify; McGahn, through his lawyers, has said he’ll wait quietly in the corner while the White House and the House Judiciary Committee figure out what’s what.
And on another front, former House Intelligence Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy declared Sunday on FOX News that unreleased transcripts between then-Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos and an FBI exist, and they have what he called “the potential to be a game-changer.” Gowdy indicated the FBI had the transcripts, which contained exculpatory evidence, but did not share the information with the FISA court when applying for the FISA warrants against Carter Page.
The so-called “Big 4” congressional leaders – Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer – have agreed to begin negotiations on a two-year budget deal that would lift the Sequester spending caps agreed to eight years ago in the Budget Control Act of 2011.
According to Politico, the Big 4 will meet with White House officials this week to get the ball rolling.
Negotiations to raise the budget caps will take place against a backdrop of rising national debt and the need to raise the debt limit. Republicans are going to try to keep the two issues separate, but Democrats apparently want to tie them together.
Any way you look at it, it’s going to come down to an ugly fight in September, with a September 30 deadline looming.
The good news is, the White House negotiating team is going to be led by Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, Acting Office of Management and Budget Director Russ Vought, and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. Mulvaney and Vought, at least, are known to want to hold firm to the caps spending level already in place.
McConnell and McCarthy, by contrast, want to bust the caps. They are reported to have pressured President Trump to agree to a budget deal by leveraging his desire for more military spending – they warned him that without a spending deal that lifted the budget caps, the Pentagon spending increases he’s already won would be jeopardized. Without such a deal in place, the Pentagon would face a cut of $71 billion, while domestic spending programs would be reduced by $55 billion.
A group of 30 House Republicans, led by the Freedom Caucus, sent a letter to the White House last week, urging President Trump to hold to the budget caps already in place under the Budget Control Act. “Congress should hold overall spending to the caps levels already in place,” they said. “Hold to the caps, budget like American families do every day, and let’s work on a bipartisan basis to ensure a bright future for our sons and daughters.”
On Thursday, the White House upped its efforts on its fight for free speech everywhere, including online. They released information about a new effort regarding tech bias. If you’ve got evidence of a big tech company like Facebook, or Twitter, or Google displaying bias against conservatives, or you want to share how big tech bias has impacted you personally, you can now go to a portal at WH.gov/techbias to enter the information and share that case of bias with the White House. That’s WH-dot-gov-forward slash tech-bias.
A week ago Friday, President Trump raised tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods from 10 percent to 25 percent. The Chinese government responded by raising tariffs on $60 billion worth of American products. And then last Wednesday, President Trump, in the words of The Washington Post, “Slapped a major Chinese firm with an extreme penalty that makes it very difficult for it to do business with any U.S. company, a dramatic escalation of the economic clash between the two nations. The Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security said it was adding Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. to its ‘Entity List,’ known to some as ‘the death penalty.’ This listing makes it virtually impossible for companies to survive once U.S. firms are discouraged from doing business with them. The Commerce Department said it had reached this decision because Huawei ‘is engaged in activities that are contrary to U.S. national security or foreign policy interests.’” For instance, the Department of Justice has accused Huawei of violating international sanctions against Iran.
TRUMP TAX RETURNS:
On Friday, as expected, the Treasury Department told the House Ways and Means Committee to go take a long walk off a short pier, rejecting Chairman Richard Neal’s request for six years’ worth of President Trump’s tax returns. Unlike his counterpart on the House Judiciary Committee, though, Chairman Neal appears uninterested in a committee, and later House, vote to hold Treasury Secretary Mnuchin in contempt of Congress; instead, he plans to go straight to court in an attempt to enforce his subpoena.
JENNY BETH MARTIN/TEA PARTY PATRIOTS:
TRUMP TAX RETURNS: