This will be a big week in Washington for special interests. The two big items this week are the immigration/amnesty bill in the Senate and the farm bill in the House. Ironically, they are both designed as handouts to special interests at the expense of the broader population. The farm bill helps Big Ag with price supports and the immigration bill helps them with wage supports. This week might be the turning point in the battle for the future of our country, but only if We the People make sure our collective voices are heard.
Farm Bill – Last week, John Boehner announced his support for the House farm bill, HR 1947. He plans to bring the $955 billion package to the floor on Wednesday. This bill makes minor baseline cuts to food stamps while playing a bait and switch with agriculture programs – cutting direct subsidies and adding numerous new crop insurance and price support programs. While Republicans plan to bring some amendments to the floor that will reform the sugar subsidies and dairy supply management regulations, those provisions will be stripped out when they go to conference with the Senate.
Conservatives must continue to oppose new 5-year farm bills until leadership agrees to separate food stamps and agriculture programs. That way we will have the ability to shine some sun light on both aspects without confronting the juggernaut of the rural-urban logrolling alliance. We need to chart food stamps on a course towards pre-Bush era levels of spending and work on devolving the program to the states. On the farming side, we understand that 80 years of government intervention will not end overnight, but we need to be guaranteed that these reforms, along with means-testing of subsidies will be included in any conference report before we sign off on another failed 5-year bill. It is better to pass another short-term extension than a bad long-term bill that precludes structural changes for another 5 years.
Immigration – Last week, the Senate voted to begin debate on S.744, the massive immigration expansion/amnesty bill. Only 15 Republicans voted against the motion to proceed.The only other vote taken on the bill was a motion to kill the Grassley amendment, which would have required certification that the border is secure 6 months before granting any form of legalization to the illegal aliens. The 4 GOP gang members (McCain, Graham, Rubio, and Flake) joined with the Democrats to kill the amendment, thereby exposing their desire to repeat the same mistake of 1986 by passing amnesty first with empty promises of enforcement later.
However, despite the strong vote to proceed with debate on the bill, there have been some positive developments over the course of the week that portends trouble for the open borders crowd. First, the pace of the floor activity was slower than originally anticipated by the “Gang of Eight.” This is very important because time is a major element in this debate. The longer this bill is the top news story in the country the more people will learn about the bill. This is something supporters recognize, and that’s why they are flummoxed by the slow pace of the amendment process. We need to slow this down and hold it over the July 4th break.
Moreover, it is clear that opponents of the bill are gaining momentum. Proponents of the bill are becoming unhinged – talking down native-American workers, offering bizarre reasons to grant amnesty before legalization, and engaging in nasty campaigns against movement conservatives. The fact that gang members set such a high bar of passing the bill with 70+ votes has made it difficult for them to pass a bill with an underwhelming majority.
The Week Ahead
- Grand Bargain: Much of the activity will be focused on John Cornyn’s amendment and other similar cosmetic changes designed to do “something to let senators go back home and tell people that they have taken serious steps,” as candidly spoken by Rubio. Although Democrats have balked publicly at Cornyn’s amendment to strengthen the border security triggers before the second tranche of the amnesty (the first and most important amnesty happens immediately regardless of the border), they are privately looking to use that amendment as a baseline from which to strike a bargain on a watered-down provision.
Alternatively, they might search for another shiny object, such as restoring one of the provisions that were supposed to be in the original bill like learning English, paying back taxes, or barring criminals from receiving legal status. We were lied to about all those provisions, and it is possible that Democrats would agree to allow Rubio to pass an amendment with one of those shiny objects in an attempt to buy off enough Republicans.
There are enough Republicans who want to pass amnesty (albeit with window dressing for cover) for them to win 75 votes. It’s a matter of finding something members can hang their hats on. The more pressure we place on members to vote against the bill, the harder it will be for them to take a grand bargain.
- House Judiciary Committee: On Tuesday and Wednesday, the House Judiciary Committee will mark up two of its four immigration-related bills. For the most part, the committee, under the leadership of Bob Goodlatte and Trey Gowdy, has taken the right approach to this issue by strengthening enforcement only. One of the bills, the Safe Act (HR 2278), sponsored by Trey Gowdy, unambiguously authorizes states to assist in enforcing immigration laws and passing laws to complement federal laws, cracks down on sanctuary cities, facilitates immediate removal of criminal aliens, expands programs that screen out security risks in our visa program, and bolsters ICE agents in their ability and latitude to detain and deport criminals.
However, the other bill, the Ag guest worker bill, is more problematic. While it has some good aspects in that it bars spouses and children from being included and also escrows a percentage of their wages until they return home, this bill does contain an amnesty for current Ag workers. It also allows in 500,000 new guest workers every year with the illegals not counted towards the caps. It also grants the Secretary of Agriculture discretion to raise those caps. At a time when we are trying to unite behind a message of enforcement-first, this bill muddles our winning message. We need to make sure this bill doesn’t move out of committee.
Moreover, we must ensure that no bill that passes this committee, even the good enforcement bills, is used by leadership as a vehicle to go to conference with the Senate. Conservatives must begin beating the drums to codify the Hastert Rule, ensuring that no bill is brought to the House floor without support from the majority of conference.
Suspension Bills – Republican leadership in the House has made a bad habit of wasting a number of legislative days on insipid suspension bills, none of which represent good public policy or effective messaging against big government. In fact, many of these “non-controversial” bills, which require a 2/3ds majority to pass, actually grow the size of government. This week, the House will consider 9 suspension votes. They include the study of feasibility for creating more publicly-owned land, commemoration of the Buffalo Soldiers, and excise taxes on flu shots. They should be voted down.
Abortion – On Tuesday, the House will take up H.R. 1797, the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protect Act, which would ban abortions after 22 weeks of pregnancy. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ), will provide Republicans with a solid opportunity to expose the extremism of the anti-life movement. The left has successfully used a few cloddish remarks from Republicans concerning rape to bludgeon conservatives and taint them as wackos. Well, this bill will expose Democrats as supporting the death penalty for fully formed babies.