The House outlook
The House of Representatives came back into session on Monday, June 25, for what is expected to be a big week before the July 4 recess. All eyes are on competing immigration legislation and the lingering possibility of a disastrous amnesty vote just four and a half months before the November elections.
The first votes began around 6:30 p.m. EST on Monday, with a lengthy series of suspension bills. These are bills that operate outside the normal rule-making process and require a two-thirds vote to pass instead of a simple majority. Suspension bills are ones that the House leadership deems “non-controversial” and largely bipartisan. But the suspension calendar is often filled with legislation that grows government with little debate.
The suspension calendar spotlight
The House is planning to vote on a total of 21 suspension bills this week. These bills will not have any amendment votes and are likely to pass overwhelmingly. One bill of note is H.R. 1791 by Rep. Dave Reichert, R-Wash. This bill would create a new national heritage area without allowing House members to debate or offer amendments.
Mountains to Sound Greenway National Heritage Act
Sponsor: Rep. Dave Reichert, R-Wash.
Committee of Jurisdiction: Natural Resources Committee
What does the bill do? The bill would create a new national heritage area in Washington state following an initial feasibility study dated 2012.
Should conservatives be concerned? Yes. National heritage areas are not codified in federal statute and continue to expand. They are implemented by Congress on an ad hoc basis as a form of earmark for members who want to secure projects for constituencies in their home districts. In general, they are little more than land grabs by the federal government and threaten private property rights through restrictive zoning despite assurances that private property rights will be protected.
Does the bill grow government? Absolutely. This new national heritage area will secure more land for the federal government, threaten private property rights in the surrounding areas, and increase future funding to the National Park Service while diverting resources from that agency’s core mission.
Conservative contrast: Many conservatives might wonder why the Republican-controlled Congress is spending its floor time adding more land to the federal government’s ledger instead of rolling back harmful EPA or Department of Energy regulations — or, perhaps, repealing the Obamacare health insurance regulations crushing American families and households.
The House could vote on immigration bills this week. There are two bills likely to be considered. The first, H.R. 4760, is the original iteration of a bill introduced by Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va. This bill is widely considered the strongest legislative measure introduced in the 115th Congress to address our ongoing border crisis. However, the bill is not without its faults.
According to multiple sources on Capitol Hill, this bill has garnered the most support thus far within the Republican conference.
Highlights of H.R. 4760
- The bill provides renewable three-year non-immigrant visas to the DACA population (roughly 700,000 individuals). It does not provide a pathway to citizenship via green cards. Many conservatives still consider this a form of amnesty.
- The bill eliminates family-based chain migration by the end of the current fiscal year.
- The bill eliminates the diversity visa lottery program but offsets that positive policy change by moving these 55,000 visas over for use in a program designed for high-skilled labor.
- The bill brings an end to the abhorrent practice of catch-and-release and requires ICE to detain illegal aliens who present a risk to the American public.
- The bill cuts off law enforcement grants to sanctuary cities and mandates that businesses implement e-Verify to determine the immigration status of their employees.
- The bill includes Kate’s Law, which provides for mandated prison sentences for illegal aliens who return to the U.S. after being deported.
The second bill, H.R. 6136, is a leadership-modified version of the Goodlatte bill. Suffice to say, the stronger provisions have been watered down to appease more moderate members of the Republican conference — including the Tuesday Group faction, which is hell-bent on working with Democrats to pass amnesty.
Highlights (lowlights?) of H.R. 6136
- The bill provides a pathway to citizenship for 700,000 DACA recipients as well as the “Dreamer” population and beyond—going back to illegal immigrants who have been in the United States since 2007. In total, this potentially could mean amnesty for three million people.
- The bill eliminates two categories of family-based chain migration, while retaining other categories such as spouses and parents.
- The bill eliminates the diversity visa lottery program and replaces it with a point-based system.
- The bill does not include strong interior enforcement provisions to cut off funds to sanctuary cities and fails to incorporate Kate’s Law to deal with repeat illegal alien offenders.
Bottom line: There’s a lot at stake this week for Speaker Ryan, R-Wisc., and the House leadership. After an intense standoff between Ryan and Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., who chairs the Freedom Caucus, trust between the various factions in the Republican conference is in increasingly short supply as moderates work with Democrats to shove through amnesty legislation.
Rumors are circulating that leadership may add mandatory e-Verify provisions to the Ryan bill to secure more conservative support. Nevertheless, any bill that provides a pathway to citizenship for DACA recipients and “Dreamers” should be dead on arrival.
If House leadership cannot secure the majority votes needed for passage, no bill will come to the floor this week. Given what’s at stake, many conservatives would likely view this as a victory.
The Senate outlook
Bleak as usual. The Senate resumed its consideration of H.R. 5895, which continues to designate some of the $300 billion in increased spending above the previous budget caps from the recently passed $1.3 trillion omnibus disaster. If there’s one thing members of Congress can agree on, it’s that they love working across the aisle to spend our hard-earned tax dollars.
Details of H.R. 5895
- The bill that the Senate is voting on is a combination of three different appropriations bills—Military Construction and Veterans Affairs, Energy and Water Development, and Legislative Branch.
- Just the energy and water section of the bill alone is $8 billion higher than the president’s requested level and $1.5 billion more than last year’s actual levels. This includes $13.4 billion on energy research and subsidy programs that continue to elevate non-reliable forms of energy such as wind and solar.
- The Senate version allocates $86.4 billion for the VA—the largest dollar amount ever provided to the Department of Veterans Affairs and $5 billion above last year’s levels, while the VA’s abysmal record in its treatment of our veterans (due almost entirely to its socialized approach to medicine and health care) remains fresh in the minds of the public.
Of greater concern in the Senate is the stated intention to move on to H.R. 2, otherwise known as the “Farm Bill.” The House passed this legislation last week after it initially failed on the floor. There’s no other bill in Congress that more perfectly encapsulates the nature of the Swamp than the absurdly misnamed “farm bill.”
Details of H.R. 2
- The total cost comes out to $867 billion over a decade, with over 75 percent of that taxpayer money spent on food stamps. While the House bill incorporated work requirements that aimed to put recipients of the program into the workforce, the Senate will strip these provisions out in its bill.
- The bill continues exorbitantly costly agriculture subsidies (over $20 billion annually), including a continuance of shallow loss programs that literally subsidize the profit margins of large agri-businesses if they have minor losses. So far, these programs have cost $10 billion more than the claims made by the farm lobby and lawmakers in 2014.
- These agriculture subsidies are courtesy of the American taxpayer, who foots the bill to subsidize profits of large agri-corporations. These shallow loss programs are currently estimated to cost 76 percent more over the course of the decade than original estimates claimed from just four years ago.
Bottom line: With the United States facing down nearly $22 trillion in debt, the continued unholy alliance between urban Democrats and rural Republicans to ratchet up agriculture subsidies and food stamp spending remains one of the larger crocodile-infested swamps in need of draining in Washington. Permanently separating food stamps from agriculture subsidies is the only way to implement reforms.
Summary: The possibility of a vote on legislation in the House that would provide a “special pathway” to citizenship for nearly three million illegal aliens in the DACA and “Dreamer” population, coupled with the virtually assured passage of a $1 trillion food stamp and farm welfare bill in the Senate, puts this week’s liberty outlook at: Code red.
For anyone concerned about the debt, our future prosperity, the rule of law, and American sovereignty, this may be a good week to grab those Gadsden flags and give your representatives and senators a call.
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.”