The House outlook
The House of Representatives is in recess until next Tuesday. When members return, they are expected to pass a continuing resolution to fund the government — including every progressive priority that they’ve campaigned against for years.
Indeed, the Republican-controlled House has voted separately on budget-busting funding levels for nearly all areas of government, levels made even higher by adopting Senate spending figures.
These appropriations bills have fully funded Obamacare. They have funded Planned Parenthood. They have increased spending at the Department of Education and expanded the federal government’s role in education policy. They have funded crony entities like the Corporation for National and Community Service, continued ineffective and wasteful recession-era Job Corps programs despite a booming economy, and increased funding for the National Endowment for the Arts. Republicans once promised to abolish or stop all of these things.
And perhaps most egregiously, the continuing resolution will include funding for the Department of Homeland Security without border wall funding or important policy riders to reform our broken asylum process and immigration laws — under the laughable pretense that Republicans will somehow be in better standing after the election. After the wave. After the likely wipeout.
And while the president observes that GOP leadership is being “played like a fiddle” over the border wall, he is too. He has the power to veto the continuing resolution. He refuses to use it. This is what cowardice and lack of vision look like. This is the inevitable political end of a party that was given every opportunity to simply do the things it promised.
Yes, there is still an opportunity to try to use the few remaining guaranteed weeks of a Republican majority to secure some conservative policy victories — in theory. In reality, the deficit for 2019 is expected to exceed $1 trillion — nearly double Obama’s last year in office. Our national debt is rapidly spiking toward $22 trillion. According to the Congressional Budget Office, Medicare will be bankrupt in eight years, Social Security in sixteen.
The will to fight has long since left most congressional Republicans, other than a few like Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, and some stalwarts in the House Freedom Caucus. Things will only change when we hold our elected officials accountable for breaking their promises and failing to defend liberty and the rule of law — no matter what letter sits beside their names.
The Senate outlook
The Senate returned yesterday and passed a sweeping 70-provision opioids bill — the same bill I highlighted last week. The vote was 99-1, the sole dissenter being stalwart freedom fighter Senator Mike Lee, R-Utah. Once again, senators have missed the forest for the trees and have decided to throw billions in new spending at the problem that is largely caused by our porous southern border, which is effectively controlled by murderous drug cartels trafficking the heroin and fentanyl synthetics that are fueling the opioid epidemic.
Here are some quick data points on the opioids bill passed by the Senate:
- The estimated total cost comes to around $8.4 billion — including some $2 billion in new grant programs for states.
- The bill includes requirements for the U.S. postal service to screen packages from overseas and use electronic data to do so. This is similar to how FedEx and other commercial mail carriers operate, except, of course, the cost is being paid by taxpayers for an entity already burdened by a $15 billion budget deficit, with nearly $100 billion in unfunded liabilities.
- It also includes new taxpayer-funded loan repayments to behavioral health providers in rural areas of the country — essentially creating new, open-ended money repositories for clinics to lobby Congress on from now until republic’s end.
And yet the Left is already claiming the new spending is “not enough.” It never is.
If Congress truly wanted to solve this problem, it should secure the border and shut down the logistics and supply chain of fentanyl and heroin from Mexican drug cartels to criminal illegal gangs like MS-13 in sanctuary cities. Legislators should crack down on opioid networks from China that move fentanyl into Central America for distribution onto American streets. This is about border security and reasserting our sovereignty. This is not about new programs and endless new money pits.
Additionally, the Senate is also expected to vote on the final conference report for the Labor-HHS-DoD appropriations “minibus” after conferees ironed out differences between the House and Senate versions. Regardless, this monstrous bill funds Obamacare, Planned Parenthood, and increases Department of Education spending, but uses funding for the Department of Defense as a political “fig leaf” to provide cover for Republicans.
The total cost is $852.5 billion, including an additional $3.8 billion for “opioid” funding on top of the $8.4 billion opioid package that the Senate passed yesterday.
The Kavanaugh crisis
When Brett Kavanaugh was first nominated, I made it clear that I didn’t know how solid a jurist he would make on the court, given some of his past decisions. My preference was and remains for either Amy Coney Barrett or Senator Mike Lee, R-Utah, to fill the seat vacated by Anthony Kennedy.
The explosive allegations by a woman claiming she was the victim of an attempted sexual assault by teenaged Brett Kavanaugh at a high school house party have rocked the confirmation proceedings. The usual spineless suspects, like retiring Sens. Jeff Flake, R-MSNBC, and Bob Corker, R-Tenn., have publicly called for the confirmation proceedings and floor vote to be delayed.
While we don’t know the details of what may or may not have occurred at a house party when Judge Kavanaugh was a teenager in the early 1980s, we do know that immediate acquiescence to these kinds of public smear campaigns ultimately undermines the rule of law. This is all because one woman has recently come out with a single allegation from a night she admittedly doesn’t quite remember from when she and Brett Kavanaugh were in high school.
Brett Kavanaugh will now likely forever be tarnished as a suspected sexual assaulter despite years as a respected judge, admired family man, and countless character testimonies about his charitable and community service. Judge Clarence Thomas, a good and honorable man, can relate to this kind of disgusting public smear.
Judge Kavanaugh should be given the presumption of innocence. And contrary to the frenetic panic from some Republicans, his accuser should not automatically be granted the presumption of victim. Right now, in the #MeToo era, mere allegations have come to equal guilt, with little thought given to the motivations of accusers. The presumption of innocence is being replaced by a tyrannical mob mentality that could ultimately undo basic legal protections for Americans.
The policy problem with all of this, of course, is what Conservative Review senior editor Daniel Horowitz has discussedextensively. Republicans have made the fatal mistake of believing their majorities are about judges. They have foolishly put all their eggs in the basket of judicial supremacy instead of using the legislative branch to change statutes and implement their policy priorities.
Because of this mindset — combined with the Left’s obsession with judicial activism as a means of achieving its radical agenda — every Supreme Court nominee has become a life-or-death issue for both parties that it was never intended to be. And this is the ugly consequence.
Summary: The House is in recess this week. The Senate remains in session to process a massive opioids bill and deal with the fallout from Judge Kavanaugh’s accuser. With a SCOTUS nominee in jeopardy, feckless leadership from the GOP, and no vision for enacting conservative policy victories, this week’s liberty outlook at: 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.”