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Congress Watch: While the President Distracts, Congress will Push Leftist Laws


Amnesty, food stamps and flood insurance are all up for debate in Congress.

The Capital is mirrored in the Capital Reflecting Pool on Capitol Hill in Washington early Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013. (AP Photo/J. David Ake)

It is weeks like this when the line between the two parties in Washington, D.C. becomes impossible to recognize.

Everyone will be focused on the president’s State of the Union Address, but the more important concern for conservatives is the lack of a response from Republicans. Instead of providing a choice, GOP leaders plan to echo Obama’s call for mass amnesty for illegal immigrants.

In addition, Congress will continue doing what they do best – grow government. This week, it will take the form of a farm bill with massive new subsidy programs and a flood insurance bill, which will leave taxpayers on the hook for subsidizing risky home purchases.

[sharequote align="center"]Aside from the SOTU, Congress will continue doing what they do best – grow government.[/sharequote]


Ahead of President Obama’s State of the Union Address, one would expect Republicans to come out with a statement of principles presenting a bold contrast from his deleterious proposals. Sadly, we don’t have a viable second party at the leadership level. 

House GOP leadership plans to release a statement of principles on immigration, which will closely echo Obama’s talking points as he prepares to make amnesty one of the biggest priorities in his speech. The outline for amnesty will be pushed upon rank-and-file Members at the annual House GOP retreat towards the end of the week.

The GOP proposal is expected to call for a series of votes on immigration in the spring. In order to distract from their amnesty, they will propose enforcement bills as window dressing, even though they know those bills will never pass the Senate. 

Immigration reform advocates protest next to an Immigration and Customs Enforcement John Moore/Getty Images

What will pass the Senate are the amnesty proposals being concocted. One bill will grant broad legalization to almost all the illegals living in the country; the other bill will be some version of the “Dream Act,” granting full citizenship to illegals under the age of 35.

This is the time for conservatives to stand and fight. We need to get all Republican members on record as supporting or opposing this. In a perfect world, we would pass enforcement bills and highlight Obama’s disregard for border and interior security. However, it is clear that any good bill will be used as a shell to pass amnesty and will only distract from the focus on Obamacare. As such, conservatives need to make it clear that the issue of immigration should not be brought up until we have a new president in the White House and true conservative leadership in Congress.

Farm Bill

The House-Senate conference committee on the five-year farm bill has reached an agreementThe conference report will be formally released on Wednesday.

On the agriculture side, this bill eliminates $5 billion in direct subsidies, but creates several new programs that can be even more costly and engender worse market distortions.  The Agricultural Risk Coverage (ARC) would guarantee shallow loss of record revenue farmers have been enjoying over the past few years. The shallow loss program would kick in when revenue dips below 86 percent of the past few years. The Price Loss Coverage (PLC) would trigger subsidies when prices for certain commodities dip below target prices.  For many crops, prices are already beginning to drop towards the cusp of those trigger levels. 

In addition to the agriculture title of the bill, most of the cost comes from locking in the Obama-era expansion of food stamp spending, which is simply unacceptable. The only way to address the skyrocketing cost of food stamps is to structurally reform the program. 

In this May 30, 2013 photo, Burl Scherler, of Scherler Farms, walks through a failed winter wheat crop on his farm in Sheridan Lake, Colo. Photo Credit: Andy Cross/AP

At present, the federal government creates a perverse dis-incentive for states to wean residents off the program. It also fails to encourage employment as a means of working towards upward mobility. Conservatives should not support a deal that does not address the work requirements, eligibility standards, and attempt to shift more responsibility back to the states.  

Moreover, this bill will violate the promise from GOP leaders to finally sever the food stamp portion of the bill from the agriculture titles. In short, this bill creates new subsidy programs, locks in Obama’s record spending on food stamps, and precludes any serious reforms to either welfare or agriculture subsidies for another five years. Conservatives should stand up and be counted against the Farm Bill.    

Flood Insurance

In 2012, Congress reauthorized the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) for five years with some much needed reforms to save taxpayers money. As part of the reauthorization, Congress passed the Biggert-Waters reform bill, which required recipients of NFIP to pay insurance rates that were more actuarially sound. 

According to the Government Accountability Office, some plans are so heavily subsidized that recipients are only paying about 35-40 percent of the real actuarial cost of the premiums. The Biggert-Waters bill was designed to close the $18 billion structural debt in the program engendered by these lavish subsidies, which have encouraged property owners to incur more risk than market forces would permit. 

This week the Senate will take up a bill, S. 1926, which will delay the reduction in subsidies, and higher premium requirements even on homes purchased in flood zones after 2012. 

Photo Credit: Marc Piscotty/Getty Images

The program was created in 1968 to provide insurance to those living in flood-risk areas. Ever since the last long-term NFIP reauthorization expired, Congress has passed 17 stop-gap extensions. Not surprisingly, the program has racked up $24 billion in debt during that tumultuous time. The 2012 reforms represented a rare bipartisan moment when members actually made some minor reforms to make the flood insurance program more solvent. The S. 1926 bill will completely erase those reforms and set a precedent for the future that flood insurance subsidies are completely off limits.   

It will not be an easy task to eliminate this program. Decades’ worth of government incentives to live in flood-prone regions have enticed thousands of homeowners into purchasing houses in areas that will forever necessitate more subsidies. However, we need to start responsibly reducing these incentives. Unfortunately, the Senate is headed in the opposite direction.

Stay informed every day at www.MadisonProject.com.

Feature Photo: AP Photo/J. David Ake

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