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This Week in Washington: Audit the Federal Reserve, Prayer and Taxes

Politics

The House is planning to take up Rep. Ron Paul’s (R-TX) bill to audit the Fed. The Senate will have debate on competing tax proposals.  Congress should take a some time to grieve and pray for the lost souls and injured inColorado, rather than politicize the tragedy.

The terrible events in Aurora, Colorado have sent the presidential campaigns into a slumber. According to the Washington Post, President Obama visited the University of Colorado Hospital in Aurora to "meet with the families of victims.” President Obama was quoted as saying that he “tried to assure them that although the perpetrator of this evil act has received a lot of attention over the last couple of days, that attention will fade away. And in the end, after he has felt the full force of our justice system, what will be remembered are the good people who were impacted by this tragedy.” He also told a story of heroism by a 19 year old woman who did everything she could to save a friend during the massacre.

This is a time for reflection and prayer. It would be wise for Congress to take a day for the Senate and House to suspend regular business in order to help the grieving process. They should also organize a day of prayer and reflection so that our nation can properly deal with this national tragedy.

Thankfully, President Obama and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney have both done the right thing and suspended campaigning.  This is one of those rare moments when the country can put aside politics and praise the actions of our leaders to focus on the grieving process and helping those who are battling for their lives and health right now. Now some have politicized the tragedy (see Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York), yet most have taken the high road. The President deserves the praise of all Americans for facilitating the grieving and healing process.

The House has nineteen suspension votes scheduled today on a California land exchange bill (H.R. 1237), the Y Mountain Access Enhancement Act (H.R. 4484), another California land bill (H.R. 2467), a bill to facilitate Turkish aid to American Indian tribes (H.R. 2362), a bill to study rivers in Connecticut and Rhode Island (H.R. 3388), a motor vehicle reporting bill (H.R. 5859), a bill to provide commercial airline pilots some explicit rights (S. 1335), and a bill to allow State and local governments to construct levees on open space lands (S. 2039).

The remaining suspension bills are naming bills including the James L. Buckley Visitors Center (H.R. 958), the Thomas P. O’Neill, Jr. Visitors Center (H.R. 4400), Robert Boochever Courthouse (H.R. 4347), Robert H. Jackson Courthouse (H.R. 3356), Edwin L. Mechem Courthouse (H.R. 3742), Nicky “Nick” Daniel Bacon Post Office (H.R. 3870), Park Ranger Margaret Anderson Post Office (H.R. 5788), CIA Officer Gregg David Wenzel Post Office (H.R. 3593), First Sergeant David McNerny Post Office (H.R. 3477), Judge Shirlety A. Tolentino Post Office (H.R. 2896), and Warren Lindley Post Office (H.R. 1369).

The House will take up H.R. 459, the Federal Reserve Transparency Act sponsored by Rep. Ron Paul R-TX this week for an extended debate. McClatchy reports that the Paul bill “would allow the Government Accountability Office to audit the Fed’s monetary policy deliberations; right now, such deliberations are exempt from audits, although other financial aspects of Fed operations are subject to audit.”  This bill should sail through the House and the big question is whether the Senate takes it up.

POLITICO reported last week that “after being approved in June by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Paul’s legislation is set to land on the House floor next week. And while Paul expects the measure to die in the Senate, despite having more than 270 co-sponsors, he said he is optimistic it will not be the death of his signature cause.”  Paul was quoted by POLITICO as saying that “I’m feeling good about it. I think we’re making progress, and the American people are very much aware of the interconnections of the Federal Reserve and the financial conditions of the country and the economic problems that we have.”  Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke argued last week at a House Financial Services against the bill.

The House also has H.R. 4157, the Preserving America’s Family Farms Act, and H.R. 5986, a trade bill, H.R. 6082, the Congressional Replacement of President Obama’s Energy-Restricting and Job-Limiting Offshore Drilling Plan, and H.R. 4078, the Red Tape Reduction and Small Business Job Creation Act.  It will be difficult for the House to get thought all of these bills this week.

The Senate will be voting on the nomination of Michael A. Shipp to be to be a U.S. District Judge for New Jerseyat 5pm today.  Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) is blocking a vote on this nomination because he has not been allowed to offer an amendment to cut off aid to Pakistan until they release Dr. Shakil Afridi, the doctor who helped the CIA track Usama bin Laden. Sen. Paul is shutting down the Senate until he is allowed a vote on this amendment on pending legislation.  Sen. Paul has taken this action to block a nominee as a means to protest Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) practice of blocking Republican amendments to bills this Congress. Reid has used the Senate’s rules to block controversial Republican amendments to bills for the past few years using a parliamentary tactic that blocks all but Reid approved amendments.

The Senate is expected to have a debate on tax policy this week. Senator Reid has introduced the Middle Class Tax Cut Act (S. 3412) and Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) has introduced the Tax Hike Prevention Act (S. 3413). Both are on the on the Senate Calendar and expected to be debated this week if an agreement can be worked out.

The National Journal reports that Senate Democrats are facing a tough political test this week because “it's a tough balancing act. Senate Democrats want to help Obama win, but some Dems, especially those who represent high-cost states populated by wealthy campaign patrons (See Schumer, Chuck), are squishy about backing the president's call to raise taxeson households who make more than $250,000.”  The Democrats bill would impose a tax increase on those individuals making over $200,000 a year and families making over $250,000 a year as a result of expiring provisions in the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts.

According to The Hill, the Hatch argued earlier this month when he offered a similar amendment to S. 2237 that would extend all the tax cuts that “here we are with a fragile recovery and a weak jobs market. President Obama seems content to sit idly by and allow this scheduled 4.5-trillion tax hike to occur. I believe Congress needs to act now to prevent this tax hike on America's families and job creators.” This debate is expected to play out in the Senate this week.

Also, the Cybersecurity Act (S.3414) is also on the Senate Calendar and may be debated this week.  The Hill reports that Senator Joe “Lieberman and four co-sponsors introduced a revised version of his cybersecurity bill this week that included changes to the controversial sections on critical infrastructure and information sharing. It incorporated some of the elements outlined in the compromise effort led by Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.).”  This bill has been scaled back in an effort to secure more Republican support.

This week will be a week of grieving and prayer. It is far less important what happens in Washington this week while many are struggling with sadness and challenges in the wake of the horror in Aurora. Expect federal politicians to forge forward on a debate on taxes and the Federal Reserve this week.

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