House Republicans prepare border crisis plan
Last week, President Obama asked for $3.7 billion to deal with the current border crisis. This week, House Republicans made it clear that they were not going to give the president what he asked for, and were readying their own plan for how to deal with the current situation.
House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) established a working group to come up with a series of policy proposals aimed at alleviating the crisis on our southern border. While still not finalized, the GOP plan will include a recommendation to dispatch the National Guard to south Texas as well as changes in U.S. law that would expedite the return of unaccompanied children who illegally cross the border.
The Republican plan will also significantly scale back the total dollars being spent on this emergency effort—the final price tag is expected to be far short of the $3.7 billion the president asked for.
In a closed conference meeting Tuesday morning, Speaker John Boehner told his House Republican colleagues that they needed to move quickly, so that at least the GOP-led House passes a plan before its August break.
It will then be up to Democrats in the Senate to decide whether to join Republicans in working out a two-chamber solution, several Republicans said of the strategy.
Republican efforts to change trafficking victim laws will be a major spot of contention moving forward. The House GOP proposal would allow youths from Central America and other countries to be treated the same as Mexican youths—meaning they can be turned around at the border unless they are successfully able to make the case to Border Patrol agents that they have a fear of returning home.
Fed chair objects to GOP efforts to limit authority
Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen told a House committee this week that she strongly opposed GOP efforts to require the Fed to adopt a policy that would govern future decisions and have that rule audited by the Government Accountability Office (GAO).
The Federal Accountability and Transparency Act was introduced in the House last week. Yellen didn’t parse words in her objections to the legislation, saying, “[i]t would be a grave mistake for the Fed to commit to conduct monetary policy according to a mathematical rule. No central bank does that.”
Yellen went on to say the legislation would “essentially undermine central bank independence in the conduct of monetary policy” and that it would make it more difficult for the Fed to keep inflation under control.
Click here to view the Washington Business Brief video, "Cleveland and the Highway Trust Fund Have a Good Week."
Online sales tax update
The House and the Senate, as is so often the case these days, seem to be heading in opposite directions when it comes to the question of an online sales tax.
On Tuesday, the House passed a bill by voice vote that would make permanent an expiring ban on federal, state, and local taxation of Internet access. The popular measure is primed and ready for consideration in the Senate, where a similar bill sponsored by Sen. Ron Wyden has tallied more than 50 cosponsors.
But just hours after the House bill passed, a group of bipartisan senators introduced a new bill linking the tax ban to a more complicated and controversial push to strengthen the power of states to tax online purchases of items like books, furniture, and electronics to help close budget shortfalls.
The swift maneuver amounts to a last-ditch effort to revive the stalled online sales tax legislation, which passed the Senate last year but has gained little traction since. But it also cleaves the coalition that supports a moratorium on taxing Internet access—and it could prove a burdensome hurdle that stalls any extension from reaching the president's desk before the ban expires later this year.
The Marketplace and Internet Tax Fairness Act, introduced by Republican Sen. Michael Enzi, Senate Majority Whip Sen. Dick Durbin, and a handful of others, would allow states to levy a sales tax on online purchases from out-of-state retailers. Current law dictates that states cannot enforce a sales tax on online merchandise bought from a company that does not have a physical location within the same state.
In addition, the bill would extend for 10 years the moratorium on taxing Internet access, which is set to expire Nov. 1. Unlike the House offering, it would not make the tax ban permanent.
The plan to broaden states' ability to tax online sales has been percolating in Congress for years, and it has earned influential backing from traditional retailers as well as the online behemoth Amazon. Other online retailers such as eBay and a number of antitax groups oppose the measure.
House votes to block D.C. efforts
On Wednesday, the House voted to override the decisions of the elected representatives of the voters of the District of Columbia. The vote is intended to stop D.C. from using its own money to provide abortion coverage, enforcing local gun laws, or decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana.
Although D.C. passes its own ordinances, Congress has the power to block many of the city's decisions through spending bills. And that's precisely what happened Wednesday in the annual appropriations bill for financial services and "general government," including D.C.
The abortion fight is a long-running one. Because of the federal government's control over D.C.'s budget, it can block the district from using its own funds to cover abortion in its Medicaid program. States, by contrast, are not allowed to spend federal funds on abortion coverage but can use their own money to include it in their Medicaid programs.
Additionally, this year's D.C. spending bill includes an amendment from Rep. Thomas Massie, a Kentucky Republican, which prohibits the district from using any money to enforce its local gun laws, which include a ban on assault weapons and large magazines, a waiting period, and a ban on carrying concealed weapons.
The bill also prohibits D.C. from implementing a recently passed measure that lowers the fines for possession of small amounts of marijuana.
Unemployment extension looks even less likely
For months, a bipartisan group of Senators has been pushing to renew long-term unemployment benefits that expired at the end of last year. This week, the long odds for it happening got even longer.
Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) and Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) had been pushing to use pension smoothing as pay for renewing long-term unemployment benefits. Unfortunately, the House voted this week to use pension smoothing as one of the pay fors in patching the Highway Trust Fund.
The bad news got worse when Senator Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said that he doubted that unemployment insurance (UI) would be a part of the Senate’s transportation legislation. Supporters of renewing long-term UI had hoped to attach it to a must pass bill like the Highway Trust Fund patch.
The chances are increasingly dim that unemployment insurance gets a vote in the Senate before the election, and now they must find a new way to pay for their five-month extension—the longest bill that lawmakers could find money to pay for in a manner that centrist Republicans could accept.
Transportation in focus
House passes Highway Trust Fund patch
With the clock ticking on the Highway Trust Fund becoming insolvent, and after months of debate inside the GOP caucus on how to proceed on this issue, the House voted overwhelmingly this week to approve a $10.8 billion patch to the Highway Trust Fund. Only 55 members voted no (45 Republicans and 10 Democrats) while 367 members voted for the bill that will keep the fund solvent through May of next year.
Despite many misgivings about the bill on both sides of the aisle, it is expected to pass the Senate and be signed into law by President Obama—largely because there are no other viable options out there at this point.
The legislation would avoid the steady reduction of federal funds that Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx has warned will begin on Aug. 1. By the end of the month, that reduction in federal funds would be about 28 percent. For some states, that would mean half of their money would be gone. For others, the reduction would be less serious. In total, federal funding makes up about one-fourth of all surface transportation spending.
The vote to approve the measure represented a setback for conservative groups Heritage Action and Club for Growth. They have lashed out at its use of pension tax changes, and such things as money from a fund to repair underground fuel storage tanks, as budget gimmicks—all designed, they say, to bail out what they view as a wasteful and inefficient program to begin with.
Both groups had warned lawmakers they would include this vote on their legislative scorecards. But this time, unlike some past votes on fiscal or funding issues, that did not seem to matter to as many Republicans.
In the Senate, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has said similar legislation will move before the August recess. Reid plans to vote on three separate proposals: the House-passed bill, a Senate Finance Committee alternative that is similar to the House bill and a plan from Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) to extend current policy only through December in order to force Congress to act on a long-term bill in the lame-duck session.
Alabama 6th Congressional District run-off: Alabama Policy Institute founder Gary Palmer (R-AL) defeated state Rep. Paul DeMarco (R-AL) 64 to 36 percent.
Michigan 3rd Congressional District: The Chamber of Commerce endorsed primary challenger Brian Ellis (R-MI) over Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI).
New York 19th Congressional District: Rep. Chris Gibson (R-NY) raised $819,000 in the second quarter and had $1.9 million cash on hand, while his opponent, venture capitalist Sean Eldridge (D-NY), raised $770,000 and had $2.1 million on hand.
North Carolina 6th Congressional District run-off: Baptist Pastor Mark Walker (R-NC) defeated Rockingham County District Attorney Phil Berger, Jr. 60 to 40 percent.
Colorado: A new Quinnipiac University poll of RVs, conducted July 10-14, shows Rep. Cory Gardner (R-CO) leading Senator Udall (D-CO) 44 to 42 percent. In a mid-April poll, Udall led 45 to 44 percent.
Iowa: State Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) raised $1.8 million in the second quarter and had over $1 million cash on hand, while Rep. Bruce Braley (D-IA) raised $1.7 million and had $2.7 million cash on hand.
Kansas: Senate Conservatives Action, the super PAC arm of Senate Conservatives Fund, released new TV and radio ads this week trying to portray Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS) as "liberal in Washington" and "rarely in Kansas.”
Kentucky: Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes (D-KY) raised $4 million in the second quarter and had $6.2 million cash on hand, while her opponent, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), raised $3.1 million and had $9.8 million cash on hand.
Oregon: Pediatric neurosurgeon Monica Wehby (R-OR) raised $955,000 in the second quarter and had $647,000 cash on hand, along with $122,000 in debt.
Georgia: Jason Carter (D-GA) leads Gov. Nathan Deal (R-GA), 49 to 41 percent, with Libertarian Andrew Hunt (L-GA) receiving four percent, according to a new poll in Georgia.
A look ahead
Tuesday, July 22:
3:00 p.m. House Energy and Commerce Committee: Hearing Health Subcommittee hearing on "21st Century Cures: Examining Barriers to Ongoing Evidence Development and Communication."
7:30 p.m. House Veterans' Affairs Committee: Hearing Full committee hearing on "VA's Longstanding Information Security Weaknesses are Increasing Patient Wait Times and Allowing Extensive Data Manipulation."
Wednesday, July 23:
10:00 a.m. House Financial Services Committee: Hearing Full committee hearing on "Assessing the Impact of the Dodd-Frank Act Four Years Later."
10:00 a.m. House Education and the Workforce Committee: Hearing Workforce Protections Subcommittee hearing on "Improving the Federal Wage and Hour Regulatory Structure."
10:00 a.m. House Energy and Commerce Committee: Hearing Environment and the Economy Subcommittee hearing on "Modernizing the Business of Environmental Regulation and Protection."
10:00 a.m. House Foreign Affairs Committee: Hearing Full committee hearing on "Terrorist March in Iraq: The U.S. Response."
10:00 a.m. House Natural Resources Committee: Hearing Fisheries, Wildlife, Oceans and Insular Affairs Subcommittee H.R.3109, to assist Alaskan Native Handicrafts; H.R.3409, the "National Wildlife Refuge Expansion Limitation Act"; H.R.5026, the "Fish Hatchery Protection Act"; and H.R.5069, the "Federal Duck Stamp Act."
10:00 a.m. House Homeland Security Committee: Hearing Full committee hearing on "The Rising Terrorist Threat and the Unfulfilled 9/11 Recommendation."
10:00 a.m. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee: Hearing Aviation Subcommittee hearing on "Domestic Aviation Manufacturing: Challenges and Opportunities."
10:30 a.m. House Administration Committee: Hearing Full committee hearing on "Examining the Voting Process - How States Can Build on Recommendations from the Bauer-Ginsberg Commission."
10:30 a.m. House Ways and Means Committee: Hearing Oversight Subcommittee hearing on "Integrity of the Affordable Care Act's Premium Tax Credit."
10:30 a.m. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee: Hearing Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Subcommittee hearing on "Implementing U.S. Policy in the Arctic."
2:00 p.m. House Armed Services Committee: Hearing Full committee hearing on "U.S. National Missile Defense and the Growing Threat: Is a 'Limited Defense' Enough?"
2:00 p.m. House Natural Resources Committee: Hearing Energy and Mineral Resources Subcommittee hearing on "American Metals and Mineral Security: An Examination of the Domestic Critical Minerals Supply and Demand Chain."
Thursday, July 24:
9:30 a.m. House Veterans' Affairs Committee: Hearing Full committee hearing on "Restoring Trust: The View of the Acting Secretary and the Veterans Community."
10:00 a.m. House Homeland Security Committee: Hearing Counterterrorism and Intelligence Subcommittee hearing on "Jihadist Safe Havens: Efforts to Detect and Deter Terrorist Travel."
10:00 a.m. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee: Hearing Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee hearing on "Integrated Planning and Permitting Framework: An Opportunity for EPA to Provide Communities with Flexibility to Make Smart Investments in Water Quality."
Tuesday, July 22:
9:30 a.m. Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee: Hearing Investigations Subcommittee hearing on "Abuse of Structured Financial Products: Misusing Barrier Options to Avoid Taxes and Leverage Limits."
10:00 a.m. Senate Finance Committee: Hearing Full committee hearing on "The U.S. Tax Code: Love It, Leave It or Reform It!"
10:00 a.m. Senate Foreign Relations Committee: Markup Full committee markup of T.Doc.112-7, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on Dec. 13, 2006, and Signed by the United States of America on June 30, 2009.
10:00 a.m. Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee: Hearing Employment and Workplace Safety Subcommittee hearing on "Coal Miners' Struggle for Justice: How Unethical Legal and Medical Practices Stack the Deck Against Black Lung Claimants."
10:30 a.m. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee: Hearing Full committee hearing on "Leveraging America's Resources as a Revenue Generator and Job Creator."
2:00 p.m. Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee: Hearing Full committee hearing on the nomination of Robert McDonald to be secretary of the Veterans Affairs Department.
2:30 p.m. Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee: Markup Full committee markup of pending calendar business.
2:30 p.m. Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee: Hearing Housing, Transportation, and Community Development Subcommittee hearing on "Building Economically Resilient Communities: Local and Regional Approaches."
2:45 p.m. Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee: Hearing full committee hearing on "The Cruise Passenger Protection Act (S.1340): Improving Consumer Protections for Cruise Passengers."
3:00 p.m. Senate Foreign Relations Committee: Hearing International Development and Foreign Assistance, Economic Affairs, International Environmental Protection and Peace Corps Subcommittee hearing on "U.S. Security Implications of International Energy and Climate Policies and Issues."
Wednesday, July 23:
9:30 a.m. Senate Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee: Hearing Full committee hearing on "Meeting the Challenges of Feeding America's School Children."
9:30 a.m. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee: Hearing Full committee hearing on "EPA's Proposed Carbon Pollution Standards for Existing Power Plants."
10:00 a.m. Senate Finance Committee: Hearing Taxation and IRS Oversight Subcommittee hearing on "Saving for an Uncertain Future: How the ABLE (Achieving a Better Life Experience) Act can Help People with Disabilities and their Families."
10:00 a.m. Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee: Markup Full committee markup of H.R.2083, the "Protecting Students from Sexual and Violent Predators Act"; S.315, the "Paul D. Wellstone Muscular Dystrophy Community Assistance, Research and Education (MD-CARE) Amendments of 2013"; S.2154, the "Emergency Medical Services for Children Reauthorization Act of 2014"; S.531, the "Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans Act"; S.2405, the "Trauma Systems and Regionalization of Emergency Care Reauthorization Act"; S.2406, the "Improving Trauma Care Act of 2014"; S.2539, the "Traumatic Brain Injury Reauthorization Act of 2014"; and S.2511, to amend the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974.
10:00 a.m. Senate Rules and Administration Committee: Hearing Full committee hearing on S.2516, the "DISCLOSE (Democracy Is Strengthened by Casting Light On Spending in Elections) Act and the Need for Expanded Public Disclosure of Funds Raised and Spent to Influence Federal Elections.
2:15 p.m. Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee: Hearing Full committee hearing on "Empowering Women Entrepreneurs: Understanding Successes, Addressing Persistent Challenges, and Identifying New Opportunities."
2:30 p.m. Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee: Hearing Financial and Contracting Oversight Subcommittee hearing on "A More Efficient and Effective Government: The National Technical Information Service."
2:30 p.m. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee: Hearing National Parks Subcommittee hearing on H.R.412, to amend the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.
2:30 p.m. Senate Indian Affairs Committee: Hearing Full committee hearing on Indian gaming, the next 25 years.
Thursday, July 24:
10:00 a.m. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee: Hearing Full committee hearing on the nomination of Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall to be deputy secretary of the Energy Department.
Washington by the numbers
38.2: People, per 500,000 residents, in Nevada who are likely to be subject to mobile wiretaps, more than three times as many as in any other state.
$6 million: Amount that House Majority Leader Eric Cantor spent on his primary loss.
They said what?
“They were sad, too. I apologize. I didn’t know. I was leaving when I saw them, so if that was a school bus...people were not happy, down the line. That was an error by me.” – Arizona congressional candidate and state Rep. Adam Kwasman, after claiming that he had seen migrant children bused into Arizona and then being told they were schoolchildren on their way to a YMCA camp (AZCentral.com).
"Germany was really excited about the World Cup win. When asked what they're going to do next, Germany said, 'We're going to invade Disney World!'" – Jimmy Fallon
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