This Week in Congress

Before getting into this week, I want to draw your attention to two key Senate votes from last week. Both votes were “motions to instruct the House-Senate conferees on the National Defense Authorization Act,” meaning the Senate wants the conferees to include it in the final version of the bill.

First, the U.S. Senate passed a “sense of the Senate” (the Senate has sense, just not good or common sense) reaffirming U.S. support for the NATO alliance and calling on further U.S. involvement in Europe. NATO was founded to protect Europe from the Soviet Union, and almost thirty years after the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union, there is no justification for the U.S. to continue to spend billions of dollars propping up this outdated alliance. Kudos to Senators Rand Paul and Mike Lee for being the only Senators to oppose this resolution.

The Senate voted 88-11 on a rebuttal that requires the president to ask for congressional approval before imposing tariffs. This is a symbolic (but only symbolic) response to President Trump’s tariffs, which has raised fears of a global trade war. Many organizations, including Campaign for Liberty, are opposed to the tariffs.

Tariffs will hurt the agricultural sector, which is why Farmers Free Trade is running TV ads opposing them.

We must keep the pressure up so the Senate does more than pass “sense of Senate” resolutions, and instead votes on legislation prohibiting  the president from raising tariffs without congressional approval.

For more on the tariffs see here and here.

The big legislation the House will consider this week is H.R. 6147, which makes appropriations for the Department of the Interior, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Forest Services, the Indian Health Service, and the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). The bill spends a total of $36.252 billion which is equal to last year’s level ... but it increases spending on the NEA by $2 million. The NEA is not a huge expenditure, but if Congress can’t cut the NEA (which everyone thought would be defunded after the Republicans took control of Congress in 1994), how can we expect them to cut spending for the military-industrial complex?

The bill also contains the Financial Services Appropriations which funds the Treasury Department, the Judicial, the Small Business Administration, and the Securities and Exchange Commission. This part of the bill spends a total of $23.4 billion -- equal to last year’s level.

The House will also consider H.Con.Res. 119, which expresses the sense of Congress that a carbon tax would be detrimental to the U.S. economy. Campaign for Liberty supports this resolution, as a carbon tax would harm the economy and is just a backdoor way of imposing cap-and-trade regulations on the economy.

Campaign for Liberty has signed a letter in support of the bill, available here.

The House will also consider a number of bills under suspension of the rules, including:

  1. H.R. 1376 – Requires the archivist of the U.S. to establish new regulations for federal agencies’ storage of e-mails.

  1. H.R. 3076 — Requires federal agencies to develop a system for individuals with business before the agency to electronically submit forms necessary to allow a third-party to access their information.

  1. H.R. 3906 — Establishes federally-funded “centers of excellence” for innovation in storm water control (because the American people would clearly be helpless at doing this without help from the federal government).

  1. H.R. 5846 — Requires the GAO to study FEMA’s practices for flood damaged property to see if, among other things, the program would save flood insurance and disaster relief costs.

  1. H.R. 5333 — Authorizes a study of having certain drugs to be available over-the-counter

  1. H.J.Res. XXX — Continuing on a theme from last week, this is a not yet numbered bill (which means not yet introduced) that expresses the sense of Congress that our military readiness is not sufficient because of failure to fully-fund the military—even though we spend more on “defense” than the next highest 8 spending countries in the world combined.

  1. H.J.Res XXX — Another unnumbered (thus unintroduced) resolution that expresses the sense of Congress that the Marines Corps is seriously underfunded … even though spending is at record levels.

  1. H.J.Res. XXX - Another unnumbered resolution, this one is the same as above but for the Navy.

  1. H.R. 4819 — Authorizes spending your money to “… promote inclusive economic growth through conservation and biodiversity programs that facilitate transboundary cooperation, improve natural resource management, and build local capacity to protect and preserve threatened wildlife species in the greater Okavango River Basin of southern Africa. (And this expansion of foreign aid will only get forty minutes of debate.)

  1. H.R. 5105 — Creates an “International Development Financial Competition” to make loan grants to attract private capital to middle-income countries and countries transitioning to market economies (because the U.S. government is an expert on market economics . . . creating a new international program ought to get more attention than 40 minutes of debate).

  1. H.R. 3030 -- Creates a national atrocities task force, provides training for foreign service officers in atrocity prevention, and requires the Director of National Intelligence to report to Congress on the threat of atrocities. (This involves potentially serious matters of foreign policy but is getting the attention Congress reserves for naming Post Offices.)

  1. H.R. 5480 — Improves and strengthens the Agency for International Development programs  aimed at helping women entrepreneurs.

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