This Week in Congress: So Much for Independence Day

The House came back from their Independence Day recess and immediately began working on taking away our liberties.

The marquee item of the week was supposed to be an "anti-terrorism" bill containing the Republican version of the Democrats "no fly, no buy" proposal. However, thanks to the outcry from pro-liberty Americans, the fate of the bill is currently unclear. If you have not yet done so, please to sign your Lynch Don't Take My Gun fax petition to your representative.

Yesterday, the House voted on H.R. 2646, the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act. This bill creates a new Assistant Secretary for Mental Health Services and further expands the federal government's involvement in mental health programs.

My friend Michael Cannon of the CATO Institute asks a good question about this bill: Do Conservatives Only Oppose Big Government Health Care Schemes When Proposed by Democrats? Since only Reps. Thomas Massie and Justin Amash voted NO on the bill, I guess the answer to Michael's question is, yes.

The House will also consider the Financial Services and General Appropriations Act. This act makes appropriations for (among other agencies) the Treasury Department and the IRS. One good thing about this bill is that it contains some riders preventing the IRS from limiting the free speech rights of groups like Campaign for Liberty.

While the House Rules Committee approved more than 70 amendments it blocked several pro-gun amendments proposed by Representative Massie.

Campaign for Liberty is supporting an amendment prohibiting the use of taxpayer funds to stop Americans from traveling to Cuba.

Representative Massie (who else?) once again forced the House to hold a roll call vote on the "Global Food Security Act." Like the first version of the bill, this legislation authorizes a billion dollars in new foreign aid spending, and the House leadership wanted to pass the bill by voice vote. Sadly only 53 Republicans voted against this bill. The bill already passed the Senate by voice vote so it is on its way to President Obama for his signature.

The House also considered some good legislation this week: H.R. 1270, the Restoring Access to Medication Act. This legislation repeals the Obamacare provision forbidding the use of funds from a Health Savings Account for over-the-counter medicines.

The House has also considered S. 2845, legislation imposing new sanctions on "individuals in Venezuela who are responsible for human rights violations." Of course, sanctions are an act of war and a poor way to promote liberty abroad. Even though this deals with a serious foreign policy issue, the House considered the bill under suspension.

Other bills considered under suspension this week included:

1. H.R. 5482 --  This bill "...amends the Central Valley Project Improvement Act to exclude striped bass from the project to require reasonable efforts to ensure all anadromous fish naturally produce at twice the average levels in Central Valley rivers and streams. Striped bass are non-native anadromous fish that prey on native salmon and steelhead and must be reduced in abundance to prevent the extinction of Central Valley salmon and steelhead."

OK, I guess. But should this really be a federal issue?

2. H.R. 1838 -- "...establish a Clear Creek National Recreation Area in California to promote environmentally responsible off-highway vehicle recreation and support other public recreational uses, including hunting, hiking, and rock and gem collecting."

Again, how is this a federal function?

3. H.R. 4854 -- provides regulatory relief to venture capital funds with under 500 shareholders.

4. H.R. 4855-- provides some regulatory relief to crowdfunding efforts.

The House also passed H.R. 4361, the Government Reform and Improvement Act of 2016.

Among the bill's provisions is language requiring the Office of Management and Budget to develop new rules designed to prevent federal employees from viewing pornography on government computers.

This raises a number of questions: Don't these rules already exist? And aren't we better off if federal employees are watching porn than violating our liberties?

This bill also forbids federal employees from performing union business on "official time."

Most importantly, the bill places a moratorium on "midnight rules." Midnight rules are regulations rushed through Congress by an outgoing administration in between the election and the new President's inauguration.

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