This week in Congress: Will the Government Shut Down?

Not likely, but we can always hope. . .

The House is coming back from its two-week "spring break."  The big item on the agenda is the Continuing Resolution (CR), which funds the government. Some Democrats have threatened to block passage of the CR if it contains funding for President Trump's proposed "border wall."

Another potential fight is if the CR defunds ObamaCare's subsidies for insurance companies. Congress has blocked these subsidies for the past several years, but the Obama administration illegally funneled money to the insurance companies anyway -- shocking, I know. President Trump has indicated he may work with Congress to block these funds, in order to force the insurance companies and ObamaCare supporters to "negotiate" on a repeal and replace plan.

Another controversy is over attempts by the cotton lobby to add language to the CR restoring the eligibility of cotton producers to receive funding under the "Title One" program, which provides funding for most commodities. Cotton was removed from Title One when the U.S. lost a World Trade Organization (WTO) case brought by Brazil, determining that the subsidies violated international trade rules. Despite getting another subsidy program that costs the taxpayers several billion dollars (in addition to the money the U.S. Government has paid Brazil), cotton producers claim they need more of your money.

If the producers are included in Title One, they would not only be able to receive higher payments this year but would be in a position to receive even greater payments when Congress reauthorizes the farm bill later this year.

Campaign for Liberty has signed onto a coalition letter opposing new cotton subsidies in the CR:

Dear Representative/Senator,

On behalf of the millions of Americans represented by the undersigned organizations, we write urging you to oppose efforts to hijack the Fiscal Year 2017 appropriations process to increase taxpayer spending by padding the bottom lines of certain agricultural businesses. We are most concerned with special interest attempts to preempt the 2018 farm bill process to secure billions of additional federal tax dollars for cotton producers by making them eligible for Title 1 farm bill income subsidy programs.

Agricultural businesses producing cotton already benefit from an overly generous taxpayer-backed financial safety net. According to USDA, 96 percent of cotton acreage is covered by federally subsidized crop insurance. The 2014 farm bill created the Stacked Income Protection program (STAX), exclusive to cotton producers, in which taxpayers cover 80 percent of the cost for policies protecting against so-called “shallow losses” that are too small to trigger crop insurance payouts. Federally subsidized marketing loans, trade promotion programs, economic assistance to mills, and $328 million in un-budgeted ginning cost share subsidies just last year, are amongst the many ways taxpayers are forced to subsidize the cotton sector.

Finally, using the 2017 appropriations process to further bailout the cotton sector may re-open costly trade disputes. The 2014 farm bill removed cotton as an eligible commodity for Title 1 farm bill income subsidy programs in order to resolve a long-standing World Trade Organization dispute with Brazil that has already cost taxpayers more than $800 million. Reneging on our agreement with Brazil by making cotton an eligible commodity under the Title 1 Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) or Price Loss Coverage (PLC) programs could subject United States consumers and manufacturers to billions of dollars in retaliatory trade measures to industries other than agriculture.

We believe that it is long overdue to place faith in American farmers and treat them with the respect they deserve as sophisticated and innovative business leaders. Congress must not use the fiscal year 2017 appropriations process to surreptitiously direct billions of additional dollars to select special interests. Rather we should use the 2018 farm bill process, already well-underway, to ensure America’s agricultural businesses have the opportunity to adjust to economic realities by eliminating unnecessary and complicated federal policies that manipulate market decisions in this critical and vibrant component of our economy.


 American Commitment

Americans for Prosperity

Campaign for Liberty

Council for Citizens Against Government Waste

Heritage Action for America

National Taxpayers Union

R Street Institute

Taxpayers for Common Sense

Taxpayers Protection Alliance

Campaign for Liberty members should call their representative and senators and tell them to oppose any CR that raises spending or bails out the insurance companies.

The House will also consider H.R. 1694, which subjects Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. Campaign for Liberty members should call their representatives and urge them to vote for H.R. 1694.

H.R. 1694 was one of the bills discussed at the Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing where I testified on behalf of Audit the Fed, Hopefully, the House will follow up their action on H.R. 1694 with a vote on Audit the Fed.

The House will also consider H.R. 1695, which gives some additional responsibilities to the Register of Copyrights.

The House will also consider legislation under suspension of the rules, including:

1. S. 496 -- Overturns Department of Transportation's "Metropolitan Planning Organization Coordination and Planning Area Reform." This rule consulted planning authorities, which seems good, but it does reduce the influence of local officials, who know the needs of their constituents better than D.C.-based bureaucrats.

2. H.R. 876 -- Requires a new study on security of "employee" only areas of airports, including employee education about security procedures. It also gives the Department of Transportation the lead role in "insider threat" coordination efforts.

3. H.R. 1372 -- the Homeland Security for the Children Act (yes it is called that). As the title suggests, this bill requires the Department of Homeland Security to:

“(I) identify and integrate the needs of children into activities to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate against the risk of natural disasters, acts of terrorism, and other manmade disasters, including catastrophic incidents, including by appointing a technical expert, who may consult with relevant outside organizations and experts, as necessary, to coordinate such integration, as necessary.”

The bill also requires the Department to prepare a yearly report to Congress  ". . . describing the efforts the Department has undertaken to identify and integrate the needs of children into the Department’s policies, programs, and activities. . ."

4. H.R. 534 -- Expresses the "sense of Congress" that the US should rejoin the Bureau of International Expositions (BIE) to promote public diplomacy, global branding, and tourism to the United States. The point of this is so the US can host a "World Expo." There is nothing in the text of the bill expressing the sense of Congress as to how to pay the costs of rejoining this BIE.

The bill does say that rejoining the BIE will promote "economic growth." This is the latest example of the "that which is not seen fallacy." Everyone sees the jobs and business created by the BIE, but no one sees the jobs and business that would have been created had the resources spent by the BIE been left in the private sector.

5. H.Res 187 -- Expresses the sense of the House of Representatives that the U.S. Government should spend "emergency funding" on relief efforts in South Sudan and calls for a cease-fire in Sudan's civil war in order to ensure aid workers can deliver relief.

This is well-meaning but the United States Government does not have the legitimate authority to spend taxpayer money to provide humanitarian relief. Instead, those efforts should be provided by private citizens. And U.S. interference in civil conflicts always makes things worse, both for the "beneficiaries" of our intervention and the American people.

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