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    US House Tag

    Yesterday the House voted 218-208 to approve the "fast-track" Trade Promotion Authority bill. 28 Democrats sided with pro-trade Republicans, sending the measure on to the Senate. The House took a previous vote on TPA last week, and passed the measure; however, the bill was paired with the TAA, the Trade Adjustment Assistance measure Democrats insist is crucial to protecting American workers from jobs moving overseas. TAA failed to pass, which stalled both TPA and TAA in the House. Yesterday's vote, however, sets up a new series of challenges for Senate leadership if they want to send TPA to the White House. Pro-TPA members of Congress still have a long way to go to approve the "fast track" procedure. TPA is off to the Senate, but TAA remains in limbo:
    If the two move separately, Republicans and the White House will have to convince Senate Democrats to back fast-track on the promise that TAA will move forward at a later time. The president spoke with a group of Senate Democrats on Wednesday at the White House, and talks continued in the Senate on Thursday on a way to give the president trade promotion authority, also known as fast-track.

    Contrary to what the headlines are telling you, there's more going on in Congress than the debate over "fast track" free trade agreements. At the end of last month, the Obama Administration worked via the EPA to drastically expand the power federal regulators have over private property owners. The new "Waters of the United States" ("WOTUS") rule (re-dubbed the "Clean Water Rule") was decried as a power grab by both industry moguls and conservative members of Congress, who believe the changes stand to kill jobs and raise the cost of doing business, especially for those working in the agricultural industries. Republican Congressman Bob Gibbs (OH-7) is leading the charge in the House to overturn the WOTUS rule. The Regulatory Integrity Protection Act passed out of the House in mid-May with bipartisan support (237 republicans and 24 democrats voted for the measure) and if enacted, would force the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers to overhaul the new rules to specifically identify waters covered and not covered under EPA regulations. The Act would put an emphasis on local control and individual property rights, which Gibbs says should be a key concern for anyone who stands to be affected by and increased EPA presence.

    The debate surrounding congressional approval of "fast track" trade authority has officially taken a swan dive through the looking glass. Obama wants it. House republicans want it. Democrats, for the most part, are ready to vote "no"---their union backers are making them more nervous than the White House ever could---even if it prevents their president from advancing more legacy-building legislation. More from the AP (emphasis mine):
    Obama himself, who's been unusually personally engaged on a bill that could amount to the biggest achievement of his second term, paid a surprise visit to the annual congressional baseball game Thursday night for some 11th hour persuading. Obama arrived as Democratic and Republican lawmakers faced off at Nationals Park and was greeted with chants of "TPA! TPA!" from the GOP side — the acronym for the Trade Promotion Authority fast track bill. He brought beer and visited with lawmakers on both sides. Earlier, in a closed meeting in the Capitol, top White House officials implored Democrats not to deny Obama the trade authority. Such a vote, they said, would block needed trade expansion for the nation and sink a major priority of the Democratic president.
    It really happened---I was there to see it: obama flake annotated

    Today the Senate voted 67-32 to pass the USA-FREEDOM Act, a piece of surveillance (read: privacy!) reform legislation meant to extend key provisions of the PATRIOT Act, which expired Sunday night. The USA-FA passed the House with supermajority, bipartisan support, but found a more hostile crowd waiting when it arrived in the Senate chamber. Rand Paul opposed it, and on Sunday night (the same night the PATRIOT Act expired) blocked a vote that most certainly would have ended with the Act's approval. Senate leadership opposed an immediate clean passage of the Act, but for different reasons entirely---they wanted the opportunity to amend and return to the House, a tactic that was met with opposition in both chambers. From earlier today:
    One amendment would extend the timeframe for transferring data collection responsibilities from the NSA to the phone companies, allowing 12 months for that handover rather than six, as the House bill stipulates. Another would force phone companies to give Congress six months' advance notice if they change the procedures they use to collect and retain data. A third would allow the Director of National Intelligence to sign off on any procedural changes by the phone companies before they go into effect. "The House's bill is not holy writ. It's not something we have to accept in its entirety without any changes...and I think where the policy debae should go would be toe embrace these amendments," explained Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, during a floor speech on Tuesday. "We sure need to know that the new system would actually work. Doesn't that just make sense?"

    An unlikely alliance between a top Democrat, and a member of the conservative Freedom Caucus, has cast a trip line in front of the House's "running start" on the appropriations process. Last night, House Republicans delayed a vote on the first spending bill of the new session. The bill would have provided the funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs and military construction projects, and is usually the easiest appropriation to pass. A series of amendments from Rep. Chris Van Hollen (Md.) and Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.), however, threatened to derail an agreement made by House and Senate negotiators to reconcile both chambers' spending plans prior to a vote. The amendments address a budgetary loophole involving the sequester (remember that whole thing?) and the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) fund. Mulvaney's amendment seeks to block the Pentagon from using $532 billion from the OCO to fund overseas military construction projects at bases in Italy, Poland, Bahrain, Niger, Djibouti and Oman. Note: the OCO is not subject to the sequester caps passed in 2011. The budget the House was poised to pass would have appropriated $90 billion dollars from the OCO fund to the Pentagon; because that $90 billion comes from the OCO, it's not subject to the sequester, either, even though the appropriations bill slapped another label on it.

    Earlier today, the Speaker's office released a light, approachable (we'll talk about this later), "Happy Spring" video from the Man himself, showing John Boehner purchasing and installing a new blade on his push mower. Watch it here:
    He may be the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, but he still irons his own shirts, washes his own dishes, and yes…cuts his own grass. But a well-kept yard requires well-kept tools, so in the video, Speaker Boehner preps his push mower for the springtime.
    Flawlessly executed "man of the people" spot? NAY. Soon after the video was released, the internet noticed something...horrifying. Behold:

    Fact: the Secret Service's reputation is circling the drain. Between fence jumpers, shots fired, and agents driving through active bomb investigations, House committee have been working overtime in an attempt to put out a dumpster fire that has been raging for years. As for the Secret Service, they seem to be less concerned with fixing their image, and making sure their critics keep their mouths shut as scandals unfold. The Washington Post is reporting that oversight committee staffers have asked the White House to investigate claims that officials at the Secret Service have been circulating documents showing that Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) was once rejected for a job as a Secret Service agent. The matter has been referred to DHS for a thorough review---but the fact that we're talking about it right now may be the end goal of whomever chose to release the information. The Daily Beast spoke to Chaffetz about his application, trying to figure out if the Congressman's investigations are grudge-fueled:

    Congressman Peter Roskam (R-IL) and Congressman Juan Vargas (D-CA) have just introduced sweeping revisions to anti-boycott legislation long on the books, in order to counter the global and domestic anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. Prior legislation countering the Arab League Boycott arguably did not apply to the BDS movement because BDS is not a country-sponsored boycott. I believe that BDS was structured that way to evade such legislation, and Congress appears to be both tightening the language, and expanding its scope. The Times of Israel reports that the bill is linked to pending U.S.-European Union trade negotiations:
    The bill, which has been worked on for over six months, does not authorize any sort of federal response to domestic BDS initiatives, but rather would use free trade negotiations to discourage foreign and international institutions from supporting initiatives to boycott, divest from, or sanction Israel. The bill’s sponsors have their eyes on the ongoing negotiations to create a free trade agreement between the US and EU – an agreement that proponents say will be the largest free trade deal in history....

    Democrats threw up a roadblock today when they filibustered a GOP bill that would fund the Department of Homeland Security while neutering years' worth of Obama Administration policies favoring deportation amnesty. As I said earlier today, GOP leadership had to have known this was coming. The Dems have been apoplectic over Republican challenges to executive amnesty ever since they lost the majority, so a challenge to this aggressive change in policy is no surprise. What is surprising is how one of the Senate's most aggressive members addressed the possibility that the House bill would fail to make it to a vote. Via National Review:
    Senator Ted Cruz (R., Texas) and Senator Susan Collins (R., Maine) argued during a Senate GOP lunch that if Democrats filibuster the Department of Homeland Security funding bill — which blocks implementation of Obama’s 2012 deferred action program and his November 2014 “adult amnesty” — Republicans should respond by blocking only the 2014 orders. The thinking, according to a GOP senator who was in the lunch, is that Senate Democrats will have a harder time staying unified for a filibuster if Republicans have a narrower focus. “What I have said for months now is the central focus of Republicans should be stopping President Obama’s unconstitutional amnesty,” Cruz tells National Review Online when asked to confirm the details of his case. “That’s what Republican candidates promised the voters in November and that’s the promise we need to fulfill.”
    That's...new. And huge. Back in January, Senator Cruz released a glowing statement, praising the House bill and its amnesty defunding provisions, saying that it was up to the Senate "to take up the House bill, preserving those key provisions, and send it to the President..." What happened?

    Modern-day slavery. When I lived in Texas, I learned more about the horror and despair of human trafficking than I ever thought there was to know. It's the fastest growing business of organized crime, and especially in places along the border, it shows. It took me a long time to truly understand that, in (then) 2012, there were still people in this country whose trade involved the exchange of money for human flesh. The U.S. House of Representatives is taking advantage of this week's Super Bowl hype to tackle the problem head-on. Right now, human traffickers are shipping in their young victims to take advantage of the influx of tourists into Phoenix, Arizona---and while the police can help combat the rampant exploitation, they don't have the manpower or resources to reverse the tide. The House has launched a sweeping initiative to fight the horrors of human trafficking, and they're starting with a dozen bills and a big messaging push aimed at helping people understand how dangerous the situation has become for 20 million people worldwide: From the House Republican Caucus:

    This morning, Speaker Boehner announced he's working with House members to finalize a plan authorizing legal action against the President for his immigration executive overreach. This latest effort is in addition to the work the House has already done to rein in immigration. The House tried to limit the president's executive overreach with the Department of Homeland Security appropriations bill. The bill diverted funds to beef up immigration enforcement. Additionally, the House Department of Homeland Security Committee recently released the Secure Our Borders First Act, one of, if not the toughest border security bill considered by Congress. Yet as Boehner pointed out this morning, much of the latest executive sidestep falls outside of the jurisdiction of the House Homeland Security Committee.

    John Boehner gave a speech today that I could have written for him about Obama's lawless immigration actions. The speech hit all the right notes in connection with passage of a House funding bill for the Department of Homeland Security which blocks using funds for Obama's executive immigration plan. That plan, devised by the White House, unilaterally creates a new class of people effectively exempt from being penalized for immigration violations by inventing a process to obtain legal status found nowhere in the immigration laws. It is not executive or prosecutorial discretion as to better implementing current law---it is a rejection of current law.

    When I helped co-found a San Diego Tea Party group in 2009, one of our biggest action items was battling against Obamacare. Our members dialed Congress relentlessly, believing our representatives might weigh the will of the people.  What ever delusions I had about that concept utterly vanished when then Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi paraded through a Tea Party rally by the Capitol with her big gavel. As for Obamacare passage, that's history, courtesy of congressional Democrats -- and reports on the new law's progress show that it is an even larger failure than we originally projected. So, imagine our opinion of of the Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner when he gave Pelosi a big kiss and a warm hug---especially since he holds that position courtesy of the hard work of Tea Party members across the country.

    Here we go! The Washington Post has the updated whip count as of 10 this morning. They have also confirmed Reps. Amash and Webber as firm "nos," giving the anti-Boehner coalition 2 more votes toward an alternative candidate. Boehner is predicted to lose more votes than in his previous bid for speaker, but he also has more room for error:
    As Politico reports, at least 12 House Democrats are skipping the speaker vote to attend former New York governor Mario Cuomo's (D) funeral. That increases the threshold for pushing Boehner to a second ballot to at least 35, making him even safer. That 35 number, we would emphasize, is a minimum. Boehner needs a majority, so if some members don't vote, Boehner's threshold for winning will be lower than the usual 218 votes — as it was in 2013, when it was 214 votes. So if some of these Boehner opponents vote for nobody — as Labrador and Mulvaney did in 2013 — that hurts Boehner less.
    We'll be providing live updates and reactions to the vote, so stay tuned! You can watch a live stream of the House session here, via C-SPAN. UPDATES The live stream is up!

    Tomorrow's vote for Speaker of the House will bring a welcome end to what has become our long national right-wing nightmare. According to reports from multiple sources, Boehner has drawn more fire this time around, and can expect to lose as many as 20 votes when the chamber finally votes.
    “Washington is broken in part because our party’s leadership has strayed from its own principles of free market, limited government, constitutional conservatism,” new Rep. Dave Brat of Virginia wrote Sunday on the conservative website Breitbart.com. “While I like Speaker Boehner personally, he will not have my support for speaker,” added Brat, who shocked the GOP establishment by toppling then-House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in a primary last year. Brat had once said he would back Boehner. “I want us to have [a] leader who is willing to stand up for conservative, religious principles I believe in,” North Carolina Rep. Walter Jones told a home-state newspaper Saturday, citing Florida Rep. Daniel Webster as a potential alternative. So far, Boehner’s two announced challengers are Texas Rep. Louie Gohmert and Florida Rep. Ted Yoho — both long-shot candidates at best. Gohmert said he would fight “amnesty tooth and nail,” while Yoho said Boehner is part of the “status quo.”
    Big words from a small group of fighters, but it doesn't look like their efforts have drawn enough support from those who we expect to support Boehner. Here's what the vote breakdown looks like right now, courtesy of WaPo: Screen Shot 2015-01-05 at 6.01.38 PM The anti-Boehner coalition needs 29 votes to force a second ballot; they currently have 10.
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