For the week ending September 15, 2017
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It almost appears that the Senate and House are moving towards comity in the quest for a completed budget by September 30th but some reports indicate that HR 3354, the appropriations omnibus with over 200 amendments passed in the House this week, is not necessarily welcome in the Senate. If the Senate takes up the bill it will lead to more amendments and a likely conference with the House to iron out differences. A major task to be completed in three weeks. If not done a continuing resolution would then kick the measure into January.
Tax Reform –
Much ado about something. GOP leaders have released within their ranks some elements of the impending tax reform legislation the White House and Republicans would like to get done before the year’s end. We are also aware of Trump’s plan that promises to cut taxes to just about everyone except the working poor who would remain at 10%.
Cutting corporate taxes is favored by the White House and is likely included in the House plan the idea being that lower corporate tax breaks will bring US companies offshore back to the US. But no one has yet addressed another reality that many corporations pay little or no taxes due to tax code loopholes yet they still leave the country.
Such a bill would need Democrat votes which don’t appear to be available unless the final legislation focuses the cuts on the middle class and is not another tax giveaway to high income earners.
It’s not over, sort of. More talk about another vote before the end of September. The bill of the moment comes from Republican Senators Graham, Cassidy, Johnson and Heller. Some specifics of the bill include providing block grants to states with block grants that would replace tax credits under the Affordable Care Act, cost sharing payments to insurers and expanding Medicaid. The Senators plan on holding a hearing on the bill but time is short; the opportunity to pass the bill under reconciliation requiring only 51 votes to pass expires on September 30th. There has been no indication from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) if he will provide floor time for the bill.
The Hurricanes –
As we saw last week Congress and the White House cut $15 billion to replenish FEMA bank accounts as that agency deals with Hurricane Harvey’s pummeling Texas and Louisiana. That amount was supposed to be $7.5 billion until Hurricane Irma set her site on Florida bumping the bill to $15 billion.
With the Texas / Louisiana cost estimate around $200 billion, Irma’s toll on Florida totals up to $85 Billion but that also includes losses of automobiles. The cost of housing and business damage and infrastructure damage totals around $75 billion.
The House this week passed an increase from $1 billion to $15 billion for aid to Americans getting back on their feet after being stranded in the Caribbean and hammered by Irma and Hurricane Jose.
The $15 billion to replenish FEMA is likely to be increased and it will be other avenues of spending that will address home and business losses. Those who lost their autos are likely on their own.
Those investigations –
Talk about a witch hunt. As we mentioned last week Devin Nunes (R-CA) the Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and its investigation into the possible collusion between Trump campaign and Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential elections has again entered the fray despite his having recused himself due to a midnight meeting at the White House where he received information regarding the Russian probe that he then shared with Trump and later with his investigative committee. This time Nunes is threatening the Department of Justice with contempt of Congress for not turning over documents related to the Special Counsel investigation.
There is something going on here as Nunes appears to be not alone in his curiosity; House Judiciary Committee Chair Bob Goodlatte (R-VA-6) recently brought up H. RES. 446 that says it requests from the White House and Justice “certain documents to the House of Representatives relating to the removal of former Federal Bureau of Investigation Director James Comey.”
But the text of the bill report is quite different; the bill report specifies that the requested information be produced in ‘the following respects’ – Then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch directing James B. Comey to refer to the investigation into the mishandling of classified data and use of an unauthorized email server by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as a “matter”, rather than a criminal “investigation”; Leaks by James B. Comey to Columbia University law professor, Daniel Richman, regarding conversations had between President Donald Trump and then-FBI Director James B. Comey; The decision by James B. Comey to usurp the authority of then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch in his unusual announcement that criminal charges would not be brought against Hillary Clinton; James B. Comey’s knowledge and impressions of any ex-parte conversation between then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch and former President Bill Clinton on June 27, 2016, at a Phoenix airport on a private jet; and James B. Comey’s knowledge of the company “Fusion GPS”, including– its creation of a “dossier” of information about Mr. Donald Trump.
Then, rather than an just effort to muddy the waters of Special Investigator Mueller’s probe into Trump-Russia collusion, the bill report shows its intent by requesting: Any collusion between former FBI Director James B. Comey and special counsel Robert Mueller including the information James B. Comey admitted to leaking to the Columbia University law professor, being intentional such that a special counsel, his longtime friend, Robert Mueller, would be appointed to lead the investigation against the Trump administration; and any communication between Robert Mueller and James B. Comey in advance of the Senate Intelligence. And Whether James B. Comey had any knowledge of–
efforts made by any federal agency to monitor communications of then- candidate Donald Trump; to assess any knowledge by James B. Comey about the “unmasking” of individuals on Donald Trump’s campaign team, transition team, or both; to assess the role that former National Security Adviser Susan Rice played in the unmasking of these individuals; or to reveal the purpose served by unmasking any individual or individuals serving on the staff of then-candidate Donald Trump; or the dissemination of un-redacted information to various intelligence agencies, and any attempts to use surveillance of then-candidate Donald Trump for the purposes of damaging the credibility of his campaign, his presidency, or both.
Goodlatte, not known for direct communications with constituents, when asked about the resolution responded with a letter stating that while the Judiciary Committee has not gotten involved in the collusion investigation to allow Mueller to continue unhampered and produced a piece published in the Roanoke Times on September 3rd in which he committed himself to ‘rigorous oversight of the special counsel’s actions in this targeted and specific investigation.’
Read the bill report here – https://www.congress.gov/congressional-report/115th-congress/house-report/300/1?r=1
The Senate continued to approach consideration of the House-passed HR 2810 (National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018.
The House passed ten bills tweaking how Homeland Security does business.
The Congressional Budget Office reported that the deficit for August is $56 billion more than at the same time last year representing an uninterrupted rise since April 2017.
Suiting Up – A reprint from April 2010
Hamilton on Congress
Why Bipartisanship is important
Magic Mondays (Video)
Middle East politics (Video)
The Senate and House are adjourning and will return to work on Monday, September 25th. The next edition of TheWeekinCongress.com will be published Thursday evening September 28th.
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