Our 112th Congress came to order and read the Constitution aloud. Actually, it read an edited version of the Constitution that went into the congressional record. Representative Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) came up with the exercise. “This is a very symbolic showing to the American people,” he said, “and it’s a powerful message to members of Congress. We are a nation of laws, not of men.” And with that reading “the showing” began. But just what has this congress done for us, the people, so far?
The new Republican controlled House of Representatives has been busy with the business of the people. They have passed a lot of resolutions naming federal buildings after people and proclaiming calendar days as “Thus and So Remembrance Day.” All congresses do that.
So far the 112th Congress has passed 25 roll call votes. Of those pieces of the people’s business, here are the results: 7 bills have become public law, 9 bills are destined for veto and the balance faces Senate opposition. Speaking of the Democratic controlled Senate, 4 of those veto destined bills have been referred to the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs and the balance are probably destined to failure.
My source is the Library of Congress.
Here are the public laws to come out of the House:
• H R 514: To extend expiring provisions of the USA PATRIOT ACT
• H J RES 44: Making further continuing appropriations for fiscal year 2011
• H R 662: Surface Transportation Extension Act of 2011
• H R 4: Small Business Paperwork Mandate Elimination Act of 2011
• H J RES 48: Making further continuing appropriations for fiscal year 2011
• H R 1363: Making appropriations for the Department of Defense
• H R 1473: Department of Defense and Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act
Republicans never say “No” to the Department of Defense (DoD). Roads will continue to be built and small business gets to save paper. Of course there have to be continuing appropriations because stuff still has to get paid until later, when a budget is enacted.
Only the extension of the Patriot Act creates any argument because it comes up for vote again. Key parts of the Patriot Act are set to expire on May 27th and the Senate has promised a real debate on this Bush Administration brain-child. The ACLU opposes its abridgement of the 4th Amendment, that part of the Bill of Rights which guards against unreasonable searches and seizures, along with requiring any warrant to be judicially sanctioned and supported by probable cause.
Here are the bills referred to the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs:
• H R 830: FHA Refinance Program Termination Act
• H R 836: Rescind funding/terminate the Emergency Mortgage Relief Program
• H R 861: NSP Termination Act
• H R 839: The HAMP Termination Act of 2011
All of these bills are aimed at existing legislation and none is likely to pass. The Refinance bill seeks to eliminate the Federal Housing Administration’s recently implemented short refinancing program. The White House has threatened to veto the measure should it pass the Senate. The Emergency Mortgage Relief Program is a Treasury program aimed at helping 3 to 4 million people by modifying at-risk mortgage loans. The HAMP Act [Home Affordable Modification Program] was part of the Bush administration TARP [Troubled Asset Relief Program]. Should the NSP [Neighborhood Stabilization Program] Termination Act pass the Senate, the administration has already said it will veto that bill.
Here are some other bills with “Veto” written all over them:
• H R 2: Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act
• H R 1076: To prohibit Federal funding of National Public Radio
• H R 910: Energy Tax Prevention Act of 2011
• H R 1217: Repealing the Prevention and Public Health Fund
• H R 1230: Restarting American Offshore Leasing Now Act
The new Republican House flexed its muscles before the cameras and did what it said it was going to do, which was primarily to attack and repeal the Affordable Health Care Act which they call by the epithet “ObamaCare”. Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act has a nice Republican ring to it and Repealing the Prevention and Public Health Fund seeks to defund the new Health Care law. Both were Republican campaign promises.
Forgetting about the BP oil disaster in the Gulf last year, the Restarting American Offshore Leasing Now Act would require the Obama administration to move forward with lease sales along the Atlantic Coast and in the Gulf of Mexico that it has delayed or canceled. The Atlantic drilling is off the coast of Virginia, home of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor. The administration has said it will veto the bill. And speaking about the environment, the Energy Tax Prevention Act of 2011 would bar the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating greenhouse gases for the purpose of combating climate change.
As for the defunding of National Public Radio, Who Needs NPR?
Here is the rest of the House’s work to be determined by the Senate:
• H R 359: Terminating taxpayer financing of campaigns and conventions
• H R 1: Making appropriations for the Department of Defense
• H R 471: Scholarships for Opportunity and Results Act
• H R 658: FAA Reauthorization and Reform Act of 2011
• H R 1255: Government Shutdown Prevention Act
• H J RES 37: Disapproving the FCC rule regulating the Internet
• H R 1213: Repeal funding to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act
• H R 1214: Repeal funding for school-based health center construction
• H R 3: No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act
These bills are all pending in the Senate, one way or another, except for the DoD appropriations bill which became another bill. The “Repeal Funding” bills are aimed at defunding provisions of the Affordable Health Care Act and face considerable opposition in the Senate. I have previously written about the issues involved with H R 3 [No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act] and Net Neutrality [Disapproving the rule submitted by the Federal Communications Commission with respect to regulating the Internet and broadband industry practices].
The Scholarship bill has to do with schools in Washington, D.C., the city for which congress is responsible. The FAA bill is “to streamline programs, create efficiencies, reduce waste, and improve aviation safety and capacity,” and we all need safer skies. That leaves the Government Shutdown Prevention Act, introduced by Kentucky’s rookie Senator Rand Paul. While parts of it look alright on the surface, the bill is probably unconstitutional.
The budget bill written by veteran Wisconsin congressman Paul Ryan that passed the House last month is in the Senate Budget Committee. It is a story unto itself.
What has the House done about the business of the people, so far? Other than passing legislation destined to failure and pandering to its extremist right wing, the uncooperative House has yet to do anything of positive substance. One expects an opposition party to oppose an incumbent party. But where are the job bills they promised? The deficit and debt ceiling debates are exercises in brinksmanship, not in effective fiscal policy. There is a point at which we, the people, smell a rat. We are beginning to smell it in the House.