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January 16, 2009

Congressional Weekly Digest

House
Senate

Senate Bailout Vote - S.J.Res. 5: Disapproving of the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act

S.J.Res. 5: A joint resolution relating to the disapproval of obligations under the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008.
Joint Resolution Defeated 42-52


Senate GOP bailout support plummets
Obama advisers will meet with Senate Republicans on rescue funds.

Senate Votes to Release Second Half of TARP Funds
The Senate voted narrowly today to permit President-elect Barack Obama to spend another $350 billion to stabilize the fragile U.S. financial system.

Senate Votes To Release Bailout Funds To Obama
The Senate voted yesterday to release the second half of the Treasury's hugely unpopular initiative to stabilize the fragile U.S. financial system, granting President-elect Barack Obama virtually unfettered authority to spend $350 billion to revive sluggish credit markets.


CBO: Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) Report
CBO is required by law to report semiannually on OMB’s assessment of expenditures under the Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP). Today, CBO released the first of these reports.

House Bailout Votes - H.R. 384: TARP Reform and Accountability

H.Res. 53: Providing for consideration of H.R. 384
Passed 235-191, 7 not voting

H.Res. 62: Providing for further consideration of the bill H.R. 384
Passed House by voice vote.


H.R. 384: TARP Reform and Accountability Act
to reform the Troubled Assets Relief Program of the Secretary of the Treasury and ensure accountability under such Program

Debate

Amendments (GovTrack, Thomas)

Votes

Amendment 1 to H.R. 384
H.AMDT.2 Amendment (A001) offered by Mr. Frank (MA). (consideration: CR H345-355, H365)
An amendment numbered 1 printed in House Report 111-3 to make sundry clarifications with respect to the use of TARP funds.
Agreed to 275-152, 12 not voting

Amendment 3 to H.R. 384
H.AMDT.4 Amendment (A003) offered by Mr. Hensarling. (consideration: CR H357-359, H365-366; text: CR H357)
An amendment numbered 3 in House Report 111-3 to remove the Secretary's authority to delegate an observer to attend meetings of the board of directors of any assisted institution.
Failed 151-274, 14 not voting

Amendment 5 to H.R. 384
H.AMDT.6 Amendment (A005) offered by Mrs. Bachmann. (consideration: CR H360-363, H366-367; text: CR H361)
An amendment numbered 5 printed in House Report 111-3 to eliminate changes and additional funding for the HOPE for Homeowners program.
Failed 142-282, 15 not voting

Amendment 6 to H.R. 384
H.AMDT.7 Amendment (A006) offered by Mr. Murphy, Patrick. (consideration: CR H363-365, H367)
An amendment printed 7 printed in House Report 111-3 to require the Federal Reserve to disclose detailed information regarding the Federal Reserves Mortgage-Backed Securities purchase program.
Agreed to 426-0, 13 not voting


CBO: Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) Report
CBO is required by law to report semiannually on OMB’s assessment of expenditures under the Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP). Today, CBO released the first of these reports.

Senate Movement - S. 181: Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act

S. 181: Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009
A bill to amend title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, and to modify the operation of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, to clarify that a discriminatory compensation decision or other practice that is unlawful under such Acts occurs each time compensation is paid pursuant to the discriminatory compensation decision or other practice, and for other purposes.

Motion to Invoke Cloture on the Motion to Proceed to S.181
Cloture Motion Agreed to 72-23, 3 not voting (3/5 required)

Senate Passed - S. 22: Omnibus Public Land Management Act

S. 22: Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009

First cloture vote

Motion to Invoke Cloture on S.22.
Agreed to 68-24, 6 not voting (3/5 required)

On Passage of S.22 as Amended
Bill Passed 73-21, 4 not voting

House Passed - H.R. 2: Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization

H.Res. 52: Providing for consideration of the bill H.R. 2
Passed 244-178, 11 not voting


H.R. 2: Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act

On motion to recommit with instructions
(consideration: CR H264-267)
Failed 179-247, 7 not voting

On Passage
Passed 289-139, 6 not voting


Long Stalled by GOP, Expansion of Children's Health Insurance Program Is Approved in House
The House easily approved an expansion of government health coverage for low-income children yesterday, a top priority for President-elect Barack Obama and the first in a series of stalled measures expected to move quickly through the Democratic Congress as President Bush leaves office.

Hispanics embrace House SCHIP vote
The bill allows states to lift a waiting period for children of legal immigrants to receive health coverage under Medicaid.

House Suspension Votes

2/3 required for Passage

H.Res. 41: Supporting the goals and ideals of National Mentoring Month 2009
Passed 411-0, 21 not voting

H.Res. 50: Honoring the life of Claiborne Pell, distinguished former Senator from the State of Rhode Island
Passed 415-0, 18 not voting

H.Res. 43: Recognizing the efforts of those who serve their communities on Martin Luther King Day and promoting the holiday as a day of national service
Passed 415-0, 18 not voting

H.Res. 40: Amending the Rules of the House of Representatives to require each standing committee to hold periodic hearings on the topic of waste, fraud, abuse, or mismanagement in Government programs which that committee may authorize, and for other purposes
Passed 423-0, 11 not voting

Senate Voice Votes

The following passed the Senate by Unanimous Consent:

S.Res. 14: A resolution to provide funding for Senate staff transitions.

S. 273: A bill to require the designation of the federally occupied building located at McKinley Avenue and Third Street, S.W., Canton, Ohio, as the "Ralph Regula Federal Office Building and Courthouse".

S.Res. 13: A resolution congratulating the University of Florida football team for winning the 2008 Bowl Championship Series (BCS) national championship.

S. 60: A bill to prohibit the sale and counterfeiting of Presidential inaugural tickets.

House Voice Votes

The following passed the House by voice vote:

H.Res. 61: Providing for the attendance of the House at the Inaugural Ceremonies of the President and Vice President of the United States.

H.Res. 59: Electing a minority member to a standing committee.

H.Res. 51: Electing Members to certain standing committees of the House of Representatives.

H.Res. 15: Authorizing and directing the Committee on the Judiciary to inquire whether the House should impeach G. Thomas Porteous, a judge of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana.

January 12, 2009

Legislative Prayer Update

111th Congress Begins
The 2008 election of members to the 111th Congress has concluded with the exception of the Minnesota Senate race. The House of Representatives began with 434 of 435 members and the Senate began with 98 of 100 members. Due to the change in executive administration and the selection of cabinet members from the legislative branch, the membership profile that is to be expected for most of this Congress' duration is not yet known.
  • Ask God to establish the leaders he would have for our nation.
  • Ask God to give our leaders wisdom in pursing righteousness and justice for our nation.
Greet all of your leaders and all the saints (Hebrews 13:24).
Daniel said, Let the name of God be blessed forever and ever, For wisdom and power belong to Him. It is He who changes the times and the epochs; He removes kings and establishes kings; He gives wisdom to wise men And knowledge to men of understanding (Daniel 2:20-21).


Suppressing Dissent
The majority in the House of Representatives has taken steps to hush any voice of correction outside its own ranks. In the last Congress, the minority found in the motion to recommit with instructions a method of substantively modifying legislation without delay.  The change in the rules prohibits this motion from not delaying legislation, thereby providing members of the majority with political cover for not supporting legislative innovations that originate in the other party.
  • Ask God to give His people in Congress ways to make His words through their voices heard throughout the Halls of Congress and across our land.
Take words with you and return to the Lord. Say to Him, Take away all iniquity, And receive us graciously, That we may present the fruit of our lips (Hosea 14:2).


Israel Affirmed
The leaders of both chambers of Congress introduced resolutions to support Israel in its fight against Gaza: H.Res. 34 and S.Res. 10.
  • Pray for the peace of Jerusalem.
Pray for the peace of Jerusalem (Psalm 122:6).


Crowding out the Culture of Life
Members of the party that will soon control both legislative and executive branches of the federal government are now debating how they want to expand federal spending on embryonic stem cell research: through executive order or by legislation.
  • Ask God to show all of our leaders the need to build on the affirmations of life during this past decade.
  • Praise God for those leaders who are faithful to Him for Him to show them how they can at least maintain the gains for life we have seen in our nation.
I declare to you today that you shall surely perish. You will not prolong your days in the land where you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess it. I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live , you and your descendants, by loving the LORD your God, by obeying His voice, and by holding fast to Him; for this is your life and the length of your days, that you may live in the land which the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them (Deuteronomy 30:18-20).


Economic Stimulus
According to the Congressional Budget Office the sharp downturn in housing markets across the country has led the United States into a recession which began about a year ago and will last well into 2009 making it the longest recession since World War II. While there is ample motivation in Washington to address the problem, there is less clarity as to what can be done that would actually fix the problem.
  • Ask God to give our leaders motivation to seek His guidance in what they should and should not do.
  • Ask God to give the American public a willingness to accept responsibility for the problem.
The beginning of wisdom is: Acquire wisdom; And with all your acquiring, get understanding (Proverbs 4:7).
O Lord, how many are Thy works! In wisdom Thou hast made them all; The earth is full of Thy possessions (Psalm 104:24).

111th Congress - First Work Period Outlook

111th Congress

Looking Ahead: Digital TV

Obama wants digital TV delayed
Podesta asked House and Senate committee leaders to push back the digital television conversion.

Delaying the nation's Feb. 17 switchover from analog to digital television would lead to considerable consumer confusion and additional costs for the U.S. government and the private sector, FCC Chairman Kevin Martin warned during an interview at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas on Saturday.


Looking Ahead: Economic Interference

Pelosi: 'We are staying until it is done'
Speaker says Congress won’t leave for Feb. recess until stimulus package sent to White House.

The Budget and Economic Outlook

CBO: The sharp downturn in housing markets across the country, which undermined the solvency of major financial institutions and severely disrupted the functioning of financial markets, has led the United States into a recession that will probably be the longest and the deepest since World War II. CBO anticipates that the recession—which began about a year ago—will last well into 2009. That would make it the longest recession since World War II.


Looking Ahead: Life vs. Research

Democrats Debate Methods to End Stem Cell Ban
Democrats are now debating whether to overturn federal restrictions through executive order or by legislation when they assume full control of the government this month.

Senate Nomination Hearings

Daschle floats through Senate hearing
Both Dem and Republican members treated the pick with the deference they often show to one of their own.

Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy is dismissing Republican criticism of Eric Holder.

Eric H. Holder Jr. is facing increasing resistance to his bid to become the next attorney general, emerging from President-elect Barack Obama's Cabinet nominees as the prime target of Senate Republicans, both because of troubling episodes during his service in the Clinton administration


Senate Movement - S. 22: Public Lands Package

S. 22: A bill to designate certain land components of the National Wilderness Preservation System, to authorize certain programs and activities in the Department of the Interior and the Department of Agriculture, and for other purposes.
Cloture Motion Agreed to 66-12, 20 not voting (3/5 required)


"This is the greatest choke-hold body in the world," Coburn said on the Senate floor.

Congress Passed - Resolutions recognizing Israel's right to defend itself

House
H.Res. 34: Recognizing Israel’s right to defend itself against attacks from Gaza, reaffirming the United States’ strong support for Israel, and supporting the Israeli-Palestinian peace process
Passed 390-5, 38 not voting (2/3 required)

Senate
S.Res. 10: A resolution recognizing the right of Israel to defend itself against attacks from Gaza and reaffirming the United States' strong support for Israel in its battle with Hamas, and supporting the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
Agreed to without amendment and with a preamble by Unanimous Consent.

Joe The Plumber Heads To Israel

"Joe The Plumber," the Ohio man who became a household name during the presidential campaign is heading to Israel as a war correspondent for the conservative Web site PJTV.com -- an offshoot of blogger network Pajamas Media, the Associated Press reported Wednesday. The Toledo area resident whose name is actually Samuel Wurzelbacher said he will spend 10 days covering the fighting there. He told WNWO-TV that he wants to let Israel's "'Average Joes' share their story."

Wurzelbacher gained attention during the final weeks of the campaign when he asked now President-elect Barack Obama about his tax plan. He then joined Republican John McCain on the campaign trail. Wurzelbacher has been keeping busy since Election Day. In November, he started working to educate people about the nationwide conversion to digital television coming this February and founded a watchdog group called Secure Our Dream. He is also promoting his book: "Joe the Plumber - Fighting for the American Dream," which was co-written by novelist Thomas Tabback.

House Passed - H.R. 12, H.R. 11: Pay Fairness Acts

H.R. 12: Paycheck Fairness Act
Debate, Votes
MTR: Failed 178-240, 14 not voting
Bill Passed 256-163, 14 not voting

H.R. 11: Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act
Debate, Votes
Passed 247-171, 15 not voting

Changing the Rules for the Majority

Dems dump chairmen term limits
Democrats will change House rules on Tuesday, ending the six-year term limit for committee chairmen.

Changing the Rules for the Minority

Voiding the “Contract”
First Move by Newly-Expanded Democrat Congress is to Protect Entrenched Incumbents, Make It Harder to Cut Taxes

Surprise: Democrats Make it Easier to Increase, Harder to Cut Taxes


Talking Points: Motion to Recommit Changes in the Majority's Opening Day Rules Package Reprinted:

SUBSTANCE:
The Majority’s rules package would prohibit the inclusion of “promptly” instructions in a motion to recommit. Such instructions are one of the few ways Republicans currently can express their views on legislation brought to the Floor. But now, despite an expanded majority, House Democratic leaders are proposing the draconian step of removing this modest ability of the Minority to express dissent and propose policy alternatives.

WHY THE CHANGE MATTERS:
  • It makes it easier for the Majority to raise taxes.
  • It forces Republicans to abide by PAYGO, even when the Majority does not.
  • It forces tax increases to prevent tax increases
  • It prevents consideration of additional tax relief
  • It severely limits the democratic process and openness of the House

HOW SUCH MOTIONS ARE USED BY THE WAYS AND MEANS COMMITTEE:
Under the rules of the just-completed 110th Congress, Motions to Recommit Promptly were not subject to paygo rules. This technical procedure allows the minority to express its opposition to specific legislation, for example by instructing the Committee that reported the bill to remove tax hikes or excessive spending before the House passes the measure.

Thus, Republicans used these motions during the 110th Congress to strike Democrats’ tax increases (e.g., on bills extending the AMT patch) or to offer additional tax cuts (e.g, extending marriage penalty relief).

IMPACT OF PROPOSED CHANGE:
If this change passes, Republicans would be largely prevented from using the motion to recommit to highlight differences between the parties on taxes, because only those Motions to Instruct that comply with paygo would be allowed, even if paygo requirements are waived for the underlying bill. Current paygo rules contain a bias in favor of higher taxes. This Rules change exacerbates that pro-tax bias by allowing the House Leadership to shield its Members from having to even consider other alternatives.

ARGUMENTS AGAINST THE PROPOSED CHANGE:

THE CHANGE MAKES IT EASIER TO RAISE TAXES:
  • In the past two years, if Democrats brought forward a bill with higher taxes, House Republicans could make a motion to strike the tax increase. 
  • Historically, such a motion had to also send the bill back to its original committee for further consideration.
  • In the 110th Congress, Republicans routinely offered motions to recommit to strike tax increases. These motions often attracted the support of a handful of Democrats and put all Members on record as to whether or not they supported a particular tax increase.
  • By prohibiting Republicans from offering a motion that sends a bill back to committee, the Majority will prevent Republicans from seeking to strip their growth-stifling tax increases.
  • Tax increases will now be protected from separate votes; Democrats will be able to avoid even having to vote on their tax increases.

UNEQUAL, UNFAIR APPLICATION OF PAYGO:
  • The Rules change would require all motions to recommit with instructions comply with paygo, even if the underlying bill does not.
  • Thus, the change prevents consideration of spending and tax proposals that don’t adhere to the Democrats’ paygo worldview, a misguided vision which holds that we can’t have any tax cuts unless we raise some other taxes.
  • If paygo were applied consistently, the Majority could argue that it is only fair to make the Minority adhere to the same rules. But in reality, the Majority is putting Republicans in a procedural straight-jacket that they themselves frequently ignore. In the 110th Congress, the Majority waived paygo many times, including on such bills as the AMT patch; the 2008 stimulus bill; the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act (TARP); legislation providing extended unemployment benefits; the housing relief bill; legislation providing expanded GI benefits; and the Big Three bailout bill.
  • The application of this change to the upcoming stimulus bill demonstrates its absurdity. If the Majority brings to the Floor a $775 billion stimulus bill this month and waives paygo to permit its consideration as has been widely reported, a Republican motion to recommit that spent only $500 billion could not be offered unless it was fully offset under paygo.[1] Put simply, Democrats don’t have to pay for their stimulus bill, Republicans would have to pay for ours. It is true that the Rules change allows the Majority to designate a bill as being in response to an “emergency,” thereby exempting the measure, and any amendments offered to it, from paygo. But that provides little comfort, since the Majority has full discretion to invoke this designation whenever it is convenient for them. 

FORCES TAX INCREASES TO PREVENT A TAX INCREASE:
  • In the 110th Congress, House Republicans insisted that government should not have to raise taxes on one group to prevent others from seeing a tax increase caused by the expiration of current law, such as the AMT patch. 
  • To drive that point home, Republicans offered numerous Motions to Recommit to extend current tax relief without raising taxes on others.
  • These motions helped shape the debate and led to the eventual passage of tax extensions without offsets.
  • By taking away the Motion to Recommit Promptly with instructions, the Majority will prevent that legitimate – and ultimately enacted – policy from be debated on the House Floor.

PREVENTS CONSIDERATION OF ADDITIONAL TAX RELIEF
  • On several occasions in the 110th Congress, Republicans offered motions to instruct that called for the appropriate committee to report the bill back to the House with additional tax relief, like extending marriage penalty relief or the enhanced child tax credit.
  • These are important tax relief items with broad support in Congress and among the American public; the Motion to Recommit promptly with instructions allowed them to be debated by the Congress.
  • By changing House rules, the Majority will force any such motion to be paygo compliant, thus preventing Republicans from seeking to debate tax issues the majority would rather not see the light of day.

SOLVES A PROBLEM THAT DOES NOT EXIST:
  • According to Leader Hoyer, the concern is that the Minority is using these Motions to Instruct as a means to kill otherwise popular bills. 
  • A review of the record shows that not a single “promptly” MTR passed in the 110th Congress.
  • The problem they are really “solving” is that Members of the Majority don’t like taking votes on proposals to provide more tax relief or to strike the tax increases that their Leadership is forcing on them.

LIMITS DEMOCRATIC PROCESS IN THE HOUSE:
  • Contrary to the assertions of the Majority, even if a Motion to Recommit promptly were to pass, it would not “kill” the bill. 
  • Rather, it would send it back to the Committee of jurisdiction to make appropriate changes and then report the bill back to the House.
  • The House would thus have ample opportunity to consider the bill, with or without modifications as reported by the Committee of jurisdiction, at some later date.
  • Save for speeding passage of emergency bills – something that Members of both parties always work hard to ensure -- it is hard to imagine why this trampling of democracy to prevent a bill from going back to the Committee for review is really necessary. 

SPECIFIC USES OF THE PROMPTLY MOTION TO RECOMMIT BY W&M REPUBLICANS IN THE 110th CONGRESS. WHERE IS THE ABUSE?

Bill Number Description What the MTR Sought:
  • H.R. 3056 Tax Collection Changes Provide additional tax relief via permanent estate tax repeal.
  • H.R. 3648 Mortgage Debt Forgiveness Strike the tax increases.
  • H.R. 2419 Farm Bill Strike the tax increases (offered by Mr. Goodlatte).
  • H.R. 5351 Renewable Energy Bill Strike objectionable tax increases and other objectionable provisions, including one identified by the Joint Tax Committee as a tax earmark; provide additional tax relief by extending marriage penalty relief and the enhanced child tax credit.
  • H.R. 5719 Taxpayer Assistance Act Direct IRS to ensure illegal aliens do not receive Earned Income Tax Credit and prevent self-declared “sanctuary cities” from issuing debt exempt from federal tax.
  • H.R. 6049 Energy Tax Incentives Strike the tax increases and provide additional tax relief, including the AMT patch and a longer extension of other expiring tax provisions.
  • H.R. 6275 AMT Patch Strike the tax increases and provide for additional tax relief for the charitable use of a vehicle.

111th Congress Begins

The 2008 election of members to the 111th Congress has concluded with the exception of the Minnesota Senate race.  The House of Representatives began with 434 of 435 members and the Senate began with 98 of 100 members.

Due to the change in executive administration and the selection of cabinet members from the legislative branch, the membership profile that is to be expected for most of this Congress' duration is not yet known.


Obama wins! (Officially)
The House and Senate tally and record the 2008 Electoral College votes, sans several GOP-ers.

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