Morning Action: Congress Leaves for Memorial Day Break with Big Bills Unfinished
FARM BILL. When the Senate reconvenes for legislative business next Monday, June 3, they will resume consideration of the five-year farm and food stamp bill (sub. req’d):
The Senate worked through several proposals to the bill this week, including two adopted Thursday that would end crop insurance subsidies for well-to-do farmers and allow crop insurance funds be used to reimburse farmers for losses incurred when policies are reviewed for compliance and fraud.
Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., said an agreement on amendments should be reached by the time senators return from the recess.
“I’m very confident that when we come back into session in another week that we will complete our process,” she said Thursday.
After the farm bill, Senate leaders are hoping to move to an immigration policy measure (S 744) that the Judiciary Committee approved Wednesday.
Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., had indicated earlier this week that he’d be willing to set aside the farm bill to take up the immigration bill but said Thursday he may wait until the second week of June, which would give Stabenow another week to finish work on her bill.
The farm bill will cost American taxpayers nearly $1 trillion and fails to separate food stamp policy from farm policy. This unholy alliance makes it impossible to truly reform farm and food stamp programs.
IMMIGRATION. Bipartisan House negotiators say that they may have come to some agreement on a comprehensive immigration overhaul; however future disagreements may arise as changes are made to the legislation. From healthcare to Medicare to E-Verify, there are many issues to iron out. Yet, some hope that the bill can move to conference with the Senate before August recess (sub. req’d):
Coming just a week after a tentative agreement was nearly derailed over health care disagreements, however, the path ahead for the legislation is anything but assured. Members of both parties noted that although a major hurdle has been averted, further issues could arise as the legislation is drafted.
Rep. Raúl R. Labrador, R-Idaho, said the group of eight negotiators has resolved the contentious issue of how and whether immigrants waiting to become citizens should be able to obtain health insurance.
He said provisional citizens will not be eligible for Medicaid or taxpayer subsidies to join health insurance exchanges, but that in the event of an emergency, they can receive medical care without the threat of deportation as long as they pay the bill. He also said they will be mandated to provide their own insurance on penalty of deportation.
Labrador’s characterization of the health care deal comports with what Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said earlier Thursday before the group met. She told reporters she is hopeful a bill can move to conference with the Senate before the August recess.
Comprehensive immigration reform, by its very nature, is a burdensome, confusing process that virtually precludes the possibility of good legislation. That is why Heritage recommends a step by step approach wherein the myriad of complex immigration related issues can be looked at more carefully.
OBAMA. Apparently, President Obama is tired of fighting terrorism:
“We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender…”
These were words President Obama never used during his speech at the National Defense University yesterday. Rather, he said anything but anything that sounded like Winston Churchill’s immortal speech about defiance in the face of the march of tyranny.
In large part, there was nothing new in the counterterrorism strategy the President announced. Flash back to 2011—that was the real turning point. Before then, Obama really followed what was called “Bush-lite,” pretty much the same tactics as the previous Administration—just dropping all the rhetoric.
The war of ideas was completely banned from the Obama lexicon. Islamist terrorism became “violent extremism.” Terrorism became “senseless violence.” In 2011, however, Obama shifted course dramatically. More than dumping the war of words, the White House signed off on a new counterterrorism strategy that amounted to running away from Iraq and Afghanistan as quickly as possible and limiting the offensive campaign to whacking top-level al-Qaeda with drone strikes.
The new strategy was bound to fail, fighting the last war while al-Qaeda evolved into a global insurgency that has spread from Pakistan to Nigeria.
IRS. IRS official Lois Lerner has been placed on administrative leave. She has been charged with “mistreating conservative nonprofit organizations.” (sub. req’d):
Lerner will continue to be paid while on administrative leave, a Democratic congressional aide said.
Several lawmakers have called for Lerner to lose her job, accusing her of lax management and misleading Congress as it sought answers about the IRS’s enforcement of nonprofit tax rules and heavy scrutiny of conservative organizations.
At a House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform hearing Wednesday, Lerner said she had “not done anything wrong.” She then refused to answer questions from the panel, citing her Fifth Amendment rights to not be compelled to incriminate herself.
The IRS has been under fire since an inspector general’s report found that the agency had screened applications from organizations seeking tax-exempt status based on whether their names included words like “tea party” or “patriots.”