Freedom First Society

Issue:  H.R. 719 A bill to require the Transportation Security Administration to conform to existing Federal law and regulations regarding criminal investigator positions, and for other purposes. Question:  On the Motion: Motion to Concur in the House Amendment to the Senate Amendment to H.R. 719 with Further Amendment.  Note: The “Further Amendment” perverted an unrelated H.R. 719 (the TSA Office of Inspection Accountability Act of 2015) to become the vehicle for FY2016 Continuing Appropriations.

Result:  Motion agreed to in Senate, 78 to 20, 2 not voting. The House agreed to the amended Senate bill later that day (see House Roll Call 528). Signed by the President 9-30-15. Became Public Law No. 114-53. GOP and Democrat selected vote.

Freedom First Society: With this Continuing Resolution (CR), the Senate made no effort to roll back government spending, instead authorizing business as usual for all departments for another 2 ½ months.

We have assigned (good vote) to the Nays and (bad vote) to the Yeas. (P = voted present; ? = not voting; blank = not listed on roll call.)

Bill Summary: This appropriations measure essentially allows spending for the fiscal year starting October 1, 2015 to continue at the same rate as last year’s spending until December 11. (As provided in Public Law 113-235 or, for the Department of Homeland Security, 114-4.)This Continuing Resolution (CR) did make a few changes from last year’s appropriations, described by House Appropriations Chairman Harold Rogers as “limited in scope and noncontroversial.” Spending in most categories was also reduced across the board less than a quarter of one percent (0.2108 percent) as required by the sequester caps imposed by the Budget Control Act of 2011.

Analysis: As the regular appropriations process is supposed to work, 12 subcommittees report out individual appropriations bills that focus on particular functions of the federal government, such as defense or agriculture. That work was completed this year in both the House and the Senate. In the House, a half-dozen came up for a floor vote. In the Senate none.

When Fiscal Year 2015 came to and end, rather than insisting that the Senate (and President) deal with these 12, the GOP leadership in both the House and Senate capitulated, as has been the pattern in recent years, and agreed to support a continuing resolution (CR).

With this CR, the Senate made no effort to roll back government spending. The CR authorized business as usual for all departments for another 2 ½ months.

The Establishment media and many politicians from both parties misleadingly cast this capitulation to liberal demands as the only away to avoid an unconscionable government shutdown. Although some GOP senators had wanted the CR to defund Planned Parenthood, the President has threatened to veto any measure that eliminated such funding.

Most media reports failed to create any understanding of how Congress could use its power of the purse to overcome liberal threats and rein in out-of-control spending. However, a surprising glimpse into sound strategy could be found in a September 10th Roll Call report:

Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., said Congress has a duty to decide how money should be spent and can’t see how Obama would be able to say Republicans were shutting down the government when they were offering to fund all of it except for Planned Parenthood.

“There is no reason whatsoever we should fund Planned Parenthood,” he said. “If you acquiesce and acknowledge the president is correct then Congress has no power whatsoever over the purse…. I just don’t see how that’s a losing issue. I think the president would look awful. He’s going to veto the Defense bill? He’s going to veto all these other bills? …We don’t need to be hiding under the table.”

Please see our full discussion of the proper course for outgunned, but responsible congressmen in “The Power of the Purse.”

Despite strong opposition within GOP ranks, the Senate and House GOP leadership chose to advance a “clean” CR that continued all of the “dirty” spending, as demanded by the Obama administration. All of the voting Democrats in both chambers supported it, but a significant minority (20) of GOP senators opposed it. In the House, which is more accountable to the people, a majority (151) of GOP representatives opposed the CR as opposed to only (91) who embraced it.

During the Senate debate, two opposing senators (Rand Paul and Ted Cruz) made quite illuminating observations that bolstered our contention in “The Power of the Purse.”

While we generally agreed with Senator Paul’s comments during the Senate debate, we were extremely disappointed with what he did not say. Over and over he spoke of a problem with “waste,” “duplication,” “nonsense,” and spending for “bad things.” These are politically safe targets, but they are only a small part of the spending problem.

The more politically difficult and significant targets are the unconstitutional federal programs and departments established during decades of invented crises and propaganda campaigns. The sad truth is that most of what the federal government does today is unconstitutional! And unless Congress is forced to obey the strict limits of the Constitution, federal spending cannot be controlled. That is what Senator Paul refused to say.

Certainly, it requires much greater backbone (usually supported by an informed constituency) to challenge such destructive unconstitutional inroads as the Department of Education and President Johnson’s Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). But targeting the small stuff won’t cut it. As Napoleon Bonaparte once stated, “The purely defensive is doomed to defeat.” What America needs is leadership to undo the serious “errors” of the past.

Senator Rand Paul (September 29 on floor of Senate, from the Congressional Record):

         “What we have here in Congress is a failure to legislate, a failure to exert congressional authority. What we have here is a failure to use our leverage. What we have here is a failure to use the power of the purse….

         “What is a continuing resolution? It is a continuation of the deficit spending of the past. It is a continuation of the waste. It is a continuation of the duplication. What is a continuing resolution? …

         “It is an abdication of congressional authority. It is an abdication of congressional power.

        “Let’s at least be honest. With a continuing resolution, no waste will be cut, no spending will be cut, no regulations will be stopped, and the debt will continue to mount.

         “We are told that we cannot win, that we need 60 votes to defund anything, but perhaps there is an alternate future where courage steps up and saves the day.

         “All spending is set to expire automatically. This is the perfect time to turn the tables, to tell the other side that they will need 60 votes to affirmatively spend any money. See, it doesn’t have to be 60 votes to stop things. All spending will expire, and only those programs for which we can get 60 votes should go forward. [Emphasis added.]

        “What would that mean? That would mean an elimination of waste, an elimination of duplication, an elimination of bad things that we spend money on.

         “If we had the courage, we could use the Senate’s supermajority rules to stop wasteful spending. If we had the courage, we could force the other side to come up with 60 votes to fund things like Planned Parenthood. The budget is loaded with nonsense and waste.… [Emphasis added.]

         “We should attach to all 12 individual spending bills–not glommed together–we should attach hundreds of instructions, thousands of instructions. Now, some of the media have said: Well, those would be riders on appropriations bills. Exactly. That is the power of the purse. If you object to the President writing regulations without our authority, Congress should defund the regulations….

         “Would we win all of these battles? Do we have the power to win every battle and defund everything we want? No. But do you know what we start out with? Our negotiating position right now is, we start out with defunding nothing….

       “Now, several will report on this speech and say: Oh, he wants to shut down government. No, I don’t. I just want to exert the power of the purse, and that means spending must expire. I am all for renewing the spending, but let’s renew only the spending that makes sense. We have the power of the purse if we choose to exert it….

        “The way we are supposed to spend money in Congress is 12 individual appropriations bills. They have passed out of committee. Why aren’t they presented on the floor? The Democrats have filibustered the only one presented. Let’s present every one of them, and let the public know–let everyone in America know–that it is Democrats filibustering the spending bills. It is Democrats who desire to shut down government….

        “When is the last time we did it in the appropriate fashion? When is the last time Congress passed each of the individual appropriations bills with instructions on how to spend the money? It was 2005, a decade ago. It has been a decade. In the last decade we have added nearly $10 trillion in new debt. It is time to take a stand.”


Freedom First Society: While we generally agreed with what Senator Cruz stated during the Senate debate, he, too, failed to champion the strict limits the Constitution imposes on federal activity. And in blaming the growth of government on the political influence of corporations and K-street lobbyists, he grossly understates what is driving the growth of federal power.

However, we do find it very refreshing for Senator Cruz to affirm that so many of the votes scheduled in Congress are nothing more than show votes (on measures that everyone knows will go nowhere). They serve little more than to support campaigning. We refuse to score Congress on such “posturing” votes.

Senator Ted Cruz (September 29 on floor of Senate):

         “In today’s Washington, there are three kinds of votes. No. 1, there are show votes–votes that are brought up largely to placate the voters, where the outcome is foreordained, where most Republicans will vote one way and most Democrats will vote the other. Republicans will lose, and the conservatives who elected Republican majorities in both Houses are supposed to be thrilled that they have been patted on the head and given their show vote that was destined to lose.

         “We had a vote like that in recent weeks on Planned Parenthood. Leadership told us: You should be thrilled. We voted on it. What else do you want?

         “We voted on it in a context where it would never happen. Indeed, it did not.

         “The second kind of vote is a vote that simply grows government, dramatically expands spending, and expands corporate welfare. Those votes pass because you get a bipartisan coalition of Republican leadership and Democrats, both of whom are convinced that career politicians will get reelected if they keep growing and growing government and in particular handing out corporate welfare to giant corporations. Oh boy. If you have the lobbyists on K Street pushing for something, you can get 60, 70, 80 in this Chamber because Republican leadership loves it and Democrats are always willing to grow government.

         “Then there is the third kind of vote–votes on must-pass legislation. In an era when one side–the Democratic Party–is adamantly committed to continuing down this path that is causing so many millions of Americans to hurt, must-pass votes are the only votes that have real consequence in this Chamber. They typically fall into one of three categories: either a continuing resolution, an omnibus appropriations bill, or a debt ceiling increase. All of those three are deemed must-pass votes. If you actually want to change law, those are the only hopes of doing so. But, as I mentioned before, you have one side who has preemptively surrendered.

         “Republican leadership has said they will never ever shut down the government, and suddenly President Obama understands the easy key to winning every battle: He simply has to utter the word “shutdown” and Republican leadership runs to the hills…

         “If we don’t stop what we are doing, your children and my children will face a debt so crushing they will not be able to spend in the future for the priorities of the future–for their needs, for their wants, for whatever crises come up that the next generation confronts.”

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