This Week in Washington

Monday, July 14th, 2014 and is filed under Blog, Immigration

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As the clock winds down to the August summer recess, both houses of Congress will begin to heat up and quicken their pace of “must-pass” legislation.  As always, conservatives must be careful for last-minute tricks and new spending bills.  Moreover, we must continue to go on offense with the immigration issue and demand that no new money is spent until this president begins to reinstate our laws and protect our sovereignty.


Last week, President Obama sent Congress a request for $3.7 billion in supplemental appropriations to deal with the surge of illegal immigration, which was completely engendered by his open border policies.  Instead of using existing funds to follow the laws already on the books, Obama is asking for new funding, which will largely go towards “processing” the illegals, not deporting them.  A whopping $1.8 billion will go to HHS in order to care for the unaccompanied minors.  Only a small percentage will go towards enforcement efforts.

There are signs that Republicans are already going to capitulate to Obama in return for a shiny object.  Conservatives must be clear that this is not a funding problem, rather a policy problem caused by years’ worth of public incentives inviting these people in through lawlessness.

House Republicans must refuse to pass any new funding unless and until Obama repeals his DACA administrative amnesty, restores the 287(g) state-federal immigration enforcement program, and generally resumes deportations.  Any conditions attached to appropriations should be done through the existing DHS appropriations bill, not a new funding bill.

The main concern this week is that Republicans will agree to pass the supplemental bill in return for the shiny object of repealing 2008 Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, or TVPRA, which proscribes that children from Central American be processed instead of deported like their Mexican counterparts (because Mexico is geographically contiguous).  This would be a huge mistake for a number of reasons.  First, it buttresses the false notion that the 2008 law is responsible for the crisis, whereas we all know that Obama’s lawlessness and the calls for amnesty are at fault.  Second, the law only governs victims of severe forms of human trafficking, which does not aptly describe the situation of most UACs.  Finally, repeal of this law would only remove an excuse, but it would not compel Obama to deport them.

The other concern is that Republicans would offer Congressman Michael McCaul’s (R–TX) “border security bill,” H.R. 1417, in return for passing the supplemental funding bill.  McCaul’s bill is deeply flawed because it merely offers vague metrics for determining whether the border is secure, not mandating that the administration build the fence, cut off magnets, and expedite deportations.

Conservatives should demand that House leadership bring up the FY 2015 DHS spending bill, and condition all existing funding to restoration of our laws and sovereignty.

Highway Bill

On Tuesday, the House will begin consideration of its stop-gap highway bill to continue funding for highway projects past the supposed August 1 deadline, when Department of Transportation officials say we will run out of funds for states.

The House proposal, HR 5021, sponsored by Rep. Dave Camp (R-MI), would plug the shortfall in the HTF through May 2015 by using a combination of notional and superfluous offsets that have been trotted out as an accounting gimmick for many reauthorization bills in recent years.  The projected $10.9 billion cost would be “offset” by extending custom fees for another year in 2024 – 10 years from now.  Additionally, the bill would “save money” by extending a “pension smoothing” provision for taxpayer-backed pension insurance for another few years.

Needless to say, these offsets are notional at best, and even if we ever actualize the savings, it will be over the course of 10 years to pay for new spending over the next 10 months.  It would be one thing for conservatives to sign onto this proposal so that we can work on crafting a long-term bill returning transportation authority to the states.  But it is clear that this short-term bill full of budget gimmicks and no structural changes will bid time for a long-term bill full of budget gimmicks and no policy changes.  As such, there is no reason conservatives should vote for this bill.

Terrorism Risk Insurance Act (TRIA)

In the aftermath, of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the feeling of uncertainty with regard to the risk of terrorism left the American economy flummoxed with how to assess the future risk.  In what was considered a useful temporary response, the federal government created TRIA, which backed a number of insurance plans by providers of insurance from terrorist attacks.  However, more than a decade later, the industry is thriving and most corporations have bought into some sort of insurance plan to protect from the costs of a terrorist attack.

Unfortunately, overwhelming bipartisan majorities in both houses of congress are prepared to reauthorize the program this week (S. 2244, HR 4871).  The senate bill actually expands the threshold for federal assistance.  We have an opportunity to get the federal government out of yet another insurance scheme before this program becomes immutable, much like crop and flood insurance.  There are often temporary catastrophic circumstances in which there is a role for the federal government to play in preserving the market place, the problem is that they never know when to shut the spigot off, especially in the face of inveterate rent-seekers in government.  It will be very telling to watch the roll call votes in the House and Senate to see which members succumb to the demagoguery behind the mellifluous-sounding name of “terrorist insurance.”

Financial Services Appropriations Bill

Continuing on the annual appropriations process, the House will consider their 7th spending bill this year – the FY 2015 Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act.  This bill funds the Treasury Department, including the IRS, as well as the Judiciary branch and the Executive Office of the Presidency.  Like every other appropriations bill, this one will contain some conservative spending cut amendments, which we will tally at the end of the week.

This is actually a relatively good bill.  It defunds Obamacare as it relates to the IRS’s ability to enforce the law. It makes drastic reforms to Dodd-Frank and it cuts the IRS’s budget.  The bill also conditions funding for the White House to his commitment not to abrogate federal laws with executive orders.  The problem is that Republicans are just doing this for show and have no intention of standing behind any of the core policy changes in this bill when the real budget battle commences in September.

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