The Irony of Ironies via Republican Poison Pills

H.R. 2577 is a conglomeration of a number of bills (Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2017) that  the Senate needs to take action on failed a super-majority vote (60 votes) for cloture (the ability to be considered and voted for/against on the Senate floor).  One version of that bill was passed by the House and a different version of that/those bills passed the Senate.  Thus, it’s now gone to conference committee to work out the wrinkles between the two versions.

This conference agreement now includes the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2017, the Zika Response and Preparedness Appropriations Act, 2016, the Zika Vector Control Act, and an unacceptable ‘division’ on funds to be rescinded from programs the Republicans don’t particularly like.  That’s what came to the floor for a cloture vote, and it failed miserably — 52-48.

Really, Senator McConnell?  It’s too difficult for the general public to understand?  I don’t think so.

It’s one thing for Republicans to short-change President Obama’s funding request.  It’s another thing to start attaching ‘poison pills’ to the proposed legislation that limit or outright prohibit women’s choices.  When you introduce a funding proposal that limits the distribution of contraceptives and that prevents family planning organizations like Planned Parenthood from participating in the effort to help women in Zika-affected areas delay pregnancy, from a disease that not just contracted from a mosquito bite, but from sexual activity with an infected male partner, did you really think that Senate Democrats would just roll over and vote for that?

When you start gutting provisions of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act, did you honestly believe that Democrats would just roll over and just vote for that?

SEC. 2. MOSQUITO CONTROL WAIVER.
Notwithstanding section 402 of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (33 U.S.C. 1342), during the 180 day period following the date of enactment of this Act the Administrator of the United States Environmental Protection Agency (or a State, in the case of a permit program approved under subsection (b)) shall not require a permit for a discharge from the application by an entity authorized under State or local law, such as a vector control district, of a pesticide in compliance with all relevant requirements of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (7 U.S.C. 136 et seq.) to control mosquitos or mosquito larvae for the prevention or control of the Zika virus.

When you start stripping funding for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), did you really expect Democrats to just roll over, see the light and vote your way?  Or, when you decide to fund your bill by stripping balances  from the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, did you really expect Democrats to go “oh yeah, that’s a great idea” and vote in favor of your bill?  Or better yet, given that we already know that you stripped a bunch of funding from the State Department for Embassy security that might have made the outcome in Benghazi drastically different, did you really expect the Senate Democrats to let you strip even more funding for the State Department and other Foreign Operations?

Are you nuts?  They certainly weren’t and neither am I.  It took me hours to sort through all the links on Congress.gov, but here’s what I found:

DIVISION D–RESCISSIONS OF FUNDS

Sec. 101.
(a) $543,000,000 of the unobligated amounts made available under section 1323(c)(1) of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (42 U.S.C. 18043(c)(1)) is rescinded immediately upon enactment of this Act.

Sec. 1323. Community health insurance option. Requires the Secretary to offer a Community Health Insurance Option as a qualified health plan through Exchanges. Allows States to enact a law to opt out of offering the option. Requires the option to cover only essential health benefits; States may require additional benefits, but must defray their cost. Requires the Secretary to set geographically adjusted premium rates that cover expected costs. Requires the Secretary to negotiate provider reimbursement rates, but they must not be higher than average rates paid by private qualified health plans. Subjects the option to State and Federal solvency standards and to State consumer protection laws. Establishes a Start-Up Fund to provide loans for initial operations, to be repaid with interest within 10 years. Authorizes the Secretary to contract with nonprofits for the administration of the option.

(b) $100,000,000 of the unobligated balances available in the Nonrecurring expenses fund established in section 223 of division G of Public Law 110-161 (42 U.S.C. 3514a) from any fiscal year is rescinded immediately upon enactment of this Act.

DIVISION G–DEPARTMENTS OF LABOR, HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES, AND EDUCATION, AND RELATED AGENCIES APPROPRIATIONS ACT, 2008
Title I–Department of Labor
Title II–Department of Health and Human Services
Title III–Department of Education
Title IV–Related Agencies
Title V–General Provisions
Title VI–National Commission on Children and Disasters

(c) $107,000,000 of the unobligated balances of appropriations made available under the heading Bilateral Economic Assistance, Funds Appropriated to the President, Economic Support Fund in title IX of the Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Act, 2015 (division J of Public Law 113-235) is rescinded immediately upon enactment of this Act: Provided, That such amounts are designated by the Congress as an emergency requirement pursuant to section 251(b)(2)(A)(i) of the Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit Control Act of 1985.

Personally, I side with Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid who declared, “It is unbelievable that somebody would have the audacity to come to the floor and say it’s Democrats’ fault. A significant amount of American women, especially young women, go to Planned Parenthood, and the Republicans want to say, ‘you can’t do that.’” Why indeed would Democrats not just prohibit Planned Parenthood from providing any services, but gut the EPA’s ability to assure clean water and harm HHS’s ability to manage health insurance options for not just Puerto Ricans, but millions of American families across our nation?  Apparently Sen. McConnell completely missed the irony of claiming to improve women’s health by prohibiting and defunding health opportunities for women altogether.


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THAT, Sen. Reid, is NOT Filibuster Reform!

Yesterday, as we faced our ONLY chance until 2015 to fix the filibuster, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid did NOT act boldly. Instead, he consigned the Senate, and the American people as a whole, to two more years of continued crippling gridlock.

Rather than pushing for real reform, Sen. Reid agreed to a compromised “bait-and-switch” deal that he and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell may call "filibuster reform," but which we all know will do next to nothing to actually fix misuse of the filibuster.  S.Res.16, the standing rules for the 113th session of the Senate, not only didn’t fix the filibuster problem (i.e., 60 votes will still be required to pass even the most routine bill), but Sen. Reid gave away the shop by agreeing to give the GOP opportunities to add TWO “poison pill” amendments to each of those bills managing to make it to the floor for debate and vote.  How is that progress?  It’s like taking one step forward to make it slightly easier to get judicial and cabinet appointments processed in a more timely fashion, only to take 10 steps backward on dealing with routine and necessary business.

As Senator Reid is fond of saying himself, “let’s be crystal clear” about this issue.  Senator Reid could have secured the votes to pass a stronger measure had he chosen to lead the way.  We all clearly heard him boast on the media that he actually had the 51 votes he needed.  Senators Merkley and Udall showed tremendous leadership in educating their fellow senators and the public about the need to fix the Senate, and they offered concrete proposals to do so.  But, Sen. Reid struck yet another “hand shake” deal with Sen. McConnell who’s probably still laughing to this moment at Senator Reid’s naivety.  One needs to ask: “why did he throw those votes under the bus?”

What’s that old phrase?  “Fool me once, shame on you — Fool me twice —shame on me?”  When is Senator Reid going to realize that Senator McConnell has a hidden agenda and that his “word” cannot be trusted?  This is now the second session in a row Sen. Reid has sold out his fellow Democrats by striking a bad deal with Sen. McConnell.  We desperately needed him to deliver strong filibuster reform, and again, he didn’t.  Sen. Reid is treading on thin ice as he has now “fooled us twice.” We’ll be taking a serious look at how the 113th Congress unfolds and whether his “compromise” will make matters better, or worse, for the American people as a whole.

Three Winners And Three Losers In Today’s Filibuster Deal

— By Ian Millhiser on Jan 24, 2013 at 12:45 pm EST

The Huffington Post reports that Senate Leaders Harry Reid (D-NV) and Mitch McConnell (R-KY) reached a deal today to support minor — and in some cases, temporary — changes to the Senate Rules,rather than push through the more robust reforms championed by many Democratic senators. The language of the deal, which is divided into two separate resolutions, is available here and here.

The list of reforms is short and unlikely to fundamentally repair the broken Senate, but it does include some genuinely helpful reforms to the nominations process — in addition to a major concession to the Republican minority. Here are the three biggest winners and losers in this package:

Winners

  • Republicans: The package creates a new process that gives Republicans the ability to offer two amendments on any bill that cannot be blocked by the Majority Leader, although there is a process by which consensus bills can be streamlined if a substantial number of Republicans consent. More importantly, however, by not including any real limits on the minority’s power to force 60 vote majorities on nearly any bill or nomination, Republicans retain their veto power over matters they wish to block.
  • District Judges: Currently, Senate rules allow the minority to force up to 30 hours of wasted time before a single nominee can be confirmed. Because Senate floor time is limited, this leads to many confirmations being delayed for months or killed entirely simply because the Majority Leader cannot afford to budget the time to move the nomination forward. The proposal reduces the amount of time that can be wasted while confirming a federal trial judge to 2 hours, significantly reducing the time cost of such confirmations.
  • Sub-Cabinet Officials: Meanwhile, the 30 hours of wasted time on sub-cabinet officials’ confirmation votes is reduced to 8 hours.

Losers

  • Circuit Judges, Supreme Court Justices & Cabinet Officials: The senior most Senate-confirmed jobs — justices, court of appeals judges and the most powerful executive branch officials — are still subject to 30 hours of delay.
  • The Tea Party: The package reduces the number of opportunities to obstruct a bill that is supported by the Minority Leader and at least 7 Republicans, meaning that senators like Rand Paul (R-KY) or Mike Lee (R-UT) will have fewer chances to block progress on matters that everyone but a few Tea Party extremists support.
  • The Future: The most significant changes in this package — the reduced hours for nominees and the two free amendments for the minority — sunset in two years and thus will cease to exist in the 114th Congress unless reinstated.

This material [the article above] was created by the Center for American Progress Action Fund. It was created for the Progress Report, the daily e-mail publication of the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Click here to subscribe.