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This Week in Washington – June 21, 2010

President Obama is losing political influence on Capitol Hill, because poll numbers indicate that the President is unpopular with the American voters.  Gallup reports today that “U.S. registered voters remain split on whether President Obama deserves to be re-elected in 2012, with 46% saying he does and 51% saying he does not — little changed from earlier this year.”  This is going to be a tough fall for President Obama and his unpopular agenda.

The Senate’s agenda for the week is murky.  The Senate has scheduled a few votes on judicial nominees for today, but the remainder of the week is not set.  Congress Daily references the potential for continued debate on the $119 billion Tax Extenders bill (including an extension of unemployment benefits), a small business lending bill (TARP, Jr.), FAA reauthorization bill and a public safety worker collective bargaining bill.  According to CQ, the House is expected to deal with a bill regulating calling cards, the DISCLOSE Act and potential work on the 2010 War Supplemental.   A conference committee continues work on the Financial Regulatory Deform effort.  Hearings are scheduled on the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and the START Treaty.

Issues for Conservatives to watch this week in Washington are the following:

  • DISCLOSE Act – The House is expected to take another run at passing the DISCLOSE Act this week.  Action on that bill melted down last week over a special carve out for the National Rifle Association.  Conservatives argue that the DISCLOSE Act is an unconstitutional regulation of free speech.  According to the Center for Competitive Politics, the DISCLOSE Act contains two elements ”first, it requires corporations to include certain notices in their expenditures and file additional disclosure reports. Second, the DISCLOSE Act identifies certain types of corporations that would not be permitted to make independent expenditures.”  Bradley Smith, Chairman of the Center for Competitive Politics wrote a letter to the editors of the Washington Post where he argued that the DISCLOSE Act “beyond its disclosure provisions, which for the most part simply duplicate existing laws and seek to burden speech with excessive regulation, the act would directly prohibit a great deal of political speech that was legal even before the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.” The Citizens United (from Washington Post) ”in a 5 to 4 decision, the majority cast its ruling as a spirited defense of the First Amendment, concluding that corporations have the same rights as individuals when it comes to political speech. Corporations had been banned since 1947 from using their profits to endorse or oppose political candidates, a restriction that the justices ruled unconstitutional.”  Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in his opinion “when government seeks to use its full power, including the criminal law, to command where a person may get his or her information or what distrusted source he or she may not hear, it uses censorship to control thought.  This is unlawful. The First Amendment confirms the freedom to think for ourselves.”  According to Smith, one of the problems with this bill is that the legislation “defines literally thousands of both nonprofit and for-profit entities as ‘government contractors’ and prohibits them from mentioning a political candidate or officeholder for a period starting 90 days before the primary and going straight through to the general election.”   Conservatives should watch the progress of this bill to see if Congress is willing to further restrict the rights of people to band together in organizations as a means to promote political ideas.  This legislation has serious constitutional concerns, yet Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) seems intent on passing this bill before the July 4th recess.
  • Global Warming – There does not seem the political will in the Senate to take an unpopular vote on Global Warming legislation.  Legilation that would have the effect of raising energy prices and killing jobs.  Politico reports that Senator John Kerry (D-MA) has been very aggressive in his push for Global Warming legislation this year.  “According to his staff, he’s had 292 meetings and phone calls with senators, 72 meetings with Obama administration officials and 46 meetings with top international and environmental leaders, including U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and former Vice President Al Gore.”  That aggressive push is not enough to pass this controversial legislation.  Most of Kerry’s colleagues in the Democrat caucus recognize that this legislation presents political problems for many this election year.  More from Politico, “at a June 10 meeting with committee leaders who have a slice of the issue, senior Democrats in the room were ready to bring a narrower energy bill to the floor and allow the Kerry-Lieberman plan to come up as an amendment, which would significantly limit the debate on climate change legislation and diminish its chances for passage. But Kerry, along with Lieberman and Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), objected, vowing to try to find a way forward on their plan — and leaving the caucus no closer to consensus.”  Many Democrats in the Senate seem concerned about taking on too many of the liberal ideas of the Obama Administration.  Conservatives should keep a close eye on an energy debate that is expected in the Senate later this year.

We keep hearing that “elections matter” as a call by the left for more of the Obama Agenda, yet moderate Democrats in the House and Senate fear that Obama’s left wing ideas may lead to increased unemployment numbers for Members of Congress.

The schedule for the Senate this week according to the Senate Majority Leader’s web site:

Convenes: Monday at 2pm

Following any Leader remarks, the Senate will proceed to a period of morning business until 5:15pm with senators permitted to speak for up to 10 minutes each and with no motions in order.

At 5:15pm, the Senate will proceed to Executive session and debate concurrently until 6pm, with the time equally divided and controlled between Senators Leahy and Sessions or their designees.

At 6pm, the Senate will proceed to vote on confirmation of the following nominations:

- Calendar #777 Mark Goldsmith, of Michigan, to be US District Judge for the Easter District of Michigan;
- Marc Treadwell, of Georgia, to be US District Judge for the Middle District;
- Josephine Tucker, of California, to be US District Judge for the Central District of California.

There will be 2 minutes for debate equally divided and controlled prior to each vote. Each vote after the first vote will be limited to 10 minutes in duration.

The schedule for the House this week according to the House Majority Leader’s web site:

MONDAY, JUNE 21, 2010

On Monday, the House will meet at 11:00 a.m. in pro forma session.

TUESDAY, JUNE 22, 2010

On Tuesday, the House will meet at 12:30 p.m. for Morning Hour debate and 2:00 p.m. for legislative business with votes postponed until 6:00 p.m.

Suspensions (5 Bills)

  1. H.Con.Res. 288 - Supporting National Men’s Health Week (Rep. Cummings – Oversight and Government Reform)
  2. H.Res. 546- Recognizing the historical significance of Juneteenth Independence Day, and expressing the sense of the House of Representatives that history should be regarded as a means for understanding the past and more effectively facing the challenges of the future (Rep. Davis (IL) – Oversight and Government Reform)
  3. H.Res. 1369 – Recognizing the significance of National Caribbean-American Heritage Month (Rep. Lee (CA) – Oversight and Government Reform)
  4. H.Res. 1407- Supporting the goals and ideals of High-Performance Building Week (Rep. Biggert – Science and Technology)
  5. H.Res. 1388- Supporting the goals and ideals of National Hurricane Preparedness Week (Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart – Science and Technology)

WEDNESDAY, JUNE 23, 2010 AND THE BALANCE OF THE WEEK

On Wednesday and Thursday, the House will meet at 10:00 a.m. for legislative business. On Friday, the House will meet at 9:00 a.m. for legislative business.

Suspensions (12 Bills)

  1. H.R. 5551 - To require the Secretary of the Treasury to make a certification when making purchases under the Small Business Lending Fund Program (Reps. Kosmas/Driehaus – Financial Services)
  2. H.Res. 1434- Recognizing National Homeownership Month and the importance of homeownership in the United States (Rep. Gary Miller – Financial Services)
  3. S. 2865- Congressional Award Program Reauthorization Act (Sen. Lieberman – Education and Labor)
  4. H.Con.Res. 285- Supporting the goals and ideals of designating 2010 as the Year of the Father (Rep. McMorris Rodgers – Education and Labor)
  5. H.Res. 1034- Expressing support for designation of July 2010 as “Braille Literacy Month” (Rep. Sarbanes – Education and Labor)
  6. H.Res. 1373- Expressing support for “National Physical Education and Sport Week” (Rep. Altmire – Education and Labor)
  7. H.R. 795 – Dorothy I. Height and Whitney M. Young, Jr. Social Work Reinvestment Act (Rep. Towns – Education and Labor)
  8. H.R. 3993- Calling Card Consumer Protection Act (Rep. Engel – Energy and Commerce)
  9. H.Res. 1359- Calling for the immediate and unconditional release of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit held captive by Hamas (Rep. Ackerman – Foreign Affairs)
  10. H.Res. __Recognizing the 50th anniversary of the conclusion of the United States-Japan Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security and expressing appreciation to the Government of Japan and the Japanese people for enhancing peace, prosperity, and security in the Asia-Pacific region(Rep. Ros-Lehtinen – Foreign Affairs)
  11. H.Res. __ - Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives on the one-year anniversary of the Government of Iran’s  manipulation of Iranian elections, on the Government of Iran’s continued denial of human rights and democracy to the people of Iran, and on the Government of Iran’s continued pursuit of a nuclear weapons capability (Rep. Costa – Foreign Affairs)
  12. H.Res. 1350 – Recognizing June 20, 2010, as World Refugee Day (Rep. Watson – Foreign Affairs)

H.R. 5175- DISCLOSE Act (Rep. Van Hollen – House Administration) (Subject to a Rule)

Possible Further Action on H.R. 4899 – Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2010 (Rep. Obey – Appropriations) (Subject to a Rule)

Possible Consideration of the Conference Report on H.R. 2194 - Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act (Rep. Berman – Foreign Affairs)

* Conference Reports may be brought up at any time.

* Motions to go to Conference should they become available. 

* Possible Motions to Instruct Conferees.

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