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This Week in Washington – January 30, 2012

Cheers for Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) for standing up to President Obama on his unconstitutional recess appointments.  Finally, one member of the United States Senate is standing up for the Constitution.  Where are the rest of them?

The House and Senate kick into second gear this week.  The first two weeks of the session were light on legislation and heavy on retreats.  Expect the STOCK Act to be the item for debate in the Senate.  The House is expected to consider two bills dealing with budgetary matters and repeal of CLASS Act.

The House has a pretty heavy schedule this week.  They are out today and will come in on Tuesday to debate a motion to go to conference on H.R. 658, the FAA Air Transportation Modernization and Safety Improvement Act.  A vote on H.R. 1173 the Fiscal Responsibility and Retirement Security Act, is also scheduled for Tuesday.  This bill repeals a provision of ObamaCare known as the “CLASS Act.” 

Senator John Thune (R-SD) argued in a Washington Times Op Ed last August that the CLASS Act, a long term insurance program for those in rehabilitation for serious injuries or disabilities, was not sustainable because of the massive under measured cost of the program.

Yet just last month, President Obama’s former budget director, Peter Orszag, changed course, suggesting that Congress should impose another mandate on the American people. Writing about the CLASS Act – a long-term care program created in Obamacare – Mr. Orszag admitted that the program suffers from a “serious risk” that only sick people will participate, making it unsustainable. He said the solution to this problem “may be to make the purchase of such insurance mandatory.”

Some conservatives worry that repeal of the CLASS Act will make it less likely that the full repeal of ObamaCare will go forward in 2013 with a new President.

On Wednesday, the House will consider three pieces of legslation on the suspension calendar: H.R. 3835, a congressional and federal worker pay bill; H.Res. 496, a bill adjusting committee expenses; and, H.R. 3567, Welfare Integrity Now for Children and Families Act.  There is also a vote expected on H.R. 1173, the Fiscal Responsibility and Retirement Security Act.

On Thursday, votes may happen on a bill by Rep. Tom Price (R-GA), H.R. 3582, the Pro-Growth Budgeting Act, and a bill by Rep. Rob Woodall (R-GA), H.R. 3578, the Baseline Reform Act.  These are two bills dealing with the budgeting process.  It will be interesting to see if the Senate fails for another year to pass or even consider a budget for FY 2013.

The Senate is scheduled to commence a debate on S. 2038, the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act (STOCK Act). This is an attempt by politicians to ban insider trading by Members of Congress.   The AP made the following common sense observation:

The Senate is opening debate on legislation to ban insider financial trading by members of Congress, though the Securities and Exchange Commission says lawmakers already are subject to the same prohibitions as other investors.

Congress is very good at overreacting and doing nothing.  If this legislation empowers the executive branch to punish Members of Congress for what they define as “Insider Trading” then the executive branch will be able to punish Members of Congress for official conduct.  This may be offensive to the idea of separation of powers as embodied in Article 1, Sec. 5:

Each House may determine the Rules of its Proceedings, punish its Members for disorderly Behaviour, and, with the Concurrence of two thirds, expel a Member.

Don’t expect the prospect of this legislation being unconstitutional to slow down the Senate one bit. 

Senator Mike Lee has promised to slow down the Senate’s confirmation of Obama appointees over the President’s unconstitutional appointments to the CFPB and the NLRB.  Good for him. This should be an interesting week.

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