Hurricane of hurt ahead with lame ducks
Over the next few weeks, the walking political dead in Congress will probably try to railroad through a stack of terrible legislation before they face voters in November. Polls show that Congress' approval rating is already at record lows, so many liberal lawmakers are likely to decide they have nothing to lose by ramming through much of the Obama's unpopular agenda.
After a week-long July 4 recess, Congress will reconvene for most of the month of July before it recesses for a month in August. It will convene again for about a month before heading out on the campaign trail. Lawmakers will probably need a lame-duck session of Congress to complete the appropriations process and to consider recommendations that should be coming from the president's debt commission. Conservatives need to keep a close eye on our elected officials for the rest of the year, because they are preparing a hurricane of hurt for your average American.
When the Senate returns, it will consider legislation to establish permanent bailout authority for the federal government. The legislation, drafted by Rep. Barney Frank, D.-Mass., and Sen. Chris Dodd, D.-Conn., would create a process for bailouts. If a company is declared likely to fail, it could be seized and liquidated by regulators. Taxpayer money could be infused into companies while they are being liquidated and the taxpayers would pay the upfront costs of these bailouts.
Rep. Mike Pence, R.-Ind., argues, "free-market economics depends on the careful application of a set of ideals, traditional American ideals and principles. Chief among them is the notion that the freedom to succeed must include the freedom to fail." This legislation is an affront to free markets and to American capitalism.
The Senate Judiciary Committee hearings are complete, so the nomination of Elena Kagan to a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court will go to the full Senate later this month. Notwithstanding her terrible record on the Second Amendment, expanded federal power and her lack of any judicial experience, conservatives in the Senate seem resigned to the fact that Kagan will be confirmed to the court.
The Budget and Appropriations
The House and Senate tossed aside the traditional budgeting process and are working to pass a resolution to declare they've passed the year's budget through a different piece of legislation. Lawmakers haven't sent a single appropriations bill to the president. This Congress is looking like it will, yet again, roll all the appropriations bills into one and ram that through Congress just before the fall elections.
After the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, progress on climate-change legislation stalled, but liberal Sens. John Kerry, D.-Mass., and Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., were working with Sen. Lindsey Graham, R.-S.C., on compromise legislation that would have provided some provisions for lawmakers who support expanded drilling and clean nuclear technology. After the spill, there seems to be little will on the part of the Senate to take up and pass H.R. 2454, the House passed cap-and-trade energy tax bill, this year.
Gays in the Military
The Defense authorization bill passed the House in May, but has yet to pass the Senate. Repeal of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy on gays in the military seems likely to be included in a final negotiated draft after the bill passes the Senate. The President has promised that this year he'll repeal the ban on gays' serving openly in the military.
Bush Tax Cuts
The House has passed an extension of a lower rate for the estate tax for next year. This new Death Tax has yet to pass the Senate and is expected to be rolled in with a few other elements of the Bush tax cuts that will be voted on before the November elections.
President's Debt Commission
President Obama has set up a commission to study ways to reduce the U.S. government's estimated $13 trillion in debt. After the fall elections, Congress is expected to consider, and possibly vote on, the commission's recommendations. The report is likely to be packed with tax increases and only minimal spending cuts, although defense programs are likely to be hit with some deep cuts. Conservatives worry that the commission will also recommend a Value Added Tax as a way to raise massive amounts of new revenue so the federal government will not have to find too many cuts.
Brian Darling is director of U.S. Senate relations at The Heritage Foundation.