TOP ISSUES FROM THIS WEEK:
House Republicans Look to Move Immigration Crisis Response Bill
A House Republican working group, headed by Rep. Kay Granger (R-TX), laid out a series of recommendations for legislation to deal with the current crisis on our southern border. These recommendations include:
- Deploy the National Guard to the border to assist Border Patrol agents. Granger did not say exactly what the number of troops might be.
- Require the Homeland Security Department to craft and implement a plan to “gain operational control” of the southwest border.
- Address border-security issues in Central America and Mexico.
- Create repatriation centers to help families and unaccompanied minors once they return to their home country.
- Implement aggressive messaging campaigns—which are already underway in Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador. These are aimed at exposing the dangers of the journey to the U.S. and dispelling the myth that children will be permitted to enter the country.
- Process family units within five to seven days. Children should have a fast-tracked immigration-court hearing within seven days after a child welfare official’s screening. More judge teams and temporary judges would be added.
- Establish an independent commission to craft metrics to show if initiatives to secure the border are working.
- Create tough penalties for smugglers and disassemble transnational criminal organizations.
The most contentious recommendation would be a change to the 2008 anti-trafficking law prohibiting Central American children from voluntary removal.
Before even thinking about the future of this approach in the Senate, House Republican leaders must get through their own caucus and the GOP outline may not have the full backing of House Republicans. The scope of conservative opposition to the Granger plan isn’t yet fully known, but it is rooted in a narrative that has dictated GOP hostility to everything immigration-related that has been discussed during this Congress.
Financially speaking, House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY) said $1.5 billion was the best estimate for emergency supplemental funding in the House, although the GOP conference hasn’t come to a consensus on this number.
But outside the GOP Conference, there’s a major financial discrepancy between the administration, the Senate, and the House on the amount of funding that should be appropriated. The White House called for $3.7 billion. Senate Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) unveiled legislation Wednesday calling for more than $2 billion, including $1.2 billion—the largest allocation in the request—for Health and Human Services so the agency can in part provide shelter for the children, according to a summary of the legislation released by the committee.
DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson has sent multiple desperate warnings to lawmakers that, come mid-August, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) will run out of money.
Without emergency supplemental funding, ICE will lack the resources to expand detention and removal capabilities for adults with children. HHS will lack the resources to create stable, more cost-effective arrangements for kids crossing the border. And children will wait longer to see an immigration judge.
Affordable Care Act May Be Headed to the Supreme Court (Again)
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) appears on a crash course for the Supreme Court, again, after a pair of conflicting court rulings. Two federal Appeals Courts issued conflicting rulings Tuesday in lawsuits that challenge the subsidies that the ACA provides to help people cover the cost of their premiums. One Appeals Court said the subsidies should be available only in states that set up their own insurance exchanges and ruled that the IRS broke the law by providing them nationwide. Hours later, another Appellate Court said the IRS did nothing wrong and the subsidies are legal everywhere.
The Justice Department lost the first of Tuesday’s cases, Halbig v. Burwell, in which a three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals limited Obamacare’s subsidies to state-run exchanges.
The Justice Department said Tuesday it will appeal the panel’s ruling to the full D.C. Circuit Court. The full D.C. Circuit is dominated by Democratic appointees, so the Justice Department has a good chance of winning this appeal.
The administration won the day’s second case, King v. Sebelius, which was decided by a three-judge panel of the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals.
The challengers who lost in King could also seek a review before the full 4th Circuit, but they would probably lose. (That court is also mostly made up of Democrats.) So they’ll probably skip that step and appeal straight to the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court is more likely to take a case when there’s a split between circuit courts, the situation the two conflicting rulings created Tuesday. That’s why the challengers are likely to appeal directly to the high court—the landscape right now is favorable to them.
But if the Justice Department wins its appeal in the Halbig case—which, again, is likely—there will no longer be a split between Appeals Courts, and the case could become less attractive to the Supreme Court justices. So it’s in the challengers’ interests to move quickly, before the full D.C. Circuit Court rules.
House Republicans Rush to Finish Work Before Recess
House Republicans are rushing to finish a number of legislative initiatives before the month-long August recess begins
At the very top of House Republicans to do list is a short-term spending bill aimed at keeping the government open and avoiding another politically damaging shut down. The current funding expires on October 1st and House GOP leaders are hoping to pass a short-term bill that will keep the government funded and operating at current levels beyond Election Day in November.
To date, the House has passed seven of the 12 annual appropriations bills, while the Democratic-led Senate has passed none. And despite all of the talk about a return to “regular order” earlier this year, there is little expectation that the two chambers will complete passage of the bills on time.
In addition to a short-term spending bill, House Republican leadership is hoping to hold a vote on their plan for dealing with the current immigration crisis on our southern border. This week, the House formally rolled out the “Granger Plan” that includes $1.5 billion in supplemental spending – far short of the $3.7 billion the President requested.
The House also hopes that negotiations to reconcile the House and Senate versions of the Veterans Affairs Department reform legislation can be completed and that a vote on the final bill can be held next week.
Finally, the House plans on voting to formally authorize House Speaker John Bohener’s (R-OH) lawsuit against President Obama regarding his use of executive power.
President Obama Signs Non-Discrimination Executive Order
On Monday, President Obama signed an executive order banning discrimination against LGBT individuals by companies that contract with the federal government.
The federal government already prohibits discrimination against gay men, lesbians and bisexuals in its own work force, but the President had been under pressure from LGBT rights activists to extend that protection to include companies that do work for the federal government. Mr. Obama’s executive order also explicitly included gender identity – in addition to sexual orientation – specifically guaranteeing that transgender employees would also be protected from job discrimination.
In light of the controversial Hobby Lobby Supreme Court case there has been a renewed debate over the question of whether religious groups should be exempt from certain legislation that may be considered counter to their religious beliefs. President Obama declined to include any religious exemption in his executive order, but advocates for religious groups have promised to bring the action to court.
Obama’s executive order adds sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of categories protected among federal contractors that was first approved by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1965.
Senate to Vote Next Week on Highway Patch
The Senate is poised to take up the issue of the patch to the Highway Trust Fund next week – possibly as early as Tuesday. The Senate is expected to vote on the House passed bill and the Wyden-Hatch bill (which largely mirrors the House passed bill), as well as the Boxer-Carper bill (which would only extend funding to December of this year), in addition, the Senate is likely to consider the Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) proposal to cut the gas tax to 3.7 cents per gallon coupled with giving states enhanced authority over transportation projects. Finally, the Senate is expected to also consider a proposal from Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA) that would waive the environmental review process for projects that are replacing infrastructure damaged in disasters.
Georgia 1st Congressional District: State Senator Buddy Carter (R-GA) defeated surgeon Bob Johnson (R-GA) 54-46%.
Georgia 10th Congressional District: Baptist Preacher Jody Hice (R-GA) defeated businessman Mike Collins (R-GA) 54-46%.
Georgia 11th Congressional District: Former Rep. Bob Barr’s (R-GA) comeback bid fell far short on Tuesday when he was defeated by former State Senator Barry Loudermilk (R-GA) by a margin of 66% to 34%.
Georgia: In something of a surprise to poll watchers and pundits, businessman David Perdue (R-GA) defeated Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA) in the Senate GOP runoff. Perdue beat Kingston 51-49% despite polls showing Kingston with a 5-8 point lead.
Georgia: This week, Hall of Fame great Hank Aaron endorsed Michelle Nunn (D-GA).
Virginia: A new Roanoke College poll shows Senator Mark Warner (D-VA) with a wide lead over former RNC Chairman Ed Gillespie (R-VA). Warner leads 47-22%.
Florida: A new Quinnipiac poll shows former Governor Charlie Crist (D-FL) leading Governor Rick Scott (R-FL) 45% to 40%.
Maine: Rep. Michael Michaud (D-ME) raised $355,000 in the 2nd quarter and ended with just over $1 million cash on hand. Governor Paul LePage (R-ME) raised $234,000 and has $917,000 cash on hand, while Eliot Cutler (I-ME) raised $181,000 from individual donors, loaned himself another $581,000 and has roughly $527,000 cash on hand.
South Carolina: A new Palmetto Politics polls shows Governor Nikki Haley (R-SC) in a tight race with State Senator Vincent Sheheen (D-SC). Haley leads 46% to 42% when respondents are asked about all candidates on the ballot. However, in a head to head with Sheheen, Haley leads by a comfortable 53-40%.