This week in Congress, Jan 3–6, 2017

In case you were under the misapprehension that Trump is the anomaly — that the things he’s advocated and said are beyond acceptability in national politics and don’t represent the Republican party or that Republican leaders just went along with him because they hope he’ll rubber stamp their different agenda — here are a few things that happened in the first week of the new Congressional session:

  • A bill was introduced (versions in both houses) to replace the national personal and corporate income taxes, estate taxes and employment taxes with a national consumption tax. All policy I’ve ever seen on this topic suggests the rate would have to be incredibly high and would be extremely regressive in order to come anywhere near to replacing income taxes.
  • Senator Inhofe introduced a bill (no text available yet on congress.gov) that would seemingly allow the indefinite detention of an undocumented person if the US couldn’t find another government willing to accept them. Currently, if we can’t find a country that will take someone after a time period, we release them back into the United States. Because it’s pretty damn immoral to keep someone indefinitely in detention. Another bill also appears to be planning to use gang association rules (notably unfair) to deport legal immigrants.
  • A ridiculous bill was introduced that requires agencies to repeal or amend two rules for each rule they want to create or amend. The outcome of any such rule would probably just be pointless extra paper busy work to create additional changes and simplifications to justify new rules.
  • More border patrolling nonsense legislation. Despite the fact that net migration between Mexico and the United States is such that more people are going towards Mexico, this bill wants 1500 more border patrol agents! Relatedly, a House Republican introduced a bill for that Wall the President-elect made as a cornerstone of his campaign.
  • A bill to repeal gun-free zones.
  • Some bill that appears almost certainly to be an abortion ban (given the version from last session). Reminder that abortion restriction laws at this point are about making it nearly impossible for people to get a legal, safe abortions by making it more complicated to get them and harder for providers to comply with the law. For example, the version from last session made an exception in the case of incest or rape, but only if reported to law enforcement. Remind me again how many people don’t report their rapes?
  • Relatedly, other Republicans are attempting to destroy organizations that provide health care for women, especially low income women, because a minority of their organization is devoted to providing abortion services. I have a long comment on that. These kinds of bills are attempts to end legal, safe abortion without having to take the political risk of advocating an outright and complete ban.
  • Some people are lucky and are born in the United States and other people are unlucky and are born in places and times that end up suffering war. Some Republican Congress people want to make it harder for unlucky people to come here (summary from last session’s version — for some reason there are two versions this session). Relatedly, some Republican Congress people want to punish> all residents of cities that chose not to demonize immigrants.
  • Speaking of unlucky people, other Republicans want to reduce foreign aid to countries based on how many refugee children from their countries end up in the United States.
  • Other Republicans want to cut the budgets of everything that isn’t related to the military or border protection by 1%, 2% or 5%. I assume Rep. Blackburn introduced all three versions hoping to get one passed. But if you needed proof that Republicans only care about fiscal conservatism when it means cutting spending on things they don’t like, here it is.
  • Some Republicans think energy conservation standards shouldn’t exist.
  • So you know how anyone lucky enough to be born in the United States is a citizen? Some Republicans want to change that. Gotta add more ways to punish those children whose parents came here the wrong way by making sure we can deport a kid whose only known the United States (and probably English) to some place they may never have even visited!
  • Some Republicans want to repeal the Johnson Amendment. That’s the tax rule that says organizations (often churches) that have tax-exempt status are not allowed to directly endorse or oppose specific candidates for public office.
  • Of course Republicans are going to try to pass repeals of the Affordable Care Act. The Senate is already fast-tracking legislation to repeal it. Republicans have offered no credible replacement legislation that would result in equivalent levels of health care. Relatedly, one Republican thinks he can dictate to the judicial branch which decisions they can cite and introduced legislation to ban judges from citing certain cases related to the ACA.
  • You know what would be good for international stability? Leaving the United Nations.

I realize that most of these bills won’t pass. Those that do will be significantly modified. But these are the legislative priorities of Republicans in Congress. The things the President-elect has advocated are not all that different than what the actual Republican party wants to pass.

Want to keep up with what is going on? You can browse all legislation for the current session or read the daily digests. They aren’t doing this in secret. If you have a Republican representative or Senator, call them when they support legislation you would not want. If yours are Democrats, then still call them on topics you care about. Get involved in state politics (do you know who represents you in your state legislature?)

(Note: this won’t necessarily be a regular feature despite the title.)