This Week in Washington - December 12, 2011

Congress is scheduled to end the year this week with a flurry of legislating, suprises, new spending and deal making.  Conservatives need to watch Washington, D.C. this week to see how many bills pass in the waning hours of this session of Congress that spend more of your tax dollars.

The battle over the extension of the payroll tax will play out this week in the Congress.  A massive megabus spending package should be voted upon in the House and Senate this week, because the government runs out of Continuing Resolution cash and authority this Friday.  This will be a week full of last minute sweet heart deals for lobbyist and special interests.

The Senate starts the week with a very controversial nomination.  At 4:30 pm today, the Senate will vote on the nominations of Norman Eisen to be Ambassador to the Czech Republic and Mari Carmen Aponte to be Ambassador to El Salvador.  The Aponte nomination is very controversial because of her radical past.

Daniel Horowitz writes that the “GOP Must Block Maria del Carmen Aponte” because of her relationship to a Cuban spy years ago.

Last August, stymied by Jim DeMint’s Senate hold, Obama used a recess appointment to name Maria del Carmen Aponte ambassador to El Salvador.  She was originally selected as ambassador to the Dominican Republic during the Clinton administration, but she withdrew her name after refusing to take a polygraph test concerning her relationship with Cuban spy, Roberto Tamayo.  Nonetheless, radical rejects of the Clinton administration are the very people whom Obama loves to recycle.  Aponte’s recess appointment expires at the end of the year, and the Senate may vote on her permanent appointment as early as Monday afternoon.

After a vote on Aponte, according to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), “the Senate expects to consider the following additional items next week: additional nominations, remaining appropriations bills, balanced budget amendments, and payroll tax, unemployment insurance, Medicare reimbursement, tax extenders, all of which are set to expire at the end of the year.”  Expect a flurry of bills to pass this week in the Senate.

The Senate is expected to a vote on a strong Balanced Budget Amendment (BBA) to the Constitution this week.  The strong BBA forces a supermajority vote for tax increases and sets government spending at 18% of the economic output of the United States.  The House dropped the ball of the BBA and forced a failed vote on a weakened BBA without protections against tax increases and a spending limit provision.   Human Events likes the Senate version of the BBA.

In the Senate, all the Republican senators have signed onto Senate Joint Res. 10, the Hatch-Lee Balanced Budget Amendment.  This is a strong bill.  It protects the taxpayers with supermajorities for tax increases, forbids courts from ordering tax increases in the case of an imbalance and holds revenues to 18% of Gross Domestic Product.

The House has a packed schedule for the week.  Eight suspension votes are scheduled for today, including five postal bills (S.384; H.R. 3220; H.R. 3246; H.R. 2158; and, H.R. 2767), H.R. 2845 (a pipeline safety bill), H.R. 2668 (Border Patrol naming bill for deceased agent Brian Terry), and H.R. 1264 (courthouse naming bill).  The remainder of the week is set aside for the legislation wrapping up business for the year.

Remaining bills in the House referenced on House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s (R-VA) web site are the following:

  • H.R. 3421 – Fallen Heroes of 9/11 Act (Sponsored by Rep. Bill Shuster / Financial Services Committee)
  • H.R. 886 – United States Marshals Service 225th Anniversary Commemorative Coin Act(Sponsored by Rep. Steve Womack / Financial Services Committee)
  • H.R. 1905 – Iran Threat Reduction Act of 2011 (Sponsored by Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen / Foreign Affairs Committee)
  • H.R. 2105 – Iran, North Korea, and Syria Nonproliferation Reform and Modernization Act of 2011(Sponsored by Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen / Foreign Affairs Committee)
  • H.Res. 306 – Urging the Republic of Turkey to Safeguard Its Christian Heritage and to Return Confiscated Church Properties (Sponsored by Rep. Ed Royce / Foreign Affairs Committee)
  • H.Res. 376 – Calling for the repatriation of POW/MIAs and abductees from the Korean War(Sponsored by Rep. Charlie Rangel / Foreign Affairs Committee)
  • H.R. 2719 – Rattlesnake Mountain Public Access Act of 2011 (Sponsored by Rep. Doc Hastings / Natural Resources Committee)
  • H.R. 443 – To provide for the conveyance of certain property from the United States to the Maniilaq Association located in Kotzebue, Alaska (Sponsored by Rep. Don Young / Natural Resources Committee)
  • S. 278 – Sugar Loaf Fire Protection District Land Exchange Act (Sponsored by Sen. Mark Udall / Natural Resources Committee)
  • H.R. 313 – Drug Trafficking Safe Harbor Elimination Act of 2011 (Sponsored by Rep. Lamar Smith / Judiciary Committee)

The House version of the payroll tax cut is out and it would legislatively provide a permit for the Keystone XL Pipeline (H.R. 3630).  Remaining items are a megabus spending bill and a defense authorization bill.