It has been a busy week in Washington. Let’s see …
- The House voted 235 to 180 to allow people who are mentally incapable of managing their own affairs to own guns. The rule affects an estimated 75,000 social security disability beneficiaries who could not work because of the severity of their mental disorder and needed a representative to manage their benefits. They cannot get a driver’s license. They cannot manage their own bank accounts. But if the measure is also passed by the senate, which is almost a rubber stamp, they can carry a gun and shoot people. “There are people who need help and seek help, but that is not a criteria for taking away one’s constitutional right to own a gun,” said Representative Pete Sessions. The NRA applauded. We The People lost.
- The House also voted 228 to 194 to allow coal mining companies to dump mining debris into streams. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan said, “The stream protection rule is really just a thinly veiled attempt to wipe out coal mining jobs.” Huh? Excuse me, but this does not compute. There are two options … you shove the debris into a stream, or you pay a trucking company to haul it off to an authorized waste sight. Shoving it into the stream saves the coal company money, but does not create jobs. This is all about higher profits for big businesses at the cost of our environment, our water resources! The coal industry applauded. We The People lost.
- The House also voted 235 to 187 to rescind an anti-corruption law requiring companies to disclose payments made to foreign governments relating to mining and drilling. The rule, which grew out of the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial oversight law, was intended to promote transparency so citizens in some of the world’s most impoverished countries can hold their governments accountable for the wealth generated through mining and drilling. Republicans said the regulation placed an unfair burden on U.S. companies by requiring them to hand over key details of how they bid and compete. The American Petroleum Institute applauded. We The People lost.
- “I will get rid of and totally destroy the Johnson Amendment and allow our representatives of faith to speak freely and without fear of retribution.” That was the prez speaking, and this one requires some explanation. The Johnson Amendment prohibits non-profit 501(c)(3) companies from endorsing or donating to political candidates. If they violate the Johnson Amendment, they stand to lose the right to operate as a non-profit and become liable to pay federal income taxes. Now wait, before your eyes glaze over, your mind wanders away and you say “so what?” Just think about this one. What group of people is one of Trump’s biggest supporters? Right … white evangelical Christians. Under the Johnson Amendment, those churches cannot contribute financially, nor can they endorse him publicly or privately. But … if this rule is abolished, how much more support might he and his minions in Congress have? Because the amendment is part of the tax code, technically, the only way to get rid of it would be through the legislative process. But as president, Trump could tell the IRS not to enforce it if he really wanted to. Does anybody in this administration remember ‘separation of church and state’? White Christian churches applaud. We The People lose.
But wait … that’s not all …
- Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has scheduled a vote at 6:30 a.m. Friday*, an unusually early time, to advance Betsy DeVos’s nomination to serve as secretary of Education. The tally currently stands at 50-50. If confirmed, she will be the most unqualified Secretary of Education in the history of the United States. Our public schools will be left with little funding and We The People will lose.
- In response to a threat, an almost certainty, that Democratic senators will filibuster the confirmation hearings of Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch, Trump told Mitch McConnell to invoke what is known on the hill as the ‘nuclear option’. This would prevent a democratic filibuster and eliminate the requirement for a 60% majority, thus a simple 51% would result in confirmation. We The People stand to lose.
So, it has been a busy week for the administration and Congress, and it isn’t even over yet. Congress has done more in one week than they did all year last year! It’s too bad that none of it is designed to help the people who put them in office, or to “make America great again.” I hear that Trump is planning to take a vacation to his estate in Florida this weekend … probably a good thing … we need time to catch our collective breath!
* Since I wrote this last night, today’s news is that the vote was 52-48 in favour of limiting debate and therefore putting her nomination before the full senate next week. More about this in a later post.