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Capitol Hill Update 14 July, 2014
House & Senate/Schedule: Both chambers remain in session through the end of July, after which they will take their long August recess.
Legislative Highlight of the Week: On Tuesday, the House is likely to pass the Permanent Internet Tax Freedom Act, H.R. 3086. Sponsored by Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), this bill would make permanent the temporary ban on any federal taxation of internet providers. FreedomWorks has issued a Key Vote YES in support of this bill.
House/Transportation: On Tuesday, the House will take up the Highway and Transportation Funding Act, H.R. 5021. Sponsored by Rep. Dave Camp (R-MI), this bill would bail out the nearly-bankrupt Federal Highway Trust Fund through May of 2015 by raising $10.9 billion in new revenue. This revenue would mostly come from indirect tax hikes - through a tactic called "pension smoothing" and through raising fees on customs. This bill does nothing to address the structural problems with federal highway spending and resorts to using budget and tax gimmicks to pay for itself - a bad deal for taxpayers.
House/Spending: Starting on Wednesday, the House will consider the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act H.R 5016. Sponsored by Rep Ander Crenshaw, this bill provides funding for the Department of Treasury and several other government functions, including the IRS, the SEC, the White House, federal judiciary, and the District of Columbia. Total spending for this bill is $21.3 billion, which is less than in 2014. The bill contains a few interesting provisions, including stopping the IRS from changing the regulation of political non-profit groups and preventing the IRS from enforcing key part of ObamaCare. However, the Senate is unlikely to even take up this bill, rendering symbolic the reforms within.
House & Senate/Insurance: This week, both the House and Senate may move bills to reauthorize the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act (TRIA), H.R. 4871 and S. 2244, respectively. TRIA was a temporary bill passed in the wake of the 9/11 attacks to "ensure certainty" to the insurance industry, by making the government responsible for covering a huge percentage of the payouts in the event of another large-scale terror event. However, at this point TRIA is just another corporate welfare program that allows insurers to keep the profits from insuring against terrorist events while leaving it to the taxpayers to cover the insurers' payouts in the event of another 9/11. FreedomWorks believes that TRIA should be allowed to expire.
Senate/First Amendment: Last week, the Senate Judiciary Committee sent a bill to the floor that would fundamentally change the definition of "free speech" under the First Amendment. This Constitutional Amendment, S.J. Res. 19, introduced by Senator Tom Udall (D-NM), would give Congress unlimited power to regulate any spending considered to be "political". Under this amendment, any book, movie, or any other communication deemed political could be regulated by Congress. Although this amendment stands little chance of passing either the Senate or the House, the fact that 45 Democrats have been willing to co-sponsor this bill is startling. You can read more about this attack on the First Amendment and contact the senators responsible HERE.