Capitol Hill Update, 16 November, 2015
Legislative Highlight of the Week: This week, the Senate is mulling over how to handle the use of the budget tactic known as reconciliation, which allows them to fast-track a deficit-reducing bill with only 51 votes required to pass. The House sent over a bill that was branded as “ObamaCare repeal”, but which only repealed selected segments of the law – leaving the trillions in new entitlement spending in the law alone. You read more about the Senate’s decision ahead, and why they ought to try for a full (or nearly full) repeal of ObamaCare instead, HERE.
House/Judiciary: This Wednesday, the House Judiciary Committee will hold a markup hearing on up to eight (!) bills that relate to reforming the criminal justice system. Most notably, they will be considering the Sentencing Reform Act, H.R. 3713. Sponsored by Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte, this bill would take a step forward in reducing the number of non-violent offenders packing federal prisons, allowing an overcrowded justice system to focus on violent criminals and repeat offenders. FreedomWorks supports the Sentencing Reform Act – you can read our letter of support HERE.
The other major bill that is being marked up is the Criminal Code Improvement Act (which has not yet been assigned a bill number). Sponsored by Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI), this bill would formally establish a mens rea (guilty mind) requirement for federal crimes, meaning that a person committing a non-violent federal offense must be “knowingly” committing the offense. This is a crucial reform because there are literally hundreds of thousands of criminal and civil penalties on the federal books, with the result that nearly everyone likely takes actions that are punishable as crimes under federal law every single day – without even knowing it. FreedomWorks also supports this bill.
The remainder of the bills being marked up are much smaller in scope, and most of them merely clean up typos and irregularities in the existing criminal justice code.
House/Finance: Late this week, the House will vote on the Fed Oversight Reform and Modernization (FORM) Act, H.R. 3189. Sponsored by Rep. Bill Huizenga (R-MI), this bill would make many adjustments to the Federal Reserve’s oversight, transparency, and authority. It includes allowing a more comprehensive audit of the Fed, in a manner very similar to the “audit the Fed” bills advanced for years by Ron Paul.
House & Senate/Education: The House and Senate are expected to begin a conference this week to hash out differences in their respective bills (H.R. 5 and S. 1177), to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), more commonly known by its most recent nickname, “No Child Left Behind”. Unfortunately, both bills fail to eliminate the onerous top-down federal testing requirements under No Child Left Behind, although the House bill in particular takes some strides in cutting some of the federal strings attached to education funding. Both bills also include language that aims to prohibit the Department of Education from coercing states into implementing Common Core standards.