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Capitol Hill Update, 20 May, 2013
House & Senate/Schedule: Both chambers are in session this week, and will then be out of town next week for Memorial Day. After the break, the House and Senate will both return to town on June 3rd for a grueling four-week stretch.
Legislative Highlight of the Week: The Senate will spend much of this week considering the Farm Bill, S. 954, formally called the “Agriculture Reform, Food, and Jobs Act of 2013”. One of the many ridiculous aspects of this bill is that the Senate is touting this year’s bill as “saving” $23 billion dollars over ten years, when the bill will still spend $955 billion over ten years. That’s nearly a trillion dollars of corporate welfare, Soviet-style price supports, and food stamps. Worse, the bill creates an entirely new entitlement program called shallow-loss insurance, which would essentially prevent farmers in some industries from ever taking a loss on their crops. Guaranteeing companies a profit, in farming or any other industry, is a gross distortion of the free market. FreedomWorks strongly opposes this bill.
House/Farm Bill: The House Committee on Agriculture continues to work on its version of the Farm Bill, which could possibly come to the floor as soon as June, though timing is still uncertain. Last year, the House Farm Bill was, if anything, even worse than the Senate’s, and it seems unlikely that Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas will do much to improve the bill this year.
House/Energy: On Wednesday, The House will vote on H.R. 3, the Northern Route Approval Act. Sponsored by Rep. Lee Terry (R-NE), this bill is basically just a forced authorization of the Keystone XL Pipeline, which has been delayed for several years by the Obama administration, at the insistence of environmentalist groups. FreedomWorks supports this bill.
House/Education: On Thursday, the House will vote on H.R. 1911, the Smarter Solutions for Students Act. Sponsored by Rep. John Kline (R-MN), this bill attempts to address student loan interest rates, which are set to automatically double to their original level after having been artificially depressed for several years by the government. This bill sets Federal Stafford Loan rates to the level of 10-year Treasury bonds, plus 2.5%, and claims this to be putting the free market back in student loans. In reality, Treasury bond interest rates are not a market rate, but are artificially manipulated by the Federal Reserve. This bill is still the federal government manipulating student loan interest rates and contributing to the student debt bubble that threatens a generation of college-educated young adults.
House/IRS Scandal: On Wednesday at 9:30 AM, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform will be holding an important hearing on the IRS targeting scandal. Scheduled to testify are former IRS Director Douglas Shulman, who headed the IRS when the targeting of tea party groups began, and Lois Lerner, who was among the first IRS officials to be briefed about the inappropriate targetings back in 2011.
House/Health Care: Rep. Tom Price has introduced a bill, H.R. 2009, the “Keep the IRS Out of Your Health Care Act”. As the title says, this bill completely block the IRS from enforcing any provisions of ObamaCare. Currently, the IRS would be responsible not only for distributing subsidies to insurance companies and enforcing the individual mandate “tax”, but also for collecting sensitive health care information. Given the IRS’s gross display of partisanship in targeting selected political groups, it seems unwise to trust them with health care data that will be used to evaluate whether individuals have an "approved" insurance plan. FreedomWorks supports this bill.