The House of Representatives on Tuesday passed a bill (H.R. 10) to prevent the President from imposing major regulations on the country without the approval of Congress . Entitled the REINS Act — Regulations From the Executive in Need of Scrutiny — the bill is intended to rein in the executive branch's usurpation of legislative power via issuing rules by executive fiat.
Sponsored by Rep. Geoff Davis (R-Ky.), the REINS Act passed in the House of Representatives by a 241 to 184 vote, with four Democrats joining Republicans to vote in favor of the legislation. Most believe the bill will not likely be taken up in the Senate, controlled by the Democrats, and even if it were to somehow be addressed and approved in the Senate, it would more than likely be vetoed by President Obama.
Congress will soon be consummating its most underactive session in recent decades, as both chambers of the legislature will have passed a meager number of bills compared with other non-election years. As debates over tax policy and government spending heat up Congress, Washington’s seemingly hyperactive legislative hearings are in fact rather fruitless, and many critics have taken the small amount of legislation as indicative of the federal government's waning degree of power.
According to the Congressional Record, through November the House had approved 326 bills, the fewest in at least 10 non-election years; the Senate had passed 368 measures, the fewest since 1995. Conversely, the House passed 970 measures in 2009 and 1,127 in 2007, and the Senate for those years approved 478 and 621, respectively.
"The goal for this Congress is to stress quality over quantity in terms of the flow of legislation on the House floor," House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) wrote in a letter last December to his colleagues. "I intend to lengthen the time for consideration of bills in order to improve quality and deliver results. Gone are congratulatory resolutions. Post office namings will be handled on a less frequent basis."
In its second annual survey of the best- and worst-run states, 24/7 Wall St. noted some significant changes but the same message: “States can do a great deal to control their fate.”
Billions of taxpayer dollars are being used by the U.S. Department of Defense to provide military-grade weaponry to local law-enforcement departments, and the shadowy “1033” weapons program is expanding at a record pace. But critics of the scheme are concerned as even small-town police forces are building up arsenals that include amphibious tanks, helicopters, armored personnel carriers, robots, grenade launchers, and more.
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney declined Donald Trump’s invitation to participate in his December 27 debate, sponsored by Newsmax Media and ION TV in Des Moines, Iowa, saying “We [already] have two debates in December that I’ve agreed to participate in. The rest of the month will be spent campaigning.”
Trump was gracious in his response, saying: “It would seem logical to me that if I was substantially behind in the polls, especially in Iowa, South Carolina and Florida, I would want to participate in this debate. But I understand why Gov. Romney decided not to do it.”
But all Trump’s response did was to raise questions: Was Romney really that busy? Would his campaign benefit by his absence, appearing to be aloof and “above the fray” while his lessers battled between themselves? Did Romney want to put some distance between himself and Trump, as that relationship was appearing to be getting awfully cozy? Would Romney’s absence spell the death knell for the debate now that three of the contenders were planning to be campaigning elsewhere?
At present only Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum have agreed to attend, while Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann are considering the matter. And supporters are getting nervous, especially the two “conservative” organizations who are cosponsoring the event, Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) and the American Conservative Union (ACU). Spokesmen for each urged those on the fence to join Trump in Des Moines. Grover Norquist, founder and head of ATR, issued this statement:
The federal bench, more and more, determines the policy of federal and state government. So it is an indication of conflict over the direction of our nation that President Obama appointed Caitlin Halligan, who is General Council of the District Attorney’s Office in the City of New York, to the post of judge on the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. Republicans in the Senate, however, blocked that appointed by preventing cloture.
Halligan, who had been Solicitor General for Elliot Spitzer, the disgraced former Governor of New York, had engaged in the sort of legal advocacy that placed her on the extreme of American politics. Among the activist cases that she supported were these: Pro-life groups that are engaged in opposing abortions are guilty of extortion; colleges are proper in using race as a criteria for admitting students; illegal immigrants should be allowed back pay for labor disputes in our country; the Environmental Protection Agency has the authority to use the Clean Air Act to regulate the so-called “Greenhouse Gases”; and gun manufacturers may be sued for crimes committed with the weapons they made.
Although President Obama said that he was “deeply disappointed” in what he described as Republican obstructionism, in fact in the vote for cloture in the Senate, which requires 60 votes, Obama could muster only 54 votes, and the President could not even get every member of his own political party to support a procedural measure like cloture.
Six of the top seven GOP presidential candidates addressed the Republican Jewish Coalition December 7, with only Ron Paul being excluded from the forum by organizers because of the Texas Congressman's opposition to all foreign aid.
The U.S. Senate has returned to the debate over whether the proceedings of the Supreme Court should be televised. Senators Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) have cosponsored the Cameras in the Courtroom Act of 2011. The measure was introduced on December 5, 10 years after the Sunshine in the Courtroom Act was authored by Senator Grassley and Senator Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.).
A companion bill of identical name was introduced in the House the following day by Representative Gerry Connolly (D-Va.). That bill is currently under consideration by the House Judiciary Committee.
The legislation, presented on Monday, would "permit television coverage of all open sessions of the Court unless the Court decides, by a vote of the majority of justices, that allowing such coverage in a particular case would constitute a violation of the due process rights of 1 or more of the parties before the Court."
Setting aside the rare reference by anyone in Congress to the protection of constitutional civil liberties, there is the more interesting question of whether or not the Congress has the constitutional authority to mandate anything to one of the other branches of the federal government.
In a letter sent last week to members of the state legislature, Alabama's Attorney General recommends repealing key provisions of the state's well-publicized anti-illegal immigration statute.
Attorney General Luther Strange suggests the repeal of at least two of the law's more controversial sections, both of which are currently not being enforced per an injunction handed down by a federal appeals court. Specifically, the sections suggested for scrapping include one that makes it a crime for illegal aliens to be to be detained while not in possession of proper immigration documentation, and another mandating that the state's public schools maintain a registry of their students' immigration status.
In the memo dated December 1, Strange set out his purpose in making the recommendation for removal of elements of the state statute: "My goals are to (1) make the law easier to defend in court; (2) assist law enforcement in implementation; and (3) remove burdens on law abiding citizens. All while not weakening the law."
In October, both of these portions of the law (HB 56) were blocked from being enforced by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals sitting in Atlanta. The Obama administration sued Alabama, asserting that by enacting the law the state legislature and Governor violated the Constitution by legislating in an area over which the federal government has exclusive authority.
Democrats are reportedly thrilled by Newt Gingrich's recent rise in the polls and hopeful that he will be the Republican nominee — because they believe that President Obama could easily defeat Gingrich. The Democrat most noticeably excited about the prospects of a Gingrich nomination is Nancy Pelosi, who worked with Gingrich for many years. Talking Points Memo (TPM) explains,