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What Could Happen on Capitol Hill in April

Angel Padilla - 03/30/2018


Congress is out on recess until April 9, but they have a full schedule when they get back. Mitch McConnell wants to push through confirmations for Mike Pompeo as Secretary of State and Gina Haspel as CIA Director before the opposition has a chance to mobilize against them; Republican leadership in the House is considering a second tax bill; and both chambers are starting work on a Farm Bill that could have big cuts to SNAP (aka food stamps).

As always, we wanted to give you information on everything that could happen in Washington this month so you can be prepared to push for your priorities. Below, you’ll find everything we’ve heard might come up in April, why it matters, and what you can do about it.

What’s in this document:

Tax Day: Hold Your Moc Accountable for The Tax Scam

  • What’s the issue: The weekend of Tax Day (which is usually on April 15, but this year is April 17) is a prime opportunity to hold your Republican MoC accountable for their bad vote on the Trump Tax Scam. Tax Day presents a natural media hook for reporters to write about tax policy—and it comes at a moment when the momentum is with us. Polling continues to show that more people disapprove of the tax law than support (and the gap is growing). And in the special election in PA-18, Republicans had to abandon their strategy of blanketing the district with tax ads because, even in deep red territory, voters aren’t falling for the Tax Scam. We can seize this opportunity to make it clear that, come November, progressives will be fired up to replace their Republican MoC and repeal the Tax Scam.
  • What to expect: Our partners at Tax March will be holding 100 events nationwide, and Indivisibles in red districts can join them by using one of our existing toolkits. You can hold a big check presentation to remind your MoC who really benefited from the Tax Scam, or a retirement party to help them celebrate the imminent end of their time in Congress!
  • Bottom line: As the special election in PA-18 demonstrated, the tax bill is not an electoral winner for Republicans—and we have to make sure people remember that bad vote through this year’s midterm elections. Polling indicates that the Tax Scam is still unpopular and is a losing issue for Republicans. If we help keep the issue top of mind for voters, we can continue to drive the law into deeply unpopular territory and ensure it helps with our efforts to retake power in November.

Nominations: Shut Down Trump’s War Cabinet

  • What’s the issue: As Trump fires people from his cabinet at a breakneck pace, the replacements that he is lining up will bring us closer to war. Mike Pompeo, the current CIA Director and Trump’s nominee to replace Rex Tillerson as the Secretary of State, has espoused anti-Muslim bigotry, denied climate change, tried to destroy diplomacy with Iran, and supported torture. Gina Haspel, whom Trump has nominated to replace Pompeo as the CIA Director, personally helped torture detainees in a secret CIA-run prison during the Bush administration and made sure the video evidence was destroyed.
  • What to expect: Pompeo is currently scheduled to have a confirmation hearing in front of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee sometime shortly after Congress comes back from recess; a confirmation vote would likely come in the weeks after that. If Pompeo is confirmed, Haspel would be up next. Though she does not yet have a confirmation hearing scheduled in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee, her confirmation process will likely stretch into May.
  • Bottom line: Trump is trying to build up a war cabinet—and we can stop him. Even though 14 Democrats and Angus King joined with Senate Republicans to confirm Pompeo to his post at the CIA in January 2017, a few are already on the record saying that this time is different (in large part because of the blowback they got from angry Indivisibles the first time they voted for him). And key Senators including John McCain and Rand Paul have expressed deep reservations about Haspel because of her role in torturing detainees in Thailand during the Bush administration—meaning if we can just hold Democrats together on her confirmation vote, she won’t get confirmed. We have call scripts on both Pompeo and Haspel so you can call your Senators and tell them not to confirm Trump’s cabinet of warmongers and torturers.

Bank Lobbyist Act

  • What’s the issue: The Senate voted 67-31 to roll back many of the protections in the Dodd-Frank financial reform law that Congress passed in the wake of the 2008 economic meltdown. 17 Democrats joined 50 Senate Republicans in voting for the deceivingly-titled “Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act (S. 2155).”
  • What to expect: Republican leaders need to decide how they want to proceed. There are two possible paths: one is that House Republicans decide to pass the same bill the Senate did, in which case it would go straight to Trump’s desk for a signature. That path is unlikely because House Republicans want to go even further in deregulating Wall Street than the Senate did. The second (and more likely) path is that the House will pass something that is worse than the Senate bill, and then the chambers go to conference to work out a consensus bill.
  • Bottom line: This fight isn’t over. The House will have to pass its own version of this bill, and the top Republican on the House Financial Services Committee, Jeb Hensarling, doesn’t think this bill is conservative enough. That means it will be even worse when it comes back to the Senate for a vote—and your Democratic Senator, whether they supported the bill or not, needs to know that’s not acceptable.

Balanced Budget Amendment

  • What’s the issue: Republicans in Congress just passed the #GOPTaxScam, adding $1.5 trillion to the deficit. Now, they want you to think they’re “serious” about budgets and deficits, and so House Republicans are planning a vote on a Constitutional amendment to require a balanced budget. While it might sound good in theory, a balanced budget amendment would pose a number of serious threats. It would put us at risk of longer, deeper recessions; it would threaten Social Security; and it would force deep cuts to programs working families rely on.
  • What to expect: Republicans are expected to hold this vote in the House the first week back from recess. It is extremely unlikely that it passes the House, let alone the Senate—where it would need 67 votes since it is a Constitutional amendment. But extreme conservatives in the House are demanding this vote be held to fulfill a promise they got from Paul Ryan in exchange for their votes on the #GOPTaxScam, when they were reluctant to support it early in the process because of how much money it added to the deficit.
  • Bottom line: This vote will fail. The only reason Republicans are holding it is so they can tell you they’re still serious about the deficit, even though they just passed tax cuts for the rich and corporations that exploded it. Don’t fall for the charade.

Net Neutrality: The Clock Is Still Ticking

  • What’s the issue: The legislative clock is ticking for Congress to use the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to overturn the FCC’s December 2017 decision to end net neutrality protections. Over 150 Representatives have signed on to Congressman Mike Doyle’s resolution of disapproval in the House, and 50 Senators have signed on to Senator Ed Markey’s effort—but winning still presents an uphill battle.
  • What to expect: Under the process laid out in the Congressional Review Act, Senate Democrats will be able to force a vote by the full Senate on Senator Markey’s resolution, which they plan to do sometime after they come back from recess. There is no equivalent procedure in the House; they will need Republicans to join them in supporting a discharge petition to bypass Paul Ryan and bring the resolution to the floor. Unfortunately, discharge petitions are extremely rare, and no Republican has yet joined the Democrats in supporting the resolution.
  • Bottom line: Net neutrality is a great example of why we need to take back power at the federal and state level. In states with Democratic governments, legislatures and governors have acted swiftly to ensure ISPs don’t get to block or throttle content—such as Washington state, where Governor Jay Inslee signed the nation’s first state-level net neutrality bill in early March. In the meantime, you can still use our call script to demand that your MoC join Congressman Doyle and Senator Markey in their push to protect net neutrality—and you can use our resource on how to protect net neutrality on the state and local level to get your state officials to take steps like Washington’s government did.

Tax Scam Ii: It’s a Trap!

  • What’s the issue: Fresh off of passing their unpopular Tax Scam in December, Republicans are hoping to salvage their chances at keeping the House in November by… passing another Tax Scam. Trump and Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady have been talking about trying to pass another tax bill that would spend billions of additional dollars to make some provisions of the Trump Tax Scam permanent and give away even more money to corporations.
  • What to expect: If Republicans want to move any major legislation through Congress before the midterms, they’ll need to move fast. Their goal is trap Democrats into “voting against middle class tax cuts” right before the midterm elections — but the bill will be filled with even more goodies for the wealthy, like an expanded pass-through loophole and a lower tax rate on capital gains. Timing on this legislation is unclear, but it could start moving this month.
  • Bottom line: The Tax Scam was just that: a scam. Corporations saved billions of dollars while families barely noticed a change in their take home pay. Shareholders were rewarded while workers got next to nothing. Now they’re coming back for more. No matter what, we need to make sure they understand that handing out tax dollars to the wealthy and corporations will not save them at the ballot box.

Snap Cuts Planted in The Farm Bill

  • What’s the issue:  The “Farm Bill” is a broad legislative package that covers everything from farm subsidies to conservation and water quality. It also includes the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, or food stamps). Republicans in the House are expected to propose a reauthorization of the Farm Bill that includes significant cuts to SNAP. They may try to impose stricter work requirements or make drastic changes to SNAP eligibility.
  • What to expect: The House Agriculture Committee is expected to release legislative text shortly after the April recess ends. If it includes the deep cuts to SNAP that we expect, it will mean that this bill will move on strict partisan lines. That’s a huge departure from the bipartisan history and support the Farm Bill has had in the past.
  • Bottom line: The Farm Bill won’t be heading to the President’s desk any time soon, but this partisan proposal is yet another part of the Republican agenda to impose work requirements and slash programs that people rely on.