Legislative Lowdown: Another embarrassing week for Obama

Brian Darling Liberty Government Affairs
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Boehner holding line on taxes, Obamacare and debt

Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) told President Obama earlier this week that he wanted spending cuts, not tax increases, before he allowed the government’s debt limit to further increase. Boehner deserves credit for drawing an early line in the sand on taxes, Obamacare and borrowing.

The speaker has taken some fire from both liberals and conservatives for his leadership. But it’s a thankless job. He sends bills to the Senate where Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid refuses to even consider them. The president, meanwhile, has demonized Boehner and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) for passing a budget that attempts to reform entitlements and cut debt.

But conservatives believe Boehner could fight harder and has cut some bad deals, like the deal he made on the 2011 debt-limit increase. Boehner tried to negotiate with the “$5 Trillion Man” in the White House over increasing the debt ceiling last year. But it didn’t end well. He should have known better than to trust a man who allowed debt to explode past $10.6 trillion and doubled down with a costly stimulus plan, Obamacare and a plethora of new spending items.

Boehner gets high marks for standing tall against increased taxes. He also put out a statement saying that “anything short of full Obamacare repeal is unacceptable.” Tea party cheers for Speaker Boehner.

President Obama’s budget embarrassment

Republicans in Congress have proven, beyond a reasonable doubt, that President Obama’s Fiscal Year 2013 $3.6 trillion budget submission to Congress was nothing more than a campaign prop. The Obama budget promised to “transform our economy from one focused on speculating, spending, and borrowing to one constructed on the solid foundation of educating, innovating, and building.” Congress sees through the class-warrior-in-chief’s empty promises.

Republican and Democratic senators and representatives evidently agreed: The Obama budget was defeated 99-0. The Obama budget failed in the House on a 414-0 vote. Some simple math adds up to a congressional referendum that 513 members of Congress oppose the president’s budget and zero support it. How embarrassing.

Senate Republicans were not afraid to follow Rep. Paul Ryan’s lead to propose serious budgets to tackle entitlement reform and our nation’s growing debt. Ryan’s budget received 41 votes in the Senate. Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) submitted a budget that garnered the brave support of 17 senators to save the American dream and reform entitlement programs. Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Penn.) put forth a bold budget that balances in eight years, including tax reform and cuts to spending; it received 42 votes. Sen. Rand Paul’s budget that balances in five years in compliance with the Balanced Budget Amendment garnered 16 votes.

Chipping away at traditional marriage

The Senate Homeland Security Committee passed legislation this week titled the Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act, which would undercut efforts to protect traditional marriage, on a voice vote. The Senate may take this legislation up soon.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) is the only Republican supporting the bill, which would provide same-sex couples with employment benefits. According to The Washington Post, the bill provides “health, long-term care and life insurance; retirement, disability, workers’ compensation and death benefits; and family medical and emergency leave” to same-sex couples. If this bill is signed into law, it would further help left-wing legal efforts to use the Supreme Court to impose gay marriage on all 50 states by claiming that gay “married” couples are not being provided equal protection under the law.

The unconstitutional Violence Against Women Act

The Senate and House have passed bills titled “The Violence Against Women Act.” Both would allow the federal government to meddle in issues traditionally handled by the states. And both have serious constitutional issues.

The Senate bill specifically includes same-sex couples and provides authority for Indian tribes to prosecute non-Indians who commit alleged crimes on tribal lands. The House bill excluded the tribal language and omitted the explicit language for gay couples.

The Law of the Sea Treaty

The Senate is prepared to move forward on the Law of the Sea Treaty (LOST). Retired Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) said it well in 2007 when he argued that LOST would “cede our national sovereignty — both militarily and economically.” The treaty would allow an international organization hostile to U.S. interests to govern the seas, tax American citizens and impair navigational rights.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee has a hearing scheduled for next Wednesday with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to push for Senate ratification of LOST. Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) has been joined by 23 other conservative senators on a letter that argues that LOST will redistribute “wealth from developed to undeveloped nations” and impact “freedom of navigation in the deep sea.” Treaties require a two-thirds vote in the Senate, so it will be interesting to see if enough senators stand up against this threat to American sovereignty.

Brian Darling is Senior Fellow for Government Studies at The Heritage Foundation (heritage.org).