Legislative Lowdown: Congress finally recesses

Brian Darling Liberty Government Affairs
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Congress is scheduled to start a month-long break next week. The purpose of this recess, lawmakers claim, is to spend more time in their districts meeting constituents. Conservatives hope they come back with an appetite to attack the nation’s $16 trillion debt and resist the temptation to raise taxes.

Congress returns in September facing a government shutdown and a failure of leadership. The federal government will run out of money on the first day of October, because Congress has failed to send the president any of the annual appropriations bills. The House has passed seven of the 12 annual appropriations bills; the Senate has passed none. Congress has failed to send one spending bill to the president. The Senate failed to pass a budget after the House passed Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-Wisc.) plan.

Over the past two years, both parties held hands to hike the debt ceiling while slashing defense spending, and reauthorized the crony capitalism that is the Export-Import Bank. Now they’re so incompetent that they can’t send any appropriations bills to the president’s desk. Politicians in Washington have failed the American people. Maybe some of them should take a permanent recess from taxing and spending.

A continuing resolution

Senate and House leaders have agreed on a continuing resolution (CR) to fund the government for six months after Oct. 1, the beginning of Fiscal Year 2013. This agreement will break with the Ryan Budget numbers and will fully fund Obamacare for six months. There is some good and some bad in this agreement.

As Daniel Horowitz argues at RedState, “On the surface, this might seem like the capitulation of all capitulations by Republican leadership … however, before you all jump on Boehner and McConnell, this plan is actually the brainchild of Senator DeMint, Rep. Jim Jordan, and some other good conservatives.” The idea was a good one, but it may morph into a terrible one.

The idea of a six-month clean CR was to fund the government in an effort to avoid a lame-duck Congress. The worry is that if Congress is allowed to convene after the elections, it will pass terrible legislation and the Senate may take a run at the Law of the Sea Treaty.

There is a worry that some squishy Republicans will agree to closing some tax loopholes to pay for the undoing of the defense sequester that will hit defense spending to the tune of $600 billion over the next 10 years. There is also a worry that Republicans will go wobbly and agree to only a temporary extension of the 2001 and 2003 tax reductions.

Nothing good can come of a lame-duck Congress. Sen. DeMint (R-S.C.) and Rep. Jordan (R-Ohio) were right to try to avoid a lame-duck session. Yet their plan may end up a failure if a lame-duck session happens anyway.

A perversion of the Second Amendment

Left-wingers are trying to redefine the Second Amendment. Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) and Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-N.Y.) are moving forward on new gun-control ideas, while allies are making the flawed argument that the left-wing respects the self-defense rights of all Americans. Don’t believe the doublespeak.

Lautenberg has introduced S. 3458, a bill to ban ammunition sales over the Internet, force ammunition dealers to get government licenses and establish a government-maintained list of people who buy large amounts of ammunition. Sen. Lautenberg has been joined by Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii) in this effort to further restrict Second Amendment rights. A similar effort is being made by Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-N.Y.) in the House.

The left is changing its rhetoric to claim that restricting gun rights is consistent with the Second Amendment. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), an avowed enemy of gun rights, took to the Senate floor last week to argue that “those on my side who believe strongly in some controls on guns have to acknowledge that there is a right to bear arms,” as quoted in CQ. He then went on to say that the right to self-defense is not broad and can be restricted by Congress.

Liberals are pretending like they respect the Second Amendment while acting as if it simply safeguards the rights of hunters and target shooters. Actually, the purpose of the Second Amendment is to safeguard a natural civil right of all Americans to protect themselves from harm. The Democrats’ new gun-grabbing legislation will face strong opposition from members of the House and Senate, and with many members of the U.S. Supreme Court.

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