COMPASS: Congress is back, infrastructure heats up, Rep. Ilhan Omar in the hot seat

June 15th, 2021

Good afternoon from Capitol Hill. Four years ago today, bullets ripped across a baseball field where Republican Members of Congress were practicing for the annual congressional baseball game. Leftwing political activist James Hodgkinson shot Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.), then the House majority whip, U.S. Capitol Police officer Crystal Griner, congressional staffer Zack Barth, and lobbyist Matt Mika. Writing in 2018, Washingtonian magazine called the shooting “one of the most brazen acts of political violence in American history.”

The House and Senate are both back in session this week. Senate Democrats are now contemplating passage of their trillion dollar infrastructure deal the way we knew they always would: using a combination of reconciliation procedures (which pass the Senate at a majority vote) and regular order, the same way in which they passed Obamacare in 2010.

Democrats are hoping to use the reconciliation vehicle for sweeping climate change policies, Biden’s universal child care proposal, and raising the corporate tax rate. The related legislative package will require 60 votes, which Democrats are relying on Republican negotiating partners Sens Portman, Romney, Murkowski, Collins, and Cassidy to deliver.

The Senate’s docket over the next few weeks also includes forthcoming cloture votes on S.1, the Senate’s bill to overhaul elections, H.R. 8, a sweeping gun control proposal from House Democrats, and the Equality Act, which enshrines gender and sexual identity provisions into American civil rights laws.

The House, meanwhile, returns to vote on a withdrawal of the 2002 Iraq war authorization. The measure has 103 cosponsors, including seven Republicans, and is likely to pass, though its prospects for Senate passage and White House consideration remain unclear.

House Democrats are also embroiled in a controversy of their own, with Rep. Ilhan Omar’s (D-Minn.) comments comparing the United States and Israel to the terrorist organizations of Taliban and Hamas. House Republicans may try to force a vote to remove her from her committees, as was done earlier this year to Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.). House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has defended Omar as a “valued member of our caucus,” and pointed to the clarification Omar issued over the weekend as satisfactory.

Finally, last week the House Judiciary Committee’s antitrust subcommittee issued five bills designed to take on and deconstruct the economic dominance of the country’s Big Tech companies. Coming on the heels of the subcommittee’s 16-month long investigation into Amazon, Apple, Google, and Facebook, the legislative package represents the first comprehensive legislative effort to curtail what many see as unfair economic dominance that is eroding the protections of the free market.

The bills were introduced with a handful of Republican cosponsors — you can read the details here. Not every Republican will agree with all of these proposals, but as I wrote this morning in The Federalist, it’s put up or shut up time for Republican lawmakers who have been justifiably outraged at the actions of these companies.

Words are one thing. Now it’s time to actually do something about it. If the proffers by Democrats are wanting, Republicans should amend them — or offer alternatives of their own. Republicans may be out of power in the House and the Senate, but no one has turned off their brains.

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One More Thing…

On Thursday, the Senate Judiciary Committee will vote on the nomination of David Chipman to run the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives. Chipman is a highly controversial nominee who has lobbied for gun control in the past, demonstrated an unfamiliarity with key aspects of firearm operations, and may have even lost his service weapon during his prior service at ATF. Conservatives have come out against his nomination.