Good afternoon from Capitol Hill.
After a little more than 15 hours of vote-a-rama, the Senate yesterday passed the $740 billion reconciliation bill by a vote of 51 to 50, with Vice President Kamala Harris breaking a tie vote. All previous skeptics of the large reconciliation package – Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) – voted in support of the package.
The bill is, hilariously, titled the Inflation Reduction Act, despite top tax experts showing the bill will do nothing to curb inflation, and probably make it worse. What’s more, the bill implements a nearly $17 billion tax hike on families and individuals making less than $200,000 in 2023 – while raising taxes on every other income group. The bill also authorizes $80 billion for the IRS, including over 80,000 new positions at the IRS, making the tax collecting agency one of the largest in the federal government.
The Democrats sold the new beefed up IRS as a way to catch “tax cheats,” presumably by that they mean billionaires, but a recent study out of Syracuse University shows that the IRS audits poor families at five times the rate of everyone else.
Also included are provisions to allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices directly with pharmaceutical companies, more than $370 billion in subsidies directed at climate change, and a three year extension of Obamacare premium subsidies.
After this uncharacteristic flurry of work, the Senate now heads for the hills for the remainder of August. The House will return on Friday to consider the Senate’s legislation. While the House has the slimmest of Democratic majorities, the bill is expected to narrowly pass after a handful of moderates promptly reversed their opposition to the bill even without their demands for a reversal of limits on the SALT deduction being met.
If you missed it last week, FBI chief Christopher Wray made an appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee where he sidestepped difficult questions and then left before the hearing was over – allegedly so he could take the FBI’s private plane to his vacation home in the Adirondack mountains. More from Miranda Devine at the New York Post:
In the short time they had with Wray, senators from both sides had urgent questions. Democrat Senator Dianne Feinstein and Republicans Marsha Blackburn and Grassley were concerned about the FBI’s botching of the Larry Nassar case. Why, when Nassar was convicted in 2016 of sexually abusing US gymnasts, did Wray wait until 2021 to fire one of the agents involved in slow-walking the case?
Grassley complained about a lack of transparency over why the Department of Justice had decided a jury wouldn’t convict FBI agents for their handling of the investigation
Other Democrats were concerned about the FBI not investigating complaints about Justice Brett Kavanaugh during his Supreme Court confirmation hearing.
Wray had no answer, nor to questions about Afghan evacuees considered significant security threats after being brought to the US in last year’s bungled withdrawal from Kabul.
“I can’t sit here right now and tell you we know where all of them are located at any given time,” he said.
Wray refused to classify the flood of illegal migration at the southern border as a “national security threat.”
When asked what the FBI was doing to track down 56 suspected terrorists that have crossed the border this year he waffled about “sharing watchlist information” and “investigating any number of individuals.”
He refused to admit that the Russia collusion hoax — in which the FBI treated seriously palpably false allegations that then-candidate Donald Trump was a Russian agent — was in fact a “hoax”.
He refused to agree with Sen. Blackburn that Hunter Biden’s laptop was not “Russian disinformation,” and didn’t respond to whistleblower allegations of an FBI coverup of derogatory information related to the Bidens in October 2020.
He refused to explain to Sen. Ted Cruz why the FBI had blacklisted patriotic historical American symbols such as the Betsy Ross flag, the Gadsden Flag and the Gonzales battle flag as “militia violent extremism” in training documents.
When Sen. Josh Hawley asked why the FBI was “snooping around the concealed carry permit records” of Missourians, he had nothing.
When Sen. Tom Cotton asked why no FBI agent had thought to enforce the law broken by abortion activists parading outside the homes of Supreme Court justices, Wray was impatient: “Our agents are up to their necks enforcing all sorts of laws.”
You can watch Sen. Ted Cruz question Wray about why the FBI agent in charge of the investigation into the plot to kidnap Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer – where two of the alleged conspirators were acquitted, in part due to FBI entrapment – was promoted to lead the FBI field office overseeing the January 6th investigation.
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One More Thing…
CPI’s Senior Legal Fellow, Cleta Mitchell, has been the subject of numerous corporate media hit pieces lately, from the New York Times to Politico. The latter’s most recent effort distorted Mitchell’s presentation on a Biden executive order directing all 600 federal agencies to develop voter registration plans. The full audio of Mitchell’s presentation is up on our website.