Keystone/energy — Republicans say construction of the pipeline is an easy way to create jobs and lessen U.S. dependence on oil from the Middle East. A Senate bill fell one vote shy of the 60 needed to overcome a Democratic filibuster in November. Republican leaders are confident they can pass it now but acknowledge it’s unlikely they can get 67 votes to override a presidential veto.
Economy/jobs — In 2014, House Republicans passed a series of narrowly focused bills designed to create new jobs. Many of these rolled back federal regulations on manufacturers, which the GOP argued prevented businesses from expanding. Some passed with bipartisan support but hit a wall in the Democratic-controlled Senate. Now Republicans are scheduling new votes on these same bills in both chambers and hope to garner enough support to send them to the President.
Obamacare — The day after the midterm election Boehner and McConnell promised to keep up their effort to repeal Obamacare, which not a single Republican voted for when it was enacted. They recognize they don’t have the votes to get over a certain presidential veto of a complete repeal so are looking at smaller changes to the law that are supported by bipartisan lawmakers.
The first week back House GOP leaders scheduled votes on two measures increase the threshold employers have to reach to provide healthcare to workers from 30 to 40 hours per week. One GOP bill deals narrowly with changing the law to encourage hiring more veterans and another is a broader proposal affecting all businesses.
Votes are likely on doing away with the medical device tax that helps pay for the law.
There is an internal debate among Republicans whether to use a special budget tool — known as “reconciliation” — that could allow them to pass a repeal in the Senate with just 51 votes. But because Obama has said he will veto that bill, some Republicans want to save reconciliation, which can only be used once, for another priority, like tax reform, entitlement changes, or energy policy.
Immigration: Boehner vowed he would fight “tooth and nail” to reverse the president’s executive actions, enacted in November, to allow roughly 5 million illegal aliens to remain in the U.S. Funding for the Department of Homeland Security runs out at the end of February.
Late last year, Republicans would only agree to fund the agency, which needs to carry out the immigration orders, until then because they want to try to force Obama to reverse course. The standoff has the risk of shuttering the department, which responds to terrorism, natural disasters and other politically-sensitive matters. Republicans are readying action on this issue soon — likely in the House in the second week of January.
Tax reform: Members have both parties have stressed they want to simplify the tax code, but a major impasse has prevented progress. Republicans oppose measures that could be characterized as a tax hike. Democrats want to expand current tax breaks such as the earned income tax credit and the child tax credit, but some in the GOP argue these are abused by undocumented workers. Democrats also want to close loopholes for corporations, which Republicans oppose.
Foreign policy and National Security: Cuba, Iran, Iraq and Syria likely will dominate the agenda. Republicans are vowing to push back on Obama’s executive actions to restore diplomatic relations with Cuba but aren’t settled on a strategy yet on how to do it. They also oppose his negotiations with Iran over that nation’s nuclear program and may quickly call a vote on a bipartisan bill to increase sanctions on Iran. That could upset the delicate multinational talks that were recently extended.
Congress is expected to act early in 2015 on a new use of force authorization against ISIS fighters in Iraq and Syria. That debate will focus on how much latitude to give the White House and whether to restrict the use of ground troops as many Democrats want.
IRS/Benghazi: Republican-led investigations will continue into whether the IRS unfairly targeted conservative groups and whether the administration covered up its handling of the Benghazi attacks.
Trade/Infrastructure: Republicans will likely advance trade bills that were opposed by many House and Senate Democrats. New spending for upgrading the nation’s roads and bridges in another area where both parties could cobble together a bipartisan vote. McConnell told CNN in December, “We have certainly a lot of bipartisan interest in the crumbling infrastructure in the country and what to do about it.”
Mike Lee, R-Utah is pushing a measure that would add a Constitutional amendment requiring a balanced federal budget.
House Republicans expand efforts to undo Obama’s amnesty for illegals.
Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky has introduced a bill that would repeal the asinine “gun-free school zones”.
The GOP-controlled House on Tuesday took action that ensures the work of the Select Committee on the investigation into Obama’s Benghazi disaster will continue, possibly well into the 2016 election cycle.
In a 252 to 172 vote, the House voted down ObamaCare’s 30-hour workweek, which required businesses with 50 or more workers to provide coverage to employees who work at least 30 hours in a week. The House adopted a 40-hour week.
Minimum wages increases are riding on the Republican wave. Pundit Emily Ekins explains how it works: ‘A majority are okay with it increases in minimum wages driving up prices. But if it costs jobs, a majority turns against it.’ So far, South Dakota, Arkansas, and Nebraska have voted to increase their minimum wages. Alaska has a pending vote to raise theirs as well.
The data clearly show that hotels around the airport have seen a sharp decline in employment relative to hotels in Los Angeles County overall. Some 12% more people are employed at hotels in the county than in 2007. The increase is apparent not only at hotels in general but within individual hotels, which means the jump cannot be attributed to an increase in the number of hotels elsewhere in the county. But in the airport hotels covered by the law, hotel employment has declined 10%.
As for the seeming disconnect between steadily high room occupancy and fewer jobs, modern large hotels are far more than a place to sleep at night. They offer a variety of restaurants, bars, parking garages, banquet and conference halls and tourist information centers. Anecdotally we have heard that many of these secondary lines of business have been sharply curtailed or eliminated because of the increase in labor costs. If higher wages have made banquets, say, more expensive to hold at airport hotels, it would be no surprise if organizations have decided to hold their banquets elsewhere.
The Boehner saga:
Two of the most powerful members, Boehner alternative Webster and Rep. Richard Nugent (R-FL), were stripped from their slots on the House Rules Committee. Rep. Randy Weber (R-TX) told the press he was retaliated against by having his original cosponsorship of major planned legislation taken away.
……Indeed, as Ferrechio reported in a second piece, for really the first time in history the grassroots aimed to pressure their members of Congress to vote for a Republican alternative to Boehner—in essence making the vote for Speaker of the House, for the first time ever, a key vote.
“It wasn’t the Republican votes against House Speaker John Boehner that truly rattled the GOP leadership, it was the phone calls,” Ferrechio wrote. “There were hundreds of them, jamming the phone lines of the district and Capitol offices of dozens of House GOP lawmakers. The callers were not angry about legislation. Nor were they asking for help with a local matter. They were demanding their representative vote against Boehner Tuesday in his bid to win election to a third term as speaker.”
Hey Boehner, what kind of retaliation are you planning against Republicans like me who supported the effort to kick you out from behind the Speaker’s podium?
Boehner actually made an attempt to show that he has a chin by vowing to take on Obama’s unconstitutional executive amnesty for illegals. Yeah, we’ll see.
Senator Tim Scott (R-S.C.): “While many may be skeptical, and rightfully so given how broken Washington has become,” he said, “Republicans are committed to returning government to the American people.”
Start by honoring the Constitution, Senator. And taking suggestions like these would be a good idea.