Back to Not Working: The Know Nothing Congress

Today the House of Representatives gets back to “work.”  Not that they have much planned, but the Congress critters will be in session, with votes not taken until after 6:30 pm.

The American Jobs Act has been sitting dormant since it was called H.R. 12 back in 2011, and failed to break a Republican filibuster in the U.S. Senate. Rep. Frederika Wilson reintroduced the measure in July 2013. However, this bill will not be considered by the House this week, instead we have:

H.R. 4192, “to amend the Act entitled “An Act to regulate the height of buildings in the District of Columbia” to clarify the rules of the District of Columbia regarding human occupancy of penthouses above the top story of the building upon which the penthouse is placed.” [Cantor]  The National Capitol Planning Commission recommended that no modifications be made the in the Height of Buildings Act of 1910, to preserve the architectural character of the nation’s capital, in the ‘federal city.’ The Commission also recommended that vistas, such as those around the Capitol and the White House should be maintained.  Rep. Darryl Issa (R-Benghazi) wants to amend the statute…. No points will be given for correct guesses as to why the old law should be amended or who wants to change the law.   However, someone wants this, badly enough to have the bill hit Chr. Issa’s committee on March 11, 2014 and be reported out with a do pass recommendation on March 12.

Or, the House of Representatives could take up the Employment Non Discrimination Act.  But then, we’ve known since January that Rep. Boehner had no intention of bringing this legislation up for a vote:

Boehner’s remarks reveal that he will most likely not schedule ENDA, which would provide antidiscrimination protections for LGBT workers nationwide, for a vote on the House floor in 2014. Last April the act had easily passed in the Senate with a vote of 64-32. But in November Boehner voiced his belief that ENDA was “unnecessary.” [Advocate]

OK, if they aren’t going to take up ENDA or the American Jobs Act, how about Comprehensive Immigration Reform?

Nupe, another one of Rep. Issa’s bills H.R. 4194 – The Government Reports Elimination Act, as amended is headed to the floor.  The reports to be eliminated?

The Department of Agriculture’s Unfair Trade Practices Report; the annual report on farmland protection; data collection on peanut production; data compilations related to the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008.  Also eliminated would be reports on the pilot program for beginning farmers and ranchers, and the rural broadband access program.  Nor would we see a quarterly report on the Commodity Credit Corporation. And, Congress would not be interested in a report on Plant Pest and Disease Management or from the Dept. of Agriculture on Export Assistance programs.

The Department of Commerce would no longer file public reports on the TIP activities of the National Institutes of Standards and Technology.  TIP, by the way, is the Technology Innovation Program, the budget for which was slashed in 2012. [FAS pdf] Issue was taken with the TIP program, intended to promote small businesses,  because large corporations were ineligible to receive grants from the Department of Commerce.

The Department of Defense would no longer report on (1) annual budget requirements for air sovereignty alert missions; (2) annual reports on the reliability of DoD financial statements; (3) assistance given to foreign governments to account for missing U.S. service personnel; (4) inclusion of net floor area in requests to build military family housing.

The Department of Education would no longer file a report with Congress (and the public) on impact aid construction justifying discretionary grant awards.

The Department of Energy would no longer report on the Science and Engineering Education pilot project, and the Strategic Unconventional Fuels Development Program.

And here’s a kicker ….

The Environmental Protection Agency would no longer report the Great Lakes Management comprehensive publication pertaining to Section 118(c) 10 of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act.

It’s when we get to the GAO report eliminations that the pattern gets ever more clear — GAO would no longer report: (1) local expenditures for public schools; (2) how ARRA funds were spent by states and localities, (3) there would be no audit of the Help America Vote Act, (4)  there would be no report of the audit of the state small business credit initiative; (5) there would be no audit report of the Small Business Lending Fund program; (6) and no publication of the Housing Assistance Council Financial statement and audit report.  (Another assault on rural America?)

There is also a bit of gamesmanship with the ACA and Patient’s Bill of Rights in the GAO section which deserves individual consideration.

Representative Issa and Company aren’t interested in hearing from the Department of Homeland Security about (1) the importation of foreign products manufactured with dog or cat hair, or (2) the infrastructure for port of entry or land border security plans; or (3) the modernization of the national distress and response system.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development wouldn’t be required to report on the (1) IT spending plan and (2) sole source funding contracts.

The Department of the Interior would not be required to file reports on the Energy Policy Act 2005 42 U.S.C. 15902(e).  And what might we guess are the subjects of 42 U.S.C. 15902(e)Reports of in kind royalties for oil and gas.  What a lovely gift to the oil and gas giants?

The Department of Labor would no longer have to trouble itself about the implementation of the Older Americans Act, those reports would be eliminated, as would be reports on the Andean Trade Preference Act.

The National Intelligence agency wouldn’t have to report on the treaty on conventional armed forces in Europe, reports on commerce with Cuba, the identification of countries of concern about the diversion of certain goods to Iran, and the State Department would no longer have to file reports on non-proliferation in south Asia or Tibet negotiations.

The Department of Transportation would eliminate reports from the Air Traffic Services Committee, they would no longer compile reports summarizing airport finances, nor would the department produce its annual report on pipeline safety information grants to communities.    There would be no more annual reports on pilot programs for financing air traffic control equipment, and no annual reports concerning standards for aircraft engines to reduce noise levels.

The Department of the Treasury would no longer provide the public with information on the North American Development Bank via its annual reports to Congress, and we’d not get reports on voting on international financial institutional loans.  What could possibly go wrong?  Congress would not receive reports on IMF arrangements regarding rates and maturities.   But wait, there’s more from the —

Department of Veterans’ Affairs, which would not provide reports on activities and proposals involving contracting for performance by contractor personnel of work previously performed by Department personnel — translation: If the outsourcing or privatization of Department activities isn’t working we’re not going to know about it because the Department isn’t required to report to Congress about it?  Nor will we know about procurement of medical and health care items for veterans, nor about nurse staffing levels, nor about how well the VA is doing in terms of retaining experienced nurses and other personnel.

In short, what H.R. 4194 offers is a legislative branch in willful ignorance. There’s are reasons Congresses in the past have required departmental reporting — to facilitate auditing, to guarantee performance, to assure the proper allocation of funds, to promote compliance — all which are negated by the provisions of H.R. 4194.

No ENDA, no Comprehensive Immigration Reform, no American Jobs Act…. but Congress appears to have plenty of time to consider making itself even  less well informed.  And, because most of these reports are made available to journalists and the public — the rest of us too.

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