House Republicans plan to hold a series of votes this summer on bills designed to curtail the Obama administration’s health-care law, rising gas prices and any last-minute attempt by President Obama to make regulatory changes — if he loses the White House.
Most of the bills have no chance of consideration in the Democratic-controlled Senate, but should provide GOP lawmakers with fresh campaign-trail fodder as they prepare to return home to run for reelection.
Forgive the analogy, but with baseball season in full swing, the proposed schedule suggests the House is set to hit a series of singles and doubles in the next two months — no home runs and nothing terribly controversial. Just enough to generate support among conservative supporters and independent voters disillusioned with Obama to help House Republicans make it across the finish line and sustain a majority after the November elections.
In an overt nod to the party’s base and the sustained popularity of Rep. Ron Paul (R-Tex.), Republican leaders even have promised an up or down vote in July on Paul’s proposal to audit the Federal Reserve — an effort sure to score points for GOP lawmakers among ardent tea party supporters.
“Above all,” Cantor wrote to his colleagues late last week, “we must continue to focus on economic growth and small business — producing results that get Americans back to work.”
But several of the measures could spur job cuts, if enacted. A bill set for consideration by the House before the August recess would revamp the finances of the struggling U.S. Postal Service and permit the mail agency to eliminate more than 100,000 positions in the coming years through buyouts, early retirements and layoffs, if labor union contracts are renegotiated. And a series of appropriations bills set for votes this summer would cut thousands of well-paying, highly skilled federal jobs.
As lawmakers return this week from a week-long Memorial Day recess, the House plans to vote on its version of a bill to reshape how the Food and Drug Administration assures the safety of the drug supply and reviews new drugs and medical products. (The Senate passed its version of the bill last week, and Cantor said in his memo that he expects conference negotiations on the bipartisan measure to conclude by July 4.)
Next week, the House plans votes on two bills that would chip away at parts of the health-care law just days before the Supreme Court is set to rule on its constitutionality. A bill by Rep. Erik Paulsen (R-Minn.) would repeal a tax on medical devices meant to help fund the law’s reforms, and another by Rep. Lynn Jenkins (R-Ky.) would repeal a ban on the use of health savings accounts and flexible spending accounts to purchase over-the-counter medication. Left unsaid is what House Republicans might do if the Supreme Court invalidates all or part of the health-care law. Cantor said in his memo that the House is “prepared to move forward to ensure that the whole unworkable law is fully repealed,” but didn’t list any specific proposals.
Hoping to score points at the height of the summer vacation season, House lawmakers are slated to vote in late June and early July on bills designed to make it easier for energy companies to identify and extract oil and natural gas, and for the federal government to sell or swap land to be used for energy production. Expect to hear renewed talk of approving the Keystone XL pipeline.
Republicans plan to shift in July to bills they say would make it easier for businesses to hire new workers by making it virtually impossible for the federal government to set any new regulations. There’s a bill by Rep. Tim Griffin (R-Ark.) that would bar federal agencies from taking “any significant regulatory action” until the unemployment rate reaches or drops below 6 percent. Another measure, by Rep. Ben Quayle (R-Ariz.), would limit an agency’s ability to settle lawsuits by agreeing to establish new regulations. Expect swift passage of a bipartisan bill backed by Reps. Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.) and Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) that would amend a law that forced federal law enforcement agents to raid the offices of Gibson Guitar because the firm was using illegally imported timber in its guitars. (Tennessee lawmakers — and their Republican colleagues — seized on the case as an example of federal overreach.)
Finally, a bill by Rep. Reid Ribble (R-Wis.) would bar federal agencies from drafting any regulatory changes in the final months of Obama’s term if he loses to Mitt Romney. Members of both parties have long decried the practice of enacting “midnight regulations” in the final weeks of a presidency — Democrats blasted George W. Bush for approving some in late 2008, and GOP leaders last month asked the Obama White House to avoid the practice if the president loses in November.
Despite Cantor’s promised focus on jobs, Nadeam Elshami, a spokesman for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), said the schedule outlines “an agenda that fails to address jobs” and fails to include a vote on a proposal to extend tax cuts to middle-class Americans.
Also notably absent from Cantor’s schedule is mention of legislation to extend low interest rates on federally subsidized student loans — a key priority for Obama and congressional Democrats, who have used the issue to rally younger voters — and mention of plans to pass a federal highway bill — a key priority of House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio).
But Cantor aides said that both issues likely will come up, most probably in the form of “stop-gap measures” set for passage at the end of June.
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