House of Representatives' RSC Weekly Update
Weekly Wrap Up
Violence Against Women Act Reauthorization — On Wednesday, the House approved H.R. 4970, the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act (VAWA) of 2012, by a vote of 222-205. The bill reauthorizes funding for VAWA grant programs for five years, and would authorize $660 million in funding per year to help prevent domestic violence and protect victims of abuse. In addition, the bill also streamlines and consolidates some grants for maximum benefit; increases resources for sexual assault investigations, prosecutions, and victim services; increases penalties for sexual assault, sexual abuse, and stalking; promotes educational awareness to prevent violence and improve services for young victims; improves emergency and transitional housing services for victims; and enhances immigration laws to protect victims of violence. Some conservatives, though, continue to express concern about the cost of this reauthorization, the effectiveness of many VAWA programs, and the duplication of many efforts already being supported by state and local governments. Some also point out the history of VAWA programs and agencies being used to fund and further liberal causes.
National Defense Authorization Act — Today, the House approved H.R. 4310, the FY2013 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), by a vote of 299-120. The bill would authorize appropriations for the Department of Defense (DoD) and for the national security programs of the Department of Energy (DoE) for Fiscal Year 2013. This authorization is intended to enhance national security through the procurement of materiel, the modernization of the Armed Forces, and continued funding for overseas contingency operations (OCO). H.R. 4310 would authorize a total discretionary budget authority of $637 billion for FY2013 ($3.6 billion above the President’s FY2013 budget request) for programs within the jurisdiction of the Armed Services Committee. Of this amount, $546.8 billion is for “base” DoD programs (representing a $0.2 billion decrease below the levels provided for in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012 [P.L. 112–81]), including $18.1 billion for Department of Energy national security programs and the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board, and $88.5 billion for wartime requirements. Among other items, the bill would provide funds to modernize three guided missile cruisers scheduled to be retired before the end of their service life; would preserve tactical airlift critical to the ability of the United States to project power, such as C-130 Hercules and C-27J Spartan aircraft proposed for early retirement; and would ease strain on the heavily stressed military by slowing the pace of the Obama administration’s end-strength reductions. In addition, an amendment offered by Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-SC) and Chairman Jordan that would prohibit any funding for the Law of the Sea Treaty, if approved by the Senate, passed 229-193.
The Week Ahead
The House will be out of session next week in observance of Memorial Day. Possible items when we get back include the Intelligence Authorization bill and the Military Construction/Veterans Affairs Appropriations bill.
You might also be interested in some of the work of the various caucuses and task forces within the Republican Study Committee that highlight conservative activity and news in the House every week, including:
Budget and Spending Task Force – A weekly roundup of budget and spending news in the House from a conservative perspective.
Money Monitor – The only document that tracks the cost of bills as the pass the House.
National Security Working Group – Periodic updates on national security and defense issues in the House from a conservative perspective.
Financial Services Working Group – Provides conservative analysis of financial services issues, including Dodd Frank, GSE’s, and the Fed.
10th Amendment Task Force – Highlights legislation and initiatives that moves power out of Washington and back to the states.
Repeal Task Force – A weekly bill is highlighted that repeals an entire law (ie. Obamacare, Dodd Frank, Davis Bacon).
Sunset Caucus – A weekly bill is highlighted that sunsets a federal program or agency.
Questionable Constitutional Authority Statement of the Week
Each week, the RSC will be highlighting a bill that uses questionable constitutional justification in its authority statement. Please find the bill we highlighted this week below.
· Bill: H.R. 3530, the Freddie Mac Debt Reduction Act
· Introduced by: Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO)
· Constitutional Authority Statement: “Clause 1 of Article VI of the United States Constitution”
Why this is an inadequate explanation: The clause referenced by this statement simply reads “All Debts contracted and Engagements entered into, before the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be as valid against the United States under this Constitution, as under the Confederation.” To the extent that this clause deals with federally related debts, it only applies to debts which existed before the Constitution was adopted. As Freddie Mac was established approximately 180 years too late to even qualify for consideration, it is unlikely that this clause bestows appropriate Constitutional justification for legislation related to the debts of Freddie Mac. There is no justification included in the statement explaining the choice of clause to explain this apparent oversight. The other potential explanation for this choice would be that the word ‘debts’ appears in this clause, as it does in the bill in question. However, merely because a clause in the Constitution deals with ‘debts’ does not mean that Congress has the authority to pass anything and everything either directly or tangentially having to do with all federally-related debts.
How to fix this statement: A better Constitutional Authority Statement would be based on a serious and considerate reading of the Constitution itself. In this case, a good statement would identify at least one clause of justification which actually applies to the issue in question, and then plainly explain why this clause grants the Congress the power to pass this specific bill.
**Disclaimer: The RSC does not necessarily support or oppose the bills listed in these weekly emails; rather, the bills are selected strictly based on the structure and seriousness of their Constitutional Authority Statements.**
-To read the current House Rule on Constitutional Authority Statements, click here, and find Rule XII, Section 7(c).
-The Heritage Foundation has created an online guide to the Constitution, which provides an explanation and discussion of every clause. To see this online guide, go here.
-To see previous “Questionable Constitutional Authority Statements,” go here.