Commuting to Congress: Episode 9

Congressman John Sarbanes recaps the week of May 5, 2014. He discusses the House leadership’s continued focus on the IRS and the establishment of a select committee to further investigate the terrorist attack in Benghazi. He also focuses on the bipartisan bill regarding charter school funding, the Supreme Court ruling regarding legislative prayers, the White House’s report regarding climate change, and testimony he heard regarding ACA premiums being paid.


This is Congressman John Sarbanes telling you what happened on the House floor in Congress the week of Monday May 5th, 2014.

We did a few things, not a whole lot that was constructive unfortunately. The House Republican leadership continues to beat on the issue of the IRS supported targeting of conservative non-profit groups.  They won’t let that go, even though the evidence suggests there was no witch-hunt underway. That there might have been some clumsiness going on there at the IRS, but there was no dedicated program to try and single out conservative nonprofit groups when it came to grants tax-exempt status. This is just a case of them I think wanting to get political points with some in their party. That also included putting through a resolution that would find Lois Lerner in contempt of Congress because she took the 5th Amendment, as she has a right to do, in the oversight committee. But it’s all part of the same messaging that somehow there is something to hide here. Two of these things were put forward I voted against both of them because I think it’s politics I don’t think it makes senses and frankly I think most Americans are tired of hearing about it. In that vein this week we also had a vote on establishing a select committee to further investigate the terrorist attack in Benghazi in 2012, this has gotten so much air time, so much play I don’t think there is a whole lot here additionally that needs to be known or learned. But it’s again a topic that the Republican majority in the House wants to pursue, and they are very focused on what talking points were used on Sunday morning talk shows, instead of moving past that and just thinking about, well how can we make sure that next time the security situation is improved. So I voted against that because again I thought that setting up this special committee doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. The question now is should democrats participate in it, is it going to be done in a serious fashion, we will have to see how that goes forward. So those were some proposals that didn’t make a whole lot of sense to me. There was a bipartisan bill that we passed that had to do with charter schools providing funding over the next 5 years for quality public charter schools across the country with certain accountability provisions in place. I did vote for that I think it makes sense and a majority of Republicans and Democrats did the same. A couple of other things, that we addressed in this past week, in our committee we had some energy items we looked at some provisions or bills relating to domain names, things of that nature. I do want to note that aside from what happened in Congress the Supreme Court allowed legislative prayers in cases were there is explicitly Christian prayers, I have some concern about that  in terms of the line between Church and State and except to hear more in that debate as time goes on. The White House released a report from a scientific panel that showed that climate change is already having major effects and that we can point to some of these violent weather instances as examples of that. And we also had testimony in the Energy & Commerce Committee where I serve, that 80-90% of that premiums that need to be paid for people who are signing up under the new Affordable Care Act exchanges have been paid and that’s a good trend.

These are some of the things that we addressed during the week of May 5th, and I will be back when we are back in session to give you an update of our work on the House floor. Take Care.