Senator Lankford Releases “Federal Fumbles: 100 Ways the Government Dropped the Ball”

By Russ Phillips
11/30/15

U.S. Senator James Lankford (R-OK) released his first government waste and solutions report, “Federal Fumbles: 100 Ways the Government Dropped the Ball,” on November 30, 2015.

A several page excerpt of the document, including the Table of Contents with the 100 “fumbles” and “A $43 Million Gas Station” as one of the “fumbles” is here

The entire 145 page document is here.

What you need to know about state and federal gas taxes

The main source of transportation funding — federal and state gas taxes — has not kept up with the need IndyStar.com By Maureen Groppe, Star Washington Bureau 9/7/15 WASHINGTON – Federal and state policymakers haven’t figured out how to deal with the fact that the main source of transportation funding — federal and state gas taxes — has not kept up with the need. The details: What is the federal gas tax? The federal government imposes an 18.4 cents-per-gallon tax on gasoline and a 24.4 cents-per-gallon tax on diesel fuel. … Continue reading

My phone call from “Citizens for a Nuclear Free Iran”

By Russ Phillips

Yesterday I received a phone call from “Citizens for a Nuclear Free Iran” (CNFI) and was asked, “Do you trust Iran to live up to the agreement?”

The caller said he would report my answer to my Senator, Kirsten Gillibrand (NY) and then corrected himself and said Senator Joe Donnelly (IN). He did not mention Senator Dan Coats (IN), I assume, because he has already announced his opposition to the Iran Deal. I informed the caller I was very familiar with contacting my congressman and would register my sentiments directly to them.

Instead of answering the question, I asked several of my own. I wanted to know more about this advocacy group. After several of my questions the caller ended the conversation, still without my answer.

To help me be more informed about the issues on this topic I began some online research.

CNFI is “…dedicated to preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapons capability.” (Source)

 Evan Bayh, previously governor of Indiana and served two terms in the U.S. Senate, serves on the CNFI Advisory Board. (Source)

A recent Washington Post article, “Anti-Iran deal groups firing on all cylinders in massive lobbying push,” helps to understand the effort underway to undermine the Iran Deal.

The Historic Deal that Will Prevent Iran from Acquiring A Nuclear Weapon,” as presented by the White House and including a video (4:37) by President Obama addresses some of the most common criticisms of the Iran Deal.

For anyone seriously interested in this matter this is just a start. Best wishes in your journey of discovery.

Here’s a fix for highways

The Rochester Sentinel By Patrick J. Toomey, U.S. Sen., R-Penn and Dan Coats U.S. Sen., R-Ind. 7/17/15 Voice of the People Every day, American families get in their vehicles and drive. Whether it’s dropping the kids off at school, commuting to work or going to the supermarket, we rely on our highways, bridges and roads to get us where we need to go. But can our transportation infrastructure rely on Washington? A substantial percentage of each state’s transportation budget relies on money from the federal Highway Trust Fund. This fund is financed … Continue reading

Sen. Coats criticizes claims about phone data collection, changes to program

(How did your Senators and Representative vote on the USA Freedom Act, i.e. government surveillance? Find it here.) Under changes, phone companies would collect and retain phone surveillance data, and the National Security Agency would have to get court approval to access it. IndyStar.com Washington Bureau By Maureen Groppe 6/2/15 WASHINGTON — A visibly frustrated Sen. Dan Coats railed this week against what he called blatantly false statements by a member of his own party that threaten the federal government’s surveillance powers. The result of the misinformation campaign, Coats said, … Continue reading

GOP senators tear into (Sen. Rand) Paul

One fellow Republican (Sen. Dan Coats) accuses him of ‘lying’ about government surveillance to get more campaign donations.

Politico.com
By Manu Raju and Burgess Everett
5/31/15

The Rand Paul pile-on session began a few hours before sunset Sunday evening.

Behind closed doors in the Senate’s Strom Thurmond Room, Republican senators lashed out at the junior Kentucky Republican’s defiant stance to force the expiration of key sections of the PATRIOT Act, a law virtually all of them support. Indiana Sen. Dan Coats’ criticism was perhaps the most biting: He accused the senator of “lying” about the matter in order to raise money for his presidential campaign, according to three people who attended the meeting.

The message may have gotten through to Paul except for one thing: The libertarian-minded senator skipped the hour-long meeting. That only infuriated his colleagues more.

“Anything that goes against anything he believes, he never comes,” Coats said in an interview. “It’s always helpful if you’re in there working to have your position understood, and we all learn a lot and we all try to come to a much better understanding of what we’re trying to do.”…
Continue reading

Town Hall Meetings: When did your congressman last hold one?

By Russ Phillips

My Congresswoman (Jackie Walorski), in her second term, has not held a town hall meeting, thus far. She does meet with special interest groups as well as with businesses and industries and does regularly appear on a local radio show. However, she has not held a town hall meeting where any citizen is welcome to attend and engage her in conversation. This is most unfortunate.

In a previous article it was pointed out that the House will be in recess for eighteen weeks – yes, 18 – during this year and the Senate for thirteen weeks – yes, 13. And this does not account for individual Mondays and Fridays when sometimes they are not in session. Yet, my Congresswoman has not held even one town hall meeting.

My Congresswoman has recently announced she will be running for a third term. However, she has not announced any plans to hold a town hall meeting.

Recently I ran across the following article:

Congress out of session does not mean it isn’t working

The Government Affairs Institute at Georgetown University
By Josh Huder (Senior Fellow at the Government Affairs Institute)

The Fix blog at the Washington Post has an article arguing that since 1978, Congress has only worked a full week 14% of the time. This is a common—and extraordinarily misleading– jab at Congress. While it is easy to criticize an institution that frequently makes itself an easy target, it’s a disservice that unnecessarily undermines trust in government.

First, it oversimplifies lawmakers’ jobs. Members of Congress really have two jobs: represent their constituents and govern. These responsibilities do not always go hand in hand. Representing constituents means speaking with them in person, holding town hall meetings, organizing rallies, attending to casework, and otherwise being present in the district or state they represent. This is not easily done from a Washington office. Supporting or opposing legislation is an important part of a Member’s job. However, it does not come close to capturing Members’ range of responsibilities. This is why even when Congress is out of session, Members are at work. Most Members of Congress work a 5-6 day week. The representative aspect of Congress’s job is almost completely ignored in these statistics.

Second, the chambers rarely work in concert. The article concludes on this note: “It is hard to escape the implications of Friday being the weekday on which the House and Senate are least commonly in session.” Actually, both chambers do not need to be in session at the same time. It is not a requirement to legislate nor are the chambers routinely working on the same issues.

The House and Senate are independent, uncoordinated bodies. They work on different issues at different times and most often do not coordinate their schedules. For example, last Thursday (September 18th) the Senate passed 19 bills on its final work day of the week. Among the bills it passed were the Debbie Smith Re-authorization Act (H.R. 4323), Paul D. Wellstone Muscular Dystrophy Amendments (H.R. 594), and the Prevent Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act (H.R. 4980). Those bills passed the House on April 7th, July 28th, and July 23rd, respectively. The House did not need to be in session for those bills to pass the Senate, then go to the President. The only time the two chambers need to be in session at the same time is if there is a pending deadline Congress needs to meet (e.g. the debt ceiling, avoiding government shutdown, etc). Otherwise, being in Washington at the same time is not a prerequisite to enacting laws.

Lastly, there is no evidence to suggest more legislative days lead to more legislation. The 111th Congress was in session fewer days than the 112th Congress. Having fewer legislative days did not prevent the 111th Congress from being among the most successful in congressional history while the 112th Congress was the least productive since the Civil War. Similarly, the Senate has often worked more days than the House. However, the Senate routinely passes fewer bills than the lower chamber. It is in session longer because its legislative process requires more time for bills and motions to move through the legislative process.

Congress has a lot of problems. Being in session at the same time or holding longer work weeks isn’t one of them. The 113th Congress has been extraordinarily unproductive, but fewer days in session have little to do with that.

(Did you note in the above article, “Representing constituents means…holding town hall meetings…”? BTW, do your Congressmen and Senators hold town hall meetings? – Admin)

(Indiana) Sen. Dan Coats not running for reelection

The Washington Post By Sean Sullivan 3/24/15 Updated at 12:35 p.m. Sen. Dan Coats (R-Ind.) said Tuesday he will not run for reelection in 2016, a move that could potentially trigger a competitive open-seat race that could become a factor in the battle for the Senate majority. Many political observers expected Coats to seriously consider retiring, so his decision did not come as a complete surprise. In a statement, Coats said he made a difficult but necessary choice. “Today I am announcing that I will not seek reelection to the … Continue reading

Rep. Walorski Opposes Funding Homeland Security, Senators Coats and Donnelly Support

By Russ Phillips
3/5/15

Yesterday President Obama signed into law the Homeland Security Appropriations Act,
2015 that had been approved by the House and Senate in recent days. Indiana’s Rep. Jackie Walorski voted to oppose the Act while Indiana Senators Dan Coats and Joe Donnelly supported the Act.

An explanation of Walorski’s vote was not found on her website. However, a Walorski staff member stated today, “The Congresswoman had hoped that a solution could be reached, the Senate again played politics with our country’s national security. Yesterday, Harry Reid and Senate Democrats blocked a vote to allow a bill, that would fund the Dept. of Homeland Security and hold the president accountable for his abuse of executive power, to go to conference and reach a workable solution. After careful consideration, she decided that she could not support the Senate passed bill  – a measure that did not halt funding for President Obama’s executive amnesty.”

Neither was a statement found on Donnelly’s website regarding his vote.

Coat’s website does include a statement about his vote.

The vote of all members of Congress will be found here.

Rep. Stutzman sends our message to feeble leadership

The Pharos-Tribune
Brian Howey
The Howey Report
1/11/15

INDIANAPOLIS — On the day after he was one of 25 Republicans to vote against the reelection of U.S. House Speaker John Boehner, the Politico reported that “particular ire was directed at U.S. Rep. Marlin Stutzman,” who was a leading instigator of the attempted coup.

Many see Stutzman as a Republican on the Tea Party fringe, steadily working his way toward the back bench. Ultimately, this may be the case.

But what I see in Stutzman is someone who had the guts to make a declarative statement that the status quo in Congress is utterly unacceptable. It is something the American people have been telling pollsters for years now. If you take a recent best case scenario, NBC/Wall Street Journal put Congressional approval/disapproval at 16/78 percent last month. Fox News had it at 14/80 percent. The National Journal had it at 9/80 percent last autumn.

The 113th Congress passed only 234 laws, the lowest in history. Another count by Politico had 296 laws passing, with 212 of them described as “substantive” while 84 were categorized as ceremonial. This Congress shut down for 16 days, with Stutzman a leading proponent. The House was only in session 147 days, and the Senate 141 days, or about 40 percent of the time. Some 94.6 percent of incumbents were reelected on Nov. 4. Since 1964, it’s never dipped below 82 percent in the House, and only during the Reagan landslide of 1980 has it gone below 60 percent in the Senate.

Even though the states have been begging Congress to fulfill its duty and bring about comprehensive immigration reform, this Congress kicked that big, stinkin’ can down the road.

Stutzman explained his vote against Boehner, saying, “In my years of service as a state and federal legislator, I’ve been honored to consistently support the leadership of my party because of their commitment to conservative principles. The parliamentary procedures of the U.S. House of Representatives are a proven framework for respectful thought and dialogue as the best means to guide proposed laws through a meticulous legislative process.”

“One month after winning the 2014 midterm elections, the current House leadership forced members to vote on the ‘CROmnibus’ legislation less than three days after it was introduced, a violation of the spirit of the House of Representatives ‘three-day rule’ before voting on bills,” Stutzman explained. “Legislation that contains almost 1,700 pages of legal language deserves the time and attention required to comprehend its content before bringing it to the floor for a vote. Recorded votes that break our own rules are no better than ‘passing a bill so we can find out what’s in it.’ It is a dangerous practice that consistently results in laws that are detrimental for the American people. This type of disregard for regular order and other similar actions will not do anything to build the trust of the American people. We can and must do better.”

Sometimes it’s worth noting that a member on the outlier can actually be absolved by history. Then U.S. Rep. Mike Pence was a lonely Republican vote against No Child Left Behind, a popular bill that was based on a ridiculous premise, as history as proven. Then U.S. Rep. John Hostettler was the lone Hoosier Republican to vote against the 2002 Iraq War Resolution, has none of the blood on his hands in what has proven to be nothing less than an American disaster.

Stutzman is not the only Hoosier member to publicly complain about this process. An exasperated U.S. Sen. Dan Coats explained last month, “One of Congress’ primary duties is to fund the federal government, but under the management of Harry Reid, the Senate has consistently ignored important spending decisions until literally the last minute. This forces senators to vote on large bills that fund the entire government, but inevitably include many items I do not support. The bill that the House sent to the Senate bill does, however, make positive changes for Hoosier families. Reforms include cutting the EPA budget by $60 million and the IRS budget by $345 million, prohibiting an EPA regulation opposed by Indiana farmers and blocking any new funding to implement Obamacare. Republicans will govern not only more conservatively, but also more responsibly, when we take control of the Senate in January.”

To Coats, the Reid era Senate was “dysfunctional.”

The question Hoosiers should keep in mind is with such a dismal performance record, why is Stutzman the only member to come to the conclusion that the problem lies at the top, with long-entrenched leadership, as opposed to the back bench? Since 1899, only one House Majority Leader (Eric Cantor) was defeated in a primary election and that came last spring. It isn’t a stretch to say that Cantor might be our little yellow canary.

Stutzman added, “The American system of government is based on the idea that ultimate power lies in the people, not the federal government. Our elected officers at all levels of government must be accountable to the rules and structures that have been established as a proven means of governing with integrity. Congress should not be the exception, but the example of such rule of law.”

Virtually all Hoosier House members sit in safe districts. They all have huge campaign war chests stored to discourage challengers. All breezed to reelection last November with comfortable to overwhelming pluralities.

But 2016 will be a vastly different beast than 2014. Six of the seven Republicans invested in leadership this week that has done virtually nothing to deserve the trust of the people. The people are consistently saying that they want lawmakers to work across the aisle, compromise, and deal with the nation’s many challenges. Hoosier members who voted for leadership would be wise to press them internally to get to work, and deal with the needs of the people. Within two years, complacency could be replaced with pikes and pitchforks.

Brian Howey, a Peru native, is the publisher of The Howey Political Report. He can be reached at www.howeypolitics.com. Find him on Twitter @hwypol.