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Blogger/Editor/Founder: Bill Smith, Ph.D. [aka: OzarkGuru & 2010 AFP National Blogger of the Year]
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One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors. -- Plato (429-347 BC)

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Congressional Leaders Will Fight For Religious Freedom

Today in Washington, D.C. - Feb. 8, 2011:
Yesterday the House passed (239 - 181) House Resolution 539 - Providing for consideration of the bill (H.R. 3581) to amend the Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit Control Act of 1985 to increase transparency in Federal budgeting.
The House passed (259-164) HR 1734 - Civilian Property Realignment Act - to sell and consolidate federal civilian properties.
HR 3581 failed to pass (190-238) Amendment to the the Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit Control Act of 1985 - Budget transparency and accounting - Democrats voted for and Republicans voted against this bill.

The Senate is not in session today because Democrats are holding their annual retreat. Tomorrow, the Senate will reconvene and in the afternoon vote on cloture on the motion to proceed to S. 1813, the highway bill.

House News: Speaker John Boehner identified today how the U.S House Will act to "Reverse Obama Administration Attack on Religious Freedom:"
“In recent days, Americans of every faith and political persuasion have mobilized in objection to a rule put forward by the Obama Administration that constitutes an unambiguous attack on religious freedom in our country.  This rule would require faith-based employers – including Catholic charities, schools, universities, and hospitals – to provide services they believe are immoral. Those services include sterilization, abortion-inducing drugs and devices, and contraception.

“In imposing this requirement, the federal government has drifted dangerously beyond its constitutional boundaries, encroaching on religious freedom in a manner that affects millions of Americans and harms some of our nation’s most vital institutions.

If the president does not reverse the Department’s attack on religious freedom, then the Congress, acting on behalf of the American people and the Constitution we are sworn to uphold and defend, must. The House will approach this matter fairly and deliberately, through regular order and the appropriate legislative channels.

“Because it has primary jurisdiction on the issues involved, the Energy & Commerce Committee is taking the lead on the legislative process that will be necessary to enact an effective and appropriate solution. Chairman Upton convened a hearing last year and began laying the groundwork for legislative action when this flawed rule was first proposed. I welcome his efforts to consider all possible options as his committee proceeds with its work.

“This attack by the federal government on religious freedom in our country must not stand, and will not stand.”
A few days ago, the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee approved (29-24) and sent to the floor HR 7 - the American Energy & Infrastructure Jobs Act Approved by Committee. The House is expected to take up the bill this month. Committee Chairman John L. Mica (R-FL) said, “No other bill this Congress will create jobs, lower energy costs or improve our deteriorating infrastructure as effectively as this legislation."

However, a noteworthy point in the bill is that H.R. 7 has no earmarks. In addition to having no earmarks, H.R. 7 eliminates or consolidates nearly 70 duplicative transportation programs. The bill reforms the process from top to bottom: no earmarks and no ‘stimulus’ spending, only pro-growth reforms that link expanded energy production to infrastructure repair and cut through red tape to ensure taxpayer resources are used wisely and efficiently.

Still, House Democrats continue to chafe at the lack of earmarks in the bill, and it is perhaps one reason why many of them oppose it. Politico identified that longtime House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee member Rep. Jerry Costello (D-IL) said, “We’ve never done this on the transportation bill. There’s always been earmarks.” Politico also noted the feeling of other established congressional veterans who believe "the earmark ban means a highway bill won’t generate the same excitement. If lawmakers can’t have that photo op next to the project they funded, what’s the point?"

Speaker Boehner today addressed H.R. 7 in a statement to the media. The Speaker said, " in addition to having no earmarks, eliminates or consolidates nearly 70 duplicative transportation programs and removes government barriers to job creation."

This pro-growth approach is “markedly different” from infrastructure bills written in the past by leaders in both parties, who stuffed highway bills with earmarks, many of which siphoned off resources from high-priority projects. In 2005, a Republican-led Congress passed a federal highway bill containing more than 6,300 earmarks. Speaker Boehner was one of eight lawmakers to vote against the bill. “Every few years we go through the same inefficient, top-down approach that we're going through now, and how do taxpayers and drivers benefit? We really don't,” Boehner said at the time. “This process is clearly broken.

Republicans’ “focus on curbing government spending has transformed the discussion on transportation over the last year,” National Journal reports. “Earmarks, which once drove the entire surface transportation authorization process, are now a thing of the past.”

Senate News: Politico writes today, “Senate Republicans late Tuesday stepped up their assault on the White House’s politically volatile contraceptive coverage mandate, vowing to find some way of striking it if the administration didn’t roll back the rules itself. Using unusually strong language in a floor speech, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell called the new policy ‘abhorrent’ and said the administration had crossed a ‘dangerous line’ with its decision to require employers to offer birth control for free as a preventive health benefit in health plans, a decision that was part of the implementation of the 2010 health care reform law. . . . ‘Make no mistake: The Obama administration’s decision to force religious hospitals, charities and schools to comply with a mandate that violates their religious views is abhorrent to the foundational principles of our nation,’ McConnell said. ‘No one in the United States of America should ever be compelled by their government to choose between violating their religious beliefs or be penalized for refusing.’”

Another Politico piece notes, “Led by Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), senators have blasted the contraception ruling in floor speeches, at news conferences and in letters to top administration officials.” And CBS News adds, “Republicans are keeping up the pressure on the Obama administration to walk back its new rule on birth control coverage, with Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell warning today, ‘If they don't, Congress will act.’”

In a The Wall Street Journaleditorial today, looks beyond the mandate itself, and pointed to the underlying problems of Obamacare. “The political furor over President Obama's birth-control mandate continues to grow, even among those for whom contraception poses no moral qualms, and one needn't be a theologian to understand why. The country is being exposed to the raw political control that is the core of the Obama health-care plan, and Americans are seeing clearly for the first time how this will violate pluralism and liberty.”

The WSJ editors write, “The Affordable Care Act itself is ambiguous about what counts as a religious organization that deserves conscience protection. Like so much else in the rushed bill, this was left to administrative discretion. What the law does cement is the principle that the government will decide for everyone what ‘health care’ must mean. The entire thrust of ObamaCare is to standardize benefits and how they must be paid for and provided, regardless of individual choices or ethical convictions. To take a small example: The HHS rule prohibits out-of-pocket costs for birth control, simply because Secretary Kathleen Sebelius's regulators believe no woman should have to pay anything for it. To take a larger example: The Obama Administration's legal defense of the mandate to buy insurance or else pay a penalty is that the mere fact of being alive gives the government the right to regulate all Americans at every point in their lives. Practicing this kind of compulsion is routine and noncontroversial within Ms. Sebelius's ministry. That may explain why her staff didn't notice that the birth-control rule abridges the First Amendment's protections for religious freedom. Then again, maybe HHS thought the public had become inured to such edicts, which have arrived every few weeks since the Affordable Care Act passed. Bad call.”

Senate GOP Leader McConnell responded yesterday, [T]his [HHS] ruling should send a chill up the spine of people of all religious faiths — and even those with none at all. Because if the state is allowed to violate the religious rights of one religion, then surely it can violate those of others. If the rights of some are not protected, the rights of all are in danger. Isn’t that what history clearly teaches? Isn’t that what the Constitution is all about? The Obama administration has crossed a dangerous line.”

He continued, “The Founders knew that the right of religious belief is inviolable. They gave this God-given right the pride of place they knew it deserved so that Americans would never have reason to fear its loss. Unfortunately, because of the actions of this Administration Americans now do. This is a huge mistake that I hope the administration is currently reconsidering. And if they don’t, Congress will act. The First Amendment rights of the American people must be protected.”

Tags: US Senate, US House, religious freedom, no earmarks, To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". Please mention / link to the ARRA News Service. Thanks!
Posted by Bill Smith at 12:58 PM - Post Link


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