Leave and Learn: Senate Heads Home to Regroup

Leave and Learn: Senate Heads Home to Regroup

August 04, 2017

The Senate only had one working day left -- and they made the most of it. After months of sandbagging President Trump's nominees, Democrats finally agreed to cooperate on an up-or-down vote for dozens of appointees. "Democrats made it their goal in life to obstruct everything that we tried to do," said a frustrated Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas). And they proved it, suddenly agreeing to move every appointee by voice vote -- meaning they had no objections.

Their sudden spirit of cooperation was part of the deal Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) struck in exchange for turning out the lights on an unusually long summer session. The trade turned out to be a good one for Republicans, who cranked through more than 60 appointees -- most for key administration posts that have sat empty for the better part of six months. Like other agencies, the State Department had been in a holding pattern while Democrats stalled on a number of important hires -- including a full slate of ambassadors. Now, in a step forward, HR directors from the CIA to FCC will be busily adding new staff to the government directory.

For McConnell, who'd hoped to go home with a major legislative victory under his belt by repealing Obamacare, Thursday's progress helped eased the sting. "The Senate has confirmed more Executive Branch nominees this week than all of the Executive Branch nominees confirmed this year combined," he pointed out. "This was an important step towards filling critical roles throughout the administration, including the deputies at multiple cabinet offices who had been lacking these key positions. Moving forward, I hope this agreement represents the way forward on confirming nominees so our government can be fully staffed and working for the American people."

While Republicans filled a number of jobs, they leave town wondering about their own. Back on their home turf, few will be eager to face voters and explain what happened on the repeal. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), who voted to keep Obamacare, will have more than her share of explaining to do in a state where premiums are 203 percent higher since 2013. After she helped sink the bill that would have delivered on seven years of GOP promises, Murkowski desperately tried to turn the page on her role in July's disappointment. "I think we can spend time thinking about what didn't happen," she told reporters. "[But] I don't have enough hours in my day to do that. I'm just focused on what we're going to be doing going forward."

Georgia's David Perdue (R) knew who to blame -- but insists the debate is far from over. "We had three chairmen who went rogue on the Republican caucus and cost us this vote," he said. "That's a problem. We spent a lot of energy on that. And we're not done yet." Before members fanned out across the country, Senator Dean Heller (R-Nev.) -- who was a longtime health care holdout -- hinted at the growing support for a new replacement plan from Senators Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Bill Cassidy (R-La.). That effort will largely be on hold until September 5, when the Senate reconvenes.

Until then, Republicans will have a chance to clear their heads before an even crazier Fall of debt ceiling deadlines, budget debates, tax reform, fiscal year-end budgets, and the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). With so much on the line, McConnell knows his party has plenty of opportunities to redeem itself. As far as Senator Tim Scott (R-S.C.) is concerned, it's not a matter of the Senate dragging its feet. After all, Republicans just delivered on a fifth federal judge -- officially putting Trump on a faster pace than Presidents Obama or George Bush. By a 66-31 vote (which included 16 Democrats' support), Alabama's Kevin Newsom was confirmed to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.

That's just one of the reasons Senator Scott believes the chamber "has had one of the busier legislative years. We just haven't had a successful year as it relates to the large items." Those "large items" will still be waiting when the Senate reconvenes after Labor Day. After a mixed report card, McConnell knows there's plenty of time on the clock. "Last time I looked, Congress goes on for two years," he said to critics who warned the GOP's majority was in jeopardy. For their sake -- and America's -- let's hope they make the most of what's left.

** Like the Senate, the Washington Update is taking a short summer break. But just because the Update is taking a vacation doesn't mean the FRC staff is! For breaking news and other developments, follow us on Facebook, the FRC Blog, and on Twitter @TPerkins @FRCdc. For your daily dose of what's happening in D.C., tune in to our daily "Washington Watch" radio show. In the meantime, enjoy your summer -- and continue standing with us for faith, family, and freedom with your prayers, action, and financial support!

Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.

Military Weighs Battle Plan for Trans Change

August 04, 2017

Unlike the rest of Washington, the Pentagon doesn't take a break. And while the House and Senate enjoy some R&R, America's military leaders will be hard at work – in part, on the president's new transgender policy. After the tweets heard 'round the world, there's been a lot of discussion about how the branches will move forward. Not to worry, Defense officials say, a team of military leaders is already hard at work on Trump's directive.

While the liberal media insists no thought went into the president's tweets, the administration has been coordinating with military attorneys behind the scenes for days. Fortunately, a Pentagon working group had already been established to deal with the issue as part of Defense Secretary James Mattis's order to delay the enlistment of people confused about their gender.

Meanwhile, as experts hammer out the formal policy, praise for Trump's courage continues to pour in from all pockets of the country. Seventeen flag officers sent a letter of gratitude to President Trump for doing what the American people, service chiefs, and troops wanted. "There may be an enormous amount of vitriol directed at you for making this policy correction, but please know that overturning this policy may have done more in the long-term to save the culture and war-fighting capacity of the U.S. military than perhaps any other military policy you will adopt as president," the letter said.

FRC's own Lt. General Jerry Boykin (U.S. Army-Ret.), who understands exactly what's at stake with this brand of social experimentation, thinks this is the biggest sign that President Trump is committed to restoring the military. "To say that I am pleased to see President Trump put a stop to this transgender madness in the military would be an understatement. It is another indicator to me that our new president is truly focused on military readiness."

Almost 60 percent of active-duty troops share our opinion of Obama's transgender policy -- with only 16 percent agreeing with the radical fringe who suggests that it would be "good for morale." Voters are just as opposed. Not even a quarter of Americans thought the Left's transgender experiment was "good for the military." Although the Left will do everything it can to derail Trump with legal challenges and media smear campaigns, the White House knows this is exactly the kind of political correctness voters wanted the president to end. Four hundred eight thousand Americans have liked Trump's three tweets on the policy change, hardly the stuff of outrage.

"[Trump] doesn't need 'commissions' to tell him whether or not enlisting men who pretend to be women and women who pretend to be men hurts military readiness. Anyone with five senses and a functioning intellect can see that it does. It is only under the vast experiment against common sense that is liberalism could such obvious truths fall into disfavor." George Neumayr argues.

"In a time of terrorism, the American people are not going to punish at the polls a commander-in-chief for insufficiently prizing political correctness. If anything, the hidden Trump vote will increase. Perhaps most parents don't want to say this out loud, but the onslaught of transgender propaganda scares the hell out of them. They don't want their sons to grow up to be mutilated 'women.' And most taxpayers don't want to pay for this grotesque delusion."

Thanks to President Trump, they won't have to. Join us in thanking the White House for that boldness by signing our petition, which, when combined with American Family Association's, already has 60,000 signatures!

Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.

Privacy Bill Gets the Blessing of Local Pastors

August 04, 2017

The hot summer is getting even hotter in Austin, where voters are ramping up the pressure on the state legislature to finish the job it started on privacy. Yesterday, a group of faith leaders descended on the Texas Capitol to rally for the bill that would stop liberals from flinging open the locker, shower, and bathroom doors to people of both genders.

Surrounded by hundreds of people, the legislation's sponsor, Senator Lois Kolkhorst (R) continued her stand for a common-sense bill, which has the support of an overwhelming number of Texans. "There should just be some boundaries we have," she told the crowd. "I am not scared to profess that the Lord God saw it this way, and I believe this is what we should do."

Pastor Bill Owens, like many African Americans, rejects the Left's comparisons between the civil rights movement and the transgender agenda. "I marched to be able to go to the school of my choice, to get a job I was qualified for. Did not march one foot, one yard, one mile for men to go in women's restrooms," he said to cheers and chants like "Let the House vote!"

While most everyone else seems to understand the foolishness of such a policy, House Speaker Joe Straus (R) continues to be a thorn in his party's side. When he isn't stonewalling the bill, he's busy spreading lies about it. Last month, to the shock of everyone, he claimed it would lead to more suicides. After months of bucking his own party, Straus seems no more ready to cooperate for the good of the state than before. FRC Action is doing its best to change that, launching ads across the state to pressure him and House State Affairs Committee Chairman Byron Cook to stop bottling up the bills and let the House vote.

From Washington, where Congress watched President Trump roll back Obama's gender-free bathroom mandate, Rep. Pete Olson (R-Texas) is ready for his home state to act. The only reason this debate is even necessary, he argues, is because of Obama's overreach.

"Why has the State of Texas felt the need to address this issue? Because the Obama administration chose to bypass Congress to set social policy, by specifically changing the definition of 'sex' in federal civil rights law to include 'gender identity.' By doing so, President Obama unilaterally rewrote a law without an act of Congress, which violates the Constitution.

The 10th Amendment is very clear -- issues such as these should be left to states and localities to make. Washington bureaucrats have no business forcing their views on individual communities. What works for one state or county may not work for another. The founding fathers never intended unelected bureaucrats in federal agencies to make sweeping changes without the approval of Congress. We must restore the voice of the people given to them by our Constitution and put an end to this dangerous precedent of removing Congress' power to make laws."

Congressman Olson is doing what he can to stop this dangerous (and unconstitutional) agenda with his new "Civil Rights Uniformity Act." Until then, he hopes Texas will do its part pushing back on this dangerous agenda.

Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.

Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.

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