House of Bill Repute: GOP Heads into August at Record Pace


House of Bill Repute: GOP Heads into August at Record Pace

July 27, 2018

If traffic was a little lighter in D.C. this morning, commuters can thank Congress. After a round of Thursday votes, House leaders turned out the lights and headed back to their districts until Labor Day. For at least one chamber, the summer recess is here. And while today's members are jetting off to campaign, the August break wasn't always about elections. It was about the heat. Before 1928, there wasn't air conditioning in the Capitol. The House chamber was "windowless, airless, and so oppressive" that people collapsed. When the ventilation system was finally installed, the Carrier Air Conditioning Company predicted that "Congress may voluntarily remain in session throughout the summer!" They were wrong.

This summer, though, at least one side of the Capitol will be working overtime. According to Pew Research, it's been decades since the Senate gave up this much of its August holiday. The decision, made by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), means that Congress is scheduled to be in session for more days than the average since 1971. And Republicans are making the most of it.

Spending bills, judges, and dozens of other nominations are on McConnell's plate for August. And while former House Speaker John Garner once said, "No good legislation comes out of Washington after June," this leadership team is trying to prove him wrong. Before the House skipped town, it set up the Senate for the earliest passage of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) since Jimmy Carter. "I was actually in the first grade the last time we passed a defense authorization bill this fast," House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) joked to reporters this week. Although the NDAA is already in a class of its own -- passing 57 straight years – it hasn't made it through Congress this fast in decades. If the Senate gives the green light to the conference report when it's back in town the first full week of August, House Armed Services Chair Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) says "it will be the quickest the process has finished in 41 years."

To the cheers of everyone at the Defense Department, the military will be on track to get a pay raise -- the largest in nine years -- 15,000 more troops, and new ships, submarines, planes, and weapons. After Barack Obama, who scaled back so much that pilots were scavenging museums for jet parts, this year's budget will begin in earnest the long process of rebuilding America's fighting force.

So far, the provision getting the most attention may be the bill's temporary ban on F-35 fighter sales to Turkey. With Turkey acting like anything but a NATO ally -- obtaining weapon systems from Russia, imprisoning an American pastor, Andrew Brunson -- Congress is doing everything it can to turn up the heat on President Erdogan. According to the conference report, the deal would be on hold until the Pentagon and State Department issue a report on U.S.-Turkish relations. Another part of the bill makes an outright call for Brunson's freedom, demanding that Erdogan "release wrongly detained U.S. citizens."

Meanwhile, the NDAA isn't the only evidence that Congress is plowing through spending proposals faster than normal. Every single appropriations bill has made it through committee in the House, and while some may not pass in time to beat the September 30 deadline, most will. (Of course, both chambers had plenty of motivation after March when President Trump vowed he'd never sign another omnibus.) Two of those spending bills, Homeland Security and Financial Services, also happen to include important pro-life amendments. Before the House adjourned, it wrapped up committee work on the DHS budget, which -- thanks to Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Ala.) -- includes a provision that would stop the government (and taxpayers) from facilitating abortions for women in immigration detention centers (in most situations).

After the Jane Doe tragedy, when the ACLU pressured a teenager in custody to get an abortion, there's been a growing concern that extremists would try to turn the U.S. into a sanctuary country for abortion. Republicans did their best to put the brakes on that push, approving Aderholt's amendment 30-20. Just as importantly, it gives conscience protections to Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) employees who object to abortion.

Over in the House's Financial Services-Interior debate, Rep. Gary Palmer (R-Ala.) stepped in to stop another bad idea in the city of D.C. Although Congress repealed the individual mandate in Obamacare, D.C. tried to recreate it at the end of June by ordering residents to buy health insurance -- and not just any insurance, but plans that include abortion on demand. Under the Palmer amendment, which passed, Americans in the District wouldn't be forced to pay for health coverage that takes an innocent life.

For more on what took place this week here in our nation's capital, as well as headlines from across the country, check out my interview with CBN earlier today.

** The Washington Update is taking its regular August break, but we'll keep you informed of important developments in the Senate and elsewhere in our alerts. You can also keep up with what's happening by tuning into "Washington Watch" Monday through Friday at 5:00 p.m. (ET). For station listing, visit TonyPerkins.com -- or, better yet, download FRC's Stand Firm App and listen live from anywhere. The daily Update will return after Labor Day. **


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


Trump, Congress Play Hardball on Brunson

July 27, 2018

There was only one way the State Department's religious freedom ministerial could have ended on a higher note -- and that's if U.S. Pastor Andrew Brunson had been freed. Clearly, that was the administration's hope, after weeks of behind-the-scenes negotiations and haggling across several agencies of government. And while the news that Pastor Brunson had been moved from his dank prison cell to house arrest was some comfort, the president and his vice president agreed: it was not enough.

After what's been described as a "rancorous" phone call with Turkish President Erdogan, Donald Trump unleashed a stern warning on Twitter -- release the American or heavy sanctions are next. Vice President Mike Pence echoed that message at yesterday's ministerial on religious freedom in the presence of leaders from 84 countries. Twenty-four hours later, Brunson remains in custody and the wheels of retribution are starting to churn. Already, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) threatens to take away one valuable piece of the Turkish arsenal: 100 F-35 fighter jets, which Lockheed produced to sell to our NATO ally. Now, that deal seems at least temporarily on hold -- thanks to conference language that would stop the transfer.

Then, there was the bipartisan letter of 66 senators to President Erdogan in April, calling on him to free Brunson or pay the price in this year's State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs spending bill. As part of the legislation, both parties would move ahead with restrictions on everything from visas for Turkish officials to a restriction on funds for the sale of certain defense articles to the Turkish military. As if that weren't enough, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is taking steps to crackdown on loans from international financial institutions to Turkey, which would put a huge dent in the country's already shaky financial situation.

From the White House to the administration and Congress, every lever of government is sending an unequivocal message that it's time to let Pastor Brunson go. Secretary Mike Pompeo tweeted today that he's been in constant contact with leaders across the Turkish government. "I spoke yesterday with Turkey's Foreign Minister @MevlutCavusoglu and underscored that it is well past time for this innocent Pastor Andrew Brunson to come home." Let's hope Turkey is listening -- or it could be a painful lesson in President Trump's resolve.

To hear more about the Trump administration's commitment to religious freedom, listen to my interview with Mick Mulvaney, the White House Director of the Office of Budget and Management. And, for the latest on Pastor Brunson's case, don't miss my interview with Fox News earlier today.

** The Washington Update is taking its regular August break, but we'll keep you informed of important developments in the Senate and elsewhere in our alerts. You can also keep up with what's happening by tuning into "Washington Watch" Monday through Friday at 5:00 p.m. (ET). For station listing, visit TonyPerkins.com -- or, better yet, download FRC's Stand Firm App and listen live from anywhere. The daily Update will return after Labor Day. **


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


University of Minnesota on Redefining Gender: Gopher It!

July 27, 2018

What's "misgendering?" Students at the University of Minnesota might want to look it up, seeing as they could be kicked out of school for doing it! In the race for the most outrageous campus policy, the Gophers took a big lead when the school's Equal Opportunity Office introduced a new rule that would punish people for using the wrong pronoun to address someone -- even if that person hasn't changed their sex or their name!

University officials say the idea is supposed to protect students who identify as transgender. As part of the rule, students are "invited to choose their personal pronoun [which includes bizarre configurations like 'Ze'] and gender identity on the school website, and fellow faculty and students will be expected to follow those personal choices." Anyone caught referring to someone by the wrong pronoun would be charged with "harassment" or "discrimination." The punishment? "...Disciplinary action up to and including termination from employment and academic sanctions up to and including academic expulsion."

Even more astounding, UM would use this policy to open the door to gender-free "housing, restrooms, locker rooms, recreation services and activities, and camp programs." Imagine pulling up to college with your son or daughter and finding out their roommate is a "Zir." Ian Smith can't. The member of UM's student senate wants everyone to know that if the university goes ahead with this rule, it's not because students want it.

In a bold op-ed for the Star-Tribune, Ian speaks up and says the policy shouldn't be enacted. "First, it's unconstitutional to compel certain speech, but as a representative in the Student Senate, I also must worry about the inevitable unintended consequences." Like forcing someone to say something they don't believe. "I represent thousands of students at the University of Minnesota, and to vote for a policy that would force any of them to say anything would not only be supporting an unconstitutional policy, but also contrary to the principles that universities across the nation were founded on."

As FRC's Peter Sprigg pointed out, the school is basically compelling students to lie. Ian agrees, arguing that "There is something wrong with a policy that kicks a student out of its school and essentially ruins their lives over their not uttering a one-syllable word." What if, one professor asks, you slip up and use the wrong word? "Is that harassment or discrimination? Does everybody get one free pass and after that, it's harassment?" According to a fellow faculty member who identifies as a woman, no one would be punished right away. But, he insisted, it's "really saddening" when people don't call you the right pronoun.

You know what else is really saddening? That this is where we are as a nation. It's mind-boggling that we've allowed a handful of extremists to take us to this point of moral and cultural confusion. Every day, there's another University of Minnesota in the news, trying to force its dangerous ideology on students. And those are just the ones we hear about. We can either keep addressing the symptoms -- or we can tre at the cause. More Americans need to take their cues from students like Ian and find the courage to speak out!

** The Washington Update is taking its regular August break, but we'll keep you informed of important developments in the Senate and elsewhere in our alerts. You can also keep up with what's happening by tuning into "Washington Watch" Monday through Friday at 5:00 p.m. (ET). For station listing, visit TonyPerkins.com -- or, better yet, download FRC's Stand Firm App and listen live from anywhere. The daily Update will return after Labor Day. **


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.


Previous Washington Update Articles »