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The US Senate Appropriations Defense Subcommittee just approved the transfer of $351 million to Israel for the Iron Dome missile defense system — that will bring the appropriations this week for Israel to $621 million. There has been virtually no debate about such huge payments to another nation’s defense budget when cities and schools continue to cut back on programs for lack of fund.

18 July 2014read on...

House Procedure in Action: Pro-Drug War Amendment OK, Pro-Gun Rights Amendment Prohibited US House of Representatives rules were strictly enforced Tuesday to prevent a full House vote on a pro-gun rights amendment offered by Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY) despite the earlier incorporation into the bill of a pro-drug war amendment that would also appear to be barred by a strict application of the procedural rule.

17 July 2014read on...

Resolution Requiring US Military Withdrawal from Iraq on the Fast Track to US House Vote
A resolution requiring the removal from Iraq of all US military troops who are not protecting diplomatic facilities and personnel that was introduced Friday in the US House of Representatives by Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA) is on the fast track to a debate and vote in the House.

14 July 2014read on...

House to Vote on 'Expedited and Dignified' TSA Screenings for Some People, Sometimes
The US House of Representatives is scheduled to consider on Tuesday the Honor Flight Act (HR 4812) that would require the Transportation Security Administration to work with a non-profit organization to establish a process for providing “expedited and dignified passenger screening services for veterans” who are traveling with the aid of certain non-profit organizations to visit certain war memorials.

6 July 2014read on...

Rep. Thomas Massie: 'Declassify 9/11 Report to Prevent the Next 9/11'
In a new discussion at the YouTube channel of Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC), Jones, an RPI Advisory Board member, discusses with Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY) the effort to declassify 28 pages of a joint House of Representatives and Senate Intelligence Committees report. The redacted pages include information concerning foreign governments’ involvement in the September 11, 2001 attacks in America. Jones and Massie both state that the information in those 28 pages is important for informing decisions regarding the Middle East and potential US government actions in Iraq, as well as for preventing another attack in America similar to the September 11 attacks.

1 July 2014read on...

US House Rejects by 355 to 62 Vote Amendment to Limit Transfer of Military Weapons and Equipment to Local Police
By a vote of 355 “no” votes to 62 “yes” votes the United States House of Representatives voted down Thursday night an amendment offered by Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL) to the Department of Defense Appropriations Act (HR 4870) that would have curtailed the transfer of US military equipment to local police.



20 June 2014read on...

Rep. John Duncan: 'Stop Trying to Take Care of the Whole World and Start Taking Care of Our Own Country'
Rep. John J. Duncan, Jr. (R-TN) brought one minute of hard-hitting reality to the United States House of Representatives on May 30, remarking that the United States government, with its over $17 trillion debt, is only escaping — for now — Detroit-style bankruptcy by printing money. The representative explains that, unless the US government becomes more fiscally responsible, the US will fail to satisfy fully obligations such as military pension and social security payments. Duncan, an RPI Advisory Board member concludes his speech by suggesting the US government “stop trying to take care of the whole world and start taking care of our own country and putting the American people first once again.”

12 June 2014read on...

US House Votes to Respect States’ Medical Marijuana and Hemp Legalization
An appropriations bill passed Friday in the United States House of Representatives and on its way to the US Senate contains provisions calling for the United States government to stop treading on states’ efforts to legalize medical marijuana and industrial hemp.

31 May 2014read on...

Sen. Ron Wyden: House-Passed USA FREEDOM Act is 'Reform in Name Only'
Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), speaking Wednesday in his home state of Oregon, declared that the “Status Quo Caucus” including “intelligence leadership, their friends in the House of Representatives, [and] their allies in academia” had successfully transformed the USA FREEDOM Act (HR 3361) into “reform in name only” by the time it was debated and approved on the United States House of Representatives floor.

29 May 2014read on...

Rep. Zoe Lofgren: USA FREEDOM Act Secretly 'Altered in Worrisome Ways'
On Wednesday — the day before the United States House of Representatives voted to approve the USA FREEDOM Act (HR 3361)—Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) explained on the House floor that back room machinations changed the bill between the votes approving it in the House Judiciary and Intelligence Committees and the bill’s consideration on the House floor. These shenanigans outside the routine committee process, Lofgren explains, made meaningless some restraints on US government mass spying contained in the bill.

23 May 2014read on...

Congress Alert

Did Sen. Reid Let Slip Secret Plan to Use Navy Yard Killings as Excuse for New Medical Privacy Violations?


There is reason for concern that the US Congress and the National Rifle Association may soon  work together to use the Washington, DC Navy Yard killings earlier this week as an excuse to expand a US government database of all Americans' private medical information.

The day after the Navy Yard killings, US Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was talking about bringing expanded gun transfer background checks to a vote in the Senate. Bloomberg reports:
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, said he’ll schedule another vote to expand firearms background checks “as quickly as we can” when enough members support the bill. Reid said at the moment, the Senate lacks enough votes to pass the legislation.
The Bloomberg article then proceeds to discount the possibility of such legislation advancing, saying gun control legislation failed to pass in the Senate earlier this year and quoting one gun control writer who absolutely rejects the possibility:
“The chance of any movement on this issue now is zero,” said Robert Spitzer, author of four books on the history of gun control. “That wind blew itself out politically.”
But, an alternative, secret plan appears to be in the works. Roll Call reports:
The Nevada Democrat [Reid] said he might be willing to move a mental-illness gun bill without a background check expansion, but that comment was quickly walked back by an aide who sent around guidance that Reid does not, in fact, intend to pass a mental-illness gun bill without expanded background checks.
Reid's public comments seem to have gotten ahead of the public relations plan for a mental health database focused bill.

Reid will likely find it a much easier path pursuing gun control legislation focused on mental health instead of a broad gun control expansion such as was considered during the abandoned floor debate on the Safe Communities, Safe Schools Act (S.649) in April.

A starting point may be the NICS Reporting Improvements Act (S.480), which was introduced in March by four Republican and Democrat senators — Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina), Mark Begich (D-Alaska), Jeff Flake (R-Arizona), and Mark Pryor (D-Arkansas). As these four senators make clear in their press release announcing the introduction of the legislation, the legislation is intended to prevent more people from being able to posses guns by expanding the mental health database used in the Federal Bureau of Investigation's National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS).

Taking a mental health database legislative approach, Sen. Reid can turn the National Rifle Association into an ally in his gun control efforts. The NRA is pursuing its ongoing lobbying effort with the US and state governments to expand the US government's mental health database and increase the flow of information into that database so more people may be prohibited from possessing guns. Indeed, in the first three months of this year, the NRA's record-breaking lobbying expenditures included spending both to defeat the background checks expansion Reid had backed and to support S.480. The NRA's Institute for Legislative Action Executive Director Chris W. Cox writes that S.480 "will improve the current national instant background check system (NICS) by improving the records within it."

Meanwhile, Begich, the lead Democrat cosponsor of S.480, has expressed his interest in using the Navy Yard killings to justify expanding the US government's mental health database as a means to further limit who may possess guns. In the Bloomberg article, Begich is quoted as claiming he has introduced legislation that would have included alleged Navy Yard killer Aaron Alexis in NICS:
“If I read the reports, he bought his guns legally and had a background check, so the issue that that gentlemen had was mental-health issues,” Begich told reporters yesterday at the Capitol, noting that he has introduced legislation that would have made sure Alexis “would have been in the background check system” when he sought to buy a gun.
If a mental health database expansion bill passes in the Senate, do not expect the House of Representatives leadership to stop its progress. The last major NRA-backed gun control bill focused on expanding the US government's mental health database—Rep. Carolyn McCarthy's NICS Improvement Amendments Act (H.R.2640)—passed in the House in a manner that minimized public knowledge and ensured neither a debate on the issue nor a recorded vote. On December 19, 2007, after all legislative business appeared to have been completed for the year and most representatives were on their way back to their districts for Christmas recess, a small group of Republican and Democrat representatives were sent to the House floor to quickly pass the bill by unanimous consent. The legislation was thus sent to President George W. Bush without any debate or recorded vote. Bush signed the bill into law on January 8, 2007—seven days before the House completed its Christmas recess.


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