House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy excoriated President Obama's handling of the militant group ISIS on Thursday, writing in a memo to his members that the administration has been "too passive" toward terrorist groups in the Middle East and that military action is overdue.
As Obama huddles with world leaders at a NATO summit in Wales, McCarthy called on the president to lay out a clear strategy for how to defeat ISIS. His comments add to a growing chorus of bipartisan voices calling on the administration to act. But what, if anything, Congress can do remains unclear. House committees will hold a series of hearings over the next two weeks to try to find a path forward, McCarthy noted, and the White House is expected to brief members as well.
"America cannot shirk from this grave and growing threat to our national security," he said. "We understand the terrorists' war on the United States and our allies is not over and that military action against terrorist groups like [ISIS] that pose a direct and growing threat to American interests is overdue."
McCarthy said the House will vote to condemn Obama for releasing five Taliban-affiliated prisoners in exchange for United States Army soldier Bowe Bergdahl, who was held captive by the Haqqani network for five years in Afghanistan. A recent GAO report found that Obama did not adequately notify Congress before making the prisoner swap.
The foreign policy questions highlight a politically driven two weeks, which begin Tuesday when the House returns from a monthlong recess. McCarthy noted that the House will pass two packages of bills, one focusing on energy and the other on jobs, which will seek to highlight ahead of the pivotal election the myriad anti-regulatory bills the House has passed over the last Congress.
Those bills include measures to spur construction of the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline, ease regulations on coal mining and hydraulic fracturing, and amend the Affordable Care Act's definition of full-time work from 30 to 40 hours per week.
"We must continue to put forth an agenda that fuels the revival of the American Dream. And we must remain committed to unapologetically and boldly confronting the Obama administration and Senate Democrats as they march toward government intrusion in every aspect of our lives," McCarthy wrote.
McCarthy made little mention of the only must-pass pieces of legislation facing Congress: a continuing resolution and a reauthorization of the Export-Import bank. He wrote simply that Congress will pass a CR by Sept. 30, when current funding runs out.
He did not mention the Ex-Im bank issue at all in the memo, but aides and members speculate that the House will pass a short-term extension of the bank's charter that will keep it funded at least until after the November elections.
Drew Hammill, a spokesman for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, dismissed McCarthy's effort as a "bizarre memo" lacking in substance.
"It is clear the House Republican Majority has absolutely no agenda and no interest in doing anything other than spouting rehashed talking points," Hammill said. "Time and time again, this partisan, part-time GOP Congress has turned its nose up and turned its back on the American people. The American people deserve solutions from their elected leaders "“ not the distraction, dysfunction and disarray of House Republicans."
The full memo is below:
TO: House Republicans
FROM: Kevin McCarthy
DATE: September 4, 2014
SUBJECT: September Agenda
"Hard work spotlights the character of people: some turn up their sleeves, some turn up their noses, and some don't turn up at all."
I hope everyone had a productive August and that you enjoyed time at home with your families and constituents. After speaking with many of you throughout the month, what we've heard from our constituents across the country has been consistent - American families simply can no longer afford the Obama economy. It is costing them too much in job losses, reduced wages, and higher healthcare, food, and energy prices.
For years, President Obama has tried to use Washington bureaucracy to fix America's problems. He has made plenty of promises - a functioning and inexpensive healthcare system, a successful economic stimulus, a new energy economy and increased respect abroad, to name a few. Yet each and every one of these promises has been broken.
We must continue to put forth an agenda that fuels the revival of the American Dream. And we must remain committed to unapologetically and boldly confronting the Obama Administration and Senate Democrats as they march toward government intrusion in every aspect of our lives.
I don't know if you caught this, but last Friday the Forest Service published an article about how to roast marshmallows. Tips included using a roasting stick of at least 30 inches in length and substituting fruit for the chocolate and slices of angel food cake for graham crackers.
This perfectly captures what is wrong with our government. Hard-earned tax dollars supporting bureaucrats who can't pass up an opportunity to tell us how to live our lives. For the things that government is supposed to do - like confront terrorist groups - we don't have a strategy, but for things Americans are supposed to be able to do for themselves - like figuring out the best ingredients for s'mores - government bureaucrats have that figured out.
Our government today lacks common sense and competency. And the American people know it.
Our conservative agenda is about restoring competency and common sense in government and giving Americans the freedom to live their lives, run their businesses, and raise their families. It's time to create a 21st Century government that isn't bogged down in unnecessary meddling and harmful regulating, but is instead honest, simple, and effective. With a limited number of legislative days before the election, we will have a busy September focused on our vision for prosperity and a government that is accountable to its people.
Defeating our Terrorist Enemies
Before turning to the bills currently scheduled for floor consideration, I think it is important to touch on the topic I know each of us is focused on: the rise of ISIL, its terrorist activities - including the brutal murders of innocent Americans - and the establishment of new terrorist safe havens and sanctuaries in the Middle East. Terrorist threats to the United States and its allies have grown appreciably during the Obama Administration as the Al Qaeda network has metastasized. The Administration has been too passive as these terrorist organizations have been allowed to acquire new safe havens and grow in strength, whether in Libya where Ansar al-Sharia terrorists killed 4 Americans in Benghazi in 2012, in Iraq and Syria where ISIL has slowly and steadily built itself into a veritable terrorist army, or in Afghanistan where a resurgent Taliban is on the offensive.
I believe that it is critical that we confront and defeat ISIL and like-minded terrorists who directly threaten America. I - and I know many of you - have personally called on the Administration to address this growing national security challenge. As we return, our national security committees will continue their aggressive oversight work - including hearings with senior Administration officials - on both the rise of ISIL and what is necessary to confront and defeat them. I anticipate that Administration officials will be up to brief all Members. In addition, a number of other briefings by outside experts are currently being planned. These hearings and briefings will be absolutely critical in helping us take the appropriate steps necessary to achieve our objective: the defeat of our terrorist enemies.
America cannot shirk from this grave and growing threat to our national security. We understand the terrorists' war on the United States and our allies is not over and that military action against terrorist groups like ISIL that pose a direct and growing threat to American interests is overdue. That said, the American people need to hear plainly from the President about the nature of the threat and his strategy to confront it.
Jobs and Economic Growth
In order to remind Harry Reid and Senate Democrats of our positive solutions to build a robust economy and foster job creation, the House will send a single jobs package to the Senate assembled from the jobs bills House Republicans have passed this Congress. This compilation bill will include:
* H.R. 2575, the Save American Workers Act, authored by Representative Todd Young, which repeals Obamacare's 30-hour definition of full-time employment;
* H.R. 899, the Unfunded Mandates Information and Transparency Act, authored by Representative Virginia Foxx, which equips Congress and the public with tools to determine the true costs of regulations;
* H.R. 2804, the Achieving Less Excess in Regulation and Requiring Transparency (ALERRT) Act, authored by Representative George Holding, Chairman Bob Goodlatte, Representative Doug Collins, and Representative Spencer Bachus, which promotes jobs, better wages, and economic growth through regulatory reform;
* H.R. 367, Regulations From the Executive in Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act, authored by Representative Todd Young, which ensures that Congress votes on all new major rules before they can be enforced;
* H.R. 1105, the Small Business Capital Access and Job Preservation Act, authored by Representative Robert Hurt, which prevents Dodd-Frank Act regulations from diverting capital from small- and medium-sized businesses;
* H.R. 2274, the Small Business Mergers, Acquisitions, Sales, and Brokerage Simplification Act, authored by Representative Bill Huizenga, which streamlines regulatory requirements to help facilitate capital formation to grow small- and medium-sized businesses;
* H.R. 3474, the Hire More Heroes Act, authored by Representative Rodney Davis, which incentivizes businesses to hire veterans by excluding them from Obamacare's employer mandate threshold;
* H.R. 1526, the Restoring Healthy Forests for Healthy Communities Act, authored by Chairman Doc Hastings, which will put Americans back to work by promoting responsible timber production;
* H.R. 761, the National Strategic and Critical Minerals Production Act, authored by Representative Mark Amodei, which allows the U.S. to develop resources that are critical to our economic competiveness;
* H.R. 3086, the Permanent Internet Tax Freedom Act, authored by Chairman Bob Goodlatte, which protects internet access for all Americans and fosters growth in the digital economy;
* H.R. 4438, the American Research and Competitiveness Act, authored by Representative Kevin Brady, which makes the R&D Tax Credit permanent, paving the way for increased innovation and investment in the U.S.;
* H.R. 4457, the America's Small Business Tax Relief Act, authored by Representative Pat Tiberi, which makes section 179 expensing permanent ensuring that our small businesses have the certainty they need to grow their businesses and create jobs;
* H.R. 4453, the S Corporation Permanent Tax Relief Act, authored by Representative Dave Reichert, which provides the necessary flexibility for S corporations to access capital and make new investments; and
* H.R. 4718, authored by Representative Pat Tiberi, making bonus depreciation permanent in order to lower the cost of capital for businesses.
Lowering Costs on Gas and Groceries
With gas prices still hovering near $3.50 per gallon and energy costs siphoning too much out of families' paychecks, we must enact policies that encourage an American energy revolution. That is why we will send to the Senate a single, common-sense energy plan comprised of House-passed bills focusing on production, infrastructure, reliability, and efficiency. This package will include:
* H.R. 3, the Northern Route Approval Act, authored by Representative Lee Terry, which allows construction of the Keystone XL pipeline;
* H.R. 1963, the Bureau of Reclamation Conduit Hydropower Development Equity and Jobs Act, authored by Representative Steve Daines, which streamlines the development of hydropower on federal lands;
* H.R. 2640, the Central Oregon Jobs and Water Security Act, authored by Representative Greg Walden, which allows for construction of a hydropower facility at the Bowman Dam;
* H.R. 2728, the Protecting States' Rights to Promote American Energy Security Act, authored by Representative Bill Flores, which protects American energy production by recognizing states' authority to regulate hydraulic fracturing;
* H.R. 4801, authored by Representative Adam Kinzinger, which studies the impact and cost effectiveness of thermal insulation in federal buildings;
* H.R. 3301, the North American Energy Infrastructure Act, authored by Chairman Fred Upton, which strengthens our partnerships with Canada and Mexico in order to build a more secure and efficient North American energy market;
* H.R. 6, the Domestic Prosperity and Global Freedom Act, authored by Representative Cory Gardner, which expedites the export of U.S. liquefied natural gas to our allies;
* H.R. 1582, the Energy Consumers Relief Act, authored by Representative Bill Cassidy, which ensures Congressional oversight of energy-related rules costing more than $1 billion;
* H.R. 1900, the Natural Gas Pipeline Permitting Reform Act, authored by Representative Mike Pompeo, which modernizes the review process for natural gas pipeline permit applications;
* H.R. 2641, the Responsible And Professionally Invigorating Development Act, authored by Representative Tom Marino, which establishes a more streamlined and transparent federal permitting process for construction projects;
* H.R. 3826, the Electricity Security & Affordability Act, authored by Representative Ed Whitfield, which protects reliable and affordable electricity sources;
* H.R. 2824, the Preventing Government Waste & Protecting Coal Mining Jobs in America Act, authored by Representative Bill Johnson, which prevents the Administration from developing new, job-killing coal regulations; and
* H.R. 4899, the Lowering Gas Prices to Fuel an America That Works Act, authored by Chairman Doc Hastings, Representative Doug Lamborn, Representative Scott Tipton, and Representative Bill Johnson, which removes federal government barriers that block production of U.S. energy sources offshore and expands onshore American energy production by streamlining government red-tape and regulations.
The House will also consider H.R. 5078, the Waters of the United States Regulatory Overreach Protection Act, authored by Representative Steve Southerland, which protects the long-standing federal-state partnership in the regulation of our waters. The Obama Administration's federal power grab - attempting to literally define puddles as navigable waterways so they can regulate them - will have broad, negative impacts on a wide range of U.S. industries, most notably agriculture. Placing additional burdens on our hard-working farmers will result in higher food prices for American families and I commend the Transportation & Infrastructure Committee for its commitment to addressing this important issue.
While the President has failed to live up to his "if you like your plan, you can keep it" promise, House Republicans remain committed to protecting Americans from the crushing costs of Obamacare. An estimated 11 million small business employees could find themselves negatively impacted by the increasing premium costs associated with this law. That is why House Republicans will pass H.R. 3522, the Employee Health Care Protection Act, authored by Representative Bill Cassidy, which ensures that these workers can, in fact, keep the plan they have and like.
Thanks to the great work of Chairman Darrell Issa and the Oversight & Government Reform Committee and Chairman Dave Camp and the Ways & Means Committee, House Republicans have not only been unwavering in our pursuit of the truth behind the IRS targeting, but have put forth solutions to prevent federal agencies and their employees from breaching the trust of the American people.
To follow on to the great work we have already done on this issue, the House will consider a series of bills from the Ways & Means Committee that will authorize the Secretary of the Treasury to disclose information about the investigations regarding leaked taxpayer information to victims; prohibit any IRS officer or employee from using a personal email account to conduct official business; and codify the taxpayer right to appeal the IRS's determination of a group's application for tax-exempt status. We will also consider H.R. 5169, the Senior Executive Service Accountability Act, authored by Representative Tim Walberg, which makes Senior Executive Service employees subject to the same employment standards as other civil service personnel, and H.R. 5170, the Federal Records Accountability Act, authored by Representative Mark Meadows, that establishes a process for removing a federal employee for the falsification, theft, or destruction of a federal record.
You may have also seen the recent GAO Report confirming that the Administration violated the law in its release of five Taliban terrorists from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The law is clear, and therefore the House will consider H. Res. 644, authored by Representative Scott Rigell, which condemns the failure to comply with the statutory requirement to provide advance notice to Congress.
Finally, the House will also pass a Continuing Resolution that will continue government operations as they are on September 30th into the new fiscal year.
I look forward to seeing you all next week as we work to build a brighter future for our country.
In the meantime, let's see who will be the first to correctly identify the room in which the British started the fire that destroyed most of the Capitol on August 24, 1814.
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Daniel Newhauser is a staff correspondent for National Journal, where he primarily covers the House of Representatives. He was formerly a House leadership reporter for Roll Call, where he started as an intern in 2010 and quickly earned a slot as a beat reporter.
A native of San Antonio, Texas, Newhauser traveled further West to study journalism at Arizona State University's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication and write for newspapers including the East Valley Tribune and the Green Valley News & Sun.