By Andy Cohen | Congressional Watch
In 2013, enraged by their inability to repeal the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) after 50-plus attempts in Congress to scrap the first major healthcare legislation since Medicare, and just as the law was about to take effect, Congressional Republicans decided to send a message and refused to negotiate on a federal budget unless Democrats agreed to repeal the law in its entirety.
Nevermind that such a provision had zero chance at passing through a Democratic majority Senate and would never have survived President Obama’s veto pen. The elimination of Obama’s signature healthcare law was never going to happen.
So, from Oct. 1 – 16, 2013, the federal government was shuttered, with all but essential services shut down. National parks were closed. Government oversight agencies were closed. Vital inspections by the EPA and FDA were put on hold. 850,000 workers were furloughed and never recovered the lost income. Those who were required to work, such as law enforcement and other critical defense-related personnel, did so without any guarantee of when — or even if — they would be paid.
Economists estimated that the U.S. economy lost between $20 – $24 billion in production and growth. And although House Republicans tried to blame the shutdown on the Democrats for not giving in to their hostage-taking tactics on Obamacare, the public at large blamed Republicans for the morass (which didn’t stop them from significantly expanding their majority in the House and taking the majority in the Senate in the 2014 midterm elections).
So let’s just stipulate that the 2013 government shutdown was a disaster — across the board — for a whole host of reasons.
After a more than yearlong investigation by the FBI into the use of a private email server (by then-Secretary of State, now Democratic presidential nominee) Hillary Clinton, FBI Director James Comey — a Republican and George W. Bush appointee — announced that, although there were instances of “extreme carelessness,” the investigation found no occurrence where Secretary Clinton “intentionally transmitted or willfully mishandled classified information,” which would warrant criminal charges in the case. As such, Comey said, “our judgment is that no reasonable prosecutor would bring such a case.”
Attorney General Loretta Lynch accepted the FBI’s findings, and no indictment was brought.
Congressman Issa, who is not a lawyer, disagrees and believes that Clinton should have been indicted. He is so enraged, in fact, that he is now calling for a government shutdown over the matter.
“We should be willing to shut down the government if the president won’t limit his power,” Issa told SiriusXM’s Breitbart News Daily.
Issa noted that the Republican Party had repeatedly been “willing to shut down the government over ending Obamacare and these other things,” which are “small points compared to the actual balance of our republic.” The implication here seems to be that President Obama somehow influenced the investigation to prevent the FBI from bringing an indictment, an accusation for which there is exactly zero evidence.
Some people will never learn.
However, there are signs that all hope is not lost for those wishing that Congress would manage to function in a productive manner. On July 14, Issa introduced the “Protect and Grow American Jobs Act,” a bill that modifies how companies use the H1-B visa program.
The H1-B program allows companies to hire foreigners to fill vacant positions that require highly skilled workers. The program required that incoming workers had the equivalent of a master’s degree and received a salary of at least $60,000 per year, a figure that has never been adjusted for inflation since its initial modification in 1998.
Companies whose workforce is consists of more than 15 percent of H1-B workers must show documentation that there were not enough American workers to fill those slots. It is a policy that has been widely abused in the ensuing years.
Issa’s update eliminates the master’s degree requirement, citing the ease by which many foreign workers can obtain such certification, and raises the salary requirement to $100,000, making it more difficult to undercut American workers, particularly if the goal is to save money on salaries.
Currently the bill has seven co-sponsors, evenly split between Republicans and Democrats, including the entire five-member San Diego Congressional delegation (which consists of three Democrats).
“The high-skilled visa program is critical to ensuring American companies can attract and retain the world’s best talent,” Issa stated in a press release. “Unfortunately, in recent years, this important program has become abused and exploited as a loophole for companies to replace American workers with cheaper labor from overseas. The bill we’ve put forward is simple, bipartisan and will go a long way to fixing one of the many problems with our broken immigration system.”
“This commonsense fix updates our high-skilled visas to reduce abuse of the system and ensure a level playing field for American workers,” said Scott Peters (D-52) in the same release. “I will continue to push for a bipartisan fix to our broken immigration system so we can create economic opportunity and enhance our security.”
Duncan Hunter’s (R-50) troubles continue to mount. Hunter’s campaign finance irregularities have been extensively noted in this column over the past several months, leading to increased scrutiny across the board. The campaign recently hired a law firm specializing in political law to help navigate his growing legal problems.
Hunter has reimbursed his campaign $12,000 for personal expenses in violation of federal law. However, an investigation by the San Diego Union Tribune found that neither Hunter, nor his family, had at any time since 2009, “reportable assets” in excess of $1,000, calling into question the source of the $12,000
The Union Tribune also found that of the $101,000 raised in contributions from 67 donors to his campaign since April 1, none came from within his San Diego area district, and all but six of his donors were from outside of California.
—Andy Cohen is a local freelance writer. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.