The House and Senate are in session Monday through Friday this week. Congress begins working on appropriations bills as several cabinet heads and other officials appear before before the relevant House and Senate Appropriations subcommittees to discuss their respective agencies' Fiscal Year 2018 funding requests.
The Secretaries of Treasury, Defense, Transportation, Agriculture, and Veterans Affairs will all give testimony in the House or Senate. Also, the head of the Forest Service and head of the Immigration Service will testify.
Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein will testify on Tuesday before the Senate Commerce, Justice State Appropriations Subcommittee. One of the members of that Subcommittee, Senator Chris Coons, represents a state (Delaware) that has legalized online gaming, and thus would be directly affected if the Department of Justice reinstates the 2001 interpretation of the Wire Act that gives the federal goverment the power to ban online gambling. Campaign for Liberty members in Delaware may wish to call Senator Coons at (202) 224-5042 and ask him to question Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein about the wisdom of spending taxpayer money to usurp state law.
The Senate will also consider legislation strengthening sanctions on Iran, as well as nominations. Among the legislation considered by the House is H.R. 2581, which requires the IRS to obtain an individual's social security number to verify if an individual is eligible for the health care tax credit.
Among the legislation considered by the House is H.R. 2581, which requires the IRS to obtain an individual's social security number to verify if an individual is eligible for the health care tax credit.
The transformation of the social security number into a de facto National ID is a threat to our liberty, and one that Campaign for Liberty Chairman Ron Paul has fought throughout his career. Here and below is Dr. Paul's official statement on his "Identity Theft Protection Act" which stops the abuse of the Social Security number:
INTRODUCING THE IDENTITY THEFT PREVENTION ACT ______ HON. RON PAUL of Texas in the House of Representatives Thursday, January 4, 2007 Mr. PAUL. Madam Speaker, today I introduce the Identity Theft Prevention Act. This act protects the American people from government- mandated uniform identifiers that facilitate private crime as well as the abuse of liberty. The major provision of the Identity Theft Prevention Act halts the practice of using the Social Security number as an identifier by requiring the Social Security Administration to issue all Americans new Social Security numbers within 5 years after the enactment of the bill. These new numbers will be the sole legal property of the recipient, and the Social Security Administration shall be forbidden to divulge the numbers for any purposes not related to Social Security administration. Social Security numbers issued before implementation of this bill shall no longer be considered valid federal identifiers. Of course, the Social Security Administration shall be able to use an individual's original Social Security number to ensure efficient administration of the Social Security system. Madame Speaker, Congress has a moral responsibility to address this problem because it was Congress that transformed the Social Security number into a national identifier. Thanks to Congress, today no American can get a job, open a bank account, get a professional license, or even get a driver's license without presenting his Social Security number. So widespread has the use of the Social Security number become that a member of my staff had to produce a Social Security number in order to get a fishing license! One of the most disturbing abuses of the Social Security number is the congressionally-authorized rule forcing parents to get a Social Security number for their newborn children in order to claim the children as dependents. Forcing parents to register their children with the State is more like something out of the nightmares of George Orwell than the dreams of a free republic that inspired this nation's founders. Congressionally-mandated use of the Social Security number as an identifier facilitates the horrendous crime of identity theft. Thanks to Congress, an unscrupulous person may simply obtain someone's Social Security number in order to access that person's bank accounts, credit cards, and other financial assets. Many Americans have lost their life savings and had their credit destroyed as a result of identity theft. Yet the Federal Government continues to encourage such crimes by mandating use of the Social Security number as a uniform ID! This act also forbids the Federal Government from creating national ID cards or establishing any identifiers for the purpose of investigating, monitoring, overseeing, or regulating private transactions among American citizens. In 2005, this body established a de facto national ID card with provisions buried in the "intelligence" reform bill mandating Federal standards for drivers' licenses, and mandating that Federal agents only accept a license that conforms to these standards as a valid ID. Nationalizing standards for drivers' licenses and birth certificates creates a national ID system pure and simple. Proponents of this scheme claim they are merely creating new standards for existing State IDs. However, imposing Federal standards in a Federal bill creates a federalized ID regardless of whether the ID itself is still stamped with the name of your State. The national ID will be used to track the movements of American citizens, not just terrorists. Subjecting every citizen to surveillance diverts resources away from tracking and apprehending terrorists in favor of needless snooping on innocent Americans. This is what happened with "suspicious activity reports" required by the Bank Secrecy Act. Thanks to BSA mandates, Federal officials are forced to waste countless hours snooping through the private financial transactions of innocent Americans merely because those transactions exceeded $10,000. Turning State-issued drivers licenses into federally controlled national ID cards is yet another Federal usurpation of State authority and another costly unfunded mandate imposed on the States. According to a report issued by the National Conference of State Legislators, turning drivers licenses into national ID cards will cost the States more than $11 billion. Madam Speaker, no wonder there is a groundswell of opposition to this mandate. There is even a movement in several State legislatures to refuse to comply with this mandate! The Identity Theft Prevention Act not only repeals those sections of the Federal law creating a national UD, it forbids the Federal Government from using Federal funds to blackmail States into adopting uniform Federal identifiers. Passing the Identity Theft Prevention Act is thus an excellent way for this Congress to show renewed commitment to federalism and opposition to imposing unfunded mandates on the States. This legislation not only repeals those sections of Federal law creating the national ID, it also repeals those sections of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 that require the Department of Health and Human Services to establish a uniform standard health identifier--an identifier which could be used to create a national database containing the medical history of all Americans. As an OB/GYN with more than 30 years in private practice, I know the importance of preserving the sanctity of the physician-patient relationship. Oftentimes, effective treatment depends on a patient's ability to place absolute trust in his or her doctor. What will happen to that trust when patients know that any and all information given to their doctors will be placed in a government accessible database? By putting an end to government-mandated uniform IDs, the Identity Theft Prevention Act will prevent millions of Americans from having their liberty, property, and privacy violated by private and public sector criminals. Some members of Congress will claim that the Federal Government needs the power to monitor Americans in order to allow the government to operate more efficiently. I would remind my colleagues that, in a constitutional republic, the people are never asked to sacrifice their liberties to make the jobs of government officials easier. We are here to protect the freedom of the American people, not to make privacy invasion more efficient. Madam Speaker, while I do not question the sincerity of those members who suggest that Congress can ensure that citizens' rights are protected through legislation restricting access to personal information, the only effective privacy protection is to forbid the Federal Government from mandating national identifiers. Legislative "privacy protections" are inadequate to protect the liberty of Americans for a couple of reasons. First, it is simply common sense that repealing those Federal laws that promote identity theft is more effective in protecting the public than expanding the power of the Federal police force. Federal punishment of identity thieves provides cold comfort to those who have suffered financial losses and the destruction of their good reputations as a result of identity theft. Federal laws are not only ineffective in stopping private criminals, but these laws have not even stopped unscrupulous government officials from accessing personal information. After all, laws purporting to restrict the use of personal information did not stop the well-publicized violations of privacy by IRS officials or the FBI abuses of the Clinton and Nixon administrations. In one of the most infamous cases of identity theft, thousands of active-duty soldiers and veterans had their personal information stolen, putting them at risk of identity theft. Imagine the dangers if thieves are able to obtain the universal identifier, and other personal information, of millions of Americans simply by breaking, or hacking, into one government facility or one government database? Second, the Federal Government has been creating proprietary interests in private information for certain State-favored special interests. Perhaps the most outrageous example of phony privacy protection is the "medical privacy" regulation, that allows medical researchers, certain business interests, and law enforcement officials access to health care information, in complete disregard of the Fifth Amendment and the wishes of individual patients! Obviously, "privacy protection" laws have proven greatly inadequate to protect personal information when the government is the one seeking the information. Any action short of repealing laws authorizing privacy violations is insufficient primarily because the Federal Government lacks constitutional authority to force citizens to adopt a universal identifier for health care, employment, or any other reason. Any Federal action that oversteps constitutional limitations violates liberty because it ratifies the principle that the Federal Government, not the Constitution, is the ultimate judge of its own jurisdiction over the people. The only effective protection of the rights of citizens is for Congress to follow Thomas Jefferson's advice and "bind (the Federal Government) down with the chains of the Constitution." Madam Speaker, those members who are not persuaded by the moral and constitutional reasons for embracing the Identity Theft Prevention Act should consider the American people's opposition to national identifiers. The numerous complaints over the evergrowing uses of the Social Security number show that Americans want Congress to stop invading their privacy. Furthermore, according to a survey by the Gallup company, 91 percent of the American people oppose forcing Americans to obtain a universal health ID. In conclusion, Madam Speaker, I once again call on my colleagues to join me in putting an end to the Federal Government's unconstitutional use of national identifiers to monitor the actions of private citizens. National identifiers threaten all Americans by exposing them to the threat of identity theft by private criminals and abuse of their liberties by public criminals, while diverting valuable law enforcement resources away from addressing real threats to public safety. In addition, national identifiers are incompatible with a limited, constitutional government. I, therefore, hope my colleagues will join my efforts to protect the freedom of their constituents by supporting the Identity Theft Prevention Act.
The House will also consider legislation (S. 1094) that provides enhanced protection for whistleblowers at the Veterans Affairs Department and installs new procedures for holding VA employees accountable for violations of VA procedures.
The House will also consider legislation, H.R. 1215, that sets a federal statue of limitation on medical malpractice lawsuits, limits the amount of "noneconomic" damages (such as pain and suffering) that can be awarded, and allows introduction of evidence of other compensation to the plaintiff (such as insurance payments).
Whatever one thinks of the merits of these proposals, the fact is they violate the 10th Amendment. The bill's proponents claim it is constitutional because it only applies to cases with a "federal nexus."
However, it defines federal nexus so broadly that any medical procedure effected in any way by federal law -- including one where the patient uses federal health care tax credits -- would be covered. Unconstitutional infringement of state power should never be used to justify new usurpation of state authority.
Here and below is column Dr. Paul wrote about this issue in 2003:
The Free-Market Approach to the Medical Malpractice Crisis by Rep. Ron Paul, MD I’ve spent nearly four decades practicing medicine as an obstetrician, and I’ve seen firsthand how the cost of medical malpractice insurance has risen. Among doctors, malpractice costs truly represent a crisis that threatens the economic viability of the profession. There is no question that medical malpractice lawsuits are out of control in this country. We’ve become a society that expects medical care to be guaranteed, that demands a perfect outcome to every medical procedure. Mother Nature provides no guarantees however, and things can go wrong without the slightest negligence by the doctor involved. Of course some malpractice suits are legitimate, and truly negligent doctors should pay economic damages. But far too many suits are filed simply because a patient is unhappy despite the competent efforts of his doctor, and far too meritless suits are settled simply to avoid litigation costs. The result is malpractice premiums that cost doctors tens of thousands of dollars per year, and increasingly threaten to put some out of business. Every American pays for this not only in the form of much higher medical costs, but also in countless other ways. Trauma center doctors have walked off the job in protest. Many doctors feel stressed, unhappy, and unappreciated, which leads to a declining quality of care. Most are hesitant to explore new treatments that could benefit patients because they fear a lawyer will seize on any deviation from standard practices. Similarly, patients endure more and more unnecessary and costly tests ordered by doctors who feel they must explore even the most unlikely diagnoses. Worst of all, the best and brightest young people are abandoning the pursuit of medical careers. Already faced with years in medical school and daunting tuition bills, they increasingly understand that malpractice and economic concerns have damaged the quality of life for doctors. Many Americans understandably want Congress to fix the medical malpractice problem. Yet the u201Csolutionu201D offered by Congress, namely the federalization of malpractice law, threatens to do more harm than good. First and foremost, this approach damages the Constitution by denying states the right to decide their own local medical standards and legal rules. Capping liability limits sounds appealing, but it fails to address the basic problem of too many lawsuits and too many shakedowns, most of which settle for less than the proposed caps anyway. The federal approach also ignores the root cause of the malpractice crisis: the shift away from treating the doctor-patient relationship as a contract to viewing it as one governed by federal regulations. The third-party payer system, largely the result of federal tax laws and the HMO Act of 1973, invites insurance company functionaries, politicians, government bureaucrats, and trial lawyers into the equation. This destroys the patient’s incentive to keep costs down, because he feels he is part of u201Cthe systemu201D and someone else pays the bill. In other words, the costs of medical care have been socialized, even though HMOs are ostensibly private businesses. Yet the assessment of liability and compensation should be determined by private contractual agreements between physicians and patients — in other words, by the free market. The free-market approach enables patients to protect themselves with u201Cnegative outcomesu201D insurance purchased before medical treatment. Such insurance ensures that those harmed receive fair compensation, while reducing the burden of costly malpractice litigation on the health care system. Patients receive this insurance payout without having to endure lengthy lawsuits, and without having to give away a large portion of their award to a trial lawyer. This also drastically reduces the costs imposed on physicians and hospitals by malpractice litigation. I have introduced legislation that allows individuals a tax credit for the purchase of negative outcomes insurance. Needless to say, my bill prohibits the IRS from treating such insurance proceeds as taxable income. After all, while we don’t need trial lawyers getting any more insurance money, we certainly don’t need the IRS getting it either! Dr. Ron Paul is a Republican member of Congress from Texas.
Here is a good piece by my friend, Dean Clancy, on the Constitutional flaws in the bill.
The House will consider good health care legislation, H.R. 2579, which allows individuals to use the premium assistance tax credit for COBRA.
The House will also consider several bills under Suspension of the Rules, including H.R. 338. This bill directs the Department of Energy (DOE) to prioritize giving grants to education and training for energy and manufacturing jobs, including encouraging state and local education agencies to equip students for those jobs and strengthening DOE programs and labs carrying out workforce development initiatives.
The bill instructs DOE to "encourage but not require . . . any state or school district to adopt a curriculum to equip students with the skills and training necessary to fill employment opportunities in the energy and manufacturing industries."
Of course, the goverment does have ways to blur the line between encouragement and mandating -- anyone who doubts this should look at the Obama Department of Education. The bill also requires DOE to establish a clearinghouse for information and guidance on job training and other workforce development programs.
Additionally, DOE must work with the energy and manufacturing industries, educational institutions, and other governmental agencies to identify areas of workforce need and develop guidelines to implement the best practices for effective job training programs.
Central planing anyone?
Tags: Congress, Budget, online gaming