By Tom Ozimek
Incoming House Majority Leader Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) revealed a list of legislation that he will bring up for Republicans to consider on the House floor when they assume control of the lower chamber in mere days and loosen the Democrats’ grip on power in Washington.
In a letter to his GOP colleagues, Scalise listed eight bills and three resolutions that he will be scheduling for Republicans to take up in their first two weeks of work after the 118th Congress begins at noon on Jan. 3.
“We have a lot of work ahead of us next year as we begin to get our country back on the right track,” Scalise wrote.
American voters have made their desire for change clear in the midterm election, Scalise said, noting frustration with soaring inflation, the rise in violent crime, and the crisis of illegal immigration.
“The last two years have been tough on hard-working families as they have grappled with drastic increases in the cost of living, safety concerns with violent crime skyrocketing in our communities, soaring gas and home heating prices, and a worsening crisis at our Southern border,” Scalise said.
The incoming Congress, he pledged, will work to fix these problems by passing bills that will improve the lives of “all Americans” with measures like getting tougher on crime by encouraging more prosecutions.
Republicans look to press what Scalise described as a “bold agenda” after winning enough seats in the midterms to retake the House and challenge the Democrats, who remain in control of the Senate and White House and so have the power to block legislation.
A review of the bills and resolutions Scalise has scheduled for the first two weeks of the new Congress—like defunding the IRS or restricting releases from the nation’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve—suggests Republicans want to send a message to the Biden administration that the winds of change are about to blow harder.
Tough on China, Tough on Crime
The first bill, dubbed the Family and Small Business Taxpayer Protection Act (pdf), aims to revoke some of the additional IRS funding that Democrats passed as part of their Inflation Reduction Act that the agency plans to use for tax enforcement.
With the bill, Republicans are targeting what Scalise said was “tens of billions of dollars allocated to the IRS for 87,000 new IRS agents.” That figure is in dispute, with the Biden administration saying much of the money would go to non-enforcement staff like customer service.
Getting tougher on China is another immediate action item for the House Republicans, with a resolution (pdf) that seeks to establish a bipartisan Select Committee on the strategic competition between the United States and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
The panel has long been a priority for Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who hopes to become House speaker and who recently announced Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.) as his proposed chair of the committee.
Gallagher said in mid-December that he hopes for bipartisan cooperation on the committee, saying “our first priority right now is just getting the best team together,” noting that “a lot” of Democrats have reached out with interest in being on the panel.
“We want to make sure that we’re enhancing and elevating the discussion on China,” Gallagher said, noting that the top near-term priority is deterring Beijing from taking aggressive actions regarding Taiwan.
Other priorities of the panel, Gallagher said, is what he described as “economic statecraft” that would entail “smartly and selectively” decoupling from China.
“We don’t want American taxpayer dollars or retirement financial security subsidizing China’s military modernization or subsidizing genocide,” he said.
The third is ideological competition and human rights, he said, which would “shine a light on some of the malicious practices of the regime and the [Chinese Communist Party’s] abysmal human rights record.”
Domestic Energy, Border Security, Abortion
Another bill Scalise put forward is the Strategic Production Response Act (pdf), which would prohibit non-emergency drawdowns of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve without a parallel plan to boost energy production on federal lands.
Republicans have been highly critical of President Joe Biden for ordering the release of oil from the strategic reserve, arguing that it was a ploy to win votes ahead of the midterms by trying to lower pump prices.
Biden, for his part, has insisted the release was meant to stabilize global oil markets amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the ensuing energy price shock, as well as trying to lower prices for Americans amid decades-high inflation, of which a major component is the cost of energy.
Scalise has scheduled another related bill, called Protecting America’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve from China Act (pdf), which would restrict the energy secretary from selling oil from the strategic reserve to China.
Another bill is the Prosecutors Need to Prosecute Act (pdf), which would allow the public to see how many cases prosecutors are declining to prosecute, along with the number of criminals released onto the streets and the number of offenses committed by career criminals.
A related tough-on-crime resolution (pdf) seeks to express support for police while condemning efforts to defund or dismantle law enforcement agencies.
On border security, Scalise put forward a bill called the Border Safety and Security Act (pdf), which would give the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) the power to turn away people crossing the border illegally in order to gain “operational control” of the border.
Republicans have accused DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas of failing to ensure “operational control” of the border as illegal border crossings have surged.
Another related bill, called the Illegal Alien NICS Alert Act (pdf) would require the National Instant Criminal Background Check system (NICS) to notify U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and relevant local law enforcement if someone trying to buy a firearm is an illegal immigrant.
There are three abortion-related measures: two bills and a resolution.
One bill, called the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion and Abortion Insurance Full Disclosure Act (pdf), seeks to make the Hyde Amendment permanent and prohibit federal funding for abortions as well as funding for any insurance plans that include on-demand abortion.
The other bill, called Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act (pdf), would ensure that infants born alive after a failed abortion would receive the same legal protection and health care as a newborn.
Scalise also put forward a resolution (pdf) that would condemn attacks on pro-life facilities, groups, and churches.
In addition to the “ready-to-go” bills, Scalise said House Republicans would also develop oversight plans to bring “much-needed accountability” to the Biden administration.
He also endorsed McCarthy for House speaker.