This Week in Washington

Brian Darling

President Obama is losing political influence on Capitol Hill, because poll numbers indicate that the President is unpopular with the American voters.  Gallup reports today that “U.S. registered voters remain split on whether President Obama deserves to be re-elected in 2012, with 46% saying he does and 51% saying he does not — little changed from earlier this year.”  This is going to be a tough fall for President Obama and his unpopular agenda.

The Senate’s agenda for the week is murky.  The Senate has scheduled a few votes on judicial nominees for today, but the remainder of the week is not set.  Congress Daily references the potential for continued debate on the $119 billion Tax Extenders bill (including an extension of unemployment benefits), a small business lending bill (TARP, Jr.), FAA reauthorization bill and a public safety worker collective bargaining bill.  According to CQ, the House is expected to deal with a bill regulating calling cards, the DISCLOSE Act and potential work on the 2010 War Supplemental.   A conference committee continues work on the Financial Regulatory Deform effort.  Hearings are scheduled on the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and the START Treaty.

DISCLOSE Act – The House is expected to take another run at passing the DISCLOSE Act this week.  Action on that bill melted down last week over a special carve out for the National Rifle Association.  Conservatives argue that the DISCLOSE Act is an unconstitutional regulation of free speech.  According to the Center for Competitive Politics, the DISCLOSE Act contains two elements ”first, it requires corporations to include certain notices in their expenditures and file additional disclosure reports. Second, the DISCLOSE Act identifies certain types of corporations that would not be permitted to make independent expenditures.”  Bradley Smith, Chairman of the Center for Competitive Politics wrote a letter to the editors of the Washington Post where he argued that the DISCLOSE Act “beyond its disclosure provisions, which for the most part simply duplicate existing laws and seek to burden speech with excessive regulation, the act would directly prohibit a great deal of political speech that was legal even before the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.” The Citizens United (from Washington Post) ”in a 5 to 4 decision, the majority cast its ruling as a spirited defense of the First Amendment, concluding that corporations have the same rights as individuals when it comes to political speech. Corporations had been banned since 1947 from using their profits to endorse or oppose political candidates, a restriction that the justices ruled unconstitutional.”  Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in his opinion “when government seeks to use its full power, including the criminal law, to command where a person may get his or her information or what distrusted source he or she may not hear, it uses censorship to control thought.  This is unlawful. The First Amendment confirms the freedom to think for ourselves.” [Emphasis CAJ] According to Smith, one of the problems with this bill is that the legislation “defines literally thousands of both nonprofit and for-profit entities as ‘government contractors’ and prohibits them from mentioning a political candidate or officeholder for a period starting 90 days before the primary and going straight through to the general election.”   Conservatives should watch the progress of this bill to see if Congress is willing to further restrict the rights of people to band together in organizations as a means to promote political ideas.  This legislation has serious constitutional concerns, yet Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) seems intent on passing this bill before the July 4th recess. [Emphasis CAJ]

There is additional information about the Kerry-Lieberman Cap and Trade bill, and several other important issues on the Congressional agenda in this article at RedState.com

UPDATE: There’s more on the DISCLOSE Act and unions at WeaselZippers.

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