It’s a scenario we have seen before … the Republican-controlled House infighting leaving voters with a bitter taste in their mouths and incumbents, even in safe districts, prone to anxiety.
Yep, as correctly forecasted on January 10 2014 —Will Sex-Trafficking Save the GOP ? — the Do-Nothing Shutdown Congress needed an issue then and NOW.
In political elections, perception is everything — do you want to be known as a leading obstructionist in the Do-Nothing Congress … or do you want to find an issue, develop bi-partisan support and enact it ?
As the 2014 elections moved closer, so did the mentions of sex trafficking in campaign advertisements … Erik Paulsen first commercial was about human trafficking — a subject that John Kline also featured in his first campaign ad … implying that through bipartisan efforts, Congress had acted.
Maybe today, voters would recognize it as “Fake News” or presentation of “Alternative Facts”, as we know that Congress finally enacted many trafficking bills in the last Congress and last week, H.R. 1808 Improving Support for Missing and Exploited Children Act, was introduced. So clearly, whatever “Alternative Facts” of candidates professing their successes, today, they still have work to do.
Today, again voters are angry … and the government is again approaching another potential shutdown as funding for governmental operations ceases on April 28, 2017. Adding fuel to the fire, the US Treasury hit its borrowing limit on March 16, 2017. No doubt the Freedom Caucus will dictate the terms and it will be up to the Democrats to supply the votes necessary to keep some sort of fiscal sanity.
So, what will Republican incumbents base their re-elections on ? ? ? ? ? ?
Especially for first-year legislators, like Second District Representative Jason Lewis … who campaigned on working for all the people — not the Republican Establishment or Democrat Special Interests (ya, I know “Alternative Facts” might question his 100% Trump voting record.)
Add to that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is targeting 59 Republican districts in 2018 … which include Jason Lewis.
So, what can Representative Lewis do to present an image that he is not what the DCCC will portray him as … but instead someone who can work with others and enact legislation ?
H.R. 1809 – Juvenile Justice Reform Act of 2017 — is the perfect piece of legislation.
H.R. 1809 was offered by Representative Lewis with bipartisan support — from Chairwoman Virginia Foxx (R-NC-05) and Ranking Member Bobby Scott (D-VA-03) of the Education and Workforce Committee.
Wow … are you impressed ?
Well, don’t be.
Let’s consider the history of the issue.
The bill would reauthorize the Juvenile Justice Delinquency and Prevention Act (JJDPA) which technically expired in 2007.
“Technically” because funding has continued under Continuing Resolutions since some Members of Congress have not agreed to the reform proposals.
Yeah, this was something that John Kline, as Chairman of the Education and Workforce Committee could have done … but he failed.
It wasn’t that he didn’t try … well, sorta … there were various proposals … with the most recent being H.R.5963 – Supporting Youth Opportunity and Preventing Delinquency Act of 2016.
That bill was offered by Representative Carlos Curbelo (R-FL-26) and approved overwhelmingly by a vote of 382 – 29 … with all 29 NO votes from Republicans … names associated with the Freedom Caucus (Amash, Babin, Brat, Bridenstine, Brooks, Buck, Duncan, Gohmert, Gosar, Griffith, Harris, Jordan, Labrador, Massie, Palmer, Perry, Sanford and Weber) plus other prominent Republican voices (such as Burgess, Chaffetz, Farenthold, Price, etc.).
That bill offered funding :
(1) $91,857,500 for fiscal year 2018;
(2) $91,857,500 for fiscal year 2019;
(3) $93,235,362 for fiscal year 2020;
(4) $94,633,892 for fiscal year 2021;
and (5) $96,053,401 for fiscal year 2022.
On the Senate side, the Judiciary Committee has produced several JJDPA bills in the past decade — however, none have received a vote on the floor.
The current objection has been voiced by Senator Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) who wants to protect States’ Rights.
The current Federal law prohibits the incarceration of juveniles for status offenses (such as truancy or underage drinking), but if a judge issues a court order and a juvenile violates it, the judge can order the juvenile detained or incarcerated under what is known as the valid court order, or VCO, exception.
According to Senator Cotton’s office
Arkansas’ use of VCOs to lock up juveniles is now the third highest in the nation. Cotton spokeswoman Caroline Rabbitt noted that when the Arkansas Legislature passed justice reform legislation last year, it opted to keep VCOs as an option for judges.
“What Sen. Cotton is fighting to preserve is Arkansas’ choice — passed in the state legislature last year — to empower judges to enforce their orders where a juvenile flagrantly violates orders to enter counseling or complete other rehabilitation,” she said.
“The majority of states have made the same choice Arkansas has, and Senator Cotton does not believe Congress should second-guess those choices by passing a coercive, top-down mandate that would be yet another act of federal overreach,” Rabbitt said.
Hmmm … how ironic it is that the author of the book, Power Checked : The Argument For States’ Rights, will have his premise tested by his own legislation ?
So that’s the history …
Now to the present …
The Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education, chaired by Rep. Todd Rokita (R-IN-04), held a hearing on February 15 to discuss reforming the country’s juvenile justice system … but Representative Rokita doesn’t need the publicity of authoring a bill.
Carlos Curbelo could have been entrusted to carry the bill … but he won his last contest by a 12 point margin … Jason Lewis won by less than 6,655 votes.
And what better way to show that Lewis is truly independent than to support a bill that had universal support from Democrats and opposed by members of the Freedom Caucus.
Better yet, the new bill carries the exact same funding (hmmm … for the guy who professes great concern over the national debt and the need to cut federal spending, doesn’t it seem ironic that Congressman Lewis is not pushing for cuts in the program especially when President Trump’s overall Department of Justice budget proposl is down 3.8% percent from the 2017 annualized CR level.)
Yep, you can see the campaign commercial already … except, we might have to wait for the House to pass it … and the Senate to pass its version … then a conference committee to resolve the difference … then a final vote … and finally a picture of Jason Lewis standing over the shoulder of President Trump signing the legislation (oh, wait a second, we won’t see that picture in the commercial … Jason Lewis doesn’t want you to know that he has a 100% Trump voting record.)