super committee

Beware The Super Congress?

This afternoon I was surfing the shooting sports news site AmmoLand.com when I came across the following warning from the gun rights group Gun Owners of America:

Gun owner registration … bans on semi-automatic firearms … adoption of a UN gun control treaty — all of these issues could very well be decided over the next 24 hours.

Both houses of Congress will be voting on a debt ceiling bill that establishes a legislative committee with TREMENDOUS powers. Fox News is calling this committee a SUPER CONGRESS, because its legislative proposals (which could include gun control provisions) CANNOT be filibustered or amended in the Senate or House.

Have you heard about this “Super Congress?” The Huffington Post’s Ryan Grim wrote back on July 23:

Debt ceiling negotiators think they’ve hit on a solution to address the debt ceiling impasse and the public’s unwillingness to let go of benefits such as Medicare and Social Security that have been earned over a lifetime of work: Create a new Congress.

This “Super Congress,” composed of members of both chambers and both parties, isn’t mentioned anywhere in the Constitution, but would be granted extraordinary new powers. Under a plan put forth by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and his counterpart Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), legislation to lift the debt ceiling would be accompanied by the creation of a 12-member panel made up of 12 lawmakers — six from each chamber and six from each party.

Legislation approved by the Super Congress — which some on Capitol Hill are calling the “super committee” — would then be fast-tracked through both chambers, where it couldn’t be amended by simple, regular lawmakers, who’d have the ability only to cast an up or down vote. With the weight of both leaderships behind it, a product originated by the Super Congress would have a strong chance of moving through the little Congress and quickly becoming law. A Super Congress would be less accountable than the system that exists today, and would find it easier to strip the public of popular benefits. Negotiators are currently considering cutting the mortgage deduction and tax credits for retirement savings, for instance, extremely popular policies that would be difficult to slice up using the traditional legislative process.

(Editor’s notes: Italics added for emphasis)

Both Grim and the Post’s Michael McAuliff added yesterday morning:

Senate Democrats are exploring ways of giving the proposed “super Congress” even greater super powers, according to multiple news reports and congressional aides with knowledge of the plan.

Under the new proposal, if the new legislative body, made up of six Democrats and six Republicans from both chambers, doesn’t come up with a bill that cuts at least $1.5 trillion by Thanksgiving, entitlement programs will automatically be slashed.

Under the reported framework, legislation the new congressional committee writes would be fast-tracked through Congress and could not be filibustered or amended.

Returning to that AmmoLand piece and how a proposed Super Congress could potentially impact gun rights, GOA noted:

To understand what a huge deal this is, consider that House Speaker John Boehner is able to keep a mountain of gun control bills from coming to the floor of the House. That’s the power of the Speaker.

And in the Senate, we have been able to kill much of the gun control agenda by filibustering legislation (that is, requiring the Majority Leader to get a supermajority or 60 votes in order to pass gun control).

The most recent example of this occurred earlier this year when we defeated a radical, anti-gun judicial nomination (Goodwin Liu) using the filibuster. The filibuster has been our saving grace in the Senate, but that could be tossed within the next 24 hours.

Regarding the debt ceiling compromise, here’s what one legislative analyst (inside a Republican office on Capitol Hill) had to say:

Right now, we have limited protection from the schemes of the left – even if they have some Republican support, we have a speaker who wouldn’t bring horrible bills to the floor, and we have the Senate filibuster.

Both of these are rendered moot by the Super committee. There is NO Senate filibuster on the product they report. The Speaker CANNOT stop a vote in the House….

[Hence], 22 liberal Republicans can join the Congressional Democrats and the President in: Closing the gun show “loophole,” banning semi-automatic weapons, creating a national handgun registration, or ordering state gun laws moot.

While the idea of a Super Congress is being pitched as some super-efficient way of keeping this nation on-course in dealing with our massive debt, who’s not to say the responsibilities assigned to such a panel won’t be expanded down the road.

Stay tuned…

Sources:

Gun Owners of America. “Congress To Vote On Super Congress That Could Be Usurped to Impose Gun Control.” AmmoLand.com. 1 Aug. 2011. (http://www.ammoland.com/2011/08/01/congress-to-vote-on-super-congress-that-could-be-usurped-to-impose-gun-control/). 1 Aug. 2011.

Grim, Ryan. “’Super Congress': Debt Ceiling Negotiators Aim To Create New Legislative Body.” Huffington Post. 23 July 2011. (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/07/23/super-congress-debt-ceiling_n_907887.html). 1 Aug. 2011.

Grim, Ryan and McAulif, Michael. “Super Congress Getting Even More Super Powers In Debt Deal.” Huffington Post. 31 July 2011. (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/07/31/super-congress-debt-ceiling-deficit-deal_n_914272.html). 1 Aug. 2011.

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Christopher E. Hill, Editor
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