Republicans’ Focus Is Tax Cuts for the Rich, Not Gun Violence

In a scene right out of Groundhog Day, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan did exactly the same thing Republicans always do after mass shootings and domestic terror attacks committed by white guys; ignore the issue and change the subject.

Apparently, since Ryan offered up the typical Republican “thoughts and prayers” solution to a horrific terror attack that claimed 59 lives and injured 500-plus other Americans enjoying an outdoor concert on Monday, he had enough “gun talk” by Tuesday morning. If there is any question as to why nothing will be done to put a stop to these annual “pray for the dead” events, Ryan blowing off reporters’ queries about addressing gun violence should clarify why Americans will see more of guns involved in domestic terror attacks.

During a news conference Tuesday, when asked about Republican plans to forge ahead on an NRA bill to make killing Americans easier for the shooters to escape undetected, Ryan said he was focusing on tax cuts for corporations and the richest Americans. Ryan is more focused on helping the 400 richest families in America get richer, than the nearly 600 Americans impacted by the terrorist organization Republicans are closely aligned with and indebted to; the NRA.

Specifically, Ryan was asked if House Republicans were intent on passing a piece of NRA legislation making silencers legal in light of the deadliest mass shooting in American history. Ryan wouldn’t respond to the question because he can’t be bothered talking about gun violence when he had an opportunity to boast that Republicans are focusing on the need for corporate tax cuts; the only issue worthy of his time.

Ryan said he doesn’t know when the “Sportsmen Heritage and Recreational Enhancement Act” (SHARE Act), the NRA’s bill to legalize silencers, will be next scheduled for a vote, because “right now we’re focused on passing our budget.

Ryan is lying. This week’s House Republican focus was interfering with women’s reproductive rights and voting to legalize silencers; at least until their handiwork allowed a madman to rain down death on innocent Americans in Las Vegas. Republicans did pass an extremist evangelical bill because next to tax cuts for corporations and the rich, nothing consumes Republicans more than controlling women.

After Ryan changed the subject from guns to the budget, he told the gathered reporters, with a “chuckle” no less;

“By the way, we’re bringing up our budget this week – I don’t know if you knew that. The reason we’re bring up our budget this week is because we want to pass tax reform, because we think that’s one of the most important things we can do to improve people’s lives. That is our present focus and the Sportsmen’s Bill is not scheduled.

For once, the reporters were not so easily put-off and they pressed Ryan asking if he “regrets passing legislation that President Trump signed” making it easier for mentally ill people to buy guns. Ryan “guffawed” and ignored the question by calling on a different reporter who asked a related gun safety related question. Defeated, Ryan answered by framing Republicans rolling back restrictions on “people with mental illness buying guns as about protecting people’s rights.”

Ryan couldn’t leave it at that and had to lie some more by feigning concern for mental health reform; something he said “is a critical ingredient to making sure we can try to prevent mass shootings.” He’s as big a liar as his standard bearer in the White House.

Ryan and his Republican cohort have perpetually supported healthcare and budget proposals that gut the “largest payer of mental health services in the country – Medicaid.” It is also noteworthy that Ryan has been a staunch proponent of eliminating the requirement that Medicaid covers mental health services. All of these “cuts” Ryan supports are for the sole purpose of funding greater tax cuts for the rich and corporations; the only thing, besides attacking women’s rights, that Republicans, as a movement, care about.

It’s painfully obvious that Republicans don’t want to talk about gun violence, or their part in advancing the National Rifle Association’s crusade to eliminate all gun safety regulations no matter what the people want or how many innocent lives are lost. Caring for Americans has not been a priority for Republicans for a couple of decades, at least, because all of their focus is on making a few hundred wealthy families richer except when they take time to attack women and help their NRA co-conspirators put more guns on the streets and in the hands of lunatics.

House Bill Will Make Churches Dark Money Super PACs

 

Republicans made a sneaky move on Thursday to give their religious right devotees a long sought after gift that further erodes the Separation of Church and State as well as provide the ultimate dark money cover for Republicans’ corporate donors. It is another monumental gift to special interests and the wealthy; a religious super PAC completely immune to the IRS and FEC auditor’s prying eyes.

As is their wont, House Republicans passed what’s been labeled a “megabus” spending bill on Thursday that is better labeled reverse Robin Hood legislation; it takes from the poor and infirm and gives to the rich. For the evangelical right, the Republican bill is two-fold gift in allowing churches to receive and funnel “unlimited dark money to Republican campaigns” as well as to campaign from the pulpit free of IRS interference. According to the tax code, “tax exempt “charitable” non-profits are forbidden from inserting themselves into campaigns, and currently that prohibition stands for all non-profits including those representing religion.

The House spending bill includes a world of hurt for Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and food stamp recipients with significant cuts to help pay for tax cuts for billionaires. But tucked away in the spending bill is a rider with a provision making it nearly impossible for the Internal Revenue Service to enforce the “Johnson Amendment.” The “rider” stops funding attempts by the IRS Republicans, and Trump, claim are unfair attempts to “penalize churches that violate tax law by engaging in explicit political action.”

The new provision states that if there are any funds needed to enforce the Johnson Amendment on lawbreaking evangelical churches, it will “require IRS agents to notify two congressional committees, endure a 90-day waiting period, and then obtain an executive sign-off from the IRS commissioner.” It is noteworthy that this is a “special gift” to churches because all other tax-exempt charitable nonprofits that are not faith based will still be subject to enforcement of the law.

Besides opening up worshippers to suffering weekly campaigning from the pulpit for Republican candidates, this is simply another despicable Republican attempt to deregulate campaign finance laws to aid Republicans. Ironically, destroying the Johnson Amendment is “deeply unpopular among people of faith;” evangelical clergy love the idea. In fact, most religious Americans don’t want politics preached from the pulpit,  and “not a single major denomination” likes the idea of neutering the Johnson Amendment.

That “Johnson Amendment” is hated by the religious right as if it was from Satan because it is part of the tax code that prohibits churches from openly endorsing and campaigning for Republicans from the pulpit. The amendment is founded on the Constitution’s framers’ intent to keep church and state separate; it is a concept that Republicans like Jeff Sessions says is “unconstitutional and unhistorical.

However, this crusade to neuter the Johnson Amendment is almost certainly a Republican ploy to open the floodgates of dark money. There are exceedingly stringent rules prohibiting the IRS from auditing churches and according to the IRS, it is also extremely rare that a church is investigated for violating the Johnson Amendment, much less losing their tax-exemption.

A former IRS attorney and current LSU law school professor, Philip Hackney, told ThinkProgress the IRS typically goes to extreme lengths to avoid enforcing the Johnson Amendment. It is almost a mortal sin in America to even utter an unkind word about religion, so naturally daring to take away a church’s free taxpayer money is tantamount to a sin against the evangelical god. Mr. Hackney said:

There have been very few organizations that have lost their exemption. The typical answer was to slap people on the wrist. There’s a real problem when the answer is ‘you lose exemption’ — the IRS would look for any way it could get around making that choice.

According to the Center for Inquiry’s legal director, Nick Little, the Republican ploy is another “double benefit” for places of worship and Republicans. Mr. Little said:

“You could have unlimited dark money flowing to a campaign [from churches] if this gets passed, and there is nothing the IRS could do about it. They would be getting a double benefit.”

Democrats did attempt to remove the “dark money” provision from the spending bill during debate at the sub-committee level, at the full committee level, and on the floor of the House. But Republicans care more concerned about deregulating campaign finance laws and getting free weekly pulpit campaign time than preserving the Constitution’s Separation and Establishment Clauses in the First Amendment.

The Executive Director of the Secular Coalition for America, Larry T. Decker said:

Members of Congress had ample opportunities to strike [the provision] from this bill; when it was debated at the sub-committee level, at the full committee level, when Congresswoman Wasserman Schultz offered an amendment to cut it from the bill, and when it was on the floor of the House of Representatives. At every point, Congress failed to stand up for a law which has helped maintain the separation of church and state for more than 63 years.”

Like everything Republicans do, sneaking a measure in a spending bill to advance the religious rights’ crusade against the Constitution’s Separation of church and state, and giving ultimate cover for dark money to aid Republicans is highly unpopular. It is also a despicable attack on democracy. The religious right sees it as a sure-fire guarantee to continue electing Republicans without IRS interference, and help funnel dark money for those Republicans unimpeded and out of the Federal Elections Commission’s prying eyes.

For Americans who are not evangelical fanatics, it is another blatant Republican attack on the U.S. Constitution that is beginning to appear as important to Republicans as it to their standard bearer dirty Don Trump. For dark money purveyors like the Koch brothers and Karl Rove, the Republican move is tantamount to abolishing the FEC because with no way to “follow the money” from the Kochs to the churches to Republican candidates, this atrocity fairly decimates what remains of America’s fragile representative democracy; just like the Kochs and Republicans have planned for decades.