45 Watch: The Devil Went Down to Congress


45 Watch: The Devil Went Down to Congress

In his poem “The Generous Player,” the French poet Charles Baudelaire envisions an enchanted encounter with the devil, in which his host confesses that the only time “he feared for his own power” was when he heard a preacher proclaim that “the cleverest ruse of the Devil is to persuade you he does not exist.” Baudelaire’s devil fears he will lose his strength if he is believed to breathe — that the light that shines upon him will only prevent him from devising in the dark.

It’s no coincidence, then, that President Donald Trump’s Reich-hand, err, right-hand man, Steve Bannon believes “[d]arkness is good.”

“Dick Cheney. Darth Vader. Satan. That’s power. It only helps us…[w]hen they’re blind to who we are and what we’re doing,” Bannon said. As we’re busy dissecting Trump’s narcissistic Tweet-bursts and lies, his administration’s ties to Russia, and his army of loyal jesters—Spicer, Conway, Lord, et. al., — as they flood the airwaves with propaganda, Bannon’s dark ideology is taking shape in the form of oft-ignored, actual government work: the introduction of numerous bills to the House and Senate. Instead of parsing facts from lies this week, let’s take a look at the truths hidden in plain sight.

Some of the over 1,600 bills introduced by the Republicans in the 115th Congress are laughably mundane, like HR 375, which seeks to append the name of “Fred D. Thompson” to a Tennessee courthouse. Others are more frightening; below are a few bills wafting that strong scent of sulfur.

Removing Environmental Protections

Consistent with their truly ignorant denial of climate change, Republicans under Trump’s lead have inundated the congressional floor with numerous bills designed to weaken, or outright eliminate, existing laws and regulations regarding the environment.

HR 953 aims to loosen regulations for dumping insecticides and pesticides in to water sources. S 452 looks “to delay the enforcement and implementation” of air quality standards by not enforcing it until 2025 and for future assessments to occur on a 10-year interval, instead of five.

HR 928 proposes to remove federal regulations for fracking and leaving it to up to state governments to decide, as does HJR 69, which strives to remove federal involvement in protecting wildlife in Alaska.

HR 1314 attempts to eliminate a 10-year-old law that intended to “reduce greenhouse gas emissions and expand the nation’s renewable fuels sector while reducing reliance on imported oil.”

All of the above bills will be moot if HR 861 passes.  What may be one of the shortest bills ever introduced, this legislation states its sole purpose as “to terminate the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).” And if the EPA survives, HR 1430, or the “HONEST Act,” wants to prohibit it from providing any regulation or assessment based on science that is not reproducible — as if climate change is a peer-reviewed experiment.

William Ruckelshaus being sworn in as the first EPA administrator in 1970, under Richard Nixon >Flickr/Richard M. Nixon Presidential Library

Eradicating Education

It makes sense that education is not a high priority for the Trump administration; not only are Trump’s cognitive and language abilities stunted, but 67% of white voters without a college education voted for him. As a result, Republican lawmakers are looking to do away with education as a public institution.

Just as the bill to obliterate the EPA is concise in its target, so is HR 899, which simply aims to “terminate the Department of Education.” And in case that doesn’t pass, there’s also HR 1510,which plans to, you guessed it, eliminate the Department of Education.

As Republicans look to gut public education, they also seek to redistribute tax money to charter and private schools. HR 610, the “Choices in Education Act of 2017,” if passed, will repeal the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, which was part of President Lyndon Johnson’s “War on Poverty” that the Social Welfare History project at VCU states “represented a landmark commitment to equal access to education.” This bill will also funnel federal funding into private school vouchers.

Disturbingly hidden within this bill is an attempt by Iowa Congressman Steve King, a well-documented bigot, racist, and white supremacist, to push forward his failed 2015 No Hungry Kids Act (HR 1363), which would repeal the 2012 nutrition standards for school lunch and breakfast programs. These standards increased the availability of fruits and vegetables, and decreased the levels of sodium, saturated fats and trans fats in school meals.

HR 1462 attempts to siphon federal funds earmarked for the education of disadvantaged children to also be used for private and charter schools, while also repealing “Common Core” educational standards that originally emerged with strong Republican and Democratic support from the “No Child Left Behind Act” of the Bush administration (until it was decried by Glenn Beck to sell books.)

Revoking Health and Wage Protections

The universally panned Trumpcare proposal — a plan so bad no one wants their name on it — has forced Trump to literally threaten Republicans to vote for HR 1275, or what is actually being called the “World’s Greatest Healthcare Plan of 2017.” Meanwhile, every aspect of the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, is being repealed by S 106, S 222, HR 175, HR 370, HR 1072, and many others. Even more pernicious is HR 1313, or the “Preserving Employee Wellness Act,” which would allow employers to collect genetic information to glean possible future health issues of employees to deny healthcare coverage, and fire them if they don’t comply.

Trump conservatives believe regulation is bad for the environment and economy, but they think it’s desperately needed for a woman’s body. HR 7 advises removing any and all federal funding for abortions, HR 354 looks to defund Planned Parenthood, and HR 490 attempts to prevent abortions after a “fetal heartbeat” is detected, which can be as early as five weeks. HR 147 proposes to criminalize abortion and HR 681 wants to preserve the “right to life of each…preborn human person.”

Although Republicans want every “preborn” human to live, they don’t want every “postborn” human to have the same rights. HR 1381 wants to impose a work requirement for Medicaid recipients — because why would someone without a job need healthcare? — while HR 1469 attempts to limit and eventually remove welfare benefits designed to provide assistance to exclusively low-income Americans. HR785 and S 545 plan to weaken labor unions, while HR 743 wants to remove any wage requirements for various classes of laborers. Even more remarkably, HR 1031 and S 370 are trying to eliminate the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection.

Vilifying Foreigners

As Trump’s recent resurrection of his failed “travel” [read: Muslim] ban once again faces opposition in federal courts, the goal of turning foreigners and immigrants into legislative targets is in full swing.

S 354 will reduce the number of family-sponsored immigrants and refugees allowed in to the U.S., while HR 83 will prohibit “sanctuary cities” — U.S. cities that protect refugees or unauthorized immigrants — from receiving federal funds. In order to further block people from entering the U.S., HR 391 will rescind the use of humanitarian or public interest reasons for providing asylum to immigrants, and HR 1502 will terminate the EB-5 visa program, which allows for foreign nationals who invest money in the U.S. to gain Green Card status.

HR 1342 will prohibit federal funding to universities who do not comply with requests to identify aliens, and HR 1471 will “suspend assistance to countries denying or delaying accepting aliens ordered removed from the United States.” As Trump continues to push for devastating immigration raids, the growth in anti-immigrant animus and violence has led sanctuary cities like Philadelphia to cancel events that celebrate other cultures, fearing it will draw government agents bent on deportation.

The attack on foreigners isn’t limited to the U.S. border. The Republican Congress is pushing it’s finger into the eye of multiple countries and their citizens by introducing bills declaring Pakistan a state-sponsor of terrorism (H.R.1449), levying greater sanctions against Iran and all people who “conduct transactions” with Iranians (S 227 and HR 808), and, more dangerously, authorizing the President to unilaterally wage war against Iran (HJR 10).

A protest against the Iran nuclear deal >Flickr/Elvert Barnes

And they’re nowhere near done. HR 377 denounces Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization, a plan that has multiple negative consequences and is almost unanimously disparaged by Middle East experts. S 474 limits any aid to Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, while HR 257, S 11, and HR 265 aim to establish Jerusalem, instead of Tel Aviv, as the capital of Israel and thereby move the U.S. Embassy to that city. Such a ruling goes against international law and will only escalate the on-going conflict. HR 27 plainly rejects the two-state solution, instead intending to prioritize Israel’s sovereignty, which translates to never ceding rights to Palestinians. The anti-Palestinian fervor soaks the words of S 170, the Combating BDS Act of 2017, which demands that state and local governments divest from any entity involved in the Boycott, Divest, and Sanction movement activists developed to leverage economic power against Israel.

Many of these Congressional bills may never pass. However, their mere introduction to the House and Senate floor reveal a larger patchwork: the implementation of a far-right agenda seeking to promote white nationalism, destroy rights and regulations protecting poor and minority classes, and to denigrate and demonize all immigrants, refugees and foreigners. This dark future is exactly what Bannon wants, as he thrives in the shadows. Shine a light on the devil; contact your congressperson about any of the above bills you disagree with and demand your representative vote against it. Or find a nice dark hole to hide in for the next four years.

*Image: A caricature of Steve Bannon. >Flickr/DonkeyHotey

About The Author

Obaid H. Siddiqui

About Obaid H. Siddiqui

Obaid H. Siddiqui is a freelance writer and journalist based in Philadelphia. He is a contributor to the anthology “All-American: 45 American Men on Being Muslim.” He can be followed on Twitter @OhSiddiqui.

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