Congress Watch: Cong. Bob Dold Firmly on Board With House’s Right-Wing Agenda and Limiting a Woman’s Right to Choose

This will be a fascinating two years for Congress Watch.  Republicans not only control the entire 114th Congress; they also have increased their majority in the House. But we hope that will change in 2016.

Republican Congressman Bob Dold, who recaptured the seat he held in the 112th Congress, will have to face 10th District voters again in two years.  Former 10th District Congressman Brad Schneider has yet to say whether he will run again; and Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rodkin Rotering is seriously considering running for the seat.

Republican Senator Mark Kirk, now in the Senate majority, also will face a Democratic challenger in 2016.  According to the Chicago Tribune, 8th District Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth is seriously considering running against Kirk.  The Hill reports that although Duckworth may “clear the field,” 17th District Congresswoman Cheri Bustos, 11th District Congressman Bill Foster, and state Sen. Kwame Raoul also have expressed interest in challenging Kirk.  There are also reports that 2nd District Congresswoman Robin Kelly is considering a run.

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This column plans to keep a close watch on Dold and Kirk.  When they campaign for reelection, we intend that readers of this column know exactly what relation the things these politicians say to voters bears to the things they actually do in Washington, D.C.




In the first three weeks of the 114th Congress, as of January 22, the Republican-dominated House has passed 12 bills.  Five of those passed with virtually unanimous votes; they related to such noncontroversial issues as terrorism risk insurance, FEMA response to wind storms, protection for emergency responders, suicide prevention for veterans, and incentives for private employers to hire certain veterans.

So let’s look at the seven bills the House passed over the opposition of most Democrats.  Bob Dold voted for six of them, as did virtually every other Republican member of Congress.  Specifically, this newly-elected Republican representative for the 10th District voted to shift funding for health care under the Affordable Care Act (ACA or “Obamacare”) from corporations to taxpayers, to authorize the Keystone XL pipeline, to weaken government regulation of private industry in general and the financial industry in particular, to make granting permits for natural gas pipelines the default, and to restrict women’s access to reproductive health services like abortion by prohibiting anyone from receiving tax credits under the Affordable Care Act if the insurance they purchase covers abortion services.  President Obama already has signaled his intention to veto some of these measures:

  • The “Save American Workers Act” continued the Republican effort to chip away at the ACA.  It will change the IRS definition of full-time employee from one working at least 30 hours to one working at least 40 hours a week.  Under the ACA, workers earning less than an amount calculated as 400 percent of the official poverty level may receive federal subsidies to purchase health insurance if they do not have employer-furnished health insurance. By excusing employers of 50 or more workers from providing health insurance to those working less than 40 hours a week (instead of only those working less than 30), the effect (and, likely purpose) of this legislation is to shift the cost of health insurance for more working Americans from private employers to the federal government – that is, us taxpayers.  All but 12 Democrats voted no; Republicans unanimously voted yes, including Dold.
  • Next, Dold joined every other Republican in voting to authorize the Keystone XL pipeline, a measure opposed by many environmental groups, among others.  The President has said that he will veto this bill.
  • Dold also agreed with every other Republican to amend existing legislation so as to make it more difficult for all federal agencies to promulgate regulations and easier for regulated businesses to challenge federal regulations.
  • He also joined every other Republican to make requests for permits for natural gas pipelines deemed approved if not disapproved within 30 days.
  • Dold voted with his fellow Republicans to weaken Dodd-Frank, the legislation passed early in the Obama administration to curb some of the dangerous practices in the financial industry that contributed to the 2008 Great Recession.  The bill will delay the effective date of the Volcker Rule and allow large banks to hold on to certain risky securities until 2019. It also exempts private equity firms that conduct securities transactions from the Securities and Exchange Commission’s regulatory authority. And the bill makes risky derivatives trading less transparent.
  • Finally, despite his campaign claims that he supports a woman’s right to choose, on January 22, Dold joined every Republican but one and voted for the “Prohibit Taxpayer Funded Abortions Act.”  This bill prohibits individuals from using federal tax credits to pay for any health insurance plan that covers abortion.  In addition, any plan that offers abortion coverage would have to prominently display that information.  

This provision would have the effect of keeping health insurers from providing coverage for any abortion services.  A large number of those who purchase health insurance are eligible for tax credits to reduce their premiums, and under this bill they could not use the tax credits if the plan they chose offered abortion services.  This means that any insurers that wanted to remain competitive would have to eliminate abortion services from their plans or risk not selling any policies.

You may recall that just last November Dold ran as supporting a woman’s right to choose.  Here is what he said on his campaign website: “Protecting a woman’s right to choose is critical and I have a strong record of safeguarding women’s healthcare rights (and protecting their right to choose) during my time in Congress.”

It has taken newly-elected Congressman Dold just three weeks into his term to give the lie to this claim.

The single Republican bill Dold has not supported to date would tie funding of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to a number of anti-immigrant measures.  For example, the bill would void DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program instituted by President Obama to protect Dreamers from deportation.  Broadly, Dreamers are certain immigrants who entered the United States before age 16, live law-abiding lives, and are in school or serve in the military or hold a high school diploma or GED.

The President surely would veto this measure if it ever came to his desk.  However, it almost certainly won’t, even though Republicans control both houses of Congress.  This is because the bill is so extreme, and its tie to DHS funding so controversial—especially in the wake of the spate of terror incidents and threats in January in Western Europe and the U.S.—that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is unlikely to bring it to the floor.  According to pundits, Boehner only brought it up in the House in the first place to satisfy the diehard anti-immigrant sentiment in his caucus.


On January 12, Illinois Senator Mark Kirk voted with every other Republican, and 10 Democrats, in favor of cloture on the bill, already passed by the House, to authorize the Keystone XL pipeline.  As noted, the President has already said he will veto this bill.

Sen. Kirk is also promoting legislation in the foreign affairs arena that the President surely would veto.  Although, with Democratic Senator Bob Menendez as a cosponsor, it has a bipartisan imprimatur, the bill in question, “Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act of 2015,” is seen by many as calculated to undermine the Obama administration’s ongoing effort to forge an international pact that will prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons.

International negotiations with Iran are proceeding within the framework of an interim agreement under which Iran has largely frozen its nuclear program in exchange for relief from some international sanctions.  The interim agreement was negotiated in November 2013, between Iran on the one hand and the United States, United Kingdom, France, Russia, China, and Germany on the other.  The Kirk-cosponsored legislation would impose new U.S. sanctions on Iran if, upon expiration of the international interim agreement, there is no long-term agreement in place to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons.

According to the Obama administration, a U.S. law threatening new, unilateral sanctions would threaten the unity of the international coalition that has been working to force Iran to make concessions in exchange for sanctions relief.  Tenth Dems’ own Steve Sheffey, whose writing on this subject has been published in The Hill (Preventing Iranian nukes without further sanctions), as well as The Times of Israel (Iran Sanctions: Not a litmus test and Just say no to new Iran sanctions), wrote on January 18 in his weekly Chicagoland Pro-Israel Political Update, “Passage of such a bill would be viewed by Iran and our allies as needlessly provocative and as a sign of bad faith.”  Sheffey also quotes British Prime Minister David Cameron as saying that passage of this legislation “would ‘fracture unity’ among the international coalition that is confronting Iran.”

Thus, the question is not, as Kirk would have it, whether new sanctions would be advisable should negotiations end without an agreement that keeps Iran free of nuclear weapons.  Rather, the question is what good threatening such sanctions now could do, especially weighed against the harm that could ensue from unilateral U.S. action, whether to the negotiations themselves or the international coalition aligned against Iran.


On January 27, Sen. Menendez and other Democratic proponents of this bill withdrew support for Congress’ considering it any sooner than March.

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