California Might Replace Gas Sales Tax With Mileage Tax

Kate Scanlon /

Your fuel efficient car might be great for the environment, but if you live in California, it might not help you save money much longer.

California lawmakers have introduced a plan to replace a sales tax on gasoline with a tax on motorists based on mileage.

Under the new plan, drivers would have to log how many miles they drove, paying a tax per mile. Drivers with electric or hybrid cars – which use less gasoline – would pay the same tax as drivers of regular cars.

California uses revenue generated from the gas sales tax to maintain the state’s transportation infrastructure such as roads, highways and bridges. Falling gas prices mean that a tax based on a percentage of sales results in less funds for the state. The switch to a per-mile tax, lawmakers believe, would result in an increase in revenue.

San Francisco’s KPIX reports that Gov. Jerry Brown, a Democrat, said that his state is suffering a “$59 million backlog on highway maintenance.”

According to KPIX, a similar program is being tested in Oregon, and is also under consideration in Washington and Colorado.

Among other taxes, California drivers currently pay a 2.25 percent sales tax on gas and a 9.67 percent tax on diesel fuel.

Report: 12 Million People Predicted to Use Obamacare Exchanges This Year - Daily Signal

Report: 12 Million People Predicted to Use Obamacare Exchanges This Year

Kate Scanlon / Alyene Senger /

The Congressional Budget Office’s new Budget and Economic Outlook includes some interesting projections regarding Obamacare. CBO director Douglas Elmendorf is testifying on the report at a Senate Budget Committee hearing Wednesday and hopefully some of these projections will be questioned:

1. Enrollment. The CBO projects that 12 million people will obtain coverage on the ACA’s exchanges this year. This is much higher than the Obama administration’s estimate of about 9 million and it is about double actual enrollment in 2014. Even more intriguing, CBO projects exchange enrollment to grow to 21 million in 2016. Thus, CBO anticipates exchange enrollment tripling between 2014 and 2016 (Table B-2). Given that as of Dec. 15, 2014, the Department of Health and Human Services reported that only 1.8 million new individuals had picked a plan, it’s hard to see how exchange enrollment will reach such levels.

2. Costs. There have been some misleading media reports claiming that the CBO now expects the Affordable Care Act to cost less. This is because the CBO says that the net cost of the law’s coverage provisions is now estimated to be $101 billion, 7 percent less than previously projected from 2015-2024. However, the reason for the difference is mainly that CBO increased its projections for offsetting revenue from Obamacare’s effects. In fact, CBO reduced its estimates for Obamacare spending (exchange subsidies and Medicaid expansion) over the ten-year period by only $8 billion. (page 121).

3. Premiums. CBO estimates that the average subsidy per beneficiary will increase from $4,330 in 2015 to $7,710 in 2025. Because subsidy amounts are linked to the cost of premiums relative to income, the implication is that CBO expects premiums to continue rising significantly in the future. (Table B-3).

4. Subsidized and Unsubsidized Enrollees. Another curious projection is that CBO projects a much larger share of exchange enrollees will be unsubsidized in future years. In 2014, about 85 percent of enrollees were getting financial assistance. In 2015, CBO expects a significant drop, with only two-thirds of all enrollees receiving subsidies, declining to less than 60 percent of all enrollees towards the end of the decade (Table B-3). Given that coverage is available for purchase directly from insurers off the exchange, it is unusual to assume that this many people would use the exchange if they were not eligible for subsidies.

5. Loss of Employer Health Insurance Coverage. CBO projects that 2 million fewer people will have employment based coverage in 2015 due to the implementation of Obamacare, with loss of coverage accelerating to about 9 million over the decade (page 121). This is a greater projected decline in employment-based health coverage than in previous reports but CBO could still be underestimating, especially in the near-term. Research by Heritage expert Ed Haislmaier shows that during the first 9 months of 2014, enrollment in employer-sponsored coverage declined by almost 5 million individuals. This suggests that in reality, employer coverage may be eroding faster than CBO assumes in its projections.

Here’s Paul Ryan’s Recipe for Achieving Economic Freedom - Daily Signal

Here’s Paul Ryan’s Recipe for Achieving Economic Freedom

Kate Scanlon / Alyene Senger / Kate Scanlon /

Rep. Paul Ryan has a simple recipe for how the U.S. can achieve greater economic freedom.

Ryan, R-Wis., said Tuesday that stronger trade policies and stomping out cronyism can make the country’s economy more free.

Ryan, speaking at the Heritage Foundation to introduce the 21st edition of the Index of Economic Freedom, joked that he’s been reading the index since his mid-twenties, and applauded its influence.

“Countries around the world pay attention to this,” said Ryan, the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. “I hope ours does, too.”

He added:

“We started capping the kind that Congress is control of on an annual basis, discretionary spending, and so I think it’s noteworthy that because of a new Republican Congress that took over in 2011, we brought some temper to the out of control spending that was happening here in Washington and as a result, it made us more free. That’s a good step in the right direction with many, many steps to follow.”

He said that the Republican takeover of the House in 2011 was a good step towards promoting economic freedom.

“The fact that our country received an uptick in our rating this year, and one of the reasons why we would see this uptick is because since we took over the House in 2011, we started cutting spending,” Ryan said.

Ryan said that the U.S. could “attack cronyism” through trade.

U.S. economic policy should be a model for other nations on economic freedom, Ryan said, and if we don’t “write the rules for the global economy,” than other countries will. Conservative policy goals can be accomplished with other nations through trade, he added.

According to Ryan, the creed “opportunity for all favoritism for none” should “direct us and guide us going forward in the conduct of our economic policy.”

He believes that big government and big business “unite in a common cause” to bar new competition from entering the markets.

Ryan said that economic policy must guarantee equality of opportunity, not outcome.

Since 1995, the Index of Economic Freedom has been compiled annually by the Heritage Foundation in collaboration with the Wall Street Journal. It tracks “economic freedom, prosperity, and opportunity” in 186 countries. Read more about it here.

 

Your 529 Plan Is Safe. Here’s Why the White House Changed Course. - Daily Signal

Your 529 Plan Is Safe. Here’s Why the White House Changed Course.

Kate Scanlon / Alyene Senger / Kate Scanlon / Kate Scanlon /

President Obama is abandoning his controversial plan to tax the interest on 529 savings accounts, the White House announced Tuesday.

The 529 plans are savings accounts in which parents and families can invest after-tax dollars. If the money is used for specified college costs, they don’t have to pay federal tax on the interest accumulated in these accounts.

The president’s proposal, which faced bipartisan opposition, would have “effectively end[ed]” the plans, according to the New York Times.

“Given it has become such a distraction, we’re not going to ask Congress to pass the 529 provision so that they can instead focus on delivering a larger package of education tax relief that has bipartisan support, as well as the president’s broader package of tax relief for child care and working families,” a White House official told the New York Times.

Earlier on Tuesday, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said that 529 plans “help middle-class families save for college,” and said that taxing these accounts should not be included in the president’s budget proposal.

Lindsey Burke, the Will Skillman fellow in education policy at The Heritage Foundation, said that the president’s plan would have hurt middle-class families.

“Taxing college savings accounts would have created disincentives for those who save for college in favor of the federal government directing college spending, lending and handouts—through proposals like ‘free’ community college and student loan ‘forgiveness,’” Burke told The Daily Signal.

“It became clear pretty quickly that the proposal to tax college savings accounts in no way benefited middle-income families,” Burke added. “Families who have diligently worked to save for their children’s college education would have been penalized under this proposal. It seems, at least for the moment, that the administration is dropping its quest for this bad policy.”

>>> Obama Proposes Eliminating Tax Cut Designed to Help Families Save for College

Corie Whalen Stephens, a spokeswoman for Generation Opportunity, said taxing the interest on 529 plans hurts middle-class students and their families.

“It’s encouraging to see our president respond to the needs of our generation by dropping his ill-conceived idea to tax 529 college savings plans. His misguided proposal, intended to fund his unaffordable government policies, would have fallen squarely on the backs of middle-class students and their families,” said Stephens.

She added that funding a broken system doesn’t help students.

“Finding new ways for the government to finance a failing higher education system isn’t a solution. In fact, these endless subsidies with no reforms attached to them are the problem. To fix this, our leaders must look to policies that foster innovation and competition to lower overall costs—not repackage failed big government policies,” said Stephens.

Anti-Slavery Activists Imprisoned in Mauritania - Daily Signal

Anti-Slavery Activists Imprisoned in Mauritania

Kate Scanlon / Alyene Senger / Kate Scanlon / Kate Scanlon / Charlotte Florance / Daniel Patrick Shaffer /

Three prominent anti-slavery activists and opposition politicians in Mauritania were sentenced to two years in prison earlier this month. Biram Dah Abeid, the runner-up in the 2014 presidential elections, was convicted on charges of “belonging to an illegal organization, leading an unauthorized rally, and violence against the police”—along with one of his aides Bilal Ramdane, and Djiby Sow, a civic and cultural rights campaigner. Abeid is the president and founder of the Initiative for the Resurgence of the Abolitionist Movement, the most prominent anti-slavery activist organization in Mauritania.

Mauritania straddles North Africa and sub-Saharan Africa where slavery has long been institutionalized along racial and cultural lines. The country is comprised of mainly three distinct groups including Bidan, Arab-Berbers who comprise about 30 percent of the population and hold the majority of wealth and political power. Bidan are typically slave owners; Haratine, a distinct group of African descent, are the slaves. Haratine are considered the lowest class regardless of an individual’s unofficial status as slave or free man. Haritine comprise around 40 percent of the population. “Afro-Mauritanians,” black Mauritanians who are not decedents of slaves and do not speak Arabic, comprise about 30 percent of the population.

Mauritania, officially abolishing slavery in 1981, was the last country in the world to do so. On paper, the 2003 Law Against Trafficking in Persons and Law 2007–048 guarantee that people are protected from human trafficking, but in reality the deeply rooted social structure based on slavery remains the main cause of human trafficking. Few slaveholders in the country have been convicted, and those who have are often released from prison only months later. While it is difficult to know the exact number of individuals enslaved in Mauritania, according to estimates, the country has the highest prevalence of human trafficking and slavery in the world, with 4 percent of the total population—roughly 155,600 people—enslaved. Mauritania is also listed on “Tier 3,” the worst ranking that a country can receive for human trafficking, in the U.S. Department of State’s “Trafficking in Persons” report. Tier 3 is reserved for “[c]ountries whose governments do not fully comply with the minimum standards and are not making significant efforts to do so.”

The conviction of Abeid, Ramdane, and Sow is not only a concern for the anti-slavery movement in Mauritania, but also for advocates of freedom of association and assembly. Abeid’s conviction in particular has implications not only for his work shedding light on the abhorrent institution of slavery in Mauritania, but for the development of a wider political opposition movement.

While Mauritania remains an important counterterrorism ally for the United States, the “informal” institution of slavery in Mauritania and Abeid’s conviction in particular should not go unnoticed by Congress and the Obama Administration. In September 2014, President Obama waived the legal assistance restrictions resulting from Mauritania’s Tier 3 ranking on the basis of of anti-trafficking efforts and U.S. national interests. While the justification may be necessary to promote U.S. interests in a challenging region, Abeid’s conviction and the current situation in Mauritania necessitate vigilant oversight on U.S. taxpayer assistance to Mauritania.

Felony Conviction of Reid Contributor Upheld By Ninth Circuit - Daily Signal

Felony Conviction of Reid Contributor Upheld By Ninth Circuit

Kate Scanlon / Alyene Senger / Kate Scanlon / Kate Scanlon / Charlotte Florance / Daniel Patrick Shaffer / Hans von Spakovsky /

In the midst of his recovery from a serious accident at his home in Nevada, Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has gotten some more bad news: the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld the felony conviction of Harvey Whittemore, a big financial supporter of the senator.

According to the Ninth Circuit’s opinion, which was released on Jan. 26, Whittemore is “a prominent attorney, developer and lobbyist who has long been active in Nevada politics and political fundraising.” In 2007, he was the chairman of “a holding company with significant interests in golf courses, land development, oil and gas properties, and dairy operations.” The Federal Election Commission website records him as having made tens of thousands of dollars in political contributions to various candidates as well as party organizations such as the Democratic National Committee and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

According to the court opinion, in Feb. 2007 after a personal meeting with Reid, Whittemore promised to raise $150,000 for Reid before the upcoming March 31 campaign finance filing deadline. When Reid’s campaign had not received any of the promised funds by late March, Reid’s fundraiser Jake Perry “twice followed up with Whittemore.” On March 27, 2007, the “day of the second follow-up call, Whittemore transferred a total of $145,000 to seventeen relatives and employees through wire transfers and checks.” Individuals who were not married received $5,000 and married couples received $10,000.

Every relative and employee then made a maximum contribution to Reid’s campaign, which at the time was $4,600, “most within one day of receiving the money.” Many of them testified at trial that “they would not or could not have made such large contributions absent the transfers from Whittemore.”

Whittemore told his relatives and employees that these payments were “gifts” or “bonuses,” but he simultaneously “encouraged them to make contributions to Sen. Reid’s campaign, sometimes explicitly stating that the funds were intended to cover the cost of the contribution.” Many of the contribution checks were sent by Federal Express to Jake Perry by Whittemore’s assistant with a spreadsheet identifying 33 donors, thirteen of whom were employees of Whittemore’s holding company.

Whittemore was convicted by a jury of making excessive campaign contributions and violating the federal campaign finance law prohibition on conduit contributions, which is when you make a contribution in the name of another person. He was sentenced to 24 months in prison by federal district court Judge Larry Hicks and began serving his sentence at the Lompoc federal prison facility in California in August of last year.

Whittemore’s attorney raised some pretty creative defenses to his prosecution before the Ninth Circuit, none of which worked. For example, he argued that an unconditional gift of funds cannot violate federal law once the funds have become the property of the donors under Nevada law. Since the money Whittemore transferred to his relatives and employees became their own money and “because the transfers were not conditioned upon the making of campaign contributions or otherwise, the giftees’ subsequent campaign contributions could not trigger a violation” of federal law. But the Ninth Circuit concluded that Whittemore’s arguments had no merit and were “not supported by law.”

Whittemore also claimed that the maximum federal campaign contribution limit of $4,600 violated his First Amendment rights to free speech and association. However, the Ninth Circuit said that argument had been foreclosed by the U.S. Supreme Court in Buckley v. Valeo (1976), the seminal case on campaign finance law, which held that “the appearance of corruption stemming from public awareness of the opportunities for abuse inherent in a regime of large individual financial contributions” was “a constitutionally sufficient justification” for the individual federal contribution limit.

Given his financial status, Whittemore certainly has the funds to file a petition with the Supreme Court requesting review of his conviction. But the Court is not likely to take the case given the justices’ long approval of the federal contribution limit and the ban on conduit contributions intended to prevent circumvention of that limit.

So at least one of Reid’s big campaign fundraisers is likely to be out of commission for quite a while.

Boehner Finalizing Plans to Pursue Legal Action Against Obama on Immigration - Daily Signal

Boehner Finalizing Plans to Pursue Legal Action Against Obama on Immigration

Kate Scanlon / Alyene Senger / Kate Scanlon / Kate Scanlon / Charlotte Florance / Daniel Patrick Shaffer / Hans von Spakovsky / Josh Siegel /

House Speaker John Boehner told Republicans in a closed-door meeting today that he is moving towards a plan to authorize legal action against the White House over President Obama’s executive actions on immigration.

According to a source who attended the meeting, Boehner, R-Ohio, told lawmakers that the House will pursue a legal course that “gives us the best chance of success.”

In November, Obama acted alone to shield up to 5 million immigrants here illegally from deportation and grant them work permits.

For Boehner to proceed, the House would have to approve a resolution authorizing him to take legal action on immigration, as it did last July in connection with a lawsuit over the Affordable Care Act.

According to a House GOP leadership aide, legal options include joining an already filed lawsuit from more than half of U.S. states on Obama’s executive action or filing a separate lawsuit.

No decisions have been made on the specific legal action House Republicans would use.

Whatever the form, the lawsuit would likely allege that Obama failed his “constitutional obligation that all laws are faithfully executed,” said John Malcolm, director of The Heritage Foundation’s Meese Center for Legal and Judicial Studies.

Malcolm told The Daily Signal that he is skeptical that such a lawsuit could prevail.

“I’m not saying it’s impossible or not worth it, but getting a court to weigh in on this is not going to be easy,” Malcolm said.

Malcolm added:

“With the Obamacare lawsuit, there was clear statutory standing. Obamacare says, ‘You must do the following by this date.’ Immigration is a dicier matter. There’s more wiggle room. Obama is not saying that they [illegal immigrants] will never be removed. He’s just deferring action.”

Even though the chance of success may be small, Democrats quickly criticized Republicans’ plan to use the courts.

“Once again, House Republicans are crawling to the courts to relieve them of their responsibility to govern,” says @NancyPelosi.

“Once again, House Republicans are crawling to the courts to relieve them of their responsibility to govern,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D., Calif., said in a written statement. “Republicans should stop wasting millions of taxpayer dollars suing the president and start showing some seriousness for the security of the American people.”

The GOP is also using legislative means to confront the administration on immigration.

“Obviously, we will continue to vigorously pursue legislative options, including the House-passed DHS bill, as well,” the leadership aide said.

Earlier this month, the House passed far-reaching legislation to fund the Department of Homeland Security through September and undo President Obama’s executive actions on immigration.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said today that his chamber will take up the House bill after it finishes work on the Keystone XL pipeline.

Congress Seeks to Improve Global Anti-Trafficking Efforts - Daily Signal

Congress Seeks to Improve Global Anti-Trafficking Efforts

Kate Scanlon / Alyene Senger / Kate Scanlon / Kate Scanlon / Charlotte Florance / Daniel Patrick Shaffer / Hans von Spakovsky / Josh Siegel / Olivia Enos /

As National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month comes to a close, Congress is turning its attention to combatting human trafficking. New estimates suggest that as many as 35.8 million people are victims of human trafficking. Renewed attention on this international crisis is necessary if the U.S. is to continue to lead global anti-trafficking efforts.

Human trafficking takes many forms including sex trafficking, forced labor, debt bondage, and child sex and labor trafficking, among other abuses. Millions of people around the world and at least 60,000 people in the U.S. are subjected to slave-like conditions and unimaginable abuse.

The U.S. government first began fighting trafficking after Congress authorized the creation of the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons (TIP) at the State Department through the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) in 2000. The TIP leads diplomatic efforts to combat trafficking, produces the annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report, and allocates international aid for U.S.-led global anti-trafficking efforts. The TIP report, which measures countries’ efforts to comply with international human-trafficking norms, is considered the standard bearer of anti-trafficking efforts.

This week, Congress is considering legislation on a wide range of anti-trafficking topics, including advocating increased training in anti-trafficking best practices for federal employees, amending child-sex offender travel restrictions, and improving protection for victims of child sex trafficking, among other initiatives.

Representative Chris Smith (R–NJ) recently re-introduced legislation that would upgrade the TIP from an office to a bureau. If passed, this legislation would put it on par with other State Department regional bureaus without increasing the personnel and staff necessary to produce the annual TIP report.

In addition to congressional efforts to prioritize human trafficking, it is essential that the vacancy in the Ambassador-at-Large position in the TIP office be filled soon. Former TIP Ambassador Luis CdeBaca left office in November 2014. To ensure the veracity and continued excellence of the TIP report, it is in the best interest of the U.S. government and global anti-trafficking efforts to find a skilled and qualified replacement quickly.

Congress and the State Department should continue to focus attention on human trafficking and make the case for the U.S.’s strategic interest and moral responsibility to combat this global scourge. Researchers at The Heritage Foundation are preparing to release a paper analyzing current U.S. anti-trafficking efforts in Asia and their impact on the international human-trafficking epidemic.

2015 Economic Freedom of Japan - Daily Signal

2015 Economic Freedom of Japan

Kate Scanlon / Alyene Senger / Kate Scanlon / Kate Scanlon / Charlotte Florance / Daniel Patrick Shaffer / Hans von Spakovsky / Josh Siegel / Olivia Enos / Riley Walters /

Japan’s economic freedom score is tied for the second highest it’s ever been since the Index of Economic Freedom was first published more than 20 years ago. Scoring a 73.3, Japan ranks 20th in the world for economic freedom, an improvement over the previous year’s rank of 25. It continues to rank sixth among countries in the Asia–Pacific region. Focusing on needed structural reforms will help Japan to continue on its path to economic freedom.

Abenomics

Monetary freedom, fiscal freedom, and freedom from corruption continued to weight down Japan’s score by a combined negative of 5.1 points. Over the past year, the first two arrows of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s three-arrow economic policy “Abenomics”—monetary and fiscal policy—enabled Japan’s debt to grow to more than double Japan’s gross domestic product. Japan’s fiscal freedom and government spending are categorized as only moderately free because they rank at 144th and 137th, respectively, in the world.

Meanwhile, Japan improved in labor, business, and trade freedom. The largest increase was in Japan’s labor freedom with a gain of more than 10 points. The third arrow of Abenomics—structural reform, including encouraging more women and immigrants to participate in the workforce—helped labor freedom to rank the ninth freest in the world. Japan currently has a tight labor market with one of the lowest rates of unemployment in the world at 3.5 percent. As Japan’s population continues to shrink, its job market continues to supply at least one job for every applicant.

Reigniting Japan’s Economy

While the government has made significant progress toward Prime Minister Abe’s planned structural reforms, there are still concerns over how far he will follow through with his commitments. Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda continues to purchase government bonds at an alarming rate of $70 billion to $100 billion per month, pushing up prices while devaluing the yen. Implementing monetary and fiscal policy reform has been relatively easy, but Japan needs structural reform to reignite its economy.

The 2015 Index of Economic Freedom, along with other countries’ rankings, can be found at www.heritage.org/index.

What the Firearms Industry Thinks About the UN Arms Trade Treaty Signed By Obama Administration - Daily Signal

What the Firearms Industry Thinks About the UN Arms Trade Treaty Signed By Obama Administration

Kate Scanlon / Alyene Senger / Kate Scanlon / Kate Scanlon / Charlotte Florance / Daniel Patrick Shaffer / Hans von Spakovsky / Josh Siegel / Olivia Enos / Riley Walters / Ted Bromund /

LAS VEGAS—Supposedly, the U.N. Arms Trade Treaty, which took effect Christmas Eve, is no big deal.

But people who work in the business of manufacturing, importing and exporting firearms are concerned about the treaty and what it means for them and their industry.

I talked to several last week at the Shooting, Hunting, and Outdoor Trade (SHOT) Show in Las Vegas. Although they were grateful for the strong stand against the treaty taken by both the Senate and House, they were confused about what is going on with the treaty and how such agreements work their way through the Senate.

The idea behind the treaty, supposedly, is to prevent weapons from reaching the hands of terrorists or mass killers. But the treaty has been championed by avowedly “progressive”—in other words, left-wing—organizations, which have a long history of hostility to the Second Amendment and Israel, and a track record of seeking to use international institutions to impose their views on the United States. It’s not in our interest to play along with them.

Understandably, the treaty was a nonstarter for the United States until President Obama took office and changed the country’s stand on it. Secretary of State John Kerry signed the treaty, but the administration has not yet submitted it to the Senate for ratification.

Already, a majority of the Senate—led by Sens. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and James Inhofe, R-Okla.—has signed letters pledging to oppose the ATT.

This doesn’t erase the U.S. signature from the treaty. But the Senate’s letters (and similar efforts in the House, led by Rep. Mike Kelly, R-Pa.) do send a powerful signal that the Senate would reject the treaty if the administration ever gets around to submitting it.

But even if the Senate votes against the treaty, the U.S. signature would remain on it.

Only the president, by doing what is colloquially known as “unsigning” the treaty, can erase that U.S. signature. President George W. Bush, for example, unsigned the Rome Statute on the International Criminal Court in 2002, which President Bill Clinton had signed in 2000.

And even if the Senate votes against the treaty, that does not “kill” the treaty. Treaties are like zombies: They rarely die.

For example, the Senate rejected the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty in 1999, but the U.S. signature remains on it, and it continues to sit in the in-box of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, waiting for a day when an administration that supports the treaty senses the Senate is likely to look favorably upon it.

There is no expiration date on pending treaties, even ones the Senate has rejected. If you get the sense it’s really hard to get rid of a treaty, you’re right.

In short, the only thing that would come close to “killing” the ATT as far as the United States is concerned would be for a president to unsign the treaty.

Of course, that would not kill it around the world, but it at least would make the U.S. legal and political stance clear. And even then, a future president could re-sign the treaty and pull the zombie back out of the grave, though this would be a highly unusual step that likely would cause political controversy.

It goes to show that, to vary the analogy, bad treaties are like bad pennies—they just keep turning up. It also shows how important it is for the United States to stay engaged internationally: We can’t always stop bad treaties from being negotiated, but we can at least try.

All this begs a question: Why hasn’t the administration transmitted the ATT to the Senate? After all, Kerry signed it in September 2013.

It’s possible the administration hasn’t completed its legal review of the treaty—in which case, it effectively signed the treaty without reading it. It’s also possible the administration realizes the Senate won’t approve the ATT anytime soon, so it sees no point in bothering, especially as it has other bad treaties that it wants to get ratified first.

A third possibility is the administration actually prefers to keep the treaty in its back pocket.

Now that the United States has signed it, we are in theory bound not to defeat its object and purpose, meaning the administration can claim to be on the road to ratification and—using the president’s famous administrative pen—can keep U.S. policy aligned with it. Especially given the Senate’s hostility, this is likely one reason the administration hasn’t acted.

But there’s a final possibility.

When an administration sends a treaty to the Senate, the treaty is accompanied by a transmittal package—in essence, a full analysis of the treaty, including its deficiencies and the administration’s recommendations for correcting them. This does not in any way limit the Senate, which has full power to add its own limits, conditions and interpretations to its approval of the treaty, and even to re-write the text of the treaty itself. But the administration’s package naturally forms a starting point for the Senate’s deliberations.

It is possible the administration is unwilling to offer its own analysis of the treaty for Senate and public scrutiny because an accurate analysis would have to concede, for example, that the treaty cannot hope to do all—or even most—of what its advocates claim, and that it was adopted via a process that violated one of the administration’s own red lines. No analysis that ignored this would be credible.

In short, the administration may be stuck—unable to go forward because of the Senate’s hostility and the treaty’s flaws, unwilling to unsign, and therefore ready to settle for simply keeping the treaty in its back pocket and using its pen as it sees fit.

If that is the case, the leadership of the Senate and House becomes all the more important.

Although the Senate cannot unsign a treaty, it can offer powerful guidance to the nation and to the courts that it has not given its advice and consent to the treaty, does not plan to do so, and rejects the argument the United States is bound to uphold its object and purpose. That, in turn, paves the way for a future president to unsign the treaty.

And in the interim, there is a lot—11 things, at least—for the Senate and House to do to keep the treaty from encroaching on our sovereignty and posing other threats. It’s hard to get rid of a bad treaty. But it’s not impossible, and it’s time we get started.