After weeks of temper tantrums, the GOP members of Congress have decided that their attempt to dump the Affordable Care Act is indefensible. The government opens up again tomorrow thanks to the passing of a continuing appropriations bill with a Senate vote of 81-18 and a House vote of 285-144. Eighty-seven GOP House members and 27 GOP senators voted for the bill.
What the CR does:
The government is funded through January 15, 2014The debt ceiling is raised until February 7.Congressional leaders will establish a Senate-House conference to negotiate fiscal reforms and report the result to Congress by December 13.The Treasury Department is permitted to continue its use of “extraordinary measures” to continue paying the government’s bills when the debt limit is reached.Furloughed workers will receive back pay for the time that they were not working.Income verification for Affordable Care Act applications will be tightened.Sequester cuts are kept at the current level.It provides a $1.2 billion funding authorization increase for the Army Corps of Engineers to improve of locks and dams on the lower Ohio River on the Illinois-Kentucky border in Senate Minority Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) area.It allocates $450 million to rebuild flood damage in Colorado as well as $36 million to the Department of the Interior and $600 million to the Forest Service for fighting wildfires and refurbishing the fires’ damage.
What the CR doesn’t do:
The 2.3 percent tax on medical devices is neither eliminated nor delayed.And anything else that the GOP House members wanted.
The fight is not over. McConnell (R-KY) declared that the GOP will continue the fight to repeal and replace Obamacare, meaning that another shutdown can happen in January. The Republicans may have more problems the next time around because polls show that the popularity of the health care reform law is rapidly growing.
After gathering House minions at a local restaurant yesterday, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) has decided that opening the government, which he doesn’t support but won’t oppose, is really a win for him. When he was asked what he gained in the last 3 weeks, Cruz said that more than 2 million people signed his petition to defund Obamacare. Those two million people translate into fund-raising for Cruz’s future political aspirations.
Right now, fundraising in the South is benefiting Democrats who have outraised GOP counterparts during the third quarter which ended September 30. One of those races will include McConnell who was down $230,000 to candidate Democratic Secretary of state Alison Lundergan.
Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) said that he knew the conservative Republicans wouldn’t win: “People don’t like government, but they sure don’t want it shut down.” Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) also spoke out against House conservatives: “I just bitterly resent some of the things that have been done.”
Conservative Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) said he hopes the Republicans pushing to derail ObamaCare “learned a lesson that shutdowns and defaults shouldn’t be a part of the way we do business. They should be off limits. We have plenty of other legislative tactics we can use.” Hopefully, he’ll remember this when Sens. Cruz, Marco Rubio (R-FL), and Rand Paul (R-KY) lead the charge to close down the government in another three months.
Karl Rove wrote an angry op-ed for the Wall Street Journal. Except for the accusation of the trap, his conclusion is right on target:
“Barack Obama set the trap. Some congressional Republicans walked into it. As a result, the president is stronger, the GOP is weaker, and ObamaCare is marginally more popular. The battles over spending, taxes and debt have not been resolved, only postponed. It’s time Republicans remembered that bad tactics produce bad outcomes.”
Rep. Kristi Noem (R-SD) voted tonight to continue the shutdown just as she originally voted to close the government. At the same time she wants help for her state after a blizzard may have destroyed $100 million of its $7 billion cattle industry. Without the shutdown, cattle ranchers would file claims at the local offices of the USDA Farm Service Agency to file claims for their losses. The shutdown, however, closed those offices.
A week ago, Noem asked the House to help these ranchers because of the “unprecedented” nature of the blizzard that blew through her state. She said, “”There may be disagreement over certain parts of the federal budget, but not on FEMA.” Her state is especially reliant on federal funding because it has no personal or corporate income tax and a sales tax of only 4 percent, the second lowest of all states with sales taxes.
Noem also wants a permanent increase in assistance by expanding the livestock indemnity program in the farm bill. One rancher who lost 96 percent of his herd of 100 cattle wasn’t insured because storm insurance is too expensive. Thus Noem thinks that federal taxes should give insurance to all her cattle ranchers but not to the 50 million people in the United States who cannot afford health insurance.
A members of the Agriculture Committee, Noem voted for the $39 billion cut in food stamp funding over the next decade, taking benefits from 2.8 million low-income workers. Last year, she also voted against federal assistance for victims of Superstorm Sandy that devastated parts of New York and New Jersey. Noem is now on the conference committee to work on a farm bill to replace the one that expired at the beginning of the shutdown.
Instead of “NIMBY” (Not in My Back Yard), Noem’s philosophy represents that of many in the Republican party, “OIMBY” (Only in My Back Yard).
The conservative party members who whine about the deficit just cost the economy as much as $31 billion since their ploy started on October 1. With the GOP having pushed the U.S. to the brink of default and destroyed people’s willingness to spend money, the economy will continue to weaken. The possibility of Fitch Ratings lowering the nation’s rating caused the yield on the 10-year Treasury note, important for interest rates, to rise four basic points from 0.04 percentage point to 2.73 point. Three-month notes rose to their highest rates in more than two years.
Last month, banks were paying for the privilege of buying Treasury notes. Those days are gone. Instead of providing needed services and boosting the economy, tax dollars are now going to lenders, and budget deficits are again growing. The past two weeks have diminished the United States and made it less financially strong and globally competitive, its people less economically secure.
At one time, the Heritage Foundation, although conservative, was a think tank. Now it’s become a radical rightwing, destroy-the-country, organization. Heritage Action CEO Michael Needham proved that this morning on Fox when he explained that the GOP had shut down the government to keep Obamacare from going into effect on January 1. After praising Republicans for standing strong—at least until this morning—he admitted, “Well, everybody knows that we’re not going to be able to repeal this law until 2017, and that we have to win the Senate and win the White House.” GOP members of Congress determined to close down the country are getting paid for being total obstructionists.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) tried to protect House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and take the high ground. In the end, however, he admitted that the GOP was responsible for the debacle: “We won’t be the last political party to overplay our hand,” he said. “It might happen one day on the Democratic side. And if it did, would Republicans, for the good of the country, kinda give a little? We really did go too far. We screwed up. But their response is making things worse, not better.”
Even extremist Pat Robertson, who actually told a woman that her husband is ill because she’s not tithing, thought the GOP went too far in the government shutdown: “The Republicans have got to wave the white flag and say, ‘We fought a good fight and now it’s over. They cannot shut the government down and then bring about a default. We can’t do it. I mean, it would be devastating economically to every human being and the Republicans just can’t get tarred with that.”
Furloughed workers will have to rely on the media to determine whether to go back to work. The employees were strictly ordered not to check government e-mail but instead to monitor television broadcasts and check into the web site of the Office of Personnel Management for instructions. The last post on this website was on October 1. Workers in the Labor Department were told:
“Please note that all employees are expected to report for work on their next regularly scheduled work day following the enactment of appropriating legislation which allows normal DOL operations to resume.”
October 17, 2013 – Spirit Day
Tomorrow is the first day that the government will be open this month. It is also the fourth Spirit Day, a day to remind people to take a stand against bullying and to show support for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) youth. Spirit Day was started in 2010 by high school student Brittany McMillan as a response to the young people who had taken their own lives. Wear your purple, the color that symbolizes the “spirit” on the rainbow flag.
trp2011 | October 16, 2013 at 8:37 PM | Tags: continuing appropriations resolution,government shutdown, Spirit Day | Categories: Uncategorized | URL: http://wp.me/p1vpbG-F7
WORKING TOWARDS GLOBAL EQUITY AND EQUALITY
SOCIAL JUSTICE FOR ALL
Congressional GOP Gets Lost in Oz
Today’s post will be greatly enhanced if you start humming the wishful tunes of Dorothy’s stalwart companions. The Shutdown has already cost close to 5 Billion Dollars thus far. As the government shutdown enters its third week and the debt ceiling looms, Republicans in the House and Senate seem to be searching for a brain, a heart, and some courage.
IF I ONLY HAD A BRAIN! Sadly, the longer the shutdown continues, the more absurd the claims of individual GOP Congresscritters gets. Initially, the refusal to fund the government was presented as a “principled” stand against the Affordable Care Act (aka “Obamacare.”) When their bullying demands were met with stern resistance by Senate Democrats and President Obama, the House GOP got confused very quickly. They still stand for something, they assure us, and they’ll be sure to let us know what it is… as soon as they figure it out.
Almost daily, Speaker John Boehner hints at a new plan, lets a few details leak, holds a short press conference, and fails to bring anything to the floor. Apparently he left the shared brain with Mitch McConnell, who needed it to try to reason out a compromise that might pass the Senate. In the meantime, the usual crew — Ted Cruz, Michel Bachmann, Louis Gohmert, Mike Lee, and all the rest of the lollipop guild — keep changing their off-kilter tune. The fight isn’t really about health care (except when it is), it’s about the size of government (except when it isn’t). Forced to abandon their thinly-veiled racist rants against the president’s signature accomplishment, they just don’t know what to do.
IF I ONLY HAD A HEART! Members of Congress continue to draw their salaries while hundreds of thousands of federal workers go without. There’s still no guarantee that retroactive pay will be part of any deal. Even more dramatically, nearly SEVEN MILLION FTE worth of government contractors are without work during the shutdown and have no chance of retroactive pay. All this ignores the thousands of kids turned away from Head Start, the millions deprived of food, medical, and housing care, the thousands more who are just waiting for funds to run out one program at a time. Just to prove how heartless they are, GOP leaders in both chambers of Congress are proposing to strip health benefits from their staff, driving them (ironically) to the ACA exchanges without an employer subsidy. You can bet all those staffers would like to drop a house on the leaders of the House.
IF I ONLY HAD THE NERVE! The media still spin this as a problem coming from the far right of the GOP (when they aren’t falsely laying blame on the President). It may be that the loudest voices from the fringe started the shouting, but in every vote so far the Republicans have voted as a tight bloc, more evidence of the GOP sharing one brain. All the so-called moderates have refused to stand up for what’s best for the country. In the Senate, the GOP managed to filibuster a clean debt ceiling bill. If there are voices of reason in the party, they refuse to speak. Sadly, the Gerrymandering of House districts leaves too many representatives sheltered from reality. GOP ratings in polls are dropping like the Wizard’s balloon but most House members can rely on at least a slim majority to return them to office.
CALL TO ACTION: We live in the United States, not Oz. We need elected officials who take their responsibilities as civil servants seriously and who govern with compassion, reason, and courage. Republicans should look seriously at their Representatives and find ways to support new voices in Congress that will bring true compromise and balance. Democrats should take courage and support challenges to GOP folks that seemed undefeatable. The people are paying attention, and the next election should be a clear message about what we really need.
Tags: “Obamacare”, Affordable Care Act, bullying, congress, Courage, Debt Ceiling, GOP, Heart, hypocrisy, John Boehner, Lollipop Guild, Michel Bachmann, Mitch McConnell, Oppression, privilege, Racism, shutdown, Tea Party, Ted Cruz, Wizard of Oz
Nel’s New Day
October 12, 2013
Day Twelve of the GOP Government Shutdown: Other News Out There
Am I the only person irate that Congressional GOP members are willing to dismantle the United States of America in order to keep giant companies from paying 2.3 percent on medical devices? Even Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), perhaps the most reasonable senator, is including this proviso in her proposal for passing a Continuing Resolution, the same CR that House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) promised last July would have no attachments.
That 2.3 percent tax would be on the $13,000 charge that companies make for a device that costs $350 to produce. Michael Shopenn found out about this cost when he needed a hip replacement. To have this procedure in the United States, he would have to pay an additional $65,000 for the procedure—not including the surgeon’s fee—over the $13,000 artificial hip cost. Other patients are charged two to three times that amount for the artificial hip.
His cost for having a hip replacement was $13,660 in a hospital outside Brussels, Belgium. The charge covered not only the hip joint, made by Warsaw (IN)-based Zimmer Holdings, but also all doctors’ fees, operating-room charges, crutches, medicine, a hospital room for five days, a week in rehab, and a round-trip ticket from the United States. The GOP is willing to destroy the U.S. for a 2.3 percent charge on outrageously marked-up medical devices. Belgium also has the lowest surgical infection rates in the world and is known for its excellent doctors.
The medical-device industry spent nearly $30 million last year on lobbying.
While government shutdown talks stall, time has stopped on Capitol Hill. The people hired to wind the clocks have been furloughed. The almost 200-year-old Ohio Clock, famous for a place where senators hide whiskey, stopped at 12:14 last Wednesday. The stoppage is symbolic of the stoppagefor millions of people in the nation who are furloughed, sickened, injured, hungry, and growing poorer each day.
During the shutdown, the media has suspended reporting much of the news around the country. Here are a few events:
Two days before the shutdown on October 1, over 20,600 barrels of oil, 865,200 gallons, fracked from the Bakken Shale, spilled onto a wheat field from a Tesoro Logistics pipeline in Tioga (ND) in one of the biggest onshore oil spills in recent U.S. history. The U.S. National Response Center, responsible for responding to chemical and oil spills, didn’t make the report available for ten days because of the government shutdown. These reports are usually posted within 24 hours. The spill is far larger than the 5,000-7,000 barrels of tar sands spilled into a residential neighborhood last April in Mayflower (AR) from a faulty ExxonMobil pipeline.
With only 1,285 barrels cleaned, the oil spread out over 7.3 acres. The oil, spilled through a hole in the side of the pipe and ruining the fields for planting, was destined for an Albany (NY) holding facility along the Hudson River.
Food-borne pathogens are sickening and killing Americans in more than 18 states as employees for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are being recalled as “essential” employees. The dual outbreaks of a salmonella outbreak and a hepatitis outbreak in Hawaii are linked to contaminated Foster Farms chicken products and the Dallas-based USPLabs LLC dietary supplement, OxyElite Pro. As of yesterday, more than 300 people have gotten sick, including 87 hospitalized, and one is dead with reports of antibiotic resistance for the precipitating strain of salmonella Heidelberg.
With more than 45 percent of all FDA employees furloughed, daily operations such as crucial inspections of food imports are on hiatus until the government reopens. The skeleton crew of ten in the CDC has been trying to maintain updates for tracking food-borne pathogens and outbreaks.
Even without the government shutdown, the FDA, USDA, and CDC—responsible for keeping food safe through inspection and prevention programs—are so seriously understaffed that people in the U.S. annually report 3,000 deaths, 128,000 hospitalizations, and over 48 million annual instances of food-borne illness. Only 6 percent of domestic food producers and 0.4 percent of food importers were inspected in 2011 after George W. Bush gutted the FDA budget.
Foster Farms has done no recall. A law passed in 2011 will give the FDA authority to legally mandate a recall of contaminated food, but it has not been completely enacted yet. Although the law should take effect by mid-2015, amendments from the GOP in Congress may weaken the act. Currently, the government also permits a privatized inspection scheme in which meat producers self-inspect.
If you avoid food-borne illness, you might want to watch out for nuclear disasters. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission had to furlough approximately 90 percent of its workforce. Supposedly, the agency will continue to respond to emergency safety and security matters, and onsite inspectors will stay on duty. Although the media has reported extensively on the Japanese problems with nuclear explosions, it has largely ignored the problems at nuclear sites in the U.S., such as the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, located in southeastern Washington along the Columbia River. Last spring, a nuclear safety board reported that the underground tanks holding toxic, radioactive waste could explode at any minute, due to a dangerous buildup of hydrogen gas.
Six months earlier, the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board (DFNSB) told the Department of Energy about their concerns of no adequate safeguards to protect against the buildup of flammable gasses inside Hanford’s waste storage tanks. An explosion would “have considerable radiological consequences,” they wrote. Six of Hanford’s 177 tanks, holding 56,000 gallons of radioactive water, leak about 1,000 gallons of nuclear waste each year. Construction of a waste-treatment plant would make the toxic chemicals safe for long-term disposal and keep the radioactive waste from leaking into the ground, but Bechtel, responsible for building the plant, has been purchasing parts with no quality guarantee.
Other nuclear sites needing to be cleaned are in California, Colorado,Tennessee, South Carolina, Idaho, and Texas. Thirty-four nuclear reactors—one-third of those in the U.S.—face flooding hazards. This week, a former chair of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission called for shutting down the Indian Point nuclear power plant near New York City and the Pilgrim nuclear power plant in Plymouth (MA) citing safety concerns. Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Station in Vernon (VT) and Kewaunee Power Station near Green Bay (WI) have already closed. Mechanical failures and safety concerns have hurried the demise of San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station on the California coast and Crystal River Nuclear Plant in Citrus County (FL). Sequester cuts have already reduced the cleanups at these nuclear facilities.
Although the potential default could be catastrophic with spiking borrowing costs and interest rates accompanied by plummeting stocks, some people can benefit.
Short sellers: Betting that the value of a stock or bond will drop instead of going up is an investment strategy employed by financial firms and the wealthy. A stock market crash will short almost every U.S. stock.
Investors in gold and silver: Gold and silver typically rise in value when the stock market is volatile, because they hold their value better than paper money or other assets. The price of both metals rose this week as default fears heightened.
Bitcoin investors (maybe): The value of this untraceable virtual currency has tracked closely with gold over the past year.
Currency traders: Traders who bet that the US dollar will decrease in value relative to foreign currencies stand to profit off of a US government default.
Pawn shops: If credit markets freeze, as they did during the 2008 meltdown, pawn shops will do well as they did after the last crisis.
Bankruptcy lawyers: Loss of jobs and other income bring people to the edge.
Mortgage servicers: Spiking interest rates can cause somehomeowners to default on loans and end up in foreclosure. Investors take the losses while servicers make back the money they are owed in a foreclosure sale as well as getting the fees that borrowers pay on delinquent loans.
The canned and freeze-dried food industries: Doomsday preppers are readying for the collapse of civilization by stocking up on these foods.
Thus people betting against the United States will make money, and members of Congress keep getting paid and going to their gym.