When the House voted on the recent omnibus spending bill, lawmakers included language to support survivors of sexual harassment and discrimination. But when it
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
The Komodo dragon is the biggest lizard in the world, about 10 feet long and weighing about 150 pounds. Their size puts them in control of their environment, ambushing their prey, although they tend to eat a great deal of carrion. Their teeth allow them to tear huge chunks of flesh, eating up to 80 percent of their weight in one meal. Dragons of equal size may wrestle, with the losers either retreating or getting killed and eaten by the victor. They also eat their young if the juveniles don’t hide in trees. These creatures have a great deal of trouble hearing and very bad night vision. In captivity, they almost never breed.
Watching the GOP party makes me think of the Komodo dragons, starting with former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. He’s on the road with his new book, Rumsfeld’s Rules: Leadership Lessons in Business, Politics, War, and Life, a collection of 380 personal and professional rules. One of these is “You never want a serious crisis [to] go to waste.”
About this rule, Rumsfeld said, “A crisis can permit you to do things you couldn’t absent an opportunity like that to change the nature of things.” That’s what the GOP party has done since Barack Obama became president, and right now they’re working even harder on it that usual.
Seemingly unable to cause a disaster with their Benghazi pseudo-investigation, they moved on to the latest controversies, the IRS targeting specific groups for additional investigation and the DoJ’s examination of Associated Press’s telephone logs.
Despite the president’s declaration that the IRS targeting these groups is “intolerable and inexcusable” and the IRS acting commissioner’s resigning, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) are out for blood. They are positive that the IRS has committed criminal acts and are calling for an investigation. McConnell’s approach is bearing fruit because the Tea Party has finally endorsed him as the GOP Senate candidate in 2014.
Their declarations have a few problems. First, the IRS targeted liberal groups as well as conservative ones for additional scrutiny. Conservatives may not realize this becauseUSA Today didn’t mention this fact until the 18th paragraph of its article and then just a few words. But Emerge America was denied tax-exempt status and forced to disclose its donors and pay taxes. None of the GOP groups have complained about having their applications rejected. Progress Texas and Clean Elections Texas had the same kind of scrutiny. Subjected groups from all political spectra removes the onus from the IRS.
Nobody has even called the IRS efficient or competent so it shouldn’t come as a surprise now that it isn’t. Perhaps a permanent commissioner at the IRS agency would help. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), in his “look-at-me-for-president” demeanor, called for the commissioner to be fired. In fact, there is currently no commissioner because Bush’s appointee—in charge while the Tea Party felt targeted—resigned last November, and the Senate was clear that they wouldn’t approve any of the president’s nominations. It’s status quo for Senate approvals: the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives hasn’t had a director since 2006 because of Senate refusal to act on nominees.
This is the first time that the IRS targetings have become a national scandal, but it isn’t the first time that they have done this. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) found only one Republican, Rep. Walter Jones (NC), to join him in an investigation during the George W. Bush administration when the IRS threatened to revoke the tax-exempt status of All Saints Episcopal in Pasadena after an anti-Iraq War sermon the before the 2004 election. At the same time conservative churches across the country were mobilizing voters to support Bush.
In 2004, the IRS went after the NAACP because its chairman criticized Bush for being the first sitting president since Herbert Hoover not to address the organization. In 2006, Public Interest Watch, with 97 percent of its funding from Exxon Mobile, got the IRS to investigate Green Peace, who had labeled the oil company the “No. 1 Climate Criminal.” At about that time, Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA) wanted “legislative changes” to define the differences between politics and social welfare, but the Senate never got around to it, leaving the IRS auditors to make up their own rules.
The second problem is that decades of laws, regulations, and court decisions are vague and contradictory. The tax code requires that a 501(c)(4) must operate “exclusively” to promote social welfare, a category that excludes political spending. Some court decisions ruled that a minimal amount of political spending would be permissible, but the I.R.S. has for years maintained that groups meet that rule as long as they are not “primarily engaged” in election work, a substantially different threshold. Nobody knows what “primarily engaged” means.
Meanwhile huge SuperPACs are getting away with being tax-exempt while doing massive advertising campaigns. Crossroads has the tax-exempt status, claiming involvement primarily on research and educational activities, but spends most of its money on political advertising. American Tradition Partnership doesn’t even bother to file federal tax returns.
The third problem, according to Lawrence O’Donnell, started with the Republicans in 1959 when the meaning of the section related to Section 501(c)(4) was changed from “exclusively” to “primarily.” Ezra Klein wrote in the Wonkblog, a great summary of the current IRS troubles:
“The IRS does need some kind of test that helps them weed out political organizations attempting to register as tax-exempt 501(c)4 social welfare groups. But that test has to be studiously, unquestionably neutral.”
O’Donnell said, “If in 2010, there was a flood of Tea Party applications for tax exempt status and many fewer applications for tax exempt status from liberal political groups, then it only makes mathematical sense that more questions would be directed at Tea Party applications.”
Yet the GOP is determined to pin the IRS problems on the president. Although he has no proof, Grassley said that the IRS was “getting pressure from somebody either high up in the Obama campaign or high up in the White House.” There’s nothing to support his position, but GOP love conspiracy theories.
While the GOP is up in arms about the IRS scandal, they have stayed quiet about the phone logs subpoenaed from Associated Press. Even critics of Attorney General Eric Holder like Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) just say they’ll see “how this plays out.” Even the other Texas senator, Ted Cruz, is silent about it. There’s a good reason. Last year, Republicans called for an explanation of the national security leaks—in short, they asked for exactly what happened to AP. Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) insisted on reporters being subpoenaed.
With their interest in subpoenaing the media, the GOP certainly won’t approve of the “reporter shield” bill that the Obama administration has requested Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) to reintroduce. Such a law would help reporters protect the identity of their sources. Republicans killed similar bills in 2008 and 2010.
The situation can be summarized within the length of a tweet: “GOP calls on Holder to investigate leaks. Holder appoints US Attorney. US Att. subpoenas AP records. GOP calls on Holder to resign.” Steve Benen adds “that the U.S. attorney subpoenaed AP records thanks to an existing vulnerability the administration doesn’t support, but can’t fix thanks to Republican opposition.”
Even Bush’s former AG Albert Gonzalez, who couldn’t even find a law firm to hire him, entered the discussion. He cited a time when he decided against subpoenaing a reporter’s notes but skipped over his massive domestic wiretapping program and “improperly gained access to reporters’ calling records as part of leak investigations”—a lot, according to the New York Times.
Thus the GOP, feeding on carrion, are stuck with a non-existent Benghazi investigation, an IRS debacle coming from the GOP lack of ability to take action, and a press-government interaction that’s bound to make them look bad. We can guarantee, however, that they’ll continue to tear huge chunks out of the first two while ignoring the third one, that is a serious problem for continued democracy in the United States. And of course, the GOP won’t do anything about finding jobs for the people in the United States.