Archive for the ‘congress’ tag
As of Sunday evening, the White House and leaders of Congress have agreed upon a new deal that would raise the debt ceiling and avoid a government credit default.
But, and that’s a big “but,” the plan still has to pass the House and the Senate. As we know, Tea Party members have been hostile to any plan that increases the debt ceiling, while Democrats have said they would vote against any plan that does not raise the debt ceiling through 2012.
As I noted earlier this month, Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Arizona) previously said 90 percent of Planned Parent’s services are related to abortion. The number is actually 3 percent, but Kyl isn’t one to let facts get in the way of a good rant on the floor of Congress. When Kyl’s office was told about the error and given the actual figure, the reply was that Kyl’s statement was not intended to be “factual.”
So, if the 90 percent claim wasn’t supposed to be “factual,” I can’t help but wonder what other parts of his speech were just flailing in the wind. Further, he doesn’t look as if he’s joking or exaggerating in the speech in question:
In a move of complete admission of guilt, the Kyl camp has removed the 90 percent comment from the official Congressional record, as reported by Politico:
Sen. Jon Kyl has quietly removed his infamous comment that 90 percent of Planned Parenthood’s business is abortion from the Congressional Record. Senators are allowed to revise and extend their comments in record and his statement now simply says: “If you want an abortion you go to Planned Parenthood and that is what Planned Parenthood does.” Kyl’s office could not be reached for comment.
While removing the comment from the official record may make Kyl seem less like a buffoon to whatever bookish types might go sifting through the Congressional scrolls years from now, Kyl best hope those researchers don’t have access to the Internet anymore in whatever form it may take in the future. Unfortunately for him, Kyl isn’t powerful enough to redact the comment from cyberspace, in which it will be swirling endlessly on Twitter, Facebook, Google and blogs like this one for years to come. And there’s quite a good chance that the Internet, in some form, will be here long after Kyl’s inane remarks become rhetorical relics.
Big government ≡ bad unless the topic is gays, guns, abortion, the Ten Commandments in public places or the military. Does that about cover it? The open hypocrisy of some folks in Congress seems to know no bounds.
House Republicans are preparing to push through restrictions on federal financing of abortions far more extreme than previously proposed at the federal level. Lawmakers who otherwise rail against big government have made it one of their highest priorities to take the decision about a legal medical procedure out of the hands of individuals and turn it over to the government.
Their primary bill —the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act” — is so broad that it could block insurance coverage for abortions for countless American women.
The anti-abortion forces almost derailed health care reform last year over whether people could buy policies that cover abortion on new insurance exchanges. The compromise embedded in the reform law sets up a hugely complicated plan to segregate an individual’s premium payments from the government subsidies. It is so burdensome that it seems likely to discourage insurers from offering any abortion coverage at all on the exchanges.
But anti-abortion lawmakers are not satisfied. The new bill, introduced by Christopher Smith, a New Jersey Republican, would bar outright the use of federal subsidies to buy any insurance that covers abortion well beyond the new exchanges.
The tax credits that are encouraging small businesses to provide insurance for their workers could not be used to buy policies that cover abortions. People with their own policies who have enough expenses to claim an income tax deduction could not deduct either the premiums for policies that cover abortion or the cost of an abortion. People who use tax-preferred savings accounts to pay medical costs could not use the money to pay for an abortion without paying taxes on it.
The only tax subsidy left untouched is the exclusion that allows workers whose premiums are subsidized by their employers to avoid paying taxes on the value of the subsidy. Many, if not most, employer-sponsored insurance plans cover abortions. There would have been a huge political battle if workers were suddenly told they had to pay taxes on the benefit or change their policies.
The Smith bill also would take certain restrictions on federal financing for abortions that now must be renewed every year and make them permanent. It would allow federal financing of abortions in cases of “forcible” rape but not statutory or coerced rape, and in cases where a woman is in danger of death from her pregnancy but not of other serious health damage. It would free states from having to provide abortions in such emergency cases.
A separate Republican bill would deny federal funds for family planning services to any organization that provides abortions. It is aimed primarily at Planned Parenthood’s hundreds of health centers, which also provide many other valuable services. No federal money is used for the abortions. This is a reckless effort to cripple an irreplaceable organization out of pure politics.((1))
Symbolic bipartisanship ≠ partisanship or progress.
As a recent New York Times editorial noted:
Mr. Obama’s speech (the State of the Union) offered a welcome contrast to all of the posturing that passes for business in the new Republican-controlled House.
To that posturing, we can add the House’s largely symbolic vote to repeal the historic health care reform bill passed last year and the House’s reckless resolution to roll back domestic spending to 2008 levels.
And also to it, the graphic here, in which members of Congress sit, as if friends everyone, intermingled between Reps and Dems. This, of course, stands in staunch opposition to most if not all previous State of the Union speeches in recent memory. In years past, Congress members would sit on separate ends of the chamber, literally a house divided. Of course, it’s still a house divided, although people like John Boehner would have folks believe the GOP is extending a hand across the aisle:
We had hoped to hear a new commitment to keep his promises to govern from the center, change the tone in Washington, and work with both parties in a bipartisan way to help small businesses create jobs and get our economy moving again. Unfortunately, the President and the Democrats in charge of Congress still aren’t listening to the American people.
Now, if you aren’t a tad offended that politicians, including Obama, make it a regular practice to put words into your mouth, pretending to be omniscient on how you want the government to act, you aren’t paying close enough attention. More importantly, however, members of the GOP have not listened to economic experts, who have said time and again, that we didn’t spend enough in trying to jump start the economy.
But I digress. Here’s the melting pot Congress at its symbolic best:
Here in Northeast Georgia, plenty of day laborers make their living out in the fields in one of numerous plots of cultivated land, the fruits and vegetables of which support local produce stands in the county. I’ve seen them working the fields, men and women alike, the smarter ones of which wear large-brimmed hats and towels around their necks to prevent severe sunburn and/or skin damage. They make significantly below minimum wage and get paid a certain figure for each bucket picked. That, it seems to me, is a generous system. In other parts of the nation, I would be willing to bet that migrant laborers don’t receive minimum wage (especially if the farm hires illegals) and don’t get the bonus for picking X number of buckets.
Stephen Colbert recently spent a day as a migrant laborer and subsequently testified before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship & Border Security on the invitation of House Democrat and committee chairwoman Zoe Lofgren. Consequently, prior to the five minute message (Which was much longer than his officially submitted address), Colbert was asked by Rep. John Conyers to “remove himself” from the proceedings, saying “You run your show, we run the committee.”
Colbert then deferred to Lofgren, who confirmed that he could stay and deliver his short message. Here is the video:
In the video, as you will see, Colbert, and in characteristic irreverence, mocked Congress by, first, by saying, in character about the proposed agricultural jobs bill,
I’m not in favor of the government doing anything, but I’ve got to wonder, why isn’t the government doing anything?
Maybe this Ag jobs bill will help. I don’t know. Like most members of Congress, I haven’t read it.
Taking a more serious tone toward the end of the address, he said,
But maybe we could offer more visas to the immigrants, who, let’s face it will probably be doing these jobs anyway, and this improved legal status might allow immigrants recourse if they’re abused, and it just stands to reason to me, that if you’re co-workers can’t be exploited, then you’re less likely to be exploited yourself and that itself might improve paying working conditions on these farms and eventually Americans may consider taking these jobs again … Or maybe that’s crazy. Maybe the easier answer is just to have scientists develop vegetables that pick themselves. … The point is, we have to do something because I am not going back out there.
But the most memorable moment came after the speech during a question-answer portion, in which Rep. Judy Chu from California asked this question:
Mr. Colbert, you could work on so many issues. Why are you interested in this issue?
And, after taking a moment to think, he broke character and said this:
I like talking about people who don’t have any power, and it seems like one of the least powerful people in the United States are migrant workers who come in and do our work, but don’t have any rights as a result. And yet, we still ask them to come here, and at the same time, ask them to leave. And that’s an interesting contradiction to me, and um… You know, “whatsoever you did for the least of my brothers,” and these seemed like the least of my brothers, right now. A lot of people are “least brothers” right now, with the economy so hard, and I don’t want to take anyone’s hardship away from them or diminish it or anything like that. But migrant workers suffer, and have no rights.
Here’s the video:
I have often contended that, in studying politics, one must only follow the money to discover the motivations of such and such politician in proposing such and such bill.
Exhibit A: Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell (Kentucky) this week proposed a bill, swiftly refuted by Democrats, that George W. Bush’s tax cuts for the rich be continued indefinitely.
According to this New York Times story, McConnell recently had this to say on the floor of the Senate: “Democrats spent the last two years putting government in charge of health care, the financial sector, car companies, insurance companies, student loans — you name it. Now they want the tax hike to pay for it all.”
Put it like that and you might say Democrats have ushered in a new era of socialism, but alas, so go the usual sad and tired refrains.
But let’s have a look at where McConnell’s own interests lie and then draw some conclusions of our own.
OpenSecrets.org reports that McConnell’s top contributors between 2005-2010 have been Kindred Healthcare ($108,200), UBS AG (A global financial services company at $98,450), Elliott Management (An investment company, $88,500), Peabody Energy ($73,600) and Citigroup ($66,100).
Since McConnell’s largest contributor is part of the health care industry, it makes sense that his first nod in the above quote is, indeed, to the government taking a larger role in health care. He’s wrong, of course, since the government isn’t being put “in charge of health care,” but helping people pay for their health care by private providers with public money. This, as it happens, already occurs, and has for years, through programs like Medicaid and Social Security. Thus, conservative angst against the health care bill breaks against itself. We already use public money to provide free health care to certain members of our populace. Why not everyone? McConnell drives a hard case against finding a way to make sure every person in this nation is taken care of.
The one pleasant surprise on the issue of letting the tax cuts for the rich expire is the case of House Republican leader John Boehner of Ohio. I have been quite critical of him in the past. But I have to commend the man in this instance for at least saying he would vote for President Obama’s plan to extend the cuts only for households earning less than $250,000 if he had no other choice, even if it was, to some degree, forced.
Winning a war by attrition is better than ceding the war altogether in some cases. So, even if Boehner isn’t necessarily interested in helping working class folks, at least he seems to have given a nod to such an idea, although his associations with wealthy interests speaks for itself.
As predicted, Arizona’s recently passed immigration was, indeed, deemed unconstitutional on some counts by federal judge, Susan Bolton, who in a preliminary injunction had this to say about the more controversial portions of the measure:
Preserving the status quo through a preliminary injunction is less harmful than allowing state laws that are likely pre-empted by federal law to be enforced. …
There is a substantial likelihood that officers will wrongfully arrest legal resident aliens. By enforcing this statute, Arizona would impose (citing a previous Supreme Court case, a) “‘distinct, unusual and extraordinary’ burden on legal resident aliens that only the federal government has the authority to impose.”
Yes: “only the federal government has the authority to impose.” This has been the issue, in my mind, all along, and unfortunately, the issue summons the tired, and at this point, almost anachronistic, debate on states’ rights that conservatives like Gov. Jan Brewer have attempted to resurrect, 19th-century-style, and feed off old, now buried, debates.
Brewer had this to say on the ruling, and here is The New York Times’ account:
“This fight is far from over,” said Ms. Brewer, whose lawyers had argued that Congress granted states the power to enforce immigration law particularly when, in their view, the federal government fell short. “In fact,” she added, “it is just the beginning, and at the end of what is certain to be a long legal struggle, Arizona will prevail in its right to protect our citizens.”
And Arizona senator Russell Pearce, a primary sponsor of his state’s bill, said:
The courts have made it clear states have the inherent power to enforce the laws of this country.
Let’s ignore the errancy of this argument for a second (federal jurisdiction does not equal state or county jurisdiction), the one problem here is simply that states don’t actually have the right to go willy-nilly into their own jurisprudence on the topic of naturalization and attempt to enforce federal laws when, in their leaders’ views, the feds aren’t doing their jobs. That’s a usurpation of federal law, and it’s as clear as the night sky. Once and for all, immigration and naturalization are federal concerns. That state officials are dissatisfied with the federal response to immigration is inconsequential and does not give states license, via our Constitution, to go it alone. Or else, we should remake or undo the United States as a collective.
Like the recently passed health care bill, the energy bill currently being mulled in the U.S. Senate is watered down, as Thomas Friedman, with The New York Times admits, but, as he also admits, at least it’s a start. But if only a few, Friedman numbers it at seven, senators can’t get on board — and it’s not clear they will — we won’t even have a start on energy reform. I will echo Friedman in calling such a scenario “pathetic,” and I would add, utterly pathetic, backward, anti-scientific and contemptible.
Friedman puts the urgency of now, something not many people seem to possess anymore, especially not congressmen, into perspective:
If we don’t get a serious energy bill out of this Congress, and Republicans retake the House and Senate, we may not have another shot until the next presidential term or until we get a “perfect storm” — a climate or energy crisis that is awful enough to finally end our debate on these issues but not so awful as to end the world. But, hey, by 2012, China should pretty much own the clean-tech industry and we’ll at least be able to get some good deals on electric cars.
Realizing that many, if not all Republicans, will skirt away from any bill that culls their precious attachment to the oil industry, Friedman offers this suggestion: forget climate change. Concede the myth. Concede that it doesn’t exist. What then? Here’s what Dems should tell Reps, according to Friedman:
Fine. Forget about global warming. That’s between you and your beach house. How about this? Do you believe in population growth? Do you believe in the American dream? Because, according to the U.N., the world’s population is going to grow from roughly 6.7 billion people today to about 9.2 billion by 2050. And in today’s integrated world, more and more of those 9.2 billion will aspire to, and be able to, live like Americans — with American-size cars, homes and Big Macs. In that world, demand for fossil fuels is going to go through the roof — and all the bad things that go with it.
“If we take that threat seriously now and pass an energy bill that begins to end our oil addiction, we can shrink the piles of money we send to the worst regimes in the world, strengthen our dollar by keeping more at home, clean up our air, take away money from the people who finance the mosques and madrassas that keep many Muslim youths backward, angry and anti-American and stimulate a whole new industry — one China is already leapfrogging us on — clean-tech. Nothing would improve our economic and national security more, yet Republicans won’t lift one finger to make it happen.
Personally, I’m not willing to go that far and concede the point on science. If I were a congressman in favor of energy reform because I saw the real dangers of doing nothing and were faced with no-nothing fellow senators who denied global warming, as if to deny sunlight or the roundness of Earth, I would take whatever measures necessary to ram the bill through in spite of them. But, of course, that’s the damnable part of it. Half of the entire Senate, or more, are no-nothing regarding much of science, and that’s just frightening, not to mention the throngs who voted them into office. To rethink the logic, I doubt I would have the patience to be a congressman.
I’m sure it appeared to be an ingenious progression of “F” words (“Faith * Family * Freedom”), but it is astounding to me that would-be politicians can paint mere words such as the local endorsement sign to the right (Taken in Westminster, S.C.), and folks, not knowing if the said candidate has a functioning brain or not, will vote for such candidates without knowing anything else about them.
As a political exercise, I’ve got an idea. I think I will run on a “Theocracy * Domestic violence * Tyranny platform.” How do readers think that will fare? Think I will get some votes? No?!? How about the Faith * Hope * Charity platform. Surely, that one will be money.
The vote’s obviously out, but I’m willing to bet my boots that Richard Cash, who, by the way, has the endorsement of the America’s Independent Party of SC and the Tea Party of the Lakelands, will get lots of votes just based on this sign. The latter party, if I may add, has a global warning hoax section on its Web site, which tells you all you need to know about Cash and the Tea Party of the Lakelands.
That said, maybe we can set some guidelines for being a successful fringe candidate:
- First, get yourself an easy to pronounce, all-American name. Preferably three syllables or less.
- Second, and this should be a no-brainer: Drape your political message in the red, white and blue. You should include plenty of stars (nothing says “America” like objects from outerspace. We own space, fools!) and possibly add as many pictures and/or quotes from the Founders as possible, including Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, James Madison, John Adams, Alexander Hamilton, Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Paine, Ben Franklin and John Jay. The particular Founder’s stance on more government or less doesn’t really matter. Your potential constituents won’t know the difference. Just uttering the Founders’ names will get you tons of brownie points!
- Third, and finally, use words like faith, family, freedom, Democracy, Jesus and God as many times as possible, even though they might not make sense in context. They’ll never know the difference, and the seat is yours!
Moreover, what does “freedom” have to do with anything? Is Cash saying he is going to revisit the matter, in support, of course, if he gets elected? Didn’t we settle all that in 1776 when we officially broke free from British rule and again in 1865 when we broke blacks free from slavery’s rule?
As of very early Sunday morning, 18 votes were still at play in the Sunday vote that is coming.
Of the five representatives who voted “No” on the November health care bill vote, two, Rick Boucher (Va.’s 9th) and Lincoln Davis (Tenn.’s 4th) are leaning toward the Democrat’s position, while Glenn Nye (Va.’s 2nd) and John Tanner (Tenn.’s 8th) are a tossup. Brian Baird (Wash.’s 3rd), who is not running for reelection is also a tossup. Here’s the full chart.
18 total are still undecided as of early Sunday morning. Here is an expanded look on how President Obama and the Democrats have been able to keep the bill above water.
As reported by another Times article, Obama made one last push in favor of the bill on Saturday at the Capitol:
Mr. Obama, in an emotional address at the Capitol, exhorted rank-and-file House Democrats to approve the bill, telling them they were on the edge of making history with a decisive vote scheduled for Sunday.
“Every once in a while a moment comes where you have a chance to vindicate all those best hopes that you had about yourself, about this country,” he said. “This is one of those moments.”
The president declared: “We have been debating health care for decades. It has now been debated for a year. It is in your hands.”