Category Archives: Congress
As pretty much everyone and their mother knows by now, the “debt ceiling,” a Congressionally mandated line-in-the-sand that the U.S. National Debt is not allowed to surpass, has been surpassed and must be raised incredibly soon to avoid possible depression, collapse of the world banking industry, and essentially total ruin. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner has gone on record saying that the deal to raise the debt ceiling must go through by August 2 and that there are “no other option(s) to buy more time for Congress.” With that said, deals usually require some form of compromise, right? While both sides agree the national debt must come down in the long term in order to facilitate this short term ceiling rise, the Democrats and Republicans each have key ways to make this happen. In a compromise then, logic dictates, each side would get some of what they want.
In the case of the debt ceiling, Democrats want to preserve entitlements so that what’s left of the social safety net in America can be secured, ask the wealthiest Americans to pay a little more, and trim the enormously bloated defense budget slightly. Republicans want to keep taxes cut as low as they are for Americans, cut spending on entitlements, and save the defense budget. While Obama has signaled he would accept a 3:1 ratio as part of the deal (3 parts spending cut to one part revenue gain through asking those making half a million or more to pay a little extra), that is still apparently not enough for the Republicans in the House and Senate. When Boehner signaled he was leaning toward accepting the deal, he faced an enormous backlash from his own party. Of course, the GOP is veering so far to the right that there are plenty of Tea Party Caucus GOP members who will vote against the debt ceiling increase regardless, including chair Michelle Bachmann.
So, analysis time. In sum, I believe Obama has the upper hand here. He has clearly signaled to the American people his willingness to compromise and cut spending on prized programs such as Medicare and defense, and in exchange he is asking for the very wealthiest to pay a bit more. I feel the American public will side with Obama on this issue because raising taxes on the wealthy has always polled incredibly well. A PPP poll of four swing states showed that 80% of voters in said states supported tax increases on those making a million dollars or more a year.
In short, the GOP look like the babies in this situation with their refusal to budge even a bit. One modest show of centrism by Boehner was met with a proverbial crowd of angry Republicans with torches and pitchforks. They are putting total economic collapse on the table just so that their wealthy friends can avoid paying a bit more on taxes. That is a message that the David Plouffe-led White House communication staff will be playing hard and fast from now all the way through the 2012 elections, guaranteed. Boehner and the GOP still have a chance to show that they can see the light and veer a bit back to the saner days of Bob Dole and Newt Gingrich, when compromises were actually able to go through leading to a balanced budget, but I wouldn’t exactly be betting the farm on that one.
“A girl, a woman, a young lady has not headlined [Glastonbury] in 20 years. So this is history.”
+ AMA Adopts New Policies at Annual Meeting | The American Medical Association now recommends that nutritional counseling be included in insurance plans for pregnant women and new mothers and that advertisers consult youth health experts in order to promote a healthy body image.
+ GOP: What War On Women? | It’s important that 2012 voters remember the undermining of women perpetrated by the Republican majority in Congress.
The reporter did ask a few of them if they’re feminists, a word which they were more reluctant than Sarah Palin to embrace. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler said she’s “pro-woman, just like I’m pro-family, just like I’m pro-man.” Rep. Diana Black said, “I can tell you I’m not a feminist; I respect both the male and the female perspective. The creator made us different for a reason, and both of those perspectives are important.” (more…)
Representative Chris Lee (NY-26) resigned today from the House after it was discovered that he sent shirtless photos of himself to a woman he met in the personal ad section of Craigslist. His Craigslist alter-ego (of the same name) had was 7 years younger, divorced, and not a member of Congress. Well, at least one of those is true now.
His statement was released early Wednesday evening:
“It has been a tremendous honor to serve the people of Western New York. I regret the harm that my actions have caused my family, my staff and my constituents. I deeply and sincerely apologize to them all. I have made profound mistakes and I promise to work as hard as I can to seek their forgiveness.
“The challenges we face in Western New York and across the country are too serious for me to allow this distraction to continue, and so I am announcing that I have resigned my seat in Congress effective immediately.”
Governor Andrew Cuomo will call for a special election in the near future.
+The Supreme Court Justices- Justices Thomas, Scalia, and Alito won’t be attending, and Justice Roberts has criticized the event, prompting many to wonder if any justices will show up at all.
+Odd Pairings- In a show of bipartisanship many legislators have chosen cross-aisle seating partners. Anthony Weiner and Pete King are this generation’s Oscar and Felix.
+The Responses- Following the SotU, Rep. Paul Ryan will give the official GOP rebuttal, but Michele ‘is everyone else here a Socialist?’ Bachmann will be fighting for coverage with her own commentary. Awkward-pants. (more…)
There is no question our Commander in Chief is quite happy right now. First, of course, he’s going to Hawaii. That would make pretty much everyone elated, especially those dealing with the freezing cold up here in Michigan. The biggie, however, is the massive amount of legislative victories and ability to reach across the aisle to those difficult-to-compromise-with Republicans over the past few weeks. Normally, the lame duck session, or the session following a Congressional election but preceding the formation of a new Congress, is quite uneventful. Rachel Maddow said on her 92Y special last night on MSNBC that pundits were expecting perhaps “a few post offices to be renamed.” But this could not be further from the truth, as we have seen this White House finally come out and fight hard for common-sense policy items that are heavily favored by the American people. Let’s go down the list, shall we?
New START Treaty ratified by the Senate. A treaty requires 67 votes to be ratified, or made law, in the US Senate. The New START treaty was one of the items on the lame duck agenda that Washington heavily pushed. All six living Republican secretaries of state supported it, as did the joint chiefs of staff, and Republican members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Still, however, Republican leaders in the Senate headed by Jon Kyl, minority whip, asked for more time and more funding for “infrastructure”. In the end, this was pushed to a vote and made it in just three days before Christmas, ratified 71-26. Now, we don’t have to worry about a Second Cold War breaking out and all of humanity perishing as we know it. Yay!
Don’t Ask Don’t Tell Repealed. A major progressive victory no matter how you look at it, the House and Senate passed the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and its full implementation across the board will only take a matter of months, according to Obama himself. Better late than never, as we were the second to last NATO country to allow homosexuals in, but no matter what all of Obama’s critics on the left have to admit this was a fantastic legislative accomplishment.
Food Safety Act passed. Anyone who has read Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation knows how loose FDA regulations are. This bill will help make America’s food safer across the board by imposing stricter regulations.
The 9/11 First Responder Health Care Bill passed (unanimously!) Despite Tea Party Republicans’ best attempts to stifle a bill giving health care to those who bravely risked their lives on September the 11th, a scathing indictment over the past week by Jon Stewart and others prompted the Senate into action. The bill passed without objection.
Pell Grants, Unemployed benefits Extended. The tax cut compromise proposed by Obama two weeks ago was roundly criticized by liberals, but within it were some golden nuggets that will really help those who need the help most- students and the unemployed. Pell Grants will continue to be funded at the current amount, and God knows for me that’s essentially the only way I can attend U of M. Also, for millions of Americans who are unemployed and were worried the Congress would play politics with their benefits, they can enjoy a nice meal for Christmas and rest a bit easier. Paul Krugman, one of the leading economists in the world, points to unemployment benefits as the best economic stimulus, as the impoverished need to spend the money on goods to keep going- stimulating business, ushering in new jobs, all that good stuff.
Sure, some post offices were probably renamed too, but you’d be hard pressed to find a time in Congressional history since the days of Franklin Delano Roosevelt where this much has been accomplished. The tax cut compromise allowed a temporary extension of tax cuts for the wealthy, and in exchange all this has been accomplished in a matter of days. According to a CNN poll released on December 22, voters approve of Obama’s handling of the lame duck session 56-41, while voters disapprove of Republicans’ handling 53-42. Similarly, on the issue of compromise, the tax cut decision went well with voters as 59-37 percent believe Obama has done enough to reach across the aisle, whereas 68% thought Republicans weren’t doing enough in return. This poll highlights what happens when Obama fights for the extremely popular policies that he championed when running for office. Now, for the next few days, Obama can rest easy, eat lots of food, and participate in those wonderful Hawaiian luaus and know that he has really proven himself as the leader of this nation. Merry Christmas to my fellow Dems, Happy Kwanzaa if you are so inclined, and Happy New Year. Huzzah.
“Our consensus is that we go out there listening to the American people. It’s about jobs, it’s about reducing the deficit and it’s about fighting for the middle class. I look forward to doing that with this great leadership team.”
Background: The Department of Homeland Security recently released a report detailing the risk that right-wing extremist groups pose to national security. Such reports are common – this one was ordered by President Bush and one focusing on left-wing extremists was released in January – and are no way an indictment of most conservatives or the Republican party. The Republicans took it that way, however, assuming that the report was about them (Side note: if they think a report on right-wing extremists was about them, aren’t they, by default, calling themselves extremists? Just a thought).
Anyway, Rep. Peter King (R-NY) recently went on Morning Joe to talk about the report. But instead of talking about why it is important to look out for fringe groups, or even defend the Republican party against perceived attacks (a stupid position, but slightly respectable), he said this:
[Homeland Security Secretary Napolitano] has never put out a report talking about look out for mosques. Look out for Islamic terrorists in our country. Look out for the fact that very few Muslims come forward to cooperate with the police. If they sent out a report saying that, there would be hell to pay.