Archive for the ‘Congress’ tag
Facing low approval ratings after a historically unproductive 112th session and a series of last-minute showdowns over fiscal matters, Congress is now less popular than root canals, NFL replacement referees, head lice, the rock band Nickelback, colonoscopies, carnies, traffic jams, cockroaches, Donald Trump, France, Genghis Khan, used-car salesmen and Brussel sprouts.
When asked if they have a higher opinion of either Congress or a series of unpleasant or disliked things, voters said they had a higher opinion of root canals (32 for Congress and 56 for the dental procedure), NFL replacement refs (29-56), head lice (19-67), the rock band Nickelback (32-39), colonoscopies (31-58), Washington DC political pundits (34-37), carnies (31-39), traffic jams (34-56), cockroaches (43-45), Donald Trump (42-44), France (37-46), Genghis Khan (37-41), used-car salesmen (32-57), and Brussels sprouts (23-69) than Congress.
What a surprise! The anti-American GOP Congress has decided farmers are not a core constituency, or at least are not as important as defense contractors. Since the GOP doesn’t believe in climate change, the drought is just god’s will, and farmers should pray for rain, avoid asking for government assistance.
When Congress returns to business this week, it will be met not by the Code Pink antiwar protesters or the Tea Party supporters who often gathered near the Capitol last year. Instead, farmers will be out in force, rallying for a bill that lawmakers failed to pass before they recessed five weeks ago.
That unfinished bit of business threatens to cut off aid to farmers across the nation. But lawmakers, fresh off their parties’ conventions, appear to favor action on other bills that emphasize their political agendas over actual lawmaking.
When the Senate reconvenes on Monday, it will move to begin debate on a jobs bill for veterans that is championed by President Obama. The Democratic leadership is also considering yet another vote on Representative Paul D. Ryan’s budget, for no other apparent reason than to embarrass Republicans facing tough re-election battles.
In the House, Republicans will vote on a bill that seeks to phase out the Energy Department’s loan guarantee program that financed Solyndra, the bankrupt maker of solar power equipment. They also want Senate Democrats to come up with a measure like one already passed by the House that would replace the large-scale budget cuts for the Pentagon that are scheduled to take effect with other trims on Dec. 31. The military cuts were set in motion by an agreement to raise the debt ceiling last summer, and they became automatic when a special select committee failed to come up with at least $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction over 10 years.
Over the summer, the Senate passed a bipartisan five-year farm bill that the House declined to take up. House leaders also refused to consider their own Agriculture Committee’s sweeping farm measure, instead pushing through a short-term $383 million package of loans and grants for livestock producers and a limited number of farmers. Senate leaders declined to take action on that measure because they said it was too limited, a view shared by many farmers.
Mr. Boehner lacks enough votes to pass a bill because Democrats dislike the $16 billion in cuts to nutrition programs, including food stamps, in the House committee’s bill. And many conservative Republicans would like to see more cuts over all in the measure.
(click here to continue reading Congress to Face Angry Farmers – NYTimes.com.)
Our Congress, hard at work…
In the 18 months the 112th Congress has been sworn in, the House has introduced 60 bills to rename post offices. Thirty-eight have passed the House and 26 have become law. During those 18 months, the House has produced 151 laws, 17 percent of which have been to rename post offices, according to Congressional Democrats. Not a single bill has come to the House floor aimed at reforming a Postal Service, which is bleeding billions of dollars because of Congressional mandates. … USPS claims that if Congress does not act, the mail service will default not only on the $5.5 billion payment due [August 1, 2012], but also on another $5.6 billion payment for future retiree’s benefit due September 30. The Postal Service has pleaded with Congress for years to end the requirement that it pre-fund its retiree’s health benefits. But many lawmakers claim that because USPS has such a massive workforce – there are 614,000 Postal Service employees-if it does not pre-fund retirement benefits, it will not be able to pay them in the future.
And as long as these disagreements persist, it looks like naming post offices is the closest Congress will get to passing postal reform.
(click here to continue reading 60 House Bills to Name Post Offices, Zero To Fix Mail Service – Yahoo! News.)
Paul Ryan is one of those time-wasters:
He’s been in Congress for nearly 13 years, but Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) has only seen two of his bills pass into law during that time.
Ryan, who Mitt Romney has tapped as his running mate, passed a bill into law in July 2000 that renames a post office in his district. Thanks to Ryan, the post office on 1818 Milton Ave. in Janesville, Wis., is now known as “Les Aspin Post Office Building.”
(click here to continue reading Paul Ryan Only Passed 2 Bills Into Law In More Than A Decade.)
and speaking of wasting time, the Republican mouth-breathers in Congress have also wasted taxpayer money with symbolic votes re: the Affordable Care Act a/k/a Obamacare:
What grave business is the House of Representatives undertaking today? It is voting to do away with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act—or, as the name of the bill puts it, on the Repeal of Obamacare Act. The title has a certain appealing conciseness, relative to what some of the other partial or entire repeal bills have been called, like the Religious Freedom Tax Repeal Act or the Repealing the Job-Killing Health-Care Law Act—Eric Cantor introduced that one, which stands as a true classic of the bill-title genre. (Reuters has a list of more.)
The names have been the bill-sponsors’ only real accomplishment, even though repeals have passed the House again and again—some thirty times, in various forms, since the G.O.P. got its majority, in 2010. Sometimes it’s been been brazen and loud (the NObamacare Act of 2012—isn’t there a ban on legislative names that rely on capitalization tricks?). And sometimes there’s an amendment that comes to Congress, as the saying goes, on little cat feet, attached to a big bill. All the significant ones have died, though, as everyone knew they would, and as today’s will as well, before getting anywhere near Senate passage, let alone the President’s desk. (If he signed it “NObama,” would that count as a veto?) The Republicans have some legislative options—reconciliation, debt-ceiling-collapsing blackmail—but not good ones. So why do they bother?
(click here to continue reading House Votes on the Repeal of Obamacare Act : The New Yorker.)
Good thing the nation is working perfectly with zero problems of any kind that need fixing so that the fools in Congress can play.
The so-called Farm Bill is a five year plan for American agriculture policy, and as usual, rewards food corporations instead of consumers, and is adverse to encouraging sustainable food production.
For decades, groups like Fred Hoefner’s [National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition] have worked hard to create a set of programs designed to at least partially offset US farm policy’s tendency to bolster Big Ag. The programs, which the Obama Administration in 2009 grouped under the banner of Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food, include initiatives designed to assist new farmers to get loans help communities roll out farmers markets, and reduce costs for farms to transition to organic.
Taken as a whole, Hoefner says, the programs amount to about $175 million per year—less than 1 percent of the non-food stamps portion of the farm bill. “These programs make up an extremely modest portion of the farm bill’s budget, but they’ve had a large impact on communities nationwide,” Hoefner said. Hoefner pointed to a wide-ranging recent USDA study documenting positive impact of the programs.
and of course having lots of money to hire lobbyists always pays off for food corporations:
Big Ag continues to get support for monster corn and soy crops. Large commodity growers will take a nominal hit in the next farm bill. For years, farmers in a few chosen crops—corn, soy, cotton, etc.—have received $5 billion per year in so-called “direct payments” based on the acreage under production. In order to receive direct payments, farmers had to sign so called “conservation-compliance” agreements, which obligated them to create conservation plans for highly erodible land and agree not to drain wetlands for planting. The conservation-compliance agreements were far from perfect, Hoefner says, but they did help slow soil erosion in the Corn Belt for years.
In the next farm bill, direct payments will almost certainly be scrapped, Hoefner says, and replaced by a revenue-insurance scheme that is projected to cost $3.5 billion per year, saving taxpayers $1.5 billion per year. Sounds like a step forward, right? Wrong. First of all, in current negotiations, there is no conservation-compliance requirement for revenue insurance—meaning that farmers will have incentive to drain wetlands to grow crops, as well as expand crops onto erosion-prone land. Moreover, the new scheme will likely insure prices at high levels—meaning that relatively small price dips could cost taxpayers serious money, potentially wiping out that promised $1.5 billion in savings.
The switch to revenue insurance, Hoefner says, will “further reduce the risk of putting the pedal to the metal on commodity production, [with] no incentive whatsoever to diversify crops or leave any ground unplanted.” All of that, of course, is manna to the companies that supply inputs to industrial-scale farmers: seed and pesticide companies like Monsanto and Syngenta; and to the companies that buy corn and soy and transform them into a range of low-quality, profitable foods.
(click here to continue reading The Worst Farm Bill Ever? | Mother Jones.)
Lobbyists won’t like this suggestion:
The federal government could save about $1 billion a year by reducing the subsidies it pays to large farmers to cover much of the cost of their crop insurance, according to a report by Congressional auditors due to be released on Thursday.
The report raised the prospect of the government’s capping the amount that farmers receive at $40,000 a year, much as the government caps payments in other farm programs. Any move to limit the subsidy, however, is likely to be opposed by rural lawmakers, who say the program provides a safety net for agriculture.
The report, by the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, was requested by Senator Tom Coburn, Republican of Oklahoma, as part of his efforts to cut government spending.
Under the federal crop insurance program, farmers can buy insurance policies that cover poor yields, declines in prices or both. The insurance is obtained through private companies, but the federal government pays about 62 percent of the premiums, plus administrative expenses.
The crop insurance subsidy, according to the G.A.O. report, ballooned to $7.3 billion last year from $951 million in 2000, or about $1.2 billion adjusted for inflation. A Congressional Budget Office study cited in the report estimates that the premium subsidy will cost $39 billion from 2012 to 2016, about $7.8 billion a year.
Unlike other farm programs that have income or payment limits, crop insurance payments have no such restrictions, so farmers can get millions in subsidies regardless of their income. The G.A.O. said a cap last year would have affected about 4 percent of farmers in the program, who accounted for about a third of the premium subsidies and were mostly associated with large farms.
(click here to continue reading Cap on Farm Insurance Subsidy Could Save Billions, Report Says – NYTimes.com.)
and we ignore climate change at our peril:
One of the biggest challenges facing this planet isn’t simply feeding a growing population — perhaps as many as 10 billion by the year 2100. The challenge is feeding all those people as the climate changes in ways we can barely project. A new report called “Achieving Food Security in the Face of Climate Change” (PDF) illustrates the complexity of the problem and makes clear that action must be taken soon to address it.
Commissioned by Cgiar — a research alliance financed by the United Nations and the World Bank — it recommends essential changes in the way we think about farming, food and equitable access to it, and the way these things affect climate change.
It is tempting to assume that expanding agricultural acreage and using new technology, like genetically engineered crops, will somehow save the day. The report says that efficiency and sustainability will also require fundamental changes in how we grow and consume food: reducing waste in production and distribution and finding ways to farm that reduce greenhouse-gas emissions and other “negative environmental impacts of agriculture,” like soil loss and water pollution. The report also calls for better dietary habits in wealthy countries, which have a disproportionately and unsustainably high calorie intake, and targeted aid to populations whose farming is most at risk.
(click here to continue reading Sustainably Feeding a Changing World – NYTimes.com.)
Speaking of Congressional corruption, why is gutting public transit even a consideration? Public transit over C-17’s that the Pentagon admits it doesn’t need? What kind of crazy budget priority is that? Especially when highway funding is sacrosanct.
The House leadership of the Ways and Means committee introduced a proposal yesterday that would exclude public transit from receiving federal motor fuels tax funding. The proposal is a part of a bill that will establish funding for a new five-year transportation bill now before Congress. The move would eliminate guaranteed funding in the Mass Transit Account – established in 1982 under President Reagan – potentially eliminating public transportation nationwide.
“The House Ways and Means Bill stops just short of defunding America’s public transit system. Instead it says that the real money with a funding source will all go to highways, while the tooth fairy will pay for transit. For Big Oil and the highway lobby, this is a dream, but it’s a nightmare for America’s transportation future,” said Dan Smith of U.S. PIRG, the federation of state Public Interest Research Groups.
“Over the past several weeks, many of us were surprised to hear that House and Senate transportation leaders were unified in their desire to pass a surface and transit-funding bill in the near term,” said Richard Harnish, Executive Director of the Midwest High Speed Rail Association. “This development raised the rare possibly of bi-partisan action on an important piece of domestic policy. Well, all of that ended yesterday afternoon. Unlike the responsible and consensus-driven Senate version, House Chairman John Mica released a political document that surely elicited high-fives among his party’s most ideological stalwarts. The bill slashes Amtrak funding, zeroes out high-speed rail funding and maintains the “pave at all cost” mentality that is pervasive in American transportation policy.”
“We are deeply concerned that if this measure passes, Americans who use public transportation, or who would like that option in the future, will be thrown under the bus,” said James Corless, director of Transportation for America. “This couldnʼt come at a worse time for people who need an affordable, reliable way to get to work, or for employers who need workers.” Corless noted the demand for transit has been rising as the economy slowly recovers and people are using public transportation to get to jobs and to avoid volatile gas prices.
“This bill is vastly outside the mainstream and does nothing for American commuters who are desperate for a comprehensive transportation system that actually improves their quality of life,” said Harnish. “Additionally, instead of tackling the foundational funding structure that is bankrupting the Highway Trust Fund, House leaders decided it would be best to garner new revenues through increased domestic oil drilling.
(click here to continue reading High-Speed Rail and Transit on Chopping Block | Midwest High Speed Rail Association.)
If you are so inclined, there is an email-your-representative form here
I thought the Tea Bagger bible celebrated railroads?
I hope Barney Frank continues to be in the public eye after he retires from Congress, his wit is keen.
Andrew Goldman interviews Mr. Frank in the NYT Magazine:
AG: You’ve long argued for the decriminalization of marijuana. Do you smoke weed?
AG: Why not?
Why do you ask a question, then act surprised when I give an answer? Do you think I lie to people?
AG: I thought you might explain why you support decriminalizing it but don’t smoke it.
Do you think I’ve ever had an abortion? I don’t play poker on the Internet, either.
(click here to continue reading The Not-So-Retiring Barney Frank – NYTimes.com.)
It’s of course perfectly standard for members of Congress to not be exceptionally proficient in technological matters. But for some committee members, the issue did not stop at mere ignorance. Rather, it seemed there was in many cases an outright refusal to understand what is undoubtedly a complex issue dealing with highly-sensitive technologies.
When the security issue was brought up, Rep. Mel Watt of North Carolina seemed particularly comfortable about his own lack of understanding. Grinningly admitting “I’m not a nerd” before the committee, he nevertheless went on to dismiss without facts or justification the very evidence he didn’t understand and then downplay the need for a panel of experts. Rep. Maxine Waters of California followed up by saying that any discussion of security concerns is “wasting time” and that the bill should move forward without question, busted internets be damned.
The fact that there was any debate over whether to call in experts on such a matter should tell you something about the integrity of Congress. It’d be one thing if legitimate technical questions directed at the bill’s supporters weren’t met with either silence or veiled accusations that the other side was sympathetic to piracy. Yet here we are with a group of elected officials openly supporting a bill they can’t explain, and having the temerity to suggest there’s no need to “bring in the nerds” to suss out what’s actually on it.
“No legislation is perfect,” Rep. Watt said at one point, continuing the insane notion that the goal of the House should be to pass anything, despite what consequences it may bring. Later, Iowa Representative Steve King tweeted, somewhat ironically, about surfing the internet on his phone because he was bored listening to his colleague Shiela Jackson speak about the bill. Then, even more ironically, another representative’s comments calling him out for it were asked to be stricken from the record.
This used to be funny, but now it’s really just terrifying. We’re dealing with legislation that will completely change the face of the internet and free speech for years to come. Yet here we are, still at the mercy of underachieving Congressional know-nothings that have more in common with the slacker students sitting in the back of math class than elected representatives. The fact that some of the people charged with representing us must be dragged kicking and screaming out of their complacency on such matters is no longer endearing — it’s just pathetic and sad.
(click here to continue reading Dear Congress, It’s No Longer OK To Not Know How The Internet Works | Motherboard.)
Are there any adults in charge of the House? Watching this week’s frenzied slash-and-burn budget contest, we had to conclude the answer to that is no.
Some members want to go still further. On Tuesday, the House began debating the list of proposed cuts, and more than 500 amendments were filed, mostly from Republicans trying to cut still more out of — or end — programs they dislike. One would stop paying dues to the United Nations. Others would cut all financing for the health care reform law, or Planned Parenthood, or any foreign aid to a country that regularly disagrees with the United States at the United Nations.
If the Republicans got their way, it would wreak havoc on Americans’ lives and national security. This blood sport also has nothing to do with the programs that are driving up the long-term deficit: Medicare, Medicaid and, to a lesser extent, Social Security.
The House freshmen seemed even less concerned about the effect of their budget slashing. “A lot of us freshmen don’t have a whole lot of knowledge about how Washington, D.C., is operated,” Representative Kristi Noem, a Republican of South Dakota, told the Conservative Political Action Conference last week. “And, frankly, we don’t really care.”
In all of their posturing, Republican lawmakers have studiously avoided making clear to voters what vital government services would be slashed or disappear if they got their way — like investment in cancer research or a sharp reduction in federal meat inspections, or the number of police on the street, or agents that keep the borders secure, or the number of teachers in your kids’ schools. Those cuts will never get past the Senate, and, on Tuesday, Mr. Obama said he would veto such job-killing cuts if they arrive at his desk.
That puts the House leadership on notice. Will they follow the mob and allow the government to shut down if the cuts are not enacted? Or will they take back control of the House and steer it toward reality?
(click here to continue reading Out of Control in the House – NYTimes.com.)
Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, the chairman of the Republican Study Committee, will unveil the bill in a speech at the Heritage Foundation on Thursday morning.
Jordan’s bill, which will have a companion bill introduced in the Senate by Sen. Jim DeMint, South Carolina Republican, would impose deep and broad cuts across the federal government. It includes both budget-wide cuts on non-defense discretionary spending back to 2006 levels and proposes the elimination or drastic reduction of more than 50 government programs.
Jordan’s “Spending Reduction Act” would eliminate such things as the U.S. Agency for International Development and its $1.39 billion annual budget, the $445 million annual subsidy for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the $1.5 billion annual subsidy for Amtrak, $2.5 billion in high speed rail grants, the $150 million subsidy for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, and it would cut in half to $7.5 billion the federal travel budget.
But the program eliminations and reductions would account for only $330 billion of the $2.5 trillion in cuts. The bulk of the cuts would come from returning non-defense discretionary spending – which is currently $670 billion out of a $3.8 trillion budget for the 2011 fiscal year – to the 2006 level of $496.7 billion, through 2021.
Other cuts in the Jordan proposal include putting the $45 billion remaining in the stimulus toward deficit reduction, eliminating federal control of mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to the tune of $30 billion in savings, and clawing back $16 billion currently scheduled to go toward helping state governments pay for Medicaid recipients.
There are clear cut significant costs to such a proposal. Getting rid of the $6 billion or so in stimulus that is reserved for state governments in the upcoming fiscal year, along with the $16 billion in state Medicaid payments, would compound what is already set to be the worst year of fiscal problems yet in this economic downturn for state governments. They face their biggest deficits of the recession already because stimulus money has for the most part run out, and are in the process now of figuring out what services they will have to cut.
But Jordan said Wednesday that the nation must endure short term pain of its own choosing to avoid long term pain that it is far more serious and beyond its control.
So America, are you ready for some pain? Get ready as your newly elected Rethuglicans gut every domestic program in their quest to return us to the Robber Baron era. You know, child labor, no pollution controls, mandatory 70 hour work weeks, etc. A good time to be a banker, an insurance CEO, or an industrialist, not so good for the rest of us.
Not surprising, really. The Republicans don’t care about anything besides being elected. Governing the country is boring to them, so they traffic in soundbites and faux facts, like their Fox News masters.
As we reported this morning, House Republicans will kick-start the 112th Congress tomorrow with a spirited recitation of the Constitution, a document whose recent relevance is due largely to the ideological and sartorial interests of the Tea Party. It’s an opening act designed to herald the arrival of a new season of checks, balances, and financial cutbacks. As Politico’s nocturnal prophet Mike Allen reported, House Republicans plan to reduce Congress’s budget by $32.5 million—a savings reaped from cutting “the amount authorized for salaries and expenses of Member, committee, and leadership offices in 2011 and 2012.”
It would seem that in an era of Fiscal Responsibility™, a performative rendition of the Constitution might have been one such eliminated endeavor. For an estimate on just how much the Republicans would have saved if they had decided against the tedious exercise, VF Daily checked with Peter Keating, the co-author of “The Cost of No” and VF.com’s resident expert on Congressional wastefulness.
(click to continue reading Republicans to Spend $1.1 Million Reciting Constitution on House Floor | VF Daily | Vanity Fair.)
It will cost taxpayers over $1 million dollars for Republicans to recite the entire United States Constitution on the House floor Thursday.
In a year when Republicans have promised to reduce wasteful spending, it is estimated that reciting the Constitution will cost $1,071,872.87 if it takes three hours to read the document.
“When one chamber of Congress is in session but not working, we the people still have to pay for members’ salaries and expenses, and for their police protection, and for keeping their lights and phones and coffee machines on,” Peter Keating explained to Vanity Fair.
“To get this estimate, I took the total FY 2011 costs for House salaries and expenses and House office buildings, then added half the costs of joint House-Senate expenses, the CBO, the Capitol Police and the Capitol power plant,” he continued. “Then I divided that sum by 205, the number of days the House was in session last year, then divided again by 24 (the number of hours in a day) and multiplied by 3 (the estimated length in hours of members reading the Constitution).”
(click to continue reading Estimate: GOP’s symbolic reading of Constitution to cost taxpayers $1.1 million | Raw Story.)
If the Rethuglicans really wanted to reduce the deficit, they’d slice the Defense budget in half. Don’t hold your breath.
The House of Representatives gave final approval on Tuesday to a long-awaited modernization of the nation’s food safety laws, voting 215 to 144 to grant the Food and Drug Administration greater authority over food production.
(click to continue reading House Passes Overhaul of Food Safety Laws – NYTimes.com.)
…the devil is in the details1. For instance, some of the implementation doesn’t start until five years from now, some not until 18 months from now, and with the risk that the whole thing will get changed by then since our country inexplicably elected Republicans to be the majority party in the 112th Congress
“The F.D.A. asked for and was given a very long lead time for implementation,” said Caroline Smith DeWaal, food safety director for the Center for Science in the Public Interest, an advocacy group. “But it’s still a vast improvement over what we have today.”
Ultimately, the agency’s ability to carry out and enforce the law will depend on how much money it has available to pay inspectors and maintain or increase its staff. Republicans will gain control of the House next year and have vowed to cut spending on many domestic programs. Deep cuts could hobble the F.D.A. just as it gains the new authority.
“It’s going to be crucial for the next Congress to recognize that F.D.A. can’t fulfill the promise of this new law without the resources it needs to do the job,” said Erik D. Olson, who heads food policy for the Pew Health Group, an advocacy organization.
- whatever the frack that means [↩]
My congressman, Danny Davis, when he isn’t busy being a lapdog to Reverend Sun Moon in crazy Moonie ceremonies, is planning to run for mayor of Chicago. I don’t think he’d be a very good mayor, actually. Congressman Davis has been on the awkwardly named standing committee United States House Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on Federal Workforce, Post Office, and the District of Columbia for years, even been its Chairman for a while, and Chicago’s mail is still the worst in the nation.
The audit found that first-class mail sent between Chicago ZIP codes made it to the correct address the next day 91 percent of the time. The cities that fared best in the audit had deliver rates of around 97 percent. The audit was for mail delivered between June and September of last year.
U.S. Rep. Danny Davis (D-Chicago), who heads a congressional subcommittee that oversees the Postal Service, said he has urged officials to do whatever they can to fix the delivery problems in Chicago.
(click to continue reading Chicago Has The Worst Mail Delivery In The US – The Consumerist.)
Doesn’t bode well for Congressman Davis’ ability to improve Chicago’s infrastructure, or be an effective mayor for that matter. When I moved to Chicago in the mid-90s, Chicago mail was a national joke1. Well, fifteen years later, Chicago USPS is still a joke.Footnotes:
- remember reading a long article in the New Yorker about it back then, but am too lazy to locate it at the moment [↩]
How badly do insurance companies have to be to their customers before they are banned from participation in the new insurance exchanges? General Electric bad? Monsanto bad? or Halliburton bad? Curious if the rules have been defined yet.
A couple of hours after President Obama signed the health-care bill, an elated House Speaker Nancy Pelosi met with a group of columnists and commentators, issuing a warning to insurance companies…
Asked if insurance companies might raise their rates on health coverage and blame the increases on the new health-care bill, Pelosi said that the insurance companies should be aware that they’re not “automatically included” in the new health exchanges the bill creates.
“Unless they do the right thing, they’re not going in,” she said. “They will be relinquishing the possibility of having taxpayer-subsidized consumers in the exchange,” she said.
Under the new law, the health exchanges Pelosi referred to will be created in 2014. By pulling customers together, they will give individuals and companies a better chance of bargaining when they buy health insurance. Because the exchanges are expected to serve millions of new customers, insurance companies will want to be part of them.
[Click to continue reading PostPartisan - An ebullient Pelosi: watch out insurance companies, and Rahm is a 'softie' ]
Via Susie Madrak of Crooks and Liars.
When even Norman Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute is calling out Republican bs for the hypocrisy it is…
Any veteran observer of Congress is used to the rampant hypocrisy over the use of parliamentary procedures that shifts totally from one side to the other as a majority moves to minority status, and vice versa. But I can’t recall a level of feigned indignation nearly as great as what we are seeing now from congressional Republicans and their acolytes at the Wall Street Journal, and on blogs, talk radio, and cable news. It reached a ridiculous level of misinformation and disinformation over the use of reconciliation, and now threatens to top that level over the projected use of a self-executing rule by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
In the last Congress that Republicans controlled, from 2005 to 2006, Rules Committee Chairman David Dreier used the self-executing rule more than 35 times, and was no stranger to the concept of “deem and pass.” That strategy, then decried by the House Democrats who are now using it, and now being called unconstitutional by WSJ editorialists, was defended by House Republicans in court (and upheld). Dreier used it for a $40 billion deficit reduction package so that his fellow GOPers could avoid an embarrassing vote on immigration. I don’t like self-executing rules by either party—I prefer the “regular order”—so I am not going to say this is a great idea by the Democrats. But even so—is there no shame anymore?
[Click to continue reading Hypocrisy: A Parliamentary Procedure « The Enterprise Blog]
Amazing really, and if you have the stomach, see how often the Republican talking point is repeated in the next few weeks. I’d wager it will be repeated numerous times, even by the so-called “straight” media organizations1.Footnotes:
- not Fox News, in other words [↩]
You would think the fact checkers of The New York Times would stop liars like David Brooks from publishing factually erroneous columns that embarrass the NYT brand. Apparently not. Differing opinions is one thing, but out and out lies?
Ezra Klein writes:
The factual statements Brooks uses in his argument are wrong. Not arguable, or questionable, or suspicious. Wrong. And since everything else flows from those wrong facts, the rest of the column can’t be taken seriously.
“Reconciliation has been used with increasing frequency,” writes Brooks. “That was bad enough. But at least for the Bush tax cuts or the prescription drug bill, there was significant bipartisan support.” The outcome of letting reconciliation go from rare and bipartisan to common and partisan is that we will go from a Senate where “people are usually pretty decent to one another” to a Senate that “bleaches out normal behavior and the normal instincts of human sympathy.”
Chilling stuff, huh?
But none of Brooks’s evidence is true. Literally none of it. The budget reconciliation process was used six times between 1980 and 1989. It was used four times between 1990 and 1999. It was used five times between 2000 and 2009. And it has been used zero times since 2010. Peak reconciliation use, in other words, was in the ’80s, not the Aughts. The data aren’t hard to find. They were published on Brooks’s own op-ed page.
Nor has reconciliation been limited to bills with “significant bipartisan support.” To use Brooks’s example of the tax cuts, the 2003 tax cuts passed the Senate 50-50, with Dick Cheney casting the tie-breaking vote. Two Democrats joined with the Republicans in that effort. Georgia’s Zell Miller, who would endorse George W. Bush in 2004 and effectively leave the Democratic Party, and Nebraska’s Ben Nelson. So I’d say that’s one Democrat. One Democrat alongside 49 Republicans. That’s not significant bipartisan support.
[Click to continue reading Ezra Klein - Everything David Brooks says about reconciliation is wrong ]
Mr. Klein continues on this vein, with examples and proof and EVERYTHING. You should click the link.
I’m quite curious as to how the editors of the NYT will handle this gaffe. Will there be a correction in tomorrow’s paper? An appended comment to the Op-Ed? or will they just ignore the egg on their faces?
Jonathan Chait adds at The New Republic:
Oh, the humanity!
So using a majority vote procedure to pass legislation that the minority party has used strict partisan discipline into whipping its members into opposing is fundamentally about denying the humanity of the Other. It is a sad thing, and both parties sadly share some blame, but on the matter before us, the Republicans are in fact correct.
In reality, Brooks’ conclusion is absurd. Does he really think that passing changes to the health care bill through reconciliation will materially effect how parties act in the future? He believes that the next Republican administration with more than 50 but fewer than 60 Senators would decline to pass a tax cut through reconciliation, but will now do so because the Democrats did it? I doubt even Karl Rove could say this with a straight face.
In any case, we don’t have to guess about the future. We can look to precedent. Bill Clinton passed the signature domestic achievement of his presidency, the 1993 deficit reduction bill, through reconciliation with zero Republican votes. Sadly, Brooks was not there to explain how this denied the Republicans’ humanity. In 2001, George W. Bush did get some Democrats to support his tax cut, most of them after it was a fait accompli. Why did he go through reconciliation, rather than regular order? It certainly had costs — he had to sunset the whole thing after ten years. He did it because he didn’t want to make the compromises he would have needed to get 60 votes. And if you think he would have given up the tax cut if a handful of Democrats hadn’t jumped aboard, you’re delusional.
[Click to continue reading David Brooks At His David Brooksiest | The New Republic]
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