Nel's New Day

August 6, 2014

Bills the House Blocked, ALEC Plans

Before they left for home last week, GOP members of Congress also blocked several bills. Senators can also go home and brag about how they blocked a bill to close the “corporate desertion” tax loophole. Thanks to these brave legislators, corporations that make most of their money in the United States can renounce their citizenship (remember that they are people?) by moving their address out of the country and thus avoid paying taxes to the U.S. The bill would have cost corporations an additional $14.3 million a year—yes, that’s just million—which shows how little taxes the companies already paid.

Walgreens, originally planning to dodge paying taxes, has backed down on that decision. Officials said that the IRS litigation would be a problem, but they admitted that the public outcry was also a difficulty. Almost 50 other corporations are not as “patriotic.” With the GOP senators stopping the so-called “inversion” (aka tax dodge) through filibuster, Democratic senators are asking President Obama to issue an executive order to prevent the loss of tax income. He could invoke a 1969 tax law to restrict foreign tax-domiciled U.S. companies from using inter-company loans and interest deductions to cut their U.S. tax bills.

GOP senators also blocked the Bring Jobs Home Act that would have provided tax credits for companies bringing jobs to the U.S. while eliminating a tax credit for companies to move jobs out of the country. At this time, companies can deduct the cost of moving people and equipment overseas from their taxes as their employees lose their jobs. The bill proposed to stop that tax credit and start a new 20-percent tax credit for all costs in moving jobs back to the United States. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) said, “It is product of political rather than economic priorities.” That probably means that the president and other Democrats would get credit for creating jobs that the GOP has failed to deliver.

Also stuck in Congress is legislation to honor Pope Francis; the House Foreign Affairs Committee has refused to act on it. Apparently, even religion is partisan: only 19 of the 221 co-sponsors are Republicans. Fewer than one-third of the GOP Catholics want to honor the pope. The rest of them–and 193 others–think that the pope is “too liberal” because he talks about equality.

The House leadership blocked another jobs bill last week called Securing Energy Critical Elements and American Jobs Act of 2014 (H.R. 1022). It would have increased exploration, research and development, and other means to secure critical minerals for use in electronic equipment. The conservative opposition to the bill came from the Heritage Foundation and Club for Growth because, according to these groups, securing these materials for U.S. companies is “interference with the free market.” At this time, China, which subsidizes these efforts, provides 90 percent of the minerals for electronic manufacturing by underpricing, export controls, and other restrictions that drive up costs outside China. Even our military gets most of their electronics from China.

To make sure the bill was defeated, the House leadership put it under “suspension of the rules,” meaning that passing the bill required a two-thirds majority. The bill, one of the Make It in America series from House and Senate Democrats, did get a simple majority vote of 260-143. The “suspension of rules” designation is for noncontroversial bills; protecting China’s market seems to be controversial.

I cheered for one bill that failed under suspension before I researched it a bit further and discovered that it passed three days later. H.R. 935, The Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act, eliminates Clean Water Act protections for waterways that are sprayed with pesticides for algae, weeds, invasive species, and mosquitoes. The Act allows spraying but requires a permit to make sure that people know what’s going into local waterways. If there’s already a great deal of a particular pesticide in the water, then a person cannot use that particular pesticide in its spray. The bill has nothing to do with run off of irrigation water with pesticides; that’s exempt from the Clean Water Act. My representative, one of 37 Democrats voting with 230 Republicans in favor of the measure, justified his voting for the bill because it’s unneeded, a justification usually used by Republicans. The bill, which I call The Reducing Health Act, now goes on to the Senate.

You can track how members of Congress are spending their summer vacation at Party Time.  Thus far, it’s found almost 850 fundraisers thus far in 2014 including $1000/person golf event at Oxbow Country Club, the “Annual Newport Summer Weekend,” fundraisers at the Barefoot Bar,” the golf event in St. Michaels and at Apple Creek Country Club, hometown barbeques, the Chicago Cubs game, Laguna Beach trip, the “garden party’ in Kennebunkport, “Weekend in Beverly Hills Hotel,” the wine tour in Napa Valley, a fundraiser with singer James Taylor, and much more.

A 16-year-old old has made it easier for people to track donations to congressional members. Nick Rubin describes it this way: “A free browser extension for Chrome Firefox, and Safari that exposes the role money plays in Congress. Displays on any web page detailed campaign contribution data for every Senator and Representative, including total amount received and breakdown by industry and by size of donation.” He got interested in the subject after giving a presentation on corporate personhood—in the seventh grade! Rubin may be another Nate Silver in the making.

What can we look forward to? Rep. Louie Gohmert is not only calling for impeachment of President Obama but also demanding the invasion of Mexico to stop the flow of “radical Islamic terrorism” in to the United States. He used a reference to General Pershing’s response to Pancho Villa’s border attacks in the early 20th century but forgot that the U.S. Army failed to capture the Mexican rebel. Wacko conservatives have been calling for this action for years, but it’s the first time that a sitting representative said it was a good idea.

We know what GOP legislators plan by following the proceedings of American Legislative Exchange Council’s (ALEC). That’s the organization run by big business that writes bills for legislators who present them to both federal and state legislatures. Big Oil and King Coal were heavily represented at last week’s conference in Dallas (TX), and lobbyists taught legislators who to “talk” and “think” about climate change after a briefing from “Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change,” a denial organization that compares climate advocates with “murderers, tyrants and madmen.”

Other bills coming out of ALEC’s meeting are making it impossible to enroll in Medicaid, expanding charter schools to eradicate public schools, and undermining EPA’s Clean Air and Clean Water Act regulations. States will have bills to resist federal enforcement of protection for state waters, again benefiting companies such as Nestle that is taking water away from California residents during the third drought year.

Companies with online college degree programs and materials will benefit from the “Affordable Baccalaureate Degree Act.” Much more information about the corporate takeover of the United States is available here.

Maybe it’s a good idea that the House will be gone for over 100 days during the next four months.

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