Nel's New Day

February 20, 2017

DDT’s First Month

Comparisons of work during the first month are always popular in the first term of any president, but Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) makes the job more interesting than in the past. During his first month as president, Barack Obama had addressed the financial crisis by passing a stimulus bill totaling almost $1 billion dollars, approved a bill to prevent pay discrimination, expanded children’s health insurance, banned torture, started the foundation for major health care and financial regulation bills, and saw his approval ratings increase by 27 percent. The current Congress is fighting among the majority party, and DDT has largely signed mostly meaningless executor orders largely “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

Narcissist DDT, however, has preened himself regarding his accomplishments. At his 77-minute press conference last week, he said, “There has never been a president that has done so much in such a short period of time.” He continued to lie by claiming that his administration is a “fine-tuned machine” and “had a very smooth rollout of the travel ban.”

Gallup poll ratings of 40 percent for DDT make Bill Clinton’s 51 percent at this time in his presidency look very good. Instead of spiking during his first month, DDT’s ratings went down from 45 percent when he took office to 40 percent and is now 21 points lower than the average 61 per cent for other a half century.

DDT’s “accomplishments”:

  • His signature policy, the Muslim ban, was overturned in court.
  • His national security had to resign in disgrace.
  • His nominee for secretary of the Labor department had to withdraw his name in disgrace.
  • His vice-president had to break a tie for the 50 percent vote that his Secretary of Education for the first time in history in confirming a cabinet appointee.
  • He and his campaign staff are being investigated for involvement in Russia’s influence on the presidential election while he equates Russia and the U.S. in being “killers.”
  • He nominated activist Neil Gorsuch for Supreme Court Justice to swing that court to the far right.
  • He denied the value of a two-state solution in the Middle East, possibly denying the beleaguered Palestinians their country.
  • He has declared war on the intelligence community, the press, the judicial system, and possibly Congress.
  • He lied three-fourths of the time.
  • He made untold profits on his private business and more money by overturning the restriction on building the Dakota pipeline because he owns stock in the contractor.
  • He signed two bills, one to allow coal companies to despoil 6,000 miles of streams and the other to permit bribery by foreign governments to the oil industry for favors.
  • He signed the Mexico City Policy to deny millions of women in third-world countries reproductive health care.
  • He and his family spent $12 million in travel, the same amount that President Obama and his family spent in a year. That amount doesn’t include the maintenance of his home for his wife and son in Manhattan.
  • He alienated countries such as Mexico and Australia, formerly U.S. allies.
  • He is making India great again by rejecting the best and brightest tech talent that might emigrate to the United states, according to Reliance Industries chairman Mukesh Ambani.
  • He is making China great again by conceding economic influence and abandoning U.S. moral leadership, especially after he caved and agreed with the one-China policy with nothing in return for the U.S.
  • He promised to raise costs of goods for people in the United States with a tariff, that is now being called a “border adjustment tax.” The result would make foreign-held debt far more valuable, raising the U.S. debt by hundreds of billions of dollars without any more borrowing.
  • He made White House affairs less secure by keeping an unsecured phone and holding sensitive conferences in front of the public.
  • He filled the White House press corps with people so-called reporters well known for publishing truly “fake news,” including the newest addition of Lucian Wintrich, who started his blog two months ago. Wintrich gained fame with his “Twinks4Trump,” photographs of mostly shirtless gay young men wearing DDT’s red Make America Great Again baseball caps. Headlines at his new Gateway Pundit include “OMG! More Liberal #FakeNews – Claim of Trump Anti-LGBT Bill Is Complete Crap.” Conservative blogger Erick Ericsson called Gateway Pundit a “cesspool of fake news” and said that inviting Wintrich to press briefings does “a great disservice” to the American people. It represents DDT’s new “journalism.”
  • He has a budget draft hit list of programs that includes the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the Legal Services Corporation (civil-court legal aid program), AmeriCorps, the National Endowments for the Arts and the Humanities, and the White House’s Office of National Drug Control Policy. (His projected growth is also about 3.5 percent every year after the Federal Reserve and the Congressional Budget office project growth at 2 percent.)
  • He played a lot of golf—at least six times in his first month although he tries to hide his games because he incessantly criticized President Obama, who averaged under 40 rounds of golf a year throughout his two terms. During his campaign, DDT told audiences that he wouldn’t have any time to play golf because he would be working for the people.
  • He brought together people in the United States in gigantic protest actions.

(I’m sure I’m missing many more “accomplishments” during DDT’s first month.)

What’s missing:

  • Appointments for 515 positions out of 549 that need to be confirmed by the Senate.
  • Anything about infrastructure improvements, health care reform, jobs. or tax reform.
  • Help for people.
  • Leadership.

Another Do-Nothing Congress:  Republican legislators always promise that all they need to stop gridlock is to have a majority in Congress, but all they have done thus far is overturn a few Obama-era resolutions that benefited the people in the country and confirmed some racist billionaires for DDT’s cabinet. DDT promised action the first day, but House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) has a 200-day agenda for only health care and tax reform. That takes Congress close to the fall season of the first year to take action.

Meanwhile Ryan’s plan to put tariffs on imports has caused savvy billionaire Warren Buffet to dispose of 90 percent of his Walmart stock. The Senate is not on board, and even DDT calls it too complex. At the same time, Buffet is putting his money into Boeing that is expanding its sales of military aircraft to India—perhaps up to $12 billion in sales.

Never Mind What DDT Says: The job of DDT’s officials at this time is to tell the world that the United States won’t do what DDT says. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis announced in Baghdad that “we’re not in Iraq to seize anybody’s oil” after DDT said on his first full day that the U.S. might “have another chance” to keep the oil. Nikki Haley, DDT’s ambassador to the United Nations, insisted, “We absolutely support a two-state solution.” A bipartisan group of senators told Australian officials to ignore DDT’s rejection of the country. Jon Finer described the situation as “an unprecedented degree of policy incoherence on virtually every major issue the country faces.”

VP Mike Pence, who claimed he was speaking on behalf of DDT to NATO, swore that the U.S. is committed to European security and the transatlantic partnership. He also assured attendees at a news conference that both he and Trump “support a free and independent press” the day after DDT called the news media the “enemy of the American people.” As Eugene Robinson said, “They’re sweeping as fast as they can,” referring to cleaning up after elephants in a circus parade.

The uniting of people in the U.S. is reminiscent of 2010 when conservative leadership, including Dick Armey, guided the Tea Party into protesting the Affordable Care Act and gained a majority in the U.S. House. Because of these tactics, Republicans think that progressive protesters are being paid, but the marches and other protests against conservative policy is truly grassroots. Much of the organization of groups started after the posting of the Indivisible Guide, a civic engagement manual written by former congressional staffers. Within a few weeks of the guide’s posting on the internet, over a million copies had been downloaded, and over 6,000 protest groups had been formed.

posterPeople all over the nation are demanding that congressional legislators represent them instead of the top one percent. The Senate received an average of 1.5 million telephone calls each day in the week after the inauguration—the heaviest in history. The protests have so frightened legislators that they have largely stopped having town hall meetings. From 212 meetings during the same time last year, the number has dropped to 88, and one person alone is having 35 of those. In my state of Oregon, one senator alone is having seven town hall meetings this week, and my representative is having two, showing that vast majority of the 535 members of Congress are hiding from their constituents.

Protesters are planning a number of marches during the next few months. This past weekend, people commemorated Presidents’ Day with “Not My President” marches. Three marches are scheduled for April: Tax Day March, demanding that DDT release his tax returns (April 15); Science (April 22); and Climate (April 29). These are followed by the Immigrants March on May 6 and National Pride March on June 11. These are marches of the people, by the people, and for the people–not made up of paid protesters.

February 26, 2014

What the Do-Nothing U.S. House Is Up To

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 9:26 PM
Tags: , , , , ,

Wouldn’t it be nice if Congress helped people—create jobs by improving the infrastructure, keep families together by not sending small children back to Mexico when they don’t know anyone and don’t speak the language, etc.  But in the U.S. House, Republicans have announced that they are through legislating until after the 114th Congress arrives in 2015.

Rep. Todd Young (R-IN) hasn’t quit yet. He’s introduced a bill with the optimistic name of “Save American Workers Act” designed to change the definition of “full-time” from 30 hours to 40 hours a week in the Affordable Care Act. Young thinks that corporations that have more than 50 employees are cutting their hours below 30 hours a week to avoid paying health insurance on them. Although there has been no large-scale shift in hours, Young maintains that companies shouldn’t have to pay health insurance for employees working 39 hours a week or less.

The Congressional Budget Office has weighed in on the bill’s effects. Making “full-term” 40 hours would kick about one million people off health insurance. Some of them might find Medicaid in the states that provide this or be able to pay less for insurance through the marketplace tax credits, but almost 500,000 wouldn’t fit into these categories. Another impact would be a $73-billion cost to the government over a ten-year period, adding this amount to the deficit.

Young’s bill had 208 co-sponsors in the House—at least before CBO came out with its numbers.

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) has decided to again question Lois Lerner, former IRS official, who was already interrogated about the myth that the agency audits targeted Tea Party groups. Congress came up with nothing the last time. The FBI came up with nothing. Journalists came up with nothing. House GOP members have paid $14 million in their attempt to create a scandal that wasn’t. A letter from the IRS reports that 255 IRS workers spent 97,542 hours responding to congressional investigations. It also stated that the $14 million didn’t include work by the offices of Legislative Affairs, Public Affairs, Human Capital, and the Executive Secretariat.

This is the background of the investigation costing $14 million. After over 5,000 applications for 501(c)(4) status swamped the IRS within the two years after SCOTUS’s ruling in Citizens United, the agency was falsely accused of giving “heightened scrutiny … to non-profit applications from Tea Party-affiliated groups.” Before this decision, organizations had to report who gave money and how much. After Citizens United, 501(c)(4) organizations could keep all donors secret as long as the groups claimed to be at least a little bit for “social welfare.”

The Revenue Act of 1913, the law that covered this situation before Citizens United,” required that earnings be “devoted exclusively to charitable, educational, or recreational purposes.” In 1959, the IRS adopted a new regulation by adding that this “exclusively” devotion be also “primarily engaged.” Thus Citizens United went with “primarily” which morphed into “somewhat” or “a little bit.”

In June 2013, the Inspector General for Tax Administration sorted out 298 cases of the 5,000 political organizations, none of which was denied 501(c)(4) status. Of these, 96 were identified by “Tea Party,” “9/12,” or “Patriots.” Thus fewer than one-third of the identified cases appeared to be right-wing groups. All of these groups are violating IRS regulation because of the “devoted exclusively” part of the policy.

Today the House voted 243-176 to pass Rep. Dave Camp (R-MI)’s bill to block any new IRS regulations and make it illegal for the administration to follow the law. “Stop Targeting of Political Beliefs by the IRS Act of 2014” would keep the IRS from defining political activities for “social welfare” groups. Fourteen Democrats joined all 229 to vote for the measure.

Camp used the First Amendment in his bill, calling on free speech rights that have nothing to do with 501(c)(4) groups. No regulations prevent the people in these organizations from saying whatever they want with the usual restrictions. The tax-exempt status of organizations is a government subsidy; political campaigning in secret does not receive these subsidies. Up from $1 million in 2006, one-fourth of the $1 billion spent in 2012 came from these groups, some of it illegally provided by foreign donations.

Not satisfied with attempting to ignore existing law by controlling IRS regulations, Camp has released a monumental tax reform plan of almost 1,000 pages. His actions go against the wishes of party leaders who consider—correctly—that this overhaul will endanger the GOP in an election year. One of the most vivid parts of Camp’s plan is his slaughtering the sacred cows of deductions for home mortgage interest and carried-interest tax breaks for hedge fund managers. Deductions for state and local taxes also disappear in the plan. Credit unions would keep their tax exemptions. Banks would gain a tax, but only 0.035 percent.

On the side of the wealthy, the proposal lowers the corporate rate to 25 percent, whacking off 2 percent each year for five years. Taxation on most offshore income that corporations have stashed away would also be limited.

As Politico wrote, the proposal “includes something to offend seemingly everyone: manufacturers, the poor, Wall Street banks, governors and deficit hawks.”

I’m with Kevin Drum when he writes about the nuggets in the long document that make for fun reading.

 

  • It’s highly specific: One of the deductions to be dropped is “preventing makers of violent video games from qualifying for the R&D tax credit.”
  • The language doesn’t always sound like a Republican: The plan makes references to “Wall Street tycoons” and proposes to end tax breaks that allow university presidents to live tax free in mansions.
  • The cuts go across the board: On the one side, he cuts the Earned Income Tax Credit; on the other he wants to get rid of the NFL’s tax exemption on their annual $9 billion take.

 

The House also passed a bill yesterday allowing owners of cell phones to unlock them for personal use but not for resale. It looks as if the House has pretty much quit—at least for now.

They should look at Michigan to see a legislature that passes bills. The extreme GOP legislature has joined with the state’s right-wing governor, Rick Snyder, to pass the emergency manager law allowing the governor to replace any elected official with his own man, the so-called “right to work” law that passed after voters were locked out of the capitol, the “rape insurance” bill requiring women to purchase this insurance separately from other health insurance, and the fanatic anti-abortion legislation. The most recent bill, that gives every indication of passing is a daily $1,000 fine for picketing workers. Any labor organization leading or organizing a strike will be fined $10,000 a day.

Since the GOP took over, Michigan has joined the South in poverty. Its average income ranked 35th in the nation in 2012. Personal income between 2000 and 2010 increased 18.5 percent compared to 45.2 percent for the United States, a state growth that ranked 50th out of 50 states over a 30-year period.

This is what the United States could become if the Republicans take over as they did in Michigan.

December 2, 2013

GOP Strategy: Block and Blank

Imagine your life if you were paid full time for working a little over one day a week. That’s life if you’re a member of Congress this next five weeks. The House is scheduled to “work” six days during that time, making a total of 113 work days in 2013. With their $174,000 salary, GOP House members made about $1,380 a day this year. In a little over ten days, members of the House make the same amount of money that a fulltime worker paid minimum wage makes in an entire year. At least the House members worked 19 days more than last year, but this year’s calendar is 13 days less than that scheduled next year.

Perhaps House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) can’t find anything for the GOP to do in the next five weeks. It appears that the House has stopped repealing the Affordable Care Act because they’re afraid to take insurance away from people. Right now conservative lawmakers seem happy to just tell lies about people who are losing their insurance and having to pay more for other plans. The Senate doesn’t seem to be working any harder than the House as GOP senators sulk about the change in the filibuster rules.

What else is left for federal lawmakers to do this year?

  • Relief from sequester caps
  • Budget plans to keep the United States from shutting down or defaulting on the debt
  • Funding authority, which expires January 15
  • Pentagon policy bill blocked because of dissension over ways to stop sexual-assault cases and increased sanctions against Iran after the White House reached a tentative nuclear pact with that nation
  • Unemployment benefits, funding to help workers displaced by global trade, and business-friendly tax break including research and development
  • Fees paid to Medicare providers to keep doctors and hospitals from dropping patients from the program
  • Confirmation of the new Federal Reserve chair, head of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, and three nominees to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia—not to mention all the other nominees waiting in the wings
  • The farm policy that also includes the funding level for food stamps
  • Immigration reform? Ha!

My favorite problem is the expiration of laws banning plastic guns on December 9. The 25-year-old law that stops weapons manufacturers from making guns undetectable by security systems expires without Congressional renewal. If Congress doesn’t act, anyone can easily take a gun anywhere, including onto airplanes, because plastic weapons can’t be detected.

Over 18 months ago, political scholars Thomas E. Mann and Norma J. Ornstein published an article in The Washington Post entitled “Let’s just say it: The Republicans are the problem.” One conservative and the other progressive, they agreed:

“The GOP has become an insurgent outlier in American politics. It is ideologically extreme; scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.”

Searching for reasons behind the dysfunction, they listed “the mobilization of social conservatives after the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, the anti-tax movement launched in 1978 by California’s Proposition 13, the rise of conservative talk radio after a congressional pay raise in 1989, and the emergence of Fox News and right-wing blogs.”

According to the couple, however, the two people behind the move to the far right are Newt Gingrich and Grover Norquist. From his entrance into Congress in 1979, Gingrich worked to persuade voters that this branch of government was “so corrupt that anyone would be better than the incumbents, especially those in the Democratic majority.” He spent 16 years bringing ethics charges against Democratic leaders and provoking them into overreactions that united GOP voters into opposing Democratic initiatives. Then he exploited scandals to raise public disgust with politicians and recruited conservatives to run against the government.

When Gingrich became speaker, the self-serving leader compromised with President Bill Clinton to build up the House’s reputation, but it was too late. The hatred toward Washington, similar to that from the Tea Party, drove out moderate GOP House members. Some of the radical conservatives moved into the Senate and similarly polarized its culture.

At the same time that Gingrich was poisoning the House, Norquist founded Americans for Tax Reform and passed out the Taxpayer Protection Pledge in 1986. Signers were bound to never vote for a tax increase, including closing tax loopholes. As of last year, 238 of the 242 House Republicans and 41 of the 47 GOP senators had given their souls to Norquist. Extremists liked the pledge so much that they created offshoots on issues such as climate change.

More recently, Ornstein wrote about the change in the Senate during the past decade. After 14 Senators, seven from each side of the aisle, compromised in confirming extremist judges Janice Rogers Brown and Priscilla Owen, Republican senators such as Lamar Alexander (TN) promised that they would never filibuster a judicial nominee.

Barack Obama’s move into the White House, however, turned “the filibuster into a routine weapon of mass obstruction.” No longer were filibusters based on qualifications. GOP senators abandoned their 2005-2006 commitments to not filibuster as  well as more recent ones in January 2013 to block everyone nominated for the bench.

In addition to filibusters, senators can block nominations for federal district court vacancies in their states, a practice known as “blue slips.” GOP senators, including Marco Rubio (FL) who actually recommended the nominee, are using this practice.

As the conservative Ornstein wrote:

“If the norms are blown up, which is what Senate Republicans under Mitch McConnell have done over the past five years—using the rules not to build bridges but to construct dams—it becomes almost inevitable that the rules will change to adapt.”

After the recent change in the filibuster rules, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) threatened more judges like Scalia and Alito, but these judges, as well as Thomas, came with the filibuster rules. Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME), with others, expressed concern that the Senate would get worse in effecting the legislative process. It can’t.

House Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) will prevent any legislature not in his political interest and support any legislation that will benefit him. Even with the majority of Democrats in the Senate passing a bill, the House will most certainly block it. The immigration reform passed the Senate with supermajorities, and Boehner won’t touch it.

The Party of No recently revealed its plan for the coming year to finish up the 113th Congress as the worst in history. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) met with a group of House GOP members and handed out a blank piece of paper labeled Agenda 2014, proving that they had no “governing vision or even a legislative agenda.” As an aide described the GOP leadership: “We don’t know where we are headed, and we don’t know what we can sell to our members.”

That’s the strategy of the GOP: blank.

August 6, 2012

Where Is Congress? And the Jobs?

Today is Monday, and many workers went back to work. Those  people at work don’t include the members of the U.S. House of Representatives: they’re off on a month vacation. Their excuse for all this time off is that they need to listen to their constituents. More likely, they are fund-raising and campaigning, working very hard to get re-elected for another two years.

Last year the House calendar listed 175 legislative days. Those included the 17 pro forma days when a few of them marched into session, said they were there, and then left in order to keep President Obama from making any recess appointments. Therefore, they were in working sessions for fewer than 44 percent of the days. Most people with full-time jobs work 250 days a year, so the representatives’ days in session were fewer than 64 percent of the days employers require for full-time work.

This year the House plans to meet an average of three days for 26 weeks. They list a fourth day at the beginning of the week most of the time, but those days all state that there will be no vote before 6:30. At the other end of the week, days indicate no votes after 3:00 pm. So they leave for the weekend at 3 and don’t get back until 6:30 pm three days later. This means fewer than 100 working days during the entire year. Fortunately for them, they only have to work one month after they get back in September because they won’t be in Washington for the last four weeks of October—except for the one who calls the House into session twice a week to again stop the president from carrying out his constitutional right.

If they actually accomplished something while they were physically in the nation’s capitol, they might be forgiven for their absence this month. Two years ago, this House was elected because candidates promised that they would get jobs for people and reduce the unemployment that George W. Bush created during his eight years. Instead, they have worked to reduce the safety net for all people in the country.

Despite the desperate plight of farmers and ranchers from the horrendous drought throughout the country, the Congress failed to pass any emergency aid for them. The House failed to consider the five-year farm measure, providing only a short-term, $383 million package of loans and grants for livestock producers and a limited number of farmers. In disgust, the Senate ignored the bill because the House would not even discuss the broader legislation. Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), chair of the Agriculture Committee, said that her committee would work during August to put together a new measure for the House.

Without any legislation, livestock producers have lost their safety net program for feed losses. Their only recourse is to find another source of feed or sell or kill off animals. Rep. Frank D. Lucas (R-OK) told the Republicans in the House, “If you want to leave people hurting, I guess that’s your choice.”

The House also declared an anti-abortion bill for Washington, D.C. a priority, but it failed because of the two-thirds requirement. Banning abortions after 20 weeks, it would have prevented up to 1.5 percent of abortions performed. Meanwhile some Senate members have been busy adding anti-abortion amendments to any bill available: Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) tried to attach on to the bill providing federal flood insurance. In June, the House passed a Homeland Security spending bill that includes a provision to bar Immigration and Customs Enforcement from providing abortions for illegal immigrant detainees. This hasn’t happened since 2003.

The Violence against Women Act is still being held hostage by conservative lawmakers. Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) pointed out last Friday that “it has now been more than 300 days since VAWA expired, a timeline that has also seen the deaths of more than 1,100 women due to domestic violence.” She continued, “In April, the Senate passed VAWA by a vote of 68-31, a rare bipartisan feat that included 15 Republicans.”  The House refuses to take action.

While the Senate Finance Committee voted to renew tax breaks for businesses such as biodiesel and wind energy, the House has passed a bill to erase these breaks. While not discussing the farm bill and VAWA, Rep. Steve King (R-IA) reintroduced an English-only bill at a House Judiciary subcommittee. The bill has 122 co-sponsors.

Ways and Means Chairman Rep. Dave Camp (R-MI) wants a law exempting honoraria won by U.S. Olympic medalists from taxes to show the country’s appreciation. On the Senate side, Marco Rubio  (R-FL) introduced the Olympic Tax Elimination Act, which would “exempt U.S. Olympic medal winners from paying taxes on their hard-earned medals.” It’s a moot point because the $25,000 won for a gold medal won’t result in much taxes unless the athlete makes over $250,000 after exemptions for training, uniforms, etc.

The day before the representatives walked off the job for a five-week vacation, Rep. Paul Labrador (D-ID) joined three Republicans in proposing a bill to clarify that the individual mandate in the 2010 healthcare law, and associated penalties for not buying health insurance, “shall not be construed as a tax.” Once again the conservatives are trying to do away with health care for the people of the United States.

The House did pass a measure (H.R. 4078) last week that would prevent any new regulations—or even actions leading up to their proposal—until the unemployment rate reaches 6 percent, pretty much an impossibility. Even former Republican Rep. Sherwood Boehlert from New York objected to the measure and wrote an article entitled, “GOP right wing is serious about disabling government.” He wrote, “The legislation might as well just directly order the agencies that were created to protect the public to close up shop.”

The measure turned out to be more of a joke than the Republicans intended. First, a typo that said “employment” rather than “unemployment” gave the meaning that new regulations would be suspended until unemployment reached 94 percent. In repairing that problem, they referred to H.Res. 783 instead of H.Res. 738. In a desperate move to make Democrats vote quickly on all these issues about a bill that has almost no chance of being law, Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC) reminded the opposition that life is short, a reference to the mass murder in Aurora (CO) the week before.

Another successful bill in the House was one that would fire federal employees if they don’t pay their income tax. More than 96 percent of federal employees pay their taxes on time, and laws exist to take care of this. The issue with the IRS is that the conservative lawmakers keep cutting back on their funding so that they cannot pursue people who fail to pay taxes.

The summary of House floor activities presents a compendium of legislative trivia that includes authorizing battery recharging stations for privately owned vehicles in parking areas under the jurisdiction of the House of Representatives and authorizing the use of the rotunda of the Capitol for the presentation of the Congressional Gold Medal to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. Unfinished business included preventing abuse of government charge cards. The summary shows micro-management to excess.

Although Congress avoids most compromises, the Senate and the House did agree to tighten sanctions against Iran. In addition, a tentative agreement would keep the government operating after the end of the fiscal year on September 30 until March 31, but the measure hasn’t passed either the House of Senate. Conservative lawmakers are not known for keeping their promises.

One agreement has conservative bloggers spitting in anger over a bipartisan bill passed last week. The president can now appoint some executive branch and military officers without Senate approval. The far right is still safe in refusing to confirm all the judges that President Obama nominates. President Obama began his administration with 1,215 executive branch positions requiring Senate confirmation. By contrast, fifty years ago President John F. Kennedy had only 286 positions to fill. At the start of the Obama administration, there were 1,215 executive branch positions that required Senate confirmation.

Ted Cruz, the newest Tea Party candidate to defeat an establishment Republican, gave the party line on compromise: “I am perfectly happy to compromise and work with anybody, Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians. I’ll work with Martians. If–and the if is critical–they’re willing to cut spending and reduce the debt.” The definition of compromise has been, and continues to be, doing that the Tea Party wants. Running for the Senate in Texas, he will most likely win, contributing to the craziness in Congress.

It’s been over 19 months since the Tea Party hijacked the Congress with the promise that they would solve the unemployment problem. They have enacted just 151 laws in these 19 months, almost 20 percent of them renaming post offices and courthouses or adding people to the Smithsonian board. This is far less than half of any other Congress during the past 64 years, even 15 percent of one Congressional session’s output. The popularity of the Congress, shrunken to 12 percent, is as drastically low as the number of acts.

Where are the jobs?

May 4, 2012

‘Do-Nothing’ House of Representatives Better than Damaging Bills

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 8:11 PM
Tags: , ,

The House of Representatives is in recess this week—nothing too shocking because they’ve worked in Washington only 41 days of the first 127 days so far this year with eight of those days marked on Rep. Eric Cantor’s calendar as not starting until 6:30 pm. During the 34 weeks until the end of 2012, they plan to be doing the nation’s work, making law and stopping progress, for only 17 weeks. That means a total of 51 more days. Their 92 days when they aren’t recessed comprises one-fourth of the entire year, nice work if you can get it.

What have they actually accomplished in these 41 days? Thus far, they have passed 106 laws, compared to the 908 laws passed by the notorious “Do-Nothing” Congress of 1947-1948. Okay, they do have at least 51 days to get 802 laws to match this Congress.

Of the 195 roll-call votes thus far this year, they have managed 60 pieces of legislation. Among these:

  • The Permanent Electronic Duck Stamp Act
  • The Sportsman’s Heritage Act
  • The Mark Twain Commemorative Coin Act
  • The World War II Memorial Prayer Act
  • The mandate that the Treasury mint coins commemorating the 225th anniversary of the U.S. Marshals Service

The House also voted overwhelming to award the Congressional Gold Medal to professional golfer Jack Nicklaus, the medal awarded for acts of heroism, especially during war. George Washington was the first recipient. Nicklaus got the medal for promoting excellence and good sportsmanship in golf.

The House also addressed the Polar Bear Trophy issue. The legislation was “to protect and enhance opportunities for recreational hunting, fishing and shooting.” Hunters who killed endangered polar bears can now legally bring these trophies into the United States.

Under duress on Republicans, the House managed to pass the payroll-tax break and the debt-limit increase, the only major actions in 41 days.

The benefit of their not creating laws for three-fourths of the time, however, is that the House can do less damage. They did pass the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) which would further take away privacy from people in the United States as well as a $46 billion small business tax cut bill. They also managed to pass the bill keeping federal student loans at 3.4 percent by eliminating $3.2 million for breast and cervical cancer screening for women, immunizations for children, and screening of newborns for congenital heart defects, hearing loss, etc. None of these bills has a chance of surviving a Senate vote or a presidential veto, but the representatives want to look busy.

Republican representatives hold themselves up as following the will of the people. All but five of the 234 Republicans present in the chamber at the time voted down the “Buffett Rule,” which would raise taxes on millionaires despite the nearly three-fourths of people in this country who want these taxes raised so that millionaires don’t pay a lower rate than those who make much less than they do. At the same time more anti-choice bills are wending their way through House committees, not only the Judiciary but also the Energy and Commerce. Those will show up in the 51 days that the House has left to meet this year.

The Senate can also be held up as an example of “do-nothing,” with the majority of the 87 votes on only three bills: highway (25), postal (16), and insider-trading (13). While Republicans sneer at Democrats for their inability to get anything accomplished, however, they neglect one fact. Whereas House Republicans need only a simple majority to pass a bill, the Senate is held to 60 of 100 votes to pass anything because of the Republican filibuster intransigence. Even so, the Senate Democrats have managed to get bills through recently: renewal of the Violence against Women Act, postal reform, a long-term renewal of the surface transportation bill, and one making it easier for companies to go public. Of course, despite passing the last of these, Republicans in the House plan to kill the others by voting against them or attaching damaging amendments to them. Congress remains at its infamous “gridlock.”

The House leadership does spend some of their time being clever. The Sportsman Heritage Act includes this provision: “Pending the adoption of a concurrent resolution on the budget for fiscal year 2013, the provisions of House Concurrent Resolution 112, as adopted by the House, shall have force and effect in the House as though Congress has adopted such concurrent resolution.” The House Republicans are trying to convince themselves that the Senate has passed the House budget—without passing the House budget.

With so few bills in evidence, what does the House do in its spare time? One example is HR 2087, “To remove restrictions from a parcel of land situated in the Atlantic District, Accomack County, Virginia.” The House is giving  full floor debates, and therefore full attention, to allowing development on a 32-acre property with five roll-call votes. They call this one of their “jobs” bills.

Where are the jobs bills that the freshmen legislators promised? Where are the infrastructure projects to repair our crumbling country? Where are intelligent ideas to move our economy forward? All these seem to be caught under the determination of Republicans to do nothing—except try to defeat the opposition.

The prior session of Congress, with its Democrat-controlled House and almost-60 Democrats in the Senate, moved toward economic recovery, saved the American auto industry, invested in energy research and infrastructure, somewhat reformed the financial sector, passed a health care act, reinstated equal pay for women, created hate crimes legislation, allowed gays and lesbians to openly serve in the military, and addressed many other critically important issues.  But 112th Congress, with the House controlled by Tea Party extremists, has either performed destructive acts or done nothing.

There are two solutions: the Tea Party leadership in the House of Representatives can realize that government is important to the nation and that it’s their job to solve problems, not create them. When you finish laughing about this solution, think about the other one. Vote them out. With 25 more seats, Democrats can take back the House majority. That, too, may be improbable with the massive amounts of funding from the Koch brothers, Karl Rove, and Dick Armey machines, but it’s more likely than a Grover Norquest sycophant changing its spots.

The Republican House Republicans have developed a bad case of megalomania. As soon as it became apparent that Mitt Romney would be on the ballot this coming November, they made sure that he understood their position, that the House is driving the policy agenda for the entire Republican party. “We’re not a cheerleading squad,” said Rep. Jeff Landry (R-LA). “We’re the conductor. We’re supposed to drive the train.” (The man has obviously lost his copy of the Constitution.)

The Ryan plan, which Romney endorsed at one time, cuts education, law enforcement, and health research by 25 percent if programs were permitted to grow with inflation or 21 percent below spending caps agreed to last July by President Obama and Congress, including those recalcitrant House Republicans. But Romney also said he could live with the law that allows women to sue in equal pay cases, opposed by all Republicans.

One of Romney’s priorities, according to one of his earlier statements, is dealing with China’s currency manipulation in the same way as a bill co-sponsored by Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Lindsey E. Graham (R-SC) which the Senate passed last year. Now languishing in the House, the bill would require tough tariffs on some Chinese goods, a measure that House Speaker John Boehner has called “dangerous.”

Now Boehner is complaining about President Obama spending his time campaigning instead of running the country. Boehner needs a mirror.

It’s going to be a wild and rocky year—not only between the two parties but almost within the multi-layered GOP.

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