Nel's New Day

November 25, 2017

DDT’s Appointment Bring Black Future

Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, is known for retail sales and crowded stores, the day in the year that retailers start to declare a profit. Yesterday, Black Friday, also represents the future if Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) succeeds in transforming the United States into a dark nation through his male, conservative appointments. The grim backgrounds for DDT’s nominees would read like satire from the Onion of Andy Borowitz’s column in the New York Times if they weren’t real.

Thomas Brunell, DDT’s frontrunner for deputy director of the Census Bureau, may be the greatest stretch since non-scientist Sam Clovis took his name out of the running for top scientist at FDA. The country was saved from Clovis after he got caught up in the Robert Mueller special investigation of Russian collusion.

The decennial census, next scheduled for 2020, is the basis of elections and federal funding. Because the Census Director is in the Commerce Department, Brunell doesn’t need to be confirmed; he can just be named to rig elections. Why DDT would choose Brunell:

  • He testified a number of times in favor of GOP’s gerrymandering congressional districts.
  • He authored the book Redistricting and Representation: Why Competitive Elections Are Bad for America. [Note that the subtitle shows the man who opposes competitive elections would be assigned to facilitating fair elections.]
  • He has no background in statistics. [DDT prefers people with no experience.]
  • He lacks any experience in managing a big organization.
  • He argued against expanded early voting because it “takes away from Election Day as a civic event.”

Alex Azar, nominated as a replacement for former Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price, comes from the U.S. branch of Eli Lilly, accused of colluding with other drug companies to control high prices for the life-saving drug insulin. In his campaign, DDT said, “The drug companies, frankly, are getting away with murder.” He has now appointed one of the killers to commit more slaughter. This statement might be taken literally. Azar was lobbyist for Lilly when they did not divulge that their painkiller Darvon was seriously addictive, its arthritis medication Oraflex caused at least 29 deaths in Europe, and the anti-psychotic drug Zyprexa was not approved as an anti-dementia drug. Azar hates the Affordable Care Act and wants to gut Medicaid with block grants.

Kathleen Harnett White has had her hearing before the Senate Committee on Environment and Public works to lead the Council on Environmental Quality. As a climate skeptic and fossil fuel champion, she has said that coal help end slavery. She led Texas to attempt to hide data on how much radiation was in drinking water. Her hearing last week didn’t go well. Asked whether heat makes water expand, she said, “I do not have any kind of expertise or even much layman study of the ocean dynamics and the climate-change issues.”

Mitchell “Mick” Zais, nominated as deputy secretary of education, discounts the effectiveness of early education programs despite research showing their successes and wants to slash education budgets.

Rev. Jamie Johnson, appointed last April as head of faith-based and neighborhood partnerships in DDT’s DHS, is responsible for helping people aid needy populations. Johnson’s statements show that he hates the community he is assigned to serve:

  • He said that the black community has turned cities into “slums.”
  • He argued that Islam’s only contribution to society was “oil and dead bodies.”
  • He said that black people are anti-Semitic because they are jealous of Jewish people. According to Johnson, Jewish people are rich because they work, and black people are poor because they don’t.

Robert Phalen is one of Scott Pruitt’s new appointees to the EPA Scientific Advisory Board, which helps develop environmental policy. Pollution is not a problem for health, according to the man who also complained about modern air being too clean for health. He joins 16 other nominees include people from the oil industry and a chemical industry trade association. Phelan might find Hargin (Heilongjiang Province, China) to be better breathing for him.

DDT may get into hot water with his firing of Richard Cordray for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and appointing Mick Mulvaney for its director. When Cordray resigned, he named Leandra English, the agency’s chief of staff, as deputy director, leaving her in charge. DDT claims that the Federal Vacancies Reform Act of 1998 allows him to designate a Senate-confirmed official to perform the functions of a vacant position until a nominee can be confirmed to the office. The 2010 Dodd-Frank Act creating the CFPB provides a line of succession, with the bureau’s deputy serving as acting director in the “absence or unavailability of the Director.” At other agencies—such as Office of Management and Budget, the Small Business Administration, and the Federal Aviation Administration—Congress also provides that the deputy takes over a vacant leadership post. Former Rep. Barney Frank, co-creator of the Dodd-Frank Act, said the law was written to stop a president from naming an interim director. The Federal Housing Finance Agency already established a precedent to blocking a president from appointing an interim director of the CFPB.

Appointees to federal agencies can be dumped with a different administration, but judges are forever, and the election losses last month has caused the GOP to move forward even faster to confirm unqualified judges.

DDT is most likely getting names for his appointed judges from the Federalist Society because a majority of them have ties to the ultra conservative group with donors such as the Koch brothers and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Recently, the Senate approved Steven Engel 51-47 as Assistant AG for the Office of Legal Counsel. The Human Rights Watch opposed Engel because he supported torture under George W. Bush. The only Republican to vote against Engel, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) had promised to vote against any nominee who is in favor of torture.

GOP panic from elections earlier this month are a catalyst to move forward even faster to confirm unqualified judges. The Senate Judiciary Committee accepted both Greg Katsas for the DC Court of Appeals and Brett Talley for the Middle District of Alabama. They have supported the oppression of voting rights, and Katsas, who has been opposed by over 200 civil rights groups, stated that he “worked on the White House’s response to special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian influence in the 2016 presidential election” and several other DDT issues such as DACA.

Talley, labeled unqualified by the American Bar Association, was a pro-DDT commentator, opposed gun safety laws, supports the dismantling of protection regulations, and expressed hostility toward civil rights laws. He is also a ghost hunter with a cult following for his paranormal writings. The fourth judicial nominee judged “not qualified” by the American Bar Association, Talley has never tried a case so he fits DDT’s requirement of “no experience,” but he referred to a former presidential candidate on his public Twitter account as “Hillary Rotten Clinton.” In addition, he supports armed revolution against government and pledge his total support to the NRA immediately following the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School. In his opening statement before the committee, Talley said that he probably wouldn’t be there except for his wife. He’s right although he didn’t explain, even when asked if any family members might pose a conflict of interest. His wife, Ann Donaldson, is the chief of staff to Don McGahn, White House Counsel. She also appeared as a witness to the investigation of whether DDT obstructed justice.

During President Obama’s last two years in office, Republicans refused to consider his nominations, leaving vacant not only one Supreme Court position but also 103 other judicial openings. In the next year, DDT may add 650 lifetime members to the federal judiciary—twice as many as President Obama did in eight years. By next year, one in eight cases in federal court will be heard by a DDT-picked judge, and some of these will last another 30 years.

In their desperation for control and lack of concern for Senate rules, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) is ignoring the “blue slip” rule allowing home-state senators to object to the worst nominees. Grassley had promised the former committee chair, Pat Leahy (D-VT), that he would honor the rule just as Leahy had for Republicans, even if their only reason was partisan. Leahy said about Grassley, “I trust him to keep his word.” Now Grassley says he will keep his word for district court nominees, but evidently not for appellate court nominees.

In addition to highly conservative, unqualified choices, DDT has displayed a remarkable lack of racial and gender diversity in his choices. Of the 58 DDT nominees for lifetime positions, 53 are white, three are Asian American, one is Hispanic, and one is black. Forty-seven are men, and eleven are women. The future of a multi-cultural society will be judged and ruled by white conservative males who are open bigots and misogynists, many of them with little experience, who oppose women, minorities, and LGBTQ people. Their contempt for the legal process matches DDT’s contempt for the presidency.

More appointments here. And here.

DDT did slip up on one nominee who sounded rational in his confirmation hearing. Dr. Dean Winslow, appointed as the Pentagon’s top health official, answered a question by saying how insane it is that in the United States of America a civilian can go out and buy … a semi-automatic assault rifle like an AR-15, which apparently was the weapon that was used [in Texas].” Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain quickly covered for DDT and muzzled Winslow by saying to the experienced medical professional about a position as a health official, “Dr. Winslow, I don’t think that’s in your area of responsibility or expertise.” Winslow’s position on the relationship between guns and public health may be enough to disqualify him among Republicans.

August 4, 2014

House GOP Members Attempt to Govern

“GOP wants to show it can govern.” That’s the funniest headline I’ve read about the Congressional dysfunction—and it came from GOP-supportive The Hill. And that’s exactly what Republicans worked on during the past few weeks before they had to face their constituents this month.

Offshore-drilling Permits: Rep. Steve Stockman (R-TX) managed to push through a bill (218-204) to stop the Department of Energy from blocking offshore-drilling permits. His aides forgot to tell him that this agency has nothing to do with these permits; the Interior Department issues those.

Climate Change: The Department of Defense considers consideration of climate change to be vital to national security, but Rep. David McKinley, R-WV) succeeded in getting the House to prohibit both the U.S. Department of Energy and the Army Corps of Engineers from spending “to design, implement, administer or carry out specified assessments regarding climate change.” His amendment is part of the Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act which contained other anti-environmental measures which include slashing the Energy Department’s budget for renewable energy programs by $100 million. The proposal could stop Army Corps of Engineers programs in river and harbor construction, flood- and storm-damage reduction, and shore protection because the agency uses information about projected rising sea levels.

Dodd-Frank Law: In its continued attempt to weaken the Dodd-Frank financial law, the House passed a deregulation bill in late June by a vote of 265-143, benefiting the Koch brothers and the nation’s biggest banks. One provision would allow U.S. firms to skirt domestic regulations on some derivatives by conducting trades through offshore affiliates in other major financial centers. A nickname for this provision is the “London Whale Loophole Act” in fond memory of JPMorgan’s infamous trade that cost the bank over $6.2 billion in abrupt losses.

Border Issues: The infamous border bill passed last Friday evening after House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) told House members that they couldn’t go home until it was done. Architects were Reps. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) and Steve King (R-IA). The Iowa Republican became famous partly because of his comment about Mexicans having thighs like cantaloupes because of all the marijuana that they hauled across the border. King claimed that U.S. borders were established by God, and disrespecting the borders is really disrespecting God’s will. (He cribbed the idea from far-right Christian leader Bryan Fischer.)

Bachmann continues her own craziness. President Obama is bringing all the children across the southern U.S. border—“illegal aliens,” as Bachmann calls them—to be unwilling victims for medical experiments. When she called the president “lawless,” the House chair immediately rebuked her.

The bill allots $694 million ($3 billion short of what the president requested) for the problems of minors coming across the border in large numbers and eliminates the law that permits undocumented children to stay in the country to find assistance in the courts if their countries do not border the U.S. Texans already at the airport came back to vote for the bill because it includes $35 million to deploy National Guard troops to the border. Four Republicans–Paul Broun (GA), Stephen Fincher (TN), Thomas Massie (KY) and Walter Jones (NC)—voted against it, and one Democrat, Henry Cuellar (TX), voted for it.

Even the conservative Washington Post admitted that the vote was a farce when it conceded the legislation “would do little to immediately solve the crisis along the U.S.-Mexico border but would allow [Republican lawmakers] to go home and tell voters that they did what they could.”

After the House Republicans dithered for months about the bill, they insist that the Senate return immediately to approve the bill. President Obama has already said that he won’t sign the bill. Immigration and Customs Enforcement will run out of money by mid-August, and Customs and Border Protection has funding only until mid-September.

DACA: A separate bill passed in the House keeps the president from expanding the DACA (Deferred Action for Child Arrivals) program to provide two-year work permits for eligible undocumented immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as children before 2007. Eleven Republicans opposed this measure, and four Democrats supported it.

Child Tax Credits (CTC): House Republicans continued its practice of helping the wealthy by approving a tax break them while letting a tax benefit drop for low-income people. It works this way: The CTC drops tax bills for couples by $1,000 per child. The credit starts shrinking at an income of $110,000 and is capped at $150,000. Couples with income under $3,000 cannot collect it. The bill raises the amount for phasing out to $150,000 and indexed it to inflation at a cost of $115 billion to taxpayers for the next ten years.

According to the GOP, indexing the minimum wage to inflation is socialism, but doing it for tax credits is entirely appropriate. At the same time, the House let CTC for low-income people lapse in 2018. A single mother with two children making $14,500 will lose her entire CTC worth $1,725. In 2018, 12 million people, including six million children, will either fall into or fall deeper into poverty.  Rich kids are worth more than poor kids to the House GOP members.

CTC

Suing the President: The House GOP members are most proud, however, of their bill to sue the president. For the first time in U.S. history, all but five House Republicans approved a civil suit against the President of the United States because the White House shouldn’t circumvent Congress in making public policy. Their excuse was that President Obama had tweaked the Affordable Care Act to accommodate the needs of businesses by extending deadlines, something that the House GOP members wanted—when they weren’t trying to repeal the entire act.

The five representatives who opposed the lawsuit wanted impeachment instead: Paul Broun (GA), Scott Garrett (NJ), Walter Jones (NC), Thomas Massie (KY), and Steve Stockman (TX). Other GOP House members have argued for impeachment such as Michele Bachmann (MN), Kerry Bentivolio (MI), Louie Gohmert (TX), and Randy Weber (TX).

The lawsuit may not cost taxpayers much money. According to a trial lawyer, the federal court’s limited jurisdiction, as laid out in Federal Rules of Civil procedure, may result in a non-case. On the other hand, the White House can file counter-claims. Much more information is available here.

Rep. Virginia Foxx’s (R-NC) argued that this was not a political action, that she would vote to sue any president who did the same thing. In truth, George W. Bush did the same thing in 2006 when he extended deadlines and waived penalties for seniors in the new Medicare D prescription drug law. Foxx was in the House in 2006 but did nothing about Bush’s actions.

The conservative USA Today described the law as a “grudge match,” one in which the GOP is seeking an outcome it hasn’t been able to achieve at the polls or through the legislative process.

While the House GOP members were dithering about their border bill, Boehner declared that the president should do something about the problem. The man who is suing the president for circumventing ACA wants the president to take executive action to solve the border issues. Unfortunately for him, the president plans to do exactly that while Congress is out of town during the next five weeks.

Before leaving for vacation, the House Intelligence Committee, led by Republicans, issued its report on Benghazi. They found that the Obama administration is not at fault for deliberate wrongdoing in the deaths of four U.S. officials in the attack on the diplomatic outpost. The two-year investigation concluded that the administration’s process for developing “talking points” was “flawed, but the talking points reflected the conflicting intelligence assessments in the days immediately following the crisis.” Their conclusions will not stop the House Benghazi Select Committee which Chair Trey Gowdy (R-SC) will gavel into session in September. He said that it is about changes for the State Department to better protect diplomats.

The House does deserve credit for one of their actions late last month: it passed a resolution requiring authorization from Congress for a sustained presence of combat troops in Iraq. With a 370-40 vote, three Democrats and 37 Republicans voted against the resolution.

Tomorrow, the bills that the House rejected.

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