Nel's New Day

January 6, 2015

Unrepresentative 114th Congress Heads for Problems

Filed under: Congress — trp2011 @ 7:36 PM
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The 114th Congress, with both chambers controlled by Republicans for the first time in eight years, starts today. With his usually astute perception, satirist Andy Borowitz published the following:

“Sixty-four unskilled workers will report to new jobs in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday as part of a federal jobs program that provides employment for people unable to find productive work elsewhere.

“The new hires, who have no talents or abilities that would make them employable in most workplaces, will be earning a first-year salary of $174,000. For that sum, the new employees will be expected to work a hundred and thirty-seven days a year, leaving them with two hundred and twenty-eight days of vacation.

“Some critics have blasted the federal jobs program as too expensive, noting that the workers were chosen last November in a bloated and wasteful selection process that cost the nation nearly four billion dollars.

“But Davis Logsdon, a University of Minnesota economics professor who specializes in labor issues, said that the program is necessary to provide work ‘for people who honestly cannot find employment anywhere else.’

“ ‘Expensive as this program is, it is much better to have these people in jobs than out on the street,’ he said.”

The 114th Congress swore in 13 new Senators and 58 new House members today. HuffPo listed 75, but some of these started last fall. The House has 246 Republicans and 188 Democrats with one seat vacant after Rep. Michael Grimm (R-NY) resigned because he pled guilty to a felony tax evasion charge. The media proclaimed that the 114th Congress is the “most diverse” ever. Yes, that’s true, but it’s a long way from representing the people in the United States:

Approximately 80 percent of each chamber is male; about 80 percent of the House and 94 percent of the Senate is white. The 114th Congress lost nine non-Christian members, leaving the Christian population at 92 percent.

Fewer than 10 percent of the Republicans in each chamber is female, 22 in the House and six in the Senate. The photo shows both new GOP female senators, Joni Ernst (IA), and Shelley Moore Capito (WV) flanking the proudly grinning Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (KY) with three of the 10 new male GOP senators.

two women senators with McConnellGOP House members will be 87 percent white, compared to 43 percent white in the Democratic Caucus. Although the GOP almost got its first gay member, Carl DeMaio (CA) lost the election after the provisional ballots were counted. Democrats have one lesbian and six openly gay or bisexual members of Congress.

Although the majority of Congress is Republican, the 44 Democrats and two independents caucusing with Democrats received 20 million more votes than the 54 Republicans–67.8 million to 47.1 million votes.

One-hundred wealthy contributors gave as much in large donations to candidates and campaigns to elect them as 4.5 million small donors gave. This may be called representative democracy because the majority in Congress will now represent only those 100 people.

The election to replace Grimm will be of interest to people throughout the country because a likely candidate, Daniel M. Donovan Jr., is the district attorney who failed to get an indictment for the police officer who killed Eric Garner in a chokehold on Staten Island. A former representative for the district, Pete Fossella (R), said he would pass on the race. He lost his position after it was publicized that the conservative lawmaker had a second family, separate from a wife and children, information revealed after a DUI charge in Virginia led to some jail time. Democrat Michael McMahon, who held the seat between Fossella and Grimm, is considering a run. Former NYC mayor Rudi Giuliani (R) is backing Donovan.

Twenty of the 21 House committee chairs are white men, and Candace Miller (MI) continues as head of the Administration Committee. Almost 30 percent, six of them, hail from Texas. Nine of the committee selections are new.

In the Senate, with the GOP over 90 percent white, male, McConnell is following Boehner’s lead in avoiding minorities and women for committee chairs. As chair of the Rules Committee, Roy Blunt (R-MO) will be deciding about limiting the minority’s right to filibuster. John McCain (R-AZ), chair of the Armed Services Committee, will determine timing for floor debate on Ashton Carter, nominee for Secretary of Defense. Conservative Mike Lee (R-UT) leads the Senate Republican Steering Committee. Two of the 21 committees may be chaired by women, Lisa Murkowski (AK) on Energy and Natural Resources, and Susan Collins (ME) on the Special Committee on Aging. Committee chairs will soon be finalized in the Senate.

Despite their pride in being the majority, the GOP Congress has big problems ahead, including the aging infrastructure, government funding measures, Medicare, and the controversial debt ceiling. They can’t accomplish anything without White House cooperation, and that tends to be death for a candidate’s election possibilities.

Because of the GOP’s fury about the president’s executive order regarding immigration laws, they voted to make February 28 the deadline for funding the Department of Homeland Security. This issue will be a start of the fights between establishment and Tea Party Republicans. One idea is to attach a border-security bill to the funding measure, but Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) is leading his conservatives in a plan to defund the administration’s order to shelter millions of immigrants from deportation.

March is the deadline for dealing with reimbursement formulas for Medicare providers. Congress has kicked this can down the road for years, but this might be the year that the GOP wants to create a more permanent reform. If so, it would cost billions of dollars which always drives conservatives crazy.

In May the highway trust fund becomes insolvent as federally funded infrastructure projects throughout the nation slow to a halt without congressional action. One proposal is raising the gas tax, which has stayed the same for a long time, and conservatives hate to raise any taxes. An alternative is another funding mechanism or an equally unpopular general fund bailout to avoid a construction shutdown.

The debt ceiling has to be extended by fall, always a crisis with the new Tea Party.

Into this mix is the confirmation process for President Obama’s executive and judicial branch nominees, walking the narrow path between letting Democrats into government and looking like obstructionists. In 2013, the Senate lowered the voting threshold for nominees, except Supreme Court justices, to a simple majority. GOP leaders in the Senate were violently opposed to Democrats making this change, called the “nuclear option.” The question is whether they will hope that the public forgets every negative thing that they said about the new process so that they can keep it.

A 54-majority in the Senate still doesn’t give them the necessary number of votes to pass a 60-vote filibuster. In addition, they may have to decide whether to completely erase the filibuster, without completely erasing any credibility that they might have left. The first nominees on the ticket are Loretta Lynch for attorney general and Ashton Carter for defense Secretary, and Lynch is connected to the president’s immigration orders.

As expected, John Boeher was re-elected House Speaker, but the 19 opposing and six “present” votes were the most against a sitting speaker since 1923. Two representatives even voted for Senators, specifically Rand Paul and Jeff Sessions. Two years ago, only 12 representatives voted against Boehner. Reps. Ted Yoho (R-FL) and Louie Gohmert (R-TX) led the fight against Boeher, but with 12 votes, Rep. Daniel Webster (R-FL) had the largest number of opposition votes.

These lack-of-confidence votes show another problem for Boehner getting legislation passed without crossing the aisle to the Democrats, something that conservatives always oppose. In the past four years, Boehner has had to pull key bills from the floor many times because he couldn’t muster GOP votes. Boehner was so angry about the opposition that he removed two of the dissenters from the Rules Committee.

The opening conflict between the far-right and the far-far-right points to a rocky year for the GOP in the 114th Congress.

December 25, 2014

My Kind of President

For a brief time, President Obama became “Sorter-in-Chief” when he and his wife, Michelle, put toys into the “girls” and “boys” bins for the Marine’s Toys for Tots program at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling. The President’s staff had donated about 1,000 toys for the annual holiday toy drive.

Being very selective, the president started putting sports and science toys into the “girls” bin. Adding a basketball to the “girls” box, he said “I just wanna make sure some girls play some ball.” Questioned about adding Legos for the girls, the president asked, “Girls don’t like toys?” Then he added a T-Ball set to the collection. “I’m just trying to break down these gender stereotypes,” the president explained.

Toys for Tots

[Those who fear the president’s “War on Christmas” might want to note that the bags he carries are emblazoned with “Merry Christmas.”]

PHOTO: White House photographer Pete Souza shared this image of President Obama while doing his 2014 edits, Dec. 24, 2014.

President Obama knows that girls like Legos. Earlier this year, he consented to wearing a tiara in a group photo with Brownies from Girl Scout Troop 2612 of Broken Arrow (OK) taken at the White House Science Fair. The girls had exhibited a Lego flood-proof bridge project (below). President Barack Obama eschewed one of his self-professed rules of the job for a Girl Scout troop earlier this year. The White House Science Fair took place on May 27 and focused on girls and women in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields who are inspiring the next generation of scientists.

“We’re putting a special focus on all the inspiring girls and young women who are excelling in science,” the president said, noting that “fewer than 3 in 10 workers in science and engineering are women … we’ve got to change those numbers.”

Watch for conservatives to become unglued after a photo of President Obama wearing a “crown” circulates throughout their media!

Another source of ire for conservatives is a recent poll about the Affordable Care Act:  78 percent approve of the insurance exchanges; 76 percent support the federal subsidies; 75 percent support the Medicaid expansion; and 60 percent support the employer mandate. These are the options that GOP congressional members promise to eradicate this coming year—if the Supreme Court doesn’t do it for them.




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