Nel's New Day

June 27, 2013

Senate Moves, House Sits, Texas Goes Backward

The Senate actually did something, which happens occasionally. This afternoon it passed its immigration reform bill with a vote of 68-32. Not that this is necessarily a good thing because of the emphasis on border security and the requirement that all employers used the error-ridden E-Verify to check up on any applicants. Of the 32 GOP senators who opposed the bill, two were presidential wannabes, Ted Cruz (TX) and Rand Paul (KY). No GOP Senate leader voted in favor of the bill.

At least the Senate did something.

On the House side, Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) said that they would create their own immigration bill. Thus far they’ve made no move toward it. They also haven’t done anything about the doubling of interest on student loans this Monday or overcome the sequester that’s biting into the economic recovery. Their only actions have been to re-overturn Obamacare and pass another anti-abortion bill, neither of which the Senate will support.

The House is also avoiding climate change. In describing his agenda for this , President Obama said, “We don’t have time for a meeting of the Flat Earth Society.” Majority House Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) switched the subject to jobs, complaining about the president is “harming innovation [in a] direct assault on jobs.” No answer from the House about how to provide more jobs.

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) is hiding from the IRS debacle. The GOP has continually whined about the IRS targeting Tea Party groups. Yet Issa asked that the IRS limit its information to these audits, requesting investigators to “narrowly focus on tea party organizations,” according to spokesman for Treasury Inspector General J. Russell George.  Progressive groups got the same treatment as conservative Tea Party groups. The liberal group Catholics United, for instance, waited seven years before receiving tax exempt status, far longer than any tea party group had to wait.

There is a question about whether Issa was the instigator in concealing information from the public about the “inappropriate criteria” used to single out tea party groups–so-called “Be On the Look Out” (BOLO) memos–that also singled out progressive and “Occupy” groups.

George, a George W. Bush appointee, may be at fault. When asked last month if any progressive groups were targeted, he said that the IRS had not. Since then, he’s changed his mind. Also one of the main author’s of George’s report was relieved of his previous position as head of the special investigations unit at the Government Accountability Office because he wrote an incomplete report and was accused by a colleague of “pursuing overly sensationalist stories.”

After Acting IRS Commissioner Daniel Werfel appeared at the House Ways and Means Committee today, all the Democrats on the committee sent a letter to House Republicans demanding that they call the author of the audit report to return and testify under oath to explain why the report failed to tell the House that progressive groups were also targeted.

Issa has abandoned the IRS scandal that he created and gone back to investigating Benghazi.

Yesterday’s ruling that struck down DOMA has energized at least one member of Congress. Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-KS) claims that he and other lawmakers will revive the Federal Marriage Amendment. “A narrow radical majority of the court has, in my opinion, substituted their personal views for the constitutional decisions of the American voters and their elected representatives,” Huelskamp said. It’s almost a case of “the pot calling the kettle black” except the obstructionist GOP “narrow radical majority” isn’t really the majority—just the vocal.

One faint gleam of hope appeared after SCOTUS erased the Voting Rights Act  two days ago. Rep. James Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-WI), instrumental in the 2006 VRA, is urging his colleagues to restore the provisions to protect voters. GOP Reps. Steve Chabot (OH) and Sean Duffy (WI) have declared support for a renewed VRA. After the Democratic caucus met to discuss the possibility of a new Section 4 to VRA, Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said that she likes naming it the John Lewis Voting Rights Act.

One of the 13 original Freedom Riders in the early 1960s, Rep. Lewis (D-GA) was beaten by angry mobs, arrested, and sent to jail—several times. In response to the egregious SCOTUS decision giving all states the right to discriminate in any way that the GOP leaders wish, Lewis said:

“These men that voted to strip the Voting Rights Act of its power, they never stood in unmovable lines. They never had to pass a so-called literacy test. It took us almost 100 years to get where we are today. So will it take another 100 years to fix it, to change it?”

At the same time that state GOP legislators are working day and night to alienate women through their anti-abortion bills, the Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus is kicking off an initiative tomorrow that he says is “designed to advance the role of women within our party.” He will be joined by a few female lawmakers—perhaps because he could find only a few female GOP lawmakers.

Called Women on the Right Unite, the project was announced the same day that a Texas GOP lawmaker described state Sen. Wendy Davis (D) and her allies as terrorists. Davis’ act of terror was to filibuster an evil anti-abortion bill during a special legislative session. The GOP lawmakers failed to get the bill passed before the deadline so they lied about when the vote was completed.

The GOP refuses to change its policies of similar legislation in other states and at the federal level. Republicans won’t stop mandating unnecessary medical procedures not recommended by women’s physicians, making idiotic comments about rape, and opposing pay equity. The party wants women to buy into their antediluvian view of the differences between the genders. While the GOP talks about uniting women behind their view, they will also continue to drive more and more women into poverty. That, however, won’t be part of the discussion.

According to the press release, tomorrow’s news conference will follow a strategy session at RNC headquarters, where committees and elected officials will discuss “how to better engage and support Republican women.” I’m guessing that there are several hundreds of women in Texas who could contribute to this discussion.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry also took on Davis in his halting speech at the National Right to Life Conference when he described her as a teenage mother and the daughter of a single woman. “It’s just unfortunate that she hasn’t learned from her own example that every life must be given a chance to realize its full potential and that every life matters,” Perry said.

As governor, Perry executed his 262nd person, a 52-year-old woman, yesterday.  On the same day he signed into law the new gerrymandered map redistricting the state so that minorities can be disenfranchised.

Three cheers for Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) after Wall Street Journal columnist James Taranto accused her of declaring a “war on men” and trying “to criminalize male sexuality.” McCaskill’s sin, according to Taranto, was to put a hold on Lt. Gen. Susan Helms for vice commander of the Air Force Space Command because Helms had reduced the conviction of aggravated sexual assault to an indecent act without having watched the trial. Taranto blamed the assaulted women for drinking and then getting into a car with a man; the columnist claimed that she “acted recklessly.”

Current military law allows Helms to substitute her personal judgment for that of a jury that she selected. As McCaskill wrote Taranto:

“What [Helms] did was not a crime. But it was an error, and a significant one. I’m hopeful that our work this year will remove the ability of a commander to substitute their judgment, and sometimes also their ingrained bias, for that of a jury who has heard the witnesses and made a determination of their credibility and the facts of the case.”

The entire letter is well-worth reading because it shows how well the people of Missouri are represented by this senator.

Another woman to watch is Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) when she takes down federal contractor, Braulio Castillo, who claimed his foot injury (possibly sprained ankle) at a military prep school gave him special status as a “service-disabled veteran-owned small business.” Some of you may remember that Duckworth lost both her legs in the Iraq War when her helicopter was shot down.

Castillo’s company, Strong Castle, won contracts with the IRS worth as much as $500 million. Duckworth’s disability rating is 20 percent; Castillo gets (at least until now) a 30-percent disability for his twisted ankle.

The tape is 8 minutes long, but it shows how well another Democratic woman serves the country.

December 4, 2012

GOP’s Dilemmas–Money, Public Response

Great news from today. Sen.-elect Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) will be sitting on the chamber’s banking committee. This action can provide fireworks for the next six years! After preventing her from from running the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, she still has regulatory control over the industry.

If you eat at Olive Garden or Red Lobster, you might want to contact owners Darden Restaurants about their plans to cut workers’ hours to avoid providing health insurance. Although they previously announced that they would do this if President Obama were re-elected, they now worry about negative publicity and loss of business. Papa John’s Pizza and Applebee’s have already decided that public opposition to cutting workers’ hours will hurt them and changed their position.

About 25 percent of the people in the country want to secede from the United States, about the same as last year. I would be one of the people who would vote to let them.

The House will lose 5 percent of GOP women, giving women a total percentage of about 8 percent, when Rep. Jo Ann Emerson (MO) leaves in February to head up the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, a lobbying organization for rural utility companies and her biggest all-time campaign contributor. There is no primary for her replacement, and state party leaders—Republicans—control the election. Emerson follows Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. (D-IL) with her proposed resignation. She didn’t declare herself job-looking or declare a conflict of interest, in opposition to House rules, but she’ll be gone in a couple of months and won’t care.

House Speaker John Boeher (R-OH) has tried to send a message to his members who fail to vote in lockstep. Reps. David Schweikert (AZ-06) and Walter Jones (NC-03) are gone from the Financial Services Committee, and Reps. Justin Amash (MI-03) and Tim Huelskamp (KS-01) disappeared from the Budget Committee. Only one of the four was too left, mostly on foreign policy; the others are the ultra-conservatives who oppose Boehner’s agenda. Amash considers the GOP budget measures too liberal, and Schweikert defeated Ben Quayle, a Boehner favorite. There’s a thorn in paradise!

Boehner doesn’t seem to be in control, however. His ridiculous fiscal proposal, recommending $150 billion less in revenue than the one from before the election, has been rejected by both Democrats and Republicans in the Senate. That may be why he didn’t speak to the president at the White House holiday party last night. No photos this year as in the past. And the GOP is now going to lobbyists for advice.

Hoping to get traction from the name of Democrat Erskine Bowles who joined with Alan Simpson to lead the failed fiscal discussions almost two years ago, Boehner calls his plan after him. Bowles, however, opposes the “Bowles plan,” or at least John Boehner’s manipulation of it, saying that it has nothing to do with the plan from the Simpson-Bowles debt reduction commission.

Republicans are fond of saying that Democrats refuse to compromise in fiscal matters. The following chart shows the extent to which Republicans plan to compromise:

fiscal compromise

If Republicans look unhappy these days, it might be because they have noted the polling about who is to blame for the fiscal stalemate. It would be nice if they would start paying attention to polling after their disastrous conclusions before Election Day.

blame

Another poll shows that only 10 percent of the people in the U.S. view the honesty and ethical standards of House of Representative members as very high or high. In an examination of 22 different professions, only car salespeople did worse, at 8 percent. Senate members faired slightly higher at 14 percent.

The Senate’s standing may go down after they voted down the U.N. treaty ban on discrimination against people with disabilities, 61-38. Treaties require a two-thirds vote; Rick Santorum had promised 36 no votes, and he got two extra. GOP senators voting in favor of the treaty were Kelly Ayotte (NH), John Barrasso (WY), Scott Brown (MA), Susan Collins (ME), Dick Lugar (IN), John McCain (AZ) and Lisa Murkowski (AK). Three of these “moderates” fought the nomination of Susan Rice for Secretary of State although President Obama has not appointed anyone for the position. Even Bob Dole, 1996 Republican presidential candidate, came in a wheelchair to support the passage of the treaty and got nowhere.

Supporters of the treaty argued that the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities would merely require the rest of the world to meet the standards that Americans already enjoy under the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act.

The treaty was negotiated and first signed under President George W. Bush and signed again by Obama in 2009. At least 153 other countries have signed it; 126 have ratified it. Democrats and advocates for people with disabilities argued that recommendations from a panel created by the treaty would be advisory only, not binding, and that the treaty did not create any new legal rights in state or federal courts. John Kerry countered that the treaty would allow the United States to serve on the committee to advocate for the rights of U.S. veterans and citizens living or traveling abroad.

Newly elected Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) can drive the Senate into a crazier position on the U.N. Last summer he wrote a blog vowing to fight “a dangerous United Nations plan” on environmental sustainability that, according to Cruz, would abolish “golf courses, grazing pastures and paved roads.” He lays the fault on the Democratic financier-philanthropist George Soros. Cruz also agrees with Glenn Beck that the supposed ban on light bulbs was intended to shut down manufacturing in the United States.

Forty-nine percent of people in the United States join Ted Cruz in his conspiracy theories: they think that the supposedly-illegal work of ACORN, the organization to help poor people that went bankrupt two years ago, is responsible for the re-election of President Obama. If the organization was so powerful, why did it let so many Tea Party members go to Congress in 2010?!

The Finale: Disturbed by Fox’s failures regarding Election Day 2012, Roger Ailes has send out orders that producers must get permission from higher up before booking people connected with the election—including Karl Rove and Dick Morris. The comedy shows will be poorer because of Ailes’ mandate.

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