Nel's New Day

May 29, 2018

Congress Decisions, Destructive or Failed

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) couldn’t even get a farm bill passed after 18 hardline far-right and 12 moderate GOP representatives sided with the Democrats to vote against it after a difference of opinion about immigrants. Conservatives also didn’t like the idea of “too much” funding for food stamps, and the Dems hated the drastic food stamp cuts. On the other hand, farmers and relatives could be eligible for up to $125,000 annually per person. Food stamps cost $125.41 per month.

DDT has signed a bank deregulation bill that puts the United States into almost the same lack of oversight that sent the nation into a recession at the end of George W. Bush’s two terms. The excuse is to help the economy, but, thanks to the tax cuts for the wealthy and big business, Wall Street netted $56 billion in the first quarter of 2018. That’s the industry’s most profitable quarter in history. The new law allows banks to take irresponsible risks that can primarily hurt the bottom 90 percent. Supposedly the lack of regulations help small banks, but rules moved big banks into the “mid-sized” level (up to $250 billion in assets) permitting them to lower compliance costs, expand trading opportunities, substitute costly debts with deposits, and kick back more money to shareholders. Consumers have lost their protection. Lobby money paid off 33 Democrats as well as the Republicans who voted for the bill.

The Senate showed that it understands the disaster of FCC’s repeal to net neutrality by passing a bill in opposition with all 49 Democrats and GOP Sens. Susan Collins (ME), Lisa Murkowski (AK), and John Kennedy (LA) voting for the bill. The House will ignore the bill, but it’s a start. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) had to deal with the bill because supporters used the Congressional Review Act to force action with a simple majority vote. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) pointed out that new net neutrality rules hurt “public schools, rural Americans, communities of color and small businesses” while protecting “large corporations and special interests, leaving the American public to pay the price.”

Congress has failed to overturn requirements on payday lenders that protect borrowers from paying excessive interest on these short-term loans. Conservatives touted these loans as the way that poor people could save themselves from disaster, but a typical two-week payday loan had an annual percentage rage of 400 percent. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau may still try to change the rules itself, but that requires public input. The rules required under a former CFPB administration don’t go into effect until August 2019.

Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE) formally requested that Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) schedule a public hearing for Donald Trump Jr. because of evidence that Jr. gave “false testimony.” He told a congressional committee that foreigners did not “offer or provide assistance” to DDT’s campaign and did not seek any foreign assistance. Lying to Congress is a crime even if a person is not under oath. Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley defended Jr. by saying that a different witness may have lied to the panel instead.

Crowdfunding (aka cyberbegging) has been used for-profit ventures as well as medical and legal expenses, travel, and community projects. Rep. Diane Black (R-TN) wants to use crowdfunding to build DDT’s wall and has introduced a bill to “allow the secretary of the Treasury to accept public donations.” The bill also states that funds can be used “for other purposes” including a mile-long “commemorative display” to honor donors. During her announcement of the bill on Fox, host Farris Faulkner asked, “What happened to Mexico paying for it?” Black said that she didn’t know “what kind of pressure” DDT is putting on Mexico for funding. He is threatening to close the U.S. government if Congress doesn’t approve funding from taxpayers. USA Today has an interactive map of barriers to the wall.

John M. Gore, acting head of the DOJ Civil Rights Division has both refused to appear before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and refused to answer questions about his request for a citizenship question on the census, but under the leadership of Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC), GOP members refused to issue a subpoena to Gore with no reason. Two weeks ago, Tom Brunell, DDT’s choice for Census Director, said that the decision to add this question was based on politics. He said, “They have made a political decision. And they have every right to do that, because they won the election.”

Republicans believe in no regulations—unless they serve personal interests. Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) declared he will stop banks from new rules on guns that restrict credit card and banking services to gun retailers and cease lending to gun manufacturers that fail to comply with the banks’ age limits and background checks. Bank of America will no longer lend money to companies that make the AR-15. Kennedy plans to file complaints with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau—that doesn’t protect consumers because regulations have disappeared—and wants colleagues to write legislation that prevents banks from “discriminating” against gun buyers. Other GOP senators threatening banks for their rules regarding guns are Mike Crapo (ID) and Ted Cruz (TX). Michael Piwowar, a SEC commissioner whose term ends this year, told banks that they would have trouble getting GOP support for easing derivatives regulations.

Dumbest statement from a member of Congress this month? It’s hard to pick, but this one is good. Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) has never known to be that sharpest tool in the shed, but his reason for sea-level rise may top earlier comments. “Every time you have that soil or rock whatever it is that is deposited into the seas, that forces the sea levels to rise. Because now you’ve got less space in those oceans because the bottom is moving up.” He looked over the fact that his solution would be accurate only if the top five inches of the 9.1 million square miles in the U.S. went into the ocean—every year. At least, he’s figured out that the seas are rising. He’s making progress.

Rep. Thomas Garrett (R-VA), member of the conservative Freedom Caucus, dropped his run for a second House term and announced that he’s an alcoholic. Former staffers had accused Garrett and his wife of treating them like servants—carrying groceries, walking the dog, and even cleaning up after the animal’s waste when he forgot to take the dog home from his office. Chief of staff, Jimmy Keady, was ready to leave Garrett when he made the announcement. Garrett’s resignation makes the 44th GOP resignation from the House this year. He had no opposition in the June 12 primary; the House district RNC will select an opponent against a strong Democratic candidate in the November midterm election.

No matter what Congress does, its rating stays low. Among Republicans, the approval rating dropped from 50 percent when DDT was inaugurated to 22 percent this month. And the GOP is in control!

State-wise, felons are beginning to regain their voting rights after they leave prison. Louisiana has passed a bill, which will probably be signed into law, that gives voting rights to people on probation or parole if they have been out of prison for at least five years. In other states:

  • Alabama: thousands of felons were added to voter rolls following a law clarifying specific crimes that bar felons from voting.
  • New York: Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) restored the first pardons giving the right to vote to over 24,086 parolees.
  • Virginia: Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) restored voting rights to over 155,000 convicted felons who completed their sentences.
  • Florida: A November ballot measure could restore voting rights to felons after they complete their prison sentences. (Florida is one of ten states where felons permanently lose their voting rights.)
  • Mississippi: Two pending federal suits seek automatic voting rights after the completion of the sentence.
  • New Jersey: Lawmakers are considering a measure allowing people in prison to vote, legal only in Maine and Vermont.

Republicans want to keep felons from voting from fear that they will vote against the GOP, but states have another method to keep white supremacy: eliminating all non-citizens from the census that determines the number of seats per state in Congress. Alabama has a lawsuit to exclude immigrants from the count, and Rep. Steve King (R-IA) and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R) are supporting that position. The 14th Amendment requiring the census states that congressional seats are designated on the basis of the number of “persons.” Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) and Alabama’s AG Steve Marshall are using the argument that “persons” did not include undocumented people in the 18th and 19th centuries. Alabama may lose a congressional seat after the 2020 census. Missouri state legislators are considering a law that would base state legislative districts entirely on citizen population.

In all but six states, legislatures will be adjourned by the end of June. Next week, however, the Senate comes back to meet 12 weeks before midterms—less time for the House schedule. Both chambers disappear in August. We’ll see how much damage they can do in that time.

August 9, 2014

Townhalls Gone But Craziness Worse

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 9:34 PM
Tags: , , , ,

Summer in the past always meant townhall meetings as members of Congress took advantage of their long vacation to talk to constituents. The sometimes-violent interactions of 2009 during the heat of Affordable Care Act controversy slowed them down, and people now have to pay to see their representatives and senators most of the time. And pay, some people do—for example Dreamers, young people allowed to stay in the United States by executive order–so that they could confront Rep. Steve King (R-IA) at the Okoboji Barefoot Bar.

Collateral damage for the encounter was Sen. Rand Paul who took a last bit of his hamburger, grabbed his beer, and took off for parts unknown. Soundly ridiculed for his cowardice, Paul said that he had already scheduled another interview—probably why he needed his beer. Paul’s veracity, however, is frequently called into question as videos show him lying about not wanting to do away with the Civil Rights Act and not wanting to send aid to Israel. He also claims to be a “board-accredited” ophthalmologist although the American Board of Ophthalmologists have not certified him. There’s also the record of all the plagiarism in his writings, including published books.

At least, Paul got away before King embarrassed himself—again. Perhaps trying to be placating, King said to one of the Dreamers, “You’re very good at English.” She answered, “I was raised in the United States.”

According to Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL), the U.S. is in a new war, and he doesn’t mean Iraq. During an interview with conservative radio host Laura Ingraham, he accused the Democratic Party of a “war on whites.” He was responding to National Journal’s Ron Fournier, who told Fox News host Chris Wallace that “the fastest growing voting bloc in this country thinks the Republican Party hates them. This party, your party, cannot be the party of the future beyond November if you’re seen as the party of white people.” Even Ingraham thought the comment was a bit far-fetched, telling him it was “a little out there.” Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus called Brooks’ comment a “pretty idiotic thing to say.”

Columnist Eugene Robinson responded by saying that any “war on whites” was certainly failing. He begins with the huge gap in median household income between whites and minorities: Hispanics made 40 percent less than whites, and blacks are almost 30 percent below incomes of whites. The average white family has almost six times as much wealth as the average black or Hispanic family. Robinson also describes the horrific treatment of black people in Alabama, 60-year-old Brooks’ home state, because they wanted to integrate and vote while the Congressman was growing up there.

With a lead of less than 0.4 percent, Wisconsin governor, Scott Walker, seems to be desperate in his campaign ads against opponent Mary Burke. His unfavorable rating is up to 47 percent and approval down to 45 percent. The man whose recall campaign benefited from hundreds of thousands of dollars from the Koch brothers is now condemning Burke for being a “one-percenter” and sneering at her business success. The man who promised to bring business and jobs to the state by breaking the unions took the state to 13th from the bottom in job creation in 2013.

Scott Brown continues to fumble in his candidacy for New Hampshire senator. Earlier this summer, he blasted his opponent, incumbent Jeanne Shaheen, for not appearing with President Obama while he was “in town.” The “town” was Worcester (MA), south of the New Hampshire border.

Brown’s lack of memory also continues to haunt him. When he tried to nail Shaheen for raising the debt ceiling (to prevent U.S. default), he forgot he had voted the same way as Shaheen. That criticism was last May, but he didn’t learn his lesson. This week, he attacked Shaheen on border security in an op-ed, condemning “pro-amnesty policies that have encouraged people to come here illegally,” specifically “in-state tuition for illegals.”

Aside from the fact that “illegal” is not a noun, Brown forgot that he had voted in favor of state legislation to make undocumented immigrants “eligible for in-state tuition rates and fees at the University of Massachusetts, or any commonwealth state or community college.”

The man who would be senator again suffers from other problems. Last month he hid in a bathroom to avoid talking about the Hobby Lobby case. The month before, he resigned from the board of a Florida firearm manufacturer that didn’t manufacture firearms after a reporter confronted him about his participation.

Brown also called former colleagues “urging” them to a bipartisan energy-efficiency bill last spring but denied that he was actually “lobbying.” The bill included such provisions as making it easier for consumers to buy “smart metered” water heaters that had already passed the Republican-led House. One of the co-sponsors was Brown’s opponent, Jeanne Shaheen; it might have looked bad for him if she were a success.

Another senate candidate, Oregon’s Monica Wehby, has had to dump one of her committee leaders after Buzzfeed pointed out that he had been convicted of domestic violence and sentenced to 17 months in prison. After only two weeks as co-chair of a business coalition, Tim Moles, CEO of Joules Power, resigned. Charges against Moles included beating his wife unconscious at a New Year’s Eve party, assaulting her two other times, and threatening to kill her. A fellow inmate at the jail where Moles was held claimed Moles offered him a share of his wife’s life insurance policy for killing her. Wehby might want to consider vetting her campaign leaders.

Sixty-three Republican party members in Texas have signed a legal brief stating that same-sex marriage opens the door to things like pedophilia and incest being legalized. This hasn’t happened anywhere in the state and countries legalizing marriage equality, but that doesn’t stop the crazies. Signers include the nominee for lieutenant governor, House Speaker, and incoming attorney general.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) has started his 14-state bus tour with a new reason for his party’s lack of productivity: it’s the Senate’s fault. Gone is all the talk about judging the House on how many laws they repealed—because they haven’t repealed any. The only reference about the health care law is that it needs “tweaking.”

Boehner’s new message is a non-combative approach. “We’ve got solutions,” he said. Asked what the Republicans would do if they took over the senate, Boehner said he hadn’t given it much thought. He is taking credit for VA Department reform, however, which took six months and a public outcry against the GOP.

The latest member of House leadership, Majority Whip Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA), did raise a few eyebrows around the country. He needs a bigger staff so a federal lobbyist is advising him on who to hire. Ethics lawyers and leadership aides say it’s never been done before. His advisor, John Feehery, is registered to lobby for major corporations such as AT&T, Sony Corp., Qualcomm, 21st Century Fox and others with interests before Congress and the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Scalise is a member of that committee.

As Tea Partiers try to move back to their 2010 success when they forced the House to move even farther right, Rep. Scott DesJarlais (R-TN) is an icon for their hypocrisy. The antichoice, “pro-family” medical doctor, who came into Congress with the 2010 class, is currently only 35 votes ahead of his opponent in last week’s primary. DesJarlais has some baggage: spousal abuse, serial adultery of at least eight affairs, sexual relationships with patients resulting in fines and reprimands, and at least three occasions of encouraging a woman to have an abortion (twice his soon-to-be-former wife, once a patient). Then there was the time that he used a gun to intimidate his first wife during an argument. Most of these issues were revealed in his divorce papers from his first wife immediately after his 2012 re-election.

Thus far, DesJarlais has 34,787 votes. Both he and his opponent, Jim Tracy, have declared victory, but the battle could drag on for weeks before provisional ballots are counted. Two of DesJarlais’ donors are Speaker Boehner and Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA).

Candidates do get worse than DesJarlais. Tye “Glenn” Champ, fifth in a field of 15 GOP gubernatorial candidates in California, has been arrested for shooting a man and horse, killing the horse, before he fled. Champ is a registered sex offender who told voters he’s doing things “God’s way.” He got 58,747 votes. His criminal record goes back almost 30 years. In 1998, he pleaded guilty to manslaughter after he ran over a competitor trash collector. Other charges have included attempted murder and animal cruelty.

Also following “God’s way,” Rep. Steven Palazzo (R-MS), Assistant Majority Whip, sent Christian Bibles to each congressional member of Congress with notes explaining that the Bibles are “to help guide you in your decision-making.” The notes also state, “Our staffs provide us with policy memos, statistics, and recommendations that help us make informed decisions. However, I find that the best advice comes through meditating on God’s Word.”

Palazzo was also first elected in 2010. We can only meditate on what the Bible communications about lying, sexual assault, killing, and other peccadilloes that our politicians, many of them Tea Partiers, exhibit.

 

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