Tag Archives: GOP

Congress gears up for the debt discussion – no, not that one. The other one.

The people in our government are buttheads and here is the reason why: both the Republicans and the Democrats have announced their party’s negotiators for the upcoming talks over the nation’s debt limit and they are pretty much a handpicked selection of people guaranteed to NOT come to an agreement. The Republicans have picked Eric Cantor and Jon Kyl. Please note that the invitation was for four congressional Republicans but the GOP decided to waste the time of only two. The Democrats chose Max Baucus and Daniel Inouye from the Senate and James Clyburn and Chris Van Hollen from the House. Of those, only Van Hollen seems to make any sense, having taken part in the 2011 budget negotiations that ended just last week. Basically, this is going to turn into a staring match where nothing gets done. Much like the negotiations for this year’s federal budget went.

Paul Ryan, the architect of the Republican budget that protects tax breaks for the wealthy and turns Medicare into a voucher system, is not finding a lot of support for his proposal. House Republicans voted 235-4 in favor of the plan but touching entitlement programs is incredibly unpopular with the public. Ryan was booed when talking about his proposed budget plan when holding a town hall meeting in his southern Wisconsin congressional district. Only Obama’s call to raise tax rates on the wealthiest Americans enjoys solid support. A new Washington Post-ABC News poll found that 72% of Americans wanted Congress to raise taxes on wealthy Americans making more than $250,000 a year.

Americans would prefer to keep Medicare just the way it is and also oppose cuts in Medicaid and the defense budget. More than half of those polled say they are against small, across-the-board tax increases combined with modest reductions in Medicare and Social Security benefits. Basically, Americans want the government to sort itself out without having themselves pay any more money. Better yet, to reduce what we are paying in taxes now. (You do realize that it doesn’t work that way, right? Basic math there, Bobo.)

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Big surprise – more tax issues.

Obama will head out on the road this week to begin the effort to get support for the debt reduction plan he outlined last week. He’s not doing so on the greatest footing. Last year, before elections created a Republican controlled House, a new tax plan would have had some chance to reach his desk. Not so much now. House Speaker John Boehner, even before Obama made his speech last week, spoke in opposition to any plan that would raise taxes – calling it “unacceptable” and a “non-starter”. But there are signs that Obama may get the support he needs if he focuses solely on corporations and the wealthy.

The touchiest part of Obama’s plan is his pledge to not extend the Bush era tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, those making $250,000 or above. (Oh, déjà-vu! We’ve heard that before.) The GOP has always had the image of protecting the wealthy, the fat-cats, while the Democrats are often accused of an endless “tax and spend” cycle. Now, almost everyone thinks that the Republicans have pretty much cheated middle-class America while pandering to the wealthy. The wealthy aren’t paying their fair share in taxes and the middle-class is drowning in the kickback.

Nearly six in ten Americans have the belief that the wealthy aren’t paying their share of taxes and nearly seven in ten think the same about corporations. Two-thirds of those making under $100,000 a year believe that those in the upper-incomes are not paying enough in taxes. This public opinion might give Obama the backing he needs in order to get a new tax plan going. Plus, the middle-class is a huge target in any election but particularly one where the economy will be a central issue. If Obama can use quashing tax cuts for the wealthy to appeal to those middle-class voters it could be a huge advantage in upcoming elections.

That is if people can get past the knee-jerk reaction that increasing taxes hurts economic growth. Lesser known facts, like the U.S. corporate tax being the highest in the world and that ending the Bush tax cuts could impact 894,000 small businesses, could allow the Republicans to ultimately win the tax debate. But turning public opinion makes tax issues less of a sure thing for the GOP.

Obama’s winning message on taxes? – The Washington Post

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Budget bill moves through Senate and on to Obama. Up next: the debt ceiling.

Both the House and the Senate passed the budget bill yesterday, with the Senate voting 81-19. Fifteen Republican senators, three Democrats, and one independent voted against the measure. Now the legislation moves on to President Obama’s desk to be signed into law. But the fight over the 2011 budget may have weakened John Boehner when many of his own party abandoned him when voting in the House on the measure took place yesterday afternoon. Without Democrat help, the bill may never have passed. But don’t be fooled into thinking anybody is having fuzzy feelings for the opposite party, 108 of the no votes came from House Democrats, including Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.Now Capitol Hill turns its attention to raising the national debt limit but the king of the Republicans may be doing so with a weaker hand. Boehner’s little GOP kingdom has become disenchanted with him. The federal debt ceiling, currently just under $14.3 trillion, is projected to be breached by mid-May and the Treasury Department’s accounting tricks will only last until early July. Conservatives and tea party members are demanding that their leaders shrink the government and are howling at the suggestion of raising the debt ceiling. But they may end up having no choice. Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner and others have warned of dire consequences to the global financial markets if the debt limit is not extended and the government begins defaulting on its loans.

With debate over the debt limit intensifying, Republicans are discussing attaching some tough statutory language to the bill that would allow the ceiling to be increased only if Congress institutes broad spending cuts in federal agency budgets and in entitlement programs such as Medicare. Those proposals might unify House Republicans for an initial passage of the debt ceiling, but they might also fail in the Democratic controlled Senate. Such an outcome would send Boehner back to the bargaining table with Obama and Reid. This past week’s reaction to the spending bill from GOP conservatives may leave the White House assuming Boehner will not be able to deliver a majority on his own, prompting Obama’s side to not give in to as many of the speaker’s demands.

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The House passes new budget bill but nobody is happy about it. As usual.

What is going on in our government? The House passed the budget bill that had been created last Friday but House Speaker John Boehner had to turn to Democratic support to get it done. The vote was 260 to 167 (it takes 217 ‘yes’ votes to pass a bill) but 59 Republicans broke with their party to vote against the measure. In turn, 81 Democrats voted for the deal. The budget deal, which makes $38 billion in federal spending cuts, has been criticized by some conservative Republicans as being inadequate in addressing the government’s ballooning debt. Of the 59 GOP defections, 27 were freshmen members, most that had been elected with Tea Party backing. The Senate is poised to vote later today and Obama will certainly sign it into law.

The 2011 spending measure produces its $38 billion in cuts to domestic accounts by including almost $18 billion changes to benefit programs, like children’s health care, highway funding and a fund for crime victims. “This bill is nothing more than a Tea Party checklist targeting programs that help the most vulnerable,” said liberal Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., ticking off cuts to food aid for the poor, grants to local police departments and help for children of inmates. “It’s shameful, a moral disgrace.” Obama, however, was able to ease cuts to favored programs like medical research, family planning programs and education, while largely ridding the bill of conservative policy initiatives to block last year’s health care law and new environmental regulations.

Later today, Republicans dominating the House will launch debate on a 10-year blueprint that promises to cut the long-term budget plan Obama laid out in February by more than $6 trillion. The GOP measure, a non-binding blueprint that sets a theoretical framework for future legislation, would also sharply cut Medicaid and transform it into a block grant program runs by the states. It doesn’t touch Social Security, however, or immediately cut Medicare.

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Just how much did the GOP give and how much did the Democrats take?

Still, Obama and his Democratic allies accepted $600 million in cuts to a community health centers program, $414 million in cuts to grants for state and local police departments, and a $1.6 billion reduction in the Environmental Protection Agency budget, almost $1 billion of which would come from grants for clean water and other projects by local governments and Indian tribes. The National Institutes of Health, which funds critical medical research, would absorb a $260 million cut, less than 1 percent of its budget, instead of the $1.6 billion cut sought by House Republicans. Family planning programs would bear a 5 percent cut rather than being completely eliminated. Homeland security programs would see their first ever cut, although mostly to first responder grants given to state and local governments, and the IRS budget would be frozen.

About $10 billion of the cuts comes from targeting appropriations accounts previously used by lawmakers for so-called earmarks, those pet projects like highways, water projects, community development grants and new equipment for police and fire departments. Republicans had already engineered a ban on earmarks when taking back the House this year. Republicans also claimed $5 billion in savings by capping payments from a fund awarding compensation to crime victims. According to an arcane bookkeeping rule, this allows the government to claim the entire contents of the fund as budget savings. Renewable energy programs are cut $407 million, almost 20% of their budget, and The Army Corps of Engineers, which funds flood control and inland waterway projects, will suffer a $578 million cut, about 10% of its budget.

Conservative Republicans and Tea Party people are already expressing their displeasure with the budget plan, saying that the almost $38 billion in cuts barely make a dent in the country’s budget woes. They are also upset that policy “riders” added by the Republicans, like those on abortion, were dropped during negotiation. These little add-ons included attempts to block the EPA’s ability to issue global warming rules, moves to stop the implementation of Obama’s healthcare overhauls, new rules to govern the Internet, and an attempt to chop an initiative aimed at catching people running guns to Mexican drug lords off at the knees.

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Obama pulls some strings to save some programs.

It now seems that due to some tricky maneuvering, Obama may have been able to save several of his favorite programs from biting the dust in the new budget cuts. There has been grumbling that Obama hasn’t been doing enough in regards to the budget war and has been seen not really taking that much of an active part in the negotiations. Although, I don’t think that people understand that much of the work is being done by aids. Boehner and Reid may be the images we’re seeing on the TV but it is their lieutenants that are really swimming around under the surface.

By using some accounting hocus-pocus and left over money from previous years, Obama was able to protect Pell grants for poor college students, health research, and “Race to the Top” aid for public schools. Big holes in foreign aid and Environmental Protection Agency accounts were generally patched and the Republicans also gave up controversial cuts to the Agriculture Department’s food inspection program. These maneuvers allowed Obama to reverse many of the cuts passed by House Republicans in February when they slashed this year’s budget by more than $60 billion. (Remember that? The GOP has been using a weed-whacker for months!) This saved favorites like the Head Start early learning program and maintained the maximum Pell grant of $5,550 and funding for the “Race to the Top” initiative that provides grants to better preforming schools.

Many of the cuts agreed to on Friday and that will be voted on on Thursday are one-time savings and the shifting of money from one place to another that is being scored as a “cut”. (Yes, it’s a game. Whoever can use the word “cut” the most, wins, even if the money is just going somewhere else.) One-time cuts include a $350 million program enacted in 2009 for dairy farmers then suffering from low milk prices and $650 million from simply not repeating a one-time infusion into highway programs passed the same year. Actual cuts are far tamer and include cuts to earmarks, unspent census money, leftover federal construction funding, and $2.5 billion from the most recent renewal of highway programs and $3.5 billion from unused spending authority from a program providing health care to children of lower-income family. (So, what you are saying is that very few cuts were actually made and that somewhere, somehow you are just finding extra money? Did the Easter Bunny leave it for you to find on the White House lawn?)

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Government shutdown averted! — Kind of…

So, the shutdown of the government was averted just in the nick of time. The Cherry Blossom Festival went on in DC over the weekend despite fears that the parades would be canceled and, except for a car pulling a balloon that burst into flames and had to be towed away, everything went off grandly. Our dear Federal rats (and I call them rats because they acted just like rats would when they realize the ship they are on is sinking – stupidly and desperately) were able to seal a deal just an hour before midnight. Well, sort of. What actually happened was that Congress approved a short-term spending measure to keep the government from shutting down until next week. The final agreement will not in fact be voted upon until Thursday. (Just enough time for someone to change their minds.)

The proposed measure would cut $37.8 billion from the federal budget through the end of September, a little more than half of the $61 billion the Republicans were originally playing for. The Democrats wanted to cut billions less but agreed to the larger figure when the GOP agreed to drop demands to take federal funds away from the group Planned Parenthood. The cuts, if passed, would add up to the largest budget reduction for federal agencies in U.S. history. But it’s clear that the Republicans have the power in this situation. They have managed to upset what is still a predominantly Democratic held government. Remember, the Democrats still hold the majority in the Senate.

Some Tea Party conservatives have expressed their displeasure with the smaller figure and said GOP leaders should have held out for the $61 billion worth of cuts. The Republicans now have set their sights on the 2012 budget and, from the looks of it, are planning to propose even more cuts. (They’ll eventually just slash themselves out of existence. Won’t that be nice!) This is the first test of their strength since taking over the House and it looks like they may have come out on the top of the pile.

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The government is all set to screech to a halt tonight.

[in a sing-song voice] We’re all going to hell in a hand basket! Oh, yes we are! La, la la. [dodges rotten vegetables] Ack! Alright! I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that nothing got done in the government last night despite Obama, Boehner, and Reid all patting our heads gently and assuring us that everything would be alright. [pat pat pat Thwack!] House Speaker John Boehner is expected to meet with other House GOP leaders at noon for continued talks. If an agreement can’t be made, either a long term budget or at least another stop-gap like the ones we’ve been operating under for about a damn month and a half, the proverbial switch gets flipped at midnight tonight and all the lights go out in Washington. [I hope you’re stocked up on candles.]

House Speaker John Boehner (left) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (right).

At least 800,000 federal workers are dreading getting an e-mail or phone call today telling them they are “nonessential” and that the government can get along just fine without them. If a shutdown does happen, only “essential” personnel will remain active, which includes about 1.2 million people on the federal payroll whose jobs are viewed as more vital to public safety, health, and welfare. To rub salt in the wound, it’s unlikely that those invited to go home will be paid for their forced vacations. After the mid-1900’s shutdowns, Congress reimbursed employees who worked and those who didn’t. But union leaders and members of Congress are warning that the national mood to repay workers who stay home would be less sympathetic today.

It’s hard to tell which services would be deemed essential and which would not. For example, the presses that print the Federal Register and other publications of Congress and the White House would keep going. But passports, also printed by the Government Printing Office, would stop. The Government Accountability Office’s 3,200 employees have been told that beyond the comptroller general, general counsel and a handful of security guards, the auditing arm of Congress would be nonessential. So would employees at the Census Bureau. The Capitol employs 2,600 workers to maintain its buildings, trim its trees and operate its mini-subways. More than 75 percent of them would be told not to report during a shutdown, according to the Architect of the Capitol, the agency that manages buildings and grounds. Only a limited staff, such as a reduced number of food service workers, would remain working to support the idiots upstairs.

How to shut down the federal government – The Washington Post

Government shutdown looks different to workers who toil in Capitol’s basement – The Washington Post

Government workers face the shutdown prospect of being deemed ‘nonessential’ – The Washington Post

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Looks like a rusty tinker toy rather than a government to me.

Raise your hand if you saw the government shutdown after Friday coming from a league away? (can almost feel the breeze from people raising their hands) Yeah, me too. For once it looks like the Democrats are sticking to their guns and digging in their heels. If there is no deal by midnight Friday, when the current spending authorization measure expires, parts of the government will close down. The IRS will stop processing paper tax returns, the Small Business Association will stop making loans and federal home loan guarantees are on hold.

Harry Reid believes that both parties are agreed on the numbers portion of the budget and that the real sticking point between the Republicans and the Democrats is the GOP’s insistence on including provisions related to abortion and environmental protection. House Speaker John Boehner doesn’t think so, saying that there is “no agreement on numbers and no agreement on underlying policies.” Republicans are, among other things, pushing to strip all funding from Planned Parenthood as well as trying to prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating greenhouse gas emissions.

At the moment, the Republicans are offering another week long extension bill, which both the Democrats and Obama himself states is not an option. The Republicans are being pressured from their conservative Tea Party members to make deep cuts, to the tune of $61 billion, while the Democrats say such cuts will harm the recovering economy. They would rather pass a resolution with only $10 billion in cuts. Both sides of the government is trying to paint the other party as the bad guy and depending on who is holding the “hot potato” come midnight on Friday will end up being the villain in this story.

Poll: Americans split on shutdown blame game.

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Anti-Union legislation is pushed through in Wisconsin in a stunning move by GOP members.

Two things happened yesterday in our government. One was that the Senate voted down both the proposed budget bills, calling the Republican plan too much and the Democrat plan not enough. We knew this would happen. I don’t know why they even bothered turning on the lights. This sets the stage for new negotiations between the parties and, since temporary funding runs out next week, almost certainly another stop-gap bill to keep the federal government running while they debate the issue.

The other big event that happened in our government was that the Wisconsin Assembly was able to pass the anti-union rights legislation after discovering a way to outmaneuver the missing Democratic members. The legislation introduced by Republican Governor Scott Walker to plug the $137 million budget shortfall would strip collective bargaining rights from most public workers. To stop the vote, 14 Senate Democrats fled to Illinois three weeks ago, preventing the chamber from having enough members present to pass it. At least 20 members must be present to take up any measures that spend money but by taking out all the spending measures in the legislation the Senate was able to approve it without the missing members.

The measure forbids most government workers from collectively bargaining for wage increases beyond the rate of inflation unless approved by referendum. It also requires public workers to pay more toward their pensions and double their health insurance contribution, a combination equivalent to an 8% pay cut for the average worker. Walker’s proposal touched off a national debate over union rights for public employees and prompted tens of thousands of demonstrators to converge on Wisconsin’s capital city for weeks of protests.

Protestors take over the State Capitol after the Republican controlled Senate, without Democrats present, abruptly voted to eliminate almost all collective bargaining for most public workers in Madison, Wisconsin.

Within hours of the Senate passing the plan, a crowd of hundreds of protesters grew to about 7,000 in the Capitol, a crowd as large as any seen inside the building in three weeks of demonstrations. Walker and his Republican colleagues have shown their true colors with this move. By removing the spending measures from the bill and pushing through the portion eliminating collective bargaining rights of public employees, they have shown that this was never about the state budget but was an effort to bust unions. Labor leaders insist that they emerge energized and eager to continue fighting. They say that efforts to recall Republican Senators will continue, although Governor Walker cannot be recalled until he’s served a full year next January.

A recall election, also called a recall referendum or representative recall, is a procedure by which voters can remove an elected official from office through a direct vote, initiated when sufficient voters sign a petition.

Wisconsion union curbs head for final vote amid protests – Yahoo! News

Wis. GOP bypasses Dems, cuts collective bargaining – Yahoo! News

Governor Walker’s Coup D’Etat – Robert Reich

Labor Vows To Step Up Recall Effort Against Wisconsin GOP, Challenge Anti-Union Bill in Court – Huffington Post

Eight GOP State Senators in Wisconsin Can be Recalled Right Now; Gov. Walker Can Be Recalled in January

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