I have suspended writing new posts for this blog. I watch the Republican presidential debates and listen to the debate about bombing Iran and am speechless. There is hardly anything left to say.
This is what’s happening .
1. First Republican House leadership wanted to have a two month bill that would extend the payroll tax cut and unemployment benefits.
2. Republican House members rejected this.
3. Meanwhile, the Senate passed a two-month extension by 89-10, an overwhelming bi-partisan majority for a bill endorsed by Senate Minority Leader McConnell.
4. The Senate left for the holidays and will return January 2nd.
5. Normally, with a situation this serious and a bill passed across parties by the Senate, House members would vote to pass the Senate bill. INstead, the House did not take a vote on the bill itself, but used a procedural rule to have a joint Senate-House Committee reconcile the differences. In this way, Republicans would be protected from the burden of having voted against the payroll cut and UE extensions.
So these are the choice:
1. The House passes the Senate bill that gives a 2 month extension
2. President Obama calls the Senate back to vote on a house fill for a full year extension. The Houses passes it, too
3. A House/Senate Committee works out the differences. But since the House never voted on an actual bill, how that would happen is unclear.
4. No bill is passed and unemployment insurance runs out for millions and millions more will see a significant increase in payroll taxes.
Don’t these people realize that taking money out of peoples’ pockets now is a clear and present danger to the economy?
It seems Graham announced he does not want to see the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau to come into existence. It’s too late. It’s already in existence by an act of Congress. Republicans are blocking the President from appointing a head of the Bureau.
cites Ta-Nehisi Coates and recently retired Senate Republican aid Mike Lofgren on the constitutional history of Republican nullification today.
Ta-Nehisi Coates about the persistence into this moment’s news of the past centuries’ racial traumas and racist institutions. Mike Lofgren, who recently retired from a career as a Republican staffer in the Senate, and whom I have , by coincidence makes a directly parallel point about the origins of the filibuster and the of “” thinking by Republican members of the Senate.
Although House Republicans have obstructed many of President Obama’s initiatives with fillibuster threats, amendments and block voting, Obama has called for the extension of the payroll tax holiday for the next year. Leaders of both parties agree with the extension and were trying to work out exactly how it would work.
It looked like a bipartisan go – until Speaker Boehner decided to throw a totally unrelated issue into the extension bill. Approval of the TransCanada pipeline is now part of the payroll legislation. This make no sense at all
Although it would create thousands of new jobs, Mr. Obama has held up approval of the pipeline over environmental concerns. The Administration has not vetoed the pipeline.
Dragging the pipeline issue into a debate on a crucial part of Obama’s recovery/jobs bill is a way to scuffle payroll tax relief and increase everyone’s taxes this year.
The Senate will most likely reject the pipeline issue, so either it would be taken out of the legislation during conference or be vetoed when it goes to the President’s desk.
These types of gimmicks are not restricted to the GOP. Congressional rules allow either party to scum up the works of lawmakers. They certainly don’t serve the electorate.
Yesterday, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization Palestine as its 195th member. The US immediately announced it would no longer fund UNESCO. Laws from 1990 and 1994 prohibit American financing of any UN organization that recognizes Palestine as a member. That means a quarter of UNESCO’s funding, beginning with $60 million scheduled for this month, will dry up. Although the Obama Administration will try to find ways to support UNESCO in other ways, State Department attorneys see the US law prohibiting funding for UNESCO as air-tight, and UNESCO is prohibited from using any ‘extra’ funding for operations.
The Israeli reaction:
The Israeli ambassador, Nimrod Barkan, said that Unesco had done “a great disservice” to international efforts to restart negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. “Unesco deals in science, not in science fiction,” he said, noting that a Palestinian state is not otherwise recognized by the international community. Unesco, he said, had acted on a “political subject outside of its competence.”
The Palestinian reply:
Washington has to look at these laws that should have been changed ages ago,” said Muhammad Shtayyeh, a close aide to the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas. “The P.L.O. is not a terrorist organization anymore. It exchanged letters of recognition with Israel back in 1993.”
Both Democrats and Republicans blamed the Palestinians for throwing yet another obstacle into the peace process. First, UNESCO membership is separate from the peace process, so why all the fuss? Second, both the Palestinians and Israelis have pledged to present their respective views of borders to the Quartet (US, EU, Russian and UN), the unofficial lead agency, replacing the US, within 3 months. This is a step forward for peace that came in the wake of the Palestinian UN bid for statehood. UNESCO membership doesn’t affect the Quartet process one way or another.
In other news concerning Palestinian statehood, it appears the US has rounded up enough ‘no’ votes on the Security Council to deny the Palestinian petition without a US veto.
The Quartet this week laid out a challenge to both parties, Israel and Palestine, that they come up with boundary maps within a three month time-line imposed by the Quatet. Both agreed. In the past, these types of demands were made behind-the-scenes and no transparency or public accountability.
Finally, in her new book former Secretary of State Condi Rice admits surprise that the Obama Administration did not follow-up on the significant progress she, former Israeli PM Olmert, and PA President Abbas made in resolving some of the thorniest issues of peace in the last months of the Olmert Administratioin. Instead, the Obama Administration chose to ignore the past and begin at zero.
This was an unforgivable strategic error on the part of the Obama Administration. The Olmert/Rice/Abbas negotiations, and what they agreed to, is well-known in Israeli political circles. Obama could have insisted that negotiations under his leadership start from the Olmert/Rice base. He didn’t, and now the world sees Israel as a state unwilling to engage peace as attempted by former PMs Barak and Olmert. Instead, Israel is seen as a ‘refusnik’ pariah state unwilling to accept legitimate interests on the part of Palestinian and unable to compromise.
Norman Orstein, founder of the American Enterprise Institute and a Congressional scholar writes with Tomas Mann in The New Republic. Ornstein is one of the clearest thinkers around:
In his continuing, illusive quest for the Grand Bargain, New York Times columnist David Brooks to President Obama: Drop the angry and divisive populist talk; link your reelection to the Congressional supercommittee to tackle the deficit; lower the ideological temperature. Political independents now recoil from big government, Brooks argues, so Obama should be blurring, not highlighting, the differences between the two parties over the role of government.
Obama should say thanks, but no thanks for the advice. Based as it is on a series of tired and false assumptions, this strategy would doom whatever chance Obama has of winning reelection
Obama should likewise know by now that working with a supercommittee whose Republican members are under orders from their House and Senate leaders to oppose all revenue increases is a fool’s errand. And imagining that a substantial center in the American public will respond positively to such an approach is pure fantasy. What sense does it make for Obama embrace an agenda without any support on the other side of the aisle, and make nice to a party whose sole objective is to deny him reelection.
In other words, highlighting differences with Republicans is essential to a national consensus – or Obama winning reelection.
The includes a stunning quote from Douglass Elmendorf, head of the Congressional Budget Office:
In his testimony Wednesday, Elmendorf pointed out that discretionary funding for 2011 includes $712 billion in defense spending and $566 billion for nondefense items, including education, energy, environment, and veterans’ benefits.
One point of discussion has been the military’s operation and maintenance budget (part of discretionary spending), which includes the wars winding down in and . The extent to which reducing those wars can be included as part of deficit reduction over the next decade is a matter of some dispute. Coincidentally, the amount of budget authority for US operations in Iraq and Afghanistan since the terrorist attacks of 2001 has totaled $1.2 trillion – the same amount that lawmakers are now trying to cut over the next 10 years. (emphasis added)
It might not be so coincidental. The Bush Administration never put the costs of the two wars in any of its budgets. Obama thought they should be included, and it is those wars that have made the deficit balloon to the extent it has over the last 10 years.
Who cares about who touched whose shoulder in GOP debates? Or who stumbled with answers this time? What makes 89% of the American public not trust that the government will do the right thing are scams like the one Bush pulled off by not accounting for the cost of the Afghan and Iraq wars. This has been known for some time. Maybe it will now get the attention it deserves.
The outright rejection by House GOP members of a Democratic plan designed to get as close to a Republican proposal as possible, including a spending cut/revenue ratio of 6:1 means that the House GOP has no intention of negotiating with anyone but themselves.
By refusing to consider any tax/revenue increases in any budget reduction package, the GOP is setting the public up for mandatory and brutal across-the-board cuts in discretionary spending including $712 billion in defense spending and $566 billion in non-defense spending such as education, veterans health benefits, energy, the environment, and a number of social programs serving the poor and middle class.
Who are these people representing?
I know not me. In the latest NYT/CBS poll, 7 of 10 people think the House GOP budget proposals benefit the rich. Two-thirds believe the rich should be taxed more; the same number believe corporations should not be given tax breaks.
Congress included more cuts in defense spending if automatic cuts are triggered purposefully, figuring cuts that size in the military would act as incentive for the 12 Congress members in the Super Committee to negotiate a plan to present to the full House and Senate.
But the real zinger is the quote I’m including in my next post….
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