Tag Archives: Capitol Hill

Boehner wants to keep one hostage, briefly let the other go

                                                                               Associated Press

The Maddow Blog

Have you looked at the major Wall Street indexes this morning? As I type, the Dow Jones Industrial Average is up over 200 points, and as a matter of percentage, the S&P and Nasdaq indexes are doing even better. After weeks in which stocks were on a downward trend, what caused the sudden spike?

Wall Street is now under the impression that congressional Republicans are not going to use the debt ceiling to crash the economy on purpose. This leads to a variety of questions, not the least of which is whether Wall Street’s exuberance is rational.

It may not be. Jane Timm reports from Capitol Hill:

On Thursday, House Speaker John Boehner proposed a short-term debt ceiling increase — if President Obama will negotiate on opening the government.

That plan may be presented to Obama this afternoon, when a delegation of Republican negotiators will meet at the White House.

And this is where things start to get messy.

We talked earlier about the subtle shifts in the Republicans’ posture, as it slowly dawns on them that they’re losing the public; they won’t achieve their goals through extortion; and they need to find a way out of the trap they set and then promptly fell into.

So, Boehner and his team came up with a plan. They’ll let the government shutdown continue, but raise the debt ceiling for six weeks. In exchange for not crashing the economy on purpose, Democrats will have to agree to participate in budget negotiations.

Will Republicans agree to let the government reopen during the budget talks? No.

Will Republicans take the prospect of a debt-ceiling crisis off the table? No.

Is there any chance in the world Democrats will consider this a credible solution? No.

Indeed, it’s already been rejected.

The White House indicated that while the president might sign a short-term bill to avert default, it rejected the proposal as insufficient to begin negotiations over his health care law or further long-term deficit reductions because the plan does not address the measure passed by the Senate to finance and reopen the government.

“The president has made clear that he will not pay a ransom for Congress doing its job and paying our bills,” said a White House official, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

The Democratic appeal to Republicans can basically be summarized in a few words: Just do your job. The government needs to be funded, so fund it — without strings attached or a series of demands. The debt ceiling needs to be raised, so raise it — without demanding treats or taking hostages. At that point, the parties can enter negotiations on just about anything and everything.

But the GOP’s new “offer” is predicated on the same assumptions as the other “offers”: Republicans won’t talk unless the threat of deliberate harm hangs over the discussion. It’s effectively become the GOP’s prerequisite to every process: only plans involving hostages will be considered.

Indeed, why raise the debt ceiling for just six weeks? Either Republicans are prepared to hurt Americans on purpose or they’re not. This is either a threat or it isn’t. Boehner is willing to put the pin back in the grenade, but he wants Democrats to know he’s prepared to pull it again around Thanksgiving?

I suppose it’s evidence of some modicum of progress that GOP officials are looking for a new way out of this mess, but this new “plan” is hardly any more credible than the others.

I wish I could share in Wall Street’s excitement, but I don’t.

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Yes, Sequestration Is Actually Bad

The Daily Beast

Pundits said President Obama was crying wolf on sequestration. Turns out the wolf is real, says former Obama speechwriter Jon Favreau in his debut Daily Beast column.

From the outset, Washington never treated the sequester with the seriousness it deserves. And really, who would have expected otherwise? The word is a verb being used as a noun to describe $85 billion in defense and domestic discretionary cuts to the federal budget. I almost fell asleep just writing that sentence.

Federal Employees Protest Cuts Related to Sequestration

Federal Employees Protest Cuts Related to Sequestration

Much of the political press lost interest in covering the substance of policy debates late last century, so it wasn’t too surprising that by February, some reporters were bitterly tweeting about how particularly boring they found this sequester business. The Pack quickly turned its attention elsewhere, collectively freaking out over something Bob Woodward said about something Gene Sperling said about something Bob Woodward wrote in a book that was published more than a year ago, which gave Bob Woodward the generous helping of media attention he craved all along. Good for him!

 

Meanwhile, Republican leaders in Congress publicly and repeatedly rejected any budget deal that included even a dime more in taxes from anyone, ever, for as long as we all shall live, an obviously flexible position that many pundits believed could be easily changed with just one more invite to a White House mixer. But alas, the invite never came, for if there’s one thing a president who earned more votes than any Democrat in history can’t stomach, it’s people.

On March 1, the day sequestration took effect, President Obama addressed the nation: “Now, what’s important to understand is that not everyone will feel the pain of these cuts right away. The pain, though, will be real.” This led patient political observers at The Washington Post and Politico to wait five long days before penning two pieces with nearly identical headlines: “Did President Obama cry wolf on the sequester?” and “Now Dems worry: Did President Obama cry wolf?” Evidence for the shiny, new narrative came directly from the Post’s own fact checker, who unleashed a full arsenal of Pinocchios on the president for claiming that sequestration would lead to a cut in pay for Capitol Hill janitors. The truth? The president should have said it would lead to a cut in overtime for Capitol Hill janitors, causing them to … earn less pay. Honestly, how does the man even sleep at night?

One month and 5 billion cable hits on White House tours later, a flurry of great reporting is allowing us to answer for ourselves the question of whether President Obama has “cried wolf.” If we want, we can ask the Americans who are losing their jobs at military bases in Tennessee, Illinois, and Virginia. We can ask the health-care employees facing layoffs in New York, or the contractors in Oklahoma, or the teachers in Iowa, or the workers cleaning up nuclear waste in Washington. We can ask the children in Ohio and Pennsylvania who will no longer receive the early education that Head Start provides. We can ask the scientists and researchers at Duke and the University of Florida who must end their pursuit of discoveries that could change or save lives. We can ask the hungry families in Utah who can no longer rely on the local food pantry, the disabled tenants in California who will lose their housing vouchers, the elderly cancer patients in South Carolina who are being denied their chemotherapy treatment, or the 39-year-old Army veteran in Marylandwho believes the only way to survive his pay cut is with another combat deployment.

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Obama Circumventing Republican Leaders To Revive Sequester Talks

09020_graham_barr

Well, I say Bravo!  Nothing wrong with trying something different.  GOP “leaders” are hog-tied by the Tea Party.  Good luck Mr. President!

Alan Colmes’ Liberaland

With the Republican leadership not engaging with the president, Obama is reaching out to a dozen Republicans to revive talks.

Mr. Obama has invited about a dozen Republican senators out to dinner on Wednesday night, after speaking with several of them by phone in recent days, according to people familiar with the invitation. And next week, according to those people and others who did not want to be identified, he will make a rare foray to Capitol Hill to meet separately with the Republican and Democratic caucuses in both the Democratic-controlled Senate and the Republican-controlled House.

Since the weekend, the president has called at least a half-dozen Republican lawmakers, mostly senators, in a bid to revive talks toward a long-term deficit-reduction agreement and to press for action on other issues, including immigration, gun safety and climate measures.

“Maybe because of sequestration and frustration with the public, the time is right to act, and what I see from the president is probably the most encouraging engagement on a big issue since the early days of his presidency,” said Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, who received a call from Mr. Obama on Tuesday.

Speaking of the deficit reduction impasse, Mr. Graham added, “He wants to do the big deal.”

Mr. Obama’s call to Mr. Graham followed other conversations with Senators Susan Collins of Maine, Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, Rob Portman of Ohio and Bob Corker of Tennessee, all Republicans. Mr. Corker called his conversation with the president “constructive.”

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The GOP’s stupid chain: From GOP staffer, to Breitbart, to Rand Paul

Screenshot of Breitbart story on Hagel’s supposed ties to fictional Hamas group.

No words…

Daily Kos

Posted 2-20-2003

As we found out earlier today, the GOP belief that Chuck Hagel had been on the payroll of an organization called “Friends of Hamas” crashed and burned when it turned out to be a bad joke that conservative morons took seriously.

Like their unshakable belief in “skewed polls”, Republicans consistently cling to any craziness that validates their world view. And like their unskewed election results shocker, they don’t appear ready to learn from their mistakes. They would much rather whine instead.

Opponents of Secretary of Defense nominee Chuck Hagel are fuming in the aftermath of sloppy work by their allies that has backfired and risks turning their cause into a joke.The bumble: A thinly sourced claim that Hagel had taken money from a heretofore unheard of group called “Friends of Hamas,” floated by the conservative website Breitbart.com, and sourced to Capitol Hill.

“This sort of thing drives me crazy because it undermines legitimate concerns about Sen. Hagel, his views and financial associations,” said a Senate Republican aide involved with the anti-Hagel efforts. “In this business we deal in facts or the pursuit of facts and making up groups like the Friends of Hamas distracts us from legitimate questions as to what private foreign foundations and wealthy foreign individuals are contributing to the Atlantic Council or investing in Sen. Hagel’s firms.”

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! This Republican staffer thinks Republicans “deal in facts”, when they gave up that ghost decades ago. Their entire campaign against Hagel has been nothing but one round of bullshit after another. Or put another way, there hasn’t been a single “legitimate concern” floated against Hagel. The fact that one of their most fantastic conspiracy theories was exposed as (literally) a big joke only underscores how little they have against Hagel.

I mean, think about this: Some random GOPer staffer hears some random thing about “Friends of Hamas”, and rather than research it (and discover that no such organization actually exists), he runs to Breitbart, which then runs it uncritically, again refusing to do any research.

Now, conservatives should know better than to trust anything Breitbart says, because, you know, they’re Breitbart. They don’t research or check facts (an actual fact). But no, the rest of conservative media then uncritically runs that ridiculous story. And not just their fringy outlets, but their supposedly respectable ones like the National Review and Lou Dobbs at Fox Business.

But the chain of stupid doesn’t end with their bubble-creating media, as a U.S. SENATOR (Rand Paul!) then runs with the story, because like the rest of the conservative movement, he also lacks a single person able to check a fact.

Can’t blame them, though. Facts do have a well-known liberal bias. If Republicans actually got around to checking theirs, they would be left with nothing else to work with. Which is why Breitbart continues to cling to its story.

“Our Senate source denies that Friedman is the source of this information,” [Breitbart writer Ben] Shapiro wrote in a post that also referred to Friedman as a “hack.” “‘I have received this information from three separate sources, none of whom was Friedman,’ the source said.”

 

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11 Things Wrong With Congress

U.S. News & World Report

Capitol Hole

America needs to rally. Jobs are scarce, incomes are falling, and prosperity seems to be slipping away. Congress could help, but instead of bold new bipartisan ideas, the nation’s legislators have done little lately except argue. Here’s why Congress is so out-of-touch.

Too Many Rich People

About one percent of all Americans are millionaires, but roughly 46 percent of those serving in Congress are. There’s nothing wrong with being rich. But there is a problem when the people creating tax and economic policy fail to understand the financial stress a typical family faces.

Automatic Pay Raises

Every year, members of Congress get an automatic cost-of-living increase in their pay, which is now $174,000 per year—about 3.4 times as much as the average worker earns. For the last two years, Congress has voted to forego its annual raise. But even flat pay would be a luxury to millions who have endured pay cuts, been relegated to part-time status or lost their jobs.

Gold-Plated Benefits

Members of Congress are eligible for two types of retirement plans and a retirement healthcare plan that in nearly every way are more generous than benefits typically offered to private-sector workers. One research group estimates that fringe benefits alone are worth about $82,000 per year to a federal legislator.

Free Parking

In addition to generous pay and gilded benefits, members of Congress enjoy a long list of conveniences and other perks, including free parking at their workplace on Capitol Hill, and at priority lots at Washington, D.C.’s two airports. They’re special, you see.

Earmarks

Congress has temporarily banned these pet spending projects, which evade ordinary budgeting procedures and often amount to home-district favors for donors or supporters. But some lawmakers want them back. The test will come in 2013, when the next Congress will either extend the ban or revoke it and start delivering overdue favors.

Speeches to Nobody

Some of those Congressional speeches broadcast on cable are given before an empty chamber in the Capitol, simply because politicians know they might get on TV. Expanded TV coverage of Congress has been a welcome bit of sunshine, but it also encourages posturing and sensationalism.

A Lack of Competition

In the private sector, competition punishes the obsolete and rewards those who deliver. Congress, however, holds a monopoly on legislating, so it still operates by ancient procedures and dallies indefinitely on urgent matters. There’s no measure of effectiveness for the body as a whole, and some members insist that gridlock—a euphemism for accomplishing nothing—is in the nation’s interest.

No Penalty for Ignorance

Members of Congress sometimes reveal a dangerous degree of ignorance on vitally important issues they have considerable power to regulate. This year, for instance, the science journal Nature said a House committee had “entered the intellectual wilderness” on climate science, and The Economist called Republican debt-ceiling negotiators “economically illiterate.”

Lobbyists

For every member of Congress, there are about 22 registered lobbyists who donate money, throw fundraisers and manipulate legislation to the benefit of corporations and interest groups. Some of the most powerful lobbyists are former members of Congress, who form a “shadow Congress” more influential than pressure from voters.

The Media

Journalists, bloggers, and pundits jump on every argumentative word in Washington, while underreporting key issues likeunemployment and poverty that matter more to real people. This makes politicians even more narcissistic and combative, since they know they’ll generate coverage if they say something controversial.

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Republicans’ new foe: Barack Obama, guerrilla warrior

Gone is the meek newbie who wanted nothing more than to be conciliatory so that he could get things done when dealing with the folks on Capitol Hill.

The days of  cave-ins and dashed dreams of real hope and change no longer exist.

A new term is approaching  and the President of the United States intends to show Congress that he’s willing to do a little give and take to make things happen, but not like it was in the last four years.  The next four years will be different…

Fortune

Barack Obama handily won the November election. He cleaned the GOP’s clock in last week’s fiscal-cliff deal, seizing control of a supposedly Republican-controlled House. Now congressional Republicans, with a co-joined L on their foreheads and still leaking public support, can look forward to being out-maneuvered in an unwelcome string of upcoming legislative brawls.

As President Obama approaches his second inaugural, one thing has become clear: The 2008 peacemaker politician has emerged as a skilled guerrilla warrior. If Bill Clinton’s tactical legacy was disarming his opponents by stealing their ideas — welfare reform, “personal responsibility,” cutting spending — Obama’s may be his skill at dividing to conquer his Republican foes.

Conservatives were once the reigning champs of honing in and exploiting an opponent’s weakness. Under this President, Lee Atwater’s Sun-Tzu quoting descendants have met their match.

Republicans are gamely trying to spin the fiscal cliff deal as a victory — 99% of the Bush tax cuts enshrined as permanent! But here’s what Obama got: A pass on entitlement reform (which now recedes to the “unlikely” category even as debt-to-GDP ratios threaten the economy); the public triumph of his election-year narrative that taxes are about “fairness” not economic growth; and a chance to divide Republican ranks between those fearful of being blamed for economic chaos and those fearful of losing conservative supporters.

Continue reading here…

 

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Allen West Rejects Offer To Restart Political Career In Georgia: ‘I’m Not An NFL Free Agent’

Allen West Georgia

What an arrogant piece of work.  I, for one am glad he didn’t take the offer.  We have enough arrogant politicians in Georgia and we surely don’t need this one.

The Huffington Post

Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.) on Wednesday turned down an offer from Georgia’s Republican Party chairwoman, Sue Everhart, who earlier this week urged the congressman to run for office in her state at some point in the future, in the face of his apparent electoral loss.

“No,” West told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution when asked if he’d consider Everhart’s offer. “Look, let me tell you something. I have moved my wife around for 20-some-odd years, being in the military, and she was also the daughter of a career military guy. When I retired, she chose Florida. That’s where my daughter’s in school, in college, my youngest daughter’s in high school. That’s our home. It’s a very nice thing, but I’m not an NFL free agent.”

West is currently still clinging to the hope that his loss to Democrat Patrick Murphy earlier this month is not concrete, despite the fact that Florida officials have certified the result.

While he and other top Republicans continue to explore possibilities for recounting votes, in hopes of somehow producing a victory, Everhart suggested on Monday thatWest should move back to his home state of Georgia if the final outcome doesn’t go his way.

“I would be glad to have him come back to Georgia and at some point run here,” Everhart told the Journal-Constitution. “I would certainly try to help him because he has done his job. The way he ran his race didn’t in any way interfere with the job he did. He ran as a Republican, a conservative Republican.”

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus and Florida GOP Chairman Lenny Curry have both called for a full recount of the West-Murphy contest. Murphy is meanwhile attending freshman orientation events on Capitol Hill, a move that West’s campaign has criticized as “premature.”

 

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BREAKING: Congress Passes a Bill

Mother Jones

Exciting news! Congress passed a bill!

On a broad bipartisan vote of 78 to 20, the Senate voted Tuesday to extend the life of the U.S. Export-Import Bank and expand its authority to make loans to U.S. exporters.

In the “Schoolhouse Rock” version of how Capitol Hill works, this is what Congress does all the time — passes legislation. But it made for big news on this Capitol Hill, where protracted partisan warfare has meant that lately the story has more often been about votes forced by one party or the other to indignantly demonstrate the other’s opposition.

Amid the gridlock, it had been nearly six weeks since the last time Congress completed this seemingly routine task.

The rest of the piece dithers about whether this means (a) garden-variety legislation isn’t quite totally impossible yet, or (b) it just goes to show that big corporations can still get what they want, even if nobody else can. I’ll guess (b).

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LET ‘EM DROWN

Why are Republicans so clueless when it comes to anyone outside of their rich folks’ club bubble?

The Huffington Post

John Boehner: Time For Government To Stop Helping Homeowners

House Speaker John Boehner thinks it’s about time for the government to stop trying to aid people with underwater mortgages.

Responding to a plan President Barack Obama  unveiled Wednesday to help homeowners refinance, Boehner scoffed at the idea and then suggested government should get out of the way of  increasing foreclosures and falling prices.

“One more time? We’ve done this. We’ve done this at least four times where there’s a new government program to help homeowners who have trouble with their mortgages,” the Ohio Republican told reporters on Capitol Hill.

“None of these programs have worked. I don’t know why anyone would think that this next idea is going to work,” Boehner continued. “All it does is delay the clearing of the market. As soon as the market clears and we understand where the prices really are — [that] will be the most important thing we can do in order to improve home values around the country.”

Obama’s plan would require legislation from Congress to permit the Federal Housing Administration to help certain homeowners — specifically, those who are underwater but current in their payments and whose loans are not held by the FHA, Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac — to obtain new loans at better interest rates, saving $3,000 a year on average. A similar plan already aids people whose mortgages are held by one of those government-backed entities, but other homeowners usually cannot get a bank to refinance their loans.

While the administration’s loan modification effort so far have fallen far short of its goals — reaching fewer than 1 million homeowners when it aimed for 4 million with the last initiative — Shaun Donovan, secretary of housing and urban development, argued Wednesday that doing more is vital.

“Economists on all sides of the political spectrum have recognized that a broad-scale refinancing effort is one of the most important things that we can do, not only for families and for the housing market, but also for the economy more broadly,” Donovan said at a White House briefing.

Continue reading…

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Gabrielle Giffords Returns To Congress To Vote On Debt Ceiling Deal (PHOTO)

When I saw Mrs. Giffords on my television screen inside the House chambers, I was delighted!  I’m not sure how many people knew she would be there to vote, but it was a very pleasant surprise to a very unpleasant “compromise” procedure…

Huffington Post

Seven months after she was shot in the head by a gunman in Tucson, Arizona, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) made a surprise and emotional return to the House floor on Monday, casting a vote in favor of a bill to raise the nation’s debt ceiling.

Giffords entered the chamber to sustained, standing applause, shaking hands with colleagues whom she had not seen since that January day. Her vote, a sideshow to the far more important and compelling personal drama, was in favor of the bill, which passed through the chamber by a margin of 269 to 161.

“I have closely followed the debate over our debt ceiling and have been deeply disappointed at what’s going on in Washington,” Giffords said, in a statement from her office. “After weeks of failed debate in Washington, I was pleased to see a solution to this crisis emerge. I strongly believe that crossing the aisle for the good of the American people is more important than party politics. I had to be here for this vote. I could not take the chance that my absence could crash our economy.”

Giffords’ office tweeted word of her return to Washington after the vote had begun. And as she showed up on the floor — smiling and with her hair cut short — the attention of lawmakers drifted from the vote tally to her presence. Her office, in a statement, noted that in December 2009 and again in February 2010, she had objected to raising the nation’s debt limit. This vote, the statement added, “was substantially different, with the strength of the U.S. economy hanging in the balance.”

After the vote was cast, Giffords received multiple additional rounds of applause, as House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Cali.) called her “the personification of courage.”

“Her presence here in the chamber as well as her service throughout her career in Congress, brings honor to this chamber,” Pelosi said. “Thank you, Gabby.”

Below, a picture of the congresswoman on Capitol Hill from HuffPost’s Jen Bendery:

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