Tag Archives: Congress

President Obama Slams Congress As ‘Least Productive’ in HIstory

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AP Photo / Carolyn Kaster

We all know this, but now it will be recorded in the history books…

TPM LiveWire

“We have to have a Congress that works — not one that is — march in lockstep, not one that agrees with every proposal I put forward, but a Congress that is serious about governance and is thinking about the next generation and not just the next election,” Obama told roughly 60 guests at a Democratic fundraiser in Houston, according to a transcript of his remarks.

The President expressed frustration that Senate Republicans uniformly blocked debate on the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would have made it easier for a woman to sue an employer if she was paid less than a male colleague for the same work. He made reference to former Michigan Secretary of State Terry Lynn Land (R), a candidate for U.S. Senate, who recently said that women would rather have flexibility in their jobs than an equal salary.

“I think there was a candidate for the Senate, a Republican in Michigan, who voiced the opinion that women make other choices,” he said, according to the transcript of his remarks. “And I think that’s certainly true; every individual makes other choices. Very rarely do you meet people who make the choice to be paid less for doing the same job.”

On immigration reform, Obama criticized the House for holding up a vote on the issue after the Senate already tackled it with bipartisan support.

“It’s not because it doesn’t make sense,” he said. “It’s not because there’s some serious dispute or technical difference in terms of policy. It has to do with politics. We’ve got to stop that.”

The President also circled back to his midterm rallying cry, warning donors that they need to get out the Democratic vote in the face of an influx of money from super PACs and increased efforts to “discourage people from voting.”

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No, Barack Obama Isn’t a Lame Duck (Yet)

Image Associated Press

The Wire

Wall Street Journal columnist Neil King ponders a question that seems to have begun on or around January 21, 2013: Is President Obama a lame duck? The answer, as with all questions involving gauzy terms, is: depends on what you consider a lame duck.

King doesn’t really offer an answer to the question he poses, calling the current situation in D.C. “lame duckish.” “An eerie calm has fallen over the nation’s capital,” he writes, “and it feels like a premature case of the lame duck.” In part, he suggests, it’s because no one expects anything to get done, and even Obama’s insistence that he’ll act unilaterally seems like so much wing-flapping.

It seems more than a little premature to declare Obama a lame duck. It seems that way, anyway.

Prior to the 20th Amendment, ratified in 1933, lame duck sessions were inevitable and lengthy. Congresses generally didn’t convene until the December a year after their election, and the old Congress — including people who’d already lost their elections — would serve in the interim. As University of Notre Dame professor John Copeland Nagle explained to NPR in 2010, those lame duck politicians would pass legislation without having to worry about the consequences.

After the 20th Amendment, which moved new sessions up to January, lame duck sessions of Congress still occurred, but with less regularity. (As Nagle notes, the impeachment of President Clinton occurred in one such session.) So the term “lame duck” has been stretched backward, now being applied more broadly to legislators that have lost reelection — including a primary — or who have declared that they will not seek reelection.

 QuantcastWhat’s happening to Obama is slightly different. The latter lame duck definition above — someone who can’t seek a new term — has melded with our relatively new perpetual presidential campaign cycle. In other words, we already feel to some extent as though the 2016 campaign has begun (admittedly thanks to the enthusiasm of members of the media like ourselves), and so it is almost as though Obama is already the bystander he will be in December of 2016.

To King’s point, the stasis on Capitol Hill contributes to that sense. If Obama isn’t doing anything, if Congress isn’t getting anything done, it’s almost as though everyone is just waiting for the new Congress.  This isn’t unusual in an election year; already, members of Congress are thinking ahead to the Spring primaries and November general election. But the slow pace of legislative action goes back to last year, too, which was Congress’ least productive in recent history. That’s in part because of a divided Congress, in which the Republican House and Democratic Senate fail to agree on legislation. And it’s in part thanks to a deliberate effort by House Republicans to keep the gears of Congress moving slowly, which culminated in the October 2013 shutdown. And that slow legislative pace makes indulgence in 2016 speculation one of the few stories in town.

But stasis and lame-duckishness are not the same thing. Something will happen on Capitol Hill over the short- to medium-term that will make clear that neither Obama nor Congress are lame ducks, and that this is just a winter lull. Otherwise, everyone who wins an election but has to face retirement or a reelection in the future becomes something of a lame duck — meaning everyone elected to office is at all times seen as a temporary placeholder. And that’s not a particularly helpful way to look at Congress.

H/t: DB

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Reporters Rank Very Low in Gallup Honesty/Ethics Poll, Slightly Ahead of Congress

Mediaite

Americans don’t trust reporters much more than they trust Congress.

Surprise surprise: people hate the media and their elected officials. That’s one of the key takeaways froma new Gallup poll on certain professions and how much people associate them with honesty and ethics. And reporters rank very low on the list, slightly above Congress and slightly below bankers.

Atop the list are people in the medical profession, doctors, and police officers, but the majority of jobs on the list have less than of respondents saying they’re honest or favorable.

In the single-digits: car salespeople (9 percent), members of Congress (8 percent), and lobbyists (6 percent). Gallup notes that nurses have topped the list every year (save for one) since 1999.

20 percent of respondents had a favorable view of TV reporters, while 21 percent said the same about newspaper reporters. It should be noted these numbers have been relatively constant in the history of the poll since 1998.

Another key revelation from the poll is that for the first time, less than 50 percent of people believe that the clergy is both honest and ethical.

You can read the full poll results here [PDF].

[photo via Shutterstock]

 

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Stewart Praises Budget Deal: Hallelujah! A Break From All the ‘Congressional F*ckery!

Mediaite

It’s been so long since Congress actually compromised on something, Jon Stewart seemed almost giddy Wednesday night that there’s a budget deal that could very well pass. Stewart even played “Hallelujah” in celebration, though quite frankly, absolutely no one on either side is really happy about this.

Stewart fully expected to do another cursory look at “today’s congressional f*ckery” but was legitimately surprised at the “witchcraft” that must have led to this deal. He mocked all the piling on the deal prior to reading what was actually in it, and John Oliver stridently declares the deal is so good, it “ranks up there with the Civil Rights Act.”

But let’s face it, this isn’t a sexy story, so in the second segment of the show, Jason Jones tried to make it more like Die Hard, but buzzkills like NBC’s Chuck Todd ruined all the fun for him.

Watch the first segment below, via Comedy Central:

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Least Productive Congress EVER – House Only Working 8 More Days This Year

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House Majority Leader Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci) | AP

The Huffington Post

Working during the holidays sucks. Luckily for members of the U.S. House of Representatives, they don’t have that much of it before the new year begins.

The House is only scheduled to work eight days between now and January 7, when members return for the second session of the 113th Congress.

The House had 239 days off scheduled during 2013, and they have even more off days scheduled for next year.

The 2014 calendar for the House, released in October by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), shows members will only work only 113 days. That’s down from 2013, when House lawmakers were scheduled to meet for 126 days. Only 107 days were scheduled in 2012.

As HuffPost reported in July, the 113th Congress is on pace to be the least productivein modern history. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has been defensive of that report.

“We should not be judged on how many new laws we create,” Boehner told CBS News’ Bob Schieffer in July. “We ought to be judged on how many laws we repeal. We’ve got more laws than the administration could ever enforce.”

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A heckler yelled at Obama. Here’s what happened next…

US President Barack Obama arrives to speak on immigration reform in San Francisco, Nov. 25, 2013.

US President Barack Obama arrives to speak on immigration reform in San Francisco, Nov. 25, 2013. | JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

At some point Congress will wake up and do it’s job.  I suspect it won’t be until we vote out the slackers (from both parties) in 2014….

MSNBC

Arguing “there’s no reason we shouldn’t get immigration reform done right now,” President Obama demanded on Monday for the umpteenth time that Congress pass his top legislative priority already.

So you can understand if he was a bit annoyed when, towards the end of his speech in San Francisco’s Chinatown, pro-immigration activists started heckling.

“Mr. President, please use your executive order to halt deportations for all 11.5 million undocumented immigrants in this country right now!” one protester yelled. As Obama tried to respond, the shouting continued: “You have a power to stop deportation for all undocumented immigrants in this country!”

“Actually I don’t,” Obama replied. “And that’s why we’re here.”

A month earlier, Senator Ted Cruz was interrupted by anti-deportation activists, whom he nonsensically accused of being “President Obama’s paid political operatives,” during a speech to a conservative conference. Immigration protesters have shadowed administration officials for years, popping up at Congressional hearings to target Janet Napolitano, who was in the audience for today’s speech, and even occupying Obama’s campaign offices in 2012.

These protesters are confronting a fundamental contradiction in Obama’s record: he’s made immigration reform his top second-term priority even as his administration has presided over record deportations.

After Senate Republicans filibustered the DREAM Act, which would grant legal status to young undocumented immigrants, activists slowly convinced Obama to halt deportations for undocumented youth until Congress came around. Now they’re demanding he do the same for the broader unauthorized immigrant community, or at the very least, for their parents and siblings who still face the threat of removal every day. After all, if you’re fighting to get them on a path to citizenship, why would you want to kick them out? These arguments are likely to get louder if immigration reform dies in the House.

The president, however, has argued that such a sweeping move would require a change to the law. He repeated the claim on Monday.

“What you need to know, when I’m speaking as President of the United States and I come to this community, is that if, in fact, I could solve all these problems without passing laws in Congress, then I would do so,” he said Monday. “But we’re also a nation of laws. That’s part of our tradition.  And so the easy way out is to try to yell and pretend like I can do something by violating our laws.”

Politically, Republicans don’t have an obvious way to exploit these tensions, but they are trying.

“Democrats are facing credibility problems, whether it is from Obamacare failures or massive deportations, that’s why you see the president’s approval ratings suffer,” Izzy Santa, who handles Hispanic outreach for the Republican National Committee, told MSNBC. “The fact is that Republicans continue to work on immigration reform, which is more than Democrats ever did when they controlled the White House and Congress.”

The RNC, which has backed efforts to pass immigration reform, may be able to tweak Obama a little over deportations. But the vast majority of Republicans in Congress are on record demanding even more aggressive deportations. The only House vote Republican leaders have allowed on the topic this year was an amendment by anti-immigration firebrand Steve King calling on the White House to deport DREAMers. It passed with almost unanimous Republican support.

It’s true Democrats didn’t pass immigration reform in Obama’s first two years, when Democrats briefly had 60 votes in the Senate. But for most of that session they were stuck at 59 votes and the only Republican willing to negotiate with them, Senator Lindsey Graham, backed out in a procedural dispute. Mitt Romney tried the exact same “Where was Obama?” argument with Latino voters in 2012, even as he advocated “self-deportation” in debates. It didn’t work.

Obama is doing his best to convince protesters which party to blame if reform collapses once again.

“Right now it’s up to Republicans in the House to decide if we can move forward as a country on this bill,” Obama said. “If they don’t want to see it happen, they’ve got to explain why.”

House Republican leaders have offered a variety of excuses lately as to why they haven’t come up with an immigration plan of their own. The schedule’s too tight, or they’re mad at the White House over health care, or Obama is secretly trying to kill immigration reform with unrealistic demands so Democrats win Latino voters.

The president’s goal this month has been to box them in by saying “yes” to their demands whenever possible. Speaker John Boehner doesn’t like the Senate’s bill? Fine, you can pass a bunch of smaller bills instead. They say I’m demonizing Republicans to scare them away from a bill? Well, I think the Speaker is just swell!

“The good news is, just this past week Speaker Boehner said that he is ‘hopeful we can make progress’ on immigration reform,” Obama said. “And that is good news. I believe the Speaker is sincere.  I think he genuinely wants to get it done.  And that’s something we should be thankful for this week.”

While Obama faces his own pressures, his refusal to back away from talks puts the onus on Boehner to prove his party can deal with the deportation issue at all. And right now there’s no consensus within the party as to whether the country should let any  undocumented immigrants remain, let alone get on a path to citizenship. Until they can start naming some demands, they’re for self-deportation by default.

Watch Obama and the hecklers:

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Taegan Goodard’s Political Links – 11-12-2013

This photo Aug. 1, 2013 photo, courtesy of Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., shows from left, Inhofe’s grandson Cole Inhofe, Sen. Inhofe and Inhofe’s son Perry Inhofe in Oshkosh, Wis. Dr. Perry Inhofe, was killed in a weekend plane crash in northeast Oklahoma. Photo: Ryan Jackson, AP

Political Wire

Sen. Inhofe’s son killed in plane crash [Politico] 11/12/2013 6:19:38 PM 
The son of Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) has died in a plane crash, a person close to Inhofe and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s …

Medicaid signups an early Obamacare bright spot [Washington Post] 11/12/2013 4:47:47 AM
Study: 444,000 people in 10 states have enrolled already, and 15 other states are also expanding their Medicaid programs under …

10 Things Members and Staff Should Know About Open Enrollment [Wall Street Journal] 11/12/2013 4:30:00 AM
Open enrollment season for members of Congress and designated staff started quietly Monday, coinciding with a federal holiday …

NBC poll: Christie faces divided GOP, trails Clinton in hypothetical ’16 race [NBC News] 11/12/2013 3:10:29 AM
If New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie runs for president in 2016, he would likely face the dual challenges of uniting a fractured …

Done: Congress seems to be winding down [CBS News] 11/11/2013 11:50:54 PM
Expectations are that the last weeks of 2013 will not produce any legislative breakthroughs.

A Face-Off Outside Dallas in the Escalating Battle Over Texas’ Gun Culture [Reuters]11/11/2013 11:48:22 PM
A meeting of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America was interrupted by a peaceful protest by armed members of Open Carry …

Listening Post: After Near Miss on Iran, Kerry Says Diplomacy Is Still the Right Path [Reuters] 11/11/2013 11:19:33 PM
As the prospect of a nuclear deal with Iran becomes more real, Secretary of State John Kerry is having to fend off those who …

Official at Health Site Says He Didn’t Know of Potential Risk [Reuters] 11/11/2013 11:18:28 PM
The chief digital architect for the federal health insurance marketplace, Henry Chao, told congressional investigators that he …

Back and Forth in Undecided Virginia Attorney General Race [Reuters] 11/11/2013 10:52:07 PM
Mark R. Herring, the Democrat, edged ahead of Mark D. Obenshain, the Republican, on Monday.

Fewer than 50,000 sign up on Obamacare website, media report suggests [CNN]11/11/2013 9:02:02 PM 
It appears fewer than 50,000 people successfully signed up for health coverage through the federally run Obamacare …

 

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House Reduces Workdays On 2014 Calendar After Working So Hard In 2013

house calendar 2014

WASHINGTON, DC – OCTOBER 29: House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) walks through the U.S. Capitol October 29, 2013 in Washington, DC. Majority Leader Eric Cantor, (R-VA) was headed to the weekly House Republican Conference. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images) | Getty

These guys are beyond incompetent.  It’s no wonder their poll numbers are in the tank.  The sad part is that every maneuver they make is to undermine the president’s agenda at every turn.  Shame on them…

The Huffington Post

Who banks a $174,000 annual salary and works less than a third of the year?

Members of the House of Representatives, apparently.

The 2014 calendar for the House was released Thursday by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), and shows members will only work only 113 days. That’s down from 2013, when House lawmakers were scheduled to meet for 126 days. Only 107 days were scheduled in 2012.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid called attention to the House’s sparsely populated 2013 schedule in July 2013, highlighting the fact that the House had only nine workdays scheduled for September.

HuffPost reported in July that the 113th Congress was on pace to be the least productive in history. Many House members are running for reelection in the 2014 midterm elections and will spend part of their time campaigning.

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CONGRESS SPENDS SEVERAL HOURS PRETENDING TO UNDERSTAND INTERNET – Satire

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The New Yorker – The Borowitz Report

In an impressive white-knuckle performance on live television today, members of Congress spent several hours in a hearing room pretending to understand the Internet.

Beginning this morning, members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee devoted four hours to grilling Web-site contractors about site architecture, Web traffic, software, and other I.T. concepts about which their ignorance is nearly complete.

“As members of this committee, we are supposed to have a deep understanding of the technology involved in the health-care Web site,” said Chairman Fred Upton (R-Michigan). “So it was absolutely imperative for us to fake that we do.”

For the duration of the hearings, the Web contractors offered detailed testimony about “end-to-end testing,” “enterprise identity management,” and other technical concepts to a group of elected officials who can barely use e-mail.

“I would say that, to a man, we did not understand ninety-nine per cent of that computer nonsense they were going on about,” Chairman Upton said. “To me it was a whole lot of blahbitty-blahbitty-blah. I hope it wasn’t too obvious.”

Rep. Upton said that “looking serious and nodding our heads a lot” contributed to the illusion that committee members had even scant comprehension of what was being discussed.

“At the end of the day, a lot of it came down to not asking the questions you really wanted to ask,” he said. “Like, ‘What exactly is a Web site?

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The South is holding America hostage

The South is holding America hostage

(Credit: Brandon Bourdages, Paul Wishart via Shutterstock/Salon)

Salon

When I have described the well-considered, coherent political and economic strategies of the conservative white South, as I have done herehere and here, I am sometimes been accused of being a “conspiracy theorist.” But one need not believe that white-hooded Dragons and Wizards are secretly coordinating the actions of Southern conservative politicians from a bunker underneath Stone Mountain in Georgia to believe that a number of contemporary policies — from race-to-the-bottom economic policies to voter disfranchisement and attempts to decentralize or privatize federal social insurance entitlements — serve the interests of those who promote them, who tend to be white Southern conservatives.

Just as a strategy is not a conspiracy, so it is not insanity. Ironically, American progressives, centrists and some Northern conservatives are only deluding themselves, when they insist that the kind of right-wing Southerners behind the government shutdown are “crazy.” Crazy, yes — crazy like a fox.

Another mistake is the failure to recognize that the Southern elite strategy, though bound up with white supremacy throughout history, is primarily about cheap and powerless labor, not about race. If the South and the U.S. as a whole through some magical transformation became racially homogeneous tomorrow, there is no reason to believe that the Southern business and political class would suddenly embrace a new model of political economy based on high wages, high taxes and centralized government, rather than pursue its historical model of a low-wage, low-tax, decentralized system, even though all workers, employers and investors now shared a common skin color.

So the struggle is not one to convert Southern Baptists to Darwinism or to get racists to celebrate diversity. The on-going power struggle between the local elites of the former Confederacy and their allies in other regions and the rest of the United States is not primarily about personal attitudes. It is about power and wealth.

For some time, the initiative has rested with the Southern power elite, which knows what it wants and has a plan to get it. The strategy of the conservative South, as a nation-within-a nation and in the global economy, combines an economic strategy and a political strategy.

Setting political difficulty aside, it is intellectually easy to set forth a grand national strategy that consists of coordinated federal policies to defeat the Southern Autonomy Project.

A federal living wage.  At one blow, a much higher federal minimum wage would cripple the ability of Southern states to lure companies from more generous states which supplement the too-low present federal minimum wage with higher local state or urban minimum wages.  (Strong national unions could do the same, but that is not a realistic option at present.)

Nationalization of social insurance.  Social insurance programs with both federal and state components, like Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”), allow Southern states to be stingier than many other states, creating more desperate workers who are more dependent on the mercy of employers and elite-dominated charities. Completely federalizing Medicaid (as President Ronald Reagan suggested!) and other hybrid federal-state social insurance programs would cripple the Southern Autonomy Project further.

Real voting rights.  Using the authority of the Fifteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, Congress should completely federalize voting requirements for all federal, state and local elections, making it as easy as possible for U.S. citizens to vote — over the objections of kicking and screaming neo-Confederates.

Nonpartisan redistricting.  Partisan redistricting by majorities in state legislatures should be replaced by nonpartisan redistricting commissions, as in California, New Jersey and other states.  The redistricting commissions should be truly nonpartisan, not “bipartisan” arrangements in which incumbent Republicans and incumbent Democrats cut deals to protect their safe seats from competition. (Electoral reforms like instant run-off voting and proportional representation are struggles for a more distant future).

Abolish the Senate filibuster.  The filibuster is not part of the U.S. constitution. It has been used by Southern white conservatives from the nineteenth century to the twenty-first to preserve Southern white power and economic privilege. This relic of premodern  British parliamentary politics should be abolished. Democracy means majority rule. If the Southern Right loses a battle in Congress, it can try to round up allies and win next time. It should no longer be able to paralyze the Senate, the Congress or the federal government as a whole.

Abolish the federal debt ceiling completely.  The federal debt ceiling is another institution like the filibuster which has now been ruined by being abused by Southern conservatives. Now that the Southern right is trying to turn it into a recurrent tool of hostage-taking when it loses votes in Congress, the federal debt ceiling should be abolished. The federal government should be authorized to borrow any amount necessary to fund spending appropriated or authorized by Congress, if there is any shortfall in tax revenues.

Put all these policies and perhaps others together, and you have a National Majority Rule Project capable of thwarting the Southern Autonomy Project. The best defense is a good offense.

Does saying this make me, a white Southerner, a traitor to the South? Among the beneficiaries of a National Majority Rule Project, if it succeeded, would be middle- and low-income white Southerners, whose interests have never been identical with those of the local oligarchs. Particularly among the Scots-Irish of Appalachia and the Ozarks, there have always been many Southern white populists and radicals — from the West Virginian and Kentucky Unionists of the Civil War to New Deal liberals in Texas — who have understood the need to ally ourselves with non-Southerners in national politics to defeat the local Nabobs, Bourbons and Big Mules. The true Southern patriots are those of us who want to liberate the diverse population of the South from being exploited as wage earners and from being disfranchised or manipulated as voters. Another term for the National Majority Rule Project might be the Southern Liberation Movement.

Will the initiative remain with aggressive Southern reactionaries, as their fellow Americans try to appease them or react on a case-by-case basis against a feint here or a diversion there? Or will an aroused national majority, tired of being pushed around by a selfish Southern minority of the shrinking American white majority, finally fight back?

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