In an explosive accusation, the House Oversight Committee chairman Darrell Issa (R-California) today charged President Obama with “using all the resources at his disposal to make the Affordable Care Act work.”
Accusing the President of participating in “a wide-ranging conspiracy,” Mr. Issa told reporters that “behind closed doors, the President has quietly assembled a high-tech brain trust that is working around the clock to fix the Healthcare.gov Web site—at government expense.”
Rep. Issa said that he would call for a new round of hearings and would subpoena “all those persons suspected of being involved in the ongoing plot to fix Obamacare.”
“This is a conspiracy, if you will, that goes all the way to the top,” Rep. Issa said. “If there is a plan to fix Obamacare, what did the President know about that plan and when did he know it?”
Rep. Issa concluded his remarks on a defiant note, drawing a line in the sand: “If the President thinks he is going to repair that Web site so that it works when anyone tries to access it, I’ve got news for him: not on my watch.”
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.
The survey, conducted by liberal-leaning Public Policy Polling and funded by MoveOn.org, is the third in a series of polls that indicate Democrats have a shot at taking back the House of Representatives in the 2014 election cycle.
The results of the latest survey show that incumbent Republicans in 15 of the 25 districts polled trail generic Democratic candidates. When combined with the results of the previous surveys, the polls show that generic Democratic candidates lead in 37 of 61 GOP-held districts.
When voters were informed their Republican candidate supported the government shutdown, 11 more districts flipped and one race became a tie.
Democrats in the House only need to see a net increase of 17 seats in order to take back the majority. This poll indicates that Democrats could see an increase of as many as 49 seats.
Public Policy Polling indicated several caveats to the results. The surveys were conducted during a high-profile budget crisis debate, a year before the elections will take place. And incumbent Republican candidates were compared to “generic Democrats,” who may not represent the actual candidates each district will see.
“Democrats must recruit strong candidates and run effective campaigns in individual districts if they are to capitalize on the vulnerability revealed by these surveys,” Public Policy Polling’s Jim Williams said of the caveat, “and they must maintain a significant national advantage over Republicans.”
Recent polls conducted by the Pew Research Center and NBC/Wall Street Journal are consistent with the survey’s claim that the Republican party took a hit from the fiscal crisis. Pew found that more Americans blamed Republicans for the shutdown, and NBC/Wall Street Journal found that the Republican party was “badly damaged” by it.
Late in the evening on September 30, 2013, the House Rules Committee Republicans changed the Rules of the House so that the ONLY Member allowed to call up the Senate’s clean CR for a vote was Majority Leader Eric Cantor or his designee — all but guaranteeing the government would shut down a few hours later and would stay shut down.
Previously, any Member would have had the right to bring the CR up for a vote. Democracy has been suspended in the House of Representatives.
In [a few hours], the federal government runs out of money.
While the Republican-controlled House of Representatives passed a resolution Friday that keeps the government funded through Dec. 15, the measure also defunded President Obama’s signature health care law — which means it has virtually no chance of passing the Democratic-controlled Senate.
If a budget resolution doesn’t hit President Obama’s desk before Oct. 1, that’s a big problem: The government will be forced to close its doors.
With that prospect looming, here are eight things you should know about the possible shutdown:
It won’t be the first time
Since a new budgeting process was put into place in 1976, the U.S. government has shut down 17 times. Presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan each dealt with six shutdowns during their terms in office, lasting anywhere from one day to 2 1/2 weeks.
The last actual shutdown came in 1996 — though the government came close during budget negotiations in 2011.
The last shutdown lasted three weeks
The three-week shutdown that lasted from Dec. 16, 1995, to Jan. 6, 1996, ranks as the longest in U.S. history. As a result, about 284,000 federal workers were furloughed, and around 475,000 essential employees went without a paycheck, although they were eventually reimbursed.
They weren’t the only ones inconvenienced. Some benefits for military veterans were delayed, and cleanup at more than 600 toxic waste sites was stopped. The government also shut down for six days in mid-November 1995, initially resulting in the furlough of 800,000 federal employees. The Congressional Research Service reported the shutdowns cost taxpayers a combined $1.4 billion.
Only the “essentials”
Only federal employees deemed “essential” would continue to come to work during a shutdown. Employees who qualify as essential include those involved in national security, protecting life and property and providing benefit payments.
That means members of the military, border control agents, air traffic controllers, the FBI and the TSA are among those who would remain on duty. The president and members of Congress are also exempt from furlough and must decide which of their respective staff members to keep around during a shutdown.
The checks are in the mail
Even in the event of a shutdown, Social Security beneficiaries will still find their checks in their mailboxes and doctors and hospitals will receive Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements. However, if the government does not resolve the budget situation by Nov. 1, those entitlement program payments could be delayed by up to two weeks.
Even in a shutdown, the Postal Service delivers
One reason Americans will get their entitlement checks: A government shutdown would not hit the operations of the U.S. Postal Service. Government agencies that the Treasury Department does not directly fund, like USPS, would be relatively unaffected in the short term by a shutdown . Some postal employees would very likely face furlough, but it wouldn’t be enough to completely close down the agency.
National parks and museums? Forget it
Have plans to visit a national park or go sightseeing in the nation’s capital? You might want to cancel them. During the Clinton-era shutdowns, 368 national parks closed, resulting in the loss of 7 million visitors. In Washington, D.C., the public would be unable to visit the monuments and museums that millions of tourists flock to every year. The Capitol building would remain open, though.
Visa and passport delays
Those hoping to enter or leave the country during a shutdown would most likely experience some difficulty. The government was unable to process around 200,000 pending passport applications and a daily average of 30,000 visa and passport applications by foreigners during the 1995-96 shutdowns. This would result not only in a headache for would-be travelers but a loss in millions for the airline and tourism industries.
Who would be blamed for a shutdown?
Generally speaking, no one comes out looking good if the government shuts down. A Pew Research poll conducted Sept. 19-22 shows 39 percent of Americans would blame Republicans if a shutdown were to occur, compared with 36 percent who would fault the Obama administration and 17 percent who would hold both sides responsible. According to a Pew poll from a comparable period during the 2011 budget battle, the public spread the blame around nearly identically.
First they lie to you, and then they ask you for money.
That’s the essence of the great Tea Party/Ted Cruz crusade to “defund” Obamacare, a political and constitutional impossibility. The question was settled, probably for good, when President Obama won re-election in 2012 and Democrats kept control of the Senate.
Instead, it’s about TV face-time and harvesting donations from gullible voters misled both about the Affordable Care Act itself and Sen. Cruz’s nonexistent chances of ending it.
Amid all the melodramatic TV chatter, the estimable blogger Digby puts it in terms everybody should understand. She has a friend in the insurance industry whose company has been getting thousands of calls from frightened policyholders who fear that the hullabaloo in Washington could result in their losing health coverage.
“I asked her what calmed people down,” Digby writes “and she says she tells everyone to think about their high school civics class and remember that laws have to be passed by both houses and signed into law by the president. Without proselytizing at all, everyone immediately realizes what an absurd exercise in futility all this nonsense really is.”
A narrow Republican majority in the House can’t void the Affordable Care Act any more than 54 Senate Democrats can force everybody in Oklahoma to eat broccoli. Anybody who tells you differently is a flim-flam artist.
Such as Newt Gingrich. The presiding genius of the 1996 GOP government shutdown went on ABC’s This Week to deliver pseudo-historical profundity: “Under our constitutional system going all the way back to Magna Carta in 1215, the people’s house is allowed to say to the king we ain’t giving you money.”
Actually, the U.S. Constitution of 1789 makes no provision for a king. Neither, as former Clinton labor secretary Robert Reich has reminded Gingrich, does it “allow a majority of the House of Representatives to repeal the law of the land by defunding it. If that were the case, no law [would be] safe.”
No federal court could rule otherwise. It’s a separation of powers issue. These principles are so fundamental to American governance that even the Wall Street Journal reminds GOP hotheads that for all the three-ring thrills provided by Sen. Cruz and his allies, “the only real way to repeal the law is to win elections.”
At a heated town hall meeting, Rep. Steve Womack (R-AK) chose to address the most important issue of the day: the shirt that a constituent, Yardley Leonard, was wearing when he asked the Representative a question about immigration reform.
Leonard, who identified himself as being “Mexican-American” and was wearing a shirt with a Mexican flag on it, asked Womack if it would be possible “to legalize the 11 million [undocumented immigrants] who are here and contributing.” After providing Leonard with a boilerplate Republican response — that this is “a country of laws” and people here “illegally” want him to “walk away [and] just say ‘the law doesn’t count for a day’” — Womack stopped Leonard as he walked back to his seat.
“It does strike me as a bit odd,” Womack said, “that I would get a question as to why we shouldn’t just automatically make it legal for people who didn’t come here in a legal circumstance, with a flag of another country hanging around his neck.”
He then offered Leonard “some good ol’ friendly advice.”
“If you want to win friends and influence people on the issues that you are talking about, I would suggest a little different approach in terms of my attire when I’m appealing to an audience like this.”
The mostly white “audience like this” lustily applauded Womack’s wardrobe advice.
Watch a video of Leonard and Womack’s exchange here:
Rep. Bill Flores (R-Texas) said he thinks the House of Representatives would vote to impeach President Barack Obama, BuzzFeed reports.
“I look at the president, I think he’s violated the Constitution,” Flores said at a town hall event on Thursday. “I think he’s violated the law. I think he’s abused his power but at the end of the day you have to say if the House decides to impeach him, if the House had an impeachment vote it would probably impeach the president.”
Flores noted that any efforts to impeach the president would likely fail in the Senate, and would also risk Rebublicans losing the speakership.
“If you try and fail are you willing to put Nancy Pelosi back in the Speakership. I’m not,” Flores said.
Flores is hardly the first Republican to bring up a potential Obama impeachment. In August, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) warned President Barack Obama is “getting perilously close” to the standard for impeachment, and Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Texas) made comments similar to Flores’.
“I’ll give you a real frank answer about that: If we were to impeach the president tomorrow, you could probably get the votes in the House of Representatives to do it. But it would go to the Senate, and he wouldn’t be convicted,” Farenthold told a constituent.
But not all Republicans are buying into the impeachment talk. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) denounced Republicans for saying Obama should be impeached, and Former Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele called impeachment comments “asinine.”
King said he does have “sympathy” for the, in his view, small number of “kids who were brought into this country by their parents, unknowing that they were breaking the law. Of the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S., King admitted, “Some of them are valedictorians—and their parents brought them in. It wasn’t their fault. It’s true in some cases.” But, he added, “they aren’t all valedictorians. They weren’t all brought in by their parents.”
“For everyone who’s a valedictorian, there’s another 100 out there that–they weigh 130 pounds and they’ve got calves the size of cantaloupes because they’re hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert,” King said. “Those people would be legalized with the same act.”
Until those promoting immigration reform can “define the difference between the innocent ones who have deep ties with America and those who have, I’ll say, been undermining our culture and civilization and profiting from criminal acts,” King said, “they should not advocate for amnesty for both good and evil.”