Showing posts with label Senate. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Senate. Show all posts

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Sens. Harry Reid, Mitch McConnell deal could avert crisis

Official portrait of United States Senator (R-KY)
Official portrait of United States Senator (R-KY) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
English: Harry Reid (D-NV), United States Sena...
English: Harry Reid (D-NV), United States Senator from Nevada and Majority Leader of the United States Senate (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Doomsday predictions; the possibility of the United States failing to pay its bills for the first time in history, may be averted. At least that is the hope of Senate Leaders Harry Reid, (D-Nevada) and Mitch McConnell, (R-Kentucky) who have been working on a bi-partisan compromise they hope to sell to their own members as well as the  deeply divided U.S. House.

According to the New York Times and several other sources this morning, the two worked into the night Monday to craft a plan that would pass a resolution to finance the government through Jan. 15, putting the U.S. government back in business and raise the debt limit through February.

The deal would also establish a budget committee by Dec. 13 to replace the automatic budget cuts that were put in place by the sequester. Sequestration--unappealing across the board cuts—were the result last March from failed budget talks between Republicans and Democrats.

The upcoming Senate deal, as reported includes no real changes to the Affordable Care Act, though there may be some minor ones.

House Speaker John Boehner, (R-Ohio) was alerted by McConnell. Boehner failed to react one way or the other.

His position is at least consistent, since Boehner has failed to react to much of anything the Senate has done to keep the government open. Boehner’s lack of reaction to the Senate’s Continuing Resolution (CR) is what sparked the government to furlough federal workers and close its doors to offices, landmarks, and parks all across the country—now in Day 15 of a government shutdown.

It is believed by both Republicans and Democrats that the entire shutdown could have been avoided, had Boehner simply allowed a clean CR to be brought to the House floor for a vote. Instead, the Republicans in the House tied numerous measures to the resolution that had no chance of bi-partisan support.

With more than 40 attempts by House Republicans to repeal the Affordable Care Act, commonly referred to as Obamacare, the House attempted unsuccessfully to pass a CR with strings attached. At first, it was tied to gutting the Affordable Care Act through several varied measures.

Their efforts failed.

On Oct. 1, the Affordable Care Act went on line and millions of people attempted to sign up for health insurance, some for the first time in their lives.

With the law fully implemented, there was no longer any point to tying the law to the CR so Republicans tied other provisions to it with efforts to reopen government programs in a piecemeal fashion. It was no coincidence that amendments House Republicans offered were similar to news events and photo ops, such as the World War II Veterans Memorial or the National Institute of Health where ailing children were prevented from receiving cancer treatments. That photo-op included several House members dressed in medical garb.

Democrats stood firm, refusing to give in to House demands to have it their way. Boehner and other House Republicans continued their attempt to send the message that Democrats were to blame for the government shutting down because Democrats refused to compromise.

Boehner never bothered to mention the months since March that he refused to appoint a conference committee to reconcile the House and Senate versions of the funding bill. He also failed to mention that the Senate’s CR set the spending limit at $967 billion, a figure derived by House members. Senate Democrats wanted the limit to be $1.058 trillion, but they compromised.

What is different this time? Why would Boehner take the Senate deal now when he wouldn’t do it for the last 15 days?

Boehner has said in the past that he has no intention of letting the government default on its debt. The stakes are high. House Republicans have gotten messages from their pals with the purse strings.

Wall Street has issued warnings that a government default would have dire consequences. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew testified before the Senate, painting a grim picture with world consequences of a default. Koch Industries, ironically, has written a letter to senators urging action to avert a debt ceiling crisis.

Republicans approval rating has plummeted, with Americans largely blaming them for the government shutdown.

Mitch McConnell, who is facing an election in 2014 knows that. While he has largely been silent during this debacle, he has stepped into the fray to work with Reid on a deal. If it is successful, his political star could rise once again. If not, well, it could be meteoric calamity.

Boehner is at a crossroads.

With his speakership in jeopardy, he is going to have to make a decision. He has been trying to appease the tea party caucus, with its anti-government rhetoric. On the other side are more reasonable Republicans, some of which have seemingly broken ranks with the speaker. They have been prevented from acting on their own due to an amendment to the House Standing Rules by Pete Sessions, (R-Texas) Republican-heavy rules committee that prevents anyone but the speaker or his designee from introducing the CR to the floor.

We are close to the eleventh hour when deals are made. The stakes are high, not just for the American people, but for the individual members of congress. Next year, the House members will face re-election. Their reputations are at stake.

It may not be pretty, but they probably will get it done.

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Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Government shutdown prohibits picnic at the lake

Lake Norfork
A calm and serene Lake Norfork
I'm really upset that I'm unable to go to the lake today for a picnic. There will be no yummy sandwiches, no homemade potato salad, and no tasty iced tea to wash it down. There will be no watching the Great Blue Herons along the shore or diving just below the surface of the water; no ducks swimming lazily in formation. I won't be able to watch the parade of squirrels chasing each other as they fight for their stash of acorns high in the oak trees whose leaves are starting to fall. I won't be able to watch boats zip across the water.

Truthfully, I had no plans to visit the lake today. I only want to because I know I can't. I am barred from the park by the lake because it is run by the Army Corps of Engineers and they were told not to report to work today. I'm no different than anyone else that is unable to enjoy my day. All federal parks, museums, the national zoo, and every other government facility is closed up tight; it is closed because the United States government is shut down due to inaction by the U.S. Congress to fund our government. 

If I was John Boehner, Speaker of the House, I would pack my picnic basket, get in my car, drive to the park, and ram it right through the gate. 

That is in essence what he did when he refused to call a clean CR (continuing resolution) to the floor that had already been passed by the U.S. Senate. It would have passed by members on both sides of the aisle. Instead, he and his merry madmen took the country hostage over his insistence that there be changes in the Affordable Care Act. There were three attempts to pass the CR with amendments related to gutting the ACA or better known as Obamacare. One of the provisions in the amendments was to allow employers to opt out of providing women's reproductive rights. Do you want your employer to decide what is best for you or your wife? 

Boehner also tried additional amendments, all related to Obamacare. Senate leaders were clear that any CR related to Obamacare would not pass. They stood their ground.

Instead of doing the right thing, Boehner refused to allow the clean CR to come to the floor, something he could have done yesterday and could still do today. 

The parade of Republicans speaking for the various amendments, each one designed to harm President Obama's signature accomplishment. One of the amendments would delay the implementation of Obamacare for a year. It was scheduled to begin today. Indeed, masses of Americans signed up for health care through the ACA today. The government shutdown had no effect because the funding was already ensured.

Another House Republican amendment, which came out of the 'rules' committee, made up of 9 Republicans and 4 Democrats, would exempt congressional members' own employees from eligibility of the Affordable Care Act. Their final attempt, just minutes before the government deadline prior to the shutdown, was to establish a conference committee to iron out the differences between the two houses. That is customary when both houses pass two differing versions of the same bill. That was something members of the senate tried to do since March when both houses passed spending bills. It didn't happen because Boehner refused to appoint members to the conference committee. Instead, Boehner's House was busy trying to repeal Obamacare -- 42 times. 

The part that annoyed me the most, during my six-hour marathon session with C-Span and C-Span 2, as I watched all the action take place live, was how Republicans tried to act as innocents as they blamed everyone but themselves. 

Make no mistake about this, Speaker John Boehner must take responsibility for shutting down the government. He and his tea party members took the country hostage, refusing to do the people's business. His actions were reprehensible! 

My desire to enjoy a day at the lake will just have to wait until the government comes to its senses, if that ever happens. My disappointment pales in comparison to the millions of workers that were told not to come to work today, will not get paid, and who knows for how long? 

I certainly hope the American people remember this day on Nov. 14, 2014 when House members want you to trust them to do the public's business for another two years. 
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Thursday, June 7, 2012

Illinois continues contempt for private land as Illiana Expressway bill gets approved

Illinois State Capitol
Illinois State Capitol
(Photo credit: J. Stephen Conn)
It feels like deja vu all over again as the Illinois legislature recently approved a bill  (SB3318) that would allow Quick Take authority for the Illiana Expressway.

Normally, I hate the phrase--deja vu all over again because it is redundant--except in this case, it isn't. While deja vu refers to something that seemingly happened before, in the case of the Illinois legislature's boneheaded move to usurp the rights of landowners, the beat goes on. It might even be more appropriate to say this is deja vu all over again and again and again!

There may be small comfort in knowing that SB3318 squeaked by in the Illinois House with a vote of 61 to 57.

English: Senator, State, Toi Hutchinson Giving...
Senator, State, Toi Hutchinson