Archive for category congress

Budget Deal Might Stop Tea-GOP Wrecking Crew

Just before midnight on Monday, congressional leaders and the White House tentatively agreed on a major budget deal. The plan is to end debt limit standoffs through March 2017, and keep the federal government in operation with some sequestration relief. So-called “entitlement reform,” meaning cuts to Medicare and Social Security, was kept within limits.

Presumably, Speaker John Boehner will send this budget bill to the House floor before turning over the gavel to Rep. Paul Ryan.

The good news is, it looks like the U.S. government and economy will survive in the near term. We’ll avoid a looming default on our National Debt, and there will not be a government shutdown on December 11.

The bad news is the Shutdown Caucus, a key block of Tea-GOP members of Congress, still wants to bring about a government shutdown and/or default any way they can. Because of gerrymandering, they are likely to survive the next election. And nobody except Bernie Sanders is talking about taxing the rich anymore.

More info:
Final Major Budget Deal Of The Obama-Boehner Era Forces GOP To Release Social Security Hostages
Dean Baker: Paul Ryan Wants to Shut Down the Government, Permanently

Paul Ryan On Budget Deliberations: ‘I Think The Process Stinks’
A Whole Lot Of Face-Saving Theater
How John Boehner Saved Paul Ryan From Becoming Boehner 2.0


Government Shutdown Watch

The post will replace my earlier one, Congress on Track for Another Government Shutdown.

The federal government made it past the end of the fiscal year with a continuing resolution (CR) that expires on December 11. Speaker John Boehner is stepping down, effective at the end of this month. President Obama has declared that that he will not sign another short-term CR.

As of today, the Tea-GOP House caucus is nominating a new Speaker, the inarticulate, gaffe-prone House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) [Apparently not – see updates]. Rep. McCarthy has already let the proverbial cat out of the bag by telling Faux News’ Sean Hannity that the purpose of the Benghazi Select Committee was to get Hillary Clinton’s poll numbers down.

Unless Boehner is able to push through legislation before retiring, the new Speaker will face a November 5th deadline to raise the debt limit, and then a December 11th budget deadline. At this point it does not look like the Tea-GOP has enough votes in the House to avoid missing those deadlines and precipitating a major governing crisis.

In short, it appears the only way to avoid a default on the National Debt and to prevent another federal government shutdown is with the support of House Democrats– who will surely demand an end to the sequester cuts and who knows what else.

Kevin McCarthy Pulls Out Of House Speaker’s Race

Reps Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) and Daniel Webster (R-Fla.) were also running for Speaker. On Wednesday, the House’s conservative “Freedom Caucus” endorsed Webster.

Ian Millhiser on Think Progress:

It is possible that there is no one in America who can win an absolute majority of House members votes, the amount that is necessary to become the next speaker.


Congress on Track for Another Government Shutdown

House Speaker John Boehner has refused to negotiate with Democrats on the federal budget, setting the conditions for another government shutdown at the end of September.

The House goes on vacation until after Labor Day at the end of the month. If no deal is in place, it will leave just three weeks to craft a budget compromise before funding for the government expires on Sept. 30.

Senate Democrats have promised to block passage of any budget bills that lock in sequestration cuts. Nothing has yet come to a vote in the Senate. President Obama has threatened to veto any such austerity budget bills.

Over in the House, the Tea-GOP has been unable to gather enough votes for the Interior-Environment appropriations bill (that includes crippling budget cuts to the EPA, would prohibit regulation of fracking or implementation of carbon emission standards for electric power plants, block new clean-water rules, and stop the government’s marine and coastal planning efforts to respond to climate change) because it contains an amendment allowing the confederate flag to be displayed in national parks. Speaker Boehner has placed a complete hold on appropriations bills until the impasse is resolved.


Reps. Stewart and Bishop Promote Public Land Grab

It’s unconstitutional and enjoys essentially zero public support, but the Koch brothers want it– therefore our so-called representatives are calling for national legislation to seize and sell America’s public lands.

More info:
Reps. Stewart and Bishop Launch New Federal Land Action Group
GOP House Leaders Create ‘Action Group’ To Seize And Sell America’s Public Lands

Editorial: Public-lands deal fades as posturing rises

Bishop and Stewart are seeking leverage. In trying to negotiate with the environmental groups who want more wilderness and other protections under the Public Lands Initiative, they are playing the state-takeover card. Those environmental groups would be more inclined to take less if they thought state ownership was looming. It’s a wild card, in that it’s not clear such a land transfer bill would ever make it through Congress.


Another Fake Crisis

Fake crisis

The looming shutdown of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) at midnight Friday is a fake crisis. Speaker of the House John Boehner has the votes to pass a “clean” DHS appropriations bill. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has already caved on the Tea-GOP’s shutdown threat.

This thing is totally fake. Why are the media talking about it as if it were real?

1. Friday afternoon now,and Speaker Boehner is still refusing to allow a vote on the “clean” DHS appropriations bill.
2. Democrats to the Rescue: Congress Averts Shutdown for One More Week
3. John Boehner Blinks, Will Allow For Clean Funding Of Department Of Homeland Security


Draft AUMF ‘Intentionally Fuzzy’

Countries bombed by USA
Source: The Daily Mirror

The Constitution vests the power of declaring war in Congress; therefore no offensive expedition of importance can be undertaken until after they shall have deliberated upon the subject and authorized such a measure.

George Washington


President Obama asked Congress on Wednesday for new war powers to go after the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The draft resolution (PDF) asks Congress to enact a three-year Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) against ISIS. The resolution notably restricts the use of American ground troops and seeks to avoid a prolonged conflict.

Obama announced his plan to launch airstrikes against ISIS back in September, and the White House’s AUMF resolution seeks to formalize the U.S. military campaign to “degrade and defeat” ISIS.

The draft AUMF has already been criticized as imprecise. For example, it defines the enemy as “ISIL [sic] or associated persons or forces.” But that would include the so-called “moderate” Syrian rebels (armed by the U.S.), who routinely fight alongside ISIS. Like the 2001 AUMF (which would remain in effect), there is no geographical limitation in the new draft AUMF. Potentially it could authorize attacking Boko Haram in Nigeria.

Asked today if he agreed that language was “fuzzy,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest replied with a firm yes, saying it is “intentionally” fuzzy “because we believe it’s important that there aren’t overly burdensome constraints that are placed on the commander-in-chief.”

I left the Army with the rank of captain, but it doesn’t take a four-star general to realize you can’t fight a war intelligently unless you know who the enemy is, and where to find them. Oh, and by the way this draft AUMF is probably a violation of the U.N. Charter – though that’s somewhat debatable.

Hill Progressive Leaders Come Out Against Obama’s AUMF: ‘Too Broad’

“The devastating and costly wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have taught us that when we give military authority to the executive, it should not be a blank check,” Progressive Caucus Co-Chairs Rep. Reps. Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ) and Keith Ellison (D-MN), and Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) said.

“Unfortunately, the authorization proposed by the president this week is too broad. In order to ensure meaningful limits on executive branch authority, an AUMF should at a minimum contain a clear objective and geographical limitations. It should also include an enforceable ban on the deployment of ground troops with exception for only the most limited of operations, unambiguous language, and a repeal of the 2001 AUMF,” they said.

State Dept. Official: US Can’t ‘Kill Our Way Out Of This War’ With Islamic State


Tell Congress: Reject the ‘No More National Parks’ Bill

Grand Staircase-Escalante NM
Grand Staircase-Escalante NM

Via CREDO Action:

The way the law works now, presidents can use the Antiquities Act to quickly set aside public lands for protection and conservation through national monument proclamations, instead of going through the difficult congressional process of designating a national park. In fact, it’s often the first step to creating a national park – the Grand Canyon was first proclaimed a monument under the Antiquities Act by President Theodore Roosevelt.

The power to proclaim national monuments is a presidential privilege that has literally shaped America’s landscape and its history, but Republicans in Congress now think it’s time to end all of that. Last month, Representative Don Young (R-AK) introduced a bill that would strip the president of this authority. H.R.4988 (the MAST Act) would overhaul the Antiquities Act, making it nearly impossible for presidents to declare new national monuments. It’s a cynical attempt to forever block the president’s ability to protect our public lands from corporate drilling and mining.

Stop the MAST Act, it could be a big win for the Tea-GOP right-wing agenda. We can’t allow that to happen. Click the link below to sign the petition:
Stop Republicans from blocking new national parks.

More info:
The Highs and Lows of the Antiquities Act


Robert Reich: TPP is Part of the Global Race to the Bottom

Republicans in Congress want to work with the Obama administration to fast-track the passage of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

The TPP is the largest—and worst—trade deal you’ve never heard of, having been devised in secret by representatives of some of the world’s largest corporations.

It’s so big and has the potential to do so much damage, it’s been likened to “NAFTA on steroids.”

Once you’ve watched the video, please join the growing chorus of Americans who are saying no to fast track and the TPP by adding your name to this petition from Larry Cohen, president of the Communication Workers of America.


Media Matters: Trans-Pacific Partnership Barely Noticed By Weeknight News Over The Past 18 Months


Keystone XL Zombie Lie

Via Media Matters.

Yesterday, the House of Representatives passed a bill approving the controversial Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. Virtually all the Republicans and 28 Democrats voted for this foreign-owned project, which is likely to impose significant environmental costs, cause an increase in American gasoline prices, and contribute to global warming. The proposed 1,200 mile dirty oil pipeline would carry bitumen — a tar-like substance mined from the Alberta tar sands, chemically diluted, and heated to improve flow — at high pressure across Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas to Gulf Coast refineries. Existing pipelines of this type spring dozens of leaks every year, and the mess is much more difficult to clean up than a crude oil spill.

Why allow this? Right-wing propagandists insist that Keystone XL will create “42,000 jobs.” This is false.

The State Department concluded that the Keystone XL project will result in just 50 jobs, including “35 permanent employees and 15 temporary contractors.” Further, their report stated that spending on the project would support only 3,900 temporary construction jobs if construction lasted one year and just 1,950 temporary construction jobs if construction lasted two years.

President Obama has threatened to veto the congressional attempt to force the issue, however he seems to be keeping the option open to ultimately approve this disastrous project.

Senate Advances Bill To Approve Keystone Pipeline Despite Obama’s Veto Threat


More Awfulness From Congress

Hell no we won't go
Hell no, we won’t go!!

The must-pass National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) contains a 449-page package of public lands riders. As you might expect from this Congress, it’s a stinker full of corporate giveaways. It transfers 110,000 acres of our public lands into private ownership. Part of the Tonto National Forest in Arizona will be given to Rio Tinto for a copper mine, including sacred Apache lands. Coal reserves in the Bull Mountains of Montana will be given to Great Northern Properties, a Houston-based coal company. Sealaska Corporation gets 70,000 acres of the Tongass National Forest for clear-cutting timber that used to belong to all Americans.

There’s a stealth provision removing existing Wilderness Study Area (WSA) protections for two areas in eastern Montana, without any public input whatsoever.

The legislation also mandates automatic renewals of livestock grazing on our public lands, even where grazing operations are degrading wildlife habitat and fouling streams and rivers — without the evaluation under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) that’s currently required. The so-called “Grazing Improvement Act” also automatically extends grazing permits on public lands from 10 to 20 years. The exemption of grazing permits from NEPA basically puts public land management agencies out of business with regard to ecosystem management. That is a heavy hit with far-reaching consequences.

Ten right-wing Tea-GOPers including Tom Coburn of Oklahoma had objected to including parks and wilderness bills in a defense bill. They were joined by Democratic Senators Jeff Merkeley (OR), Ron Wyden (OR), and Kirsten Gillibrand (NY) and Independent Bernie Sanders (VT). On December 11, the Senate voted 85-14 to break the filibuster.

As a “Christmas tree” bill enjoying widespread bipartisan support, the NDAA passed the House by a vote of 300-119 last Thursday and the Senate by 89-11 yesterday. The package of legislation is expected to be signed by the President soon.

On the plus side, the NDAA riders would add 250,000 acres to the National Wilderness Preservation System, establish or expand national parks, and designate more than 100 miles of Wild and Scenic Rivers. But the losses far outweigh the wins.

More info:
Some Context on the Defense Bill Riders: Public Lands Losses Far Outweigh Any Wins
Top 5 Offensive Provisions of the Public Lands Rider
Defense bill with wilderness & parks plus land giveaways beats cloture 85-14. 3 Dems & Sanders no
Congress Protects New National Parks And Wilderness Areas For The First Time In 5 Years
Defense Bill Passes, Giving Sacred Native American Sites To Mining Company


Senator Elizabeth Warren: Who Does Congress Work For?

Wall Street wants to get bailed out by taxpayers AGAIN, the next time they recklessly crash our financial sector with risky derivatives. This could cause the next Great Depression. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) is trying to stop them, even though the Tea-GOP is threatening to shut down the federal government (in less than five hours) if a Dodd-Frank repeal proposal written by Citigroup lobbyists doesn’t pass.


‘Did we torture people? Yes. Did it work? No.’

There’s a good chance we’ll never see the $50 million, 6,000-page Senate Intelligence Committee report on CIA torture during the Bush administration. Today they are releasing a heavily-redacted 480-page executive summary.

The report, which was completed two years ago, found that torture did not lead to actionable intelligence. “Did we torture people? Yes. Did it work? No.”, says Senator Angus King (I-ME), a member of the committee. The Senate investigation also concluded that CIA torture techniques were far more brutal than previously known, and that the agency (including then-CIA director Gen. Michael Hayden) lied to the White House and Congress when they asserted torture thwarted specific terrorist plots, and falsely claimed terrorists were captured as a result of torture.

It has long been known that torture is not an effective means of acquiring intelligence, yet the Bush administration authorized, conducted, and promoted an illegal torture program in our name. There will be no accountability on the part of those who authorized and conducted the torture regime, we know that already.

More info: Senate Select Committee on Intelligence: Committee Study of the Central Intelligence Agency’s Detention and Interrogation Program (Executive Summary).

The 5 Most Damning Revelations From The Senate’s Report On Bush-Era Torture
Obama Responds To CIA Torture Report: Enhanced Interrogation ‘Contrary To Our Values’ “Rather than another reason to refight old arguments, I hope that today’s report can help us leave these techniques where they belong—in the past.”
Faux News primal scream therapy: “The United States of America is awesome, we are awesome!” says Faux News pinhead Andrea Tantaros.
UN human rights expert: US legally obliged to prosecute senior Bush officials for torture crimes
Reminder: George W. Bush Said The U.S. Didn’t Use Torture
CIA Still Argues That Torture Worked David Kurtz: “So long as the CIA continues to assert that torture (though it doesn’t use that word) yielded actionable intelligence, I don’t see how you can call this a closed chapter in American history.”
This goes way past irony: The One Man Jailed For CIA Torture Tried To Expose It


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