Category Archives: Heller

Swiping Away Toward the Next Debacle?

banker 2 The Las Vegas Sun reports that residents of the Las Vegas metropolitan area have run up $3.88 billion – yes, that’s billion with a B – in credit card debt as of June 2014.  The residents are not alone. There’s more credit card indebtedness piling up in Texas.  The Dallas Morning News lists the increases in credit card debt for Houston is up 5.45%, for Dallas-Fort Worth up 4.70%, and just for good measure there are other increases around the country.  Orlando’s credit card debt is up 4.89%, Atlanta up 4.21%, Tampa-St. Petersburg up 3.75%.   There’s good and bad news here.

Remember the mantra in this blog? One man’s debt is another man’s asset?

Somewhere, somehow, in the maw of the Wall Street financial institutions, those accounts receivable are being sliced, and diced, and traded.  They are being securitized.  They are becoming Asset Based Securities.  Read bonds. They are being priced and sold.  And, of course, someone is making a tidy profit. Synchrony, the largest issuer of private label credit cards for large retailers in the United States,  recently earned a Morningstar rating of BBB for its new issue.  Profits are good news, if the products being transferred are valued properly.  If not, then we have the 2007-2008 Mortgage Meltdown Debacle Redux.

The replication of that debacle will be a bit more difficult if the Security and Exchange Commission succeeds in enforcing rules under the 2010 Dodd Frank Act. The rules now call for firms issuing the securities to file reports with the SEC on the underlying loan data, including credit scores and debt levels.  The SEC plans on providing potential investors with debt to income ratio information and metrics which would help with the assessment of loan/credit quality.  [WSJ]

We should possibly recall at this point that both the Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute have called for the repeal of most, if not all, the provisions of the Dodd Frank Act.  The ultra-conservative think tanks have already declared the Act an imposition of unreasonable regulatory burdens on financial institutions.  [AEI]  It should also be remembered that Nevada Senator Dean Heller has called for the repeal of the Dodd Frank Act and its attendant regulations. [NVProg]

It’s also within recent memory that then-Representative Heller voted against the House version of the Dodd Frank bill on December 10 and  11, 2009 when Representatives Berkley and Titus voted in favor of it.  [govtrack]  Then on the final vote, December 11, 2009 Heller voted against the measure as one of 176 Republicans to do so. [govtrack]

When the conference report came back with the changes made to the bill from the Senate, once again Heller voted against it, on June 30, 2010. [govtrack] Heller also voted against H.R. 4173 (111th) on the conference report. [govtrack]  Four “nay” votes certainly should indicate that Heller was not in favor of financial regulatory reform.

Once in the Senate, Senator Heller teamed with Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC) to fully repeal the Dodd Frank Act in 2011. [DB]  And, lest he be considered inconsistent —  Senator Heller has now signed on as a cosponsor of Senator Bob Corker’s (R-TN) bill (S. 1217) which would make the FMIC (Federal Mortgage Insurance Corp) an independent agency of the federal government – read: Out from under the provisions of Dodd Frank.

For the record, there are eight bills in the House and Senate which provide for the repeal or diminishment of the financial regulation reforms included in the Dodd Frank Act. [govtrack]  Among these bills are those  sponsored by (H.R. 5016) Rep. Ander Crenshaw (R-FL), (H.R. 4564) Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-NC), (H.R. 4304) Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA), (H.R> 3193) Rep. Sean Duffy (R-WI), and in the Senate, S. 1861, sponsored by Senator John Cornyn (R-TX). [govtrack]

The efforts by the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to implement and enforce financial regulatory reform measures remain under a steady assault of lobbying interests, banking associations, wealth managers, and their allies in the U.S. Congress.  Senator Heller is certainly among this legion.

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Filed under Economy, financial regulation, Heller, Nevada economy

Heller Helps Sustain Another GOP Filibuster

Heller 3What if there were a bill in Congress which would do the following?

“Amends the Internal Revenue Code to: (1) grant business taxpayers a tax credit for up to 20% of insourcing expenses incurred for eliminating a business located outside the United States and  relocating it within the United States, and (2) deny a tax deduction for outsourcing expenses incurred in relocating a U.S. business outside the United States. Requires an increase in the taxpayer’s employment of full-time employees in the United States in order to claim the tax credit for insourcing expenses.”

In short — offer corporations tax incentives to bring American jobs back to America, or S. 2569.

But then, there’s the GOP side of the aisle saying things like:

“Some Republicans argue that if Democrats truly wanted to keep companies in the United States, they would work with Republicans to overhaul the tax code and reduce corporate tax rates.“It’s a bill that’s designed for campaign rhetoric and failure — not to create jobs here in the U.S.,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Tuesday. “Everyone knows that the Democrats aren’t being serious here.” [The Hill]

First, Senator McConnell’s taunt, that the bill is a purely political exercise without any redeeming merit, is simply a legislative version of the Ad Hominem Attack — name calling without addressing the issue at hand. Secondly, Senator McConnell’s definition of “working with” all too often means give us everything we want and we’ll still keep filibustering a measure.  To wit: The bill to require background checks and close the gun show loophole, in which the total gun safety legislative package was pared down to a single issue to appease the GOP and then the GOP filibustered the bill anyway.  Or the Affordable Care Act, originally a Heritage Foundation proposal, which after numerous amendments to assuage the concerns of Senate Republicans received no support from that quarter.

Third, there’s the matter of “working with Republicans to overhaul the tax code,” which assumes that the Republicans have a plan to overhaul the tax code.  The latest GOP tax proposal comes from the House, and would cut the top tax rate from 39.6% to 25%, impose a surtax on some  incomes above $450,000, but leave capital gains taxes at the low rate, to the benefit of hedge fund and wealth management firms. [WaPo] However, the problem with Representative Camp’s proposal is one shared with other GOP plans (health plans, budgets) – the devils haven’t been specified in the details.

The Joint Committee on Taxation analysis indicates the ‘plan’ doesn’t specify the special interest tax breaks which litter the IRS regulations will get the axe in order to make up for revenue lost in the bracket reductions.   The Camp proposal also comes with its own set of complexities, summarized in the Tax Policy Center’s analysis.  To mention just one, there’s the resurrected specter of the Alternative Minimum Tax implicit in Camp’s legislation — nothing like taking up something complicated in order to make another thing simple?

Then there’s some bad news for states, such as Nevada, which do not have a state income tax:

“Camp would repeal the deductibility of state and local taxes, including both property taxes and income taxes. He’d abolish tax-exempt private activity bonds. And he’d impose a 10 percent surtax on municipal bond interest for high-income households, a step likely to raise the cost of issuing state and local debt.But Camp’s plan also includes some less obvious changes that could increase state income tax revenues, especially for states that piggyback on the federal income tax. By limiting deductions—and thus boosting taxable income—Camp’s plan could also increase state income tax revenue, just as the Tax Reform Act of 1986 did.”  [Tax Policy Center]

No matter, the local and state income taxes, which Nevada doesn’t have, would no longer be deductible, but unless there is a state income tax on which to “piggy back” state income tax revenue doesn’t increase under the provisions of Camp’s bill.  Thus we lose the property tax deductions, and gain very little else.

Then there’s the matter of reducing the corporate tax rate. To what? There’s the statutory rate, which Republicans are fond of citing, and then there’s what taxes cost the corporations — or, the effective tax rate.  The GAO reported the effective tax rate for U.S. corporations at 12.6%.  [CNN]  Of course, the GOP response is “ya’shouldn’t hafta get a lawyer to figure out your taxes,” but that’s precisely what major corporations DO. And, they do it with a raft load of tax attorneys.  It doesn’t seem too far out of line to suggest that if the statutory rate were to be reduced to X%, the rafts of tax attorneys would be hard at work seeing how the liability might be reduced to X-Y%.

And while we’re on the subject of complicated tax codes — it does appear a bit unseemly to have the self same initiators and  protectors of tax break loopholes for corporations advance arguments that the tax code is “broken” because it is so complicated.  This would be a good time to click on over to Jon Stewart’s classic rant on tax avoiding corporations, “The Inversions of the Body Snatchers.”

However, speaking of tax breaks for corporations which bring jobs back to American shores… We aren’t going to see those because the Republicans in the U.S. Senate are successfully filibustering S. 2569, and kept their filibuster going in a vote on July 30, 2014 at 10:50 AM. The cloture motion failed on a 54-42 vote, with Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) voting along with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to further stall the Bring the Jobs Back Bill.

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Filed under Economy, Heller, Nevada politics, Politics

Keeping the Ladies in Waiting: The Paycheck Fairness Act

Woman's List 2On January 23, 2013 — yes, that’s 2013 — Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-CT3) introduced H.R. 377, the Paycheck Fairness Act.  The House Subcommittee on Workforce Protections has jurisdiction over bills of this nature, and by April 2013 the bill hadn’t moved.  Supporters of the bill filed a discharge petition. As of Tuesday, April 1, 2014 the petition to get a vote on the bill got its 197th signature. (113-1) It is 21 signatures shy of the 218 required.

Discharge petitions are a strategy of questionable value, since depending upon how such maneuvers are analyzed the success rate ranges from about 2% to 9% of all such attempts. [WaPo]

Nor has the idea met with enough support in the U.S. Senate.  As the last signature was being appended to the House Discharge Petition 113-1 in April 2014, Republicans in the Senate were blocking consideration of a companion bill.  [Nation] S. 2199, Senator Barbara Mikulski’s (D-MD) Paycheck Fairness Act was blocked when Senate Republicans refused to lift their filibuster on a 53-44 vote. [rc 103] Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) was among those voting to sustain the filibuster.

Republican opposition to the Paycheck Fairness legislation appears to be a masterpiece of ideological spin.  We, announce the members of the GOP, are really supportive of women’s issues — but government isn’t the answer.

There was this example: “The fact is the Republicans don’t have a war on women, they have a war for women, to empower them to be something other than victims of their gender,” Mike Huckabee said at the Republican National Committee winter meeting in January.” [Nation] Huckabee offers a talking point in which any attempt to assist women (or any other group for that matter) merely serves to create a sense of ‘victimhood’ thus disparaging attempts by individuals to grab their own bootstraps at improve their own economic circumstances. It’s little more than the hoary Moral Hazard Issue, modified and transformed into an excuse to do nothing to help anyone, ever.

And this one:  “All Republicans support equal pay for equal work,” wrote Republican National Committee press secretary Kirsten Kukowski, communications director Andrea Bozek and NRSC press secretary Brook Hougesen in a memo. “And while we all know workplace discrimination still exists, we need real solutions that focus on job creation and opportunity for women.” [Nation]  This might be characterized as the Double Side Step Dance.  Oh, we’re all in favor of equal pay for equal work, but — we need more tax breaks for multi-national corporations, etc. offering more support for those elusive Job Creators.

And these: “Republicans have said that, although they support equal pay for equal work, the bill would increase civil lawsuits. They also say that the bill is unnecessary because discrimination based on gender is already illegal.” [WaPo] Ah, the recurring Republican nightmare, on display with nearly every bill which ever sought to regulate corporate behavior — It will spawn litigation.

The Lily Ledbetter Act was supposed to have done that [TNR]… except it didn’t.  Redundancy is another GOP argument for doing nothing.  The line can be summarized as, “There is no need to improve any employee protections because current statutes already provide enough protection.” This is an argument which neatly avoids the rationale set forth in the legislation which explains the necessity of the proposed improvements.  Witness, the prohibition of penalties for employees who discuss their wages, and the authority of the EEOC to collect data from employers about wages.

And finally: It’s just election year politicking. [NYT] Translation: You’re just trying to make us look bad. If so, it was successful.

So, what might disgorge the Paycheck Fairness Act (equal pay for equal work) from the Congressional bill grinder?

Get Specific:  At town hall sessions, and public Q&A events — Instead of asking “Do you, Congressman Bilgewater or Senator Sludgepump, support equal pay for equal work?” Ask them: What is wrong with prohibiting employers from penalizing employees who discuss their wages or salaries?  What is wrong with allowing the EEOC to collect data on wages and salaries from employers?

If they stammer out that those sound like good ideas, then ask “Why didn’t you support the Paycheck Fairness Act which included those two items?”  Or, if the individual is not an incumbent, ask “Will you support legislation which includes those provisions?”

Get rational: At bottom the Paycheck Fairness Act is of a piece with family finances. [Additional here]  From a previous post:

“The pay gap has some very real economic consequences.   One analysis projects that if the pay gap could be mitigated, and more women could participate in the workforce, we could add about 3 to 4% to our national economy.”

Again, specifics matter.  In Nevada, a woman earns approximately 88 cents for every dollar earned by a man.  Additionally:

“125,402 households in Nevada are headed by women. About 26 percent of those households, or 32,479 households, have incomes that fall below the poverty level. Eliminating the wage gap would provide much needed income to women whose salaries are of critical importance to them and their families.” [NatPart pdf]

Allowing a politician to pontificate about the highly generalized moral hazard of hypothetical victimhood, or rattle on about redundancy and projected litigation only serves to skirt real economic issues faced by real families.  Ask, “What would be the overall economic benefit to Nevada if the $6,319 yearly wage gap between the earnings of men and women were narrowed?”

Playing with the calculator — if only 1,000 of those households in Nevada, headed by women, were to get the same wages as their male counterparts for doing the same job, and that $6,139 gap were closed, the result would be $6,139,000 added to the aggregate demand for goods and services in this state.

Get Out and Vote.

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Filed under Economy, equal pay, Heller, Ledbetter Decision, Nevada economy, Politics, Republicans, Women's Issues, Womens' Rights

May the Force Abandon You: Heller and S. 2578

Heller 3Face it ladies, Senator Heller’s (R-NV) just not that into you.  As noticed by the NRDC, Senator Heller was one of those who voted in favor of sustaining the GOP filibuster of the Hobby Lobby Decision fix.  Here it is, big as “Pro-Life” itself, on Senate vote 228, Senator Heller’s opposition to a bill that would have:

“Affirmed requirements, notwithstanding the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, that: (1) an employer that establishes or maintains a group health plan for its employees must provide coverage of a specific item or service for the employees or their dependents where the coverage is required under federal provisions or regulations pursuant to those provisions; and (2) group health plans sponsored by an employer or employee organization, and any health insurance coverage, must provide coverage required under the Public Health Service Act, including preventive health services.

Authorizes the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services (HHS), and the Treasury to modify regulations concerning coverage of contraceptive services by group health plans of religious employers consistent with the purposes and findings (regarding coverage of birth control services and the Supreme Court decisions in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. v. Burwell) of this Act.” [S 2578]

Simple, if the employer offers group health insurance plans as part of the earned benefits in the employee compensation package, the plans must meet federal standards; if the employer is a non-profit religious organization the rules can be modified.

But, but, but… The Republicans have another plan — yes, and it doesn’t address the problem. The GOP version of the legislation merely states that “no employer can block any employee from legal access to her FDA-approved contraceptives.” [TP]  All this does is reiterate that contraceptive medications are legal.  We already know they are legal, and there’s  a big difference between “Access” and “Affordability.”  For some individuals Affordability determines whether or not there is Access.

There appears to be a singularly silly bit of balderdash on offer from the Right Wing that contraceptives are available at the corner convenience store. [NBC]   They are, if your definition of ‘contraceptives’ is what we oldsters called a Rubber.  They aren’t, if we’re discussing The Pill, actually several kinds of pills, which are available only by prescription.  This means, of course, that there is an appointment with a physician required, and a prescription to be filled.  Honestly, I never thought I’d ever have to explain this to anyone, but in case Nevada contains some troglodytes only recently emerged from the cave, here goes:

#1. Contraceptives require a prescription, and a prescription requires a visit to a physician.  Physicians want to be paid.  In Massachusetts, for example, the cost for a female exam ranges from $185 to $240 per visit. [BCMa pdf]

#2. The notion that any woman can get prescription Pills for $9 per month is a myth.  Yes, there are some contraceptives which can be purchased in a pack of 28 for $9.00. However, some women are prescribed specific pills for specific purposes, and to address specific symptoms.  Jezebel explains:

“Birth control pills are made of hormones—sometimes just one hormone and sometimes a combination of two hormones (progesterone and estrogen). The combinations and sequences vary and are selected for each patient to distinctly meet her needs. For example, women with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) will need a different level of hormones than other women and thus, her prescription needs to be carefully managed under a doctor’s care. The same goes with women suffering from irregular menses, dysmenorrhea, vaginal bleeding, ruptured cysts, or hemorrhagic cyst. That being said, birth control can cost a woman up to $129.99 per pill pack.” (emphasis added)

By the way… women don’t take Pills the way men take Viagra, when the “mood is right.”  So, the range spans the low end $9 form to the $130 per month packets, every month.  Some of the simpler compounds (estrogen/progestin) can be in that lower price range, but when folate is added (estrogen/progestin/folate combinations) the price tag hits the $116.00 per month for a 28 pill packet. [GoodRx]  The type of prescription medication is determined by the physician, and there are at least 57 types of birth control pills ranging from $18 to $130 per month. [GoodRx]

Remember, not so long ago, when the Republicans were bellowing that any federal reform of our health care system would be putting a third party in between a person and the physician?  That’s exactly what the Supreme Court did in the Hobby Lobby decision. It inserted an employer between the woman and her doctor, in essence telling the doctor, “We’re sorry if in your best professional judgment an IUD is the best option, because we’re not going to offer coverage for that in our group health insurance plans.”  By the way, an IUD costs between $500 and $1,000 and must be inserted by a health care provider — not the guy at the counter at the Gas ‘N Go.  And, NO, it doesn’t cause abortions.

Cheesy Whines

Why should an employer have to pay for something he doesn’t believe in?

Because — He’s providing an earned benefit (group health care insurance plans) as part of the total employee compensation package. Employee compensation packages are regulated.  There are minimum wages, there are overtime provisions, and there are rules for what must be covered in employer sponsored group health insurance plans.

Why do we have to give women free birth control?

Because — it isn’t free.  Employer sponsored group health insurance plans are usually set up such that both the employer and the employee are paying into them.  Why should an employee have to pay into a plan that doesn’t meet the federal standards for comprehensive health insurance coverage for basic medical services? However, there’s more to this argument isn’t there?

Send the children out, it’s time to talk about sex.

There are at least 5 million reasons for a comprehensive health care insurance plan being required to cover some contraceptive prescriptions — that’s the number of women in the country who suffer with endometriosis.  That’s a ball park figure because the NIH estimates that from 6% to 10% of all women in this country have this condition. [NIH]  Polycystic Ovary Syndrome affects about 5% to 10% of the female population, especially those between the ages of 18 and 44.  [NIH] Serious menstrual irregularities plague about 9% to 14% of the women in this country. [NIH]  Add all these numbers up and there are more than enough medical reasons contraceptive medication is covered in comprehensive health insurance plans.  But we know why many couples use contraceptives…

Contraceptives are used when partners want to have sex and don’t want more children.  To the Talibanic among us this is “sex without consequences.”   This sounds a bit silly because most sexual intercourse comes without those little consequences.

“..women who are 25 and have been trying to get pregnant for three months have an 18 percent chance of getting pregnant in their next menstrual cycle. By contrast, women who are 40 and have been trying for three months have only a 7 percent chance. After one year of trying, 25-year-old women have a 10 percent chance of getting pregnant in their next cycle; 40-year-old women have a 3 percent shot.” [HuffPo]

Obviously, if the woman has an irregular menstrual cycle it’s harder to “lower” those chances, but the odds of producing a little consequence are still rather low, even for healthy, young, females in their prime child bearing years.   Therefore, let’s leave the odds-making part of the procreation argument and move on to the recreational part — which has more health benefits than one might expect.

The Health Information Database provides this happy news:

“Frequent, pleasurable sex in marriage has countless emotional and physical benefits for both partners. In fact, sex, marriage, and well-being are closely related.  Studies show that frequent sex can help you live a longer and healthier life. For men, it can lower the risk of prostate cancer. Sex improves blood circulation and may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. It also has a positive effect on the immune system, which helps to protect you against diseases of all types.”

But wait, there’s more — posture improvement, muscle tone, functioning as a sleep aid, chemicals released in the brain assist in memory and mental functions, sexual activity burns off cortisol which in turn reduces appetite (weight loss anyone?) — with the added bonus: “The chemicals released in the brain during sex – oxytocin, serotonin, phenyl ethylamine, endorphins – all play a role in diminishing both chronic and acute pain.” [HID]

But for all the scientific wonders of sexual activity, perhaps the best reasons are emotional and psychological, and good for sustaining the marriage:

“Feelings of commitment and affection between partners are heightened by sexual activity. Sex boosts your self-esteem, reduces insecurity, and causes you to feel better about yourself. It makes you more optimistic and helps to combat depression. It is also one of the greatest stress relievers imaginable.” [HID]

With all this in mind, why would anyone oppose the use of contraception if it made marriage partners more likely to engage in the intimacy which produces all these good results?

Misogyny

Patriarchal religions, and that includes most of the major ones, devalued women.  There are Biblical references to women as property, as inferior beings, as subservient to male partners, but interestingly enough neither Jesus nor Mohammed was quite as strict on the subject as their followers. [RatWik]  Couple this with a common interpretation of Genesis 2 and we have the quotidian put down.

God planted the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil (Gen 2:9), and the Serpent advises Eve to eat the fruit because “your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Gen 3:4)  The First Couple eats the fruit and God tosses them out of the garden.

What do they realize when they awaken? They are naked. The rest of the animal kingdom doesn’t care.  Note, it’s not God who has a problem with nakedness — all the rest of the creatures aren’t sewing fig leaf fashions.  But then, all the rest of the creatures haven’t decided they have the god-like capacity to pronounce judgment about what’s good and what’s not.  Somehow, the message that mankind lost the innocence of the natural state, and set itself apart from the rest of Creation got transformed into Eve Bad Adam Good  But for Her.

Just how far this transformation can go is illustrated in John Knox’s  1558 “The First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regiment of Women.” Knox was particularly displeased with female monarchs,

“To promote a woman to bear rule, superiority, dominion, or empire above any realm, nation, or city, is repugnant to nature; contumely to God, a thing most contrary to his revealed will and approved ordinance; and finally, it is the subversion of good order, of all equity and justice.”  [BBC]

What Knox got for his trouble was the succession of Elizabeth I to the throne of England.   However, his 16th century sentiments still have their followers.  The idea that nakedness = sex, and sex = bad, and women tempt men, ergo women are bad, requires some mental gymnastics, but we appear to have an abundance of those who find this plausible.

The Victorian Era promoted motherhood and domesticity, and the unfortunate notion that sex was something to be endured while “closing one’s eyes and thinking of England.” Fast forward to women in the 1930a, and the advice is essentially the same, “nothing destroys the happiness of married life more than the lazy slovenly wife.” [Telegraph]  Notice, that’s not philandering, or lazy and slovenly,  husbands.  Fast forward once again, and we have Republican mouthpiece Rush Limbaugh proclaiming that men who support the contraceptive mandate only want sex.

“But the thing I have learned is that men are totally supportive. Today’s young men are totally supportive of somebody else buying women their birth control pills. Make sure the women are taking them, ’cause sex is what it’s all about.” [Politicususa]

From John Knox (and others) to the advice columns and treatises of the modern era; right down to the atrabilious Limbaugh, the old canard that sex = sin, maintains its force.

That force was in evidence yet again in Senator Dean Heller’s vote to filibuster X. 2578.  May this force leave us.

*Update & Mea Culpa for mis-identifying the bill number in the original, a mistake deeply regretted.

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Filed under Health Care, health insurance, Heller, Women's Issues, Womens' Rights

The Unsportsmanlike Act

Duck StampThe Bipartisan Sportsman’s Act of 2014 (S. 2363) sailed through the first cloture roadblock on an 82-12 vote [roll call 218] and then sank in the mire of Senate obstructionism.  Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) pulled the plug in the face of Republican squabbling over amendments. [The Hill]  What started out as a simple two title bill got entangled in …. Guns.

Title I of the original bill would have allowed hunters to get duck stamps online, and allowed target practice on federal lands, among other improvements for those who truly are into hunting. Title II concerned conservation of various habitats. [S. 2363]  And then things got complicated.

Guns Galore!

Thirty eight amendments were offered to the bill.  Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) wanted to add his “Second Amendment Enforcement Act” to the bill, which would have gutted gun regulations in the District of Columbia, and just about everywhere else for that matter. [CR S4283]  He also proposed allowing firearms in postal facilities. [CR S4283] Nothing like encouraging the customers to, in a phrase from a bygone era, “go postal?”

Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) joined Senator Paul in his efforts to add the proposed “Second Amendment Enforcement Act” to the bill, [CR S4283]  and he, too, wanted to extend firearm privileges in postal facilities. Lee’s three amendments essentially proposed the same extensions of Paul’s expansion of gun ‘rights.’

Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TX) offered his “Second Amendment Enforcement Act” to the original bill, and Senator Jefferson Beauregard Session (R-Old South) chimed in with his rendition.  Not to be outdone, Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) wanted a “Second Amendment Enforcement Act included in the three amendments he filed, as did Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), Idaho Republican Senator Mike Crapo, Richard Burr (R-NC), Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) in three amendments, and Senator Rob Portman (R-OH), and Nevada’s own Senator Dean Heller.

There’s nothing new about this “Second Amendment Enforcement Act,” it was drafted by the National Rifle Association, and was introduced by Senators McCain (R-GreenRoom) and Tester (D-MT) as a response to gun regulations in the District of Columbia. [OV.com] By the lights of the NRA there shouldn’t be any.  It also showed up in the 110th Congress (2008) in the form of H.R. 6691.  It appeared in Representative Mike Ross’s H.R. 645 in 2011 [NRA] where it died in Committee in February 2011. [GovTrack]

If the fish can’t live in the water, why are you fishing there?

Senator Heller also signed on to Senator Barrasso’s amendment which deviated from the chorus of ‘gun rights’ and headed into the Clean Water Act.  SA 3453 took the regulation out of regulations concerning the identification of waters protected by the Clean Water Act:

“SEC. 1__XX. IDENTIFICATION OF WATERS PROTECTED BY THE CLEAN WATER ACT.
(a) In General.–Neither the Secretary of the Army nor the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency shall– (1) finalize the proposed rule entitled “Definition of `Waters of the United States’ Under the Clean Water Act” (79 Fed. Reg. 22188 (April 21, 2014)); or
(2) use the proposed rule described in paragraph (1), or any substantially similar proposed rule or guidance, as the basis for any rulemaking or any decision regarding the scope or enforcement of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (33 U.S.C. 1251 et seq.).  (b) Rules.–The use of the proposed rule described in subsection (a)(1), or any substantially similar proposed rule or guidance, as the basis for any rulemaking or any decision regarding the scope or enforcement of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (33 U.S.C. 1251 et seq.) shall be grounds for vacation of the final rule, decision, or enforcement action.”

That’s simple, if the Army and the EPA can’t finalize rules regarding the definition of protected water under the Clean Water Act, there’s no clean water? This unpleasant notion was also put forward by Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS), and  Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO).

It’s rather difficult to imagine a bill intended to encourage hunting and fishing including a proposal to allow more pollution of hunting and fishing realms. However, several Republican Senators managed to do it.  This “Polluted Waters Act of 2014″ didn’t quite mesh with Senator Cardin’s (D-DE) amendment to enact the National Fish Habitat Action Plan.  Nor does it seem particularly appealing to someone like myself who thoroughly enjoys fly fishing — imagine all the fun of standing in a mountain stream watching what gray slime doesn’t attach to the waders float along downstream?

Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) was disappointed there wasn’t an “amendment process,” [The Hill] but with the “Second Amendment Solutions” attached, and the specter of the Dirty Water Fishing Act of 2014 included, we shouldn’t be too disappointed that this little bill didn’t make it past the Senate Obstruction Machine.

It would have been nice if the hunters could have gotten their duck stamps online…

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Filed under Congress, ecology, Gun Issues, Heller, Nevada politics, Politics

Heller Rides (His Hobby Horse) Again

Hobby HorseThe U.S. Senate voted Tuesday evening on a cloture motion to stop the Republican filibuster of H.R. 4660, (Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2015 ) and the cloture motion was agreed to on a 95-3 vote.  The three Republicans voting to sustain the filibuster?  Paul (R-KY), Lee (R-UT), and Nevada’s own Dean Heller (R-NV). [roll call 200]

And, why might he have done this? Perhaps we have the answer in the following statement posted to Senator Heller’s web site:

“U.S. Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) has filed “No Budget, No Pay” as an amendment to the CJS Appropriations Bill (H.R. 4660).  The Heller No Budget, No Pay Amendment calls on Congress to adopt legislation requiring passage of a yearly budget and all twelve appropriations bills each fiscal year in order to receive pay.”

This particular hobby horse is a favorite toy for the Senator.   However,  proposal comes with a bit of a problem for the Constitution First Crowd — it’s unconstitutional.  See the 27th Amendment: “No law, varying the compensation for the services of the Senators and Representatives, shall take effect, until an election of Representatives shall have intervened.”   And, while the proposition has a lovely tinkly sound for fiscal conservatives it is no more grounded in reality than Tinker Bell.

In an article speaking for the ethereal proposal, former Comptroller General David Walker inadvertently included the core of the problem for the No Labels folk: “Congress has only passed spending bills on time four times since 1952. The last time Congress passed both a concurrent budget resolution and all required spending bills on time was 1996.” [Politico]  And, there’s another historical problem:

“In four of the last five election years in which the Republicans held at least partial control of Congress (1998, 2002, 2004 and 2006), they didn’t pass a budget resolution. That includes three years in which Republicans controlled both chambers.” [WaPo 2012]

There’s some irony in a Republican proposal to “solve” a problem created by … Republicans.  What might we call an unconstitutional, ahistorical, and flimsy proposal which is full of “sound and fury signifying nothing?”  The usual label is Grandstanding.

The idea has a lovely ring on the hustings, makes for great sound bite fodder, but as evidenced by the underwhelming support received by Senator Heller during vote #200, it has about Zilch chance of passage.

 

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Enough Said, It’s Time To DO Something

There’s been enough said already.

Heller Yellow Stripe

and so did:

S 649 Background Check Bill

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Filed under Gun Issues, Heller