Congress: Not Exactly Working Overtime

Hard HatHouse Speaker John Boehner would have us believe that he and his cohorts like Rep. Joe Heck (R-NV3) and Rep. Mark Amodei (R-NV2) have been thinking of nothing! — Nothing, I say, except jobs for the last two and one half years:

“So tomorrow the president says he’s going to go out and ‘pivot’ back to jobs.  Well, welcome to the conversation, Mr. President, we’ve never left it.  We’ve been focused on jobs for the last two and half years – actually, longer than that – but the two and half years we’ve been in the majority. [Speaker]

What Haven’t You Done For Me Lately?

Really?  In the first 99 roll call votes in the House’s 113th session there are NO jobs bills.  There was a bill passed to “prohibit the National Labor Relations Board from taking any action that requires a quorum of the members of the Board until such time as Board constituting a quorum shall have been confirmed by the Senate, the Supreme Court issues a decision on the constitutionality of the appointments to the Board made in January 2012, or the adjournment sine die of the first session of the 113th Congress.” [H.R. 146]  It’s a bit of a stretch to figure out how handcuffing the NLRB is a way to promote the wealth and welfare of American workers.  Nevada Representatives Amodei and Heck voted in favor of this blatantly pro-corporate management bit of legislation; Representatives Horsford and Titus did not.

Ah, but wait! The Republican controlled House wasn’t finished with the NLRB, on April 12, 2013 H.R. 1120 was passed which declared: “Effective on the date of enactment of this Act, the National Labor Relations Board shall cease all activity that requires a quorum of the members of the Board, as set forth in the National Labor Relations Act (29 U.S.C. 151 et seq.). The Board shall not appoint any personnel nor implement, administer, or enforce any decision, rule, vote, or other action decided, undertaken, adopted, issued, or finalized on or after January 4, 2012, that requires a quorum of the members of the Board, as set forth in such Act.”  [roll call 101]

This wasn’t handcuffing, it was a full on effort to make the NLRB completely dysfunctional.  Contending that this bill has anything at all to do with Job Creation is an argument which only works if one adopts the discredited Supply Side Economics Hoax — theorizing that if corporate management is happy then everyone will be happy.  Representatives Amodei and Heck were happy to vote for it.

Ah, but the assaults on the labor force continued with H.R. 1406, the Working Families Flexibility Act.  Yes, a person could label this as “flexibility” for American workers, but a better shorthand description would be the Anti-Overtime Bill.  H.R. 1406 Prohibits an employee from accruing more than 160 hours of compensatory time. Requires an employee’s employer to provide monetary compensation, after the end of a calendar year, for any unused compensatory time off accrued during the preceding year.   Once more Reps. Amodei and Heck were pleased to support corporate management and vote yes, Rep. Titus and Horsford, failing to see how substituting comp time for actual overtime wages would help most workers,  voted no. [roll call 137]

Veterans were supposed to see some benefit from H.R. 1412, which would have job training programs end up paying veterans 75% of what the job normally pays — the current rate is 85%.  [CRS] And, then there was this kicker: “Extends from November 30 through December 31, 2016, the requirement of a reduced pension ($90 per month) for veterans (with neither spouse nor child) or surviving spouses (with no child) covered by Medicaid plans under title XIX of the Social Security Act for services furnished by nursing facilities.”   Thank you for your service?  The bill passed on May 21.

Let’s not forget that old “Job Creator” — the XL Pipeline — and let’s also remember there’s some very real controversy about how many actual jobs this would create while subsidizing the transportation of Canadian oil to global markets.   The provision of H.R. 3 passed on May 22, with Representatives Heck and Amodei voting to subsidize the Canadians; Representatives Titus and Horsford voting no. [roll call 179]

Add to this H. Res. 274, the Drill Baby Drill Act, this time on the continental shelf of the U.S.  There’s a pattern here — Reps. Amodei and Heck yes; Titus and Horsford no.

Now, we’re up to Roll Call 300 in the last session of the vaunted Job Creators in the U.S. House of Representatives — How about something called the “Offshore Energy and Jobs Act?”  Evidently, if you add the word “jobs” to a bill it automatically means — jobs?
“(Sec. 101) Amends the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA) to direct the Secretary of the Interior to implement a leasing program that includes at least 50% of the available unleased acreage within each outer Continental Shelf (OCS) planning area considered to have the largest undiscovered, technically recoverable oil and gas resources, with an emphasis on offering the most geologically prospective parts of the planning area.”  Drill Baby Drill, and keep drilling.  Here we go again: Amodei and Heck voting with the Oil Lobby, Titus and Horsford voting no on H.R. 2231.

Thus far we can document that the 113th Congress has taken target practice at the NLRB, at worker’s over-time pay, promoted the construction of pipelines and wells for the benefit of global energy corporations — and…. we haven’t touched another category of bills the House GOP asserts would be “job creators,” bills to gut the Sarbanes-Oxley corporate finance reform law and the Dodd-Frank financial sector reform law.  There have been bills to restrict the SEC’s capacity to regulate the derivatives markets, and the commodities markets.  In short, it’s the same old drum beat: Corporate Subsidies and De-regulation.

Once Upon A Time

There was the administration proposed American Jobs Act, which the Republicans allowed to expire from the last session.  The bill would have cut the payroll taxes for 98% of American businesses, which we usually call “small business.”  It sought to prevent the layoff of 280,000 teachers and funded renovations and upgrades to some 35,000 schools (construction jobs anyone?)  The bill contained an Infrastructure Funding system, with a proposal to finance road construction, airport improvements, rail improvements and high speed projects…. and the GOP let it die.

Undaunted by the failure of the Republican leadership to craft any legislation including infrastructure and employment, Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-FL) has introduced an updated version of the American Jobs Act.  Wilson’s “Jobs Now Act” (H.R. 2574) was introduced on July 18, 2011, and Representative Wilson is ready to try again.  The House leadership may be just as willing to let the bill expire yet again in the House Education and Workforce Training Committee.

But wait?  Speaker Boehner wants us to understand that the Congress should be praised for what it hasn’t done.  If that is the standard then the body is praise-worthy indeed — they’ve done relatively little except cater to the Wall Street bankers who want to return to the Good Old Days of Casino Capitalism, to the Oil Giants, and to the top floor corner offices of corporate management.

The rest of us?  Not so much.

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