Category Archives: Filibusters

What does obstruction look like? Filibusters in the 113th Congress

Filibusters 102-113And the 113th isn’t finished yet!

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Harry’s Gambit

ReidSenate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV):  Floor Statement 11/21/2013 –

In the history of the Republic, there have been 168 filibusters of executive and judicial nominations. Half of them have occurred during the Obama Administration – during the last four and a half years. These nominees deserve at least an up-or-down vote.”

“This gridlock has consequences. Terrible consequences. It is not only bad for President Obama and bad for the United States Senate; it’s bad for our country. It is bad for our national security and for our economic security.”

“Today the important distinction is not between Democrats and Republicans. It is between those who are willing to help break the gridlock in Washington and those who defend the status quo… This change to the rules regarding presidential nominees will apply equally to both parties. When Republicans are in power, these changes will apply to them as well.  That’s simple fairness. And it’s something both sides should be willing to live with to make Washington work again.”  (emphasis added)

The money quote is in the first line.   The motivation comes in the press release wherein Senator Reid states the obvious:

“It is a troubling trend that Republicans are willing to block executive branch nominees even when they have no objection to the qualifications of the nominee. Instead, they block qualified executive branch nominees to circumvent the legislative process. They block qualified executive branch nominees to force wholesale changes to laws. They block qualified executive branch nominees to restructure entire executive branch departments. And they block qualified judicial nominees because they don’t want President Obama to appoint any judges to certain courts.”  (emphasis added)

In short, nominees are being stymied for reasons which are superfluous to the functioning of our courts or to the operation of our executive branch — it’s pure politics.   Reid goes on to explain in a trip down memory lane:

“At the beginning of this Congress, the Republican Leader pledged that, quote, “this Congress should be more bipartisan than the last Congress.” We’re told in scripture that, “When a man makes a vow… he must not break his word.” Numbers 30-2. In January, Republicans promised to work with the majority to process nominations… in a timely manner by unanimous consent, except in extraordinary circumstances.

“Exactly three weeks later, Republicans mounted a first-in-history filibuster of a highly qualified nominee for Secretary of Defense. Despite being a former Republican Senator and a decorated war hero, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s nomination was pending in the Senate for a record 34 days, more than three times the previous average. Remember, our country was at war. Republicans have blocked executive branch nominees like Secretary Hagel not because they object to the qualifications of the nominee, but simply because they seek to undermine the very government in which they were elected to serve.”

And so it began… it didn’t take the Republican minority a full month to renege on their promise to deal with the backlog of civilian nominees.   Now what?

Oh, wail the Washington Chatterati, this action to reduce the filibusters of judicial and executive will come to grief.  The acrimony will increase!  Uh, if it took the GOP only three weeks to back off from their initial promise not to filibuster qualified nominees, the level of acrimony has already hit the top of the scale.  Not to mention the Republican precipitated Government Shutdown which was not exactly an outstanding example of cooperation and good will.

Not sure if the Gridlock assertion is real?  The full list of civilian nominations in committee is located here.  The list of judicial nominations for the district and circuit courts is available here.  It doesn’t take much imagination to look at the lists and conclude that if the Republican minority in the Senate were to filibuster each and every nominee there would continue to be serious backlogs in our courts for the foreseeable future.   Now, consider the “acrimony factor.”

If the present system, allowing the filibuster of every civilian (including judicial) nominee, were to continue in the Senate, and if the Republicans regained the control of the Senate, then it isn’t inconceivable that the Democratic minority would revert to the same tactics as the GOP in the 113th Congress.  Imagine the judicial system if this were to continue through subsequent Congresses?

The only people who would be served by a completely dysfunctional judiciary are those who are already fulminating about the Evil Government taking their unspecified “freedoms,” the modern anarchists.

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Filed under filibuster, Filibusters, Judicial, Politics, Reid

Roundup: Guns and Games Edition

Cattle RoundupAgain, it’s been too long since the last aggregation of interesting articles and excellent posts concerning Nevada and its politics. Let’s begin with some local items.

**  Remember when Governor Sandoval vetoed SB 221, the bill which would have expanded background checks to private gun sales to insure that individuals who were felons, fugitives, undocumented aliens, juveniles without parental supervision, those restrained by a court from possessing firearms because of spousal abuse and domestic violence, and seriously mentally ill individuals could not obtain guns?  The Governor claimed the bill was “too broad,” but now we have a very specific example of precisely the kind of activity the proposed law was designed to prevent — a seriously mentally ill individual purchased a gun from a Reno police officer, and Nevada Progressive has a good summation of the situation.

For background information see:  “RGJ Exclusive: Mentally ill man who bought gun from Reno cop was prohibited from having a gunReno Gazette Journal, July 16, 2013.  “Gun issue smolders in Nevada political landscape,” Ray Hagar, Reno Gazette Journal, July 17, 2013.

** The Nevada Rural Democratic Caucus would like to remind Senator Dean Heller (R-Big and Bigger Banks) that it is often a good thing to read laws one is complaining about, and to refresh one’s memory about how the Congress of the United States of America functions prior to launching aggrieved letters to the Executive Branch.   See: “Heller Has No Clue How Congress Works and He Apparently Can’t Read Either,” at the NRDC site.   Senator Heller’s latest nod to the Tea Party in regard to the Affordable Care Act substantiates the NRDC’s headline.

** Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) got tired of the GOP obstructionism in the Senate and played the anti-filibuster card.  Why?  As Sebelius explains:

“Not a single cabinet secretary nominee was filibustered in President [Jimmy] Carter’s administration. Not a single cabinet secretary nominee was filibustered in President George H.W. Bush’s administration. Only one cabinet secretary was filibustered in President [Ronald] Reagan’s administration. And only one cabinet secretary was filibustered in President George W. Bush‘s administration. But already in President Obama’s administration, 4 cabinet secretaries have been filibustered, and more filibusters are likely. Yet the Republican Leader says there is no problem here. The status quo is fine.”

And then came The Deal, as explained by the Washington Post:

“The clear winner from the ugly debate was the president, who will have a full slate of his nominees confirmed and will settle the messy staffing issue at the CFPB and the NLRB. Those agencies are the subject of a legal battle that will reach the Supreme Court over Obama’s method of making an end run around Senate confirmation to install interim appointees, threatening to undermine more than 1,000 rulings issued by the labor board in the past 18 months.”

In this instance it appears as though Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) isn’t quite as “necessary” as he thought he might have been?   E.J. Dionne, Jr. offers more analysis in his column.   And, Bingo!, we have Thomas Perez confirmed as the new Secretary of Labor.

** Speaking of undermining the system.   The Republican controlled House of Representatives, which just can’t seem to help itself from repeated attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, has voted to delay the individual mandate section of the law — an action which will die in the Senate, and would meet a veto from the White House — The latest exercise in futility passed 264 to 121, with Nevada Representatives Heck (R-NV3) and Amodei (R-NV2) voting in favor of the bill; Representative Titus (D-NV1) voted no.

Perhaps those voting in the affirmative, such as Reps. Heck and Amodei, didn’t take the time to read the latest reports concerning the implementation of the ACA and Patients Bill of Rights — especially the one which reports that health care insurance premiums are projected to drop by 50% in New York, or the release this morning from HHS:

“The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is set to release a report on Thursday morning that analyzes the 2014 premiums in the Obamacare insurance marketplaces in 11 different states, including Virginia, Colorado, Ohio, and Oregon. Officials said that the data will show that the weighted average of the least expensive mid-level health plans in those states’ marketplaces are 18 percent lower than what the CBO thought they would be when the law first passed.”  [TP] (emphasis added)

In essence, since insurance companies are factoring in the increased demand for their products under the individual mandate — what Representatives Heck and Amodei just voted to do is Increase the Cost of Health Insurance Premiums?

** You can’t make this stuff up.

ALEC’s Back — this time with bills crafted for state consumption which would privatize the nation’s educational systems, state by state.  There are 139 bills awaiting passage in 43 states and D.C., but before we jump on the ALEC “reform” bandwagon, it’s advisable to read “Cashing In On Kids.”  There were three bills in the last session of the Nevada legislature related to the ALEC campaign to cash in on kids:  AB 254 was the ALEC sponsored “Parent Trigger Bill,” and SB 314, the ALEC supported “Parental Rights Amendment.”  SB 407 was the “Great Teachers and Leaders Act.”   AB 254 was sponsored by: Hansen, Hickey, Hambrick, Fiore, Hardy, Kirner, Livermore, Wheeler, Gustavson — no surprises there?

Beautiful Downtown Deer Trail, CO is pondering whether to offer a bounty to those who shoot down drones.   For $25 dollars, the ordinance proposes, you can get a hunting license for a drone, and take target practice on your very own Spy Ship.  This is interesting because Congress has directed the FAA to make airspace more readily available for surveillance drones, and most serious legislation on the subject calls for a probable cause warrant before police utilize a drone.  [ACLU] So, if the Colorado State Patrol gets a probable cause warrant to send a drone over a suspected meth lab or marijuana farm — the residents of Deer Trail could shoot it down?  And, please tell me the people advocating the Drone Shoot aren’t some of the same individuals who are all for using drones to spot undocumented workers trying to cross the deserts?

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Filed under education, Filibusters, Gun Issues, Nevada politics

Madness in March

Repro Rights Madness** Nevada’s own Sin City Siren has an outstanding Bracket, created especially for those who are interested in seeing how state and localities across this country are competing to see which can have the most regressive, reactionary, and repugnant statutes limiting the rights of women to make their own decisions (as in Small Government?).   Do click over and copy the brackets, and then share them with family and friends!

** The Nevada Progressive updates information about the continuing Soap Operas which are the lives of former Mega-Lobbyist Harvey Whittemore and the ever charming but perhaps a shade duplicitous Heidi Gansert.  Steve Sebelius added another page to the continuing drama that is Assemblyman Steven Brooks (D-NLV).  For the video version, see Ralston Reports.

*** The Nevada Rural Democratic Caucus reprints a good piece from Jim Hightower on how the GOP wants to transform Medicare into “We Don’t Care.”  For a refresher course in how Republicans have the wrong end of the stick on the Medicare issue, consult this March 10th post in Perrspectives:  In Five Charts. Congresswoman Michele Bachmann (R-LoonyTunes) should get more exercise dodging questions from reporters about how she substantiates her claims on the floor of the House that the Affordable Care Act “kills people.” [ThinkProg]  For those in the fact based universe:

While the main coverage expansion provisions will go into effect in 2014, the ACA has so far saved seniors over $6 billion on prescription drugs, reduced administrative overhead, deterred private insurers from requesting double digit premium increases, kept millions of young people on their parents’ health care plans, and provided 34.1 million people with Medicare preventive services without additional cost-sharing. [ThinkProg]

*** And, if we thought the continuing Management by Crisis thing was over in House Republican quarters — here comes Speaker John Boehner with the Demand, (Demand I say), that every dollar increase in the debt ceiling (The Debt Ceiling I say) will “require a dollar in spending cuts.”  Another day, another manufactured crisis.   Before one gets too hysterical about The Great Big Debt Crisis — read “Paul Ryan and Eric Cantor Are Trying To Con You Into Paying Their Debts. ”

*** Things we could be talking about if it weren’t for the manufactured debt “crisis” compliments of the GOP majority in the House of Representatives:

(1) The report that nearly two out of three hate crimes committed in this country goes unreported. [The Grio]

(2) The filibuster of Richard Cordray’s nomination to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. [TPM]  Of District Court nominee Elissa Cadish, who withdrew her nomination after Senator Dean Heller (R-NRA and Shooting Sports Foundation) questioned her bona fides on the unrestricted and unlimited right to pack shoulder firing missile launchers as prescribed in the 2nd Amendment. [Bloomberg] Or, the filibuster of Appeals Court nominee Caitlin Halligan, who had the temerity to do her job and participate in a lawsuit of behalf of the City of New York in a lawsuit again gun manufacturers. [Bloomberg]  Or the hold placed on the nomination of Scott C. Doney, to head the NOAA — Mr. Doney relinquished his nomination. [NOLA] Or, Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO, and Tobacco Industry) placing a hold on the nomination of Gina McCarthy to head the EPA, because he has a problem with levee plans, which is interesting because McCarthy’s area of expertise is “fuel efficiency” and clean air administration. [LAT]  Here’s the list of nominations pending in Senate Committees.   Two days ago Bloomberg News oped asked “Are Republicans  Abusing the Filibuster?”  the answer still looks like YES.

***  Perhaps we could even be paying more attention to the latest report card release from the American Society of Civil Engineers on our nation’s infrastructure — hey! we’re up to a D+ now.  But, why worry — Nevada only needs about $2.7 billion to maintain and upgrade our drinking water delivery systems, another $2.9 billion to deal with our sewage; while we have 149 high hazard dams, and 40 structurally deficient bridges.  [ASCE]  Maybe we’re waiting for our kids and grandkids to pick up the bills?

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Filed under Filibusters, Infrastructure, Medicare, Nevada politics, Women's Issues, Womens' Rights

Must Reads and Good Info

Grammar Book** Nevada Progressive offers a good summary on the politics of comprehensive immigration law reform.  Add to this, Antonio Villaraigosa’s op-ed piece, “Comprehensive Immigration Reform: The Time Is Now.”

** The recent exceedingly insensitive and hyper-hypocritical ad from the National Rifle Association gets the treatment it deserves in “NRA ad targets Obama’s kids…” and welcome advice in “Trolls don’t deserve a seat at the table.”

The gun-lusters keep telling me that “Gee Whiz, the AR-15 isn’t the most powerful gun out there…A person could use a ____________ (fill in the blank with the caller’s weaponry of choice.”  The point appears to be that the poor AR (A for Assault, R for Rifle) is getting picked on.   I wouldn’t want to try to make this point to the parents of Ben Wheeler, one of the victims of the Sandy Hook Massacre. [MSNBC with video]  Perhaps this is the time for us to deal with the graphic gore in that tragic classroom?  This, from the chief medical examiner tasked with doing the autopsies on the slain children:

“Everybody’s death was caused by gunshot wounds and obviously the manner of death on all these cases have been classified as homicide,” Carver said.
He said that he personally performed seven autopsies and those children had between three and 11 wounds each. Two of them were shot at close range, the others at a distance.
….
“This is a very devastating set of injuries,” Carver said. “I believe everyone was hit more than once.”

“I’ve been at this for a third of a century and  my sensibility may not be the average man’s, but this is probably the worst I’ve seen.”   [DKos links with video of the press conference]

There are sentient points to be made about the technicalities of firearm classifications, BUT (1) merely because illegal weapons can be purchased in black markets doesn’t preclude the necessity of banning the sale of military style weaponry which places our children, our law enforcement officers, and even ourselves in danger.  As one who generally opposes the extension of drug availability, I don’t see any reason to make either contraband drugs or contraband firearms easier to obtain.  All too often drugs and guns create a toxic mix — especially for law enforcement; (2) and, no we’ll not de-glamorize gun violence statutorily, but we can, and should, make the acquisition of firearms a more stringent process; and (3) while no single package of legislation will ever eradicate gun violence, we can, and should, take rational steps to make firearms more difficult to obtain by those who are irrational, or criminal.  We make bank robbery a criminal act, even though we know that the presence of a statute in the books doesn’t prevent the lazy and greedy from attempting it, and periodically succeeding.  We need to make the same effort to make gun massacres more difficult to perpetuate.

** Filibuster reform is another hot topic du jour:  The inimitable Bill Moyers urges we take action on Filibuster Reform.  As the cliché goes — if you don’t read anything else, make it this piece.

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Filed under Filibusters, Gun Issues, Immigration

Things that could get me to toss confetti in 2013

ConfettiThere are things that could get me to toss confetti for 2013.   Not many, mind you, which would justify the consequent vacuuming, but a goodly handful.

#1. The Senate of the United States of America does something constructive with the FILIBUSTER rule.   The original rule was intended to prevent the willful trampling of minority points of view, but the abuse of the rule is now part of the clichéd “Washington Gridlock.”  There is a delicate balance between Majority Rule and Minority Rights, but Obstruction for its own sake is not a laudable occupation.

#2. The Republicans in the House of Representatives eschew the  Hastert Rule , under which a majority of the majority party caucus must agree to the passage of a bill before a vote can be taken on the House floor.  This might have been a lovely idea if the current majority party caucus weren’t the replication of that other cliché– a wheelbarrow load of frogs.  Governance requires compromise, and compromise demands the admission that we don’t always get everything we want.  Ideological posturing is not a substitute for principled discourse.

#3.  Someone in a position to do something about it finally figures out that arguments over raising the debt ceiling are academic at best and consummately silly at worst — rather like announcing that because I overspent my budget for this holiday season I’m going to chop up my credit cards and not pay the bills.  Aside from being the most fiscally irresponsible action imaginable, it’s also a manifestation of the idea that the full faith and credit of the United States is some kind of bargaining chip in ideological squabbling.

#4. The National Rifle Association (aka No Rational Argument) stops pretending to care about the right of our citizens to keep and bear arms, and honestly announces that its ultimate intention is to promote the sale of as many firearms as its manufacturing donors can create.  After that, it should be far easier to discuss comprehensive background checks, closing the gun show loophole, and banning military style assault weapons.

#5. More people, perhaps even more people in the national media, stop referring to “The” government and start calling it what it is — OUR government.   “The” government calls to mind the institution which cracks down on Moonshiners, or enforces school integration, or ignores calls to make Jefferson Davis’s birthday a national holiday.  “The” government didn’t decide to integrate public schools — “our” government did. “The” government didn’t decide to enact regulations to prevent air and water pollution — “our” government did.  And, “The” government didn’t create the Food Stamp (SNAP) program — “our” government did that.  And so it goes.  Continual references to “The” government is an unfortunate holdover from the Reaganesque caricature of government designed to promote the financial health of the economic elite by appealing to the discontent with those laws “our” government enacted to promote OUR general welfare.

#6. Our representatives on Capitol Hill learn to say “____ isn’t the end of the world as we know it.”  I could do with a great deal less hysterical hyperbole.  “This is the Largest Tax Increase In The History of the Universe!”  Probably not.  “This is the worst violation of human rights ever!” Probably not that either.  “This will create the worst calamity known to man.” Probably not.  “This will destroy our ____.”  Again, probably not.  Excuse me while I chuckle at the pomposity of this meaningless prognostication.

#7.  Journalists who seek to inform me via the television set prove to be (1) knowledgeable about the subject under discussion, and (2) include fact checking as part of the “context” of which they speak so often.  If a statement made by a politician is factually inaccurate, they will tell me; and I hope they’ll be able to offer a correction.  I really don’t care if they are correcting the record in the wake of Left Wing Larry or Right Wing Richard’s pontification.  The object of the exercise should be to impart accurate information so far as it can be known — I can get my “entertainment” elsewhere.  Bluntly, the “he said, she said, and then he said” reactions from professional chatterati or elected representatives is less entertaining than a good professional wrestling match, which at least has the grace to admit it’s a scripted farce.

#8. Somebody finally declares the Culture Wars over and done with.  Our contemporary version appears to incorporate a toxic dose of good old fashioned misogyny.  Women make up about 51% of our population and telling them they cannot have an abortion (even in the cases of an ectopic pregnancy or as the result of a rape) is paternalistic to the core.  Worse still would be telling them that their employer can decide if their health insurance plan covers contraceptive medication.

#9.  On a related note, it really doesn’t do to blame God for everything.  I’d cheer the week that some blowhards weren’t showcased in the media for pronouncing God’s Wrath for … whatever.  Hurricane Katrina — God’s wrath for a Gay Pride gathering? Really?  God’s wrath because we don’t pray hard enough?  That certainly doesn’t explain the attack on congregants in the Knoxville Unitarian church.  God’s Wrath because we don’t have organized  prayer in schools? Huh?  No one at Columbine High School, Platte County High School, Northern Illinois University, Virginia Tech University, or Sandy Hook Elementary knew how to pray and practiced it regularly? Spare me the Westboro Wannabes who “know” the mind of God better than a six year old child.

#10.  The confetti will fly when we begin to have a serious discussion about global climate change without having to incorporate the phony “science” offered up by the fossil fuel industry.  No, there isn’t a “controversy” here. And, no reputable science deflects our responsibility as human beings for the contamination of which we are clearly capable.

Speaking of the Almighty, there’s an old story about the man caught in a flood which seems appropriate at the moment.  “Why, he cried out to God, am a trapped in these flood waters?”  The Almighty, sorely tired of listening to the wailing, said, “I sent you warnings.” “When?”  “When?” responded the Deity. “When indeed.” “I sent you warnings on the radio. You ignored me. I sent you warnings in television broadcasts, and you ignored me. I even sent a deputy sheriff to personally advise you to evacuate. And, you ignored him too.”  ….

We’ve been visited with major named storms, watched ice caps diminish, seen glaciers disappear… and all together too many people are ignoring the warnings.

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Filed under abortion, conservatism, ecology, energy policy, family issues, Federal budget, filibuster, Filibusters, Global warming, Gun Issues, Health Care, national debt, pollution, public health, racism, religion, VA Tech, Women's Issues, Womens' Rights

Sunrises and Tax Cuts: One Sure, the Other Not So Much

<Snark> I do hope you appreciate my efforts this morning. I got up nice and early — more a function of a miniature dachshund who had tangled himself in a sheet than an intention — and took my coffee to the deck and Bid The Sun To Rise! <snark>  OK, it wasn’t this sunrise, which is a stock graphic, and much better than this morning’s cloudy rendition.  Now to the point.   The Rolls-Royce Ticket (Romney/Ryan) has Promised an increase of 12,000,000 jobs!

Right there in the acceptance speech: “And unlike the president, I have a plan to create 12 million new jobs.” [Politicususa]  This would be lovely, except that it is roughly analogous to my claim of bidding the sun to rise; it’s probably going to happen anyway:

‘In its semi-annual long-term economic forecast released in April, Macroeconomic Advisers projected that the economy would add 11.8 million jobs from 2012 to 2016. That means Mr. Romney believes his newly announced policies would add an extra 200,000 jobs on top of what people already expected, or a jobs bonus of about 2 percent. The more jobs the better, of course, but that’s not really much to write home about.” [NYT]

And, actually the President HAS a plan to create jobs — the American Jobs Act. S. 1549 was introduced by Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) on September 13, 2011.  That it has not moved since isn’t a function of “Presidential Leadership,” but of good old fashioned Republican intransigence.

The legislation includes tax cuts and regulatory reforms for small businesses and entrepreneurs.  But, the GOP doesn’t want to move on it.

The legislation includes provisions for preventing teacher layoffs, hiring more veterans, investments in infrastructure projects, public-private projects for rehabilitating local communities.  But the GOP doesn’t want to vote in favor of these elements.

The legislation promotes work based reforms to create innovative ways to retrain, rehire, and re-employ American workers.  But the GOP doesn’t want this to come to the Senate floor.

The legislation also encourages more re-financing of homes for stressed home-owners. But the GOP doesn’t want to talk about this either.  [AJAfactsheet]

The level of Republican intransigence can be measured by the number of tax cuts they passed up in order to block this legislation:

#1. The Republicans rejected a provision which would cut the payroll tax in half to 3.1% for employers on the first $5 million in wages, providing broad tax relief to all businesses but targeting it to the 98 percent of firms with wages below this level.

#2. The Republicans rejected a full holiday on the 6.2% payroll tax firms pay for any growth in their payroll up to $50 million above the prior year, whether driven by new hires, increased wages or both. This is the kind of job creation measure that CBO has called the most effective of all tax cuts in supporting employment.

#3. The Republicans rejected a proposal for 100 percent expensing, the largest temporary investment incentive in history, allowing all firms – large and small – to take an immediate deduction on investments in new plants and equipment.

#4. The Republicans rejected the Returning Heroes Tax Credit of up to $5,600 for hiring unemployed veterans who have been looking for a job for more than six months, and a Wounded Warriors Tax Credit of up to $9,600 for hiring unemployed workers with service-connected disabilities who have been looking for a job for more than six months, while creating a new task force to maximize career readiness of service members.

#5. The Republicans rejected the AJA including the plan to expand the payroll tax cut passed last December by cutting workers payroll taxes in half next year. This provision will provide a tax cut of $1,500 to the typical family earning $50,000 a year. As with the payroll tax cut passed in December 2010, the American Jobs Act will specify that Social Security will still receive every dollar it would have gotten otherwise, through a transfer from the General Fund into the Social Security Trust Fund.

The Mornings After

Gee, and here we thought that the sun will rise in the east every morning, and Republicans will always favor tax cuts.  Yes, the President had, and still has, a specific plan to increase employment in the good old United States of America — but as of October 14, 2011 the plan ground to a halt in the face of Republican opposition in the Senate:

President Obama’s $447 billion jobs plan foundered in the Senate on Tuesday night, as a unified Republican caucus and a pair of Democrats joined to deny the proposal the 60 votes needed to allow it to proceed to full consideration.  [WashMonthly]

Any claims of “bipartisan rejection” of the bill can be waived because the two “no votes,” from Senators Nelson of Nebraska and Tester of Montana, wouldn’t have broken the GOP filibuster of the American Jobs Act.  The cloture motion failed on a 50-49-1 vote. [roll call 160] It takes 60 to break a filibuster and the best the Democrats in the Senate could have mustered was 53.  *Senator Reid voted ‘no’ to be on the prevailing side so he could later offer a motion to reconsider under the rules.

Yes, the bill includes tax cuts, and YES it’s paid for, and yes, the Republicans, in a “unified Republican caucus” blocked it.  Now, we get the vague sound of whining as the sun rises.

The Republicans whine, “but the President hasn’t shown leadership on jobs creation,” an interesting wail since the President presented a piece of legislation all packaged nicely with tax cuts and infrastructure investments.   It really doesn’t do for me to park my pickup across your driveway and then criticize you for not driving your children to school.

The Republicans whine, “the bills are too big and complicated,” but when parts of the legislation are offered in the Senate those are filibustered as well.  This comes perilously close to refusing to eat at the restaurant because the menu’s too long, but when offered items a la carte refusing each one.

According to GOP candidate Governor Mitt Romney:  “The President doesn’t have a plan, hasn’t proposed any new ideas to get the economy going—just the same old ideas of the past that have failed.”  [Prospect]

The Republican complaint would have far more authenticity had they worked with the Democrats in the Senate to pass the infrastructure and rehabilitation portions of the American Jobs Act; indeed, the ONLY specific  jobs proposal on the table at the moment  is the aforementioned American Jobs Act.  Governor Romney’s complaint would have far more resonance if he would offer something besides the trickle down economics of Republicans Past.  Speaking of no new ideas… in the words of the Rev. Al Sharpton, “We got the trickle, but nothing came down.”

The sun will rise tomorrow morning whether I take my coffee on the deck or not, the economy will probably create about 11.8 million jobs even if we do nothing, and the Republicans will filibuster anything from the White House whether it has a package of tax cuts in it  or not — just because it came from the Democratic side of the spectrum.

Perhaps candidates in Nevada’s Senatorial race, and in the Nevada Congressional District races should be asked whether or not they support the American Jobs Act, or even portions of it?  Perhaps it’s time we got some answers that aren’t merely more predictable-as-the-sunrise rhetoric?

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Filed under 2012 election, Economy, Filibusters, Obama, Romney, Taxation, Veterans

GOP Phil. E. Buster blocks pro-business bill

Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) made this comment on the Republican blockage of the Small Business Jobs and Relief Act:

“The legislation Republicans blocked was a common-sense proposal that provided small businesses with two tax cuts designed to create jobs. Under our proposal, small businesses would have received a 10 percent tax cut on the amount by which they increase their payrolls this calendar year. And to help them expand, small businesses would have been allowed to write off 100 percent of the cost of any major equipment or software they purchase.

“Unfortunately, Republicans played their usual games of obstruction and opposition. There was simply no reason to oppose this bill on the merits, so Republicans manufactured reasons to kill it out of thin air. Republicans claimed they wanted amendment votes, but refused to take ‘yes’ for an answer when I offered them votes on those very amendments.”

The bill was designed to help truly small businesses, those under the $500K cap to hire employees and purchase business assets and equipment.*

And, the Republicans successfully filibustered the bill. The motion to invoke cloture on S. 2237 went down on a 53-44 vote. [roll call 177]

This is what the Senate GOP rejected:

“Small Business Jobs and Tax Relief Act – Amends the Internal Revenue Code to allow certain employers a tax credit for 10% of the excess (if any) of: (1) the wages and compensation paid to their employees in 2012; over (2) the amount of such wages paid in 2011, up to a maximum amount of $5 million. Extends for one year the 100% bonus depreciation allowance for business assets. Increases the amount of alternative minimum tax (AMT) credits that corporate taxpayers may elect to accelerate in a taxable year in lieu of claiming bonus depreciation.”  [CRS]

Thus, if a business hired more employees in 2012 than they had in 2011 they’d be eligible for a 10% tax credit for the wages and compensation paid; AND, any business asset purchased could be written off in a single year.

A person doesn’t need to be an accountant to figure out that the last part is an exceptionally good deal.  Every computer, filing cabinet, vehicle, any economic resources. Anything tangible or intangible that is capable of being owned or controlled to produce value and that is held to have positive economic value, [Def] can be “written off.”

The first part of the picnic basket isn’t as stimulative as this second piece.  As has been expounded repeatedly herein, staffing and employment levels aren’t tied to tax incentives — it makes absolutely no business sense to hire employees one doesn’t need just to get a tax break.   Businesses hire people when current staffing levels are insufficient to meet demand or to provide an acceptable level of customer service.

However, if a business wants to get a real break — upgrade the computers your staff has been complaining about — you can write them off in a single year.  Purchase the new back-hoe, an additional truck, a new fork lift, get your construction company a new skip loader or trencher — depreciate it in a single year.    Need new shelving, workstations, desks, storage units, or new computer hardware for the business?  Buy’em and get the 100% bonus depreciation!   What does this do?

Allowing businesses to avail themselves of the 100% depreciation bonus could very easily spur DEMAND.  Increased demand means increased orders, and increased orders may very well mean a need for increased staffing.

And the Senate Republicans filibustered the bill.  WHY?

“Reid acted as the two parties could not agree exactly how to go about using the bill to vote on whether to extend the Bush tax cuts. […] Republicans favor extending the tax cuts, first enacted in 2001, for all income levels. President Obama has proposed extending them only for income less than $250,000, and using the higher tax revenue collected from higher incomes to help close the deficit.”  [WaPo]

Translation: The Senate Republican leadership blocked the small business bill because they wanted to protect the Bush Tax Cuts for millionaires and billionaires.

So, a 100% depreciation bonus for manufacturers, construction companies, accountancy firms, restaurants, drilling companies, retailers, grocery stores, furniture outlets, bakeries, bowling alleys, beauty and barber shops, landscape enterprises, law offices, doctor’s offices, automobile repair garages, photography studios, veterinary clinics, waste disposal companies, … was lost because the Senate GOP was focused on protecting the Bush Tax Cuts for millionaires and billionaires.  In a word? SAD.

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See also: “Fact Sheet: Small Business Jobs and Tax Relief Act,” Senate Democrats, March 26, 2012. Cohn, “Tax Cut Legislation Blocked in Senate,” Accounting Today, July 13, 2012. REMI, “Study on S. 2237, Regional Economic Models, Inc.

Previous posts on small business:  H.R. 5297, Small Business Jobs and Credit Act DB July 17, 2010.   Finally someone says it — Demand in the Job Creator, DB December 2, 2011. GOP A Thousand Times No, DB July 30, 2010.   Breaking the Closed Loop, DB April 29, 2011.   Republican Mythology – Small Business Facts and Fantasies, DB May 3, 2012. What’s a Small Business, DB July 16, 2012.  *Original post did not include the $500,000 cap.

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Filed under conservatism, corporate taxes, Economy, employment, Filibusters, McConnell, Politics, Reid, Taxation

Monday Charts and Graphs

** It’s Monday Morning And Obamacare Is The Biggest Tax Increase Since The First Dynasty of UkhaimirOr. Not.   The following chart from the Washington Post is instructive:

** Poor Grover (Norquist), “Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform, for example, stated, “it’s now clear that ‘Obamacare’ is all about taxes and it hits everybody, not just rich people.” [CBPP] There’s a chart for this bit of hysteria too:

** In case you missed it, “Middle-income and low-income Nevadans would pay somewhat more in taxes under the Congressional Republicans’ approach to extending the Bush tax cuts than they would under President Obama’s approach, while high-income Nevadans would pay far less under the Republican approach, according to a new analysis from the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) and Citizens for Tax Justice (CTJ).  National figures show the same pattern.”  [PLAN] (emphasis added)   There’s a chart for that too:

The full report from which this chart is reproduced is here. (pdf)

** The Sin City Siren covers the little dust devil the Heller Campaign would like to kick up about Rep. Shelley Berkley’s (D-NV1) efforts to save the kidney transplant center at UMC (Las Vegas).    OK, her husband is a surgeon.  Does this obviate the need to have kidney transplant services in southern Nevada?  No.  Kidney disease is the 9th highest cause of death in Nevada (2009), for which the Silver State gets a ranking of 12th in the nation. [CDC] The Heller campaign’s attempt to equate Berkley’s so-called conflict of interest falls neatly into the Ignoratio Elenchi category of catch-all fallacies of irrelevance.

** We can do better.  Las Vegas, NV was number 1 in the nation in African American unemployment as of 2011.  The 2011 rate was 22.6%.  [EPI] Things could be better for manufacturing employment nationally:

Remember when the Senate Republicans filibustered S.3816 on September 28, 2010? The Creating American Jobs and Ending Offshoring Act failed to get the 60 votes necessary to break the filibuster, the cloture vote was 53-45. [Roll Call 242, 111th Congress]

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Filed under Berkley, filibuster, Filibusters, Health Care, health insurance, Heller, Nevada Congressional Representatives, Nevada economy, Nevada politics

DREAM on: Myths and Legends of the Failed Vote

One of the oft’ repeated GOP comments on the DREAM Act is that it could have passed on December 18, 2010 because “the Democrats had a super-majority in the Senate and could have broken the Republican filibuster of the bill.”

What was the situation at 11:09 AM, December 18, 2010 in the 111th Congress as the Senate met for a cloture vote?

The bill, H.R. 5281, failed to get enough votes to close debate — 55-41, with 4 members of the Senate not voting.  The 111th Congress had 57 Democrats, 2 independents caucusing with Democrats, and 41 Republicans.

The four not voting were  Bunning (R-KY), Gregg (R-NH), Hatch (R-UT), and Manchin (D-WV).    There were some cross-over votes.  Republicans voting in favor of the bill were  Bennett (R-UT), Lugar (R-IN), and  Murkowski (R-AK).   Democrats who voted against the bill were  Baucus (D-MT), Hagan (D-NC), Nelson (D-NE), Pryor (D-AR), Tester (D-MT).

If ALL the Democrats had voted in favor of the bill, and both Independents who caucused with the Democrats had joined them, that would have given the Democrats 59 votes on a straight party line roll call.  In other words, Democratic solidarity alone would have been one vote short of the super-majority needed to pass H.R. 5281 (111th).

There were three Republican votes in favor of the bill.  Assuming Democratic solidarity and the three GOP votes, the bill would have achieved a total of 62 votes (two more than necessary to break the filibuster).

Presidential candidate Mitt Romney is wrong to state that the Democrats controlled a super-majority of the 111th Congress, they actually controlled a maximum 59 votes.  [CongResService pdf]

Another argument has been offered that if President Obama wanted to get the 60 votes necessary he could have “strong armed” those Democrats who ended up voting against the bill.   “If wishes were horses, beggars would ride?”   The bill attracted 55 votes (including the votes of 3 Republicans), had the five Democrats joined their colleagues the measure could have presumptively broken the filibuster on a 60 vote count.

However, we’d have to ask at this point if President Obama — or any other moderate to progressive Democratic president — could have moved Senator Ben Nelson (NE) onto the “yes” side of the tally.  We’d need to remember that while Senator Nelson often voted with his Democratic colleagues, during this time period he’d also voted against allowing states to limit credit card interest rates, against the confirmation of Justice Elena Kagan, and voted in favor of a balanced budget amendment. [PVS]

Senator Mark Pryor (D-AR) also has a more conservative voting record than many of his other Democratic cohorts, as does Senator Hagan (D-NC), who was elected in 2008 and was serving in her first term.  Both represent southern states with more conservative views on social issues like immigration policy.  Forcing a pro-vote from either of these may have been detrimental to their re-election prospects.

That leaves the Montana contingent, Senators Baucus and Tester.  As in the case of Pryor and Hagan, Baucus and Tester represent fundamentally more conservative regions than many of the proponents of the DREAM Act.

However, all this leaves the numbers unresolved. Even if all 59 Democratic and Democratic leaning Senators in the 111th Congress had voted in favor of the bill, without Republican support it would have failed to break the filibuster.   The next hypothetical question might be: What of the four non-voting senators?  We’ve already included Senator Machin (D-WV) in the total Democratic count.

It’s probably reasonable to assume that Senators Bunning and Gregg, both with very conservative reputations would not have voted in favor of breaking the filibuster of H.R. 5281.  Senator Hatch (R-UT) had been in favor of a DREAM Act in the past, but his one vote would only have yielded a total of 56 to achieve cloture.

Thus we’re back to the numbers from the CRS directory: The 111th Congress had 57 Democrats, 2 independents caucusing with Democrats, and 41 Republicans.   No matter how we play with the numbers, if the matter had been one of a straight party line vote the filibuster could not have been broken.  What would have been necessary is not Democratic solidarity, although that would have been nice — but more Republican support for the bill.

Perhaps more to the point: What if there had been no filibuster in the first place?

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Filed under Filibusters, Immigration