Tag Archives: filibuster

Billionaires 38 – College Students 0

Senators for BillionairesWould it be acceptable if we allowed the refinancing of student loans, if this were paid for by slightly increasing the tax “burden” on billionaires?  Should we even be able to bring the measure to the floor for debate and vote?

According to Senate Republicans, the answer would be no.  The motion to invoke cloture failed and the Senate GOP continues to filibuster the bill.

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Filed under education, Nevada politics, Politics, Republicans

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

Default Dean Adds To His Tea Party Creds

Dean Heller DoubleOn Halloween 2013 Senator “Default Dean” Heller (R-NV) voted to sustain the Senate Republican filibuster of  Congressman Mel Watt’s nomination to be the Director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency. [roll call 226]   “Default Dean” added another Gold Star to his Tea Party Helper chart with his next vote, another vote to sustain a filibuster — this time of the nomination of Patricia Millett to fill a vacancy on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. [roll call 227] * see previous post and The Republican Argument is Bogus. (pfaw)

Some Republicans groused that Rep. Watt, a Yale Law graduate with extensive experience in North Carolina politics, and a Congressman from N.C. in several sessions “lacked the experience to administer an agency as large as the FHFA.”   By the end of the day on October 29th it was obvious there were going to be Senate Republicans who would block an “up or down” vote on Watt’s nomination. [Reuters]

It would be instructive at this point to mention that the Federal Housing Finance Agency is the outfit that oversees Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the Mortgage Twins, and the objects of GOP calls for a full privatization of the secondary mortgage market.  Additionally, it should be noted that Rep. Watt’s nomination is the second to be blocked by Senate Republicans; former N.C. banking commissioner Joseph Smith withdrew his nomination to head FHFA in 2011 in the face of GOP opposition.  Finally, Rep. Watt is on record as supporting measures to allow bankruptcy judges to trim the principal owed on home loans.  It appears that this position is sufficient to render his service on the House Financial Services Committee inadequate to Republican purposes.  [BloombergNews]

Given the opposition to both Smith and Watts a sentient person could logically conclude that in this instance the GOP doesn’t want the FHFA to be fully functional.   If the deregulation of the secondary mortgage market is the desire outcome, and the repeal of the oversight agency is impolitic, then the obvious way to impede the regulatory process is to keep the agency headless.  That sentient person could also conclude that St. Peter’s nomination would be blocked, on the grounds that his previous experience was only as a “community organizer” and that his most recent housing experience comes solely from his residency in a gated community.

Senator Heller’s opposition fits neatly into this scenario when we notice that he is a supported of S. 1217 — a bill to privatize the secondary mortgage market.

“In 2008, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were taken into government conservatorship and given a $188 billion capital injection from taxpayers to stay afloat. As a result of this bailout, the private market has almost completely disappeared, and so nearly every loan made in America today comes with a full government guarantee.  Despite this unsustainable situation, there has still been no real reform to our housing finance system since the financial crisis.”  [Heller]

The statement from Senator Heller doesn’t whitewash history — it merely leaves out a significant piece — like anything that happened prior to 2008.  Prior to 2008 the Mortgage Twins were hybrid-privatized secondary market financial agencies, and in the process of behaving like privatized secondary market finance operators they succumbed to the same avarice infecting the rest of the secondary home loan market — cutting back on home loan requirements and passing along risky financial products in the name of “managing risk.”   Further, there was a ‘silent agreement’ implicit in the operations of the Mortgage Twins before 2008 that the products it sold into the financial market did have the imprimatur of the federal government.

To boil things down to the core — what Senator Heller’s support of S. 1217 means is that he wants a return to the pre-2008 system, without any federal regulation of the secondary mortgage market at all.  Why would Senator “Default Dean” Heller want to confirm any nominee to head the FHFA when he’s supporting a bill that would eliminate Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and the FHFA within five years of the bill’s passage?

S. 1217 is warmly supported by the American Bankers Association and the Mortgage Bankers Association, and why shouldn’t it since it contains the following lovely loophole:

“Amends the Securities Act of 1933 and the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 to exempt covered securities insured by FMIC from Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) regulation in general and from credit risk retention requirements…”  [OC]

The “FMIC” is supposed to be modeled on the FDIC, and notice that according to S. 1217,  introduced by Senator Bob Corker (R-TN), if the FMIC issues any “securities” those are exempt from regulation by the SEC.   Those who like deregulation of the financial markets will love this one.

Time and again, Senator Heller is fond of telling anyone who happens to be within range that he “voted against the bailout” as if he were somehow beyond the pressure of the lobbyists from the Mortgage Bankers Association and the American Bankers Association — and yet rarely can one find a Senator so ready and willing to carry the water for MBA and ABA interests.

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Filed under Economy, Heller, Nevada politics, Politics

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