Tag Archives: Harry Reid

A New Effort Demonstrates The Need For More

Domestic ViolenceIn the midst of all the current turmoil and related teeth gnashing ranting and railing associated therewith, it’s nice to find some heroes.  A UCC church in Las Vegas makes the news today with its plan to assist victims of domestic violence, regardless of their gender, race, or creed. [LVSun] Granted domestic violence is mostly associated with protecting women from abusive spouses, but that doesn’t mean it’s restricted to that category.  So, a large round of applause to the little church trying to make a difference in this problematic issue:

“A 2010 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that bisexual and lesbian women were more likely to experience domestic violence than heterosexual women, and bisexual men were more likely to experience sexual violence than heterosexual men and gay men, who have similar rates.” [LVSun]

All the better since the re-authorization of VAWA in 2013 which finally recognized there might be a problem for members of the LBGT community and for members of Native American tribes.  To their credit, both Nevada Senators Reid and Heller voted in favor of the measure [GovTrak].  The final vote in the House showed all four members of Congress from Nevada voting in favor of the bill. [GovTrak] The measure passed on a 286-138 vote, all the nays coming from the Republican side of the aisle.

As described in a Department of Justice release, the re-authorization of VAWA addressed a serious problem in this country, and the inclusion of provisions for Native Americans was long overdue:

“In 2010, U.S. residents age 12 or older experienced an estimated 20 million violent and property victimizations, according to the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS). (NCJ 235508) These criminal victimizations included an estimated 4.3 million violent crimes defined as rape, sexual assault, robbery, aggravated assault, and simple assault. Almost 126,000 of the 1.4 million serious violent crimes were rapes and assaults. While this number has decreased over the last few years it is still shows that too many women are endangered and suffering. […] American Indians are 2.5 times more likely to experience sexual assault crimes compared to all other races, and one in three Indian women reports having been raped during her lifetime.” [DoJ]

The Department of Justice was correct in reporting the disparity in the statistics regarding the physical abuse experienced by Native American women.  Some of the numbers are patently outrageous.

 In a 2008 CDC study, 39% of Native women surveyed identified as victims of intimate partner violence in their lifetime, a rate higher than any other race or ethnicity surveyed. This finding has been common over the years. A study from 1998 that utilized a large national probability sample (n=8000) found that American Indian/Alaskan Native American women were the most likely racial group to report a physical assault by an intimate partner. [FWV.org pdf]

And: ” According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, US Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs at least 70% of the violent victimizations experienced by American
Indians are committed by persons not of the same race— a substantially higher rate of interracial violence than experienced by white or black victims.” [FWV.org pdf]

One of the issues for Native American women in Nevada is distance. There are domestic shelters in all major Nevada towns and cities, but some of these are at no small  physical distance from reservations.  The rural fishbowl effect creates another dilemma.  If a shelter is located in the immediate vicinity everyone knows of it — just as they know about every other thing that happens. If the shelter is located far enough away to secure some anonymity the victim may not have the transportation options available to get there.

In the best of all worlds, we would consider ways to alleviate the need for shelters for victims of domestic violence, urban or rural.

While some of the lists vary, most sources focus on the following elements of spousal abuse behavior.   A 1998 study reported by the NCBI observed:

“The present study compared male spouse abusers, with and without alcohol problems, with age-matched, nonabusive males on measures of personality style, personality disorder, dysphoria, and a number of demographic measures. There were no differences among the groups in racial composition, religious preference, or religious devoutness. Male abusers were less likely to be employed, to be in intact relationships, and were less well educated. They were more likely to have witnessed abuse or experienced abuse as children, although that observation is more characteristic of abusers with alcohol problems. Measures of personality and psychopathology generally supported the hypothesis that abusive males would show greater elevations on test scales reflecting personality disorder and dysphoria and less conformity than nonbatterers. Alcohol abuse was related to greater batterer-nonbatterer differences.”

Translation: Batterers come in all races, creeds, and kinds. They are generally unhappy people, less likely to have steady employment, and more likely to be repeating abuse they witnessed as children.

The batterers tend to try to excuse their behavior — the drinks made me do it defense — and often try to deny that the behavior has any lasting effect on family or personal relationships.  Three other terms associated with battering are possessiveness, jealousy, and domination. [NCCAVA]  The use of violence is a learned behavior, a repetition of childhood scenes, or the continuation of behavior which is not confronted, curtailed, or contained.  Battering is also associated with overall low self esteem and poor communication or interpersonal skills. [NCCAVA]

If this sounds like a mental health issue … it’s because it is.  And, this is not territory in which the state of Nevada has exactly covered itself in glory.  FY 2010’s $184 million sounds like a large figure until it’s broken down per capita and the allocation was  41st in the nation with $68.32 allocated. [GovSL]  The national average per capita expenditure in 2009 was $122.90. [NAMI] The NAMI looked at state budget appropriations by state from FY 2009 to FY 2012 and reported Nevada’s proposed expenditures declined 28.1%, down from $175.5 million to $126.2 million. [NAMI] These reductions put Nevada back at the top of the list for budget cutting of mental health services, along with South Carolina and Alabama. [NAMI]

Unfortunately, in an Age of Austerity, in which public allocation of tax revenues are perceived as expenses rather than investments, there is less incentive to be “the best.” Doing just enough to get by appears preferable? If Nevada would like to be known as the state with the least need for domestic violence shelters — for anyone and everyone — then some soul searching is in order.

Have we equipped and staffed our public schools with the resources to identify, diagnose, and treat children who are in households experiencing domestic violence?  Have we required that private school counterparts do the same?

Have we allocated the necessary resources to help schools, local governments, tribes, and community organizations provide assistance to families in which domestic violence occurs?  Can we offer these entities coordinated programs to promote education, address bullying behaviors, decrease instances of domestic violence?

Have we done enough to provide jobs for those who find their economic circumstances so stressful that violent behavior comes from their lack of personal control as they cope, or not, with the frustration?

The victims of domestic violence, Native American, non-Native, members of the LBGT community, or straight, men and boys, and women and girls, shouldn’t have to wait until that mythical day upon which the magic of trickle down hoax economics kicks in and all will be right with the world.  These men, women, girls, boys, need assistance now — and not in some utopian ethereal world yet to come.

Our Thanks to the members of that Las Vegas UCC church for making life a little bit easier for more people to receive more support.

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Amodei: Not So Mr. Moderate?

Amodei 3Now this is some turn-around!  On April 28, in the year of our Lord 2014, Representative Mark Amodei (R-NV2) was “chiding” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) for his position on the Bundy Brigands:

The Republican says he disagrees with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s branding of them as “domestic terrorists” and doesn’t think Heller’s labeling of them as “patriots” helps to resolve the dispute over Bundy’s cattle.  Amodei says the issue is the “culture” of U.S. Bureau of Land Management law-enforcement operations in the West. [KOLO]

But wait! On the same day Representative Amodei was heaping praise on the BLM decision to stand down and refuse to offer the ersatz ‘patriots’ a chance to turn the situation in Bunkerville into their own Ruby Ridge, Waco, whatever other fantasy-land re-enactment they’d imagined for themselves.  Those inclined to accept Representative Amodei’s quick-whip-around talking points as evidence of moderation, should look to his recent voting record.

Exhibit One:  The House GOP budget proposal which leaves Pentagon spending unscathed but slashes funding for the Indian Health Service by 18%.  Also under the GOP meat axe, funding for fire fighting on federal lands, again cut by 18%. [HuffPo]  Not only does Rep. Amodei’s district contain a lengthy list of Reservations, but it’s also been known as the site of several recent, and truly large, wild land fires.  Rep. Amodei is fond of referring to his concern for ranchers in the 2nd District, but is apparently not quite so alarmed at the prospect of range fires destroying their grazing lands.

Nor should we miss the fact that the latest incarnation of the House GOP budget included the “Coupon Care” proposal which would eliminate Medicare as we know it, and substitute a voucher plan in its stead. [CBPP]

In case there are any consumers in the 2nd Congressional District, it should be noted that the Ryan Plan would eliminate the provisions of the Dodd Frank Act which requires that Big Banks have a plan in place to wind down operations, and that the FDIC can require the bankers to establish the plans to PREVENT future bailouts.  The ‘plan’ would also put the future of the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau under the guillotine of future Congressional budget cuts. [Hill]

When H.Con. Res. 96 (Ryan Budget) came to a vote on the House floor on April 10, 2014 — Representative Amodei supported it. [Roll Call 177]

Exhibit Two:  Once upon a time there was a mid-level IRS employee in a regional office who was accused of targeting conservative groups by not allowing political organizations to pass themselves off as social welfare institutions.  Truth be told, Lois Lerner acceded to a plan to look for key terms, like “political,” or “party,” on a watch list of sorts to cull the political from the social.  The ultra-right when ballistic.  “Conservatives were Targets of the IRS!”  Not. So. Fast.  Also on the list were terms like “Blue” and “Green Energy” and “occupied territory” organizations. [Wire]

However, this didn’t stop Government Affairs Committee Chr. Issa from claiming that the IRS ultimately “intended” to target more conservative groups, even as it was actually looking for ACORN successor organizations.

Failing to find any solid evidence of IRS targeting, or even of IRS ‘intent’ to increase scrutiny of conservative applicants, the Republican lead House voted anyway to recommend that Lerner be held in ‘contempt of Congress’ for citing her 5th Amendment rights.

This sort of thing happened on Capitol Hill before during the McCarthy Witch Hunt Era.  Lerner joins 10 Hollywood writers, producers, and directors who were voted “in contempt of Congress” for not cooperating with the infamous HUAC.  [Hist]  Rep. Issa may be missing the point that short term theatrical political gains can easily become long term memories of political infamy.

Who joined in the vote to find Lerner in contempt of Congress? None other than Rep. Mark Amodei (R-NV2), and Rep. Joe Heck (R-NV3).  [Roll Call 203]

Aligning oneself with the likes of Hamilton Fish III, Martin Dies, Jr., is not the way to convince most people that you are a proponent of moderation.

 

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A Well Tuned Whine at the Bundy Ranch

Bundy 2Just what do you say to lawbreakers when they refuse to cooperate with legal decisions?  In Public Lands Council vs. Babbitt the U.S. Supreme Court decided that, yes, the Bureau of Land Management did have the Constitutional authority to enforce the provisions of the Taylor Grazing Act of 1934, 43 USC 315.  What do you say to a freeloading rancher who lost in a Federal District Court in July 2013 (pdf) and again in October 2013 (pdf)?

Nevada’s own freeloading rancher, Cliven Bundy, doesn’t have any “right” to graze his cattle on public land. The land is not his property. He has no deed for the property, it is not for his sole and exclusive use.  [TWN]  There is no “land grab” because the land never belonged to Mr. Bundy in the first place.  How much simpler can the issue be? It is public land, the administration and management of the land is established in 43 USC 315, the law was confirmed as Constitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court on May 15, 2000 in a 9-0 decision from Chief Justice Rehnquist’s court.  [Oyez Project] And, not one but two Federal judges have informed Mr. Bundy he has no case.

It isn’t too difficult to come to the conclusion that Mr. Bundy is all for the U.S. Constitution — until a law he doesn’t personally like is declared Constitutional.  He may be all for law and order — until the law doesn’t suit his purposes.  What do we call the people who violate or ignore laws with impunity?  The answer is commonly “anarchists.”

Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) has another answer. He called them “Patriots.” [Roll Call]   Heller offered yet another example of his “Government as Bully” perspective, “I take more issues with BLM coming in with a paramilitary army of people, individuals with snipers, and I’m talking to people and groups that were there at the event, and to have your own government with sniper lenses on you, it made a lot of people very uncomfortable.”

Let us parse.  What’s a “paramilitary army of people?” On March 15, 2014 after twenty years of trying to get Mr. Bundy to comply with orders,  the Bureau of Land Management informed Mr. Bundy, by letter, that his cattle were “trespassing” and would be impounded.  Mr Bundy’s response — to ask the Clark County Sheriff’s Department for “protection.”  Bundy gives interviews by the hay wagon load and fans the fire of his displeasure. [WaPo]  Members of so-called freedom-fighters gather in Bundy’s support.   Bundy family members confront law enforcement personnel, and one is tazered after he kicks a police dog.

That “paramilitary army” of people were law enforcement personnel, BLM employees, and cowboys hired to round up and impound the cattle.

On the other side, a very visible group of Bundy supporters is the Oath Keepers organization, closely associated with the Tea Party, and infamous for proudly announcing what orders they will not obey. The organization includes members of the 3%’ers and former Arizona sheriff Richard Mack who refused back in the 90’s to enforce the Brady Laws.  [MJ]

Perhaps Senator Heller was ‘inartful’ using the term Paramilitary, but the word usually means an organization the structure, training , culture, and function of which is similar to the military, but is NOT considered a part of a state or federal military branch.  So, who has gathered a “paramilitary army of people?”  From the photographs of the scene the honors appear to go to Mr. Bundy.

But, Senator Heller is disturbed that people have their own government with sniper lens on them. It makes them uncomfortable.  At the risk of flippancy, when is it acceptable to have those who have broken the law for 20 years feel “comfortable?”

The radical right gives every appearance of wanting another drama — another Ruby Ridge, — another Waco, — another armed confrontation with authority, especially federal authority.  Senator Heller’s unfortunate use of the word “Patriot” offers sustenance to the fantasies of the radical right wing which feeds on these scenarios, and revels in the scripted Hollywood versions like Red Dawn.

Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) is more accurate calling antigovernment types like Bundy “domestic terrorists.” [previous post]  Certainly, there are euphemisms which might make the lawbreakers and their allies more “comfortable,” perhaps we could call them “puerile anti-authority activity advocates?”  However, it is not particularly helpful to apply euphemisms to assuage the tender sensitivities of extremists while ignoring the deleterious ramifications of their intentions, and covering their lawlessness with a patina of polite phrases.

The strident whining of the radical right extremists with its cacophony of hypocritical complaints is out of tune with a nation of laws — not of men.

 

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A Cephalopod Mollusc That Can Swim In The Desert: Kochtopus

KochtopusThe Koch Brothers (Charles and David) are among America’s 0.0001%.  In fact, what they earn in One Second could feed a homeless person for an entire year. [Salon] They are not subscribers to Andrew Carnegie’s maxim, “He who dies rich, dies disgraced.”  [PBS] And they are in Senator Harry Reid’s (D-NV) sights.

“But what is un-American is when shadowy billionaires pour unlimited money into our democracy to rig the system to benefit themselves and the wealthiest one percent. I believe in an America where economic opportunity is open to all. But based on their actions and the policies they promote, the Koch brothers seem to believe in an America where the system is rigged to benefit the very wealthy. Based on Senate Republicans’ ardent defense of the Koch brothers, and the fact that they advocate for many of the same policies the Koch brothers do, it seems my Republican colleagues also believe in a system that benefits billionaires at the expense of the middle class. The Koch brothers are willing to invest billions to buy that America.”

And they are. In 2012 the Koch Brothers political network, designed with the anonymity of donors in mind, raked in approximately $400 million — more than all other conservative organizations, and more than all other traditional supporting organizations associated with Democrats. [WaPo]

If you’d like a graphic rendition of the Koch Brothers’ political connections click here to see the circles of influence developed from the TC4Trust, the Freedom Partners, and the Center for Patients Rights.  These are connected to The American Energy Alliance, Concerned Women for America, American Commitment, American Future Fund, 60+ Association, the EvangChr4Trust, Center for Shared Services, Themis Trust, Public Engagement Group Trust, Public Notice, Libre Initiative Trust, Generation Opportunity, Americans for Prosperity, and the Concerned Veterans for America.

The incestuous financial relationship between the TC4Trust and organizations like Concerned Women for America, the Center to Protect Patient’s Rights, and the Themis group are visible here.  Unlike the 501 c (4) group, TC4Trust, Freedom Partners is classified as a 501 c (6), a trade association.

“Despite its tax status, though, in many ways it’s more like the other grant-making dark money groups — the 501(c)(4)s — on steroids. Formed in late 2011, it gave out grants totaling nearly $236 million in 2012, far more than the others giving to politically active tax-exempt groups. Much of that money went to limited liability corporations that are wholly owned by better-known nonprofits — what the IRS refers to as “disregarded entities.”  [Open Secrets]

The Themis Trust appears to exist so that we all certain of receiving the Koch Brothers’ messages.

“Called Themis, the independent group is the most ambitious of the many conservative political technology projects now in development. People with direct knowledge of the group as well as political technology industry veterans say it is backed by the Koch brothers, although their names do not appear on an annual regulatory filing and Koch Industries spokespeople did not respond to requests for comment.” [Reuters May 17, 2012]

And, what do we get here in Nevada from the Americans for Prosperity?  An advertisement supporting Representative Joe Heck (R-NV3) in the upcoming off-year elections.  The substance of the commercial, if we can use the term ‘substance’ loosely, is that Heck has consistently fought the Evil Demon — Obamacare.   Perhaps the generalized form of “Obamacare” still isn’t popular with the general public, but what the ad tells us is that Heck has been fighting against:

(1) Insurance policies which exclude children with pre-existing medical conditions, including birth defects.  Insurance company practices of rescinding policies because the policy holder made an honest mistake on an application form, and your right to appeal a refusal from your insurance company to pay for medical care.

(2) Insurance company junk policies which have lifetime limits.  Requiring insurance corporations to justify their rate increases, and requires that the insurance corporations spend at least most of the money they collect in premiums from policy holders on … medical care.

(3) Removing the barrier to medical services in the ER, and covering preventative medical treatment.

Americans For Prosperity would like very much to support Representative Heck as a “fighter” against “socialized medicine,” without actually saying what it is that Representative Heck is fighting against.

As the Nevada Republican Party continues to lurch rightward into LooneyLand the Koch Brothers, and their extensive network of funding operations, will be only too happy to assist in the 2014 election cycle.  They’ve already started.

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Justice Delayed and Denied

GavelThe U.S. Constitution is clear on the subject, there will be the establishment of federal courts, and the 7th Amendment guarantees our access to those courts should we decide to bring a suit the value of which is over $20.00 — big money back in 1789.  Further, the Constitution assumes that these courts will function equitably, with no advantage given to one side or the other.  The 6th Amendment guarantees a “speedy and public trial” in criminal cases, and we can safely assume the founders intended to avoid protracted entanglement in our civil proceedings.   Our Republican contingent in the U.S. Congress has other ideas.

“Backed by House colleagues and GOP attorneys general from around the country, Senate Republican leaders are whipping opposition to advancing the nomination of Patricia Millett — or anyone else — for the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, which is one notch below the Supreme Court and often has the final word on matters of executive authority.” [TPM]

Why? Because the Republicans argue that the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals has too many judges assigned to it, and therefore — in terms that are Orwellian in their essence — to appoint new members to fill vacancies is to “pack the court,” a blatant attempt to obfuscate the issues by comparing the appointment of judges to fill vacancies is equatable to FDR’s proposal to add members to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Numbers Game

At the heart of the current controversy is the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals which has 11 judgeships, and three vacancies.  Granting that the D.C. Court of Appeals has the lightest workload in the circuit system, with 1189 appeals filed in 2011 and 1,200 filed in 2012 [UScourts pdf], the number of judges in itself doesn’t make the case for a reduction in the number of judges when it is noticed that there are 1,287 cases pending from 2011 and another 1,369 from 2012.   Indeed, the number of appeals filed and the number of cases pending could be used to support the contention that the appointment of more judges would be helpful to deal with the backlog.

In fact, the 9th Circuit, which has the largest number of cases and judges (3.9% increase in cases filed 2011-2012), has two vacancies and has been slogging along, able to reduce its pending cases by only -0.1%.  [UScourts pdf]

The situation at present is that there are 874 federal judges, and there are 91 vacancies (17 circuit courts of appeal & 74 district courts). Worse still there are 37 instances defined by the U.S. Courts to be “judicial emergencies.”  A judicial emergency is defined as:

Circuit Court  any vacancy in a court of appeals where adjusted filings per panel are in excess of 700;  OR any vacancy in existence more than 18 months where adjusted filings are between 500 to 700 per panel.
District Court any vacancy where weighted filings are in excess of 600 per judgeship; OR any vacancy in existence more than 18 months where weighted filings are between 430 to 600 per judgeship; OR any court with more than one authorized judgeship and only one active judge.

Not to put too fine a point to it, but if U.S. citizens have cases before their federal courts they are in some danger of being in the “Justice Delayed Is Justice Denied” category as they wait for openings in dockets for the adjudication of their cases where there is a Judicial Emergency.  Even in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals in which there are three vacancies and two nominations, the lack of three judges means slower decisions — delayed is, in essence, denied.

Judicial Appointments by Administration

A look at the chart above lends credence to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-NV) comments on the matter:

Senate Republicans were happy to confirm judges to the D.C. Circuit when Presidents Reagan and George W. Bush were in office. But now that a Democrat serves in the White House, Republicans want to eliminate the remaining three vacant D.C. Circuit Court seats, although the court’s workload has actually grown since President Bush was in office,” he said. “Republicans are using convenient but flawed political arguments to hamstring this vital court and deny highly qualified nominees like Ms. Millett a fair up-or-down vote.” [TPM]

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Heller’s Horrors vs. The Constitution

ConstitutionIt seems there are some “Constitutional conservatives” who haven’t perused that august document, and Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) is one of them?  His response to the shutdown of the Federal government? Enact his “No Budget No Pay” bill. [Heller]  Lovely — there’s just one little problem with not paying members of Congress until the houses pass a budget — it violates 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.”  The Amendment was among the original ideas from the Founders, finally enacted in 1992, and it was intended to prevent members of the House and Senate from jacking up their salaries right before elections.

Then there’s the matter of raising the debt ceiling:

“Without a serious discussion about reducing our debt, I have to agree with then Senator Obama, who called an increase in the debt ceiling a ‘sign of leadership failure’ and a move that shifts the ‘burden of bad choices’ to future generations. Our nation cannot afford to continue raising the limit on our nation’s credit card without making the difficult decisions that prevent the country from incurring even more debt,”said Senator Dean Heller.”  [KRNV]

Oh, here we go again! The Think Of The Children Argument.  News Flash for the Junior Senator — raising the debt ceiling has NOTHING to do with incurring debt.  It has everything to do with paying the debts we’ve already racked up.   Senator Heller appears to believe this debt magically increased during the incumbency of President Obama.

“When President Obama came to office, our nation’s debt was more than $10 trillion. Five years later, our debt is nearly $17 trillion and growing fast. Democrats and Republicans must come together and agree on a long-term solution that places our nation on the path to fiscal solvency. Reducing wasteful spending and reforming the tax code are good places to start. As Senator Obama said in 2006, ‘Americans deserve better,’” said Senator Dean Heller.” [KRNV]

There was no magic involved. There is, however, some magical thinking.   First, when the Obama Administration took over in January 2009 it assumed the costs of the military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Since the costs of these efforts are no longer glossed into “supplemental appropriations,” we’re going to have to look at the $800 billion gorilla in the room — the outright cost of operations in Iraq.   Then there’s the not-so-small matter of paying the veterans’ benefits to those who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. The total expense involved in these military efforts is projected to cost about $4 trillion. [Marketwatch]

Secondly, the United States (including Senator Heller) decided it was a dandy idea to cut taxes in war time — a reversal of what had been previously considered fiscally responsible thinking.  Let’s look at the elements driving the current level of debt one more time:

Source of National Debt

Thus, about 50% of the national debt which concerns Senator Heller so profoundly is a result of military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and the Bush Era tax cuts (supported by Senator Heller.)  The darker blue segment of the graphic indicates the lost revenues from the Recession created by the collapse of the Housing Bubble.

Senator Heller would prefer not to compare the Bush and the Obama Administrations when it comes to policies which “place our nation on a path to fiscal solvency.”  If he did, he’d be highlighting the following information:

Bush Obama SpendingAnd here we have the answer to the question: Whose new policies created more federal spending? Was it Bush’s $5.07 trillion, or was it Obama’s $1.44 trillion?

As for which side of the aisle was more attentive to future spending levels, the staff of the Washington Post analyzed FY 2014 budget proposals and published the results:

Budgets Compared 2014Whose spending levels were lower over the next decade?

None of these analyses will prevent Senator Heller from continuing to bleat out the same talking points the GOP has been promoting with consistent enthusiasm — The Debt Is Rising! The Debt Is THE Problem!  Equally consistent has been the Republican demand that the social safety net (Social Security, Medicare, SNAP, TANF) be the target for cuts — not the Department of Defense; unless of course we’re speaking of increasing educational, housing, and health benefits for members of our military and veterans.

Now the Republicans threaten to shove the nation over the fiscal cliff, to which Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) responded:

“A vote to avert default is simply a vote to pay the bills. It’s not a vote to spend more money, to authorize new programs or to buy new things and more. It’s a vote to pay the bills the federal government has already incurred – bills for roads and bridges we’ve already built and warships we’ve already commissioned, as well as wars we’ve waged with borrowed money and tax breaks we’ve charged on the national credit card. A vote to avert default is a vote to pay the bills for all those things.”

That pretty much sums it up: (1) Pay the bills… (2) Pay the bills… (3) Pay the bills… as the Constitution says in Amendment 14 section 4.

*For the wonks in the audience, there is an excellent summary of debt ceiling legislation from the Congressional Research Service available in PDF.

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Who’s On The Other Side Of The Bargaining Table?

Bargaining with GOPSenator Dean Heller (R-NV) is sad that “Democrats are refusing to negotiate…” a standard GOP talking point du jour:

“Reached at his Senate office — where he personally spends about an hour every day taking calls during the shutdown — Nevada U.S. Sen. Dean Heller said he was disappointed Democrats were refusing to negotiate a reasonable solution to the shutdown standoff. “This is a poll-driven shutdown,” he said. (Heller said about half of the people who call him oppose the law, while the other half support it.)” [Sebelius]

The problem for the Democrats appears to be With Whom Do We Negotiate?  The negotiating partner doesn’t seem to be House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH).

“I know that that’s not the path he preferred,” Reid said. “I know that because we met the first week we came back in September and he told me that what he wanted was a clean CR and the $988 [billion] number.  “We didn’t like the 988 number. We didn’t like it but we negotiated. That was our compromise,” Reid added. “The exact bill that he now refuses to let the House vote on. That was our negotiation.”  [The Hill]

So, the simple and relatively obvious conclusion is that the Senate Majority Leader thought he had a deal with the House Speaker in September — which compromised to reach the $988 billion Continuing Resolution — and Speaker Boehner couldn’t deliver on his end of the bargain.

There is no sense  negotiating deals (of any ilk) when the negotiating partner cannot deliver his or her end of the bargain.  I could “negotiate” with a Rolls Royce dealership for the purchase of a lovely new ride — but since my bank account won’t cover such a delightful acquisition there’s no reason for the  dealer to waste time haggling with me.  At least one Republican House member is willing to discuss this problem:

“The longer this goes, the closer we get to the debt limit and the more the two of these roll together,” said Representative James Lankford, Republican of Oklahoma and a member of the Budget Committee. “If any agreement is going to happen we’re going to have to have multiple negotiators rather than have Boehner come back with it.” [NYT]

Multiple negotiators?  There’s a recipe for chaos. The Democrats are supposed to negotiate with whom? Speaker Boehner? and Senator Cruz? and Rep. Bachmann? and Rep. Gohmert? and Rep. Stutzman, who isn’t sure what the GOP wants? [TPM]  However, there are still hardliners who refuse to negotiate at all:

“The House’s hard-liners, however, indicated that they were not ready to give in. Representative Phil Gingrey, Republican of Georgia, acknowledged that hundreds of thousands of furloughed federal workers were suffering, and more than a million more were working without pay.” “There’s some pain and suffering, but I don’t think that pain and suffering compares one bit to being stuck with a lifetime of Obamacare, so that’s why I’m holding pretty firm on this,” he said. [NYT]

So, by Senator Heller’s lights, are both the Administration and the Senate supposed to bargain coterminously with (1) the more moderate members of the House GOP caucus, (2) the House Leadership, (3) the House hardliners? To what possible end?

If the situation is, as Senator Heller asserts, a poll driven argument, then those polls aren’t looking so good for his side of the aisle:

“More than 7 in 10 say Congress should place a higher priority on passing a resolution to get the government running again, rather than stopping some provisions of the health care law from taking effect. And two-thirds say any budget agreement should be kept separate from discussions about funding the health care law; just a quarter, including a slight majority of Republicans, say a budget agreement should also cut off funding for the law.” [NYT]

If we drill down into the recent CBS polling on the shutdown we find 72% opposed shutting down the government over disputes about the new health care insurance law;  Republicans are split with 48% approving and 49% expressing disapproval. And that coveted “independent” segment — 21% approve while 76% disapprove. [TPP] This is not good territory for the national ambitions of the Republican Party.  To wit, Nevada Governor Sandoval weighs in:

“The constant focus on Congressional and White House bickering especially annoys Republican governors who feel that the party can take back the White House in 2016 if they nominate one of their own and run not only against the Democrats, but also against Washington dysfunction, much as George W. Bush did in 2000.

“There’s a clear contrast there,” Gov. Brian Sandoval of Nevada said of the difference between his fellow chief executives and Republicans in Washington. “People are craving leadership and craving problem-solvers.” [NYT]

It, indeed, would nice to get some “leadership and problem-solving” accomplished — but how is that done when it would take “multiple negotiators”  who range from cautiously centrist to heels dug into the ground hardliners, none of whom wish to negotiate anything?  Good question when the GOP cannot seem to productively negotiate within their own caucus.

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