Tag Archives: House Republicans

Patterns in Politics from Congress to the Promised Press Conferences

That didn’t take long.  A mere 12 hours ago the Republicans in the House of Representatives wanted to put the OCE under the jurisdiction of the House Ethics Committee; disallow the OCE from accepting anonymous tips from whistleblowers; stop investigating anything if the House Ethics Committee wanted the investigation stopped; not investigate anything that might have happened before January 3, 2011; not discuss its findings or even hire a spokesperson; and, not investigate any criminal cases or turn allegations of corruption over to law enforcement agencies. [BuzzFeed]   Then came the questions, perhaps the best of which was: When has anyone accused Congress of being TOO ethical?  Now the House Republicans have scrapped the plan. [The Hill]

However, watch for a pattern here.  This “jurisdictional” issue has been raised before, in the case of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.  [HFSC 2013] [MPA 2016] Here’s a prediction for 2017 – the House Republicans will try to “reform” financial regulations by placing the CFPB (the outfit that caught Wells Fargo manipulating its staff and customers) under Congressional control.  What about a Republican controlled Congress having jurisdiction over mortgage lending practices and pay-day lenders could possibly go wrong?  Oh, well, there was that mess back in 2007-2008…

One thing about which there doesn’t seem to be much controversy: The Russians hacked the Democrats. (Except if you ask Trumpster Flack Kellyanne Conway, The Trumpster, or Vladimir Putin.) The geeks were on to this back in July 2016 when Motherboard posted this article.  The New York Times has a compilation of reports on Russian hacking.  In the face of all this actual evidence we have the Trumpster’s contention that “he knows things,” [CompWorld] and Conway’s advice that we should be listening to Julian Assange…[cnbc].  The Trumpster will have more to say, promise the flack, later this week.  We should add those comments to:

1. The April 2011 Trumpster comments that his investigators “couldn’t believe what they were finding in Hawaii” (about the President’s birth certificate.)  Trumpster told Meredith Vieira he had investigators there; however, there’s still no evidence he actually sent investigators to Hawaii. [HuffPo 2016]

2. On April 27, 2011 the Trumpster vowed to release his federal income tax returns.  We’ve not seen hide nor hair of these to date.

3. August 9, 2016:  the Trumpster says that his wife Melania will have a press conference to settle details about her immigration to this country. [Hill]  No press conference yet.

4.  September 9, 2016: The Trumpster vowed to release more detailed medical records. [BloombergNews]  Nothing released to date.

5. December 12, 2016: The Trumpster postpones his press conference on his business conflicts of interest for “a month.” He had told reporters on November 30th there would be a press conference on December 15th.  [MMA/Bloomberg]

I’d not advise anyone to hang by their hair or hold their breath waiting for the Trumpster to divulge any information on any of these topics much less on the hacking.

And, again, there’s a pattern.  One of the things that an overwhelming amount of scientific investigation and analysis tells us is that global climate change is very real. Faced with this, the energy industry fought back with attempts – not to attack the science itself – to sow doubt, and to promote those “doubts” in popular media. [guardian] This play goes back to the Tobacco campaigns of an era past.   Now, it’s “hacking.”

17 United States security and law enforcement agencies report that the Russians hacked the Democratic Party, and election efforts.  That’s 17 out of 17. There’s no doubt here.  Except – backers of the Trumpster using popular media to sow doubt.  We’ve seen this pattern before, and before, and before. The media keeps falling for it.

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Rep. Cresent Hardy Keeps Digging

Stop Digging

Nevada’s own Congressional Representative from Bundyland can’t seem to get his mind around why he’s drawing so much fire from Democrats for his insensitive and inane comment about disabled people.

“Hardy, asked about the speech after a House vote Thursday in Washington, said he did not remember making the comment and suggested it was altered or taken out of context.

“I would like to have it analyzed,” he said. “People try to manipulate things. I’ve seen that happen early on.” Hardy was referring to the flap during the 2014 campaign when video surfaced in which he agreed with Mitt Romney’s infamous comment about 47 percent of people living off the government.” [LVRJ]

This is one better than only using the old cliché, “I was taken out of context.”  Without engaging his brain before putting his mouth in gear, Hardy posits not one but three possibilities.  (1) I didn’t say it. (Wrong: It’s been recorded – anyone can record anything these days without a Reel-to-Reel set up.) (2) It was altered. (Nice try but probably not – it was too ‘good’ all by itself.  Or, (3) It’s being “manipulated.”  There’s no need for manipulation, of any kind, Representative Hardy just cranks up his mouth, inanity ensues.   However, as the LVRJ article reports, Hardy isn’t finished:

“My nature is to defend those who can’t take care of themselves, that’s what I believe,” he said. “I’ve always been a strong supporter of people to be able to get help when needed.”

“People get paid to distort the truth and try to manipulate things,” Hardy said. “That kind of conversation never went on. I think the Democrats ought to be embarrassed.”

If anything, he said, people with disability should be angry at being used by Democrats “to sell their game.”

“People get paid to distort things,” he said. “I’m the No. 1 target, folks.” [LVRJ]

Merciful Heavens, Representative Hardy (R-NV4) has donned the cloak of victimhood, swathing himself in self pity, and begs us to ask his forgiveness for being so mean to him as to call out his hypocritical and mean-spirited remark.

Let’s move back to that first comment above (“My nature is to defend…”) and see if his actions and associations match his assertion.   First, Representative Hardy is a Republican, and his Republican majority in the House had the following ideas about how to develop a budget; they would:

“… propose major spending cuts to programs such as Medicare, health care subsidies, food stamps and the Medicaid program for the poor and elderly to produce a budget that’s balanced. Such cuts, if actually implemented later, would likely slash spending by $5 trillion or so over the coming decade from budgets that are presently on track to spend almost $50 trillion over that timeframe.” [CBS]

So, Representative Hardy favors cuts to Medicare, a program for those over 65 years of age, who prior to the program were denied private health care insurance or could only purchase it at exorbitant prices, and therefore “couldn’t take care of themselves.”  Food Stamps?

The SNAP budget took a 5% whack in 2013, and another round of cuts in the 2014 Farm Bill. The winners in HR 2642 were the farmers, especially corporate farming, and the losers were those who depend on assistance to put food on their tables at meal time. [NYT]  It appears that those cuts were insufficient for Republicans, so they proposed another round of cuts in 2015. [Slate]  Depending upon which GOP proposal is studied, the cuts range from 8% to about 15% in the SNAP program.  If a person is supportive of others being able to get help when needed, then why would that self-same individual advocate for proposals which do precisely the opposite?

Medicaid? CHIP? Nevada, which did expand Medicaid coverage after the passage of the Affordable Care Act, isn’t exactly overly generous with the income eligibility requirements.  A family of four trying to pay for housing, food, clothing, transportation, and utilities out of $2,643 per month is going to be hard pressed, and pressed even more harshly if there are medical bills to pay.  Non-surgical treatment for a broken leg runs about $2,500. [CH]  Thus, Junior’s one accident on the soccer field would almost wipe out the family income for the month.  So, why, if Representative Hardy is so concerned for those who evidently need his defense, does he side with those who would cut funding for programs which assist the defenseless?

Let’s go back to Representative Hardy’s last barrage, the part wherein he’s the “victim of cruel Democrats who are using the disabled as human shields to advance their agenda” —

Jon Stewart discussed this “conservative victimization” phenomena back in July 2011 – in a bit which deserves  a click and watch.  Now that we’ve had our moment of sheer delight…

Note to Representative Hardy:  The liberal agenda is supposed to advance the cause of disabled people – people who, with a little help, can be just as productive as their counterparts in the office.  The liberal agenda is intended to champion assistance for families on the financial brink who need help to meet medical expenses for themselves and their children.  The liberal agenda is to try every way possible to allow a family to feed its children, house its veterans, and care for its elderly.  The liberal agenda supports Public Schools, Public Libraries, Public Parks, Public Health, Public Roads and Bridges, and Public broadband access.    A liberal believes that the rising tide is supposed to do more than just float yachts.

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Filed under conservatism, Federal budget, Health Care, Nevada politics

You Aren’t Seeing Double, House GOP tries again to block DoD predatory lending rules

Pay Day Lending Shark We don’t really pay members of our Armed Forces all that much.  A quick visit to the Defense Department’s finance section shows that a recent enlisted person (2 years or less) gets $1,546.83 in basic pay. A person at E5 status can expect $2,202.90 per month.  Twenty years of service topping out at the E9 category yields $5,730.41 in basic pay.  Those rare souls who last 40 years are looking at $7584.60. There are some added bonuses – not exactly extraordinary – for clothing allowances,  there are also allowances for hardship duty pay, assignment incentive pay, and hazardous duty incentive pay (as if the whole idea of being in the military weren’t intrinsically hazardous).  There are retention bonuses for medical, dental, and veterinary personnel.  Proficiency in foreign languages will also merit some extra pay.  But, no matter how many times the figures are totaled the pay still doesn’t place any member of the services in the lap of luxury; not anywhere close.

This is why the following bit of news is especially disturbing:

“The military has been grappling with the financial impact of predatory lending on service members for years. In 2006, Congress passed legislation cracking down on some forms of high-interest credit, particularly payday lending. Lenders responded by exploiting loopholes in the law, and late last year, the Department of Defense proposed a new set of regulations designed to curb these creative workarounds that target troops.”  [HuffPo]

Worse still, this is the second time the House Republicans have tried to block the Department of Defense efforts to control predatory lending to military members and their immediate families.

“Republicans have been working to kill those regulations before they can take effect. This week, Rep. Steve Stivers (R-Ohio) will offer legislation that would block DOD from finalizing its rules until a host of unrealistic technical certifications could be made for a database of active-duty military members. The House will vote on Stivers’ plan as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act, a major bill that establishes military funding.” [HuffPo]

Why all this effort to block Defense Department rules meant to contain the scourge of predatory lending to members of our Armed Forces?  And, why all the GOP fussing about the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau?  One example unearthed by the CFPB in its report on predatory loans to military personnel may serve to illustrate the issue:

“A lender licensed under the Illinois Consumer Installment Loan Act extended an auto title loan to the spouse of a servicemember at an APR of 300 percent. For the 12-month contract term, the $2,575 loan, including a $95 lien fee, carried a finance charge of $5,720.24. The loan agreement provided the lender with a security interest in the borrower’s vehicle and contained a binding arbitration agreement. Although the Military Lending Act prohibits lenders from taking a non-purchase money security interest in the vehicle of a borrower covered by the law, charging a rate of interest in excess of 36 percent, and requiring covered borrowers to submit to arbitration, the auto title loan in Illinois was not subject to the protections of the Military Lending Act because it had a duration longer than 181 days.” [CFPB pdf]

And there’s another loop hole for the predatory lenders demonstrated by this example:

“An internet-based lender located offshore that targets military borrowers through their marketing extended to a servicemember a line of credit with an APR of 584 percent. In addition to the stated finance charge, the lender charged a “credit access fee” and a “transfer fee” for each draw on the $1,447 credit line. The contract provided the lender with authorization to debit the borrower’s bank account for the minimum payment due each payment period. This loan made to a borrower in Delaware was not subject to the protections of the Military Lending Act because it was structured as an open-end line of credit.”  [CFPB pdf]

There were more, equally egregious, examples provided by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau report.

Representative Stivers has been the beneficiary of $42,500 in campaign contributions from pay day and predatory lenders.  Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) took in $65,500; Rep. Kevin Yoder (R-KS) received $53,257; Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-NC) received $41,200; and Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) received $32,500. [OPSecrets]  Rep. Joe Heck (R-NV) received $6,700 in donations from pay day and predatory lenders. [OPSecrets] Predatory lending accounted for $190,150 in contributions to Democrats, and $748,585 in donations to Republicans in Congress. [OPSecrets]

However, no matter how generous the donation, there is no ethical or moral way to justify blocking protections for members of the U.S. Armed Forces from the practices mentioned above on the part of predatory lenders.  The White House was quick to respond:

“On Monday, in response to reporters’ questions, White House spokesman Josh Earnest called the potential addition to the annual authorization bill a significant concern for President Obama.

“It’s almost too difficult to believe that you’d have a member of Congress looking to carry water for the payday loan industry, and allow them to continue to target in a predatory fashion military families who in many cases are already in a vulnerable financial state,” he said.

Earnest said he “can’t imagine (the amendment) earning the majority support in the United States Congress.” [MilitaryTimes] [The Hill]

Representative Joe Heck (R-NV3) didn’t cover himself in glory the last time this subject emerged [Desert Beacon] one can only hope he’s seen the light since and will oppose the Stiver’s Amendment.  At best he can avoid some of the more lame excuses offered by the proponents of this amendment.

Stivers is anxious to tell everyone that he was a member of the military for 30 years – so he cares!  And that the Obama Administration doesn’t have a good track record of getting systems going on  ‘day one’ noting the computer problems with the health insurance rollout. [TheHill]  The “I care” argument is specious if not associated with legislation the intent of which is to protect those about whom one “cares.”  Secondly, it is a rare policy indeed which works perfectly the first day – in the public or private sector. in this instance the Representative is making the Perfect the enemy of the Good.

There’s another excuse which needs rehabilitation: “Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Texas) added, “I would quickly point that there are always unintended consequences,” citing concerns of “drying up sources of credit for folks at  the bottom end of the economic scale.” [TheHill] “Concerned” is getting to be one of the words commonly connected to opposition to any policy or legislation which might help someone.  The question is: Are you more concerned about payday lenders being forced to shave a bit from their profits than about enlisted personnel and young officers being shaved by the pay day lenders?

As for pay day lending drying up any time soon, probably not.  In March 2013 the Washington Post reported on some big banks who were treading into the shark pool of pay day lending.  By April 2013 the FDIC and the Comptroller of the Currency were looking at the banks’ payday lending practices. [NYT]  The spotlight must have been a bit too bright because by January 2014 the larger banks were dropping the pay day loans and trying to find options which “fit within current regulatory expectations.” [CNNMoney]  However, the banks were still selling account data to pay day lenders until January 21, 2015. [Bloomberg]  And, nothing prevents the major banks from financing the operations of “independent” pay day lenders. [ConsAffairs]

While the big banks may have scurried back out of the light, the payday lending industry continues along,

“Currently, there are about 22,000 storefront payday loan stores nationwide, according to the Consumer Federation of America in Washington, D.C. On average, the industry makes $40 billion in loans and collects $6 billion in finance charges from borrowers each year.” [Bankrate]

There are alternatives.  For example: (1) Credit Union loans; (2) Small bank loans; (3) Credit Counseling assistance; and (4) options like credit card advances and credit negotiations. [Bankrate]   Representatives Heck, Stivers, and Conway would be better advised to promote the efforts of the Services to provide credit counseling and information to members of the military and their families.  The Army Community Service offers a Financial Readiness Program for those who need basic financial information and education.  The U.S. Navy offers training in Personal Financial Management.  The Air Force has its own Financial Readiness Program, and the Navy and Marine Corps oversees a Relief Fund for urgent financial needs along with caseworkers to assist personnel.

Promoting financial education, and providing services for urgent and emergency needs is a far better way of assisting our service members than protecting the pay day lenders who extend usurious loans to those who are at the “bottom end of the economic scale.”

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Filed under Defense Department, Military pay, Republicans, troop pay

Selling Benghazi, One Shriek At A Time

PeacockWouldn’t it be nice if today were the day the House Republicans decided NOT to sound like a steel barn filled to the rafters with alarmed peacocks?

There are more people signed up for private health insurance plans than predicted. People have paid their premiums. There are fewer people without health insurance than five years ago. [BusWk] So, what could be more predictable than…………

Benghazi! [Salon]

And, Heaven Forefend, anyone would ever believe the Republicans would attempt any fundraising on the tender subject?  Oh, they did? Yes, the Republican National Committee quickly sent out the message, trampling on Rep. Trey Gowdy’s disclaimer:

“I have never sought to raise a single penny on the back of four murdered Americans,” Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-South Carolina, said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” earlier this week.  A few minutes before Gowdy’s TV appearance, however, the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) sent out an e-mail blast urging backers to become  “Benghazi Watchdogs” by giving money. “You can become a Benghazi Watchdog right now,” says the message on the NRCC’s “BenghaziWatchdog.com web site.” [Seattle PI]

But wait…there’s MORE!  There’s Merchandise.  Car magnets. Beer glasses. Throw pillows.  Shower curtains. Calendars. Iphone cases. And, my all time favorite — the pink footed pajamas.

What’s interesting about the merchandise, beyond the truly tacky nature of the products, are the ‘themes.’

There’s the “Alamo” motif on the car magnet admonishing us never to forget the patriots who died defending the diplomatic post — without mentioning that some of our Libyan allies also died there, and that Ambassador Stevens had opted not to accept additional security, along with the not so minor and well publicized cuts made to diplomatic security funding by the Republicans in the House.

There’s the “Bloody Hand” theme on the beer glass which conveniently merges U.S. operation in Afghanistan, Fast and Furious, and Benghazi into an arch above the logo.  Whoa, and here I was thinking that the GOP was in favor of our military intervention in Afghanistan?  How do you reconcile your “Bloody Hand” beer glass with your “Support the Troops” ribbon coasters?  And, if memory serves, wasn’t F&F launched during a previous administration?

That throw pillow will let the prospective owners get a jump on the Hillary Clinton bashing which will surely be a right wing theme in 2016 should the former Senator and Secretary of State decide to run for the presidency.  The owners will recognize Mrs. Clinton, Ambassador Rice, but want to make bets on how many will have to resort to Google to find out who “Mills” is?  Hint: You probably don’t know ‘Mills’ unless you are an aficionado of right wing conspiracy sites.

The shower curtain is pure 2016.  “Benghazi, what difference does it make,” — Clinton, is excerpted out of the context of her testimony to the Senate panel.   Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) tried to get the former Secretary to say the administration believed the attack was the result of ire about the anti-Islam video, Mrs. Clinton was having none of if, and retorted:

“With all due respect, the fact is we had four dead Americans,” Clinton responded, raising her voice at Johnson, who continued to interrupt her. “Was it because of a protest or was it because of guys out for a walk last night who decided to kill some Americans? What difference at this point does it make? It is our job to figure out what happened and do everything we can to prevent it from ever happening again, Senator.” [HuffPo]

But, it’s really hard to get all of that on a shower curtain.  The essential question — what happened and how to prevent it from happening again — don’t seem to be part of the right wing screech machine repertoire.

The calendar asks “Who gave the stand down order?”  Huh? There was no stand down order, in fact the CIA rushed some operatives to the rescue in addition to some military assets which were immediately available. [Snopes]  If you want an accurate calendar, just cut off the top.

However, the Iphone case “Nobody died at Watergate, Impeach Obama now!” demonstrates that the Republicans have still not moved on from June 17, 1972.  Whatever any Democratic Party member does from now to eternity, will be “just as bad as Watergate!” No matter what.

The pink pajamas, with footies, reverts to the Alamo Theme — never forget. Possibly not, if for the heft price of $74.50 the decal tends to bleed if the sleeper sweats onto the sheets. And, should enough sweat permeate enough pj’s onto enough sheets then perhaps a substantial number of Klan members will be recalling Benghazi at future meetings?

But, hey, the House GOP isn’t being shrill about this — like screeching peacocks — they just want to raise a little money.

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Filed under Politics, Republicans