Archive for the 'U.S. Senate' category

START Treaty Overcomes Two Republican Amendments

President Obama and Congressional Democrats hope to ratify the START Treaty Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty ) negotiated between the U.S. and Russia back in April, before the 111th Congress breaks for the final time. The 112th Congress with its diminished Democratic majority takes their seats in January; their 58-42 majority was reduced to 53-47 in November.

We have addressed this matter frequently here at PoliticusUSA, and with good reason. Republican opponents have made clear their intention to obstruct passage of the Treaty and in this at least, if not their economic policies, they have been true to their word. I wrote originally about this Republican gamesmanship back on November 17. And as Sarah Jones reported on December 4, and both she and Jason Easley reported again on December 16, the Republicans are guilty of holding our national security hostage.

RMuse reported on December 17 about the Republican attempt to use Christmas as an excuse to ignore important matters of national security. They could apparently impeach President Clinton for Jesus’ birthday but not ratify a treaty. This holiday, they tell us, is all about world peace; but apparently not world peace when it’s sponsored by a Democrat.

The many excuses offered read like a Letterman Top 10 list, and are as unconvincing:

1)      We don’t have time because there is too much else to do

2)      We don’t have time because it’s Baby Jesus’ birthday

3)      We don’t have time because it’s too complex for us to understand

4)      We’ll lose our ability to set up a missile defense system

5)      We want tax cuts for the rich first

6)      We have to modernize our nuclear weapons complex first

The Democrats and the White House have taken note of these many absurd excuses and have been pushing all the buttons they can, and have several cogent arguments to offer:

Wednesday, the Senate voted 66-32 to open debate on the treaty. At that time, nine Republicans voted with 55 Democrats and two independents, including Richard Lugar of the Foreign Relations Committee, and John McCain. Those 66 votes are one short of what would be needed to ratify the treaty.

The Republicans countered with an attempt to amend the terms of the treaty. An amendment by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., failed on Saturday on a 59-37 vote.

The Russians have made clear that any amendment means the treaty is dead. We’d have to go back to start on START, and negotiate an entirely new treaty, which suits Republican purposes well.

On Sunday, that attempt failed on a 32-60 vote. The amendment was put forward by Sen. Jim Risch, R-Idaho. It would have changed the preamble to the treaty to address the “inter-relationship between non-strategic and strategic offensive arms.

Republicans continue to complain that the preamble would inhibit U.S. development of a missile defense system.

Democrats hope to vote on ratification on Tuesday. Republicans have their hackles up, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell claimed to CNN that “Members are uneasy about it, don’t feel thoroughly familiar with it, and I think we would have been a lot better off to take our time. Rushing it right before Christmas strikes me as trying to jam us. … I think that was not the best way to get the support of people like me.”

Of course, a vote on Tuesday would not be rushing it. The Senators have had all year to look at the treaty. It is not as if it was negotiated yesterday.

Senator John Kerry, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, isn’t having any of that. He has pointed out that there had already been several delays to give Kyl and the other Republicans an opportunity to have their concerns addressed. “We kept the door open until we finally are at a point where obviously we had to fish or cut bait.”.

Despite Republican opposition by Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. and Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz, Fox News reports that “Sen. Dick Lugar, R-Ind., the ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a supporter of the treaty, said several Republicans will support ratification and he believes the votes are there.”

Senator Evan Bayh missed the vote but according to an aide would provide the needed 67th vote, offering some hope that Republican efforts will be for naught.

It goes not only against the spirit of Reagan, who proposed the original START Treaty, but the advice of the military (who, after all, ought to be the experts in this area) to obstruct passage of this very important treaty and which makes clear that continued Republican opposition is simply a continuation of their two-year-old effort to block everything President Obama tries to do.

At least Jim DeMint, R-S.C., has given up his attempt to have the document read on the floor of the Senate, a process which would take some fifteen hours given the treaty’s 17 pages plus 339 pages of protocol and annexes, a sign that perhaps he realizes he can’t stop the process at this point as he turns his wrath on the $1.1 trillion government spending bill, should it come up. There are always new battles to fight, after all, and new excuses to invent. Life’s busy for a Republican senator these days.

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The Unholy Triumvirate of GOP Christmas Hypocrisy

Dec 17 2010 Published by under Featured News, Issues, Republican Party, U.S. Senate

Christmas is canceled!

Christmas has a way of bringing out the best in people, and in many instances it showcases the false sanctimony of the most egregious evil-doers in the world; this year is no different than past years. Christians in America have claimed the Christmas holiday season as their time, and they attack any intrusion into their special time with hate and vitriol befitting a raging Satan worshipper.

In the Senate this week, Senators Jim DeMint (R-SC), Jon Kyl (R-AZ), and Mitch McConnell (R-KY) invoked their deep Christian beliefs to protest working through the holidays to finish Senate business before the next session in January. It may truly be their desire to be home praying and reading the bible on Christmas, but ever since Jim DeMint admitted that he is just “running out the clock” as a stalling tactic until the next Congress, it is unlikely that their religion has anything to do with working at Christmas.

DeMint said that Reid and Democrats pushing the START treaty and Omnibus spending bill through Christmas was sacrilegious and disrespectful because Christmas was one of the two most important holidays for Christians. What DeMint didn’t say is that Republicans have stalled and obstructed Democrats for the past year on every bill before them or Reid wouldn’t have to schedule Senate business over the holidays.

Senator Kyl made it sound as if Reid is attacking people of the Christian faith by scheduling the Senate to return to work the week after Christmas like almost every American does every year. Kyl said that Reid is trying to push through an impossible agenda and insults the institution of the Senate, and one of Christians’ most important holidays.

McConnell sent Reid an email with a 2004 speech by the late Robert Byrd that bemoaned holding a vote on Sunday. Byrd’s rambling letter claimed that the Senate should honor the Ten Commandments’ admonition to “honor the Sabbath and keep it holy” by not working on Sunday.

There are problems with protestations about working up to and after Christmas. America is not a theocracy, and the bible or Ten Commandments are not relevant to the governance of the country. It is true that some Republicans want the Ten Commandments to replace the Constitution, but the 1st Amendment promises the separation of church and state so that won’t happen.

So if Kyl, DeMint, and McConnell are such devout Christians, why do their voting records belie their claim that they are followers of Christ? Shouldn’t their single-mindedness of faith permeate every aspect of their personal and working lives? Of course it should, but their hatred for all but the wealthiest Americans is evident that they reject Christ’s teaching and standards at the most basic level.

Jesus commanded his followers to sell their belongings and give to the poor (Matt. 19:21), but for devout Christians like DeMint, it is important to deprive millions of unemployed Americans their benefits that employers paid premiums for. Jesus also said that when one throws a feast, they should invite the poor, crippled, lame, and blind because they could not repay them and that their reward would be in heaven (Luke 14:14-15). Jesus’ point was that the wealthy should care for the less fortunate without recompense, but his message is lost on Christians like DeMint, Kyl, and McConnell because they continue giving advantages to the wealthy at the expense of the poor.

DeMint, Kyl, and McConnell protect the wealthiest Americans, and in fact, do everything in their power to make them richer. If they were real Christians, they would recall that Jesus said it was nearly impossible for a rich man to enter heaven. So are these Republican Christians deliberately working to prohibit the wealthy in America from going to heaven or are they just hypocrites?

Jesus also said to teach a man to fish so he can feed himself. Republicans have made no attempts at job creation or education, but instead have worked tirelessly to help corporations outsource American jobs. To add insult to injury, when Americans’ jobs are lost to China or Korea, Republicans withhold unemployment benefits in a display of extreme hypocrisy and un-Christian behavior.

Setting aside the Christian insult argument, there is the issue of Congress getting two or three weeks off during the winter holidays. DeMint, Kyl, and McConnell complain that it’s not fair they have to work so close to Christmas because it offends their religious sensibilities, but they expect Americans to work during the holidays or lose their jobs. Brig. Gen. John Adams said that, “We have one-hundred-and-fifty-thousand US warriors doing their job over Christmas and the New Year; the U.S. Senate should do its job.” General Adams is correct, and 99% of Americans who work up till Christmas would agree that the privileged Senators should not be any different.

The incredible hypocrisy of the triumvirate of Christian Senators sends a message to Americans that because they are Senators, they are exempt from the standards Americans face every day. DeMint, Kyl, and McConnell don’t deserve their pay the American people provide because they have not done any work for the past two years. Their constituents expect them to work for the American people, but they have obstructed and voted no consistently and still take their salary. They could have stayed in their home districts and phoned in their “no” votes and saved the taxpayers enough money to provide some unemployed people the benefits they deserve.

Americans are seeing the hypocrisy that is prevalent in Republican ranks, and now that they are resurrecting the war on Christians and Christmas, they have a lot of explaining to do. But because they are privileged Christian Republican Senators, they will find new excuses for not working and new reasons to blame their inaction on Democrats because when all else fails, they will thump their bibles, invoke Christmas, and call out Jesus’ name; all because they are hypocrites and want to obstruct a Black man in the Oval Office.

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President Obama’s Tax Compromise Passed by Congress

President Obama and Republican Leaders

On Thursday, the unthinkable (to many progressives) happened: Congress passed the tax cuts, a compromise deal which includes an $801 billion package of tax cuts and $57 billion for extended unemployment benefits. The bill will extend the Bush tax cuts for two years (all of the tax cuts) and provide for a one-year payroll tax cut for most American workers.The extends for two years all of the Bush-era tax rates and provides a one-year payroll tax cut for most American workers.

As FOX News relates,

Workers’ Social Security taxes would be cut by nearly a third, going from 6.2 percent to 4.2 percent, for 2011. A worker making $50,000 in wages would save $1,000; one making $100,000 would save $2,000.

Many progressives see this as a betrayal. The Republicans, rightly or wrongly, have been accused of holding unemployment benefits and taxes for the Middle Class hostage in exchange for helping out their rich friends. The Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, for example, leveled the accusation that Democrats were forced “to pay a king’s ransom in order to help the middle class.” Representative Jim McDermott (D-WA) said it was “craziness” and Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT) said “This legislation creates too few jobs and too much debt.”

The final vote?  277 to 14 with nearly identical numbers of Republicans and Democrats voting “aye”: 139 Democrats and 138 Republicans. The Senate had previously approved the package 81 to 19 on Wednesday.

There was an attempt to change an estate-tax provision in the bill (one that Obama had previously agreed to in his negotiations with the Republicans) but even after that failed, 139 Democrats voted for it as opposed to 112 against.

Two years, of course, will bring us right to 2012, when the future of the tax cuts will become more important than ever in the midst of a presidential election. This is not the last we will hear of the matter by any means. Some Republicans would like to see the tax cuts made permanent. Since tax cuts for the rich demonstrably do not create jobs, this position will be a tough sell for Republicans, particularly if the groundswell of opposition swings the other way at the end of the next two years, and it is the Republicans who find themselves under attack for perceived failings.

It is obvious to many people that the economic stability of our nation is at stake and that this deal is not going to fix those problems. It is no more than a finger in the dyke.

For now, the New York Times reports that administration officials say President Obama will sign the bill into law today.

This moment marks both a way forward and signals a lack of progress. Cooperation and compromise are essential facets of government in a modern liberal Democracy like ours and the willingness of Republicans to compromise at last should take center stage over what is seen as President Obama’s capitulation to Republican demands. The President has governed as a centrist and he did what a responsible president would do. Rather than stand on principle and make people suffer, he made a deal.

Rather like the framers of the Constitution back in 1787, none of whom got everything out of that deal they wanted and the New York Times tells us “The White House and Republicans hailed the deal as a rare bipartisan achievement and a prototype for future hard-bargained compromises in the new era of divided government.”

FOX News called it “a remarkable show of bipartisanship.” Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite (R-FL), called it “a bipartisan moment of clarity.”

And so it is.

Progressives, like their Republican opponents, seem of late to have forgotten that lesson. To stand on ideological purity and refuse compromise while the country crumbles around you is not an admirable thing, however they frame it. Government needs to continue to govern. In a sense, a politician hasn’t the luxury of principles, and that includes the president.

Ideological purity is for dictatorships.

For the first time in two years we have seen government function as it should. And if nobody got everything they wanted out of it, so be it. That’s how it works. That is how it has always worked. Sometimes one side gets more, sometimes the other. As House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) said, “There probably is nobody on this floor who likes this bill. The judgment is, is it better than doing nothing? Some of the business groups believe it will help. I hope they’re right.”

In this case, most Republican opposition centered around the creation of additional federal debt, but most of them voted for it anyway. Of course, Republicans did not get everything they wanted either.

Political reality suddenly meant something again to the arrogant GOP, as Eric Cantor (R-VA) was forced to remind his colleagues:

“We could try to hold out an pass a different tax bill, but there is no reason to believe the Senate would pass it or the president would sign it if this fight spills into next year.”

It remains to be seen if Democrats and Republicans can find other ways to work together, other areas in which compromise is a possibility, such as repeal of DADT and the DREAM Act, an amnesty program for illegal aliens who came to the United States as minors. There are things the Republicans will want and things the Democrats will want and the current balance of power does not grant to either the ability to pass that legislation without regard for the opinions of the other.

If anything at all is to get done for the next two years, this will not be the only compromise. In the end, both the achievement of bipartisanship in the face of ideological purity and the continuing problems (and its root causes) must be underscored. Fingers in dykes won’t make the flood on the other side of the wall go away. That deluge remains, waiting to sweep us all away. The question is, can our two major political parties stop their bickering long enough to fix it?

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Joe Scarborough Blasts Republicans For Throwing Baby Jesus Under the Bus

Joe Scarborough Comes Out Guns A Blazin' After Republican Obstructionists

Joe Scarborough and his entire panel in this morning’s “Morning Joe” came out shooting as they blasted Senate Republicans for using the baby Jesus for political posturing. Senate Republicans are disingenuously using Christmas as a reason not to work in the weeks leading up to the holiday, and Joe’s entire panel was outraged by the hypocrisy and the obvious failure to appreciate that our troops are working over the holiday, as are many average Americans. The entire panel agreed that “these (Republicans) are not serious people”, but Joe was particularly offended by Senator Kyl suggesting that Senator Reid wasn’t a Christian because he wanted to work close to Christmas, which caused Joe to point out that when the Republicans were trying to impeach President Clinton on December 19, 1998 they weren’t so worried about Baby Jesus.

Here is the video from MSNBC:

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Scarborough said, “It’s offensive that people would use Christianity for political leverage with an argument that is so baseless. I gotta say my breath is taken away. For so many reasons, do we want to start with the obvious one about who else is not going to be home on Christmas Day…troops in Afghanistan. Are they disrespecting a holiday by continuing to vote to keep them in Afghanistan? I don’t know. Mike Barnicle, there are a lot of working class people that i guess the Senator doesn’t know, the senators don’t know that work late into Christmas Eve, wake up still a few hours with their children and go back to work on Christmas Day. Are their employers disrespecting Christmas. Does Jesus not live in Washington, D.C.? Can they not worship Jesus in Washington, D.C.? To be sanctimonious and to use that is just — it is offensive. The Republican Party has the upper hand in so many ways. In these areas they need to shut their mouth. They’re embarrassing themselves.”

Mike Barnicle added, “We’ve been saying the same thing on several occasions with regard to issues like this and rhetoric like this, these are not serious people. They’re not serious people. I don’t know whether Senator Kyl and Senator DeMint either inject themselves with Novocain in the cheeks or soak their faces in cement. How I don’t can say that without bursting into laughter, it’s so absurd. It’s so offensive; I don’t know how they do it.”

But the coup d’ grace came as Joe pulled out the trump card: Republicans tried to impeach President Clinton over the Christmas holiday. I guess the lame duck session wasn’t so lame then, eh? Christmas wasn’t so sacred as to prevent them from working when they had an agenda they wanted passed.

Scarborough accused Senate Republicans of throwing baby Jesus under the bus, “To be self-righteous. Do we want to go through bible verses? But questioning Harry Reid’s Christianity suggesting he’s blasphemous… I remember we were voting on impeachment on December 19th or 20th back in 1999 (sic). No one was throwing baby Jesus under the bus that year…”

Scarborough called on Sens.DeMint and Kyl to apologize to Harry Reid, “I don’t usually say this, but I do think that senator DeMint who I know and like and respect and Jon Kyl owe Harry Reid an apology. I will say that. I will go there. It is unchrist-like to judge another man’s faith in the way they have judged Harry Reid’s faith, a devout Mormon, a devout Christian. There is nothing biblical about that. Nothing.”

It deeply disturbed Joe and Mica that the Republicans would not vote on the START treaty and that they were asking for it to be read on the floor (the START treaty is a 17 page PDF), demonstrating yet again that they were not serious about legislating for America’s best interest.

The entire panel felt that the Republicans may have blown it with this un-Christ-like behavior wherein they judged another man’s faith and suggested that this may be a Newt Gingrich moment. “Do they really think Americans are this stupid?” These boys haven’t even taken their majority yet and they are already acting like drunken frat boys, rolling in the inherited privilege of their daddy’s wallet. They show absolutely zero seriousness about governing and doing what’s best for this country.

When Joe Scarborough, who served in the House of Representatives and certainly can speak about the responsibilities with expertise, accuses you of being un-serious and says that Senators Kyl and DeMint owe an apology to Senator Harry Reid for being “un-Christlike”, the Republicans have jumped the obstruction shark before they even took their majority. Nothing says co-operation, Christmas and love for the Prince of Peace like accusing your colleague of not being Christian all because he’s asking you to secure the nation before you go home.

Joe Scarborough serves as somewhat of a measuring stick for how preposterously right the Republican Party has moved. Back in the 1990’s, he was a staunch family values conservative, fast forward a decade, and Scarborough isn’t far enough right for his party. It is deplorable that these Senate millionaires would dare bellyache about the prospect of working near or through the holidays, that is, if you consider what these men do to be considered work. Between all of the fundraisers and golf outings they can barely find the time to do any actual legislating.

These same Republicans were willing to cut off unemployment benefits for two million of their fellow Americans by Christmas. How dare they complain about the privileged lives that they enjoy while so many Americans are doing without? Joe Scarborough’s criticism should be the least of their concerns. Jesus would not approve. Welcome to the true meaning of Christmas, the rich, white entitled Republican way.

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Rachel Maddow Explains How Republicans Broke the Senate

Dec 15 2010 Published by under Featured News, U.S. Senate

On her MSNBC program Rachel Maddow recently sat America down and tried to explain to them how Republicans have managed to break the US Senate by abusing the filibuster. Maddow said, “Since they lost the Senate they have turned it into a stronghold for their own party by using power the senate minority is usually entrusted not to abuse. They’ve used that power to break the institution.”

Here is the video from MSNBC:

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Maddow started the segment by discussing why the Senate is suddenly so busy, “Why does stuff stall all year long and then this time of year it takes off like it is in fast motion? It’s because the people who work here want to go home. Get your stuff, get your rewards cards, it’s time to go, move it. You do not have to go home, but you can’t stay here, everybody out. This is not just sociology about human incentives. This is political science. This is not an accident. It’s not always been true that stuff got done only at Christmas time in Washington only at the end of the legislative Washington. This is a political phenomenon now, not just a grocery store phenomenon at the end of the night, because of something really dramatic that happened to the American political system. This is the way that Senate works.”

The reason why was soon evident as Maddow discussed Republican abuse of the filibuster, “This is 1919 to just before Republicans in the senate went into the minority in 2006. This is how the Senate worked from 1919 until before republicans became the minority. Then the last time republicans became the minority, what happened? Boing. Look at that. What you’re looking at there is the breaking of the United States Senate as an institution. What these are is filibusters. This is when the Senate decides to take the extraordinary measure of making something take 60 votes to pass instead of 50 votes. And that’s impossible. Supermajorities are impossible. You cannot actually pass things with supermajorities in an ongoing way. This is not the way that legislatures function. It is never the way that America’s legislature has functioned. If you’re going to require a supermajority it means that effectively this body has ceased to function, it has ceased to function as a normal majority rules legislature. This is how Republicans broke the Senate.”

Maddow discussed the transformation of the Senate into a body where the minority rules, “They have turned the Senate into a Republican stronghold not while they were in the majority, but since they’ve been in the minority. Since they lost the Senate they have turned it into a stronghold for their own party by using power the senate minority is usually entrusted not to abuse. They’ve used that power to break the institution. Even know they are the minority, less than 50 of them, they exert all of the leverage. They get what they want. Which not only means that policies get changed to try to appeal to them, it also means that the calendar just stretches on and on and on and on with nothing ever getting done. That is their preference.”

She mentioned how the GOP is abusing the filibuster, “They are filibustering the funding of the military right now. It’s on the docket They are filibustering the appointment of people to relatively low-level political jobs at middle management levels at cabinet agencies you cannot remember the names of. People who are not famous, people who are not controversial but are nevertheless subject to this extraordinary supermajority rule. This extraordinary thing that was never supposed to be used the way it’s being used. Because republicans are using it the way they are, nothing gets done. And they have found that strategy to be in their political interest. To get as little done as possible.”

Maddow turned her attention to the only leverage that the Democratic majority has, “It is in their interest as the political minority that nothing gets done and they can achieve that with the way they have broken the institution formally known as the United States Senate. And that’s what explains why Christmas is so busy every year now, because the only leverage the democrats have, even though they’re in the majority, the only way Democrats can exert majority, pressure on Republicans is using the fact republicans want to go home and the only way to go home, Democrats say, is to have to do stuff first. Democrats’ only leverage is, hey Republicans, you can’t leave yet.”

She continued, “The leverage that Democrats have, it’s circumstantial. It’s you guys want to go home so we’ll keep the Senate opened so you can’t go home. This is not a procedure. This is not a rule. This is not a technique for bringing things to the floor. This isn’t even debate. This is, you guys want to go home and that’s all we have to use against you so we can get things done. The Senate is broken so this is the only time and only way the majority can get stuff passed.” Maddow then brought in Sen. Tom Udall to discuss his plan to reform the Senate by allowing the majority to review the body’s rules every two years and pass rules changes with a simple majority vote.”

Udall’s plan is a great idea, but it is certain not to pass. The dirty little secret is that neither side of the aisle wants to change the rules. Democrats are well aware that today’s majority could become 2012’s minority, so they view the dysfunction as a type of powerful insurance policy that always guarantees them clout, no matter what who the partisan numerical breakdown of the body favors. Partisanship has destroyed the ability of the Senate to function as it was intended. The Senate is supposed to be the body of deliberation and compromise.

By design the Senate was intended to offset the majority rules mentality of the House of Representatives, but as more members of the House moved up to the Senate, the lower chamber’s mentality has infected the Senate’s behavioral process. It is often difficult to tell the difference between senators and representatives. Hyper partisanship has run wild in the formerly moderate Senate. Rachel Maddow is right the Senate is broken, and their breakdown has paralyzed our government.

The next time you hear someone on the left complain about everything that Obama hasn’t done please take a moment to remind them that most of Obama’s agenda is currently languishing in the US Senate. The Senate has never approved funding for the relocation of detainees and the closure of GITMO. The Senate has stalled every clean energy bill. The Senate has been sitting on DADT. It was the Senate that killed the public option during the healthcare debate. Pick the issue, and you will almost certainly find a bill that the House passed which is collecting dust in the Senate.

It is easy to blame Obama, but Obama isn’t the problem here. Barack Obama hasn’t betrayed you and let you down. The problem is the United States Senate. It was once a proud example of some of the best elements of representative democracy has become a black hole that has killed the momentum of an entire nation. Sen. Udall is correct. This could easily be fixed, but it won’t be, because the American people in their misguided anger are blaming the wrong branch of government. Until people realize where the true problem lies, Obama will continue to take the blame while the United States Senate rots from within.

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Michele Bachmann and the Truth About Republican Spending

Tea Party Caucus leader Michele Bachmann

“All Real Republicans Love the Sting of Spending.” That isn’t exactly what General Patton said; he was talking about the sting of battle. But the way Republicans (and for purposes of discussion I’m including Tea Partiers when I say Republicans) spend, you’d think it was a battle and they the most gung-ho ultra, soldiers in the world. These folks are in earnest. I mean, they’re serious shop-a-holics – über-spenders.

Is it any surprise, given the history of the past half-century, that some folks are, to say the least, a bit suspicious about the new round of Republic anti-spending rhetoric?

They have a right to be. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has a few not-so eye-openers for people, a celebration of sorts of the non-change the victorious GOP has brought to Washington:

Meet Your New (Old) GOP

They’re not even sworn in yet and the incoming House Republican Freshmen class is already looking a lot like the same old GOP that voters fired in 2006. Here is a quick recap of the incoming Republican House Committee Chairman:

  • Representative Hal “Prince of Pork” Rogers to chair the House Appropriations Committee, who pushed through 135 earmarks at a cost of $246 million in the past two years alone.
  • Representative Dave Camp, someone best known for protecting tax loopholes that reward big corporations for shipping American jobs overseas, to Chair the Ways and Means Committee.
  • Representative Spencer Bachus, chief Republican negotiator of the tea-party hated TARP bailout to lead the House Financial Services Committee.

Impressive, huh? Bet you’re glad you voted these guys in, America. Yeah, they promised us “real” change. But “at least nine incoming Republican Freshmen have hired K Street lobbyists as their top aides.”

I’m floored by their commitment, are you? Because nothing says NO SPENDING! like a lobbyist!

Grifters, the lot of them. Raping America – again.  Palin’s mouth must be watering, eyeing that calendar. She wants to cash in like the last Republican administration. She’s making money, sure, but its small change compared to having your own Haliburton and virtual immunity for your criminal behavior. She knows she can find a country to invade – Iran maybe, and invest in some “infrastructure spending” there, if you know what I mean, and I think you do.

At the end of November, the Senate voted down a Republican-sponsored measure to ban earmark spending (House Republicans had earlier placed a ban on earmarks). FOX News was able to joyously report the following (can you sense their gleeful anticipation?):

The 39-56 tally, however, was a better showing for earmark opponents, who lost a 29-68 vote earlier this year. Any votes next year should be closer because a band of anti-earmark Republicans is joining the Senate.

Is that right…? More Republicans are going to equal less spending? Because it’s those bad ole Democrats who do all the spending! And we know how much FOX News LOVES the Tea Party, those rugged populists fighting against government spending at every turn…

Gosh, speaking of the Tea Party…You’ve probably seen the news about the Tea Party and earmarks (“member-directed spending” is the euphemism they use on “the Hill”). Here’s a list to illustrate Tea Party opposition to earmarks (these are all 52 members of the Tea Party Caucus):

Aderholt (R-AL) – 69 – $78,263,000
Akin (R-MO) – 9 – $14,709,000
Alexander (R-LA) – 41 $65,395,000
Bachmann (R-MN) – 0 – 0
Barton (R-TX) -14 – $12,269,400
Bartlett (R-MD) – 19 – $43,060,650
Bilirakis (R-FL) – 14 – $13,600,000
R. Bishop (R-UT) – 47 – $93,980,000
Burgess (R-TX) – 15 – $15,804,400
Broun (R-GA) – 0 – 0
Burton (R-IN) – 0 – 0
Carter (R-TX) – 26 – $42,232,000
Coble (R-NC) – 19 – $18,755,000
Coffman (R-CO) – 0 – 0
Crenshaw (R-FL) – 37 – $54,424,000
Culberson (R-TX) – 22 – $33,792,000
Fleming (R-LA) – 10 – $31,489,000
Franks (R-AZ) – 8 – $14,300,000
Gingrey (R-GA) – 19 – $16,100,000
Gohmert (R-TX) – 15 – $7,099,000
S. Graves (R-MO) – 11 – $8,331,000
R. Hall (R-TX) – 16 – $12,232,000
Harper (R-MS) – 25 – $80,402,000
Herger (R-CA) – 5 – $5,946,000
Hoekstra (R-MI) – 9 – $6,392,000
Jenkins (R-KS) – 12 – $24,628,000
S. King (R-IA) – 13 – $6,650,000
Lamborn (R-CO) – 6 – $16,020,000
Luetkemeyer (R-MO) – 0 – 0
Lummis (R-WY) – 0 – 0
Marchant (R-TX) – 0 – 0
McClintock (R-CA) – 0 – 0
Gary Miller (R-CA) – 15 – $19,627,500
Jerry Moran (R-KS) – 22 – $19,400,000
Myrick (R-NC) – 0 – 0
Neugebauer (R-TX) – 0 – 0
Pence (R-IN) – 0 -0
Poe (R-TX) – 12 – $7,913,000
T. Price (R-GA) – 0 – 0
Rehberg (R-MT) – 88 – $100,514,200
Roe (R-TN) – 0 – 0
Royce (R-CA) – 7 – $6,545,000
Scalise (R-LA) – 20 – $17,388,000
P. Sessions (R-TX) – 0 – 0
Shadegg (R-AZ) – 0 – 0
Adrian Smith (R-NE) – 1 – $350,000
L. Smith (R-TX) – 18 – $14,078,000
Stearns (R-FL) – 17 – $15,472,000
Tiahrt (R-KS) – 39 – $63,400,000
Wamp (R-TN) – 14 – $34,544,000
Westmoreland (R-GA) – 0 – 0
Wilson (R-SC) – 15 – $23,334,000

TOTAL – 764 – $1,049,783,150

Drill baby drill; spend baby spend. You can see the depth of their commitment to…er, spending earmarks. You’d think conservatives would be, well…conservative about such things but they seem to spend, if you’ll pardon the expression, liberally.

In April, Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) released their 2010 Congressional Pig Book, in their own words “the group’s 20th anniversary exposé of pork-barrel spending.”  This edition of the Pig Book enumerated 9,129 earmarks worth $16.5 billion.

$16.5 billion is a tiny fraction of the federal budget. Let’s face it: eliminating earmarks entirely won’t fix the federal budget. But it’s an issue that gets people riled up because of the profligacy of some of the spending. Even if it’s important to the state or community in question, others are left lifting their eyebrows and wondering…why?

CAGW lists some examples:

  • $465,000,000 for the alternate engine for the Joint Strike Fighter;
  • $5,000,000 for the Presidio Heritage Center in California;
  • $1,000,000 for Portsmouth Music Hall in New Hampshire;
  • $400,000 for the USA Swimming Foundation in New Jersey;
  • $300,000 for Carnegie Hall in New York City;
  • $250,000 for the Monroe County Farmer’s Market in Kentucky;
  • $200,000 for the Washington National Opera in the District of Columbia; and
  • $206,000 for wool research in Montana, Texas, and Wyoming.

As you saw above, spending is a problem the Tea Party shares with the Republican Party (they share many things, of course). Michele Bachmann, leader of the Tea Party Caucus in Congress, wants to “redefine” earmarks. Bush was big about redefining things too. He’d redefine problems right out of existence. That’s what Bachman wants to do. If you change the definition, do a little tweaking here and there, you can keep spending wantonly yet still present yourself as a fiscal conservative.

Of course, you can also redefine problems out of existence in another way, by saying any Tea Partier who requested earmarks isn’t really a Tea Partier after all – because they requested earmarks. Michele Bachmann didn’t (though she requested $3.7 Million In Earmarks In 2008) – but she’s thinking about that potentially rickety bridge connection her home town of Stillwater to all those potential antique buyers on the Wisconsin side of the St. Croix.

Bachmann’s 2008 earmarks? Here’s just a few:

  • $94,000 for Sheriffs Youth Program of MN
  • $335,000 for Equipment Acquisition for Northland Medical Center
  • $803,000 for Replacement Small Buses, St. Cloud Metro Bus

That GOP ban we spoke of above? As Fox News says, it “would have effectively forbidden the Senate from considering legislation containing earmarks like road and bridge projects, community development funding, grants to local police departments and special-interest tax breaks.”

Yeah, no bridge over the St. Croix, Michele. Sorry.

The Tea Party backed itself into a corner with their anti-earmark rant. Earmarks are used for infrastructure support in this country. To fix bridges, in point of fact, among other things. Bachmann knows this. She knows that bridge is important. She knows that money to fix that bridge will come – has to come – from earmarks. Republicans, after all, hated the idea fielded by President Obama of spending stimulus money on infrastructure projects.

The solution is, for Bachmann, redefining some earmark spending as non-pork. According to the Pioneer Press,

Bachmann says Congress should exempt “roads, bridges and interchanges” and recommends that if a town, city, county or state approves a project, a lawmaker in Washington should be able to submit a request — a practice she says she has followed. Rep. Jean Schmidt, R-Ohio, says Congress should earn back the public’s trust before considering a new definition but concedes the earmark ban will bring about “unintended consequences.”

It’s a tight spot they find themselves in. Tea Partiers like Bachmann sure don’t want the government controlling infrastructure spending, or transportation dollars.

It’s not big government they’re against. It’s not spending they’re against. They love both. They have proven it again and again that the only earmark spending they’re against is Democratic-member-directed-spending – they love their own and the more the better – and yet people keep voting for them…again. Makes you wonder if Republican voters are easily fooled or if they’re part of the scam, the eternal bait and switch of American conservatism, about as real as John McCain’s maverick-ism.

Yeah, that’s change you can believe in. Though to give John credit, he did turn himself to a raving Tea Partier. That’s change, isn’t it? With John McCain you can say, as many states do about their weather, that if you don’t like it, just wait awhile. But you can’t say that about Republican spending, unfortunately. There the more things change, the more they stay the same.

9 responses so far

Senate Democrats Prove Worthless to Obama in Tax Cut Debate

Dec 04 2010 Published by under Featured News, U.S. Senate

Despite standing up in the media and proclaiming their outrage over the possibility of compromising with Republicans on the issue of extending the Bush tax cuts, the Senate Democrats again demonstrated their ineptitude by not being able to get the support of the entire caucus for limiting the tax cuts to total income of $250,000 or less. The all talk no unity Democrats have now forced the same compromise that they claim to hate.

It is not a surprise that the Senate was not able to get the required 60 votes to pass the legislation that would limit the tax cut the first $250,000 in earnings, but if Senate Democrats are so outraged at the prospect of extending tax cuts to the wealthy, they could have at least strengthened the President’s negotiating hand by presenting a united front. On each of the two test votes, they were only able to muster 53 Democratic votes.

On the $250,000 measure, four Democrats jumped ship, Russ Feingold, Joe Manchin, Ben Nelson, and Jim Webb. Here’s the bad news. Three of those four Democrats will be a part of the smaller Democratic Senate caucus in January. On the proposal to limit the tax cut to the first million dollars of income Feingold, was joined by Tom Harkin, Dick Durbin, and Jay Rockefeller as Democratic no votes. Feingold voted against both bills because he believes that the Bush tax cuts should be allowed to expire, and Harkin, Durbin, and Rockefeller oppose a tax cut for millionaires.

The real problem for Obama and the Democratic Party in general was on full display on the first vote. Obama expressed his disappointment that the Senate couldn’t get it passed, “I am very disappointed that the Senate did not pass legislation that had already passed the House of Representatives to make middle class tax cuts permanent.” Obama also said that the he wanted to get this issue resolved before the tax cuts expire on January 1.

Obama might have been disappointed, but he should not have been surprised. On issue after issue, Senate Democrats, in their quest to govern based on their own self-interest have hung Obama out to dry. The most infamous episode in the last two years was the Senate Democrats cowardly floundering on healthcare reform, but on every issue from climate change to DADT, Harry Reid and the Senate Democratic caucus have done a better job of halting the Obama agenda than Republicans could have ever dreamed of.

Many want to blame this failing on Obama, but it isn’t the 1960s anymore. Obama can’t LBJ strong arm legislation through the Senate. Any president can set the agenda, but as George W. Bush showed when his own party’s caucuses started ignoring him, there isn’t a whole lot a modern president can do. Unlike the old days, a congressional career does not completely depend on the party or the president. This result is that while the executive branch has been strengthened in some areas, like national security, it isn’t as dominate over the legislative process as it once was.

If Senate Democrats were truly outraged over Obama compromising on tax cuts, Saturday’s vote presented them with the perfect opportunity to present a united front, and send a message to the White House that compromise is not an option. If all Democrats could unify around a single position on the tax cuts, it would strengthen the President’s hand as he attempts to deal with the Republican’s attempt to extort tax cuts for the top 2%, but as usual Democrats have proven themselves more capable of infighting than working together.

Obama and many Democrats seem convinced that the nation will crumble if these tax cuts are allowed to expire, even though this is far from the truth. Most Democrats in Congress and the White House originally didn’t want to compromise, but they have bought into the Republican frame that these tax cuts are necessary. The bigger question is why are the Democrats and the White House wasting their time fighting with each other over tax cuts when two million people are set to lose their unemployment benefits by Christmas? It is imperative that Democrats find a common message, unify around it, and get to work on the issues that impact the daily lives of the American people.

8 responses so far

America Tell Republicans To Stop Holding National Security Hostage

Dec 04 2010 Published by under Featured News, Issues, Republican Party, U.S. Senate

America Doesn’t Want Republicans to Hold National Security Hostage

Mitch McConnell and his Republican brethren sent a letter to Senate Democrats a few days ago announcing that no laws would be passed until the Democrats give them tax cuts for the rich. They claimed that this pledge didn’t include the START treaty, and then like clockwork, they started denouncing the START treaty, so yeah, it includes the START treaty- a matter of national security if not global security. Democrats are beginning to realize that negotiating with Republicans “is almost like negotiating with terrorists”.

The New York Times reported on the letter the Republican senators sent to Senate Democrats, which Wednesday morning Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s office proudly passed on to reporters:

“No tax-cut extension? No laws for you!
In a letter signed by the 42 members of the Republican caucus, delivered to the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, and mentioned Wednesday on the Senate floor by the minority leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republicans informed their Democratic counterparts that they would not go forward with “any legislative item until the Senate has acted to fund the government and we have prevented the tax increase that is currently awaiting all American taxpayers.” The letter goes on: “With little time left in this Congressional session, legislative scheduling should be focused on these critical priorities. While there are other items that might ultimately be worthy of the Senate’s attention, we cannot agree to prioritize any matters above the critical issues of funding the government and preventing a job-killing tax hike.””

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and U.S. President Barack Obama signed the new START treaty on April 8 in Prague to replace the original treaty agreement that expired in December 2009. It can only come into being after it is ratified by both houses of the Russian parliament and the U.S. Senate. Without START ratified, we have no way of keeping track of Russia’s nuclear arsenal.

Republicans claimed the START treaty would not be impacted by their Extortion Game, but then, they say a lot of things they don’t mean – like meeting with the President to forge a path to bipartisanship and then hours later coming out with a petulant letter claiming they will take their toys and go home if the rich people don’t get theirs’. Obviously their own prior Secretaries of States didn’t believe them either or they wouldn’t have taken to TV to denounce this action.

And then came their letter December 2.

“In a letter to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Hatch and others noted the Majority might try to bring the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) to the Senate floor in the lame duck session and urged the leader to consult them before entering into any time or amendment agreements.

The senators wrote: “New START is a complex agreement and will have lasting implications for the national security of this nation. With the limited floor time available before Sine Die, we want to ensure that a treaty of this magnitude receives sufficient debate and consideration so that all consequences, both intended and unintended, can be vetted.

“We have numerous amendments requiring significant debate to the treaty as well as the resolution of ratification that we would like to offer and have votes on. It would be unwise and improper to do this in a hurried fashion over the course of only a few days.”

This is the same excuse they use for everything they want to obstruct: They claim it’s “rushed”. They’ve had this legislation on their desks since Spring. Do you mean to tell me their aides haven’t had time to read it yet? If so, why is that? What kind of elected official ignores national security for over 8 months?

Of course, this talking point is spreading like wild fire, as Mitt Romney took to the Boston Globe to spread the meme that the President is “rushing” the START treaty, like he “rushed” healthcare. Which wasn’t rushed for anyone who is capable of reading more than a one paragraph email.

President Obama cautioned, “A failure to ratify New START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) would be a dangerous gamble with America’s national security. There is enough gridlock, enough bickering. If there is one issue that should unite us – as Republicans and Democrats – it should be our national security.”

But guess what?

They have no intention of ratifying START until nuclear pork is handed out. So this isn’t even just extortion for tax cuts for the rich, it’s a lie of extortion or extortion upon extortion.

Think Progress reported several months ago:

“Mitch McConnell yesterday made it abundantly clear what the hold up is about – the GOP (and more specifically Senator Jon Kyl) hasn’t been bought off yet. Corker himself noted last week, he supports the treaty but is following Kyl’s lead and holding out for more pork. McConnell told Reuters in a shocking degree of candor:…
‘All they have to do is find enough money to satisfy Senator Kyl that they are prepared to do what they said they would do… If it’s important to you, you can find a way, in an over a trillion dollar discretionary budget to fund it. In my view they need to do that, because without that I think the chances of ratification are pretty slim.’”

Prior to their announcement that they were holding up START, I was of the resigned opinion that if Democrats needed to give a two year extension of the tax cuts for the wealthy in order to get them for the middle class, it should be done. Historically the lame duck session is not a time to pass tons of your own ideologically driven legislation, and compromise was expected. After all, we’re in a recession and I simply couldn’t justify hurting the middle class in order to lower the deficit or to take a philosophical stand against the top 2 percent. I didn’t like it, but I was reconciled to it.

However, what has become abundantly clear is that the Republicans are not negotiating in good faith. Yes, I realize this is not a bombshell, but until now they have not copped to this strategy in writing, nor so blatantly admitted that they would hold national security hostage to get what they want. The closest they’ve come to this is holding up appointments which impact our security, such as the TSA chief, an appointment they held up over concerns that Obama’s picks might want to unionize the TSA.

Somehow the notion that the American people elected Obama because they want him to pick the folks in charge has escaped the understanding of Republicans, who like to pretend that all Americans oppose Obama’s ideas. They don’t. I doubt you could find a majority of Americans who would agree that they would rather not have a TSA Chief of Security if it means that person might unionize the TSA.

But now all bets are off. Gone is the Republican’s promise on November 2, 2010 to reach across the aisle. Republicans have offered no promise or proof of promise that even if they get what they want, they will be willing to compromise in return and their recent history does nothing to support this fantasy. In fact, now Republicans are crowing about McConnell “menacing” the President with his announcement of obstruction. It seems the Republican Party learned nothing from Newt Gingrich’s Failed Debacle of Junior High tactics.

Politics is usually the art of compromise and diplomacy, but when you’re attempting to govern with a party that has no intentions of governing, a party whose ONLY goal is to see your party fail – even if it means America fails – then it’s time to play war.

No matter what Republicans claim on TV, the American people did not vote them into power to give tax breaks to the rich (polls prove this) nor did they vote them into power to obstruct our national security. There is no good reason, ever, to obstruct ratifying a treaty as important as the START treaty. To use such a safety measure (one that impacts the world, not just America) as a weapon to get what they want makes the Republican Party the enemy of America. And as they will tell you, you don’t appease the enemy.

Democratic Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) said just hours ago, “Negotiating with Republicans (is) “almost” like negotiating with “terrorists.” Yes, almost. They’re holding up a nuclear treaty so they can get tax cuts for the rich and some nuclear pork. As an American citizen who pays taxes so these clowns can protect our community, I feel righteously ripped off right now.

And now, the Russians are threatening that if we make changes to START, they will need to do so as well. Speaker Boris Gryzlov of the lower house of Russian parliament, the State Duma, told the Rossiya TV channel:

“I hope the U.S. Congress ratifies the new START treaty, although we have already received information that they [United States] are trying to adjust and clarify the text. If they do this, we will have to do the same.”

While there is plenty of legislation on the table right now that I’d love to see passed (Democrats need 60 votes to overcome a filibuster but DADT looks to have the votes thanks to Tea Party defector Scott Brown, the DREAM act, not to mention the budget that needs to be passed to fund the government), nothing good will come of caving into political terrorism.

Republicans need to ratify the START treaty. There is no legitimate excuse for failing to do so. I realize that they dread having to give this “win” to the President, but even they must see that they have an obligation to the citizens of this country to protect us from international threats like nuclear war.

The notion that Republicans are so reading-impaired that they can’t read legislation that’s been on their desks for months is so pathetic that it should be turned around as a reason to stop paying them. Their job is to read legislation. They have many aides to assist them in this matter. If they are incapable of doing the job we are paying them to do, perhaps we should join up with the Tea Party in trying to get court approval to recall these folks.

Only after they ratify START or at least stop holding it hostage can any “negotiations” take place. Americans must not be willing victims of the Republican Party’s refusal to protect our safety.

We don’t negotiate with terrorists. And nothing says terrorist like refusing to allow the passage of a vital treaty in order to get an ideologically based piece of legislation passed in a lame duck session.

Just say ‘No’.

23 responses so far

Republican Extremists Take Aim at Moderation

Nov 29 2010 Published by under Featured News, Issues, U.S. Senate

The punch thrown at Lugar by Republicans won't be joking

Through most of history, western culture has recognized the value of moderation and the evils of excess. Robert McCluer Calhoon, University of North Carolina, Greensboro recognizes its origins in the Peloponnesian War in the Fifth Century B.C.E. (Political Moderation in America’s First Two Centuries, 2008). The Icelandic Sagas are full, for example, of such lessons, the positive rewards of moderate behavior and the ills that follow from immoderate behavior. In politics, the success of the American political system has been based not on irreconcilable bickering between polar opposites and ideologues but upon the system of give and take, and compromise, embodied by moderate politicians.

Political moderation balances the extremes; it, not rancorous polarization, that makes the world go around.

Harry Clor (On Moderation: Defending an Ancient Virtue in a Modern World, 2008), points out that critics have argued that “moderate” and “extremist” are “phenomena wholly subjective and situation-bound, utterly dependent upon variable opinions or commitments, circumstances and partisan perceptions of circumstances.” People see moderation as weakness. But as Clor argues, a moderate politician “builds consensus and unifies; he or she seeks agreement across partisan lines and speaks to the people in a nonconfrontational, noninflammatory way intended to be unifying.”

It is obvious that moderation has no place in modern Republican discourse, whose rhetoric is based on confrontational and inflammatory statements, the more outrageous the better.

But moderation is not betrayal of ideology. The Founding Fathers hammered out a Constitution through compromise. None of the authors of the Constitution got everything they wanted. If the minority would have been unwilling, as are modern Republicans, to compromise, it would never have been ratified. We would still be waiting. Compromise was essential. I will argue here that not only bound up with America’s founding but that it is not moderation that is the enemy of a modern liberal democracy, but extremism.

The Republican Party’s purity standards do not allow for moderation in approaches to America’s problems. The “take no prisoners” approach of Republican victories has morphed into a “scorched earth” leave nothing for the enemy approach in defeat. If they cannot have the country then they will ensure that there is no country left to govern by bringing to a halt any process they disagree with. This goes far beyond filibustering, extending as it does to investigations and inquiries into the behavior of those in power.

It is ironic and troubling that the Republicans accuse the Democrats and President Obama of being extremist ideologues, comparing the president to Hitler and Stalin and the Democrats to Communists and Nazis while themselves evincing all the attributes of these authoritarian political movements.

It is the Republicans, after all, who insist on obedience to ideology, not the Democrats, who embody a far wider range of political views, from moderate to extreme. Finding a moderate Republican these days has become very difficult indeed, and the charge of moderation when laid by the base against a Republican politician is often a kiss of death.

One example of this trend was discussed yesterday in the New York Times: Republican Senator Richard G. Lugar of Indiana. Lugar is, as the Times reports, “standing against his party on a number of significant issues at a politically dangerous time to do so.” Such a thing is, sadly enough, newsworthy in this day and age, especially with regards a man who has shown himself “A reliable conservative for decades on every issue.”

For his sins (for example, his desire to ratify the START treaty) the Times tells us that,

Mr. Lugar’s recent breaks with his party have stirred the attention of Indiana Tea Party groups, who have him in their sights. “Senator Lugar has been an upstanding citizen representing us in D. C.,” said Diane Hubbard, a spokeswoman for the Indianapolis Tea Party. “But over the years, he has become more moderate in his voting.”

The sin of moderation. Who would have thought?

Even Republicans are shocked and disturbed that a stalwart like Lugar could be targeted.

“If Dick Lugar,” said John C. Danforth, a former Republican senator from Missouri, “having served five terms in the U.S. Senate and being the most respected person in the Senate and the leading authority on foreign policy, is seriously challenged by anybody in the Republican Party, we have gone so far overboard that we are beyond redemption.”

I am reminded by all this of the French Revolution, which began moderately enough and then became more extreme, to the extent that those who began the revolution became its victims, and moderation the enemy. Even a radical liberal like Thomas Paine found himself arrested, the same Thomas Paine who had defended the French Revolution from conservative Edmund Burke (Reflections on the Revolution in France, 1790 ) in his Rights of Man (1791). I am reminded also of the McCarthyism of the very conservative 1950s, or going further back, of the witch-hunts of the 17th and previous centuries.

History offers abundant lessons beyond the few I mention here of the dangers of extremism run amok. No one is safe, not even the current guardians of the cause. Anyone can be denounced. Anyone can instantly find themselves a Canaanite, vomited out of the Holy Land.

Enemies and traitors lurk around every corner and even under your bed. Eager to remain in favor, the extremists outdo each other by being ever more extreme.

Clor argues that “‘you cannot get it all’ from any social arrangements, no matter how well conceived” and he is right. As I argued above, the Constitution itself is evidence of this. “Concessions are made and compromises achieved” in Clor’s words. It is difficult to see today where compromise will come from. President Obama tried in 2008 and in the two years since. Nobody is really surprised at this point by his failure. And it is difficult to see how the United States can survive without it.

The world will not stand still for us while we engage in deadlock, and it will be difficult for President Obama to go forward while the Republican House wants to go backward. But we know things can get worse. We know, however much the stimulus helped, that we are not out of the woods yet. We have only to look to Europe, to Greece, to Ireland, to Iceland, to see what a truly collapsed economy looks like. The Republicans seem to be steering us in that direction and anyone who doesn’t jump on board the bandwagon has betrayed the ideals of the revolution.

A world without moderation is a bleak place to contemplate, and probably a worse place to live, as we are all likely to find out unless a Republican Edward R. Murrow reveals himself and say “Enough is enough.”

6 responses so far

Extortion: The United States Senate’s Newest Racket

Nov 18 2010 Published by under Featured News, U.S. Senate

American government has lost its designation as a representative democracy, and is turning into a racket where one man, or one party, dictates its will on the entire government, and apparently no-one is willing to stop the demise of democratic rule. Conservatives have hijacked our democracy by using lies, deceit, and extortion to control the government agenda and the American people.

Republicans obstruct Democrat’s legislation that regulates corporations and helps American people. They use filibusters and super-majorities to block bills that rein in unfair business and banking practices as well as to deny funding for social programs that benefit a majority of Americans.

There are individuals in the legislatures who block legislation by using extortion to control the outcome of a bill, or to make sure a bill doesn’t come up for debate or a vote. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) is notorious for threatening to join Republicans if Democrats don’t adopt Republican proposals. Lieberman holds up Democrat’s legislation as a matter of course, and joined Republicans in blocking a bill that stopped job outsourcing. It is a mystery why Democrats allow him to sit on important committees.

There is a new extortionist in the Senate and although he is a Democrat, his allegiance seems closer to the Tea Party and ultra-conservative Republicans. Joe Manchin (D-WV) made a campaign ad (watch here) where he loaded a rifle and promised he would protect the 2nd Amendment, get the government off people’s backs, repeal bad parts of Obamacare, and kill cap and trade if he were elected to the Senate. Manchin resigned as Governor in West Virginia to replace Democrat Robert Byrd who recently died leaving an open Senate seat.

Manchin has ties to the mining industry and does not support environmental protections meant to maintain clean water in West Virginia. It is curious though, why Manchin’s campaign ad claimed he needed to protect the 2nd Amendment, or keep the government off of peoples’ backs. He may be a Democrat in name, but his campaign ads and statements are taken right out of Tea Party and Republican playbooks.

Before Manchin was sworn in as a Senator, Republicans tried to convince him to change parties and become a Republican.  Harry Reid had to assure Manchin that the cap and trade bill would not be pursued so he wouldn’t join Republicans. It is another case of extortion, and not the way Democracy is supposed to work.

There is much talk about compromise and bipartisanship from the Democrats, and the White House, but in the 21st Century American democracy, it is a fallacy and a joke. Republicans will not compromise on anything, and like Lieberman and Manchin, they will have it their way, or not at all. It doesn’t matter if they use the filibuster, super-majority rules, or the one-man blocking tactic; Republicans will not compromise.

Extortionist tactics are not limited to personal ideology or religious belief, which is outrageous in itself. Many obstructionists are working for special interest groups or corporate sponsors like the energy industry. If enough money is involved, one legislator, like Manchin, can block regulatory agencies like the EPA from protecting water sources and the environment. Manchin filed suit in West Virginia to stop the EPA from enforcing Federal clean water rules and other environmental protection issues to appease the mining industry.

If America continues on its course of corporate control of legislators, democracy is dead, and Democrats are as much at fault as Republicans. Democrats in the legislature and the White House have to stop bending to the will of one man or the government will continue being ineffective. The days of sitting down, debating, compromising, and working for the good of the country are gone, and it signals the undoing of American democracy.

Although Democrats had a majority in both houses, they allowed Republicans and individual representatives to halt legislation with impunity to the detriment of the American people. When they did pass legislation, they had to concede conservative’s demands that effectively killed important benefits to the people. It happened with health care reform, financial reform, and environmental protections.

Republicans and teabaggers complain of Democrat’s tyranny in forcing legislation down their throats, regardless that the democratic process means the majority rules. The real tyranny is the conservative ideology that there is only one course of action, and one man can dictate policy by using extortion or obstruction.

Democracy is dead in America, and corporatist Republicans and attention seeking Democrats are responsible for its demise. The idea of majority rule is a joke when the minority controls the government and it is shameful. It is time to mourn our lost Democracy, and time to fear the tyranny of a few extortionists and corporatist dictators; maybe it is time to leave America.

14 responses so far

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