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Sunday, July 28, 2013

Proud of their Record–at Whose Expense?

"We should not be judged on how many new laws we create. We ought to be judged on how many laws we repeal." -- John Boehner

Has a Speaker of the House ever been this negative about his Party’s legislative record?  Probably not.  Perhaps more importantly: has a Speaker of the House ever admitted in public that he and his Party did not carry out their constitutional responsibility?  Doubtful.  This statement from Speaker Boehner represents an entirely new standard of measurement for a legislative agenda.  And yet, he has captured the essence of the mission of this Republican-controlled Congress:  it has established a new record of obstruction, delay and opposition unknown in the modern era.  And all this not only because the President is of a racial heritage that they cannot abide, but because they are being pushed by their right-wing to oppose central government power and largesse.

The founding fathers built into our constitution certain conflicts known as checks and balances.  In terms of the relationship of the Legislative and Executive branches, there are many built in checks.  One is the fact that the Congress has the ability to approve departmental and judicial appointees (including nominees for the Supreme Court), as well as the approval of treaties.  Congress also has the power of the budget, as all budgets must begin in the House of Representatives. 

It is usually a sign of a politically positive relationship when Congress approves the President’s nominees without too many problems especially when the make-up of Congress is at odds with the political status of the president. For example, Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neill had such a relationship. Clinton as a Democrat had to work with a Republican dominated Congress for most of his two terms in office. President Bush also had to work with a Senate made up of a Republican majority, but after (former) Senator James Jeffords of Vermont changed from Republican to Independent and caucused with Democrats , this was no longer the case. 

No president can avoid political entanglements with Congress (unless he has no legislative initiatives!).  In the recent past, the most important bills were often ratified by Congress after much back room debate. The Great Reform bills of Lyndon Johnson were passed but only after much ‘wheeling’ and dealing in back rooms with Congressional chairman. Nixon, who had a less than positive relationship with Congress, had to seek their support for SALT 1 and for expanding the money spent on the Vietnam War. After September 11th, 2001, President Bush had a relatively good relationship with Congress because Congress had to be seen to be supporting the commander-in-chief in the country's time of need.

Wikipedia reminds us:  “In essence Congress and the president have what is essentially a policy of bargaining if a particular bill is potentially controversial. If certain issues have been put into a bill and Congress does not support them, that is where the back room dealing takes place to get the bill passed… so that it pleases everyone.”

But all that came before Mitch McConnell uttered his infamous statement that his primary objective was to make President Obama a one-term President.  That statement was a declaration of political war.  And there has been no let-up in that war even though President Obama was re-elected in November of 2012 with certain policies and promises also approved by the electorate.  The point to make here is that, not only have Republicans in House and Senate blocked key legislation that could have helped the economy rebound, but by refusing to approve appointments, they have kept this administration struggling to carry out Executive functions. 

What is worse, some radical Republicans continue to attack the President at every turn with racial stereotypes and with innuendo, lies and distortions (as in the recent so-called “scandal” hearings) that are meant to destroy his legacy.  For instance, repeal of the health care reform legislation (Affordable Care Act) has been tried at least 40 times in the House, and although passed there each time, has yet to be considered in the Senate.  Republicans continue to distort and lie about the effects of that piece of hallmark legislation because they have nothing comparable in their legislative repertoire and because it requires the richest 1% to pay a fair share of costs for adequate health care. 

To remind ourselves of the ferocity of this attack, let us review some of the important pieces of legislation that Republicans have shot down over the last few years (part of this list is from
1)    Tax on Companies that ship jobs overseas- A bill that would have eliminated a tax break that companies get when they ship jobs overseas. Republicans blocked this, allowing companies to keep the tax break they receive when they ship jobs to other countries.
2)    Political Ad disclosure bill- Would have required all donors to political campaigns to reveal themselves. Republicans blocked this, not once but twice.
3)    Subpoena Power for the Committee investigating the BP Oil Spill – Give subpoena power to the independent committee responsible for investigating BP’s roll in the oil spill. Republicans attempted to block this.
4)    The Small Business Jobs Act -would give LOCAL, community banks access to billions of dollars to loan to small businesses. Republicans blocked this, then attempted to block it a second time and failed.
5)    The DREAM Act- Gives immigrant youth who were brought here as children a path to citizenship by earning a college degree or serving the military for 2 years. Republicans blocked this.
6)    Repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”- Would have repealed the law that forces gay and lesbian services members to lie about their sexuality and gives the military the right to discharge soldiers based on their sexuality. Republicans blocked this many times and Democrats were finally able to pass it with the support of just 2 Republicans.
7)    Senator Franken’s Anti-Rape Amendment to the Defense Appropriations Bill – Makes it so that women raped overseas while working for foreign contractors have the right to have their case heard in an American court instead of having their case mediated by the company they work for. Only Republican men voted against this, but it passed.
8)    Benefits for Homeless Veterans- would have expanded benefits to homeless veterans and homeless veterans with children. Republicans blocked this.
9)    Affordable Health Care For America Act- Prevents insurance companies from discriminating on the basis of “pre-existing conditions”. Requires that insurance companies spend 85 cents of every dollar that you pay on your actual health care. Limits health insurance companies profit margins. Republicans blocked this for months before it finally passed and have vowed to repeal it if they are elected.
10)    Health Care for the 9/11 First Responders who got sick from being at Ground Zero- Would provide billions of dollars in health care to help the 9/11 First Responders who were at Ground Zero on 9/11 and are now sick because of it. Republicans blocked this.
11)    The Jobs Bill- Offsets the payroll tax for 1 year for companies that hire new employees, or people receiving unemployment insurance. Also gives other tax incentives to companies hiring new employees. Republicans attempted to block this.
12)    Wall Street Reform- Puts stricter regulations on the banks, preventing them from becoming “too big to fail”. Curbs reckless spending practices that caused the banking crisis. Republicans attempted to block this.
13)    American Recovery and Reinvestment Act- Pumped billions of dollars into state and local Governments to prevent us from sinking into a second Great Depression. Republicans opposed this but now want to take credit for the parts of it that we know are successful.
14)    Oil Spill Liability- Raises the liability on what companies can be made to pay to clean up after an oil spill. Republicans blocked this.
15)    Immigration Reform- Republicans suggested comprehensive immigration reform until Obama supported it. Now they’re rabidly opposed to it and even voted against their own legislation. Republicans blocked this, although another attempt is in the House after Senate approval, but outcome is likely to be piece-meal but not comprehensive.
16)    Unemployment extension bill HR-4213- Would provide additional aid to the millions of Americans still on unemployment who are just trying to support themselves and their families. Republicans blocked this bill for 8 weeks before it finally passed.
17)    Fair Pay Act of 2009- Also called the Lily Ledbetter bill. Requires that women receive equal compensation to men for doing the same work. Republicans attempted to block this.

A number of bills had to do with Department of Defense:
18)    No permanent military bases in Afghanistan.
19)    Report identifying hybrid or electric propulsion systems and other fuel-saving technologies for incorporation into tactical motor vehicles.
20)    Protection of child custody arrangements for parents who are members of the Armed Forces deployed in support of a contingency operation.
21)    Improvements to Department of Defense domestic violence programs.
22)    Department of Defense recognition of spouses of members of the Armed Forces.
23)    Department of Defense recognition of children of members of the Armed Forces.
24)    Enhancements to the Troops-to-Teachers Program.
25)    Fiscal year 2011 increase in military basic pay.
26)    Improving aural protection for members of the Armed Forces.
27)    Comprehensive policy on neurocognitive assessment by the military health care system.
28)    Authority to make excess nonlethal supplies available for domestic emergency assistance.

And the list goes on.   How about legislation blocked in 2012 from
A minimum wage increase.  House Democrats proposed legislation in June that would have raised the national minimum wage to $10 an hour, but Republicans blocked it. The minimum wage is currently $7.25 an hour, even though it would need to be raised to $9.92 to match the borrowing power it had in 1968. If it was indexed to inflation, it would be $10.40 today.
Campaign finance transparency.  The DISCLOSE Act of 2012, repeatedly blocked by Congressional Republicans, would have allowed voters to know who was funding the attack ads that flooded the airways from secretive groups like Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS.
The Buffett Rule.  Senate Republicans in April filibustered the Buffet Rule, which would have set a minimum tax on millionaires. Huge majorities of Americans consistently support the rule, which would raise tens of billions of dollars per year from Americans who have seen their incomes explode while their tax rates plummeted.
The Employment Non-Discrimination Act.  ENDA, which would prohibit discrimination in hiring and employment on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, has languished in Congress for decades, and Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) “hasn’t thought much” about bringing it to a vote.
U.N. treaty to protect the equal rights of the disabled.  Republicans blocked ratification of the United Nations treaty to protect the rights of disabled people around the world, falsely claiming it would undermine parents of disabled children. In fact, the treaty would require other nations to revise their laws to resemble the Americans With Disabilities Act and had overwhelming support from veterans and disabilities groups. It failed by 5 votes. 
The Paycheck Fairness Act.  It’s about to be 2013, and women are still getting paid less than men for the same job. This year the Paycheck Fairness Act came up for a vote again (previous efforts to pass the law have been unsuccessful), but the Senate GOP still couldn’t get it together to pass the legislation. Republicans oppose the measure, saying it helps trial lawyers instead of women. But the country’s female doctors, lawyers, and CEOs might be inclined to disagree. 
Cyber security bill – blocked in Senate
Veteran’s Jobs Bill – blocked in Senate
The Bring Jobs Home Act - The bill would have provided a 20% tax break for the costs of moving jobs back to the U.S. It removes tax deductions for the business expenses of jobs moving overseas. Simple enough but 42 Republicans voted to obstruct. 
The Payroll Tax Cut Renewal.  This tax cut reaches 160 million people and stimulates demand by leaving money in consumers’ hands.  Economists call this one of the most stimulative possible approaches for increasing jobs in the economy.
The JOBS Act. Obama broke the bill in 16 parts so that Republicans could block segments that were only tax cuts. Republicans blocked every part except for one to help veterans. That is a total of 17 jobs bills blocked.  They didn't say what they disagreed with.  They just completely blocked debate. sums up the problem and the issue:
“The method Republicans have used to block all jobs legislation in the past two years is the same. A jobs bill comes up, it is filled with positive things for the economy, Republicans filibuster debate, this shields them from having to make floor speeches on why they don't want tax breaks for small businesses... etc.  Why? Well, if the economy recovers too strongly before an election, Republicans will lose power. If jobs numbers look too good, people will want to keep the same party. By Republicans blocking all jobs legislation and keeping jobs numbers from improving they believe this is their ticket to power.  In other words, if you and other Americans suffer just long enough it will pay off for Republicans.  They sacrifice the citizens' jobs with the hopes that they will create more Republican jobs in Congress.”

That is the essence of Republican opposition.  They are hell-bent on slowing the economic recovery for as long as they possibly can, and “sequestration” is the biggest gift they could have been handed in pursuit of their mission!  If Obama’s legacy is wrecked in the process, all the better.  Even on TV talk shows today, Republican spokespersons attacked the Recovery as being slow and ineffective.  Secondly, they blame Obamacare as a major part of the reason for slow Recovery because it is a “job-killer.”  Never do they take responsibility for blocking all the legislation that would have stimulated the economy.

If it isn’t clear to you yet, it may never be.  The Republicans in Congress by their negative votes have said the following directly to you:  we don’t care what you say or what you think.  The survival of our Grand Old Party is now our number one priority; nothing else matters.  We will take control in 2014 and in 2016 and then we will show you what must happen: central government and its many welfare programs will be shrunk beyond current imagination, and governing power will be returned to the states.  The richest 1% will be given their due as the job-creators and power-brokers, but the middle class and lower classes must learn personal responsibility for themselves.  No more dependence on government hand-outs.  The strong will survive in style and the weak will have to get along as best they can. 

Don’t be fooled by the words of John Boehner; he is seriously proud about the record of his conference in terms, not of repeal, but of blockage of the Obama agenda.  He, and Mitch McConnell, want to be long remembered for taking on the liberals and winning a victory that he hopes will prove to be the record that started a new era of laissez-faire capitalism and minimalist national government.  Ignore their bamboozling words.  Remember their actions!  The Congressional Republicans have prevented our economy from growing at a rate that would have given the President a clear political victory, and the middle class a boost.  And, then they try to blame him for the result.

They will continue their war in spite of the items that the people say they need: jobs, affordable health care, attention to education and infrastructure, and protection from rapacious corporations, banks, Wall Street firms; no more tax breaks for the rich or boondoggles for defense contractors; plus, they want fair elections, energy alternatives and protection of Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and private pensions.

John Boehner is proud of his Party’s record of repeal and obstruction.  Meanwhile, while Congress holds back on any stimulus of the economy, we are held hostage and battered by their malignant and bellicose negativity.