Quote of the moment, encore: President asks the Senate Majority Leader for help on the debt ceiling issue, November 16, 1983

November 16, 2013

Ronald Reagan addressing the nation from the Oval Office. Image via USGovInfo.About.com

Ronald Reagan addressing the nation from the Oval Office. Image via USGovInfo.About.com

In a letter to the Majority Leader of the U.S. Senate, the President wrote:

This letter is to ask for your help and support, and that of your colleagues, in the passage of an increase in the limit on the public debt.

As [the Treasury Secretary] has told you, the Treasury’s cash balances have reached a dangerously low point.  Henceforth the Treasury Department cannot guarantee that the Federal Government will have sufficient cash on any one day to meet all of its mandated expenses, and thus the United States could be forced to default on its obligations for the first time in history.

This country now possesses the strongest credit in the world.  The full consequences of a default — or even the serious prospect of default — by the United States are impossible to predict and awesome to contemplate.  Denigration of the full faith and credit of the United States would have substantial effects on the domestic financial markets and on the value of the dollar in exchange markets.  The Nation can ill afford to allow such a result.  The risks, the costs, the disruptions, and the incalculable damage lead me to but one conclusion:  the Senate must pass this legislation before the Congress adjourns.

I want to thank you for your immediate attention to this urgent problem, and for your assistance in passing an extenstion of the debt ceiling.

Sincerely,

         Ronald Reagan

True then.  Still true now.

Letter from President Ronald Reagan to Senate Majority Leader Sen. Howard Baker, R-Tennessee, November 16, 1983.  The Treasury Secretary at the time was Donald Regan.

Tip of the old scrub brush to mainstream media pillar, The Washington Post, where a .pdf of the letter is available.

More:

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Sorry, America: GOP has suspended democracy and the republic; no film at 11:00

October 14, 2013

You know those guys running around screaming about Obama establishing tyranny?

I think they’re providing cover for the real tyrants.

Rules of the House of Representatives; available at Amazon.com for $104, but worth much less to the GOP.

Rules of the House of Representatives; available at Amazon.com for $104, but worth much less to the GOP.

This video is pretty amazing: Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R) in the Speaker’s chair, announcing that the GOP sneaked through a rule change so that no Democrat, no Republican, can bring up any issue of the American people in the House of Representatives, if Emperor Boehner does not approve and do it himself.

Quick, call the Ladies at Mt. Vernon. This is the sort of tyranny that is liable to bring George Washington out of his tomb. Is the bell ringing?

Here’s an exchange from the floor of the House, on September 30, 2013:

Late in the evening on September 30, 2013, the House Rules Committee Republicans changed the Rules of the House so that the ONLY Member allowed to call up the Senate’s clean CR for a vote was Majority Leader Eric Cantor or his designee — all but guaranteeing the government would shut down a few hours later and would stay shut down. Previously, any Member would have had the right to bring the CR up for a vote. Democracy has been suspended in the House of Representatives.

(Oddly enough, via Mia Farrow)

It’s a lot of inside baseball, but not so much that you can’t understand it.

Unlike the Senate, where the rules say anyone can propose just about anything at any time, the House has too many  members to allow for such free-for-alls on legislation.  Under House rules, most bills come to the floor with a special rule about how it will be discussed, whether it can can be amended, how it can be amended, and by whom.  These rules get created by the House Committee on Rules.  There should be a specific rule on every bill.  When the bill is brought up, the rules on how that bill can be discussed are proposed, and usually accepted by the majority without much fuss.

Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Maryland,  found some difficulties in the rule on the CR, and the way the GOP leadership interprets it to mean that no other Member of the House of Representatives counts for anything.  Unfortunately for U.S., Jason Chaffetz for the GOP confirmed that House is cut out of key parts of process for funding government — probably contrary to Constitution, but who could enforce the Constitution on the GOP?

Weird. Troubling. Not productive.

More:


Do Nothing GOP Congress

June 13, 2013

Poorly-attended hearing of Congressional Joint Economic Committee hearing on jobs, 2013

“Do Nothing Congress?” How about “Missing in Inaction Congress?” Photo and caption from National Journal: When the Joint Economic Committee’s hearing on fixing the nation’s long-term unemployment problem kicked off on April 24, only one lawmaker was in attendance: Sen. Amy Klobuchar, the committee’s vice chair who was holding the hearing. (Niraj Chokshi)

National Journal’s article fairly damns Congress and especially the House for doing very little this year about jobs.

Probably more damning is this little fact:  In a period of time that historically might see 50 or 100 laws passed, Congress has passed into law only 13 measures.  The “Do Nothing” 80th Congress Truman campaigned against passed nearly 900 laws.  The current Congress is on track to pass 52.  Most important, probably, are the authorization and appropriations bills for the different departments of the federal government, much more important than the non-binding budget resolutions conservatives whine about.  Republicans have successfully blocked almost all authorization and appropriations action.  Appropriations bills, of course, must originate in the GOP-shackled House of Representatives.

In the six months and four days since the 113th Congress began, it has passed 13 laws. And, despite lawmakers constantly beating the drum on boosting jobs, none of the new measures have been focused on employment. Here’s a list of what the 113th Congress has passed in its first six months:

  1. H.R.41: To temporarily increase the borrowing authority of the Federal Emergency Management Agency for carrying out the National Flood Insurance Program.
    Sponsor: Rep Garrett, Scott [NJ-5] (introduced 1/3/2013) Cosponsors (44)
  2. H.R.152: Disaster Relief Appropriations Act, 2013
    Sponsor: Rep Rogers, Harold [KY-5] (introduced 1/4/2013) Cosponsors (None)
  3. H.R.325: No Budget, No Pay Act of 2013
    Sponsor: Rep Camp, Dave [MI-4] (introduced 1/21/2013) Cosponsors (1)
  4. S.47: Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013
    Sponsor: Sen Leahy, Patrick J. [VT] (introduced 1/22/2013) Cosponsors (61)
  5. H.R.307: Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Reauthorization Act of 2013
    Sponsor: Rep Rogers, Mike J. [MI-8] (introduced 1/18/2013) Cosponsors (5)
  6. H.R.933: Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, 2013
    Sponsor: Rep Rogers, Harold [KY-5] (introduced 3/4/2013) Cosponsors (None)
  7. S.716: A bill to modify the requirements under the STOCK Act regarding online access to certain financial disclosure statements and related forms.
    Sponsor: Sen Reid, Harry [NV] (introduced 4/11/2013) Cosponsors (None)
  8. H.R.1246: District of Columbia Chief Financial Officer Vacancy Act
    Sponsor: Rep Norton, Eleanor Holmes [DC] (introduced 3/19/2013) Cosponsors (None)
  9. H.R.1765: Reducing Flight Delays Act of 2013
    Sponsor: Rep Latham, Tom [IA-3] (introduced 4/26/2013) Cosponsors (None)
  10. H.R.1071: To specify the size of the precious-metal blanks that will be used in the production of the National Baseball Hall of Fame commemorative coins.
    Sponsor: Rep Hanna, Richard L. [NY-22] (introduced 3/12/2013) Cosponsors (2)
  11. H.R.360: To award posthumously a Congressional Gold Medal to Addie Mae Collins, Denise McNair, Carole Robertson, and Cynthia Wesley to commemorate the lives they lost 50 years ago in the bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, where these 4 little Black girls’ ultimate sacrifice served as a catalyst for the Civil Rights Movement.
    Sponsor: Rep Sewell, Terri A. [AL-7] (introduced 1/23/2013) Cosponsors (301)
  12. H.R.258: Stolen Valor Act of 2013
    Sponsor: Rep Heck, Joseph J. [NV-3] (introduced 1/15/2013) Cosponsors (127)
  13. S.982: Freedom to Fish Act
    Sponsor: Sen Alexander, Lamar [TN] (introduced 5/16/2013) Cosponsors (3)

Freedom to Fish Act?  No doubt it is important to someone.  But even that someone, or those somebodies, would benefit from a jobs bill, more than from the Freedom to Fish Act.

When I worked for Lamar Alexander, I found him to be among the more fair and forward thinking of elected politicians.  It’s good to see he can still move a bill.

It’s tragic he’s been unable to push the GOP to move on more important matters.

The “Do-Nothing Congress” Harry Truman successfully indicted in 1948 looks like Wilma Rudolph streaking over the finish line in the 1960 Rome Olympics, by comparison.

I recall sitting up to get the news out to Utah, and anyone else interested in the nation, when Congress would pass 13 laws in a night.  At no point did it occur to me to think “these are the good old days of America,” then.

More:

taken by yours truly during 2007 hof induction...

Baseball Hall of Fame on Induction Weekend, 2007, crowded with people who now need jobs.  Congress passed a bill dealing with the Baseball Hall of Fame.  Ironic, no? All inductees in Cooperstown got there by doing something, doing it with hustle, and doing a lot, a sharp contrast to the 2013-2014 U.S. Congress.  Wikipedia image


Shutup and read: Text of S. 649, Safe Communities, Safe Schools Act of 2013

April 11, 2013

Sen. Ted Cruz claims no one has read the text of S. 649, the Safe Communities and Safe Schools Act of 2013.

English: Ted Cruz at the Republican Leadership...

Reading-impaired U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, at the Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans, Louisiana. Wikipedia image

Contact: (202) 224-5922 / press@cruz.senate.gov
Thursday, April 11, 2013

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Senators Mike Lee (R-UT), Rand Paul (R-KY) and Ted Cruz (R-TX) released the following statement regarding the pending vote on the motion to proceed to new gun control legislation:

This morning the Senate will vote on the motion to proceed to the firearms bill (S.649). It is expected that the Toomey-Manchin provision announced yesterday will replace the current language regarding background checks. Yet, as of this morning, not a single senator has been provided the legislative language of this provision. Because the background-check measure is the centerpiece of this legislation it is critical that we know what is in the bill before we vote on it. The American people expect more and deserve better.

Unfortunately, the effort to push through legislation that no one had read highlights one of the primary reasons we announced our intention to force a 60 vote threshold. We believe the abuse of the process is how the rights of Americans are systematically eroded and we will continue to do everything in our power to prevent it.

He’s an idiot, I know.

Amendments to the original text are pending — but here is the text of the proposed law as introduced in the U.S. Senate on March 22; amendments will be available at several places as they are proposed or approved, including the Library of Congress’s Thomas legislative tracking site.

Sen. Toomey published a quick summary of the bill as amended – this is what Cruz really fears:  Legislation that might make public schools safer (never forget Cruz opposes public education):

U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, D-Pennsylvania

U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, D-Pennsylvania, in a committee hearing room; photo released by Toomey’s office

Bottom Line: The Public Safety and Second Amendment Rights Protection Act would require states and the federal government to send all necessary records on criminals and the violently mentally ill to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). The bill extends the existing background check system to gun shows and online sales.

The bill explicitly bans the federal government from creating a national firearms registry, and imposes serious criminal penalties (a felony with up to 15 years in prison) on any person who misuses or illegally retains firearms records.

TITLE ONE: GETTING ALL THE NAMES OF PROHIBITED PURCHASERS INTO THE BACKGROUND CHECK SYSTEM

Summary of Title I: This section improves background checks for firearms by strengthening the instant check system.

• Encourage states to provide all their available records to NICS by restricting federal funds to states who do not comply.

• Allow dealers to voluntarily use the NICS database to run background checks on their prospective employees

• Clarifies that submissions of mental health records into the NICS system are not prohibited by federal privacy laws (HIPAA).

• Provides a legal process for a veteran to contest his/her placement in NICS when there is no basis for barring the right to own a firearm.

TITLE TWO: REQUIRING BACKGROUND CHECKS FOR FIREARM SALES

Summary of Title II: This section of the bill requires background checks for sales at gun shows and online while securing certain aspects of 2nd Amendment rights for law abiding citizens.

• Closes the gun show and other loopholes while exempting temporary transfers and transfers between family members.

• Fixes interstate travel laws for sportsmen who transport their firearms across state lines in a responsible manner. The term “transport” includes staying in temporary lodging overnight, stopping for food, buying fuel, vehicle maintenance, and medical treatment.

• Protects sellers from lawsuits if the weapon cleared through the expanded background checks and is subsequently used in a crime. This is the same treatment gun dealers receive now.

• Allows dealers to complete transactions at gun shows that take place in a state for which they are not a resident.

• Ensures that sales at gun shows are not prevented by delayed approvals from NICS.

• Requires the FBI to give priority to finalizing background checks at gun shows over checks at store front dealerships.

• Authorizes use of a state concealed carry permit instead of a background check when purchasing a firearm from a dealer.

• Permits interstate handgun sales from dealers.

• Allows active military to buy firearms in their home states.

• Family transfers and some private sales (friends, neighbors, other individuals) are exempt from background checks

• Adds a 15 year penalty for improper use or storage of records.

TITLE THREE: NATIONAL COMMISSION ON MASS VIOLENCE

Summary of Title III: : This section of the bill creates a commission to study the causes of mass violence in the United States, looking at all aspects of the problem, including guns, school safety, mental health, and violent media or video games.

The Commission would consist of six experts appointed by the Senate Majority Leader and six experts appointed by the Speaker of the House. They would be required to submit an interim report in three months and a completed report in six months.

WHAT THE BILL WILL NOT DO:

The bill will not take away anyone’s guns.

The bill will not ban any type of firearm.

The bill will not ban or restrict the use of any kind of bullet or any size clip or magazine.

The bill will not create a national registry; in fact, it specifically makes it illegal to establish any such registry.

The bill will not, in any way at all, infringe upon the Constitutional rights of law-abiding citizens.

Sen. Cruz, you have money in your office budget for training for you and your staff in tracking legislation — I’ll be pleased to come show you how to track down such language.

Below the fold, the current text of the bill (as of 4:26 p.m., April 11, 2013).

Update:  Below the fold, the text of the bill as proposed to be amended, published by Sen. Toomey late yesterday; then, below that, the original bill as introduced by Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nevada — compare them if you like.

Read the rest of this entry »


Lunch at Woolworth’s, with a side of non-violence and civility: North Carolina, February 1, 1960

February 1, 2013

Today is the 53rd anniversary of the Greensboro sit-in. Be sure to read Howell Raines‘ criticism of news media coverage of civil rights issues in a 2010 article in the New York Times: “What I am suggesting is that the one thing the South should have learned in the past 50 years is that if we are going to hell in a handbasket, we should at least be together in a basket of common purpose.”

This is mostly an encore post; please holler quickly if you find a link that does not work.

Four young men turned a page of history on February 1, 1960, at a lunch counter in a Woolworth’s store in Greensboro, North Carolina.

Ezell A. Blair, Jr. (now Jibreel Khazan), Franklin E. McCain, Joseph A. McNeil, and David L. Richmond, sat down at the counter to order lunch. Because they were African Americans, they were refused service. Patiently, they stayed in their seats, awaiting justice.

On July 25, nearly six months later, Woolworth’s agreed to desegregate the lunch counter. One more victory for non-violent protest.

Ezell A. Blair, Jr. (now Jibreel Khazan), Franklin E. McCain, Joseph A. McNeil, and David L. Richmond leave the Woolworth store after the first sit-in on February 1, 1960. (Courtesy of Greensboro News and Record)

Caption from Smithsonian Museum of American History: Ezell A. Blair, Jr. (now Jibreel Khazan), Franklin E. McCain, Joseph A. McNeil, and David L. Richmond leave the Woolworth store after the first sit-in on February 1, 1960. (Courtesy of Greensboro News and Record)

News of the “sit-in” demonstration spread. Others joined in the non-violent protests from time to time, 28 students the second day, 300 the third day, and some days up to 1,000. The protests spread geographically, too, to 15 cities in 9 states.

On the second day of the Greensboro sit-in, Joseph A. McNeil and Franklin E. McCain are joined by William Smith and Clarence Henderson at the Woolworth lunch counter in Greensboro, North Carolina. (Courtesy of Greensboro News and Record)

Smithsonian caption: “On the second day of the Greensboro sit-in, Joseph A. McNeil and Franklin E. McCain are joined by William Smith and Clarence Henderson at the Woolworth lunch counter in Greensboro, North Carolina. (Courtesy of Greensboro News and Record)”

Part of the old lunch counter was salvaged, and today is on display at the Smithsonian Institution’s Museum of American History. The museum display was the site of celebratory parties during the week of the inauguration as president of Barack Obama.

Part of the lunchcounter from the Woolworths store in Greensboro, North Carolina, is now displayed at the Smithsonians Museum of American History, in Washington, D.C.

Part of the lunch counter from the Woolworth’s store in Greensboro, North Carolina, now displayed at the Smithsonian’s Museum of American History, in Washington, D.C.- photo from Ted Eytan, who wrote: ["Ever eaten at a lunch counter in a store?"] The words . . . were said by one of the staff at the newly re-opened National Museum of American History this morning to a young visitor. What she did, very effectively, for the visitor and myself (lunch counters in stores are even before my time) was relate yesterday’s inequalities to those of today, by explaining the importance of the lunch counter in the era before fast food. This is the Greensboro, North Carolina lunch counter, and it was donated to the Smithsonian by Woolworth’s in 1993.

Notes and resources:

Student video, American History Rules, We Were There – First person story related by Georgie N. and Greg H., with pictures:

Associated Press interview with Franklin E. McCain:

More, in 2013:


Cliffhanger avoidance, from Robert Reich

November 30, 2012

Economist/policy wonk/good guy Robert Reich sends along notes on the discussions in Washington (at his Facebook site, and at his personal site) (links added here for your benefit and ease of use):

Robert Reich

Rhodes Scholar, former Secretary of Labor and UC Berkeley Prof. Robert Reich

Apparently the bidding began this afternoon. According to the Wall Street Journal (which got the information from GOP leaders), Tim Geithner met with Republican leaders and made the following offer:

— $1.6 trillion in additional tax revenues over the next decade, from limiting tax deductions on the wealthy and raising tax rates on incomes over $250,000 (although those rates don’t have to rise as high as the top marginal rates under Bill Clinton)

— $50 billion in added economic stimulus next year

— A one-year postponement of pending spending cuts in defense and domestic programs

— $400 billion in savings over the decade from Medicare and other entitlement programs (the same number contained in the President’s 2013 budget proposal, submitted before the election).

— Authority to raise the debt limit without congressional approval.

The $50 billion in added stimulus is surely welcome. We need more spending in the short term in order to keep the recovery going, particularly in light of economic contractions in Europe and Japan, and slowdowns in China and India.

But by signaling its willingness not to raise top rates as high as they were under Clinton and to cut some $400 billion from projected increases in Medicare and other entitlement spending, the White House has ceded important ground.

Republicans obviously want much, much more.

The administration has taken a “step backward, moving away from consensus and significantly closer to the cliff, delaying again the real, balanced solution that this crisis requires,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) in a written statement. “No substantive progress has been made” added House Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio).

No surprise. The GOP doesn’t want to show any flexibility. Boehner and McConnell will hang tough until the end. Boehner will blame his right flank for not giving him any leeway — just as he’s done before.

It’s also clear Republicans will seek whatever bargaining leverage they can get from threatening to block an increase in the debt limit – which will have to rise early next year if the nation’s full faith and credit is to remain intact.

Meanwhile, the White House has started the bidding with substantial concessions on tax increases and spending cuts.

Haven’t we been here before? It’s as if the election never occurred – as if the Republicans hadn’t lost six or seven seats in the House and three in the Senate, as if Obama hadn’t won reelection by a greater number of votes than George W. Bush in 2004.

And as if the fiscal cliff that automatically terminates the Bush tax cuts weren’t just weeks away.

But if it’s really going to be a repeat of the last round, we might still be in luck. Remember, the last round resulted in no agreement. And no agreement now may be better than a bad agreement that doesn’t raise taxes on the wealthy nearly enough while cutting far too much from safety nets most Americans depend on.

If Republicans won’t budge and we head over the fiscal cliff, the Clinton tax rates become effective January 1 – thereby empowering the White House and Democrats in the next congress to get a far better deal.

Watch that space.

It’s especially interesting to me how House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-California) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) will work to get a solution, if the GOP continues its blockade to almost all action.

More:


In Colorado, Ed Perlmutter in the 7th Congressional District . . .

September 19, 2012

In Colorado’s 7th Congressional District, anyone not voting for Ed Perlmutter needs to have their red, white and blue examined:

Congressman Ed Perlmutter

Colorado’s 7th Congressional District Rep. Ed Perlmutter (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Perlmutter’s opponent, Joe Coors, is running a dirty campaign against him.

Veterans, military guys, which way are you voting on this one?

More:


ObamaCare: Making stuff up to complain about

April 17, 2012

Collected on Facebook, April 16, 2012:

Panel truck complains that President and Senators are exempt from ObamaCare

It even offers a page and line — page 114, line 22. But that page has nothing to do with what the caption on the truck says.  Congress, the President and their families are not exempt from the Affordable Care Act.

Here’s the text from H.R. 3200, the Affordable Care Act, on page 114.  Where’s the language this guy complains about?

17 ‘‘(b) LIMITATIONS ON USE OF DATA.—Nothing in this
18 section shall be construed to permit the use of information
19 collected under this section in a manner that would ad
20 versely affect any individual.
21 ‘‘(c) PROTECTION OF DATA.—The Secretary shall en
22 sure (through the promulgation of regulations or otherwise)
23 that all data collected pursuant to subsection (a) are—
24 ‘‘(1) used and disclosed in a manner that meets
25 the HIPAA* privacy and security law (as defined in

[continuing to page 115]

1 section 3009(a)(2) of the Public Health Service Act),
2 including any privacy or security standard adopted
3 under section 3004 of such Act; and
4 ‘‘(2) protected from all inappropriate internal
5 use by any entity that collects, stores, or receives the
6 data, including use of such data in determinations of
7 eligibility (or continued eligibility) in health plans,
8 and from other inappropriate uses, as defined by the
9 Secretary.

That GPO version of the bill is searchable in .pdf form — searching for “Congress” I find no reference to any part that exempts Congress.  Searching for “exemption,” I find no mention of any exemption from any provision that applies to Congress or the President.

So, what are the anti-ObamaCare fanatics really concerned about?  Is there language in the bill that exempts either Congress or the President, from any provision?

Some guy is so obsessed with hatred for President Obama and health care reform that he paints the offending part on his truck.  But he gets the law wrong.

Nothing in the Affordable Care Act exempts Congress, nor the President, from its terms.

Dear Reader, what am I missing?  Can you explain?

I wonder if the guy is into tattoos.

_____________

*  HIPAA is The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA; Pub.L. 104-191, 110 Stat. 1936, enacted August 21, 1996)

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PPS:  Here’s the text of H. R. 3590, the number of the bill that finally passed.  I can’t find any more light there, either.

_____________

Update: In comments, blueollie refers us to a Forbes blog article that both reveals the truth of the matter — Congress and the President get no special treatment — and the origins of the hoax.

So, here’s the real deal –As things currently stand, Members of Congress and their staff, until 2014, will continue to participate in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP). This program, considered among the best in the nation, allows federal employees- including Members of Congress and their staff- to choose from a wide range of health plans and select the one that best suits their needs. Note that the current plan is neither ‘government’ insurance, ‘free’ insurance nor any other sort of sweet deal that the public has been led to believe is the case. The federal employee’s program involves private insurance policies with premiums, deductibles, co-pays, etc.

Here’s the surprise – come 2014, when the lion’s share of the ACA provisions come on line, Members of Congress and their staff will be required to buy their health insurance on an exchange. In fact, their choices will be even more limited than our own. While it is expected that some 24 million people will elect to purchase their health care policy on a state run exchange, we are not required by law to do so. Members of Congress and their staff, however, must buy their insurance in this way.

There you have it.  That guy, whoever he is, had his truck painted erroneously.  We hope he doesn’t have a close relationship with the tattoo parlor.

_____________

So many hoaxes relating to Barack Obama; do you think there’s a shop somewhere with a dozen people sitting around dreaming up these hoaxes?  What else explains the sheer number of Obama-related hoaxes?

_____________

Welcome to readers of The LOLBRARY.  What do you think?  (Tip of the old scrub brush to CapnUnderpants, who must be a great guy.)

_____________

Dear Readers, in 2013 – how about leaving a note in comments to tell me from where you’re coming?  Who referred you to this set of facts?


Oregon’s special election: Democrat Bonamici took 54% of the vote, heads to Congress

February 1, 2012

Suzanne Bonamici won the Congressional seat for Oregon’s North Coast in a special election Tuesday, Oregon Congressional District 1.  She had 54% of the vote, in an area that often votes Democrat and supported Barack Obama in 2008.

She will replace Rep. David Wu, a Democrat who resigned after he was accused of making sexual advances towards a daughter of a campaign donor. Bonamici must stand for election in November, too.

Check out the results from The Daily Astorian, one of the finer small daily papers left in America, a paper that still does real news reporting.

Watch one of her last campaign ads:

Is this a bellwether?  Democrats had a scandal-plagued representative, but won anyway.  The area traditionally votes Democratic.  Portents of November results appear rather dim.

More: 

Tip of the old scrub brush to Brenda Penner.


Sausage makers? Or U.S. Congress? Do you want to see how they do it?

September 15, 2011

How does a bill become law?

Charts in government and civics texts always amuse me for what they leave out — mostly the political machinations.  Anyone who worked or works in the halls of Congress knows the process is never so clean as Bismarck pretended with his old, misattributed bon mot (actually John Godfrey Saxe, not Bismarck) (and would Bismarck be chagrined at my using a French phrase to describe his words?).

At In Custodia Legis, the blog of the law librarians at the Library of Congress, I stumbled across this post featuring a photograph of a chart hanging in a committee room on the House side.  Wouldn’t it be nice to have a copy of that available to teachers?

Andrew Weber wrote the post.

Sometimes the legislative process is a little more confusing than I’m Just a Bill.  As Margaret mentioned in The Curious History of the 2011 Debt Ceiling Legislation earlier this week, sometimes the legislative process takes interesting turns.  Christine also blogged about the unique situation of vehicle bills.  The poster below details the various status steps legislation can take, including Introductory, Committee, Discharge, Calendar, Floor, Conference, and Presidential Steps.

For tips on THOMAS that can relate to the legislative process, you can subscribe to the RSS feed or via email alert.  There is also a glossary in THOMAS to help.

Is the poster available?  I asked, and got this response from Mr. Weber:

This is what it says at the bottom right of the poster:

Committee on House Administration
Wayne L. Hays, Chairman
Prepared by House Information Systems Staff
Frank B. Ryan, Director

Also, on the bottom left it has a date:

Current as of November 1974

Wayne Hayes, the meanest man in the House according to Bud Shuster?  November 1974?  This was pre-scandal Hayes (Democrat of Ohio), just barely post-Nixon Washington. [

If you can find a link to this chart that makes the wording and details legible, or if you happen to find it and can photograph it so we can read it, will you let us know here?


98% of what Republicans wanted = credit rating downgrade

August 7, 2011

House Speaker John Boehner famously said that he thought the Republicans got 98% of what they wanted in the debt ceiling agreement, crappy as it was. Then, late Friday, Standard & Poor’s announced they had downgraded the U.S. government’s previously unsullied credit rating. God forbid Republicans had gotten 100%, eh?

Ben Hoffman urges us to read the Standard and Poor’s report on why the rating company downgraded U.S. credit.

S&P Explicitly Blames Republicans For Credit Downgrade

by Ben Hoffman

Compared with previous projections, our revised base case scenario now assumes that the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts, due to expire by the end of 2012, remain in place. We have changed our assumption on this because the majority of Republicans in Congress continue to resist any measure that would raise revenues, a position we believe Congress reinforced by passing the act.

Source

Obama should have let the Bush tax cuts expire last year, which would have dramatically reduced our deficit. The Republicans held the unemployed hostage and Obama negotiated a bad deal with the domestic terrorists.

Is there more in that report we should read before we get the torches, tar and feathers to meet with our Republican representatives in August town meetings?  Would they get the message with polite questions?


Hard truths about the debt ceiling and uncertainty in the Treasury market

July 16, 2011

Two organizations provide information to Congress in an unbiased manner, with great care for accuracy and completeness of information:  The Congressional Research Service (CRS), an arm of the Library of Congress, and the General Accountability Office (GAO), formerly the General Accounting Office.  Both agencies share the unique status of being organs of the Congress, and not the executive branch.

Consequently, we and Congress should give particular consideration to a report issued by GAO on February 22, 2011:

Debt Limit: Delays Create Debt Management Challenges and Increase Uncertainty in the Treasury Market

GAO-11-203 February 22, 2011
Highlights Page (PDF)   Full Report (PDF, 52 pages)   Accessible Text   Recommendations (HTML)

Summary

GAO has prepared this report to assist Congress in identifying and addressing debt management challenges. Since 1995, the statutory debt limit has been increased 12 times to its current level of $14.294 trillion. The Department of the Treasury (Treasury) recently notified Congress that the current debt limit could be reached as early as April 5, 2011, and the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projects that under current law debt subject to the limit will exceed $25 trillion in 2021. This report (1) describes the actions that Treasury traditionally takes to manage debt near the limit, (2) analyzes the effects that approaching the debt limit has had on the market for Treasury securities, and (3) describes alternative mechanisms that would permit consideration of the link between policy decisions and the effect on debt when or before decisions are made. GAO analyzed Treasury and market data; interviewed Treasury officials, budget and legislative experts, and market participants; and reviewed practices in selected countries.

The debt limit does not control or limit the ability of the federal government to run deficits or incur obligations. Rather, it is a limit on the ability to pay obligations already incurred. While debates surrounding the debt limit may raise awareness about the federal government’s current debt trajectory and may also provide Congress with an opportunity to debate the fiscal policy decisions driving that trajectory, the ability to have an immediate effect on debt levels is limited. This is because the debt reflects previously enacted tax and spending policies. Delays in raising the debt limit create debt and cash management challenges for the Treasury, and these challenges have been exacerbated in recent years by a large growth in debt. In the past, Treasury has often used extraordinary actions, such as suspending investments or temporarily disinvesting securities held in federal employee retirement funds, to remain under the statutory limit. However, the extraordinary actions available to the Treasury have not kept pace with the growth in borrowing needs. For example, unlike the past, the amount potentially provided by the extraordinary actions for 1 month in fiscal year 2010 was less than the monthly increase in debt subject to the limit for most months of the year. As a result, once debt reaches the limit, Congress will likely have less time than in prior years to debate raising the debt limit before there are disruptions to government programs and services. This trend is likely to continue given the long-term fiscal outlook. Failure to raise the debt limit in a timely manner could have serious negative consequences for the Treasury market and increase borrowing costs. Also, some of the actions that Treasury has taken to manage the amount of debt near the limit add uncertainty to the Treasury market. In the past, Treasury has postponed auctions and dramatically reduced the amount of bills outstanding, which compromised the regularity of auctions and the certainty of supply on which Treasury relies to achieve the lowest borrowing cost over time. GAO’s analysis suggests that borrowing costs modestly increased during debt limit debates in 2002, 2003, and most recently in 2010. In addition, managing debt near the debt limit diverts Treasury’s limited resources away from other cash and debt management issues at a time when Treasury already faces challenges in lengthening the average maturity of its debt portfolio. Observers and participants suggested improving the link between the spending and revenue decisions that drive debt and changes in the debt limit. Better alignment could be possible if decisions about the debt level occur in conjunction with spending and revenue decisions as opposed to the after-the-fact approach now used. This practice, which is similar to practices used in some other countries, might facilitate efforts to change the fiscal path by highlighting the implications of tax and spending decisions on changes in debt. To avoid potential disruptions to Treasury markets and help inform fiscal policy decisions in a timely way, Congress should consider ways to better link decisions about the debt limit with decisions about spending and revenue. Treasury provided technical comments on a draft of this report, which GAO incorporated as appropriate.

Recommendations

Our recommendations from this work are listed below with a Contact for more information. Status will change from “In process” to “Open,” “Closed – implemented,” or “Closed – not implemented” based on our follow up work.

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Matters for Congressional Consideration

Recommendation: The projections of a growing debt burden have raised concerns both in Congress and in the public. Well-designed budget processes and metrics can help as Congress and the President seek to address the federal government’s long-term fiscal challenge. The current design of the debt limit does not engender or facilitate debate over specific tax or spending proposals and their effect on debt. In addition, the uncertainty it creates can lead to disruptions in the Treasury market and in turn to higher borrowing costs. To avoid these potential disruptions to the Treasury market and to help inform the fiscal policy debate in a timely way, Congress may wish to consider ways to better link decisions about the debt limit with decisions about spending and revenue. Such a process would build on the approach used in 2008 and 2009 when Congress passed and the President signed three laws that were expected to increase borrowing with a corresponding increase in the debt limit. This report presents a number of approaches that could serve as a basis for better linking decisions about spending and revenue with decisions about the debt limit.

Status: In process

Comments: When we determine what steps the Congress has taken, we will provide updated information.

Use the links near the top of the report to get to the full report.

Pay particular attention to this, repeated from above:

The debt limit does not control or limit the ability of the federal government to run deficits or incur obligations. Rather, it is a limit on the ability to pay obligations already incurred. While debates surrounding the debt limit may raise awareness about the federal government’s current debt trajectory and may also provide Congress with an opportunity to debate the fiscal policy decisions driving that trajectory, the ability to have an immediate effect on debt levels is limited. This is because the debt reflects previously enacted tax and spending policies. Delays in raising the debt limit create debt and cash management challenges for the Treasury, and these challenges have been exacerbated in recent years by a large growth in debt.

Tip of the old scrub brush to Michael A. Ryder.

_____________

Wall of shame:  Bloggers and others who do not have a clue


Quote of the moment: President asks the Senate Majority Leader for help on the debt ceiling issue, in 1983

July 7, 2011

In a letter to the Majority Leader of the U.S. Senate, the President wrote:

This letter is to ask for your help and support, and that of your colleagues, in the passage of an increase in the limit on the public debt.

As [the Treasury Secretary] has told you, the Treasury’s cash balances have reached a dangerously low point.  Henceforth the Treasury Department cannot guarantee that the Federal Government will have sufficient cash on any one day to meet all of its mandated expenses, and thus the United States could be forced to default on its obligations for the first time in history.

This country now possesses the strongest credit in the world.  The full consequences of a default — or even the serious prospect of default — by the United States are impossible to predict and awesome to contemplate.  Denigration of the full faith and credit of the United States would have substantial effects on the domestic financial markets and on the value of the dollar in exchange markets.  The Nation can ill afford to allow such a result.  The risks, the costs, the disruptions, and the incalculable damage lead me to but one conclusion:  the Senate must pass this legislation before the Congress adjourns.

I want to thank you for your immediate attention to this urgent problem, and for your assistance in passing an extenstion of the debt ceiling.

Sincerely,

         Ronald Reagan

True then.  Still true now.

Letter from President Ronald Reagan to Senate Majority Leader Sen. Howard Baker, R-Tennessee, November 16, 1983.  The Treasury Secretary at the time was Donald Regan.

Tip of the old scrub brush to mainstream media pillar, The Washington Post, where a .pdf of the letter is available.


Hochul won Congressional seat in upstate New York

May 24, 2011

I get e-mail from Nancy Pelosi from time to time, like tonight:

Ed –

It is my great pleasure to report that tonight, thanks to you, Democrat Kathy Hochul has won a triumphant grassroots victory in the special election in NY-26.

Victories like this are what happen when we fight together to protect our core Democratic values.

Congresswoman-elect Hochul’s victory in a staunchly-Republican district has shocked the political world and sent an unmistakable sign that the American people will not stand for the Republicans’ reckless and extreme agenda to end Medicare.

This is our third straight special election victory in New York — and it is truly one for the ages. All of the Republicans’ right-wing outside groups with their secret money and dishonest attacks were no match for the combined strength of grassroots Democrats.

Thank you again for fighting to protect and defend Medicare and bringing us one step closer to regaining our Democratic House Majority.

Nancy Pelosi
Democratic Leader

Is there a lesson in the election?  Yes, there is:  Republicans overreached when they started their march against Medicare.

See the story in the New York Times:

Two months ago, the Democrat, Kathy Hochul, was considered an all-but-certain loser in the race against the Republican, Jane Corwin. But Ms. Hochul seized on the Republican’s embrace of the proposal from Representative Paul D. Ryan, Republican of Wisconsin, to overhaul Medicare, and she never let up.

On Tuesday, she captured 48 percent of the vote, to Ms. Corwin’s 42 percent, according to unofficial results. A Tea Party candidate, Jack Davis, had 8 percent.

Voters, who turned out in strikingly large numbers for a special election, said they trusted Ms. Hochul, the county clerk of Erie County, to protect Medicare.

Kathy Hochul on election night, May 24, 2011 - New York Times photo by Michael Appleton

Kathy Hochul claimed victory at an election party in Amherst, New York, on Tuesday night. Hochul won a seat in Congress in what has traditionally been a Republican district in New York. New York Times photo by Michael Appleton


Quote of the moment: Power of a first-year Congressman = 1/435 X 1/2 X 1/3

May 19, 2011

This was “Quote of the Day” for Jim Wallis’s group’s newsletter, Sojourner:

“I went in with the youthful vigor that I could single-handedly change the world. But you fast come to the realization that you’re 1/435th of one-half of one-third of the government.”

- Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-TX) on first-year Republican members of Congress finding out how difficult it is to get things done in Washington.
(USA Today)

The math equation would be:  1 Congressman = 1/435 × 1/2 × 1/3.

The math might vary, depending on the Congressman.

Republican Texas Congressman Blake Farenthold, prior to election

Republican Texas Congressman Blake Farenthold, prior to election

As a freshman Congressman, among other things James Madison wrote the official Congressional response to George Washington’s inaugural address, and proposed and passed the first ten amendments to the Constitution, now known as the Bill of Rights, and the 27th Amendment (which was not ratified until 1992).  We have no pictures of James Madison in rubber ducky pyjamas.


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