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 preparing for a video address from the Oval Office. (Photo is from 1989; this post is about a 1983 address.)  Wikipedia image

Ronald Reagan preparing for a video address from the Oval Office. (Photo is from 1989; this post is about a 1983 event.) Wikipedia image

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 extension 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.

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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?

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