On Infrastructure: Trumpspeak is Cheap … and Empty

EPI’s Josh Bivens and Hunter Blair find that, in addition to “enormous cuts to public investment already embedded in their overall budget plan,” Trump’s budget funds only $200 billion of the $1 trillion he pledged for new infrastructure—leaving state taxpayers and infrastructure users to pick up 80% of the tab. Trump’s infrastructure plans are empty promises and they’re not backed by money.

“Trump’s plan is merely obfuscation and magical thinking.”

Read the full article … HERE.

In One Night, the GOP Voted to Take Away These Essential Health Benefits

Republican Grim Reapers just showed us exactly where they stand!

Grim Reaper Squad Vice President-elect Mike Pence, flanked by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Sen. John Barrasso (Reince Priebus at right rear)CREDIT: AP Photo/Cliff Owen

— by Melissa Boteach and Jeremy Slevin (with embellishments from this site’s editor)

Last night while you were sleeping, the Senate debated and ultimately passed a budget resolution that provides a pathway for Republicans to strip health care coverage away from 30 million Americans without having a single Democratic vote.

As the Senate debated the resolution that provides a blueprint to repeal the Affordable Care Act, both Republicans and Democrats had the opportunity to offer a flurry of rapid-fire amendments in a process known as “vote-a-rama” where a 3/5 vote (60 votes) were required for passage. While these votes are non-binding, the exercise provides an opportunity for senators to show where their colleagues stand on a number of key issues. And the results are not pretty.

Senate Republicans took several votes that showed they are not on your side. Last night, Republicans voted against amendments that would:

  1. Protect people with pre-existing conditions — REJECTED
    Republicans blocked an amendment that would have made it harder to take away coverage from Americans with preexisting medical conditions. 52 million people — about 1 in 4 non-elderly Americans — have preexisting conditions. These Americans are more likely to face significant health costs, and before the Affordable Care Act, were often denied coverage entirely. The amendment also would have protected coverage for people disabilities or chronic health conditions, and prevent plans from discriminating based on health. Republicans currently have no alternative plan to insure people with preexisting conditions. Only two Republicans — Maine’s Susan Collins and Nevada’s Dean Heller — voted for the amendment (Roll Call Vote #15, Rejected 49-49, Heller voted YEA).
  2. Let young adults stay on their parents’ plan — REJECTED
    Republicans blocked an amendment by Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin (Roll Call Vote #12, Heller voted NAY) that would have made it easier young people to stay on their parents’ health care plan until they are 26 — one of the most popular and effective provisions of the Affordable Care Act. Over 6 million young adults have gained health insurance since the law was implemented in 2010, and young Americans now report better physical and mental health. The provision is also overwhelmingly popular — 85 percent favor keeping young people on their parents’ insurance plans.
  3. Maintain access to contraceptive coverage— REJECTED
    Thanks to Obamacare, birth control is more affordable than ever. Spending on contraceptive health care has gone down by 20 percent since the Affordable Care Act took effect. An amendment by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand sought to continue this momentum. Unsurprisingly, Republicans blocked the provision 49–49. Sens. Collins and Heller both voted with Democrats. (Roll Call Vote #23, Heller voted YEA)
  4. Ensure Medicaid expansion stays in place— REJECTED
    Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act benefited 11 million low-income Americans in 2015 alone and has created thousands of jobs for direct care workers. An amendment by Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) would have sought to continue Medicaid expansion, but it was blocked by Republicans — 48–50 (Roll Call Vote # 18, Heller voted YEA).
  5. Protect children on Medicaid or CHIP— REJECTED
    Republicans blocked an amendment offered by Senator Brown (D-OH) that would make it harder to ensure children could keep their health coverage on Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), both of which provide comprehensive health care services for children including key preventive and developmental care.  Sens. Heller and Collins were the only two senators who bucked their party on the Sen. Brown amendment (Roll Call Vote #25Heller voted YEA)
  6. Protect veterans’ health care— REJECTED
    Republicans blocked an amendment by Sen. Tester (D-MT) that would have made it harder to restrict veterans’ ability to access VA health care. While Democrats have sought to provide better funding and health care access at the VA, Donald Trump has proposed eliminating the Veterans Administration altogether through privatization. A poll in 2015 found that almost two-thirds of survey respondents oppose plans to replace VA health care with a voucher system, an idea backed by many Republican lawmakers and presidential candidates. (Roll Call Vote #14, Heller voted YEA)

Republicans say they want to replace Obamacare with something better. But in just one night’s votes, they indicated that they are not willing to take a stand to ensure that people with pre-existing conditions, women, children, veterans, young adults, people with disabilities, and struggling families can continue to access the affordable coverage they need going forward.


Melissa Boteach is the Vice President of the Poverty to Prosperity Program at Center for American Progress Action Fund (CAPAF), and Jeremy Slevin is the Associate Director of Advocacy for the same program. ThinkProgress is an editorially independent site housed at CAPAF.

This material [the article above] was created by the Center for American Progress Action Fund. It was created for the Progress Report, the daily e-mail publication of the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Click here to subscribe. ‘Like’ CAP Action on Facebook and ‘follow’ us on Twitter


To view the entirety of the vote-arama session, click on the  “CONGRESS”  link in the header.  Open up tab for the Senate 115th session.

To get an idea of what else you’ll find there are a number of amendments that would have protected Medicaid, Medicare AND Social Security Benefits as well as provisions for Rural Hospitals (like the one in Winnemucca):

  • Roll Call Vote #5 – REJECTED (Heller voted YEA): To strengthen Social Security and Medicare without raiding it to pay for new Government programs, like Obamacare, that have failed Americans by increasing premiums and reducing affordable health care options, to reform Medicaid without prioritizing able-bodied adults over the disabled, and to return regulation of insurance to State governments.
  • Roll Call Vote #6 – REJECTED (Heller voted NAY ): Bernie Sanders Amdt: To prevent the Senate from breaking Donald Trump’s promise that “there will be no cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid
  • Roll Call Vote #7  – REJECTED (Heller voted NAY): To create a point of order against legislation that would repeal health reforms that closed the prescription drug coverage gap under Medicare.
  • Roll Call Vote #10 – REJECTED (Heller voted YEA):  To create a point of order against legislation that would harm rural hospitals and health care providers.
  • Roll Call Vote#20 – REJECTED (Heller voted YEA): To establish a deficit-neutral reserve fund relating to lower prescription drug prices for Americans by importing drugs from Canada.

Roll Call Vote 26, which required only 51 votes for passage to pass the concurrent resolution setting forth the congressional budget for the United States Government for fiscal year 2017 and setting forth the appropriate budgetary levels for fiscal years 2018 through 2026, was indeed passed an agreed to.  That budget defunds the Affordable Care Act, and strips all funding within that bill that strengthened and extended the viability of Medicare making it easier for Republicans to defend their stance that it needs to be completely reformed and privatized.  Senator Heller voted FOR passage of S.Con.Res 3 which will defund healthcare.  Thus, his vote-arama “point-of-order” votes appear to be just for show so he can claim he supports healthcare, but when it came down to party allegiances, he clearly voted against his Nevada constituents.

House GOP Budget Committee Just Passed Their FY2017 Budget Proposal

628The House GOP-dominated Budget Committee held 9 hour markup, with several lawmakers going hoarse and one losing her voice. Democrats offered up 29 amendments, involving immigration reform, prescription drug prices, and equal pay. Every amendment failed, including one proposed by Rep. Debbie Dingell [D, MI-12] that would have designated $457.5M in emergency funding for Flint and required Michigan to match the federal funds. The budget advanced 20-16, with Democrats voting against and all but one Republican voting for the measure. Here’s their summary:

Balances the Budget

  • Balances the budget within 10 years – without raising taxes – and puts the country on a path to paying off the national debt
  • This budget achieves $7 trillion in deficit reduction over ten years through a combination of $6.5 trillion in savings coupled with economic growth
  • Savings are higher than any previous House Budget Committee proposal and discretionary spending is below 2008 levels
  • Requires consideration of legislation this year to achieve at least $30 billion in automatic spending reductions and reforms over the near term
  • Advances budget process reforms to promote fiscal discipline, and calls for a vote on a Balanced Budget Amendment this year

Strengthens Our National Defense

  • Provides for greater security at home and strength abroad at funding levels above the president’s budget and with increased resources for training, equipment and compensation
  • Supports the bipartisan prohibition on closing the Guantanamo Bay detention facility and transfer of detainees to American soil
  • Identifies vulnerabilities in our nation’s refugee program and calls for oversight and rigorous screening
  • Calls for an improved and accountable Department of Veterans Affairs that can better deliver services and benefits to our veterans

Empowers Our Citizens & Communities

  • Promotes job creation and a healthier economy by calling for a fairer, simpler tax code, regulatory reform, expanded energy production, and a more efficient, effective and accountable government
  • Repeals all of Obamacare (Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act)
  • Endorses patient-centered health care solutions that improve access to quality, affordable care (but does absolutely nothing to assure access to insurance nor does it rein in health care costs)
  • Saves, strengthens, and secures Medicare for current and future retirees (read the Q&A carefully as to HOW they intend to do that)
  • Empowers states and local communities with the flexibility to innovate and make improvements to Medicaid, nutrition assistance, education and other programs
  • Strengthens the Disability Insurance program by putting an end to the “double-dipping” loophole that currently allows individuals to receive both unemployment insurance and disability insurance simultaneously
  • Puts an end to corporate welfare and dismantles the Department of Commerce [that would mean they intend to help balance the budget by issuing pink slips to 43,000+ employees and ending measuring services like: Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS), U.S. Census Bureau (Census), Economic Development Admin (EDA), Economics and Statistics Admin (ESA), International Trade Admin (ITA), Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA), Natl Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), Natl Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Natl Technical Information Service (NTIS), Operation Natl Telecom & Information Admin (NTIA), and United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).

Additional Resources

The Fourth Quarter

—  A note from President Barack Obama

Q4Back at the beginning of this year, I made a point to tell folks to pay attention to what we do in the time we have left in the White House — that interesting stuff tends to happen in the fourth quarter.

And I like to think that 2015 has proven that point to be true. We’ve seen our hard work over the years pay off for the American people in a big way: The longest streak of private-sector job growth on record, the unemployment rate down to just 5 percent, and wages growing faster than at any time since the recovery began. The Affordable Care Act has helped drive the rate of uninsured folks in this country below 10 percent for the first time on record. Our American delegation working to reduce carbon emissions brought China to the table, and earlier this month in Paris, nearly 200 nations joined us in forging a historic climate agreement.

And though it wasn’t easy, Congress has also done their part to help end this year with some progress, too. They came to the table and passed a bipartisan budget deal, and in doing so averted a government shutdown for at least another nine months.

My hope is that as we go into my final year in office, we can see even more of this — people deciding to come together to get important things done on behalf of the American people. Because we still have some unfinished business.

I’ve got 12 months left to squeeze every ounce of change I can while I’m still in office. And that’s what I intend to do.  In 2016, I’m planning to leave it all out on the field — and I hope you’ll be there alongside me. I’ve never been more optimistic about a year ahead than I am right now.

We’ve done a lot of remarkable things together this year, and it’s because of committed citizens like you that this country keeps moving forward.  Thanks for being part of this work— these are your accomplishments.  That’s what I want to celebrate with you on January 12, when I make my last State of the Union speech. Make sure you tune in. Let’s squeeze the best yet from the second half of this fourth quarter.

Breaking Down The Budget Deal

— by CAP Action War Room

The Omnibus Spending Bill And Tax Extenders Package Contain Significant Progressive Accomplishments

After weeks of negotiations, congressional leaders and the White House have agreed to a spending deal to fund the government through 2016. The omnibus spending bill and the tax extenders package still need final approval from the House and Senate. But with the release of the bill, all that’s left are the final votes, which are both expected tomorrow. There’s a lot to unpack in the 2,009-page bill, so we’ve broken it down into the good, the bad, and the fun.

The Good:

  • Permanent Renewals Of Earned Income Tax Credit And Child Tax Credit Expansions: Under the stimulus bill, the Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit—two key programs that help keep millions of Americans out of poverty—were expanded until 2017. But the tax extenders package made the extensions permanent, a clear win for working families. Allowing these expansions to expire would have pushed 16 million Americans, including 8 million children, into or deeper into poverty.
  • Wind and Solar Tax Credit Extension: Renewable energy was also a winner in this year’s budget deal, thanks to a five-year extension of the solar Investment Tax Credit and the wind Production Tax Credit. Solar accounts for 1 in 78 new jobs in the country, and the solar Investment Tax Credit has been a crucial driver in the growing industry. The increase of wind and solar capacity is seen as a critical way for the U.S. to meet its goals under the Clean Power Plan as well as its commitments under the new UN climate agreement.
  • Accountability For Fast Food Chains: Congressional Republicans tried to block a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruling that makes large corporations like McDonald’s responsible for how their franchises treat workers. The ruling, which remained intact, may force McDonald’s and similar brands to take responsibility for workplace conditions. This could significantly improve the chances that workers can force change in the industry.
  • Health Care For 9/11 First Responders: A health care bill for 9/11 first responders—brought to national attention thanks to the advocacy of Jon Stewart—was included in the year-end spending bill. The legislation was also included in the omnibus, only after 9/11 first responders made hundreds of advocacy trips to D.C.
  • Investment In The Middle Class: The omnibus bill funds key investments in a number of areas to strengthen the middle class and grow the economy. These investments include education from early childhood through college, medical and science research, transportation infrastructure, and conservation. These investments were made possible by the recent budget deal, which reversed about 90 percent of the cuts sequestration would have made to nondefense discretionary programs in fiscal year 2016.
  • Defeat of Many Policy Riders: Congressional Republicans had a long wish list of inappropriate and nongermane partisan policy riders. Luckily, many failed, including riders that would have defunded Planned Parenthood, made it harder for Syrian refugees to come to the United States, blocked the Department of Labor from protecting retirees’ savings, and hindered the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s ability to protect consumers.

The Bad:

  • A Win For Big Oil: Unfortunately, lawmakers also handed a win to big oil. As a part of a broader energy package, including the wind and solar tax credit extensions, the 40-year-old crude oil export ban was lifted, meaning American crude oil can be shipped abroad for the first time since the 1970s. Lifting the ban has been a priority for the oil industry. Many environmental groups are concerned that the policy change could lead to more domestic drilling and the potential for additional pollution.
  • Decreased Transparency In Money In Politics: Snuck into the 2,009-page omnibus bill are two sections that will only make the influence of money in politics worse. Section 735 would block the Securities and Exchange Commission’s ability to require companies that receive federal contracts to disclose their contributions to political organizations. And Section 127 will prohibit the IRS from formalizing proposed rules to reign in political groups who use the title of tax-exempt 501(c)(4) “social welfare” non-profits to avoid disclosing their funding.
  • Bans On Gun Violence Research (Still): Public health, medical, and gun violence prevention advocates were unable to take out a rider known as the “Dickey amendment,” which effectively prevents the CDC and NIH from doing any research on gun violence. The provision was maintained despite the fact that former Rep. Jay Dickey (R-AR), for whom the amendment is named, has since spoken out against the policy saying he regrets no research is being done. The good news is, despite the fact that the NRA spent more than $27 million to elect a Republican majority in the 2014 elections, several other gun lobby priority items failed to make it in.
  • Budget Cuts For The IRS Enforcement Division: The budget deal cuts $25 million in funding for the IRS team that keeps people from evading their taxes. The IRS enforcement team has already experienced huge cuts, which limits its ability to save the government money through auditing returns and pursuing tax evaders.

The Fun:

  • Sledding provision: The crude oil export ban wasn’t the only ban lifted as a part of the budget deal: In a big win for winter cheer, the sledding ban on Capitol Hill was also lifted, ending an official ban of 14 years.

BOTTOM LINE: Crisis averted?  We’ll see tomorrow when the House has scheduled a vote on this ill-conceived budget. Congress has (almost) successfully avoided a government shutdown and agreed on a spending bill to fund the government for the next year. The deal is imperfect, but it is largely absent of highly partisan riders and funds key investments in a number of areas to strengthen the middle class and grow the economy.


This material [the article above] was created by the Center for American Progress Action Fund. It was created for the Progress Report, the daily e-mail publication of the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Click here to subscribe. ‘Like’ CAP Action on Facebook and ‘follow’ us on Twitter

New Speaker, Same Old Policies

— by CAP Action War Room

Paul Ryan’s Record Indicates We’re In For The Same Broken GOP Policies

Ryan06
Speaker of the House — Paul Ryan (R-WI)

After much chaos and dysfunction, the House of Representatives elected Representative Paul Ryan from Wisconsin to be Speaker of the House. The Republicans have lauded their new Speaker as their “thought leader” who creates the “blueprints” for policies: he was Mitt Romney’s running mate in 2012 and chairman of the Ways and Means Committee. Much of the GOP rhetoric around Ryan’s run for speaker has suggested that he will usher in a new era of moderate, pragmatic, and effective leadership that will be both good for the economy and the American people. Though we hope Ryan can bring sanity to this House of GOP crazies and stop them from holding the government hostage time and again, we’re not holding our breath for a “new day in the House of Representatives.”

Despite GOP rhetoric, the reality of Paul Ryan’s record, including his signature 2014 budget, suggests that his Speakership will be full of the same old, out of touch, extreme Republican policies that undermine working families to help the rich get richer—policies that voters already rejected in the 2012 election. Here are a few reminders of Ryan’s record:

  • Bad for low-income families. Ryan tried to paint himself as an anti-poverty crusader, by embarking on poverty tour in 2014 and releasing a report documenting his concerns about poverty. But in reality, Ryan creates policies that cut programs that are vital for working families and blames poverty on personal failures, claiming that it is the result of a “culture problem.” The bulk of the Ryan Budget’s spending cuts—69 percent—come from gutting programs that serve low-income people. And after his 2014 poverty tour, he proposed slashing $125 billion from the
    (SNAP), also known a food stamps, over the next 10 years, and converting it to a flat-funded block grant. He also proposed cuts to Medicaid, a critical program that provides health care to 70 million Americans, including low-income children, seniors, and people with disabilities. And of course, Ryan wants to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which has provided health insurance for 17.6 million people.
  • Bad for seniors. In his 2014 budget, Ryan abandoned the pledge Republicans made to protect anyone age 55 or older from Medicare cuts and instead advocated for forcing seniors to pay more by radically altering Medicare. He also supports turning Medicare into a voucher system, which would increase premiums for traditional Medicare by 50 percent, according to the CBO. Ryan has also attacked one of the other pillars of economic security for seniors: Social Security. Despite the fact that Social Security survivor benefits made it possible for him to pay for his college tuition, Ryan’s 2010 budget cut benefits and privatized a substantial portion of the program, instead of lifting the Social Security payroll tax cap so that the rich pay their fair share of payroll taxes.
  • Bad for women. Ryan’s dismal record on women’s issues has earned him a 0 percent score from Planned Parenthood on women’s issues. He has voted numerous times to defund Planned Parenthood and is a leading advocate for personhood bills. And though Paul Ryan used his power to guarantee time with his family despite his Speaker duties, he refuses to support legislation, such as guaranteed paid sick and paid family leave, to help others have this right. Unlike Paul Ryan, no one else has federally guaranteed paid time off for illness, holidays, vacation, or the arrival of a new child. Women usually still most feel the burden of this lack of paid leave. More than 40 percent of mothers have cut back on work to care for family. And as new research shows that boosting women’s earnings helps slow the growth of inequality, it is apparent that Paul Ryan’s extremism hurts not only women, but also the economy.
  • Bad for the economy. Ryan’s budgets and rhetoric tout the same failed trickle-down economic theories that have only helped the rich get even richer but leave middle class and working families behind. His budget proposed giving millionaires a tax cut of at least $200,000. And analyses indicate, there is no way to implement Ryan’s tax cuts for millionaires in a deficit-neutral way without raising taxes on the middle class. Ryan also advocates for austerity measures that have never worked and would hurt the economy. And yet, his budget advocates for enormous cuts to investments in education, science, and other programs that benefit the middle class.

BOTTOM LINE: Though we’d like to hope that Paul Ryan’s new title will cause him to reevaluate his policies and support legislation that will actually help working families, his record of damaging polices creates huge warning signs. If Paul Ryan’s reign as speaker is anything like his record, we’re in for another period of GOP extremism that hurts families, seniors, women, and the economy. But now that the chaos has cleared, Republicans in the House of Representatives should take this opportunity under new leadership to pass policies that support working families, rather than the wealthy few.


This material [the article above] was created by the Center for American Progress Action Fund. It was created for the Progress Report, the daily e-mail publication of the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Click here to subscribe.  ‘Like’ CAP Action on Facebook and ‘follow’ us on Twitter

This Week’s Democratic Campaigns and GOP Agitprop

Joe Biden will Not Run for President

Swipe Right for Hillary

Bernie Sanders Explains Social Security

O’Malley on the Need for New Leadership

 

Clinton vs. Sanders vs. O’Malley On Fixing Banking
How do we fix Wall Street, a.k.a. “the banks”? How do the candidates compare? … The first place to look, of course, is CAF’s Candidate Scorecard … Clinton’s 63 percent rating is primarily based on not having a position on a financial transaction tax … as well as opposing reinstating some form of a Glass-Steagall Act and a lack of specific proposals related to the categories “Break Up Big Banks” and “Affordable Banking.” Meanwhile, Sanders rates 100 percent … O’Malley is stressing his positions on and independence from Wall Street [and] also has a 100 percent…

Blue States Make Voting Easier as Red States Add Restrictions
“In Illinois, a new provision allows voters to register electronically when they visit various state agencies. And in Delaware, some residents with criminal records will regain the right to vote … In Republican-controlled states, the story is different. North Carolina has instituted a new voter ID requirement. North Dakota has narrowed the forms of identification voters can present … Ohio’s GOP-controlled legislature has instituted … shorter early voting hours.” Meanwhile, here at home in Nevada, folks who wish to participate in the Democratic County Caucuses will enjoy the ability to “same-day” register to participate, while Republican caucus goers will need to have registered at least 10 days prior to the caucus date AND will be required to present a government issued photo ID card … no indication as to which will be allowed and which will not (e.g., will VA photo IDs be accepted?).

Ex-Gov turned Democrat Charlie Crist announced a run for U.S. House
On Tuesday, ex-Gov. Charlie Crist announced that he would run for the St. Petersburg FL-13 seat. Crist said all the way back in July that he’d run for this seat if he lived in it after redistricting, so this announcement was no surprise. However, Republican Rep. David Jolly, who is leaving this district behind to run for the Senate, unexpectedly crashed what would have otherwise been a routine campaign kickoff. Jolly told reporters that he cares too much about the seat “to lay down and let this huckster walk into office.” Republicans utterly hate Crist, who left the party in 2010, so this kind of stunt certainly won’t hurt Jolly’s chances in the GOP primary.  If Crist wins, he’ll be one of only a few ex-governors to be elected to the House. The University of Minnesota’s Smart Politics blog finds that in the last half-century, only four other ex-governors have done this, and none of them had run a state anywhere near as large as Florida.

Meanwhile in the House of Representatives, the Freedom Caucus is vowing not to play nice —all this at a crucial time when some pretty critical votes will need to be taken:

  • A vote to raise the debt limit to avoid a default on our nation’s debt. House RW budget hawks are looking again at hijacking any efforts to raise the debt limit to pay for expenses they already authorized.  Expect new attacks on medicaid, medicare, social security and planned parenthood. And then there’s Teddy Cruz, urging GOP members to take an absolute hard line against any efforts to pass a “clean” bill to raise the limit to pay for the spending they already authorized.
  • A vote will be needed to pass a fiscal budget, not yet another let’s kick the can down the road continuing resolution to extend the current (previous) budget that was passed,  and
  • A vote will be needed regarding the Iran Deal, which the US and other foreign nations have already begun to implement regardless of any approval/disapproval from our disfunctional Congress.

November should prove quite interesting. But, if all of that that is not enough agitprop for your tastes, Speaker Boehner is proposing that it’s possible that they could actually “repeal Obamacare” by the end of the year. What is he smoking, drinking or otherwise ingesting?  Apparently he thinks President Obama is just gonna roll over and sign onto their repeal efforts taking away any and all opportunities for millions of Americans to be able to purchase health care insurance.  Somebody needs to throw some ice water in his face and yell “Wake Up Bozo!”

  • Rep. Paul Ryan announces speaker bid, with conditions. NYT: “…Ryan called for … an end to the antics of ‘bomb throwers and hand wringers,’ according to members in the room … He suggested that he wanted an answer by Friday. Mr. Ryan made it clear that he would not accede to preconditions set by ‘one group,’ a clear reference to the members of the hard-line Freedom Caucus…”
  • Freedom Caucus resists. Politico: “They were dismissive of his Ryan’s request that they relinquish a procedural tactic they used to threaten to strip outgoing Speaker John Boehner of his title – one of the most potent weapons in the group’s arsenal.”
  • Paul Ryan’s Conditions for House Speaker Bid Meet Early Resistance, Bloomberg: “How does giving Paul Ryan more power solve the problem of John Boehner having had too much power?” Rep. Tim Huelskamp tells Bloomberg.

 

16 Legislative Calendar Days left and …

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The 2015 fiscal year ends on September 30, 2015 and we do not yet have a 2016 budget, a transportation bill, nor a resolution to Veterans Administration shortfalls which may shutter a number of VA hospitals.  And if that isn’t enough on their plates to handle when they only plan to actually work 16 days between now and then, they also need to resolve their issues with the Iran Nuclear Deal.  AND … there are no plans to cancel their August recess.


Iran Nuclear Deal

Last week, the United States along with France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Russia, and China signed a deal with Iran to substantially limit Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for the removal of international sanctions.

Under the framework for an Iran nuclear deal Iran's uranium enrichment pathway to a weapon will be shut down

Under the new nuclear deal, “Iran has committed to extraordinary and robust monitoring, verification, and inspection,” according to the White House. “International inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will not only be continuously monitoring every element of Iran’s declared nuclear program, but they will also be verifying that no fissile material is covertly carted off to a secret location to build a bomb. And if IAEA inspectors become aware of a suspicious location, Iran has agreed to implement the Additional Protocol to their IAEA Safeguards Agreement, which will allow inspectors to access and inspect any site they deem suspicious. Such suspicions can be triggered by holes in the ground that could be uranium mines, intelligence reports, unexplained purchases, or isotope alarms.” (Please take the time to read more here.)

Under the framework for an Iran nuclear deal Iran's uranium enrichment pathway to a weapon will be shut down

Congress must now review the deal—and decide whether to pass a resolution to disapprove the agreement. The entire process could take up to 82 days, and during that time, the President cannot lift sanctions on Iran until the review and voting period is over. The law also requires the Administration to provide detailed reports to Congress every 90 days to ensure that Iran is complying with the nuclear agreement.

Here’s how that review process should work, according to legislation passed by Congress and signed by the President in May: The White House delivered the agreement to Congress on Monday—five days after the signing of the Iran deal. Now, Congress has 60 days to review it, or until mid-September. (Keep in mind that Congress will be in recess from August 10 – Sept. 7.)  Congress then has 12 days (by the end of September) to vote on a joint resolution approving or disapproving the deal. Or Congress could opt to do nothing.

If Congress passes a resolution disapproving the deal, the President will most likely veto their disapproval. Congress would then have 10 days to override the veto, which would require a two-thirds majority in both the Senate and House. (If Congress were to override a veto, the President would lose his ability to waive sanctions on Iran, which would cause the current agreement to fall through and destroy our nation’s credibility with our negotiating partners.)

Resolution Disapproving the Deal

Congressman Peter Roskam (R-IL), Chair of the House Republican Israel Caucus introduced legislation expressing the sense of the House of Representatives in disapproval of the agreement between the P5+1 and Iran. The resolution is “intended to build support for an expected vote on a formal joint resolution of disapproval in September.”

RESOLUTION DISAPPROVING THE IRAN NUCLEAR AGREEMENT (HRes 367)
  • Sponsor: Rep. Peter Roskam (R-IL)  Per Rep. Roskam, this resolution “sets the stage for the 60-day lead up to a vote on this agreement by allowing Members to express their disapproval of the accord. The unprecedented outpouring of support for this resolution proves that Congress will not rubber-stamp a deal that severely threatens the United States and our allies by paving Iran’s path to a bomb.” He went on further to state, “This agreement fails on every level to ensure Iran never acquires a nuclear weapons capability. Tehran is allowed to keep much of its nuclear infrastructure intact and rewarded an $150 billion cash infusion from sanctions relief. The so-called ‘anytime, anywhere’ inspections regime in reality provides Iran nearly a month’s notice on inspections. And, in an unprecedented last-minute concession, the U.N. arms embargo and ban on ballistic missiles will be lifted in just a few short years. This is a bad deal, and it must be stopped,” according to the sponsor. (Read resolution text)

Worth Noting:  Two Representatives from Nevada Mark Amodei and Joe Heck have signed on a co-sponsors of this resolution of disapproval.

Federal Budget and Appropriations

The House has been working on appropriations bills for FY 2016. Thus far, they’ve passed Commerce, Justice and Science (HR 2578); Defense (HR 2685); Energy and Water (HR 2028); Legislative (HR 2250); Military and Veterans (HR 2029); and Transportation and HUD (HR 2577) appropriations bills.  But when they got to the Interior and Environment Appropriations Bill (HR 2822) last week, they had to pull it from the floor after a series of amendments were introduced regarding whether the Confederate battle flag should be displayed on public lands. Three amendments, introduced by Democrats, had been passed on July 7th that would block the National Park Service from allowing private groups to decorate graves with Confederate flags specifically in cemeteries in Georgia and Mississippi and would bar the Park Service doing business with gift shops that sell Confederate flag merchandise. Unhappy with those passed amendments, a Republican sponsored amendment was introduced essentially nullifying the passed amendments. To keep from seeing everything degenerate into a total brouhaha over the Confederate Flag, Speaker Boehner pulled the bill from the floor.

Senate Democrats have blocked consideration of appropriations bills until a new budget agreement is negotiated that will mitigate the sequestration budget cuts since 2013. Congress aims to complete the appropriations process by the end of the fiscal year, September 30. If they don’t, then they’ll need to pass a short-term Continuing Resolution to prevent yet another government shutdown.

Meanwhile, the Veterans Administration has put Congress on notice that they have a $2.5B shortfall that if not resolved will force them to start closing some VA hospitals beginning in as early as August.

Highway Trust Fund Extension

Both the Highway Account and the Mass Transit Account of the Highway Trust Fund are nearing insolvency, according to the Department of Transportation.

As Congressional committees met to discuss ways to keep our country’s Highway Trust Fund (HTF) solvent, Secretary Foxx urged them to adopt a long-term transportation bill with increased funding:

“The state of our nation’s infrastructure is not a partisan talking point; it is a problem facing all Americans. So I am encouraged that Members of Congress are asking the tough questions about how we will find solutions together. As I have said many times, we cannot build tomorrow’s transportation system with yesterday’s policy and yesterday’s funding; I look forward to working with both parties to pass a long-term bill that aggressively boosts investment and changes outdated policies so we can build for the future.”

With a shortfall in the Highway Trust Fund approaching, cash management steps are not far away.  Because the HTF supports critical roadwork by State DOTs, these cash management procedures will slow improvements and basic repairs on roads across the U.S.   With the Highway Trust Fund authorization set to expire on July 31, the House did pass an extension through December 18. You’re going to love this.  The claim is that the extension would provide $8 billion in new money – $5 billion from tax compliance measures, and $3 billion in reduced spending.  But true to form, it includes no new revenues, and is partly funded by a two-year extension of fees that would have sunsetted (passenger airport security fees collected by the TSA).

HIGHWAY AND TRANSPORTATION FUNDING ACT, PART II (HR 3038)
  • Sponsor: Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI)  Extends the authorizations of the federal surface transportation programs as well as the hazardous materials transportation program and the Dingell-Johnson Sport Fish Restoration Act through Dec. 18, 2015. Funds the surface transportation programs at the level authorized for fiscal year 2014. Would transfer $6.068 billion from the General Fund to the HTF’s Highway Account, and would transfer $2 billion from the General Fund to the HTF’s Mass Transit Account. (Read bill summary.) – Passed by the House; now goes to the Senate —

This is the 34th short-term extension in the last six-years—and many in Congress are urging that they work on a comprehensive long-term bill. In past decades, Congress routinely passed six-year surface transportation bills.  To that end,  other bills have been proposed:

  • GROW America Act (Generating Renewal, Opportunity, and Work with Accelerated Mobility, Efficiency, and Rebuilding of Infrastructure and Communities throughout America Act) [HR2410] sponsored by Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR).  This is the Administration’s long-term surface transportation reauthorization bill. Provides a total of $478 billion over six years, a 45 percent increase for highways, bridges, public transportation, highway safety, and rail programs.
  • The DRIVE Act (Developing a Reliable and innovative Vision for the Economy Act) [S1647]  sponsored by Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK).  It’s a 6-yr surface transportation  reauthorization bill sporting a “new” freight program to prioritize federal spending.

Food Labeling and GMOs

Currently, the US Department of Agriculture has no authority over labeling food for the presence or absence of GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms). This week, House will be voting on a bill mandates a national standard for labeling laws related to GMOs and that would nullify any state standards that might exceed the national minimum standard established by this bill:

Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act (HR 1599)
  • Sponsor: Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS) In his introduction of the bill, Rep. Pompeo indicated this bill “would establish a federal labeling standard for foods with genetically modified ingredients, giving sole authority to the Food and Drug Administration to require mandatory labeling on such foods if they are ever found to be unsafe or materially different from foods produced without GM ingredients.” He went on to say that “under SAFLA, the FDA will conduct a safety review of all new plant varieties used for genetically engineered food before those foods are introduced into commerce. This will ensure that consumers get scientifically accurate, and relevant information by allowing the FDA to specify special labeling, if it believes it is necessary to protect health and safety. In order to provide even greater transparency, my legislation includes a provision to allow those who wish to label their products as GMO-free to do so through a USDA-accredited certification process.”

NOTE: The bill, purported by some to have been written by Monsanto, prohibits States from enforcing any bills addressing GMOs that exceed the requirements of HR1599 effectively nullifying existing legislation in a number of states (Maine, Connecticut and Vermont, where foods containing GMOs are required to be labeled).  If passed, the FDA would be the sole authority to require GMO labeling.

Coal Ash Regulations

According to the EPA, “coal combustion residuals are byproducts of the combustion of coal at power plants, and includes fly ash, bottom ash, boiler slag, and flue gas desulfurization (FGD) materials. CCR contain contaminants such as mercury, cadmium, and arsenic which are associated with cancer and other serious health effects. When improperly managed, CCR can leak into the groundwater, blow into the air as dust, and be released to surface water and to the land in the event of a catastrophic failure.”

The House has scheduled a vote on HR1734, a bill that would set rules governing the management and disposal of coal ash.

IMPROVING COAL COMBUSTION RESIDUALS REGULATION ACT (HR 1734)
  • Sponsor: Rep. David McKinley (R-WV)   According to the House Majority Leader, this bill will “provide job-creators, and over 300,000 workers, with certainty by putting states in charge of the enforcement to implement the standards set by EPA regarding the safe disposal of coal ash,”  It would authorize States to set up permit programs for coal ash, as well as allow the EPA to offer permits in States that don’t establish their own permit programs.

Really?  (1) Not all States have the funding/expertise/organization to provide for enforcement, and (2) we all know how well that worked in North Carolina when they had a massive coal as spill.  In addition, some Democrats in Congress believe that the bill would undermine tougher coal ash rules the EPA finalized in December 2014, which “establishes the first ever nationally applicable minimum criteria providing for the safe disposal of coal combustion residuals in landfills and surface impoundments.”


That is a seriously overloaded plate and with only 16 legislative days left in this fiscal year, that doesn’t appear to be near enough time for this unproductive Congress to resolve those issues.

“Trillion Dollar Fraudsters”: We’re Looking At An Enormous, Destructive Republican Con Job, And You Should Be Very, Very Angry

Reblogged from
mykeystrokes.com:

republican_party_money_1600_clr_9476-227x182By now it’s a Republican Party tradition: Every year the party produces a budget that allegedly slashes deficits, but which turns out to contain a trillion-dollar “magic asterisk” — a line that promises huge spending cuts and/or revenue increases, but without explaining where the money is supposed to come from.

But the just-released budgets from the House and Senate majorities break new ground. Each contains not one but two trillion-dollar magic asterisks: one on the spending side, one on the revenue side. And that’s actually an understatement. If either budget were to become law, it would leave the federal government several trillion dollars deeper in debt than claimed, and that’s just in the first decade.

You might be tempted to shrug this off, since these budgets will not, in fact, become law. Or you might say that this is what all politicians do. But it isn’t. The modern G.O.P.’s raw fiscal dishonesty …

View original 665 more words


Are these YOUR priorities?

GOP2015FederalBudgetChart

55.2 (Military) + 5.6 (Vets) = 60.8% of ALL discretionary spending

Thus, only ~39% remains for things like Education, Infrastructure (roads/bridges), Energy, Environment, etc.

Congressional Progressive Caucus Unveils The People’s Budget: A Raise for America

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3/18/15: Congressional Progressive Caucus Press Release

WASHINGTON – Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) Co-Chairs Reps. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ) and Keith Ellison (D-MN), along with CPC Members Reps. Mark Pocan (D-WI), Judy Chu (D-CA), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), Ruben Gallego (D-AZ), Grace Napolitano (D-CA), Janice Hahn (D-CA), and Barbara Lee (D-CA) unveiled the Progressive Caucus’ FY 2016 budget alternative called The People’s Budget: A Raise for America.

The executive summary for The People’s Budget is below and the full budget can be found here.

The press conference to introduce The People’s Budget was live-streamed at noon and can be seen here.

“The most important thing Congress can do as we recover from the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression is pass a budget that invests in the American people,” Rep. Grijalva said. The People’s Budget create good paying jobs by addressing our nation’s biggest challenges head-on, from rebuilding crumbling roads to updating antiquated energy infrastructure. It’s a down payment on the continual effort to improve the quality of life for all Americans by raising wages, restoring and enhancing vital programs like SNAP and emergency unemployment compensation, and making bold new investments like debt-free college for all, which will increase our global competitiveness and ensure every student has a fair shot at achieving their dreams.”

“Too many working Americans open their paychecks each week and ask themselves how they will make ends meet,” Rep. Ellison said.The People’s Budget fully funds childhood health, education and affordable housing to help working families stretch their paychecks. The Progressive Caucus budget is a blueprint of proven investments to end grinding poverty, promote economic mobility and enable shared prosperity. It asks the wealthiest Americans and multi-national corporations to pay their fair share, so we can afford debt-free college, universal pre-kindergarten, paid sick leave and workforce training for all. The People’s Budget makes smart cuts to the Pentagon budget and puts the money towards working families. The People’s Budget invests in people, providing hard-working Americans with a raise they deserve.”

“First and foremost The People’s Budget reflects our progressive priorities – leveling the economic playing field by increasing wages for middle- and low-income workers,” Rep. Pocan said. “With families struggling to make ends meet, it is clear the American people want Congress to help create good-paying jobs and expand economic opportunity for all.”

“Working a full time, 40 hour schedule is supposed to lift you out of poverty, not chain you to it,” Rep. Chu said. “It’s not just unfair, it’s wrong. It flies in the face of the promise of America. And it is why this budget – The People’s Budget – is so necessary. This budget promises to not only to grow our economy but to tackle inequality.”

“During our economy’s best decades, Congress invested in the American workforce and every family was better off for it. But recent years have been dominated by growing inequality and a Republican majority in Congress obsessed with slashing the budget, making it harder for working Americans to find decent jobs and save for the future,” Rep. Jackson Lee said. “The Congressional Progressive Caucus’ People’s Budget reverses the damage budget austerity has inflicted on hard-working families and restores our economy to its full potential by creating 8.4 million good paying jobs by 2018.”

“Today Americans are working more and earning less. Republicans, however, continue putting forth a budget that gives tax breaks to the wealthy instead of helping working American families,”  Rep. Gallego said. “While the GOP budget would end Medicare guarantees and make cuts to education that would make college even less affordable, the Congressional Progressive Caucus does the opposite ensuring that we make investments in the American people – creating good paying jobs, providing universal pre-K, and restoring funding for programs like SNAP that many American families rely on. It’s time for us to pass a budget that reflects the needs of the American people and focuses on giving American families the best opportunity to move ahead.”

“The Progressive Caucus works on everyday issues of the working family, and our budget reflects this commitment,” Rep. Napolitano said. “We will continue to fight to deliver that which we all feel is a necessity for our districts, for our working class.”

“The Congressional Progressive Caucus budget expands economic opportunity for middle class and lower income families and reflects priorities different from the House Republican proposal,”Rep. Hahn said.“Our budget creates jobs and invests in essential repairs and upgrades to America’s roads, highways and bridges to keep us globally competitive in the future.  The CPC budget also includes my recommendation to fully spend the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund, returning money collected at our nation’s ports so they can make necessary improvements.”

“Despite a recovering economy, too many Americans are still struggling to make ends meet,” Rep. Lee said. “This budget supports American families and focuses on much needed investments here at home,” said Congresswoman Lee. “This budget also reins in waste, fraud and abuse at the Pentagon and ends the OCO ($90B) slush funds for defense contractors.”

The People’s Budget Executive Summary

8.4 million good paying jobs by 2018

$1.9 trillion investment in America’s future

$820 billion infrastructure and transportation improvements

The People’s Budget fixes an economy that, for too long, has failed to provide the opportunities American families need to get ahead. Despite their skills and work ethic, most American workers and families are so financially strapped from increasing income inequality that their paychecks barely cover basic necessities. They earn less and less as corporations and the wealthy continue amassing record profits. It has become clear to American workers that the system is rigged.

The People’s Budget levels the playing field and creates economic opportunity by increasing the pay of middle- and low-income Americans. More customers and higher consumer spending advance American businesses, not tax cuts and relaxed regulations. The People’s Budget drives a full economic recovery by creating high-quality jobs and reducing family expenses, restoring the buying power of working Americans.

The People’s Budget closes tax loopholes that companies use to ship jobs overseas. It creates fair tax rates for millionaires and provides needed relief to low- and middle-income families. It invests in debt-free college, workforce training and small businesses within our communities, helping return our economy to full employment and giving a raise to Americans who need it most. Investments in The People’s Budget boost employment and wages by addressing some of the biggest challenges of our time: repairing America’s rapidly aging roads and bridges, upgrading our energy systems to address climate change, keeping our communities safe, and preparing our young people to thrive as citizens and workers.

A fair wage is more than the size of a paycheck. It’s having enough hours, paid overtime, sick and parental leave, and affordable health and childcare. It’s being able to afford a good education for your kids and never living in fear that your job will be sent overseas. It’s knowing you can make ends meet at the end of the month. The People’s Budget helps achieve that with a raise for American workers, a raise for struggling families and a boost to America’s long-term global competitiveness.

The People’s Budget: A Raise For America
The People’s Budget: A Raise For America (03/18/15 11:06 AM PST)
EPI Analysis of The People’s Budget (03/18/15 11:00 AM PST)
The People’s Budget: A Raise For America Summary (03/18/15 09:21 AM PST)

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