Tag Archive: Congress

Dec 09 2016

Of Shoes And Ships And Sealing-Wax

The government may be facing a shutdown by the Senate Democrats and with good reason. It seems the House Republicans, in passing a continuing resolution (CR) to keep the government operational through April 2017, removed two provisions that could result in a filibuster in the Senate. Those provisions would protect the health coverage of retired …

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Jun 22 2016

Protecting The 2nd Amendment At Any Price

On Monday the Senate voted on four bills on gun control. Needless to say, the wholly owned Senate defeated even the most reasonable measure that would have closed the loop hole in back ground checks at gun shows and on line. Instead Congress panders to the right wing gun lovers and idiots who think that …

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Mar 20 2016

Rant of the Week: Larry Wilmore – Do Your Job, Congress

Larry pleads with members of Congress to do their jobs after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refuses to act on President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland. I find anyone who has the support of Orrin Hatch unsuitable for any office or position in our government.

Mar 01 2016

Time to Drub Debbie Wasserman-Schultz Out of the Democratic Party

The current chairperson of the Democratic Party, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz is part of the reason Democrats are losing in congressional and state races. She exemplifies the truth in President Harry Truman’s statement that “given the choice between a republican and a democrat who acts like a republican, the voter will choose a republican every time.”  DWS …

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Feb 25 2016

Things That Come Back To Bite You

The Republicans, led by former and future House Speakers John “Orange Man” Boehner (R-OH) and Paul “Zombie Eyed Granny Starver” Ryan (R-WI), pushed to fast track the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement because who doesn’t love free trade. Now that the secret negotiations are over and the the full text is now available, the love affair …

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Oct 02 2015

They Need to Do More Than Pray

The mass shooting yesterday at a small community college in Roseberg, Oregon, took the lives of nine people and the gunman, despite the fact that there were students in nearby classrooms who were carrying guns themselves. Despite arguments by gun activists, that didn’t deter or stop the shooter until police arrived. This has become routine in the United States to the point that it should be considered an epidemic. This latest mass murder is the 994th since the mass murder of 26 students and teachers in Sandy Hook, Connecticut in December, 2012. There have been nearly 300 shooting that have taken four or more lives, the FBI criteria for a mass shooting, so far in this year alone. In the face of these horrific statistics what have our government representatives done? Nothing except pray and criticize anyone calling for better gun control laws as politicizing the lives of the victims.

It is not just mass shootings that are the problem:

While conservatives are busying trying to shutdown any debate on gun control following the 45th school shooting this year by yelling about Chicago’s murder rates – apparently unaware that Chicago is the third largest city in the country but not even in the top five cities with the highest murder rate per capita – and reflexively decrying any mention of gun control as a “gun grab,” what if we just entertained their wildest conspiracy theories for just a bit?

A 2015 study found that when guns are used to kill people in the United States, they are overwhelmingly used for murder rather than self-defense. That study found that in 2012, there were only 259 justifiable homicides, or what is commonly referred to as self-defense, compared to 8,342 criminal firearm homicides. In 2008-2012, the report says, guns were used in 42,419 criminal homicides and only 1,108 justifiable homicides.

We are told by pundits and politicians that nothing can be done because of the Second Amendment. That is pure nonsense. Laws requiring strict licensing and ban on ownership of certain weapons, such as semi-automatic assault type weapons, have been on the books in cities like New York for years and have withstood court challenges. Tightening the sale of guns at guns shows and by individuals without adequate regulation and background checks of the buyers needs to be made federal law. Requiring a person to demonstrate that they are qualified to own the weapon they are buying by showing that they have attended classes in safety and handling by a certified instructor would go a long way in curbing some of the accidental incidents as well.

The idea pushed by the NRA and gun manufacturers that better and smarter gun laws won’t make a difference is a myth. Just look what Australia did after a mass shooting that took 35 lives in 1996. They passed 12 new gun laws and regulations within days after the shooting:

The National Firearms Agreement and Buyback Program, as the package of legislation was called, prohibited the sale of shotguns as well as semiautomatic and self-loading rifles. Waiting periods and safety courses became mandatory for new gun owners and limits on the sale of ammunition were imposed.

Most importantly, perhaps, the legislation allocated $250 million for a gun buyback program, allowing for newly outlawed rifles and shotgun to be destroyed by the Australian government. Ultimately more than 640,000 firearms were either purchased by the Australian government or voluntarily handed in.

And it worked.

In the years after the Port Arthur massacre, gun-related homicides decreased 7.5 percent per year while suicide by gun dropped by a whopping 80 percent (pdf) until the the risk of dying by gunshot in Australia fell by more than 50 percent in the decade following the attacks.

It didn’t completely stop the incidents but there have only been six people killed in mass shooting since the laws were passed.

America could do the same if we demand it of our elected officials but first end Americas obsession with guns to debunk the myths of the NRA and gun nuts that guns keep us safer. They don’t.

Full disclosure: I am a licensed gun owner.

Jul 28 2015

Is Congressional Push to Reduce Mandatory Prison Sentences Enough?

Recently President Barack Obama commuted the sentences of 46 non-violent drug offenders which was the largest clemency granted since 1960. This was a drop in the bucket considering nearly half of the 207,000 men and women in the federal prison system are serving sentences for drug crimes. Mandatory minimum sentencing arouse in the 70’s and 80’s during the height of the drug epidemic in this country that saw a dramatic increase in crime.

Congress is now considering two bipartisan bills to scale back mandatory sentences.

As senators work to meld several proposals into one bill, one important change would be to expand the so-called safety-valve provisions that give judges discretion to sentence low-level drug offenders to less time in prison than the required mandatory minimum term if they meet certain requirements.

Another would allow lower-risk prisoners to participate in recidivism programs to earn up to a 25 percent reduction of their sentence. Lawmakers would also like to create more alternatives for low-level drug offenders.

While theses bills are commendable they fall far short of addressing the whole problem, John Oliver, host of HBO’s “Last Week Tonight,” points out in this week’s segment:

“Ridiculously long sentences are not a great deterrent to crime,” Oliver said. “Prison sentences are a lot like penises: If they’re used correctly, even a short one can do the trick – is a rumor I have heard.” [..]

There should be a lot more pardons and commutations. But if we really want to address this problem permanently, we need states and the federal government, not just to repeal mandatory minimums going forward, but to also pass laws so that existing prisoners can apply for retroactively reduced sentences.

Because almost everyone has agreed that mandatory minimum laws were a mistake. And we cannot have a system where people are continuing to pay for that mistake  – and where perhaps their best chance of getting out of a prison that they should no longer be in is somehow finding a turkey costume and hanging around the fucking White House at Thanksgiving.

VOX‘s German Lopes has an excellent background article as a follow-up to John Oliver’s segment.  

Jun 23 2015

John Oliver Saves the Chickens

A couple of weeks ago HBO’s “Last Week Tonight,” host John Oliver took the chicken industry over the coals for a thorough roasting, uncovering facts that the public may not have known, the exploitation of contract chicken farmers, most of whom living below the poverty line.

Lo and behold, his genius satirical take down had an effect:

Comedian influences Ag Bill, members of Congress say

By Jonathan A. Capriel, Scripts Howard

The Department of Agriculture may be able to protect chicken farmers from industry retaliations in 2016, and satirical news anchor John Oliver may be part of the reason.

A draft of the 2016 Agriculture Appropriations Bill was unanimously approved by a House subcommittee Thursday.

It passed without any amendments that might prohibit the U.S. Department of Agriculture from punishing meatpacking companies if they use deceptive practices against contract livestock and poultry farmers.

Part of the credit goes to the host of HBO’s “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver,” some members of Congress said.

On his show last month, the comedian criticized contracts that poultry producers, including Tyson Foods, Sanderson Farms, and Perdue, have their chicken farmers sign. [..]

These contract farms take out loans to build facilities, buy equipment and chicken feed – usually from the meat processing companies. The farmers are paid to raise the chickens, but they don’t get to sell them. The company owns the animals. Some farmers say they don’t make enough money in this system, but are usually in so much debt they can’t leave it.

The companies also force farmers to compete with each other. Lower-performing farms get less money. [..]

But Oliver also took a jab at members of Congress, who he said, have “fought efforts to protect chicken farmers” by adding riders to appropriations bills.

He told viewers that anyone on the House Appropriations Committee who votes against an amendment giving USDA power to protect farmers was a “chicken f–.” Oliver said this while flashing images of each of the committee members with their states and party affiliations.

The clip has gotten nearly 3 million views on You Tube. [..]

It’s still a long way from passage. The bill still has to pass the full House Committee on Appropriations, where it could be amended. It then must pass the full House and go through the same process in the Senate. If it weren’t fro John Oliver, the bill would never have been written. It’s good to know that someone in Congress watches these left wing programs.

Jun 23 2015

Fast Track Advances

This afternoon the Trade Promotional Authority passed cloture by a hair, 60 – 37 setting it up for passage on Wednesday

The Senate on Tuesday voted to advance President Obama’s trade agenda, approving a measure to end debate on fast-track authority.

The 60-37 motion sets up a vote on final passage on Wednesday. If the Senate approves fast-track or trade promotion authority (TPA), it would then be sent to Obama’s desk to become law.

Fast-track authority would allow Obama to send trade deals to Congress for up-or-down votes. The White House wants the authority to conclude negotiations on a sweeping trans-Pacific trade deal.

Thirteen Democrats backed fast-track in Tuesday’s vote, handing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) a major legislative victory. Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) voted against the procedural motion.

The bill will then go to President Obama’s desk for his signature. However, the bill is being moved forward does not contain the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) measure that would provide financial aid and job training to workers who lose their jobs due to foreign competition. TAA, in truth, is a sucker deal

For starters, the money in TAA is a pittance, compare to the direct damage that this deal will do to American workers. And it does nothing to protect consumers and citizens from the other elements of the deal that weaken regulatory standards.

Trade Adjustment Assistance is not really about doing much for workers. Mainly, it’s about giving Democrats who are in bed with corporate elites some political cover. The cover is pretty threadbare.

It also stands little chance of passing in the House, even if the Senate manages to pass it, as House Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has promised. The president has said the he would no sign TPA without the TAA.

Many Senate Democrats insisted their vote on Wednesday was conditional on the passage of separate TAA legislation. The Senate will likely pass that legislation on Wednesday, but the bill faces steeper challenges in the House, where Republicans overwhelmingly oppose it. Obama has said he wants both TAA and the fast-track bill to be enacted. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has said he will deliver the votes necessary for its passage.

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Tuesday that Obama expects Congress to send him the TAA bill this week, but didn’t say whether the president would sign the TPA bill before that happened. House Democrats could join Republicans to vote down TAA, potentially daring Obama to sign fast-track without the program. [..]

(Sen. Patti) Murray, on her way to the Senate floor, told reporters she’d been given assurances by McConnell and Boehner that Congress would take up assistance to workers displaced by the deal. In the prior Senate vote on TPA, which took place in May, Murray had urged Democrats not to vote with McConnell without major concessions from the GOP leader. She and Cantwell ultimately cut a deal with McConnell to get a vote reauthorizing the Export-Import Bank. McConnell embarrassed Murray by delivering only a nonbinding vote on the measure.

Democrats now hope to attach a reauthorization to a highway bill as an amendment.

Wyden said Tuesday that Boehner’s late promises helped win votes.

While, eventually, the Trans-Pacific Trade Agreement will most likely pass the Senate, its fate in the House is unknown sonce the Tea Party caucus opposes any agenda proposed by Pres. Obama. GOP presidential candidates Senators Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Rand Paul (R-KY) are also opposed to the bill and are reliant on the Tea Party votes of their base. Both voted against TPA passage today. If you’re shaking your head in wonder that the sane Democrats would have to rely on the GOP lunatic fringe, you’re not alone

Jun 18 2015

GOP Push To Pass “Clean” Fast Track

Up Date: 6/18/2015 This morning the House passed Fast Track by 218-208, with 28 Democrats voting for it. It now must return to the Senate because it didn’t include Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) which failed to pass the House as a separate bill last week. The president has said that the would veto it if it did not include the TAA.

The bill was attached to HR 2146 Defending Public Safety Employees’ Retirement Act.

The push is on to get Fast Track passed. After the Democrats, led by Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, killed the Trade Promotion Authority by voting against Trade Adjustment Assistance, the Republicans are bringing a “clean” bill to the floor. Well not quite “clean.” This is the latest from Huffington Post

To move a clean fast-track bill, the House Rules Committee attached the legislation Wednesday evening to a firefighter and police retirement bill sent over by the Senate.

Once the clean TPA bill is sent back to the Senate, it will be up to the upper chamber to handle TAA independently. [..]

The plan, according to Democratic and Republican sources, is that after the clean TPA bill is passed and sent to the Senate, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) will then attach TAA to the African Growth and Opportunity Act, a separate trade bill involving African countries.

As Republicans revealed their strategy, House and Senate Democrats who had previously voted in favor of fast-track headed to the White House to meet with Obama about the path forward. The question will be whether Republican leaders and Obama can convince Senate Democrats to vote for fast-track on the promise that TAA will reach the president’s desk later. [..]

A Senate Democratic aide confirmed that there is no agreement among Republicans and pro-trade Democrats in the upper chamber about how to move forward once fast-track is sent their way. Talks are expected to continue tomorrow.

Stand by.  

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