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Protect Millionaires? The Sequester Didn’t Have to Be

NH Citizens Alliance for Action calls on Congress to end the cuts by reining in Pentagon Waste and Making Big Corporations and Millionaires pay their Fair Share 

NH Citizens AllianceConcord, NH — NH Citizens Alliance for Action Interim Executive Director Kary Nealle Jencks issued the following statement on the automatic federal spending cuts, or “sequester”:

“Sequester never had to happen. And it should not have happened. At a time when our communities and our families are just starting to do better, the last thing we need is one million people forced out of work between now and the end of the year. The last thing we need is services to families cut, things like nutrition for mothers and babies eliminated, teachers laid off, and food inspectors and air traffic controllers furloughed.

“Instead of standing for a common sense budget solution Congressional Republicans chose to side with corporate campaign contributors. They made it happen to protect millionaires and big corporations from paying their fair share. But there is a way out of this mess.

“Everyone must pay their fair share. Congress needs to end tax breaks for corporations that ship jobs overseas and start requiring the wealthiest Americans pay taxes at the same rate they paid in the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. And once and for all, it is time to put an end to wasteful Pentagon spending – beginning with the albatross known as the F-35 fighter jet.

“The issue before us today is not the size of our government. The issue is who our government works for – the super-rich and CEO campaign contributors or working families and the middle class? We need a Congress that stands – and an America that works – for all of us. Because we are all in this together.”

Changing the Rules of the Game

In Congress – as in wrestling – sometimes the rules make the all the difference in who wins or loses.

That’s why the upcoming fight over the Senate filibuster means a lot to working families.

The filibuster is a procedural method that the minority party can use to perpetually delay any legislation it doesn’t like.  If a bill doesn’t get to the Senate floor for a vote, it doesn’t ever get passed – even if a majority of the Senate would vote to approve it.  It’s a back-door way for the minority party to kill legislation, or at least hold the bill up in Committee until it is amended to the satisfaction of the filibustering Senators.

photo by Diane Beckwith-Zink via Flikr

Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown
photo by Diane Beckwith-Zink via Flikr/Creative Commons

Remember two years ago, when Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown “single-handedly” blocked an extension of unemployment benefits?  Senate Republicans used the filibuster to hold up the bill until it was amended to include an extension of Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthy.  (The final version cost $900 billion; but only 6% of that cost was for unemployment benefits.)

That’s how the filibuster works – and works against working families.

Using the Senate filibuster to kill legislation is such an “inside game” that – at least as far as we can tell – no one has been tracking filibusters in recent years.  But during the last campaign season, Progress Massachusetts looked closely at Scott Brown’s voting record and came up with 40 bills that would have passed the Senate – if they hadn’t been killed by a Republican filibuster.  The list includes:

  • Restoring American Financial Stability Act of 2010 (the original financial regulatory reform bill);
  • Creating American Jobs and Ending Offshoring Act;
  • Emergency Senior Citizens Relief Act of 2010;
  • American Jobs Act of 2011;
  • Rebuild America Jobs Act;
  • Middle Class Tax Cut Act of 2011; and
  • The Buffett Rule (a 30% effective tax rate on income exceeding $1 million).

All of those bills would have passed the Senate – if they had ever gotten to the floor for a vote.

So, here’s what may be changing:

Yesterday, Majority Leader Harry Reid said that when the Senate is sworn in next January, “he will attempt to diminish the power of Republicans to slow or stop legislation by putting limits on the filibuster. …Mr. Reid would like to limit what procedural motions are subject to filibusters, and to force senators to return to the practice of standing around forever, reading the phone book or what have you, if they choose to filibuster a bill before its final passage.”

Yes, it will be just a procedural change to Senate Rules (if it happens).

But just think where our country might be, now, if the Senate had been able to actually vote on all those bills that Scott Brown helped block.


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