• Advertisement

What happened in the US Senate yesterday? (Hint: They’re not trying to overturn Citizens United anymore.)

Money Corrputs by Light Brigading via Flikr
Money Corrputs by Light Brigading via Flikr

photo by Light Brigading via flikr

Yesterday, the Senate GOP voted to block any further consideration of a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United.

That means the amendment won’t go over to the House of Representatives for a vote.

And it won’t go out to the 50 states for a ratification vote.

The proposed amendment would have explicitly authorized Congress and state legislatures to set campaign finance limits. (Read more about Citizens United and the resulting “unprecedented amounts of outside spending” in the 2010 and 2012 elections here.)

So… those 16 states that have already voted in favor of a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United? Sorry, folks.

All those other states – including New Hampshire – whose state Legislatures have shown interest in a constitutional amendment? Sorry, folks.

Those 80% of ordinary Americans – including 72% of ordinary Republicans – who oppose Citizens United? Sorry, folks.

The Senate GOP knows better than you do.

So you don’t get a vote on this.

Who to thank, for taking the states’ vote away? The 42 GOP Senators who voted to block the amendment yesterday.

citizens_united_switched_votesOr, more bizarrely, the 25 Senators who on Monday night voted to let the amendment proceed – but by Thursday afternoon, had changed their votes to block it. (And yes, that would include New Hampshire’s own Senator Kelly Ayotte.)

If those 25 Senators had voted the same way on Thursday as they voted on Monday, the constitutional amendment would be going to the House. And then, maybe, out to the 50 states for ratification votes.

So… what happened during those 68 hours, to make those 25 Senators change their votes?

Can’t tell for sure, from out here in the hinterlands. The news is full of the Oscar Pistorius case… 9/11 remembrances… the Ray Rice case… ISIS and the spectre of terrorism. But there’s relatively little press coverage of this attempt to amend our Constitution.  The 80% of Americans who oppose Citizens United probably don’t even know that the Senate took a vote yesterday.

Here’s my best guess: I think Mitch McConnell happened. I’m guessing that the Senate GOP Leader told them how to vote… and the 25 Senators did. (Even Arizona Sen. John McCain, one of the sponsors of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, more commonly known as the McCain-Feingold Act.)

That’s just a gut-instinct guess, but there are two things behind it.  First, during Committee consideration of the amendment, the GOP members marched in lockstep to oppose the amendment. Every recorded Subcommittee and Committee vote was strictly along party lines.

Second reason: GOP Leader McConnell has opposed campaign finance limits since… well, it seems like forever.

Take some time and listen to the GOP Leader’s speech at a June “retreat” for billionaires organized by the Koch Brothers.

In his remarks, GOP Leader McConnell tracks the history of campaign finance reform efforts “back to the beginning of the 20th century” … and how they “petered out” during “the great prosperity” of the 1920s. (Do you think he remembers how the 1920s ended?)

He reminisces about his own efforts to block passage of campaign finance reform:

We had filibuster after filibuster, which in my first term in the Senate I was leading. And then it came back again in the first two years of Clinton. The bill would pass the House, the bill would pass the Senate, and then it would go to conference. And I was so determined, I came up with a new filibuster. That’s all I’d ever done before was filibuster and go in, go into conference. We had to do it all night long. Under (inaudible) procedure every senator had an hour, and if you didn’t show up right on time, you were out of luck.

Everybody rallied together. This was about two months before the great fall election of 1994. Everybody rallied together. We went around the clock. Everybody showed up on time. And I thought, well, maybe we’re finally through with this nonsense.

He says “The worst day of my political life was when President George W. Bush signed McCain-Feingold into law.”

He talks about his own lawsuit to overturn McCain-Feingold. (You can read the Supreme Court decision here.)

He talks about what has happened since his lawsuit.

So what really then changed the Court was President Bush’s appointment of John Roberts. The most important was Sam Alito because we lost the McCain-Feingold case five to four because of Sandra Day O’Connor. The majority was all liberal. Then she retired, and Sam Alito replaced her, and we now have the best Supreme Court in anybody’s memory… Now, that’s where we are today. I’m really proud of this Supreme Court and the way they’ve been dealing with the issue of First Amendment political speech. It’s only five to four, and I pray for the health of the five.

And then he talks about some other things of interest to his audience of billionaires: like minimum wage… environmental regulation… regulation of the financial services industry. And he promises to use federal spending bills to “go after” those issues.

And I assure you that in the spending bill, we will be pushing back against this bureaucracy by doing what’s called placing riders in the bill. No money can be spent to do this or to do that. We’re going to go after them on healthcare, on financial services, on the Environmental Protection Agency, across the board (inaudible).

And – in response to a mostly-inaudible question from David Koch about “free speech” and amending the Constitution – GOP Leader McConnell says:

Having, having struck out at the Supreme Court, David, they now want to amend the Constitution. … These people need to be stopped, and believe me, something that I thought to do (inaudible) what is spent (inaudible) independent coordination?
(Laughter.)
(Applause.)

Yeah, read that again: “These people need to be stopped.”

THAT’s why I’m guessing “Mitch McConnell happened” to those 25 Senators who switched their votes between Monday and Thursday.

What can we do about it, now? What can we – the 80% of Americans who oppose Citizens United – do, now that the Senate GOP has blocked the amendment?

We can make it a campaign issue.

Scott Brown in 2010 Image by Wiki Commons

Scott Brown in 2010
Image by Wiki Commons

Starting here in New Hampshire, with Scott Brown… who, as Massachusetts Senator, helped block the DISCLOSE Act back in 2010. Here in New Hampshire, 69% of us want a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United. Even among Granite State Republicans, six out of 10 want a constitutional amendment. (Sen. Ayotte: who were you listening to, when you voted yesterday?) How do you think Scott Brown will vote on this, if he is elected in November?

We need to make Citizens United an issue in the 2014 campaigns.

There’s not all that much else we can do, at this point.

—–

If you want to wander through Leader McConnell’s campaign finance disclosure records – including $14.8 million in “large individual contributions” – click here. Remember: that’s just contributions to his official campaign.

“Outside spending” is much harder to track. So far, during this election season, McConnell has also “been boosted by $2.2 million in positive ads, mainly by the [U.S.] Chamber. Outside Republican PACs have already spent $7 million on ads attacking his Democratic challenger, Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes.”

A running tally of money that “non-profits” have spent on electioneering so far in the 2014 campaign is available here.

—–

More information about grassroots efforts to support the “Democracy for All” amendment is available here.

Tuesday’s NHLN story about the amendment is here.

Can We Overturn Citizens United? US Senate will vote again later this week.

Cash Bribe Politician Money
(FLICKR LIght Brigading

(FLICKR LIght Brigading)

Last night, the proposed constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United moved one tiny step forward. By a 79-18 vote, the US Senate invoked cloture to end a GOP filibuster of the measure.

That means the Senate will actually be able to vote on the amendment, probably later this week. But will it pass? One Hill reporter says, “The amendment is almost certain to fail.”

That’s because constitutional amendments require a two-thirds vote in the Senate – and until last night, the Senate GOP had been working in lockstep to defeat (or undermine) the measure. Every recorded Subcommittee and Committee vote was strictly along party lines: with the Democrats in favor of moving the proposal forward; and the Republicans trying to keep it from seeing the light of day.

So even though some GOP Senators (including NH Sen. Kelly Ayotte) voted to end the filibuster last night, it’s quite possible they will be pressured into voting against the amendment when it comes up for a vote.

If the Senate approves the amendment, it will still need to be approved by the House and ratified by two-thirds of the states. (Read more about the process here.)

Cash Bribe Politician MoneyWhat’s at stake: The Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission helped unleash unprecedented amounts of outside spending in the 2010 and 2012 election cycles. (Read more here.)

It has led to billionaires like Sheldon Adelson wielding incredible personal influence.

It led to Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell making a pilgrimage to a “secret strategy conference of conservative millionaire and billionaire donors hosted by the Koch brothers” where he promised to block debate on “all these gosh darn proposals” like increasing the minimum wage, extending unemployment benefits, and allowing students to refinance their college loans.

Now, Mitch McConnell may believe – as he told those prospective donors – that “all Citizens United did was to level the playing field for corporate speech…. We now have, I think, the most free and open system we’ve had in modern times. The Supreme Court allowed all of you to participate in the process in a variety of different ways.”

But America is seeing through that spin.  

Sixteen states have already endorsed the idea of a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United.

More than 500 local governments have already supported such a change. (Here in the Granite State, the list includes: Alstead; Amherst; Andover; Atkinson; Barnstead; Barrington; Bradford; Bridgewater; Chesterfield; Conway; Deerfield; Eaton; Exeter; Francestown; Henniker; Hampstead; Hudson; Kingston; Lee; Lyme; New Boston; Northwood; Rindge; Tilton; Wakefield; Webster; and Windham)

And the public? America is united on this issue. There is more agreement on overturning Citizens United than on just about anything else. 80% of Americans – and 72% of Republicans – oppose Citizens United. Here in New Hampshire, 69% of Granite Staters support a constitutional amendment like the one the Senate will finally be voting on. (Amendment supporters include six out of every 10 NH Republicans, and almost three-quarters of NH independents.  Senator Kelly Ayotte, are you listening?)

So this past weekend, the GOP tried out some new spins, trying to rationalize why they will be voting against something that eight out of 10 Americans support.

New Spin #1: It’s the Democrats! “‘Senate Democrats have long been funded by a group of billionaires bent on maintaining their power, yet they pretend to be outraged’ by the spending of the Koch brothers and their allies. …In advance of Monday’s floor debate, Senate Republican staffers circulated a chart showing the reach of Democracy Alliance…”

(No, this spin does not explain why Republicans want to maintain the Citizens United status quo. If the Republicans and the Koch Brothers are truly outraged by Democratic big-dollar contributors – why don’t they vote to approve the constitutional amendment?)

New Spin #2: Guns! (Yes, really.)

Here’s how the National Rifle Association described Citizens United: “The court declared unconstitutional the parts of the law that had been enacted for the explicit purpose of silencing the NRA and its members. Of course, the gun-banners in the White House and Congress opposed the decision because it thwarted their plans.”

Here’s how the NRA described the amendment to overturn Citizens United: “As the title of the proposed constitutional amendment suggests, S.J.R. 19 is intended to allow anti-gunners in Congress to silence their critics and to control the gun ‘debate.’”

(The actual title: “Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States relating to contributions and expenditures intended to affect elections.” And: while the NRA may be #5 on the list of non-profits that spend money on electioneering… the proposed amendment isn’t actually about guns. It’s about allowing Congress and the states to “regulate and set reasonable limits on the raising and spending of money by candidates and others to influence elections.” It’s about “protect[ing] the integrity of government and the electoral process.”)

Does the GOP really think either of these spins is going to stick any better than the “Citizens United leveled the playing field” spin?

Why is this such an important issue for those of us in the Labor movement?

Reason 1: “Whatever slice [of political contributions] you look at, business interests dominate, with an overall advantage over organized labor of about 15-to-1. Even among PACs – the favored means of delivering funds by labor unions – business has a more than 3-to-1 fundraising advantage. In soft money, the ratio is nearly 17-to-1.”

Reason 2: Mitch McConnell, shilling for those billionaire donors: “In late April, Senate Republicans, led by McConnell, successfully filibustered a bill to increase the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, a widely popular measure that would increase wages for at least 16.5 million Americans. Earlier in the year, McConnell also led a filibuster of a three-month extension of unemployment insurance to some 1.7 million Americans.”

Is our government really for sale to the highest bidder?

The 2014 campaigns are breaking fundraising records set in the 2012 and 2010 elections.

Isn’t it time to send this constitutional amendment to the states for a ratification vote?

163 Members of Congress Demand a Vote, Not Silence, to Prevent Gun Violence

Gun

Reps. Shea-Porter, Thompson Lead 163 House Members in Calling for a Vote on Gun Violence Prevention Legislation

WASHINGTON, DC – In the wake of recent shootings in Portland, Las Vegas, and Santa Barbara, Representatives Carol Shea-Porter (NH-01), a member of the House’s Gun Violence Prevention Task Force, and Task Force Chairman Mike Thompson (CA-05) led a letter to Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) signed by 163 Members of Congress demanding a vote on substantive legislation to address gun violence.

“Our nation has suffered at least 74 school shootings since the Sandy Hook massacre,” Shea-Porter, Thompson, and 161 of their colleagues wrote. “The factors allowing these rampages are no mystery: loopholes in the background check laws, straw purchases, restrictions on law enforcement, and gaps in our mental health system. Dozens of legislative proposals that address these factors have been introduced and await consideration. But despite wake-up call after wake-up call, a shameful tradition of Congressional inaction continues.”

“Moments of silence on the floor of the House are not enough.  The last thing these victims and their families need is further silence from this Congress. They deserve a vote,” they continued.

Recently on the floor of the House of Representatives, Shea-Porter called on Speaker Boehner to allow a vote on legislation to help prevent more deaths from senseless gun violence.

The Gun Violence Prevention Task Force, which is chaired by Thompson, released a comprehensive set of policy principles that will reduce gun violence and respect the Second Amendment.

Of those recommendations, one of the most important pieces is H.R. 1565, bipartisan legislation written by Reps. Thompson and Peter King (R-NY) and cosponsored by Rep. Shea-Porter, to strengthen and expand background checks. This legislation bolsters the Second Amendment rights of lawful gun owners and helps keep guns from criminals, terrorists, and the dangerously mentally ill.

Right now, a criminal in many states can buy a firearm at a gun show, over the internet, or through a newspaper ad because those sales don’t require a background check.  H.R. 1565 requires comprehensive and enforceable background checks on all commercial gun sales, including those at gun shows, over the Internet, or through classified ads, while providing reasonable exceptions for family and friends. Background checks would be conducted though a licensed dealer in the same manner as they have been for more than 40 years. The Thompson-King bill bans the creation of a federal registry and makes the misuse of records a felony, punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

“Congressional silence is not a sign of respect, but rather an institutional indictment. We must right this wrong. You must allow a vote on substantive legislation to address gun violence,” Shea-Porter, Thompson and others concluded in their letter.

Full text of the letter to Speaker John Boehner is below. The full list of signatories can be found here.

+++

June 26, 2014
Speaker John Boehner
Office of the Speaker
H-232, US Capitol
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Mr. Speaker:

We agree with you that we must honor the victims of the recent shootings in Portland, Las Vegas and Santa Barbara. But moments of silence on the floor of the House are not enough.  The last thing these victims and their families need is further silence from this Congress. They deserve a vote.

Our nation has suffered at least 74 school shootings since the Sandy Hook massacre. The factors allowing these rampages are no mystery: loopholes in the background check laws, straw purchases, restrictions on law enforcement, and gaps in our mental health system. Dozens of legislative proposals that address these factors have been introduced and await consideration. But despite wake-up call after wake-up call, a shameful tradition of Congressional inaction continues.

Gun violence has affected constituents in every Congressional district, and as their representatives, Members of Congress deserve the opportunity to vote on bills that would address this epidemic. 

Congressional silence is not a sign of respect, but rather an institutional indictment. We must right this wrong. You must allow a vote on substantive legislation to address gun violence.

Sincerely,

 

Granite Stater Talks To Small Business Subcommittee On Importance Of US Manufacturing

Annie Kuster

Kuster Introduces Windham Resident at U.S. House Small Business Subcommittee Hearing

Business analyst Shirley Mills testified about the importance of bringing manufacturing jobs back from overseas to strengthen the New Hampshire economy

Annie Kuster

Congresswoman Kuster welcomes Windham resident Shirley Mills to the U.S. House Small Business Subcommittee hearing

WASHINGTON, D.C.  – This afternoon, Congresswoman Annie Kuster (NH-02) introduced Windham resident Shirley Mills at a  House Subcommittee Hearing, where Mills testified on the importance of American-made manufacturing. The hearing was held by the U.S. House Small Business Subcommittee on Economic Growth, Tax and Capital Access.

Shirley Mills is a business analyst at the Boston Company who has done extensive research on how American-made manufacturing can strengthen our economy. During her testimony, she highlighted companies’ efforts to bring manufacturing jobs back from overseas, a practice commonly referred to as “reshoring.” Mills argued that bringing these jobs back home is not only a smart financial move for American companies, but it will also support badly needed job creation across the United States. She outlined the steps that must be taken for reshoring to continue on a large scale, and discussed regulatory measures Congress should support in order to encourage growth and job creation in the manufacturing sector.

“By supporting New Hampshire companies that are bringing jobs home from overseas, we can continue to grow our manufacturing sector and create good, middle class jobs for years to come,” said Congresswoman Kuster. “At today’s hearing, I was thrilled to introduce Ms. Mills, whose clear research demonstrates how American-made manufacturing can strengthen New Hampshire businesses and improve America’s economy overall. I sincerely thank her for sharing her expertise with us today.”

Ms. Mills highlighted how the “clustering” of industrial infrastructure can encourage manufacturers to bring jobs back to the United States.  To support clustering and improve the competitiveness of American manufacturing, Kuster is a cosponsor of the Revitalize American Manufacturing and Innovation Act, bipartisan legislation to authorize a network of centers of manufacturing innovation.

As a member of the House Small Business Committee, Kuster has prioritized efforts to foster job creation, grow the economy, and support New Hampshire’s manufacturing industry. She recently unveiled her Middle Class Jobs and Opportunity Agenda, a blueprint based on meetings with Granite State residents, families, business owners and others, that outlines common sense steps to help create jobs in New Hampshire and around the country. She has also supported a series of “Make It In America” proposals focused on reshoring jobs and reviving the U.S. manufacturing economy, and has fought to establish a Manufacturing Innovation Institute in New Hampshire.

At Armed Services Hearing Shea-Porter Reiterates Opposition to Base Relocation and Closure (BRAC)

Submarine enroute to Portsmouth Naval Shipyard
Submarine enroute to Portsmouth Naval Shipyard

Submarine enroute to Portsmouth Naval Shipyard

 

WASHINGTON, DC –During a House Armed Services Committee hearing this afternoon on the Navy’s FY 2015 budget request, Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter (NH-01) spoke directly to Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus about her opposition to additional rounds of Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC).

“I have the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in my district, and you know how famous they are for the great work they do…their record is absolutely wonderful,” Shea-Porter said. “My question is very simple. In considering a future BRAC, is the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in that equation at all? I believe their work is essential, and my question is, do you and does the Navy?”

Mabus noted that all of America’s Naval Shipyards, including Portsmouth do “incredibly good work.” He also noted that because the Navy has not been authorized to do a BRAC, he could not comment on how a potential BRAC evaluation would look.

Congresswoman Shea-Porter continues to believe that the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard is essential to our nation’s security.

“When you see the work that they’re doing and recognize how essential it is for national security, I hope that will get a full measure of consideration,” Shea-Porter added.

As a member of the House Armed Services Readiness Subcommittee, Shea-Porter helped pass a provision in the National Defense Authorization Act explicitly prohibiting additional rounds of BRAC. The legislation stated “nothing in this Act shall be construed to authorize an additional Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) round, and none of the funds appropriated pursuant to the authorization of appropriations contained in this Act may be used to propose, plan for, or execute an additional BRAC round.” That language is now federal law.

Portsmouth Naval Shipyard is one of four public shipyards in the United States, and it’s the only public Shipyard on the East Coast.

Senator Shaheen Introduces Bill To Help Students Manage Debt

SenJeanneShaheen

Shaheen’s legislation would give students access to comprehensive online database to manage debt and better navigate repayment 

SenJeanneShaheen

Senator Jeanne Shaheen
Image from WikiCommons

(Washington, DC) – In a new effort to help students better manage their debt burden, U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) introduced legislation today that will strengthen an existing federal student loan data system to give students more comprehensive access to and a better understanding of debt and repayment options. Shaheen’s proposal, the Simplifying Access to Student Loan Information Act, calls for the development of a central online portal that will allow students to review all their public and private student loans as well as repayment options in one place, which would in turn help students better manage, understand and repay their debt.

“While higher education is one of the best investments we can make to keep our country a magnet for jobs and economic opportunity, the soaring costs of higher education are pushing middle class families and students into debt,” Shaheen said. “For many Americans, student debt prevents them from buying a home, getting married, starting a family and pursuing career goals.”

“We need to not only make college more affordable and accessible, but better help students manage their costs and debts after they graduate,” Shaheen continued. “My proposal will give students in New Hampshire and across the country tools to help better manage repayment, know their options and get help when they need it.”

Nationally, students hold nearly $1.2 trillion in student debt, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and the Project on Student Debt estimates that 74 percent of New Hampshire students leave school carrying loan debt. In total, the group also estimates average debt for New Hampshire students is nearly $33,000. Shaheen’s legislation would help students manage their debt burden and navigate the borrowing and repayment processes with confidence.

Specifically, the Simplifying Access to Student Loan Information Act would amend the Higher Education Act and the Truth in Lending Act to expand the National Student Loan Data System to include comprehensive student loan information for both private and public student loans. Currently, only federal student loan information is available within the database. Shaheen’s proposal would create a virtual one-stop shop where students and borrowers can better manage their debt and gain easier, more comprehensive access to debt and repayment options. Additionally, the legislation Shaheen introduced today would require the Secretary of Education to establish a competitive five-year pilot program to encourage non-traditional, personalized outreach to student borrowers to encourage better communication, which would ultimately lead to the development of suggested best practices for reducing default, forbearance and deferment rates.

Throughout her career Shaheen has worked to make college more affordable and accessible, leading efforts to increase access to higher education for New Hampshire students and voting to maintain low interest rates for Stafford loans  and the Pay As You Earn repayment plan to help students and families manage college tuition. Shaheen’s legislation follows a recent call to the President, urging him to work with Congress on a plan to lower student debt.

The full text of the Simplifying Access to Student Loan Information Act is available here, and the following organizations, colleges and universities have endorsed Shaheen’s bill:

 

·         Colby Sawyer College

·         Community College System of New Hampshire

·         Dartmouth College

·         Franklin Pierce University

·         Granite State College

·         Keene State College

·         National Association for College Admission Counseling

·         New England Association for College Admission Counseling

·         New England College

·         New Hampshire Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators

·         New Hampshire College & University Council

·         New Hampshire Higher Education Assistance Foundation

·         New Hampshire Institute of Art

·         Plymouth State University

·         Rivier University

·         Saint Anselm College

·         Southern New Hampshire University

·         University of New Hampshire

 

What The F&@#: Issa Proposes End To Six Day Delivery To Save Military Retirees COLA’s

Image from the Muskegon Chronicle
http://www.mlive.com/news/muskegon/index.ssf/2010/03/no_saturday_mail_delivery_no_p.html
Image from the Muskegon Chronicle http://www.mlive.com/news/muskegon/index.ssf/2010/03/no_saturday_mail_delivery_no_p.html

Image from the Muskegon Chronicle

The depth of Congressman Darrell Issa’s distain for the unionized workers at the US Postal Service knows no bounds.  Now he is pitting the USPS against the US Military.

Government Executive reported this morning:

A new bill would undo the recent cuts made to certain military retirees’ pensions, and in exchange allow the U.S. Postal Service to end Saturday mail delivery.

Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, on Thursday proposed legislation that would restore full cost-of-living adjustments for young military retirees.”

To recap, the bi-partisan budget deal that everyone was giddy over last month made cuts to Cost of Living Adjustments (COLA) for veterans who retire after twenty years of service, but have not reached the full retirement age of 62.  To put this into context, this would be a person who could be as young as 38 years old, receiving a military pension, who would receive 1% less in a COLA increase than those retiree’s over the age of 62.

I am against cutting benefits to any worker who has done their time and completed their service after the fact.  That is not the case here.  This change means that these working age retirees will not get the full cost of living increase, which does not mean they are going to see their paychecks go down, as some are implying.  Also nowhere does it say that a retired veteran cannot get another job after they leave the military.  Just look at all the government contractors like Lockheed Martin and Raytheon, who routinely hire veterans as military specialists.

You know who else hires a ton of veterans, especially those who have been medically discharged?  The US Postal Service, that is who.  In 2007 the USPS employed over 680,000 people and of that 25% were veterans. (Note 8% of total workforce is listed as disabled veterans).

While that information is great to have, it is not the true point of this post.  The fact that Congressman Issa is, yet again, proposing to cut the Postal Service to five-day delivery is a sham.  He is trying to pull the wool over your eyes, by saying that eliminating Saturday delivery will save the government enough money to offset the retiree’s COLA cuts.

The fact is that the USPS does not take any money from the US Government.  The USPS is a completely self-funded operation, paid in full by the postage on the parcel.  The real issue the USPS is facing is the pre-funding mandate set forth by Congress in 2006.  That mandate requires the USPS to pre-fund all retiree benefits for the next 75 years before 2016.

Congressman Issa and the Postmaster General have used this mandate to make claims that the USPS is going bankrupt.  It is true the USPS cannot afford to pre-pay retiree benefits at 7-times (7X) the normal rate. What corporation could afford that?  They are using this as a way to push the USPS, and its unionized workforce out, and replace it with private companies like UPS and FedEx, who make more money for the 1% on Wall Street.   Let us not forget how UPS and FedEx botched holiday deliveries, while the slow and steady postal service delivered all their packages on time.

This legislation is the biggest shell game I have ever seen.  Instead of just reinstating the cuts to retiree’s, Congressman Issa is suggesting that we steal money from the USPS (which he claims is going bankrupt), and give it to these retiree’s.

If the USPS is failing, as Congressman Issa has said over and over, how exactly is stealing more money from them going to save it?

Rep. Peter DeFazio: "There's no substitute for a universal postal system. The private sector can't fill that gap."  WATCH: http://on.msnbc.com/1dWH1vi  Image from the ED Show

Rep. Peter DeFazio:
There’s no substitute for a universal postal system. The private sector can’t fill that gap.”
WATCH: http://on.msnbc.com/1dWH1vi
Image from the ED Show

Deportation, Physical Abuse, & Stolen Paperwork; What Will It Take For A Vote On Immigration?

Don't deport my mom

Don't deport my momEveryone is jumping up and down over the fact the House of Representative finally did something!  Yeah, they passed a bill!  The fact is that passing this budget is a big deal for a couple of reasons.

Passing this budget means that we will not be forced into another government shutdown.  The budget funds the government for the next two years.  This also means that Congress will not be jumping from crisis to crisis every three months.

Passing this budget also means that the house can actually put aside their ideologies and pass legislation is a bi-partisan way.  Speaker John Boehner did something nobody expected him to, and chastised the right-wing conservative groups for trying to block this budget.   The question is whether or not Speaker Boehner will continue this rebellion and start to actually pass a few bills in the house.

I know just where Boehner can start, comprehensive immigration reform.  You know the bill that already passed the Senate with strong bi-partisan support, and is just waiting for the House to pass it.  The Speaker has said on multiple occasions that passing immigration reform is a major part of the Republican agenda and it should be done.

Sadly the House of Representative closed up shop for the year. They went back home to their districts without even discussing immigration.  Now we must wait until early January until we see if John Boehner will bring the bill to the floor for a vote.

“Our immigration system desperately needs reform. Our broken system puts significant strain on our communities. It also hurts American workers and legal immigrants, not to mention illegal immigrants, whose families live on the margins of our society,” said Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter (D-NH).

That means we will have to wait about 25-30 days before the House reconvenes and a vote can be held.  In those 30 days over 30,000 aspiring citizens will be deported.  30,000 families ripped apart.  On average 1,100 aspiring  citizens are deported every day.

To add further insult to these people who are chasing their own version of the American Dream, the Immigration Policy Center reports that immigrants are being mistreated while in US custody.

“Overall, we find that the physical and verbal mistreatment of migrants is not a random, sporadic occurrence but, rather, a systematic practice. One indication of this is that 11% of deportees report some form of physical abuse and 23% report verbal mistreatment while in U.S. custody”. (Emphasis added)

If we put these figures into action that would mean that in the next 30 days while Congress is on vacation and not passing immigration reform, 3,000 immigrants will be physically abused during their deportation.

As if physically abusing immigrants already in custody is not enough, it is now being reported that over “one-third (1/3) of all immigrants taken into US custody had their belonging taken from them and not returned.”  Some items may be trivial, but not all of them. “Among deportees who were carrying Mexican identification cards, 1 out of every 4 had their card taken and not returned. The taking of possessions, particularly identity documents, can have serious consequences and is an expression of how dysfunctional the deportation system is.

The Immigration Policy Center continues:

 Our study finds that migrants processed through Operation Streamline, or held in detention for a week or longer, are most likely to have their possessions taken and not returned.”

How can this be happening?  Just because they are not American citizens does not mean that the US Government can trample their rights.  This is just another reason we need to pass immigration reform.  We must put an end to the daily deportation of these aspiring  Americans.

To bring attention to the need for real immigration reform advocates began a ‘Fast for Families’ on the National Mall.  Many of the faster’s are well known in the ongoing fight for immigration reform, including Eliseo Medina.  The Fast For Families includes bio’s of all of the faster’s, and this is what they said about Eliseo:

Eliseo Medina is described by the Los Angeles Times as “one of the most successful labor organizers in the country” and was named one of the “Top 50 Most Powerful Latino Leaders” in Poder Magazine. Medina served as the International Secretary-Treasurer of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) for 17 years (1996 – 2013)

They began their fast with a declaration.

What is our faith, our words and our history worth if not translated into action, sacrifice and redemption? The world has witnessed the beliefs and teachings of Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr. and Cesar Chavez translate in courageous acts of civil disobedience and nonviolent resistance to gain justice for a community of people who were underserved and discriminated against. We now humbly attempt to follow the examples of these great teachers and the teachings of Scripture to align our own hearts with the heart of God, who desires justice for immigrants and immediate justice for the 11 million undocumented immigrant brothers and sisters within our borders. Our faith requires nothing less. Today begins our vow to abstain from sustenance.”

(Read the full Fast for Citizenship: The Moral Obligation to Pass Immigration Reform)

These brave men and women have been fasting for over 35 days now.  They have received visits from many supporters including President and Mrs Obama, Rep John Lewis (D-MS), Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL), Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL), and many more.  To bring more attention to their fast, members sent multiple letters to Speaker Boehner asking him to bring the bill up for a vote.

After 30 days of surviving on nothing but water, the fasters have handed the torch over to a new group of fasters.  Congressional Representatives and union leaders quickly stepped up to fast for immigration reform. Every day since, members of Congress and immigration advocates have come forward to fast on the National Mall in their place.

How many families will have to be ripped apart by deportation before Speaker John Boehner will bring an immigration bill to the floor of the house?

How many people will be physically abused, and have their property and identification cards stolen from them before Speaker Boehner will bring an immigration bill to the floor?

What does it take to convince the Speaker that we need immigration reform now!

Head of Largest Federal Employee Union Blames Congressional Policies for Low Morale at Government Agencies

AFGE Logo 2

Federal employees feel “devalued, dispirited and discouraged” due to budget cutbacks, AFGE leader says 

WASHINGTON – Federal employee morale is at an all-time low according to a new governmentwide survey, and the leader of the nation’s largest federal employee union faulted Congress for pushing policies that favor spending cuts over economic growth.

“Pay freezes, furloughs and budget cutbacks are the reasons why federal employee morale is in the dumps, and lawmakers who have been leading the charge to slash government spending with abandon have no one to blame but themselves,” American Federation of Government Employees National President J. David Cox Sr. said.

A report released today by the Partnership for Public Service, “Best Places to Work in the Federal Government,” says 57.8 percent of federal employees are satisfied in their jobs, which is the lowest it’s been since the survey began in 2003. The Partnership report is based on the Office of Personnel Management’s annual survey of the government’s more than 2 million workers.

Federal employees have had their pay frozen for an unprecedented three consecutive years, and many lost a week of wages this summer due to sequestration-related furloughs. New federal employees are being required to pay substantially more toward their retirement to help pay down the U.S. deficit. Meanwhile, budget cuts due to sequestration have resulted in hiring freezes, cutbacks in employee training and other reductions that have impaired service delivery to the public at many agencies.

“Politicians have been telling federal employees for years that they’re not worth receiving a fair wage, that their jobs aren’t worth funding, that the services they deliver to the American people aren’t as important as continuing to subsidize Wall Street corporations with lucrative tax breaks,” Cox said.

“Should it come as any surprise that federal employees feel devalued, dispirited and discouraged? Federal employees join the government to serve their country and give back to the community, but some politicians have turned them into the enemy and made them the scapegoat for all of the country’s problems.”

Rather than targeting federal employees and services for harmful cuts, Congress should focus on reforming our broken tax system and investing in programs and projects that will create good-paying jobs and restore the U.S. as an economic leader in the 21st century, Cox said.

“Slashing government spending for vital programs that benefit millions of Americans won’t create a single new job, and going after the pay and benefits of federal employees won’t make the government more efficient,” Cox said. “Hopefully this report will serve as a wake-up call to members of Congress.”

Senator Ayotte says (unofficially): Balance the budget on the backs of Federal Workers, not Military Veterans

New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte (AP Photo/Cheryl Senter)

Balance the budget on the backs of…..

New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte (AP Photo/Cheryl Senter)

New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte (AP Photo/Cheryl Senter)

This week the Senate will vote on the bi-partisan budget deal that was crafted by Rep Paul Ryan and Senator Patty Murray.   Everyone has a bone to pick with this budget, but that will not going to keep it from passing.

The budget bill has already passed the House and there was opposition from both sides of the aisle.  The bill is now moving to the Senate where New Hampshire’s own, Senator Kelly Ayotte, joined a few of her fellow Republicans to oppose the budget bill.

From the Washington Post:

“In a joint statement last week, Sens. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) said they cannot support the legislation because it “disproportionately and unfairly targets those who have put their lives on the line to defend our country.”

“The budget agreement, crafted by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), would reduce cost-of-living adjustments for working-age military retirees by 1 percent starting in December 2015, although the existing rate would apply again once former service members reach age 62.”

The proposed change is projected to save the government $6 billion, but Ayotte said it “pays for more federal spending on the backs of our active duty and military retirees.”

Wait a minute; Senator Ayotte is opposing the budget because it takes 1% or $6 billion dollars away from the Veterans retirement program that only affects Veterans who retire prior to age 62.  That is right, that is what she is opposing.

My question is why is she not opposing the budget over the $6 billion dollars that federal workers are going to have to make up with higher retirement contributions?  The Association of Federal Government Employees (AFGE) released a statement opposing the bill for just that reason.

“AFGE rejects the notion that there should be a trade-off between funding the programs to which federal employees have devoted their lives, and their own livelihoods.”

Where was Senator Ayotte’s opposition when the non-military federal employees were getting beat down by Congress?

“Unions and employee groups have been fighting the pension change. They say federal workers have already “sacrificed over $113 billion for deficit reduction since 2011″ — the figure being based on 3 years without a pay hike and the bigger contribution new hires must put toward pensions.” (Money.CNN)

She was right there voting with the Party to continue to balance the budget on the backs of federal workers, just not the military veterans.

The truth is that this ‘strong opposition’ is nothing more than grandstanding by a Senator who has become the darling of the Republican Party.  Her opposition engages the hard right Republicans who already oppose the budget because it increases spending.  She can use her opposition to fundraise from those same far right Republicans.

The truth is this budget bill will pass, even with Senator Ayotte’s opposition.  She will not be alone in her ‘Nay’ vote for this budget but with the Democratic majority in the Senate, the bill will pass.  Basically it is a free vote for her, to FAKE – I mean – MAKE a stand against the overspending Democrats who are out to harm the beloved military veterans.

With such strong opposition to proposed cuts to our veterans, you would expect Senator Ayotte to be demanding for restoration of all the cuts made to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

Accordingly to a report out this week from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, approximately 900,000 veterans are currently dependent, in whole or part, on food stamp benefits to care for their themselves and their families.” (Forbes 10/30/13)

Not one state in the entire union has less than 2,200 veterans who are collecting food stamps under the SNAP program this month. (Read the full story about Veterans and SNAP benefits here) 

Senator, don’t tell us your outraged at these cuts to the veterans pensions, while you do nothing for the nearly 1 million veterans who are living off food stamps.  I respect and honor the service these men and women have done for out country, but you need to be consistent in your outrage.

Are they heroes who cannot afford cuts to their retirement, or are they ‘one of those people’ who are living off food stamps?

The truth is, they are both and Senator Ayotte, you should remember that the next time they want to make budget cuts to all of theses social programs.

Homeless VeteransUPDATED: 12-17-13

After I published this story, Senator Ayotte was interviewed for a story in the Union Leader where she stated:
the $6.3 billion could be found elsewhere in the budget, possibly by changing eligibility requirements for food stamps.
So it seems I was right, she does not seem to care about the people who are living in poverty or working for the government, only the working age retired Veterans who make great photo opportunities.

  • Advertisement

  • Advertisement