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Seniors Group And NH Congressional Delegation United Against ACA Repeal

The Alliance for Retired Americans join with Congresswomen Shea-Porter and Kuster in opposing the repeal of the Affordable Care Act.

This week, Republicans in the US House took the first bold step to strip millions of Americans of their healthcare by repealing the Affordable Care Act.

Repealing the signature healthcare law would have significant impacts on all working people and seniors. Americans would see a massive jump in prescription drug prices as the ACA closed the “donut hole” in Medicare. People with pre-existing condition could once again be discriminated against leaving them unable to acquire any insurance at all. Families would no longer be able to cover their children up to age 25 and preventative care for women would no longer be covered.

Richard Fiesta, Executive Director of the Alliance for Retired Americans, released the following:

“With today’s vote, 227 members of the House of Representatives started the process of eliminating many valuable and affordable health care benefits that American retirees rely on.

From free wellness checks and preventive screenings to lowering prescription drug prices for Medicare beneficiaries, to eliminating pre-existing conditions and limiting what older Americans not yet eligible for Medicare can be charged for insurance, the ACA has made health care better and more affordable for millions.

Depending on the actions of the House Committees that will take the next steps, all of these benefits are now in jeopardy.

The burden for developing a replacement plan that improves health care and keeps it affordable is on these members. Retirees are watching and will loudly defend the guaranteed Medicare and Medicaid health care benefits they have earned through a lifetime of hard work.

The price for health care in America is likely to rise quickly, to the detriment of millions of workers and retirees.”

The New Hampshire Congressional delegation is united in opposition to repealing the ACA.

“Today’s vote by House Republicans sets in motion a dangerous and irresponsible plan to strip health care coverage from millions of Americans, including 118,000 people in New Hampshire,” said Congresswoman Shea-Porter. “They broke their promise to American families – there is no replacement. New Hampshire families deserve better: Congress should work to build on the progress we’ve made so far, making health care more accessible and more affordable, instead of going back to the days before the ACA, when thousands of Granite Staters were locked out of coverage.”

“I am also profoundly disappointed that the Republican leadership in the House rejected my attempt to protect seniors and those with disabilities. Speaker Ryan is using procedural gimmicks to force repeal legislation through the House and destroy what we have accomplished: coverage for people with preexisting conditions, Medicaid expansion, adequate coverage for women and seniors, and no-cost preventive health care screenings and services. Protections for millions of Americans are being jeopardized for political purposes,” Shea-Porter added.

Repealing the Affordable Care Act would strip coverage from 118,000 people in New Hampshire, and 13,000 people in the state could lose their jobs.

In New Hampshire, the ACA:

  • Requires insurance providers to cover the 600,000 New Hampshire residents with preexisting conditions
  • Lowered the uninsured rate by 43%
  • Saved seniors an average of $1,047 on prescriptions
  • Provided substance abuse treatment services for 7,500 people
  • Covered 9,000 young adults on their parents’ health insurance

Shea-Porter offered her own amendment to protect the most vulnerable in our communities. Shea-Porter’s amendment stated that nothing in the Budget Resolution should allow for the denial of care based on patient age or disability.

Unfortunately, the Rules Committee refused to allow the House to vote on this common-sense proposal to protect our seniors and those with disabilities.

Shea-Porter has been a fierce advocate for keeping and improving the health care law. She successfully led the fight to close the Medicare Part D doughnut hole and save seniors thousands on prescription drug costs. While the House has voted repeatedly to destroy the law’s critical protections for all Americans, Shea-Porter has consistently voted to improve the law instead.

“It’s disappointing that Republicans in Congress have moved ahead with efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act without regard for the negative impact it will have on millions of Americans and thousands of Granite Staters,” said Congresswoman Kuster. “I’ve expressed my willingness to work across the aisle to make improvements to the law and foster a system that works for everyone. In the past, I have joined my Republican colleagues to make changes to the ACA, and I firmly believe that is the course we should follow.

“If the ACA is repealed, seniors on Medicare would see the costs of their prescription drugs increase. The Republican budget would also defund Planned Parenthood, reducing access to healthcare for thousands of Granite State women. In New Hampshire, one-in-ten of our friends and neighbors are benefiting from the ACA, and Medicaid expansion has improved access to mental health and addiction recovery services. Young adults are able to stay on their families’ plans and those with preexisting conditions cannot be denied coverage. We simply can’t jeopardize this progress,” Kuster added.

Kuster joined 30 of her colleagues in a letter to Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, offering to be constructive partners in improving the law.

The repeal process is far from over and the fight has only begun.  We must stand united against that assault on working people and the Republicans plan to strip vital healthcare options from millions of Americans.

Republicans In The U.S. House Push A New Union-Busting Bill As A Campaign Prop

Buckle up brother and sisters.  Republicans in the U.S. House are trying to pass legislation to steal away your right to due process. By eliminating due process, workers lose their collectively bargained protections against wrongful termination.

Rep. Todd Rokita

Rep. Todd Rokita

This week The Hill reported:

“Rep. Todd Rokita, R- Ind., introduced the Promote Accountability and Government Efficiency Act to turn all federal employees into at-will workers shortly before the House recessed so members could campaign in their home districts.”

That’s right. He wants to turn all federal workers into at-will employees giving them the right to fire workers “at will.”

“The at-will portion of the measure would only apply to new employees hired one year after its enactment, and allow agency heads to fire workers ‘without notice or right to appeal.’”

This would eviscerate federal workers current, collectively bargained, due process procedures that require evidence and third-party review, prior to termination.  Due process is just a form of checks and balance to ensure that workers are not being arbitrarily fired because the manager has an axe to grind.  It requires that management show documentation of poor performance or of unacceptable behavior.

The bill would also completely eliminate “official time” that allows both sides to work collaboratively to resolve issues.

“By passing a law to cut official time for government workers, Congress would eliminate the ability of federal employees to represent all of their coworkers (those who pay dues and those who don’t) while in an official duty status,” said AFGE in opposition to previous attacks on official time. 

“Official time gives workers the ability to resolve disputes efficiently so employees can get back to work. It protects whistleblowers from retaliation, and helps implement new technology and other innovations to solve workplace problems.”

divided-we-begThis is exactly what Republicans want.  They want to bust federal unions who have been organizing and growing over the last few years. If they can bust unions at the federal level, it will only be a matter of time before identical legislation is passed in our State House’s taking away the rights of all public employees.

Republicans will use this bill in their campaign speeches and rallies, while raking in donations from their anti-union, corporate campaign funders.

Remember it was President Reagan’s mass firing of 13,000 air traffic controllers that empowered the private industry to oppose unions and fire workers, instead of resolving contract disputes.

We do not need another federal lead assault on working people that will end with the destruction of all unions, public and private.

 

 

Congressional House Members Split On Omnibus Bill

 

This week has been very busy in Washington as Congress created yet another manufactured crisis with threats to shut down the government over a divisive continuing resolution.

The good news is that, for now, the government will remain open as the House passed a omnibus bill to fund the government for another year. The House also passed a two-day continuing resolution allowing the Senate time to pass the House bill. The omnibus bill created a whirlwind of controversy with numerous amendments that outraged millions of Americans. There is a very small possibility that the Senate will amend or reject the House bill over these controversial amendments.

There are three main amendments that drew the biggest scrutiny and threatened to kill the bill.

1) The Wall Street Rollback

House Republicans added an amendment written by Citi Group stripping regulations on derivatives trading. This is just another handout to the big banks on Wall Street, putting the taxpayers on the hook for billions – or trillions – of dollars.

“TBTF (Too Big To Fail Banks) are now worth $53 trillion,” wrote Liz Iacobucci “Do the math. If there is another Wall Street meltdown; and another bailout; and this next bailout also requires the government to borrow an amount equal to one-third of what TBTF institutions are worth now…”

This provision drew strong opposition from the AFL-CIO:

“The AFL-CIO strongly opposes efforts to make it easier for too-big-to-fail banks to use taxpayer-backed funds to make risky bets in the derivatives markets,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka.

2) The Pension Reform Amendment

Labor groups were outraged that Republicans added an amendment that would drastically reduce pension benefits to millions of retirees.

“Today we have seen the ugly side of political backroom dealings as thousands of retirees may have their pensions threatened by proposed legislation that reportedly includes massive benefit cuts,” said Jimmy Hoffa, General President of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. “Thousands of hard-working men and women deserve better than having their pensions slashed by a bill that can’t stand on its own merit.”

This provision would allow multi-employer pension plans to reduce payouts to retirees from and average of $50,000 a year to approximately $15,000 a year. The “unfunded liability” is largely due to the massive losses these plans took during the last two Wall Street crashes. But the underfunding will not become an issue for at least another ten years – so there is no need to rush this amendment through on a piece of must-pass legislation.

“Changing ERISA to allow cuts in promised benefits is a ticket to poverty and dependence on government asisstance,” IAM International President R. Thomas Buffenbarger wrote members of Congress last month.

“They’ve sneaked this in,” said Dave Erickson of Isanti, Minnesota. “They don’t have the guts to come out and tell us they’re taking our money. It makes me sick. The pension payment was something I counted on.”

(Read also: Another WIN for Wall Street… and a huge LOSS for the middle class)

3) Campaign Finance Reform

Campaign finance reformers were outraged when the bill was amended to allow millionaires and billionaires to push even more money into political campaigns. Currently a donor can give $32,000 a year to the party of their choice. The Omnibus spending amendment will allow wealthy donors to donate $777,600 per year or $1,555,200 in a two-year cycle.

“Another (amendment) would raise campaign contribution limits, giving a small number of wealthy individuals even more leverage to drown out our middle class voices,” stated Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter, who voted against the Omnibus bill.

Neither party is taking credit for the campaign finance amendment that will benefit both parties. It is a win for the fundraisers – but a loss for working families, who are losing their voice in Washington to big money donors.

In a very close 219-206 vote the Omnibus bill did pass the House. The bill saw many Representatives from both parties oppose their own party leaders with their votes. Progressives were angered to see that 57 Democrats decided to support the Republican bill in spite of the “poison pills” in the bill.

The Congressional Representatives in my home state were split in their votes on the Omnibus bill. Both voiced their support for keeping the government open and stated their opposition to these amendments; however, they reached different decisions when it came time to vote.

“Of course Congress had to keep the government open, but it should have been done by passing a Continuing Resolution that funded the government, but didn’t contain these harmful provisions. I strongly opposed the CROmnibus bill, which would hurt working Americans by allowing big-money bailouts for banks and rolling back already-inadequate campaign finance laws,” said Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter.

“In 2008, I voted against the bank bailouts and for policies that saved us from a depression. I am deeply concerned that this bill calls for a taxpayer-funded bailout for irresponsible institutions if they get themselves in trouble again. The bailout provision is just one of a number of special-interest victories in this bill. Another would raise campaign contribution limits, giving a small number of wealthy individuals even more leverage to drown out our middle class voices. Putting American taxpayers on the hook and gutting campaign finance laws is unacceptable, so I voted no,” concluded Shea-Porter.

“While I remain concerned about certain aspects of the so-called “CRomnibus,” including a troublesome campaign finance provision that increases the donation-limits for party conventions and political parties, I believe that first and foremost it is our responsibility as Members of Congress to work across the aisle to keep the government running,” stated Congresswoman Annie Kuster. “Last year’s government shutdown was devastating for Granite State families; it put approximately 800,000 Americans out of work and wasted tens of millions of taxpayer dollars. Congress should never allow politics to get in the way of doing what’s right for our constituents at home, so I’m pleased Democrats and Republicans were able to come together to pass this legislation and provide the certainty our country needs moving forward into the new year.”

I have – and will continue to – support Congresswoman Annie Kuster (and the other 57 Democrats); however, I completely disagree with her on this vote. I share her optimism that our elected representatives can put aside their partisan party politics and do what is needed for working families; however, this bill is not one of those opportunities. This bill will decimate what is left of our campaign finance regulations, and put the Wall Street gamblers in charge of our economy once again, using my taxes to hedge their risky bets.

If these 57 Democrats had voted against the bill, the Republicans would have had no choice but to remove these controversial amendments and offer the bill up for another vote. The Republican leadership knew the bill would not pass without Democratic support because the ultra-right wing (67 in all) planned to vote against it as well.

 *               *             *           *          *               *

Editor’s Notes:

Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter’s strong leadership and dedication to working families will be greatly missed in Congress over the next two years. I hope she will consider running for the CD01 seat again in 2016, or even run against Senator Kelly Ayotte for a seat in the Senate.

 

There was one other little known amendment that was slipped into the omnibus bill that would reduce the mandatory rest periods for truck drivers – against Transportation Secretary Foxx’s strong opposition. The amendment reversed the required rest period allowing truckers to drive up to 82 hours a week.

Read more about this amendment, on Bloomberg.

AFT Pres. Weingarten Praises Senate Passage Of The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, Calls For Action From US House

WASHINGTON—Statement of AFT President Randi Weingarten on the Senate’s bipartisan passage of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act:

“During a time of unprecedented partisan gridlock in Washington, today the U.S. Senate passed a bipartisan bill that will extend the ladder of opportunity to middle-class workers and families by addressing one of the most pressing challenges facing this country—training the American workforce for the 21st-century economy.

“Our new economy continues to change, and our workers must too. As we continue to dig out from the Great Recession, America has an urgent need to educate, train and retrain workers so they can compete for good jobs. This bill will empower young people, the disabled, the long-term unemployed and those barely getting by on hourly wages, to become economically self-sufficient.

“The American people expect leadership out of Washington, and today members of the Senate proved they could put their differences aside to advocate on behalf of the middle class and stand with our nation’s workers. It’s time for the House of Representatives to show the same commitment and pass the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act immediately.”

The Rules change that could end gridlock in the US House

Record dysfunction in Congress: it’s NOT just the Senate, and NOT just the filibuster.

Republican extremists in the House have also been using parliamentary tricks to block legislation – including bills that had bipartisan support and would have passed if our elected Representatives were actually allowed to vote.

“The use of ‘closed rules’ has excluded most House members from full participation in the legislative process,” Rep. Louise Slaughter, ranking Democrat on the House Rules Committee, wrote earlier this week.

“Under a closed rule, no amendments are allowed on the House floor. As a result, House Republicans are able to pursue a politically driven agenda without allowing commonsense amendments that could achieve bipartisan compromise.  This approach has also empowered the most extreme members of the House to pursue narrow policy goals at all costs.”

Like, say, the government shutdown.

“On Sept. 30 — the eve of the government shutdown — Republicans on the House Rules Committee changed the rule so only House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) could call up a Senate-passed clean funding bill — a bill that has the votes to pass the House and would end the shutdown, if it were given a vote.”

One man, standing in the way of a vote that impacts millions of Americans.  (Remind you of anything?  Such as: then-Senator Scott Brown single-handedly blocking an extension of unemployment benefits, back in 2010?  The Senate couldn’t vote until they added an extension of Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthy.)

This is what’s REALLY wrong with Congress:  our elected Representatives aren’t being allowed to vote on legislation that has bipartisan support.

GOP leadership is using the “closed rule” process to keep the House from passing legislation.  Last year was the most “closed” year in House history.  “In fact, the House GOP passed as many closed rules in a single week in October as during the entire last year of Rep. Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) speakership.”

The Senate is finally reforming the filibuster.

Isn’t it time for the House to reform the “closed rule” process?

The NH AFL-CIO Hosts Annual Labor Day Breakfast (Video’s of speeches)

NHAFLCIO breakfast 10The struggle and successes of New Hampshire workers was the basis of the this year’s Labor Day breakfast hosted by the NH AFL-CIO.

The event opened with short and fiery speech from NH AFL-CIO President Mark MacKenzie. He started the morning off by reminding everyone of the connection between labor unions and the community.  Reflecting on the anniversary of the March on Washington, MacKenzie highlighted how we defeated Right To Work for less and the rule of Bill O’Brien.  We also worked as a community to elect Maggie Hassan and flip the NH House.  MacKenzie talked about the dream that car wash workers and McDonalds workers have of a higher minimum wage, a living wage enabling workers to live a decent life. Everyone deserves an opportunity to live the American Dream: to have a good job, a pension, and decent healthcare.

MacKenzie also addressed the attacks on voting rights across this country.   He said “When people wake up in this country, they have a dream that they can go to the polls without harassment. Voter rights is still an issue in this nation and we have to put this behind us.  Everyone should have the right to vote.

After President MacKenzie, we heard from Governor Maggie Hassan.  Her speech was a list of all that we have accomplished since she took office.  Unlike other some other Governors (for instance, Scott Walker), Governor Hassan admires and respects our dedicated public employees.

“You make up the highly skilled workforce that attracts innovative businesses and allows them to succeed. You are the ones who make our communities strong and protect the well-being of our people.” 

She also focused on the issue of mis-classification of workers.  “We must continue to enforce existing laws to prevent the mis-classification of workers, so that workers receive the full benefits and protections they deserve.”

After an introduction that included a long and distinguished list of her accomplishments, we heard from NH’s senior Senator, Jeanne Shaheen.

“It is wonderful to be with all of you to celebrate the enormous contribution that working men and women and organized labor have made to build a strong New Hampshire.”

She spoke about the obstructionism that fills the US Senate.  The GOP has been blocking every one of President Obama’s nominees.  She said she still would like to see the filibuster rule changed.

Sen. Shaheen also spent a few minutes on the subject of Syria.  When she returns to Washington, she will listen to classified briefings and be part of the decision about what our country should do.

Congresswoman Annie Kuster also addressed the crowd.  The last time she was at the Breakfast, she was campaigning for New Hampshire’s Second District seat.  Now she is the sitting Congresswoman representing the largest geographical portion of the state.  She took a moment to thank the people in the room who helped elect her.

“I want to thank all of our friends in labor. It is very clear to me that I would not be standing here without each and every one of you.”

She also talked about her ‘Congress in your company’ campaign, that is working to connect Congress with local businesses and manufacturers, in a effort to strengthen our ‘Made in America’ brand.

Just before we ate Reverand Gail Kinney offered a prayer.  Rev. Kinney is an ordained minister from South Danbury, as well as a dedicated union member (UAW) and long time activist.

Her blessing for workers is so strong and powerful that I cannot begin to tell you about it, just watch it for yourself!

Below are a few random images from the event.  All photos and video were taken by Matt Murray.

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AFSC Says Senate Immigration Bill Much Less Than Meets the Eye

Bill’s narrow path to citizenship still sustains human rights hardships

CONCORD, NEW HAMPSHIRE — The American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) finds the Senate immigration bill passed today “offers much less than it should, and at great sacrifice to quality of life for all US residents.”

The bill creates a narrow path to citizenship for some immigrants and makes modest progress on some worker rights issues, the Quaker organization said.  “But the dramatic expansion of current failed policies make it a far cry from the just and humane reforms that immigrant communities, faith, labor and advocacy groups have been calling for,” commented staff for the organization’s New Hampshire Program.

“The Senate bill makes it possible for some share of undocumented people currently living in the U.S. to embark on a path toward legalization. But  it would not end the current cruel, costly and inefficient system of detention and deportation, and it provides for astounding investments in the border militarization industrial complex – meaning billions for the contractors and continuing crises for people on both sides of the border,” said Maggie Fogarty, who coordinates the AFSC’s New Hampshire Economic Justice Project.    

“The path to legalization is a precarious one, likely to leave many people behind,” commented Arnie Alpert, AFSC’s New Hampshire Coordinator.  Under the terms of the Senate bill, many commonplace situations—such as a period greater than 60 days of unemployment during the ten year provisional period—will make immigrants ineligible for Legal Permanent Residency, he said.

“Making the highly flawed E-Verify system a requirement for all employers is a recipe for further exploitation and marginalization of immigrant workers and people of color,” said Fogarty, who coordinates AFSC’s national Campaign for Humane Immigration Policies.

Fogarty also noted that the bill’s original provisions for border militarization and other enforcement programs were “already excessive.”  Despite hearing directly from border communities about the impacts of living in a militarized area, Senate amendments added more money for “‘border security’ measures that will make border communities less secure,” she added.

With the immigration debate shifting to the House of Representatives, the AFSC implores Representatives to adopt compassionate, effective immigration policies, grounded in the following principles:

 

•           Develop humane economic policies to reduce forced migration.

•           Protect the labor rights of all workers.

•           Develop a quick path to legal permanent residency and a clear path to citizenship.

•           Respect the civil and human rights of immigrants.

•           Demilitarize the U.S.-Mexico border.

•           Make family reunification a top priority.

•           Ensure that immigrants and refugees have access to services.

AFSC detailed its recommendations in A New Path,  which outlines policy priorities for immigration reform that protects the human rights of all.  The New Path principles are derived from nine decades of work with immigrant communities, whose voices guide AFSC’s work on immigration policies.

From its origins working with civilians affected by war in Europe during World War One, AFSC has decades of experience working with people who have left their homes due to violence, discrimination, and economic desperation.

For more on AFSC’s immigrant rights work, visit http://afsc.org/project/immigrant-rights and follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

The American Friends Service Committee is a Quaker organization that includes people of various faiths who are committed to social justice, peace and humanitarian service. Its work is based on the belief in the worth of every person and faith in the power of love to overcome violence and injustice.

Overtime vs. Comp Time: US House Pushes To Take Away Overtime Pay

Congresswoman Martha Roby (R-AL)

Congresswoman Martha Roby (R-AL)

This week the US House passed legislation to strike down advances made by unions and workers for decades.  Through collective bargaining workers have made significant advances in the areas of time off and overtime pay. The US House, led by their Tea Party Speaker John Boehner, want to take that away.

On Wednesday May 8th, the US House passed HR 1406. The aptly named ‘Working Families Flexibility Act of 2013‘ or aka the ‘Work More for Less Pay Act’.  The bill would effectively allow employers to pay workers in compensatory time off in lieu of overtime.  The proponents of the bill say this would allow workers the ability to bank time gained by working overtime to be used at a later date.

Rep Martha Roby (R-AL) introduced the bill by stating:

“Talk to just about any working mom and dad and they’ll tell you they need more time. They need just one more hour in the day to be able to take care of responsibilities and make life work. We can’t legislate another hour in the day, but we can help working Americans better balance their time by removing unnecessary federal restrictions on comp time in the private sector.”

I would beg to differ on this.  One of the reasons that people do not have enough time in the day is because their level of productivity is continually to being pushed higher and higher.  Now with the invention of smartphones workers are spending more and more of their ‘free time’ to answer phone calls and emails.   CBS News in Chicago highlighted a case in court right now that would force employers to pay workers for time spent answering emails and phone calls after hours. However that is a completely different story.

HR 1406 is said to give freedom to the worker, in reality it saves the employer money by not having to pay out mandatory time and a half overtime rates.  The bill also does not guarantee the employee the right to take time off when they actually need it.

A senior economist for the Center for Economic and Policy Research writes, “Its major effect would be to hamstring workers — likely increasing overtime hours for those who don’t want them and cutting pay for those who do.” (TNDP.ORG)

NH Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter (D-NH) opposes this legislation in part due to the  lack of language allowing the employee to use the time for personal appointments.

“Giving up overtime pay is a big deal for workers, and in return they aren’t even guaranteed they’ll get to use their comp time when they really need it,” Shea-Porter said.  “This is not flexibility for workers. It’s less pay for workers. I urge Speaker Boehner to bring bills to the floor that actually help middle class families by creating jobs and ending sequestration.”

In fact, Congresswoman Shea-Porter offered an amendment to HR 1406, that was crushed by the GOP, that would  not allow employers to deny workers from using ‘comp time’ to attend:

  • Attend a medical appointment
  • Care for a sick child or family member
  • For veterans, to attend counseling or rehabilitation appointments for injuries suffered in combat.

On the floor of the House Congressman Steve Cohen (D-TN) said “this is one of the saddest days this House of Representatives has ever seen“.

Working families are struggling to pay their bills. Too many are living paycheck to paycheck, and now they want to steal more money out of their paychecks.  For some people overtime pay is what is keeping their heads above water, and this would push millions of working families into a deeper hole.

I applaud all the Representatives who opposed this legislation in the House.  These Reps are the ones who are standing up for struggling working families.  These Reps truly understand the harm that legislation like this would have on all working families.  I hope that the Senate will send this bill to where it truly belongs, the trash.

Kuster Cosponsors Bipartisan Bill to Cut Wasteful Spending, Consolidate Duplicative Programs

Rep_KusterCommon sense legislation would cut through gridlock to help save billions while protecting middle class

WASHINGTON, D.C. – As Congress debates ways to responsibly reduce the deficit and stop the sequester, Congresswoman Annie Kuster (NH-02) today announced that she is cosponsoring bipartisan legislation that could help the government save billions of dollars, cut wasteful spending,  and consolidate duplicative programs while protecting important services for New Hampshire families. The Government Waste Reduction Act would advance a series of waste-cutting recommendations that were included in recent reports from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) but await Congressional action.

“At a time when Congress is in need of balanced, bipartisan ideas to get rid of the sequester and responsibly reduce the deficit, this type of common sense legislation should be a no-brainer,” Kuster said. “The Government Waste Reduction Act will cut through Congressional gridlock to help save billions of dollars and streamline services – all while protecting priorities that seniors and middle class families count on.”

“Cutting waste and duplication in government shouldn’t be a Republican or Democratic issue – it’s just common sense,” Kuster continued. “These proposals alone won’t solve all of our fiscal challenges, but they are sensible steps that will make our government more efficient, effective, and accountable to the American people.”

In 2011 and 2012, the GAO released reports outlining wasteful and duplicative government programs that should be consolidated or eliminated. For example, the reports highlight overlap between 53 federal programs to assist entrepreneurs and small businesses, twenty entities that provide housing assistance, and over 200 Department of Justice grant programs.

The Government Waste Reduction Act would create an independent, bipartisan panel to produce legislation incorporating GAO’s waste-cutting recommendations. This legislative proposal would receive an expedited, up-or-down vote in Congress, and could not include cuts to benefits for seniors, veterans, or military servicemembers.

The legislation was introduced by freshman Rep. Cheri Bustos (IL-17) and has been cosponsored by members of both parties.

Today’s announcement builds on Kuster’s commitment to bringing Republicans and Democrats together to stop the sequester and reduce the deficit in a balanced, responsible way that will spur job creation, grow the economy, and protect middle class families. In February 2013, Kuster helped establish the United Solutions Caucus, a bipartisan coalition of Republican and Democratic freshmen focused on resolving our nation’s fiscal challenges in a balanced, bipartisan way.

 

How About We Maybe Don’t Intentionally Cause a Recession by Breaching the Debt Ceiling?

Written by Seth D. Michaels on the Working America Main Street Blog

This is the first thing you need to know before you hear anything else about the debt ceiling: it has to go up and everyone knows it. Before you listen to any of the political rhetoric or watch any of the media coverage, commit that truth to mind and remember it.

Why does it have to go up? For two reasons.

1. The debt ceiling doesn’t authorize new spending. It covers spending that Congress has already appropriated. Congress sets revenue levels and spending levels, and the administration has to obey those levels—that’s how it’s laid out in the Constitution. The debt ceiling only refers to Congress allowing the administration to borrow in order to meet the spending levels Congress appropriated.
2. If you breach the debt ceiling, it’s really, really bad. The exact extent to which it’s really bad is somewhat unpredictable, because we’ve never breached it before, but it’s guaranteed to have a big negative effect on the economy.

In his press conference yesterday, President Obama said—correctly—that the debt ceiling has to be raised to cover spending Congress already passed. Contrary to what theWashington Post’s Aaron Blake says, that’s not exactly a “semantic” difference or a “trick”—that’s how things actually work.

Nevertheless, Republicans in Congress continue to claim that this is an “opportunity” for them to force through unpopular policy changes they couldn’t otherwise carry out. In their public rhetoric, they’re claiming that raising the debt ceiling is something that President Obama wants, rather than a basic requirement of governing that everybody needs to happen. Put simply, they are lying.

So what happens if Congress doesn’t raise the debt ceiling? A few descriptions from folks who have looked at it closely:

• “Unprecedented legal and economic chaos.”
• “The greatest smash in world financial history.”
• “Havoc would ensue.”
• “The markets will go haywire.”
• “We’d default on 40 percent of our obligations, over and over again…It would be pandemonium.”

Breaching the debt ceiling is essentially the same as tearing up your credit card bill and refusing to pay after the bank tells you that you hit your limit. It’s a declaration that we’re not good for the promises we’ve made, and that we won’t actually carry out the laws we’ve passed. Investors have been happy to put their money into the U.S.—refusing to raise the debt ceiling would hurt our national credit-worthiness far more than any deficit ever could. It would have spiraling consequences for the economy and could actually increase the deficit.

Who actually gets the checks when the government spends? A third of what the government spends is Social Security and Medicare benefits. Another fifth is taken up by military spending, including pay for active duty soldiers. Smaller portions are made up by veterans’ benefits, unemployment compensation, and Medicaid. That doesn’t even get into things like food safety inspectors, federal highway maintenance, air traffic controllers and college grants and loans. That’s real money that matters to real people—people who have house payments, kids to feed, medical needs.

The biggest problem we have in the economy right now is weak purchasing power—not enough people are employed and wages aren’t growing fast enough. We’re still trying to recover from a recession that devastated Americans’ purchasing power. A hit to purchasing power on the scale of a debt-ceiling breach would pull us back into recession.

Some officials are claiming that the government could pick and choose which bills it pays, so there wouldn’t be any “default,” just a “partial shutdown” of some government services. At the moment, that’s not true at all; the administration has no legal or constitutional power to pick and choose what to implement among the many kinds of spending Congress has mandated.

Republicans in Congress who understand how things work know that we have to raise the debt ceiling, but they’re hoping you don’t. The more confusing the argument over the debt ceiling is, the better off they’ll be. In reality, though, they’re threatening to intentionally tank the economy—to put us back into recession—unless they get policy changes that they couldn’t get through the normal democratic process. The word for that is “extortion.”

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