The Weiner Component #145 – The 2016 1.145 Trillion Dollar Funding Bill & the Republican Party

Official portrait of United States House Speak...

Official portrait of United States House Speaker (R-Ohio). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In October of 2015, John Boehner, the former Speaker of the House of Representatives resigned from the House, effective the end of November.  His problem was getting what he considered necessary legislation through the House of Representatives without a government shutdown.  His immediate problem was extending the debt limit, which was then over 18 trillion dollars.  Not extending it would shut down the Federal Government as it would stop all government expenditures beyond a certain point that had almost been reached.

 

The extreme right of the Republican Party wanted to defund Planned Parenthood in return for extending the Debt Limit.  President Barack Obama had stated that if this measure were tied to the bill he would veto it.  By resigning, effective a month later, Boehner removed the House of Representatives from formulating the necessary bill.  The Republican majority leader in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, proposed a short term bill extending the Debt Limit until early December which the Senate and later the House passed.  The President commented that he would not again sign a short term bill.  The final version of the bill was passed early in December raising the Debt Limit for a period of two years.

 

The next major initial problem of the House of Representatives was finding a new Speaker.  Kevin McCarthy, the House Whip, was in line for a short period of time but he didn’t have the votes.  Eventually Paul Ryan, after initially refusing, ended up being the individual who could muster enough votes to be made the new Speaker.  He accepted after setting special conditions.

 

The next important bill was one to fund the Federal Government.  It had to be passed by December 11, 2015 if the government were not to be shut down for not legally having funds to keep operating.

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Generally, every year Congress has to pass a Bill in order to fund the U.S. Government for the oncoming year or it cannot legally pay its bills.  This Bill has to originate in the House of Representatives which, according to the Constitution, initially begins all money bills.  All that is needed is a one sentence law stating that the Federal Government shall be funded for one or more years.  Since 2011, when the Republicans gained control of the House of Representatives, they have used that Bill as leverage or blackmail to obtain other things that they had wanted by adding endless amendments to the Bill, many at the very last moment.

 

For example on Thursday, 12/11/14, the House of Representatives passed, what was essentially but not really a 1,603 page bipartisan 1.1 trillion dollar spending bill that will allowed the Federal Government to continue to function until September 30, 2015, the end of the fiscal year.  The bill adhered to strict caps negotiated earlier between the White House and the deficit-conscious Republicans.  It is also salted through with GOP proposals which were actually Christmas giveaways to individuals and companies and have nothing to do with the spending budget.  The bill should have been passed months earlier but it was convenient for the GOP to keep it hanging as a potential form of blackmail against President Barack Obama until the last possible moment when it had to be passed or its absence would cause a government shutdown.

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When Ronald Reagan was Governor of California he had a line-item veto over all bills passed by the State Legislature.  He could veto any section or group of sections that he thought was or were inappropriate and sign the document for the rest of the bill to become law.  But as President of the United States he could either sign a bill, veto it, or do nothing for ten days and allow it to become law.  Reagan was not too happy with this limitation but he had to accept it.  It would require an amendment to the Constitution to change this practice.

 

Not only does every bill have to be passed by both the House and Senate but both versions have to be identical.  If a word or punctuation is different, then the two versions are not the same.  Actually what happens is that the bill goes to a Committee of Congressmen dealing with that particular subject, they discuss the bill, usually modify it, and then send it to the legislative house to which they belong with their recommendations.  If it is passed then that version goes to the other legislative body, where it follows the same procedure.  In practically all cases the two versions are at least slightly different.  At that point the bill goes to a Conference Committee made up of members of the two Houses, where a final version is then hammered out.  This goes back to both Houses of Congress and it then has to be voted upon and repassed by the two Houses.  If the bill passes it then goes to the President.  After he signs it the bill becomes law.  This process generally takes at least a number of days.

 

The 1.1 Trillion Dollar Spending Bill was passed by the House of Representatives on Thursday, December 11, 2014.  The Congress was slated to end its session on Friday, December 12th.  This meant that the bill had to be accepted exactly as it was if the government was not to shut down the following week when it ran out of money.  In fact a short a short extension was also passed in case a few more days were needed to pass the bill.

 

Keep in mind that according to the Constitution only the House of Representatives can initiate a money bill since initially they were the only group directly elected by the People, the Senate was originally elected by the State Legislatures. The Founders felt that taxes should be authorized by the direct Representatives of the People so that the People are, in a sense, taxing themselves.

 

Also note that there are no rules about what a bill is supposed to contain.  It can deal with one subject or any number of subjects.  This finance bill dealt with innumerable subjects, most of which had nothing to do with financing the government.

 

Because of the catastrophe caused by a government shutdown President Obama urged the Democratic controlled Senate to pass the bill even though it had numerous amendments that were harmful to individuals or groups within the country.

 

One of these amendments cancelled parts of the Dodd- Frank Act that had been passed in 2010 as a reform measure after the 2008 Bank-caused Real Estate Collapse, to avoid such occurrences in the future and to keep banks from exploiting their depositors and the taxpayers.  Presumably the lobbyists for Citibank wrote the measure and it was secretly inserted the night before the bill came up for a vote in the House of Representatives.  The insertion rolls back regulations that limit banks from using federal deposit insurance to cover high-risk financial investments.  There had been no notice given or debate on this Amendment.  Nancy Pelosi, the minority leader in the House strongly opposed this insertion as did Senator Elizabeth Warren who called upon the Democratic majority in the Senate to oppose the entire bill if this Amendment was left in.

 

Another interesting Amendment was trading land with an Indian tribe.  A sacred mountain containing a burial ground was to be traded for another piece of land.  The sacred mountain was wanted by a company for a copper mine.

 

Another last minute Amendment dealt with campaign finance, it was extended for individuals. It went from contributions of $32,400 to $324,000.  Republicans got a 60 million dollar cut at the EPA (Environment Protection Agency) reducing their workforce to the level they had been at in 1989.

 

Not all Republicans in the House supported the bill. Many of the Tea Party members wanted to defund President Obama’s immigration executive order.  This issue was left out of the House bill.

 

In both the House and Senate the bill required the votes of both Democrats and Republicans to pass.  In the House 162 Republicans and 57 Democrats voted for the bill.  139 Democrats and 67 Republicans were against the spending bill.  In the Senate there were 31 Democrats, 24 Republicans, and 1 Independent who voted for the bill and 21 Democrats, 18 Republicans, and 1 Independent who were against it.  In both Houses of Congress it required the votes of both major political parties in order to pass.

 

Interestingly the far right and the far left both opposed this bill, both for different reasons.  On the far right, Ted Cruz wanted a section added that would limit or eradicate President Obama’s executive order dealing with illegal immigrants whose children had been born in the United States.  And on the far left, the Congressmen wanted to remove many of the giveaways that had nothing to do with the spending bill.

 

Cruz, in a procedural vote extended the Senatorial Session into the weekend.  He did not get his Amendment to the bill passed.  Harry Reed, the majority leader in the Senate, used the additional time to get a large number of Obama appointees approved beginning with the Surgeon General, Dr. Vivek Murthy, who had been opposed by the NRA because he had suggested earlier that guns were a disease since they killed a large number of people.  By the end of the session, Tuesday, December 15th, the Senate had approved a total of 69 controversial presidential appointments.

 

The Senate passed the Spending Bill on Saturday and President Obama quietly signed it on Tuesday.  Congress adjourned around midnight of Tuesday, December 16th and the new Congress, which would have Republican majorities in both Houses, met in January of the next year, after the holidays.

 

It is interesting to note that all that is required for the government to keep functioning is a one sentence bill that states that the Federal Government shall be properly funded for the fiscal year.  The 1,603 page bill detailing all the expenditures over the fiscal year was ridiculous.  In this bill every item that was to be funded had to be mentioned in detail.  For example: Vice President, Joe Biden’s and other top officials in the government’s salaries were frozen.  There was no automatic raise for them that was put into law several years earlier but the members of Congress  got their cost of living raise, raising their pay to over $140,000 each.

 

What happened originally was that several years earlier Congress had voted itself a raise.  The press got hold of the news and published it.  People were indignant over Congress giving itself an increase in salary when everyone else was hurting financially.  There was a protest and the increase was rescinded.  Thereafter Congress quietly passed a law making pay increases for Congress and government officials automatic.  From then on there was no protest or even public knowledge that this was occurring.  In 2014 Congress has voted through its 1,603 page bill not to freeze its own salary but to do so to the Vice President and other high government officials in the Administration.  How petty could they get?

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In December of 2015 the Federal Government funding situation was far different from what it had been a year earlier.  For one thing there was a major Presidential Election coming up in a little less than a year.  A government shutdown at this point could have dire consequences for the Republicans in the election if they were blamed for it.  Also the people had had enough of the shenanigans that the Republican House of Representatives had pulled since 2011 when they took control of the House of Representatives.  The President and the Democrats in both Houses of Congress were not about to go along with what the Republicans had pulled the preceding year. And they would need Congressional Democratic votes to pass any spending bill in both Houses of Congress.

 

The 2015 omnibus bill, 2,200 pages long, incorporated legislation from twelve subcommittees and was the work of nearly a year.  There had been months of negotiations between the two major parties.  The bill passed in the House with 316 positive votes to 113 negative ones.  150 Republicans supported the measure and 95 opposed it.  50 members did not vote.  Among the Democrats, 166 voted for the legislation, 18 voted against it.

 

On both extremes there were Congressmen who thought the bill did not go far enough or that it went too far in the wrong direction.  Many conservatives felt it overspent, didn’t go far enough blocking abortions and Syrian refugees from coming to the U.S.  Liberals felt that the bill did nothing to address the debt crisis in Puerto Rico, did not positively enough effect environmental concerns, and that it lifted a 40 year ban on exporting domestic oil export.

 

The bill funds the United States Government through September of 2016, nine months.  The probability is that another bill will be easily passed at that time to fund the government at least until the end of 2016.  The country will be too close to the 2016 Presidential Election for any games to be tried at that time.

 

But if a Democrat wins the 2016 Presidential Election and the Republicans retain control of the House of Representatives, the December 2016 Government Financing Bill should prove very interesting.  Who the next President will be will not be known until the November 2016 Presidential Election is over.

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This omnibus bill will be noted for what it left out, rather than for what it included.  There is no mention of Planned Parenthood or of the Syrian refugee crisis; nor of numerous other things that were important to both political parties.  Speaker Ryan promised the Democrats that the House would deal with the Puerto Rico Debt Crisis in March; that brought a number of Democrats into line to support the bill.  Ryan also spread-out the decision making process so that many members of Congress felt that they owned parts of the bill.

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Nancy Pelosi, the minority leader, was asked why the Democrats hadn’t pushed harder.  Her answer was, “I don’t think they would have passed it.”  The implications are that both the Democrats and the Republicans had each gone as far as they could in working out this compromise piece of legislation.  As a result of the negotiations neither side could claim victory or defeat.  Both had squeezed the other side as hard as they could.  President Obama praised the Republicans for doing what Congress has done so well in the past, compromising to the point of hammering out a bill both sides could live with.

 

The Democrats considered the permanent reauthorization of the 9/11 Health legislation a major win.  As a result of the 9/11 destruction of the Twin Towers in New York City a large number of the rescuers had breathed in toxic dust and, those who had not since died from resulting cancer and other maladies, still had expensive medical needs.  Reauthorizing this medical coverage would help a large number of people.  Lifting the 40 year ban on oil drilled in the U.S. being sold outside it continental borders was called by Ryan a big win.  Republicans also were able to block proposed bans on weapon purchases by people on federal terrorist lists and also federally funded research on gun violence.

 

Perhaps the most important thing that the bill did was to do away with the automatic Sequester cuts for 2015.  These cuts, which would have automatically gone into effect early in 2016, would have seriously hurt government efficiency for both defense and non-defense programs, across the board.  The military budget was actually increased above what it had been the prior year.  And this was also true for a number of other programs.  The White House was touting tax breaks for the wind and solar programs.  In all there were $680 billion in tax cuts for both businesses and individuals.  But sequestration is still there and will automatically come into being at the end of 2016 unless new legislation is passed then to stop or end it.

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Does this legislation denote a new feeling of friendliness between the two political parties?  I think not.  What it demonstrates is a wide division between both Democrats and Republicans.  It took nearly a year to come up with this 2,200 page detailed bill and make it acceptable to both political parties.  Neither party was strong enough to push any of this legislation through on its own; it required a joint effort to pass it.

 

If anything it denotes the great distance between our political parties.  Speaker Ryan has recently commented that the House will soon take up defunding Obamacare. That will mean that this bill will have been passed over 50 times without once being taken up in the Senate.  Considering that the House will officially only meet for 110 days in 2016 that is spending a lot of time upon a bill that will go nowhere.  Ryan stated that, outside of the increasing number of people signing up for the service, the bill is a failure.  Interestingly outside of his statement he offered no evidence other than his word.

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The December 11th deadline for this bill to pass was extended one week to Friday, December 18.  Directly after the bill was passed in the House of Representatives it was sent to the Senate where it was passed.  From there it was sent to the President, who signed it with positive remarks for the compromise legislation.  Obviously the Government shutdown was avoided.

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It should be noted that on Wednesday, December 6th the    House of Representatives, under Speaker Paul Ryan’s leadership, passed a bill for the 62d time defunding Obamacare and stripping Planned Parenthood of Federal Funding.  The bill was passed in the Senate last year through a special provision that avoided a filibuster in the Senate and was sent to the President for the first time.  On Friday, December 8, two days later, it was vetoed by the President, who stated that the Affordable Health Care Act had helped millions of Americans who couldn’t otherwise afford Health Care.  Republicans do not have the votes to override the veto.  Still they claimed victory, claiming that they had passed a repeal bill and that they are keeping a promise to voters in an election year.  They stated that they are capable of repealing the law if a Republican wins in the November election.  I wonder if that’s true if Donald Trump were to become the next president.

 

Of course they would still have to keep control of both Houses of Congress.  2016 promises to be a colorful year in Congress.  We may go beyond gridlock.  This should be particularly true with the House working a three day week and taking a four day weekend and all holidays.

Official photographic portrait of US President...

Official photographic portrait of US President Barack Obama (born 4 August 1961; assumed office 20 January 2009) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Weiner Component #140A – Congress: How it Works & Doesn’t Work

English: First page of Constitution of the Uni...

According to the United States Constitution, Article I: the legislative, law making power, is given to a bicameral, law-making, Congress that consists of two Houses: the Senate and the House of Representatives.  Only they have the power to make laws that have to be identical when passed by both Houses of Congress and then signed by the President.

 

Originally the House was directly elected by the people and the Senate, which was supposed to represent the states, was elected by the legislatures of each individual state.  In 1913 this was changed by the 17th Amendment to the Constitution which had the people of each state directly elect the Senators, making them directly responsible to all the people of their respective states.

 

In the Constitution all financial bills have to originate in the House of Representatives.  This was put in so that the direct representatives of the people who paid the taxes could feel responsible for all government expenditures.  Even though the 17th Amendment changed this the power still rests with the House as the new Speaker of the House of Representatives recently stated in an interview.

 

House members serve for a two year term and then have to be reelected for another two year term.  Senators are elected for a six year period and can then stand for reelection if they so desire.  All members in both Houses are currently paid $170,000 a year for their services.

 

Today the number of legislators in the House of Representatives is fixed at 435.  Every ten years an enumeration of the population is taken and the seats are reassigned to the election districts within the states based upon increases in and/or population changes which may then redefine the election districts both in number and size within the individual states.  This was last done in 2010 and those states that had Republican legislator majorities redrew their districts in terms of their political favor by blatantly gerrymandering.  In fact in the 2012 Election over a million and ¼ more Democrats voted nationally for House Representatives but the Republicans emerged with majority representation in the House of Representatives because of favoring their party in creating the allowable number of election districts within their states.  Currently there are 247 Republicans in the House and 188 Democrats.  Each of the smaller states, even if their entire population is below the count for representatives in the larger states ate entitled to at least one representative in the House.  There are also six non-voting members representing Washington, D.C and most of the territories belonging to the United States.

 

In the Senate there are 100 members representing the fifty states.  The number of senators can be increased if additional states are added to the union.  As stated the Senators today represent the people of the entire state they come from and are elected by the entire voting population of each individual state.

 

One of the basic concepts of our country is the concept of compromise.  Without this ability our founding fathers would never have been able to bring forth the Constitution.  A document that established a government between the 13 states that were both free and slave, large and small, based with beliefs and basic values that were literally miles apart.  The current Congress seems to have lost that ability.  In fact if the current congressmen had to write a constitution today they would be unable to do it and the country would end up at best as a group of small federations.

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What always struck me as a basic concept of our form of government was best stated in a quote from Benjamin Franklin, which he wrote in all seriousness.  “In free governments the rulers are the servants and the people their superiors and sovereigns.  For the former therefore to return among the later was not to degrade but to promote them.”   Somehow this concept has become lost, particularly to many of the current Republicans in both Houses of Congress.

 

All of our members of Congress, according to Article VI of the Constitution take an oath, upon becoming a member of Congress, to uphold the Constitution.  Somehow, of late, I get the impression that many of our legislators have either forgotten or never understood this concept.  I also get the feeling that in the minds of many of our Republican legislators that the people’s function is merely to keep them in office so that they can force their will or agendas upon the nation.  And if these hard-core Republicans cannot get what they want then what exists is total gridlock, which is what seems to exist in the House of Representatives at the current time.

 

To the Tea Partiers among the Republicans in the House of Represenatives the country will function their way or not at all.  The fact that they and possibly their constituents constitute a minority of the population is immaterial.  Even though a Democratic Republic is supposed to be ruled by the will of the majority of the population they believe absolutely that they are right and everyone else is wrong or misinformed.  This is all very reminiscent of the old Communist Party where all the members had to follow the party line, or be expelled from the party.  In their hearts these people, the Freedom Caucus in the House of Representatives, the 40 hard-liners know what is right for the American People and they will have their way or nothing will happen in Congress.

 

John Boehner, the Republican Speaker of the House, has resigned both as Speaker and as a member of the House, effective October 31st.  His immediate replacement, Kevin McCarthy, the House Whip has withdrawn as a candidate for the Speakership.  He did not have the votes within his own party.  The one other possible replacement, Paul Ryan, has initially turned down the offer of assuming that role.  Presumably the price of taking it was to support numerous positions that he found unacceptable.  Boehner said he will stay in office until a replacement is found.  After a little over a week of negotiating and also being cajoled Paul Ryan accepted the Speakership.  He got the support of most of the Tea Party and the majority of the other Republican House Congressmen.

 

The Freedom Caucus, which seems to hold the balance of power among the Republican House members, were thrilled at presumably getting rid of Boehner.  If they did achieve this it was a pyrrhic victory.  They may have gotten him to resign but now Ryan is the new Speaker and in order to get him to accept the position most of the House Republicans have sworn allegiance to him.  This includes the majority of the Freedom Caucus but not the entire group.

 

There was also a move at the end September to “Ditch Mitch.”  Many far right Republican Senate members do not consider him aggressive enough to run the Republican Party in the Senate.  Louisiana Governor and Presidential Candidate Bobby Jindal has called upon Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to resign.  They want someone who will stand up to the President and take some risks.  McConnell has too much support from Republicans in the Senate to be in any danger in terms of being forced out of the Senate.

 

The frustration for these hard-liners seems to be that they, the Republicans, have the majority in both Houses of Congress but their particular group doesn’t have the votes to stop legislation if it is also supported in both Houses of Congress.  The fact that this situation exists in Congress would indicate the epitome of dysfunctionality.

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The basic question, in terms of Congress, comes down to: What is the main purpose of the Government?  And the answer to that question, most simply stated is answered in the preamble to the Constitution:

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

This is what the members of Congress have taken an oath to do.  Is this what they, particularly the Republicans in the House of Representatives and the Senate, are doing?

 

Currently the House of Representatives has a new Speaker as its presiding officer.  There are currently 247 Republicans in the House and 188 Democrats.  The majority party has easily elected a new speaker if all the Republicans vote for whoever is running for that position.  But on the far right of the conservative party is the Freedom Coalition.  These are the 40 ultra-conservative hardline Tea Partiers.  To them the rest of the Republican Party is not far enough to the right.  Presumably they will not support anyone who will go against their agenda.  They want to get rid of Affordable Health Care and defund Planned Parenthood.  I suspect many of them may also be racial bigots.    I imagine this feeling goes beyond this specific group to many other Republicans in Congress.  Has any of this changed with the election of Paul Ryan?

 

If 40 votes are subtracted from the 247 currently elected Republicans they do not have enough votes to pass legislation if the 40 and the 188 elected Democrats do not support their move.  Basically what this means is that the Speaker of the House and the Senate Majority Leader both have to get the support of the majority of Democrats in order to pass bills that a percentage of their party will not support.

 

John Boehner has faced this situation since becoming Speaker of the House in 2011 and Mitch McConnell will face this situation for the next fourteen months.  Will Paul Ryan have to face this same situation?  The Republicans may have the majority in both Houses but it will take a coalition of both political parties to run the country.  This has to be the ultimate irony and could well lead to the formation of a new national political party after the 2016 elections.

 

The nation is now at the point of crisis.  Legislative actions will have to be taken or the functioning of the government could be forced to cease.  The Debt Limit Crisis has been averted by negotiations between the President, the Senate Republican leadership and the former Speaker, John Boehner, raising the Debt limit for the next two years.

 

There is also funding the Federal Government.  This could stop the Federal Government if Congress does not pass a bill by December.  John Boehner was able to avoid a Federal Government shutdown by resigning as Speaker and quitting the House effective October 31.  But that pushed the deadline from September to December.  It will again be reached in December of 2015.

 

This major problems still must be dealt with this year but there are numerous others that will be coming up early in January of 2016 like the automatic cuts of about 5% across the board on federal and discretionary spending if Congress does not act to stop some or all of this spending.  That is sequestration, which stays in existence until 2023.

 

This does not count infrastructure problems like hundred or more year old bridges, some of which seem to be ready to collapse at some near future point or intercontinental train tracks which are having innumerable accidents particularly oil tankers that are jumping tracks and burning for days on end, causing massive evacuations from the deadly toxic smoke of towns and large sections of cities.  This country is filled with infrastructure that was built in the first half of the Twentieth Century or earlier which needs to be replaced and/or modernized to meet the needs of today’s population.

 

There are also an obscene number of people being shot every day by people who, for mental reasons, should never be allowed to purchase guns.  We can follow the advice of Presidential candidate Jeb Bush who after the shooting of innocent students at a college said, “Stuff happens.”  A week later, after another similar shooting, he kept his mouth shut.  I expected him to say, “Stuff still happens.”  Mentally disturbed people should not have easy access to weapons.  Somehow, even with the NRA, Congress needs to deal with this problem.  It is time we stopped leading the industrial nations of the world in gun homicides.

 

There are other problems, including everyday things, like fiscal policy, the War against ISIS, the other crises in the Middle East, China, and Russia that require participation by Congress.  None of this is being dealt with by Congress.  They seem to be getting paid $170,000 each for taking vacations and leaving the country to go its own way without their participation.  In fact the House of Representatives will meet for 111 days in 2016.  No work week for them exceeds three days.  Most of the fighting going on by the U.S. Military has never been authorized by the Congress.  The Constitution clearly makes them the arbiters of war and peace.  Congress has left these decisions completely in the hands of the President.  They have refused to take any action.

 

In essence Congress is dysfunctional.  Speaker, Paul Ryan, in his acceptance speech has defined Congress as broken.  He says he will start anew.  But Speaker Ryan is himself not far to the left of the Freedom Caucus.   Will there be positive changes or will the House fall back into non-functionality?  Will the House shut down the Government again?   The political future should be interesting.

The Weiner Component #139B – Paul Ryan as the New Speaker of the House of Representatives

With the retirement of John Boehner, brought about by the Tea Party or otherwise, Paul Ryan will be the new Speaker of the House of Representatives.  At his election on October 29, 2015 he received a majority of Republican votes to become Speaker.

 

The 44 year old Ryan has been in Congress since 1999.  He is from Wisconsin’s First District and became Chairman of the House Ways & Means Committee in early January of 2015.  Prior to that he was Chairman of the House Budget Committee, from January 3, 2011 to January 3, 2015.

 

From what I understand he was not anxious to have this position since it has traditionally been a dead-ended one.  Historically no one has gone on from it to become President of the United States.  It would seem that since Ryan ran in 2012 as Mitt Romney’s Vice Presidential candidate he has been looking toward eventually running for the presidency.

 

Next to the Speaker the Chairman of the Ways & Means Committee is the most powerful position in the House as that Committee both makes the committee choices and writes the agenda for all the meetings of the House of Representatives.

 

Ryan did not originally want the Speakership because up until this point it has been an almost impossible job.  The Republicans in the House of Representatives, all 247 of them, meet as a single caucus generally before the entire House meets to conduct actual business.  But in addition to this the Republicans also meet in three smaller specific caucuses.  On the ultra-right are 30 Tea Party members, the Freedom Caucus, who have generally voted on all issues exactly the same.  Then there is the far-right Republican Caucus and finally the extreme-right caucus.

 

Up until Wednesday, October 28, 2015 the Speaker of the House could never depend on the Freedom Caucus and some of the other members of the overall Republican Caucus to put through necessary legislation.  On some occasions he even had to negotiate with Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic Minority Leader, in order to get necessary legislation passed.  This situation had existed since the 2011 Congressional session when he was first elected Speaker.

 

This behavior of dealing with Democrats to a large number of Republican members on the far right, like the Freedom Caucus, has been a betrayal of Republican principles.  In addition the former Speaker, John Boehner, once played a game of golf with President Barak Obama.  This was an unforgivable sin to the members of the Freedom Caucus.

 

In order to not shut down the Federal Government former Speaker Boehner in late September resigned, effective the end of October, and got a bill passed with Democratic help that funded the Government through December.  Apparently he felt he had to do this in order to not shut down the Federal Government by having the Republicans refuse to fund it over the issue of funding Planned Parenthood.

 

On Wednesday, October 28, 2015 former Speaker Boehner, after negotiating with the leaders of the Senate and the President, got another bill through the House raising the Debt Limit for the next two years.  Without this new bill the Federal Government would not have been able to spend money after November 3, 2015.

 

Ryan’s major upcoming task will be to pass legislation through the House of Representatives that would allow the Federal Government to pay its bills after the middle of December.  I would assume that this bill is one of the conditions of Paul Ryan accepting the Speakership.  However a large number of Republicans are dedicated to the idea of doing away with the subsidy to Planned Parenthood.  They might still insist on this in December.

 

President Obama has stated that if this is done he will veto the bill and there are not enough Republicans in either House to override his veto.  He has also stated that he will veto any future short term solution to this problem.  Even with promises from his caucus of all the Republicans this bill will apparently be the new Speaker’s big test.  If he needs Democratic help to get the bill passed Paul Ryan will continue his speakership on the same level as John Boehner suffered through.

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With Boehner’s resignation and Kevin McCarthy, the Republican Whip not being able to get the votes needed, Paul Ryan seemed to be the only member of the House of Representatives who might be able to secure a large enough majority of Republican support to get elected.  He apparently didn’t really want the job but was probably later convinced that no one else could get enough votes to be elected Speaker.  And with no Speaker the House of Representatives couldn’t meet.

 

In the end Ryan set conditions under which he would accept the position.  It would seem that the Freedom Caucus and others also had conditions.  All these were negotiated leading to, among other things, rule changes in running the House of Representatives.  One apparent rule was that nothing would be brought to the floor of the House that did not have a majority of Republican support.  Another was that Ryan would spend his weekends with his family instead of raising money for the Republican Party.  There was also a rule, propagated by the Freedom Caucus, allowing an individual lawmaker to force a vote ousting the speaker at any time.  Obviously there were other changes that we will learn about later on.

 

When he announced his candidacy for the Speaker’s job Ryan said he wanted endorsements from all three Republican Caucuses.  This should guarantee he will emerge as the unity candidate of the House Republicans.  He doesn’t want to risk being in the middle of the intraparty unrest under which former Speaker Boehner lived in since 2011.  The Tea Party, Freedom Caucus, fell short of a formal endorsement since that would have required 80% agreement.  The group was not able to achieve this level, but Ryan accepted their majority vote as a show of Republican unity.

 

What will happen?  That’s a good question.

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It is important to remember that Paul Ryan, when he ran with Mitt Romney as his Vice Presidential candidate, was considered by many to be the most conservative Vice Presidential candidate to run for that office since the turn of the 20th Century.

 

Originally he was a follower of Ayn Rand, who in her few books, particularly in “Atlas Shrugged,” advocated extreme individualism with the masses being an unfeeling horde.  He grew up with these beliefs, to the point of making his staff read her books.  This persisted from his teen years, when he discovered her writing, until April 2012 when he was criticized by the Georgetown University faculty.  At that time, being a good Catholic he rejected her philosophy as being “atheistic.”  He called the reports of his advocating Rand’s perspective an “urban legend,” (Whatever that means.) and stated that he was strongly influenced by his Roman Catholic faith and by the writings of St. Thomas Aquinas.

 

There are numerous other instances where Paul Ryan suddenly totally changed his position.  It seems that his attitudes were flexible, changing with the needs of the time.  It would appear that in August 2012, soon after Romney choose him as his VP, that the Tea Party wanted a nominee other than Romney.  It had gotten one of its ideological heroes in second place.

 

Ryan voted for the two Bush tax cuts in 2001 and in 2003.  He supported the 2003 bill that created the Medicare Part D, prescription drug benefit and the $700 billion bank bailout.  He was one of the 32 Republicans in the House to vote for the auto industry bailout.  In the past conservative commentators have criticized Ryan for deficit causing policies during the George W. Bush administration.

 

Paul Ryan existence became public knowledge over his financial plans or Ryan budgets.  His proposals outlined negative changes to entitlement spending that, among other things, would replace Medicare with a voucher program for those under the age of 55.  This 2008 bill never made it out of committee.  In 2009 he introduced a bill that in addition to his earlier one would impose a five year freeze on all discretionary spending.  It would also allow taxpayers, if they so choose, to opt out of the Federal Income Tax system and pay a flat 10% income tax on adjusted gross incomes up to $100,000 for couples and $50,000 for singles.  Any earnings above this amount would be taxed at 25%.  The bill was rejected in the Democratic controlled House by a vote of 293 to 137, with 18 Republicans in opposition.

 

In 2010 he released a modified version of his earlier bills.  He has released spending bills just about every year.  All of them cut entitlement spending and will supposedly balance the Federal Budget in about a decade.  In 2015 the same pattern is followed with even deeper entitlement cuts.  The overall evaluation is that his budget proposals would increase middle-class taxes while cutting taxes for the upper percentile of the population.  In terms of balancing the budget in ten years they are all wishful thinking.

 

It is worth noting that the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has been highly critical of Ryan’s budget proposals, stating that they would shift income to the wealthy while increasing poverty and inequality.

 

Ryan in 2004 and 2005 got the Bush administration to propose privatization of Social Security.  He’s a supporter of private school vouchers.  In 2011 Ryan supported using the federal debt ceiling as leverage to reduce Federal spending.

 

Paul Ryan has described himself as being “as pro-life as a person gets.”  He has co-sponsored 18 bills in the Congress that restrict abortions.  He believes that all abortions should be illegal, including those resulting from rape or incest, and he only makes an exception in cases where the woman’s life is at risk.

 

Ryan has recommended that Medicaid be converted into block grants with the Federal Government’s share of the cost being cut by $800 billion over the next ten years.  Medicaid is administered by the individual states under a strong level of Federal control.  The problem with a blanket block grant is that there is no control over how the state will use the money.  Block grants in the past have often been used for other purposes than for what they were issued.

 

In his 1998 campaign for the House of Representatives Ryan expressed his willingness to allow states to criminally prosecute women who have abortions.  He would let each state decide on the extent of the penalties.

 

In 2009 he cosponsored the Sanctity of Life Act, which would provide that fertilized eggs ”shall have all the legal and Constitutional attributes and privileges of personhood” and would have given Congress, …the authority to protect the lives of all human beings residing in its respective jurisdictions.”

 

Ryan has voted against continued federal aid for Planned Parenthood and Title X family planning programs.  The partial funding of these programs were originally signed into law by the Republican President, Richard M. Nixon.  Ryan supported legislation that would impose criminal penalties for doctors who perform partial birth abortions.  He opposed the government paying for over the counter emergency contraceptive pills.  He also opposed same sex marriage and had supported a constitutional amendment that would ban it.

 

Paul Ryan has supported the rights of gun owners and opposed stricter gun control measures.  He voted against a bill for stronger background checks and is for purchases at gun shows.

 

Originally Ryan supported legislation that would have allowed some illegal immigrants to apply for temporary guest worker status.  This included a bill that would provide a pathway to permanent residence status.  More recently Ryan has adopted a firm anti-amnesty enforcement stance on illegal immigration.  He voted against the Dream Act which was a bill that would provide conditional permanent residency to illegal immigrants who were brought to the United States as children if they mainly attend college or serve in the military.

 

Ryan does not believe in climate change; he accuses climatologists of using “statistical tricks to distort their findings and intentionally mislead the public on the issue of climate change.”  He has criticized the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) classification of carbon dioxide as a pollutant.  Ryan also supports a ten year $40 billion tax break for the petroleum industry and has proposed cutting funding for renewable energy research and subsidies.

 

He has made recommendations to enact cuts to welfare, child care, Pell grants, and several other federal assistance programs like food stamps and housing aid.  His argument being that these program serve as an incentive for the poor not having to work.

 

In 2001 and 2004 he voted to end the embargo in Cuba.  Later Ryan reversed his position and since 2007 he has voted for maintaining the embargo.  He called Obama’s 2009 “reset” of relations with Russia as “appeasement.

 

He voted for sequestration in 2013, across the board cuts in almost all government programs, because President Obama and the Democrats would voluntarily refuse to cut discretionary (nonmilitary) programs.  This is a ten year program that automatically make significant cuts every year unless Congress passes specific legislation to stop some of it.

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This is the new Speaker of the House of Representatives, the man who has replaced former Speaker John Boehner.  He was overwhelmingly elected to his new position.  He received 238 out of 247 Republican votes.   Nine Republicans, apparently from the Freedom Caucus, did not vote for him; they apparently felt he was not conservative enough.  Ryan needed 218 votes to be elected.  If he can maintain that majority he will not need Democratic help to get legislation through.

 

The question arises as to how he will lead.  He’s been a bit of a chameleon in the past, sometimes changing his position to adhere to the party line.   If he continues in this mode there will be another Federal Government Shutdown before the 2016 Presidential Election.  But if he acts more moderately will he retain the overall support of all his fellow Republicans in the House?  Which position will he adhere to?

 

In December he still has to fund the Federal Government.  At the beginning of January the remaining sequestration cuts automatically go into effect unless Congress passes a bill(s) and the President signs it/them.  The military aspect of the problem has been solved with the current bill that squeaked through Congress at the end of September that raised the Debt Limit for two years and also funded the military.

 

Paul Ryan, the 54th House Speaker, in his acceptance speech, stated that: “Let’s be frank.  The House is broken.  We are not solving problems.  We are adding to them.  And I am not interested in laying blame.  We are not settling scores.  We are wiping the slate clean.”

 

“If there were ever a time for us to step up, this would be that time.  The cynics will scoff and say it’s not possible.  But you better believe we are going to try.  We will not duck the tough issues.”

 

Will any other needed legislation come into being?  Since the midterm Election of 2014, when the Republicans gained a slight majority in the Senate (54 Republicans to 44 Democrats and 2 Independents) the Republican dominated Congress has accomplished almost nothing.

The new debt ceiling bill was passed by Boehner with heavy Democratic support, thus “cleaning the barn” in Boehner’s words.  If Ryan has to also use the Democrats he will alienate a lot of Republican House members.  It should be interesting and possibly depressing to find out what will happen!

 

 

The Weiner Component #137A – John Boehner’s Resignation & the House Republican Party

Planned Parenthood volunteers help bring the f...

Planned Parenthood volunteers help bring the fight for health insurance reform to the Ohio Statehouse in Columbus. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One day after a visit to Congress by the Pope, wherein he spoke to a joint session of the legislature, and, among other things, shook hands with the Speaker of the House of Representatives John Boehner, John Boehner handed in his resignation as Speaker of the House and as a member of Congress, effective October 31, 2015.  He is currently 65 years old, a good time to retire.

 

Boehner had originally been the Republican minority leader in the House of Representatives and became Speaker of the House in 2011 when the Republicans achieved a majority in the House of Representatives.  Over the past five years he has been categorized as one of the worst Speakers in the history of the United States, having no real control over his own party and having to get the support of Democrats in the House in order to pass a good deal of the legislation he espoused.  He is also known for legislation he ignored and never brought up.

 

What has happened over the last decade or so is that The Tea Party has come into existence as a far right arm of the Republican Party.  Many of them have been elected to Congress over the years.  They and the Evangelicals have gotten together and formed the extreme right end of the Republican Party.  Seemingly they control a good percentage of the Republican election funds which they will withhold from any candidate that does not follow the party line, their line of no compromise.  Consequently they have a lot of power in the House of Representatives which they have continually exercised.

 

Speaker Boehner stated, when he was interviewed on television, after he had handed in his resignation, that these far right Republicans know that a large number of their goals are totally unrealistic, that they cannot be achieved, but they insist on them just the same.

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There is an interesting note of irony here.  The original Tea Partiers who operated during the late colonial period of our history were the merchants who ran the General Stores in the colonies of Boston, New York, and several other cities at the time.  Among other items they sold tea, which was the national drink.  The British East India Company brought the tea over and sold it to the colonial merchants.  It was fairly expensive and heavily taxed by the British government.  The colonial merchants did not appreciate the high price of the tea nor the tax so they bought much cheaper smuggled tea.

 

Shortly before the Revolutionary War the British East India Company was at the point of bankruptcy.  Since many members of Parliament owned shares in this company they passed a law lowering both the cost of the tea and the taxes on it.  The official price of this tea, including the taxes placed upon it, was now cheaper than the price of the smuggled tea.  The men who dumped the crates of tea into the harbors of Boston and New York were the merchants who all had a large stock of smuggled tea in their warehouses.  They rubbed red ocher over their bodies and performed the action after dark.

These were the patriots that the modern Tea Partiers have named themselves after.  I sometimes get the feeling that the nomenclature is as apt today as it was in the late 18th Century.

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John Boehner, as Speaker, has operated between their whims and sanity.  He is not a Tea Partier.  He has been forced at times to get Democratic support for some of his bills so he could get them passed.  His job as Speaker has been a very difficult and frustrating one.  How do you lead a group that is essentially marching backwards, sometimes in several different directions at the same time and has no real understanding of government?  They have shut down the government at the cost of many millions of dollars.  They have passed a bill doing away with Affordable Health Care over fifty times that never even once reached the Senate.  Where they have been successful they have passed legislation that has massively increased unemployment during a time of recession, one example would be the sequester law, which is supposed to be an economizing measure, but that is basically choking this nation.

 

The Republicans were threatening to shut the government down again.  The first shut-down was about getting rid of Affordable Health Care; this time it was over the issue of continuing the funding of Planned Parenthood, accusing them of being a national facility for committing abortions.  Even though no federal funds can be used for abortions by any group the Republicans are pushing the fact that since this organization performs abortions it should not be funded.  Planned Parenthood is a women’s and to some extent male medical facility.  Many people who cannot afford medical care receive that there free or for a payment of what they can afford.  Abortions are about 3% of what they do for the poorer women of the United States.  Cancelling this organization by defunding it would strike a heavy blow against the poor and needy of the country.

 

The Republicans present Planned Parenthood as an abortion clinic, period.  It is over this issue that the far right of the Republican Party and the Evangelicals in Congress want to shut down the Federal Government.

 

In fact Carley Fiorina has made an exaggerated and fabricated image of an abortion the cornerstone of her 2016 presidential campaign.  She has sent out robocalls using this message as an appeal and request for funds.  She describes a living born fetus kicking its legs as Planned Parenthood sells its brain for medical research.  The woman, who gave birth to this fetus which was still-born denounced Fiorina for misusing her dead child as an example of a Planned Parenthood action.  Planned Parenthood had nothing to do with the false image that Fiorina supposedly based her statement upon.  It was a blatant fabrication, a lie, and she used the child without getting permission from the mother who has protested over this act.

 

Interestingly the Republicans keep looking to find Planned Parenthood guilty of breaking the law.  There have been four Congressional investigations by a Standing Committee in Congress.  None of them have found any evidence of illegal activity.  As a result of all this Congressional bashing more of the general public have come to support Planned Parenthood.

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With the October 31 resignation of John Boehner this issue of closing down the government of the United States has gone away, at least until December of 2015.  A short term funding bill has gone through the Senate, espoused by the Republican Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, and supported by the Democrats and enough Republicans to end a filibuster by Senator Ted Cruz.  Obviously there can be no filibuster in the House of Representatives and the bill was later brought up there by an unpressured Speaker and passed by the Democrats with a small number of Republicans voting for it.  The issue will not come up again until December when the new Speaker of the House of Representatives will have to again deal with this issue of funding the government.  Will the issue of Planned Parenthood come up again?  Will the Republicans find another excuse to close down the government?  After all the Tea Party tends to find the entire National Government repressive.  They seem to want to hurt it.

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By resigning as Speaker John Boehner, in a manner of speaking, has held up his middle finger to the far right in his party.  He will be in power for a short period of time.  The Tea Partiers can no longer pressure him to do anything.  There will be no immediate government shutdown.  Ted Cruz, who is very brave leading other people to take risks will be ineffective here.  The far right Republicans do not have a majority within their own party in the House.  They cannot elect one of their own as the new Speaker.  And the election for a new Speaker will not take place until November 1, the day after John Boehner is no longer Speaker of the House.

 

The way it looks at present is that the next Speaker will be Kevin McCarthy, the current majority leader.  He was first elected to the House in 2008, became majority leader in 2014 when Eric Cantor lost the election to a far right member of the Tea Party.  Politically McCarthy comes from an overwhelming Republican District in Bakersfield, California.  While not a Tea Party member he has signed a pledge sponsored by Americans for Prosperity promising not to vote against any climate change legislation that would raise taxes on affected companies. McCarthy is pro-life.  He has voted against Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care.  During his eight years in the House there are no real bills he has originated.  Where does he stand in relation to the Tea Party?  If he’s elected we’ll find out in November of this year.

 

A strange thing about Kevin McCarthy is that he occasionally has a problem in a public speech expressing a coherent sentence.  He also mispronounces words adding letters to them and his sentences sometimes become a flow of words that are meaningless to everyone, possibly except for himself.  In addition from what he’s said he feels that the House Minority Leader, Nancy Pelosi, always looks at him contemptibly.  Many members of the far right feel he is too liberal to be their Speaker.

 

Recently [n a moment of exultation Kevin McCarthy, while being interviewed on Fox News, without being asked, proudly stated that Hillary Clinton’s popularity numbers had been very high but after testifying four times before a Standing Committee on Benghazi her popularity dropped considerably.  He implied strongly and happily that these appearances lowered her popularity significantly.  There is also a fifth Benghazi hearing coming up since the prior four have not been able to place any blame on her.  He confirmed what the Democrats had been saying since they started that these hearings are politically motivated.  Of course McCarthy tried to step back from what he said a day or two afterward.

 

In one sense this is very sad because these four hearings are estimated to have cost the American taxpayers about four million dollars.  This is a strange way for a political party that prides itself upon reducing government spending to spend four million dollars to achieve a so-called political point.  If he is elected Speaker of the House of Representatives it should be interesting if not strange.  His tenure may be very short.

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John Boehner is currently a free agent.  No one can bring any pressure upon him.  He has stated that there will be no government shut down.  If he wished to do so he could deal with the problem of immigration that this country has been facing and ignoring for a number of years.  There are other legislative items that need to be dealt with.   He would have the Democratic votes and probably enough Republican votes to pass almost any bill.  If he does this what the Senate will do is an open question, but McConnell might very well go along with him.  McConnell has stated that the Republican majority will show the country that it can govern.

 

For the first time since his election as Speaker of the House of     Representatives John Boehner is a free agent.  No one can now bring pressure or make demands on him.  He has about a month left to serve in this position and then he is retired from the House.  At the age of 65 he can go back to Ohio and actually retire if he so desires since he currently is estimated as having a net worth of about five million dollars and a generous retirement program from Congress, having served in the House since 1991, 24 years.

 

Instead, if he so desires, he can serve one or another large corporation as a lobbyist and earn additional millions of dollars.  Eric Cantor, when he lost the 2014 election to a more reactionary Tea Partier and was no longer Majority Leader of the Republican’s in the House, took a highly lucrative position earning over a million dollars a year.  Boehner can do the same thing.  The problem here is that once he takes the job he has to follow orders and he is lobbying for the interests of a large corporation.  This is not necessarily a good thing; it somehow resembles selling your soul for money.

 

On the other hand John Boehner can offer his services to a low dollar entity like the Catholic Bishops or to a people oriented enterprise like the movement to end violence against women.  There are many such organizations that would love to have his help as a Washington lobbyist.  He could get a great deal of fulfillment working for one or even several of these.

 

Besides keeping the government functioning how does Boehner’s retirement affect the House of Representatives?  First off many House Tea Partiers consider it a victory for themselves because he was never one of them.  He has occasionally played golf with President Obama, who they consider the enemy.  But the new Speaker will not be a Tea Partier; they don’t have enough votes for that.  Will they be able to control the new Speaker?  Will they be able to shut the government down in December of this year?  Presumably the Congressional Tea Partiers in the Senate would also like to get rid of Mitch McConnell, force him to resign from the Senate.  Among some conservatives there is a “Ditch Mitch” campaign.   Will they be able to do any of this?  If they were somehow to succeed in carrying out their nefarious agenda what will happen?  Those are interesting questions.

 

In my estimation if they were to succeed in any of this, particularly in a Presidential Election year they would probably discredit themselves, particularly the House of Representatives, before the voting public and could conceivably, even with gerrymandered voting districts and some suppressions of the vote, end up with a Democratic majority in the House of Representatives.  John Boehner may have started a roller-coaster going with ever-increasing speed downhill for the Tea Party.  We will see where it ends.

Official portrait of United States House Speak...

Official portrait of United States House Speaker (R-Ohio). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Weiner Component #104 – Obama & the New Republican Congress

English: U.S. President Barack Obama meets wit...

The day after the 2014 Midterm Elections President Obama and the two Republican leaders of Congress were sitting down together, smiling at each other, and discussing how they could get along and get necessary legislation passed. This era of good feeling lasted for one day.

On the subject of climate change both the United States and China are the two greatest polluters in the world today. It is estimated that these two nations produce the bulk of the carbon emissions of all the countries that pollute the atmosphere. During a recent visit to China both President Obama and China’s President Xi Jinping agreed to lower CO2 emissions by 2025 for the first time and also to reduce carbon emissions by 2030. Will the respective countries succeed in doing that? Obviously we’ll have to wait and see. But this brings pressure on other industrial nations like India to act in a similar way.

Almost immediately after the announcement was made both Republican members of the current two Houses of the U.S. Congress and those who will become members in January came out with irate announcements denouncing Obama for daring to use what they consider the false promise of Climate Change to justify limiting business growth in the United States. Some apparently threatened to shut down the government rather than let this happen. It should be interesting to see what happens. Fox news in its non-intellectual fashion suggested possible impeachment. I hadn’t realized that this act by President Obama constituted “high crimes and misdemeanors.”

On the subject of immigration, President Obama is at the point has issued executive orders attempting, as much as he can, without the aid of Congress, to reform the system.

He returned Sunday, November 16, from his eight day trip to China, Myanmar, and Australia. His declaration with China’s president has upset the Republicans. President Obama has promised to take action on immigration before the end of 2014. This he has now done.  Just prior to the trip his senior aides gave him a list of all the potential actions he could order in regards to immigration without congressional approval. He will receive their final recommendation on Tuesday, November 18 and will unveil his executive order any time after that.

One probable reform would be to allow the parents of children born in the United States who are citizens to have some sort of legal status rather than being subject to deportation while their children stay in the U.S. This, I understand, will affect about three and a half million people of the estimated ten million illegal aliens in the country. There are numerous other possibilities of what the President might do.

It should be interesting because the House Speaker has stated that “We’re going to fight the president tooth and nail if he continues down this path. This is the wrong way to govern.” Other Republicans have come out with more vicious messages about what they will do. Senator Jeff Sessions (Republican, Alabama) has threatened to defund any executive action of immigration. Sessions will be the new head of the Senate Budget Committee in January of 2015.

President Obama’s comment to the Republicans in Congress is that if they don’t like his actions then they should pass an immigration bill to supersede them. Approximately a year and a half ago the Senate passed an immigration bill. The Speaker of the House of Representatives, John Boehner, has refused to bring this bill up for debate and to be voted on. It is believed that both Democrats and enough Republicans would vote for this bill and pass it. The Far Right or extremist Republicans are against this bill and apparently they have been able to force Boehner to not act on it. The immigration crisis exists because of the will of a minority within the Republican controlled House.

On Wednesday, November 12, 2014 the House of Representatives by largely a strict party vote again passed the Keystone XL Pipeline bill allowing Canadian Oil Companies to ship oil slag from Canada south through the central United States to the Gulf of Mexico where it will be sent overseas to be processed. The bill came up the following week in the Senate where the Democrats currently have the majority until the end of December. It did not pass.  What will happen there in January is unknown. However the Republicans will be able to pass it in both Houses of Congress next year, when they have a majority there but the President will probably veto it.

The pipeline opens up all sorts of possibilities that can contaminate the water table in the areas under it. President Obama has stated that the United States will not benefit from the pipeline because the oil-muck will be processed overseas where the gasoline will be used. What happens should be interesting. Particularly the President probably will veto the bill causing inordinate levels of rage among the Tea Party Republicans as well as those who have already installed parts of the pipeline.

As I understand it the major problem with the Keystone Pipeline is leaks. Even in Canada where there are short stretches of pipeline there have been innumerable leaks and the oil containing muck that flows through these pipes is highly toxic, virtually contaminating the land upon which it leaks, poisoning the water table if it gets into it. The pipeline through the U.S. has been built by assorted entrepreneurs who see a quick profit if it is used and a loss if it is not used. It has been built as cheaply as possible with few, if any shut off valves in case of leaks. These people have contributed to the Republican Party campaigns and expect a return for the investments.

There is also the question of responsibility if or when a leak occurs. Is it the company in Canada that is shipping this toxic muck with the consistency of toothpaste or is it the owner of that particular section of pipeline that is responsible for the damage caused by the leak? I have the feeling that everyone will be blaming everyone else and that the local or federal government will end up being responsible for whatever possible repairs that can be applied. It could take years for the courts to determine responsibility and by then the person or group will apply for bankruptcy. Certainly no one who is adamantly arguing for the pipeline will take responsibility for their decision. It could take years for the courts to determine responsibility and by then the person or group will have disappeared. Certainly no one who is adamantly arguing for the pipeline will take any responsibility for their decision. Or to put it more simply it is the taxpayer who will in the last analysis foot the bill for whatever can be done to bring conditions back to where they were before the leaks.

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What I visualize from all this is a basic feeling of spite that a goodly section of the Republican Party has for Barak Obama. It and the rage that accompanies it is a bit psychotic. They blindly hate the President and strongly feel that anything he does or wants is wrong for no other reason than he desires it. Their opposition is based upon hate. How dare a black man oppose them since they now control the Congress! It will be fascinating watching the next two years unfold. Unfortunately a goodly percentage of the population will suffer needlessly.

There will be other issues over the next two years. The Republicans mostly will meet them with fury and frustration. In fact if they get incensed enough they may again shut the government down by refusing to fund it or they may actively try to impeach the President.

By November of 2016 I’m sure the general public will have had a stomach full of Republican gridlock. The 2010 Congress passed the least legislation in the entire history of the existence of the United States Congress. Even far less than when the Congress used to meet in the 19th Century for three or four months a year. The 2012 Congress, not only shut down the government costing the Federal Government several billion dollars but they also passed a fraction of the legislation that the 2010 Congress passed. How much legislation will the new Congress pass. From some of the statements made by Republican congressmen the implication is that the Congress will spend the next two years investigating actions by the Democrats to ascertain if they have broken the law. We would seem to be in for two years of investigating committees all chaired by Republicans.

There is also the issue of the Internet: President Obama backs rules that would force broadband providers to treat all Internet Data the same, regardless of who produces it. The Republicans favor the opposite position. The President also in terms of immigration has agreed with the Chinese president to extend the length of current visas for businessmen, students, and tourists currently in the U.S.

Obama returned to the United States on Monday, November 17. To quote former President Harry S. Truman, “The manure will hit the fan” at that time and continue for the next two years. It should be interesting or horrible to watch.

The Weiner Component #93 – The U.S. & the World

English: U.S. President Barack Obama meets wit...

President Barak Obama has had absolutely no support for anything he does or tries to do by the Republicans in Congress who constitute the filibustering minority party in the Senate and the majority party in the House of Representatives. Their fervent goal has been and is to denounce any action he takes or tries to take.

House Speaker John Boehner has been recently making statements that it is not Congresses job to make policy decisions. But Speaker Boehner is presumably suing the President for taking actions without the consent of Congress.

The country is currently facing a number of international emergencies that defy simple solutions. In fact, each seems to be a no win situation. In the Middle East

Members of both major political parties in Congress have argued for immediate action without specifically stating what the action should be. A number of Democrats want the president to be more resolute while members of the Republican Party seem to want immediate action, the sending of troops to Iraq and Syria. Others want action without suggesting what that action should be. In the Ukraine there seems to be a war going on between the Separatists and Russia. Congress has not passed any resolution supporting any position. And no one in Congress seems to be ready to vote for any kind of war, or for that matter, any kind of action. At least this was their position before they went on vacation for the month of August. They will return to work on the second week of August.

In Syria and Iraq ISIS or ISIL has set up a separate Islamic State in areas they have been able to conquer and control. Here they are freely beheading and otherwise freely killing people. They have attempted genocide of a group within Iraq, forcing these people without food or water, to flee up an arid mountain. They have beheaded an American reporter because the U.S. has refused to pay a ransom of several million dollars and because they objected to the U.S. rescuing the group on the mountain and because of other military participation against them in Iraq. ISIS has also beheaded another kidnaped reporter, presumably because the U.S. did not stop its air strikes against them in Iraq. The effect of this has been the reverse of what they want.

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ISIS or ISIL is reminiscent of the old Nazi Party in Germany. They have essentially been able to organize an army of people who psychologically are losers, not able to successfully function in a normal society. As members of the group they are now the strong, the successful, the leaders, and they have absolute power within the areas they dominate. They can arbitrarily put anyone to death. They are now the feared winners within the regions they rule. Recently, I understand, they have also been providing social services for many of the poor within their state. They follow an old primitive form of the Sunni Islamic faith.

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The U.S. invaded Iraq, under the Bush Administration, in the year 2003 after the al-Qaida suicide attack and destruction of the Twin Towers in New York City and after the invasion of the al Qaida stronghold in Afghanistan. Its stated goal was to search out and remove weapons of mass destruction such as atomic bombs making material and poison gas. Its real purpose, which it failed to achieve, was to gain control of Iraqi Oil.

The United States completed its withdrawal from Iraq in December of 2011, during its ninth year there after helping to set up an elected government. The agreement to leave had been drawn up by the Bush Administration after the Iraqi Government refused to continue a policy toward Americans of immunity from Iraqi law. Actually both the Americans and the Iraqis wanted the U.S. forces out of the country.

Unfortunately Iraq ended with a Shia prime minister, Maliki, and a Shia dominated government which gradually discriminated against the Sunni minority within the country, arresting their leaders and other in the group. The result being that a percentage of the population did not and does not trust the government. ISIS, as we’ve seen, is a Sunni terrorist group that has cut out for itself a state that consists partly of Syrian and partly of Iraqi territory. It has voiced claims to other parts of the Middle East.

The population of Iraq tends to be mixed and confused at this point; the government is largely ineffective. If the United States were to become involved in a full military capacity now it would be in Iraq not only fighting ISIS but also supporting the Shia government against the Sunnis living in the country.

President Obama has called for and continues to call for a democratic reorganization of the Iraqi Government, with both sides fairly represented, before the U.S. takes any large scale decisive action. Under these circumstances he apparently feels Iraq will be able to mount an effective military force against the Sunni terrorist group, ISIS.

Currently the U.S. is effectively supporting the Kurds, another ethnic group within Iraq, with air support.

On Monday, September 1, 2014, President Obama formally notified the U.S. Congress that he had authorized air strikes and humanitarian airdrops over the Iraqi city of Amerli, the preceding weekend where ISIS militants had trapped the civilian population.

Iraqi security forces backed by Shiite militias and Kurds on Sunday broke the two month siege of Amerli and entered the city after U.S. military carried out air strikes on the attacking forces.

In this case, with American help, the Kurds, a non-Islamic ethnic group, were able to save their city and defeat ISIS. Will the Iraqi Shiites and Sunnis be able this time to form a democratic government which is fair to all groups living in Iraq; and will this allow them to form an effective military that can successfully fight ISIS? And how long will this take? Can the United States be marginally involved until this occurs? An interesting question.

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What should the U.S. do in terms of Syria which has been involved in a civil war for the last few years? There is the original absolutistic government led by Assad who is fighting over a dozen different revolutionary groups of which ISIS is the most extreme and probably the most successful since it now rules a section of the country. By attacking ISIS there we strengthen Assad’s government, which is in the middle of a civil war, and weaken the Arab Spring in their attempt to reform Syria.

We are, in a manner of speaking, caught on the horns of a dilemma. Any move we make in Syria is a no-win move. We do have drones, pilotless planes, flying over Syria and presumably mapping out everything. This is even though Assad has officially stated that he will allow no planes to occupy Syria’s air space unless that government were cooperating with the Syrian government. What should President Obama do in Syria? Should we aid the more moderate groups with shipments of arms? Eventually we may have to bomb ISIS bases there.

President Barak Obama’s strategy seems to be to gather as many allies as he can, form cooperating coalitions, both in the Middle East and Europe, who are opposed to ISIS as a terrorist state that is both anti-Arab and anti-Occidental. He seems to want to build a coalition that is anti-terrorist. He has also stated in a letter to Congressional leaders on September 1, 2014, of his decision under the War Powers Act that he chooses to broaden the U.S. military role in Iraq. He will deliberate carefully before making final decisions on whether to expand U.S. air strikes into Syria. He has avoided military intervention to date during the three years of civil war.

There is also the situation in the Ukraine with Russia. Under Putin’s leadership Russia is trying to forcibly take over Ukraine. This presents another problem. How does the United States and its European allies (NATO) stop them short of war? The Russian premier, Vladimir Putin, has threatened atomic war. This is something that was never done during the Cold War. During the Cuban Missile Crisis the two countries were on the point of war but both backed off. Chairman Khrushchev agreed to remove the missiles from Cuba and the U.S. secretly agreed to remove our missiles from Turkey six months later. If Khrushchev had not backed down then President Kennedy was ready to openly remove the missiles in Turkey in exchange for the missiles in Cuba. Neither man would consider an atomic war.

As a footnote: Joseph Stalin’s daughter married an American and settled in the United States. Khrushchev’s granddaughter currently teaches at a university in the United States

If Congress wanted to defuse the situation between the two countries it would end its vacation prematurely, return to Washington, D.C., and authorize the President to take whatever action(s) necessary in dealing with Russia, including war. This would give Putin second thoughts and he would be forced to act as an adult in the situation. It would also give President Obama a full range of possible actions in dealing with Russia. It would mean the U.S. is standing together, which it is not doing, with the Republicans jockeying for political advantage against the President and the Democrats.

During the last week of August 2014 President Obama stated that his administration did not yet have a strategy to combat ISIS, at least in the areas it controls in Syria. By the end of the following week in Wales at the summing up of the results of the NATO meeting between its 27 members the President had a fully worked out strategy. Obama spent the week at the Conference building coalitions against the radical Islamic group and also spelling out a response to Putin’s war threat. He specifically stated publically more than once that an attack upon any NATO member would be treated as an attack against all of them. It seems that even though Ukraine does not belong to the group they will be allowed to join.

Toward ISIS the United States and its allies aim to “degrade and ultimately destroy” the militant group. The process will include NATO and the majority of Islamic states including those that are Sunni. ISIS, he believes, is a threat to all the nations.

Even though the Ukraine and Russia are not technically at war on Saturday, September 6, they agreed to a cease fire agreement and an exchange of prisoners. On Sunday, September 7, the truce is holding in Ukraine with a few violations on both side. Will it break down or end up in some sort of peace settlement?

Congress returns on Monday, September 8, the second week of September from its monthly vacation. What will be their response to President Obama’s requests under the War Powers Act and will they support or ignore the President’s actions. It should be interesting to see what happens. Particularly with an interim election coming up early in November.

Official photographic portrait of US President...

The Weiner Component #84 – The Republicans & the American Infastructure

Franklin D. Roosevelt

Official portrait of United States House Speak...

The purpose of Congress in the United States is to serve the people, not to play politics. The Republicans in Congress are not carrying out their proper function. The American people deserve better. Either the Republican Congressmen have no knowledge of Macroeconomics or they are plain vicious, caring only for themselves and the welfare of heir party.

John Boehner, the Speaker of the House of Representatives has come out with statements to the effect that Harry Reed and the Senate Democrats have not picked up any of the job creation bills that the House of Representatives have passed. The question here is what job creation bills? The only ones that come to mind are the fifty bills they passed to do away with Affordable Health Care. They claim that this law is a job busting one. How, they never say.

The fact is that eight million plus people, many who have never before been able to afford medical insurance, now have health coverage. If anything, Obamacare has created more jobs in the medical field. Just the paper work involved would require many more clerks

I am reminded of one of President Roosevelt’s 1936 campaign speeches where he stated sarcastically the Republican position at that time. The Republicans wanted to be elected so they could administer the New Deal. They said, in effect, that they would do it better and there would be more of it. Boehner wants to get rid of Obamacare so they can pass a bill creating Boehner Care that would be better and include more medical coverage for everyone. Of course there are no details of what this bill would contain. Probably they would be as efficient in passing it as they are in solving the illegal immigrant problem or a minimum wage bill.

In 1929 it was Republican Administrations that brought the Great Depression into being. In 2008 it was also Republicans who had brought the Real Estate Bubble into existence. Now they are going to solve this problem by bringing back conditions that brought this situation about.

How do we know this? In the 2012 Presidential Election Mitt Romney, the Republican candidate, promulgated this plan. It was the Republican Platform. They acted as though there had never been an economic crash in 2008 during the Bush Republican Administration.

Everything the House of Representatives has done since it gained a Republican majority in 2011 has been aimed at exacerbating the conditions brought about by the Real Estate Disaster. They have not passed one jobs bill since that time. There has been no fiscal policy. Instead the House has shrunken government services, particularly to the poor, starting a chain reaction which forced state governments to do away with multitudes of state jobs. The Republicans have been hypocrites, saying one thing and doing the opposite. Paul Ryan has stated, in effect, that he would not feed a hungry person because the dependence would take his dignity away from him. Really!

What we need are programs to get rid of hungry, homeless people by providing jobs for them. Up to this point when we thought of the infrastructure of this country we believed how upgrading it would decrease unemployment in the United States and help bring prosperity to all its people. Isn’t it time to consider the actual needs of the nation? Going into the 21st Century with a 20th Century Infrastructure is just plain dumb. Most of our infrastructure was built well over fifty years ago and is outdated or inadequate.

Also, whether because of man’s abuses or for reason of natural changing conditions the weather patterns have and are changing and bringing phenomenal strain upon these structures. In the winter of 2013—2014 there were some radical changes in weather conditions within some areas of the United States. These changes or others like them, whether caused by natural climate changes or by pollution, could become normal in the future.

Temperatures dropped to 16 below zero in Chicago, during early January and set record lows across the eastern U.S. A fifth of all power generating capacity in a grid serving 50 million people went suddenly offline, as coal piles froze. Sensitive electrical equipment went haywire and utility operators had serious problems finding enough natural gas to keep power plants operating. The wholesale price of electricity jumped to more than forty-times its normal rate. The retail price became insane. One customer received a bill for $1,250 for January that was eventually reduced to $750. Another one with a $654 bill got no relief.

The problem with the cost of the electricity was the result of an antiquated grid and the pacific vortex, the cold air mass that settled over the nation. It exposed a growing fragility in the U.S. electricity grid. We need a modernization of the system or we are open to facing all sorts of emergencies in the near future.

The infrastructure is the basic facilities, services, and instillations needed for the proper functioning of the nation, such as communications and transportation systems, water and power lines, and public institutions including schools, post offices, and other needed public entities.

In April tornados hit sections of the central United States. Billions of dollars in property was damaged and destroyed. People were killed. The basic problem here is that the warning system is only fifteen minutes before the storm strikes. We have the knowledge and technology to do far better than that. Cities susceptible to these storms all need tornado warning systems and storm shelters. Since damage seems to be higher in mobile home parks these all need storm shelters. The cost of installing all this would not be that great and the savings in human lives would most likely be considerable.

Both urban and rural highways need constant maintenance. While constant construction does go on in some areas this does not occur. Also many highways are old, built decades ago, containing numerous pot holes and insufficient lanes. The population using them has increased considerably and improvements, if any, have been minimal. It’s time for a revamping of our nation’s roads and highways. We need a modern transportation system to supply the needs of today’s citizenry and to allow for rapid and easy movement of goods and people.

Public schools, both primary and secondary, in many cases were built during the first half of the 20th Century. They need to be refurbished or in some cases rebuilt so they can function as modern educational institutions. State colleges and universities also, in many cases, are dated structures. They need to be enlarged and modernized in order to serve the needs of today’s students.

Municipal, state, and federal buildings, proper and adequately built aqueducts to carry clean water to all the urban and rural areas of the country are needed. Most bridges in the country are over fifty years old. Some are in danger of collapsing; a section of one did a few years ago dropping several automobiles into the river. Luckily no one died.

At the rate we’re going most industrial nations will bypass the United States in their infrastructures.  Do we go forward with modernization or patch after each disaster?

 

 

 

 

The Weiner Component #63 – The State of the Union & the Republican Party

Official photographic portrait of US President...

On Tuesday, January 28, 2014, the President of the United States, Barak Obama, gave the yearly State of the Union speech.  He was positive about the nation and vowed that as far as he could he would extend numerous programs if Congress did not act.  He is the chief administrator in the country who carries out the laws.  Congress alone has the power to pass laws.

The Republican response to his speech was given by Washington State Representative Cathy Mc Morris Rogers, the 200th woman elected to the House of Representatives. The fact that she mentioned that she is the 200th woman was interesting in that women make up about 53% of the overall population of the United States.  There are 435 elected members of the House of Representatives.  Women got the right to vote in 1920 with the passage of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution.  Why is their number in Congress so low that it has taken 94 years for 200 members of their gender to be elected to Congress?  Have they been busy being pregnant and raising children since 1920?

Mrs. Rogers, as she gave her presentation, appeared to be a very nice lady.  She spoke sitting on a couch, presumably in a living room somewhere.  To a certain extent she praised President Obama stating that their goals were similar, the welfare of the American people; but their methods of achieving them differed.  She spoke about Republican plans in Congress to create more jobs, expand medical care, and generally improve conditions for the unemployed and middle class.  Her statements were general, no specifics were given.

What came to my mind from what she said were some of the statements that Republicans had made over the years.  They would achieve these ideal conditions by lowering taxes for the rich so that they could create more jobs.  According to the Speaker, John Boehner, the rich are the job creators.  The rich have gotten far richer in the last decade but we still have high unemployment.  Where are the jobs they are supposed to have created?

Nothing Cathy Morris Rogers said dealt with how to expand medical care for everyone.  She gave one example about Affordable Health Care where an individual’s rates were raised.  It was a very general group of statements.

What basically I heard in her speech was pabulum: trust us, we’ll make things better for you.  Even though the Republican in Congress have done nothing, since they gained control of the House in 2011, to improve economic conditions in the country except attach the term “Job Creating” to numerous bills that had nothing to do with jobs.  In fact Republican actions in Congress have exacerbated negative conditions in the United States to the point of worsening the economic plight of a goodly percentage of the population.

Why did the Republicans choose a woman legislator to respond to the President’s speech?  It struck me that the answer to this question was very obvious.  The Republicans have been continually accused of making a war on women.  According to Mike Huckabee, the former preacher and governor of Arkansas from 1996 to 2007, they all want the government to pay for birth control so they can have continuous sex.  The fact that birth control is a factor used by women for purposes of their own health and family planning is immaterial.

(Parenthetically, Huckabee signed a bill as Governor of Arkansas that made birth control a requirement for all female medical plans in Arkansas during his term as governor.)

The Republicans are acting as though women are incapable of making life decisions for themselves.  They have been doing this for quite a while.  They want women to pay the cost of many of their health decisions while men can freely get coverage on such sex enhancing drugs like Viagra.

In addition to all this many Republicans want an end to all abortions, even in cases of rape, incest, or the life of the mother being in danger.  The Republicans, who seem to be mostly older white males seem to see women as objects that they must control.  If this isn’t war on women I don’t know what is?

The choice of a woman, Cathy Morris Rogers, to respond to President Obama’s State of the Union speech was an attempt to demonstrate that there is no war on women.  It was supposed to bring both women and men to or back to the Republican fold.

Her speech had no real substance and it belied Republican actions in Congress since 2011.  The message she gave for the Republican Party was:

Trust us, we’ll do right by the nation.  There was no way of telling how or when.  It gave words but no actions.  The President, on the other hand, was very specific about what he will do.

The Midterm Election will be held toward the end of 2014.  By their voting the public will decide what kind of future the country will have in 2015 and 2016.  Will it be more Republican austerity or Democratic growth?

 

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The Weiner Component #47 – The Tea Party & The Debt Ceiling

  

English: The holders of the United States nati...

English: The holders of the United States national debt as of December 2008. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On October 17th the United States Government will reach its authorized Debt Ceiling unless the House of Representatives passes the bill raising it.  According to the analysis released Tuesday by the Bipartisan Policy Center the Federal Government will be unable to pay its bills and face default as early as October 22 and no later than November 1.  

The Treasury Secretary warned Congress that the 16.7 trillion dollar debt limit must be raised by October 17th or the Federal Government will face default.  At that point the Treasury would have to depend on cash on hand, about 30 billion, and incoming revenues to pay its bills on any given day.  Unfortunately all its multi-thousands of bills are paid by computers that can’t be reprogrammed to pay selectively or partially.

According to some Tea Party members of the House of Representatives this problem is no big deal.  These people’s knowledge of government and economics is non-existent.  They have said that they don’t trust economists who all have different opinions.  One member stated that his knowledge of economics is based upon the fact that he raised a family.  Rand Paul said that the Federal Government has so much money coming in it doesn’t have to worry about having enough funds to pay its bills.  Others have stated that this change won’t even be noticed.  Another’s statement was that the default would stabilize international finances.  Of course all these individuals offered no proof for their inspired statements.

The economic awareness or sophistication of the people in the Tea Party is non-existent; they function by “common sense” based upon limited experience with no awareness of what they don’t know or understand.  I am reminded of the man who didn’t believe in or trust doctors.  His wife came out with a cancerous growth on her neck. His experience with illness had to do with occasional headaches and for these he took three to four aspirins each time he had one.  Since his wife’s problem was more serious than a headache he gave her six to eight aspirins to solve her medical problem.  No doubt she died of cancer.

If the default problem were a burning house and what to do about it then their solution would be to pour gasoline on the flames in order to put out the fire; that way it would burn out faster.  They have a strange solution to a problem that they themselves have created.  Basically they would destroy the economy if they can’t get their way.  And what is their way?  They want to get rid of the Affordable Health Care Law, reduce entitlement programs, reduce taxes for the upper few percentage of the population and force other unpopular programs down the throat of the American public.  Since they can’t do this by taking over the presidency and Congress the will do it by extortion, the House will force the rest of the government to do what it wants.  And in trying to achieve this nefarious goal they are wasting billions of dollars and disrupting not only he United States but also all the other industrial societies that use the dollar as a basis of value.

There has never been a Debt Default before in the entire history of the United States.  We can only guess what will happen.  The guesses go from a complete disruption to a total breakdown of the economy, far worse than the Great Depression of 1929 affected the world.  We are talking about ever-growing massive unemployment, disruption and possible destruction of all VA programs, crashing financial markets, virtually destroying a major part of the national economy, plus disrupting Europe and Asia.  This is what the Tea Party seemingly is willing to bring about if they don’t get their way.  This is extortion greater than any ever committed by any criminal.

If we ignore everything above then not increasing the Debt Limit will freeze the Federal Reserve’s ability to use Monetary Policy.  The Fed has been adding 85 billion dollars monthly to the National Cash Flow.  This has been going on for well over a year.  The increased flow of currency has allowed for most economic growth since 2011.  That also includes the housing recovery.  There has been no fiscal policy, spending by Congress to increase employment.  Stopping this flow of currency will cause immediate stoppage of all recovery.  The economy will instead begin a process of ever-growing shrinkage with an ever-increasing level of unemployment.

Will Barak Obama allow this to happen?  I don’t see how he can.  If the Republicans refuse to give in unless they get their way then he is left with two choices: (1) He can give the Tea Party Republicans what they demand and set a precedent for extortion, or (2) He can invoke Section 4 of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, which states:

“The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment Of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing Insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned.”

The next sentence states essentially that the United States shall not be held responsible for paying for the freed slaves and the last section gives Congress the power to enforce this Amendment by proper legislation.

Can the President then authorize paying the public debt or does only Congress retain this power?  It’s an interesting question that in the end can only be answered by the Supreme Court.  And their decision, depending upon the makeup of the Court, could go either way and even be reversed by a future Court. 

But if Congress is irresponsible does the President really have a choice?  He swore an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States.  He assumed responsibility for the welfare of the nation.  For him to allow this to happen would be breaking his oath.

Currently and each day increasingly there is greater pressure on the Tea Party and other Republicans in the House of Representatives to end the Debt Ceiling and provide a budget for the United States, to again fund the government.  Currently the Tea Party group within the House is reluctant to do this but the more moderate Republicans seemingly are willing.  If the Speaker, John Boehner would bring a clean bill on both of these issues up before the House then, with Democratic support, it should easily pass.  Up to this point he has not been willing to do this.  Doing so will probably cost him the speaker-ship of the House of Representatives.

And when both the Debt Ceiling and the budget problems are resolved there is still the Sequester.

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The Tea Party Group is actually living in the wrong century.  They would have been happy and well adjusted in the late 18th Century, around the time of the American Revolution.  Government then was far away and bothered you very little except for taxes.  Many of the people living then considered taxes a gift that they gave to the government.  The people were very independent, building their own houses, clearing their fields, raising their own food, making their own furniture, running their own stills, bringing meat to the table by the use of their muskets.  They were an independent lot, standing tall, and proud of it.

The problem with the Tea Party is that they are now living in the 21st Century where everyone is interdependent upon everyone else.  The muskets have become automatic weapons capable of firing over 100 rounds a minute and there are specialists to do all the other tasks.  People are crowded in society and function best through endless compromise.  The Tea Partiers see compromise as a sign of weakness.  Real men don’t compromise; they push until they get their way.

Unfortunately for them the group that financially backed the Tea Party, the billionaires like the Koch Brothers and the large corporations are withdrawing their support, which means their money contributions.  I imagine these people thought they could control the Tea Partiers and have just discovered that they created Frankenstein Monsters that are out to destroy the country if they can’t get their own way.

What I suspect we will be seeing in the near future is an inept Tea Party breaking away from the Republican Party and forming its own third party.  They will then be like the No Nothing Party of the 1840s and 1850s, appearing noisily for a decade or two and then disappearing.  Their influence will wane to nothing as time passes.

tea party

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The Weiner Component #46 – The Tea Party & the Government Shut Down

  What is the purpose of having a government?  The quickest answer comes from The American Declaration of Independence: that governments are “instituted” to provide “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness,” and that they derive “their just powers from the consent of the governed,” which is majority rule.  The Constitution begins with the phase “We the People…” One could say looking at the history of this nation that the purpose of the Government of the United States was/is to serve the people, to provide for their welfare and safety.

I believe it was Benjamin Franklin who first came out with the statement that “In free governments the rulers are the servants and the people their superiors and sovereigns.  For the former therefore to return among the later is not to degrade but to promote them.”

Somehow it seems that the Tea Party members of the Republican Party elected to Congress have missed or never learned these points.  They, a distinct minority even among the Republicans in the House of Representatives, are attempting to enforce their will on the majority.  Largely because of controlling party finances and Election Districts they have been successful within the House of Representatives in enforcing their party line.  They have ignored the voice of the people in the 2012 Election and by using ignoble means have tried to force the Senate and the President to do what they want.  Is this how government is supposed to work in a democracy?

It would seem to these members of the Tea Party that they are right and everyone else is wrong.  Essentially the moderate Republicans have given up on not funding the Government but the reactionary Republicans are stiill insisting upon geting their way and are still successful.  They have largely cherry picked some areas of the government to fund.  They are now in the process of created the Debt Ceiling; that is refusing to raise the debt limit so that the Government can pay its bills.  The Debt Ceiling should be reached by October 16.  If it is the Federal Government will no longer be able to borrow money and will begin to default upon many of its bills..

It is interesting to note that the President and his Administration cannot spend money that has not been appropriated by Congress.  What the Tea Party Republicans in the House are threatening to do is to not pay bills that they have authorized through laws.  The House then is going to refuse to pay its own bills.   Try that as a homeowner and see what happens.

The Speaker of the House of Representatives, John Boehner, has stated, with a strong note of frustration in his voice, that the President has refused to negotiate with him.  President Obama has continually said that he is willing to negotiate, after the budget and debt crises’ are dealt with, that he will not do so with a gun held to the head of the American people.

The concept of negotiating issues is one in which both sides hold positions on a specific issue and then eventually come to some sort of compromise.  For example: labor and management will argue salaries; labor wants as big an increase as it can get and management wants to pay as little as possible.  If the demands are realistic they will end somewhere toward the center.  They are dealing with a single issue. 

The Republicans in the House wanted to negotiate continued funding of the government in return for defunding Affordable Health Care and later for delaying registration of new insured for an additional year.  What has Affordable Health Care got to do with funding the government?  What Boehner wanted was not negotiations but leverage to get what the House could not achieve by legitimate means, passing a bill and having it taken up by the Senate and signed by the President.  This is extortion and spite.  It is actually saying, Do it my way or I’ll stop you from functioning.

In terms of the Debt Ceiling the Republican hope to use their leverage to achieve various nefarious goals, such as the Keystone oil pipeline between Canada and the United States.  The Canadians have large mush fields (mud, small stones, and oil) from which the oil can be extracted.  The material is highly toxic and leaks in the pipeline could poison sections of the water table and rivers from which parts of the United States draws its fresh water for both people and agriculture.  The profits from this venture are phenomenal for the people who would own the pipeline.  These individuals not only have the materials in place but they have also begun laying the pipe and they are major contributors to the Republican Party.

The pipeline instead of going south through the entire United States could have gone west, in Canada, to the Pacific Ocean but short stretches of the line in Canada have a history of leaks and the Canadian Government is not allowing a major much pipeline through Canada.

During the Italian Renaissance, when a Cathedral was built the architect stood inside the building when the scaffolding was taken down.  If he had miscalculated in his design he would make no more mistakes, the collapsing building would kill him.  Are the architects of the Keystone oil pipeline willing to do the same thing?  Are they willing to put their lives and fortunes on the line?  I think not.  They are willing to pay fines that would in the end represent a small percentage of the damage they would do and walk away with their profits as happened in the British Petroleum oil spil in the Gulfl.

What we have with the Republicans, particularly the Tea Party Republicans is an inability to deal with reality.  They would like to cut Medicare, Social Security, food stamps to the needy, as well as other government programs which effect the poor and most Americans while maintaining and possibly increasing subsidy programs for the well-to-do.  Presumably they want to decrease both spending and the size of government.  But in refusing to fund the government they are wasting numerous millions of dollars a day plus adversely affecting the economy.  About 800,000 government workers were furloughed.  These people will not have paychecks to pay their rent or mortgages, or the other items by which they need to live.  The people who are dependent upon these government workers will have to do without their needed services.  Instead of being economical, as the Tea Party claims it is, it is extending government debt and hurting both the functioning of the government and the economy.  The damage is needless and stupid.

In addition there is still the sequester that is hurting all government programs by automatically reducing their budgets.

The House Republicans have stated that when the government closure is over they will fully pay all the furloughed workers.  Where is the so-called savings?  What are they

doing?  Do they know?

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