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Senate OKs Bill to Avert Shutdown September 27, 2011

Posted by seeineye in : Politics , add a comment

After a heated battle between Dems and GOP over disaster aid, the Senate votes to send a temporary spending bill to the House to avoid a government shutdown.

The vote in the Senate was 79 to 12 to fund the government through Nov. 18, giving the two sides more time to haggle over long-term spending levels. The Senate also approved an even shorter-term spending bill — funding the government into next week — by a voice vote to give the House time to reconvene and approve the followup.

The breakthrough came hours after the Federal Emergency Management Agency indicated it had enough money for disaster relief efforts through Friday. That disclosure allowed lawmakers to jettison a $1 billion replenishment that had been included in the measure — and to crack the gridlock it had caused.

The events assured there would be no interruption in assistance in areas battered by disasters such as Hurricane Irene and last summer’s tornados in Joplin, Mo., and also that the government would be able to run normally when the new budget year begins on Saturday.

The agreement also spelled the end to the latest in a string of political standoffs between Democrats and Republicans over deficits, spending and taxes that have rattled financial markets and coincided with polls showing congressional approval ratings at historically low levels.

“This compromise should satisfy Republicans…and it should satisfy Democrats,” said Senate Majority leader Harry Reid, who added that Budget Director Jacob Lew had informed him that FEMA did not need any additional funding to meet its needs for the final few days of the budget year.

“It’s a win for everyone,” Reid declared.

House Speaker John Boehner’s office argued that the GOP was never opposed to disaster aid, just the process for approving the aid.

“Senate Democrats have conceded that the spending level in the House-passed bill was the most responsible solution,” Boehner spokesman Mike Steel said in a written statement. “If it weren’t for House GOP efforts, the American taxpayers would have been on the hook for even more reckless borrowing by Washington Democrats.”

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said the latest legislation was a “reasonable way to keep the government operational.”

But not even the dispute-resolving agreement prevented Democrats from proceeding to a politically charged vote earlier in the evening that was designed to force Republicans to decide whether immediate aid to disaster victims or deficit concerns held a higher priority.

And the rhetoric was far harsher during the day on the Senate floor, when Mary Landrieu, D-La., unleashed an unusually personal attack on House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., saying the weeks-long controversy started when he said, “Before we can provide help we need to find offsets in the budget.”

She called that “the Cantor doctrine” and said the controversy “could have been avoided if Cantor had just said, `I’m sorry, but I made a mistake.’ But instead of saying that, he doubled down,” she said.

Laena Fallon, a spokeswoman for Cantor, responded that the Virginia Republican had “never said the things she alleged, he has only suggested that we ought to provide disaster aid dollars to those who need them in a responsible way — something that she’s voted to block despite the urgent need.”

In fact, House Republicans insisted that any new disaster aid for the expiring budget year be offset by cuts elsewhere in the budget, a decision that Democrats seized on in hopes of reshaping the political terrain to their advantage.

Hours earlier, FEMA spokeswoman Rachel Racusen, said the agency had $114 million left in its disaster relief fund, enough to last until Thursday or Friday, the final business day of the current budget year. She said the exact timing would depend on the number of emergency victims who apply for aid, and whether any new disasters occur.

FEMA officials had said previously the funds would run out early this week. That concern prompted the Obama administration a few weeks ago to ask Congress to approve a replenishment to tide the agency over through the Sept. 30 end to the fiscal year.

House Republicans agreed weeks ago to provide $1 billion and include the money in a bill that also provides money for most federal agencies for the first few weeks of the 2012 budget year. At the same time, they insisted on cutting spending elsewhere in the budget by $1.5 billion to prevent the deficit from rising, an amount later raised to $1.6 billion.

That, in turn, produced a quick attack from Senate Democrats, who opposed cuts.

While it was unclear precisely how long FEMA’s remaining funds would last, one official said the agency began conserving funds last month as Hurricane Irene approached the U.S. mainland, prioritizing its aid to help individual disaster victims and pay states and local governments for immediate needs such as removing debris and building sand bag barricades.

Funding of $450 million has been put on hold for longer-term needs such as reconstruction of damaged roads, the official said. In addition, the agency has been able to reclaim unused money from past disasters, according to the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, citing lack of authority to discuss the matter publicly.

Can the House “deem” a bill into law? April 4, 2011

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by Barry Carr

Er … no.

Republicans screeched when Louise Slaughter attempted to push a “deem and pass” strategy for ObamaCare a little over a year ago, arguing that the notion of deeming the bill as passed in the House without a direct floor vote was an affront to democracy and the Constitution.  Democrats agreed — in 2003, when Republicans tried the same thing on a tax-credit measure.  In the end, Democrats abandoned “deem and pass” as a strategy after less than a week and held a floor vote on ObamaCare instead, which passed.

Republicans swore to restore Constitutional processes if returned to the majority in the House.  They’re not off to a great start.  They have revived deem and pass, with a twist — instead of claiming that a bill has passed, the GOP voted that a House bill would be deemed as effective law if the Senate failed to act (via David Brauer):

The House narrowly passed legislation on Friday that calls for a House-passed FY 2011 spending bill to become law should the Senate fail to approve a spending bill by April 6. It would also prevent members of Congress from being paid during a government shutdown.

The bill, H.R. 1255, was approved over bitter Democratic opposition in a 221-202 vote in which no Democrats supported it, and 15 Republicans opposed it.

Several Democrats argued that the measure is unconstitutional, charging that it would “deem” that the 2011 spending bill, H.R. 1, has the force of law if the Senate fails to act. Some Democrats seized on the floor comments from Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas), who broke with his party and said on the floor that this aspect of the bill “violates my conscious and the Constitution, and I cannot vote for it.”

Gohmert’s right.  The process of making law under the Constitution isn’t exactly a secret.  Article I, Section 7 clearly states in unequivocal language that bills do not have the force of law until either a President signs a bill passed in both chambers, or both chambers override a Presidential veto by two-thirds majorities in both chambers, emphases mine:

Section 7 – Revenue Bills, Legislative Process, Presidential Veto

All bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives; but the Senate may propose or concur with Amendments as on other Bills.

Every Bill which shall have passed the House of Representatives and the Senate, shall, before it become a Law, be presented to the President of the United States; If he approve he shall sign it, but if not he shall return it, with his Objections to that House in which it shall have originated, who shall enter the Objections at large on their Journal, and proceed to reconsider it. If after such Reconsideration two thirds of that House shall agree to pass the Bill, it shall be sent, together with the Objections, to the other House, by which it shall likewise be reconsidered, and if approved by two thirds of that House, it shall become a Law. But in all such Cases the Votes of both Houses shall be determined by Yeas and Nays, and the Names of the Persons voting for and against the Bill shall be entered on the Journal of each House respectively. If any Bill shall not be returned by the President within ten Days (Sundays excepted) after it shall have been presented to him, the Same shall be a Law, in like Manner as if he had signed it, unless the Congress by their Adjournment prevent its Return, in which Case it shall not be a Law.

Every Order, Resolution, or Vote to which the Concurrence of the Senate and House of Representatives may be necessary (except on a question of Adjournment) shall be presented to the President of the United States; and before the Same shall take Effect, shall be approved by him, or being disapproved by him, shall be repassed by two thirds of the Senate and House of Representatives, according to the Rules and Limitations prescribed in the Case of a Bill.

In other words, a House bill has no legal effect whatsoever, unless the Senate also passes it.  A lack of action by the Senate does not allow the House to declare that a bill has suddenly acquired the status of law.  For a party that promised that every bill under its majority would have attached to it an avowal of constitutionality, this is an egregious mistake.

Still, there’s no small amount of irony in hearing Nancy “you have to pass the bill to find out what’s in it” Pelosi and former deem-and-pass defender Steny Hoyer complain about this new twist on the old racket:

“What you see on the floor today is no example of Democracy in action,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said. “It’s silly. The Republican leadership is asking its members to make a silly vote.”

“April Fools, America,” House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said. “This is a joke, America. This is not real, America.”

No, it’s not real at all.  Republicans need to stop the foolishness and act in accordance with the Constitution.

Here’s the roll call vote.

AFL-CIO chief says ObamaCare “shoved down the Republicans’ throats” September 9, 2010

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by Ed Morrissey

I’ll give AFL-CIO chief Richard Trumka decent marks for accuracy, if not imagery, in this clip from a speech given in the bright afterglow of the passage of ObamaCare in April of this year. He hails Nancy Pelosi for her work in getting ObamaCare passed, although the real work actually occurred in the Senate. Pelosi, after all, had a 77-seat majority with no filibuster rule, so she didn’t really shove this down the throats of Republicans as much as she shoved ObamaCare down the throats of recalcitrant Blue Dog Democrats who wanted to win another election in their lifetime. But Trumka is dead-on about what that process actually produced:

“Without Nancy Pelosi, health care [sic] wouldn’t have happened, because all the guys that were sitting around the table wanted to fold their cards and go for these little itty-bitty rights. She’s the one who had the backbone to say no. We stuck together, and we got a historic victory, and she drove it down the Republicans’ throats and out their backsides.”

Classy! And what comes out of one’s backside is … what, exactly, Mr. Trumka? Don’t bother to answer; sixty percent of American voters already know the answer, which is why they want ObamaCare repealed.

Note: I put the [sic] in the quote because Trumka, like so many other ObamaCare supporters, seem to believe that health care only came into being on March 23rd of this year.  Health care has been happening in this country for centuries without government intervention — and there will be less of it happening under ObamaCare, or at least fewer people providing it.

Democracy and Power 116: The Citizen’s Vote August 9, 2010

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The national budget must be balanced. The public debt must be reduced; the arrogance of the authorities must be moderated and controlled. Payments to foreign governments must be reduced. If the nation doesn’t want to go bankrupt, people must again learn to work, instead of living on public assistance.
– Marcus Tullius Cicero, 55 BC

The American voter has a single vote, for a person to represent them in Congress, the Senate and the Presidency. The citizen has no vote on policy.

With the growth of the federal government, it is imperative for the citizen to understand the process. Only through appreciation of our government, can “We the People” begin to seek means of beneficially controlling the power of government.

Pelosi: We want Card Check ASAP July 30, 2010

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by Ed Morrissey

Consider this a little reminder for those who seem to have trouble determining whether Nancy Pelosi is a liberal.  Having Pelosi announce to a union crowd (here it’s the Communication Workers of America) that she supports Card Check is a little like saying water is wet, which is why Joe Sestak made such a fool out of himself with his tapdance on Pelosi’s agenda.  Of course she wants Card Check to become law, and not just for altruistic progressive reasons, either:

Pelosi wants Card Check in order to get unions to increase their membership rolls — and the dues they get to collect. Those dues will mean bigger political contributions, which will mean more money to the Democratic Party.  Had the Senate passed EFCA, Democrats may have already started seeing the money roll into their coffers.

It’s a good reminder of the stakes in the midterm elections.  A big win in the House will mean an end to EFCA, which would have to be reintroduced in the next session of Congress if the Senate takes no action on it.  That’s also a good reminder to be wary of the lame-duck Congress after the midterms, and to keep a close eye on the Senate especially.

Legal recognition of a union has traditionally been achieved through secret ballot elections, in which each worker decides whether or not to support a union in the privacy of the voting booth — just like a person votes for the president or a senator. But unions frequently lose secret ballot elections. So they often bring intense pressure on companies to agree to a “card check” system instead of a secret election.

There’s no reason to subject the workers to an election.
— President Bruce Raynor, UNITE HERE

With card checks, paid union organizers try to persuade workers to sign cards saying that they favor union representation. This persuasion frequently takes the form of harassing visits to workers’ homes, deception, and coercion. As soon as more than 50 percent of the workers in a bargaining unit sign a card, the union can be recognized as the representative of 100 percent of the workers.

We don’t do elections.
— SEIU Local 32BJ leader Mike Fishman

Card check campaigns generally occur in the context of a neutrality agreement, in which the company agrees to not speak to employees about the risks and downsides of union membership. When asked about neutrality agreements versus secret ballot elections in a 2005 Zogby poll, 59 percent of Americans agreed that “employers should be able to provide employees with information about unions and the potential impact of unionizing on their jobs.”