Congress

Intrigue: Doth Chuck Schumer Protest Too Much When Called 'Enabler' of Bad Budget Deal?

(AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
(AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta) Sen. Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York, talks on a phone as he walks from the Senate subway on Capitol in Washington, Friday, December 12, 2014. This article originally appeared at The Huffington Post . L ast week, I wrote a piece lamenting the fact that so many Democrats had voted for a budget package that gutted a key provision of the Dodd-Frank Act. The so called swaps push-out provision, now repealed, required banks to separate their speculative business in derivatives from depository banking covered by government insurance and further protected by the Federal Reserve. The broader budget deal, technically a continuing resolution to keep the government funded through next September, also cut a lot of needed public spending and added several odious riders, including one that raises the ceiling on individual campaign contributions to party committees about tenfold. Had Democrats resolutely opposed the deal, I argued, it would have revealed Republicans...

Meet the Congressional Mouthpieces of the Anti-Cuba Lobby

They hail from both parties, but they have one thing in common: something called the U.S. Cuba-Democracy PAC.

(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)
(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File) Like his Republican counterparts who oppose the president's opening to Cuba, U.S. Senator Bob Menendez, Democrat of New Jersey, has ties to the U.S.-Cuba Democracy PAC. On Wednesday, December 17, he accused President Barack Obama of "vindicat[ing] the brutal behavior of the Cuban government.” This March 27, 2014, file photo shows him in his role as Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman, listening as the committee's ranking member, Senator Bob Corker, Republican of Tennessee, speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington. This article originally appeared at AlterNet . O n Wednesday, President Barack Obama announced that Cuba would be freeing several American captives while also overhauling relations between the two countries, moving to a full normalization of relations that would include a gradual lifting of the travel and trade bans. Obama's move is in sync with public opinion. Gallup has long polled Americans about their...

The Great Budget Sellout of 2014: Do We Even Have a Second Party?

The Democrats not only lost this vote on issues they allegedly care about; they lost their role as a credible opposition.

(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) For in the great budget sellout of December 2014, fully 57 House Democrats voted with the Republicans to narrowly pass this deal. Key Senate Democrats close to Wall Street, such as Chuck Schumer of New York, shown here, were its enablers. This article originally appeared at The Huffington Post . I n principle, Saturday's vote to keep the government open should be the perfect curtain-raiser for the political debates between now and the 2016 election. As their price for averting a government shutdown, Republicans demanded and got a gutting of one of the most important provisions of the Dodd-Frank Act, preventing banks from speculating with government insured money. Agencies hated by Republicans such as the Environmental Protection Agency took big cuts, and a rider was inserted permitting "mountaintop removal" coal mining once again. Another extraneous provision demanded by conservatives permits massive increase in individual campaign contributions. The IRS...

Here's a Bargain Republicans and Democrats Could Make on Obamacare

Shake on it - for America. (Flickr/ClaraDon)
Since Congress just passed a budget and we are therefore at the dawn of a new era of bipartisan comity and compromise, I'd like to propose a trade, one that will allow both Democrats and Republicans to gain something significant without giving much up. The topic is the Affordable Care Act, and the trade is this: What if Republicans agree to pass a technical fix to address what it essentially a typo in the ACA, one that threatens to take insurance from millions of middle-class Americans, and in exchange, Democrats agree to repeal the ACA's employer mandate? Everybody would win. Let's start with the employer mandate. Republicans hate it, because it infringes on the prerogatives of business owners, whom Republicans tend to believe are the most virtuous among us. There is certainly a cost of the mandate, in that some employers who hadn't offered insurance before will now have to do so. Raise their expenses, and there will be some effect on employment as they don't hire as many workers...

Progressives Just Lost a Fight On the Budget. So Why Are They So Happy?

(AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
O ver the weekend, the "Cromnibus" budget was passed by a coalition that included the GOP leadership and the Obama White House. Neither conservative Republicans nor liberal Democrats were happy with what was in it. So why is it that the conservatives are feeling bitter and betrayed, while the liberals seem positively elated, despite the fact that they both lost? We don't need to work too hard to understand the conservatives' reaction. The budget doesn't stop President Barack Obama's executive actions on immigration, and Republican leaders decided not to force another government shutdown in a vain attempt to do so. As usual, the conservatives are convinced that John Boehner and Mitch McConnell are wimps who do nothing more than bide their time between capitulations. But what explains the liberal reaction? For the first time in this presidency, liberal Democrats feel as though something like a coherent bloc, outside of and sometimes in opposition to the White House, is beginning to form...

Did Democrats Get Hosed on the Budget Bill?

Merry Christmas to me... (Flickr/Speaker John Boehner)
Once again, Democrats had to step in and save John Boehner from a humiliating defeat that would lead to a government shutdown (67 Republicans voted against the bill; the 57 Democrats who voted in favor pushed it past a majority). There were complicated coalitions facing off; on one side you had Boehner and the White House trying to pass it, while on the other you had liberal Democrats joining with conservative Republicans in opposition. The general conclusion in the press is well summed up by articles like this one , noting that while the liberals failed to stop the bill, this is nonetheless a potentially seminal moment, because they went against the White House, and vocally so. The question is whether this signals an important rift that will have real practical consequences in the next two years and beyond. That is important, but before we get there, there's a substantive matter we need to take note of. This budget bill was cobbled together in haste, but there was time to throw in...

Just How Delusional Are Congressional Republicans On Immigration?

Flickr/Anne
If you're enough of a weirdo to be following Congress' attempts to pass a budget before tonight's deadline, you've heard about the "CRomnibus," the oh-so-clever combination of bills Republican leaders devised to avoid a shutdown and simultaneously convince their members that they're really, truly going to give it to Barack Obama over his executive actions on immigration. The "omnibus" part is the bill that will keep every department but one operating through the end of the fiscal year (next October), while the "CR" part is the continuing resolution that applies only to the Department of Homeland Security, keeping it operating only until the end of February. At that point, tea partiers in Congress were told, we can have another shutdown fight and we'll really get that Obama, just like you want to. Now that the thing (in whatever final form it arrives) is about to pass, it's time to marvel at just what a bunch of fools those Republicans are if they think that come February they're going...

What You Really Need to Know About the Torture Report

The two contractors who designed the program were paid $81 million. And that's just one thing.

CIA.gov
This article was originally published by BillMoyers.com . O n Tuesday, amid much controversy and after a year of political combat between the Senate Intelligence Committee and the CIA, a long-anticipated summary of the committee’s report on the CIA’s detention and interrogation program was released. Here’s what you need to know… What are the key points? You can read a quick roundup of the report’s main findings here . New York Times reporters Matt Apuzzo, Haeyoun Park and Larry Buchanan looked at what the report says about the efficacy of torture techniques in a series of specific cases. For those with strong stomachs, The Daily Beast’ s Shane Harris and Tim Mak sifted through the report to unearth “ the most gruesome details ,” which we chose to omit below. It was torture… According to the report, after being authorized by the Bush White House to detain people with suspected ties to terrorist groups, the agency’s “enhanced interrogation techniques” were far more brutal than the...

Whose Civil War Is Worse?

Flickr/Tom Gill
For some reason that I should probably determine one day, I've always found internal disputes with the conservative movement/Republican party somewhat more interesting than internal disputes within the liberal movement/Democratic party. Perhaps it's because, as a liberal, I get a little Nelson Muntzian charge out of watching the folks on the other side tear themselves apart. Or perhaps it's because, immersed as I am in the liberal world, the disputes on the left make more sense to me and therefore plumbing their mysteries isn't so compelling. Regardless, it has often been the case that one side is unified as the other is engaged in intramural battles; for many years, it was the Republicans who were together while the Dems were in disarray, while in the last few years the Democrats have been more united while the GOP has been riven by infighting. But could both sides now be at their own compatriots' throats? And if so, whose internal battle is more vicious? Charles Krauthammer insists...

Businessmen Don't Understand Politics, Part 3,486

Flickr/Sam Graf
Yesterday, Barack Obama, who as we all know is on a mission to destroy capitalism, sat down with a group of capitalists from the Business Roundtable to hear their sage advice and answer their insightful questions about the economy and the state of the nation. During the session , Fred Smith, the CEO of Federal Express, mentioned a couple of bills floating around Congress to increase the gas tax, and asked the president, "Why not, before the Congress goes home for December, just pass a bill that takes the two bipartisan bills that I just mentioned, up, and solves the problem?" Yes, why not "just pass a bill"? Strange how nobody in Washington seems to have thought of that. It took a can-do business leader to cut through all the baloney and find the solution to the problem of crumbling infrastructure. I'm sure Smith is a smart guy in his way — I can't imagine an idiot could run a huge company like FedEx. But it's obvious that he knows nothing about politics. Yet I'm sure that like most...

Congressional GOP Leaders Figure Out How to Temporarily Tame Conservative Beast

Artist's rendering of John Boehner. (Flickr/lensonjapan)
It looks like Republican leaders in Congress have settled on a way forward that (they hope) will fund the government, avoid a shutdown controversy, and not give up the fight against Barack Obama's executive actions on immigration. Here's the latest, from Jake Sherman and John Bresnahan of Politico : Speaker John Boehner announced Tuesday in a closed Republican meeting that the House would vote to disapprove of President Barack Obama's executive action on immigration this week and will vote to fund the government next week. The two-part plan, which GOP leadership laid out Monday evening to some lawmakers, is designed to give Republicans an opportunity to express displeasure with the White House's move on immigration while avoiding a shutdown. The disapproval of Obama's unilateral action—which states the executive branch cannot selectively enforce immigration deportation laws—won't change much, since the Senate will likely ignore it. The plan was inspired by two conservative lawmakers:...

The Cycle of Republican Radicalization

Yesterday, the Washington Post reported on a Quinnipiac poll from a week ago showing a striking change in public opinion on immigration. The question was whether undocumented immigrants should be deported or should be able to get on a path to citizenship. Clear majorities of the public have long favored a path to citizenship (especially if you provide details of what that path would entail, which this poll didn't). But that has changed, because Republicans have changed. As the Post described the Quinnipiac results, "Although [Republicans] supported citizenship over deportation 43 to 38 percent in November 2013, today they support deportation/involuntary departure over citizenship, 54 to 27 percent." That's an enormous shift, and it provides an object lesson in a dynamic that has repeated itself many times during the Obama presidency. We've talked a lot about how the GOP in Congress has moved steadily to the right in recent years, but we haven't paid as much attention to the movement...

Is Obama's Treasury Nominee a Wall Street Shill?

For most of his Wall Street career, the president's nominee to lead the domestic financial has epitomized everything that reeks about financial abuses.

Flickr/Alex E. Proimos
Flickr/Alex E. Proimos I f you want to understand what makes Elizabeth Warren so special in American politics, consider her nervy leadership of the campaign to block President Barack Obama's foolish nomination of one Antonio Weiss to be the top Treasury official in charge of the domestic financial system, including enforcement of the Dodd-Frank Act. For most of his Wall Street career, Weiss has epitomized everything that reeks about financial abuses. As chief of international mergers and acquisitions for Lazard, Weiss orchestrated what are delicately known as "corporate inversions," in which a domestic corporation moves its nominal headquarters offshore, to avoid its U.S. taxes. It's hard to improve on Senator Warren's description of this play, in her Huffington Post blog of last Wednesday: Basically, a bunch of companies have decided that all the regular tax loopholes they get to exploit aren't enough, so they have begun taking advantage of an even bigger loophole that allows them to...

Iran Nuclear Talks Still Face Sabotage

(AP Photo/Ronald Zak, pool)
One of the best and most predictive pieces of the 2008 presidential campaign was one by Michael Scherer and Michael Weisskopf , which examined the gambling styles of John McCain and Barack Obama, and what this suggested about their approaches to strategy. McCain, the craps enthusiast, was a risk- taker, ready to bet a thousand dollars on a single, luck-changing roll. This is the McCain we saw who tried to enliven his presidential campaign with the surprise selection of the comically unqualified Sarah Palin as his running mate and who tried to change the game by suspending his campaign in the face of the financial crisis. Obama, on the other hand, favored poker. A cautious player, Obama rarely took big risks, but, according to those who played with him when he was an Illinois State Senator, he almost always left the table with more money that he came with. This has predicted Obama’s general approach to governing, most notably with the Affordable Care Act: Frustratingly for his...

Why There Won't Be Any Grand Immigration Confrontation Between Obama and Republicans

Flickr/SEIU
Republicans are, as expected, utterly livid about President Obama's announcement last night of executive actions he'll be taking on immigration, even as they completely ignore the substance of the moves (some of which are things they support). If one of Obama's goals was to divide Republicans against themselves, he certainly seems to have succeeded; as Robert Costa reported late last night, Republicans have "been thrust back into the same cycle of intraparty warfare that has largely defined the GOP during the Obama years and that has hurt the party's brand among the broader electorate." If you were just listening to members of Congress talk today, you'd think this issue will inevitably result in a bloody confrontation between Congress and the White House. This conflict is being portrayed in apocalyptic terms by some—Sen. Tom Coburn said "you could see instances of anarchy" and "You could see violence" as a result of Obama's actions, while another well-known Republican warned of "...

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