Congress

GOP Response: The Breadbags of Empathy

(AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
I magine going to the doctor and saying, "My back is killing me. I can barely move. What can you do to help me? Should we do an X-ray? Physical therapy? Medication?" And the doctor responds, "Yeah, I hurt my back once. It was awful. So I know exactly what you're feeling. Anyway, thanks for coming in—just see the receptionist on the way out to pay your bill." That's not too far off from what we heard from Senator Joni Ernst in the GOP response to the State of the Union address last night. I'm particularly interested in this part: As a young girl, I plowed the fields of our family farm. I worked construction with my dad. To save for college, I worked the morning biscuit line at Hardees. We were raised to live simply, not to waste. It was a lesson my mother taught me every rainy morning. You see, growing up, I had only one good pair of shoes. So on rainy school days, my mom would slip plastic bread bags over them to keep them dry. But I was never embarrassed. Because the school bus would...

The Politics of Gesture

(AP Photo/Mandel Ngan, Pool)
(AP Photo/Mandel Ngan, Pool) President Barack Obama delivers his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, Janunary 20, 2015, in Washington. A version of this article first appeared at The Huffington Post . I f Tuesday's State of the Union address told us anything, it's this: We are seeing a somewhat bolder Barack Obama. In his speech, the president unveiled a litany of what he calls "fourth-quarter initiatives." Some of these can be accomplished by executive order; most will require legislation. The measures that can be achieved by presidential order include reducing the down-payment or interest on federally insured mortgages to stimulate home ownership. Obama has already used his executive power to suspend deportation of some 5 million undocumented Dreamers and in some cases their parents. He has required federal contractors to pay something closer to a living wage. He recently ordered federal agencies to give new parents up to six weeks...

Labor at a Crossroads: Can Broadened Civil Rights Law Offer Workers a True Right to Organize?

It's one way to allow victims of anti-union discrimination to sue in federal court for compensatory and punitive damages.

(AP Photo/Alex Sanz)
(AP Photo/Alex Sanz) U.S. Representative John Lewis, Democrat of Georgia, is co-sponsoring, with Rep. Keith Elison of Minnesota, legislation that would broaden the Civil Rights Act to include workers who are discriminated against for wanting to join a union. Lewis, shown here on December 22, 2014, discusses the historical film Selma and civil rights in the United States during an interview in Atlanta. Forty-nine years after Lewis and other marchers tried to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, memories of "Bloody Sunday" are still vivid in his mind. It was one of the defining moments of the civil rights era. This article is published as part of " American Labor at a Crossroads: New Thinking, New Organizing, New Strategies ," a conference presented on January 15, co-sponsored by the Albert Shanker Institute, The Sidney Hillman Foundation, and The American Prospect . (View agenda here .) Find our Labor at a Crossroads series here . O rganized labor, which represents only 1...

Key to Understanding the New Congress: Gingrich's Contract With America

Republicans never really promised to deploy congressional power to fundamentally change national policy.

(AP Photo/Denis Paquin)
(AP Photo/Denis Paquin) House Speaker Newt Gingrich of Georgia, gestures while addressing a rally at Capitol Hill in Washington, Friday, April 7, 1995, on the completion of the Republicans' “Contract with America.” While promising to return next month to take care of unfinished business, Gingrich proclaimed that “this is only a beginning.” A s the 114 th Congress begins, Republicans are signaling their desire to prove their party can not only win elections, but can govern. “GOP goal: Prove it can lead,” was the title of a page A1 story in Sunday’s print edition of Washington Post . “GOP agenda for Congress: Challenge Obama, prove they can govern,” CNN blared the next day. That governing agenda surely includes speeding up energy production, slowing down Obamacare’s implementation, and continued foot-dragging on immigration reform. But top party leaders readily confess their deeper motives. “We have to show that we can be a productive party, and that, I think, will have a direct effect...

Don't Starve the Palestinian Authority. Replace It With a Real State

Cutting U.S. aid to the Palestinians would mean heaping one mistake on another.

(AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)
T he quick storyline is this: The president of Israel has just bashed the prime minister of Israel, which should create a dilemma in Washington—but only if someone is paying attention. President Reuven Rivlin was speaking this week at a briefing for several dozen Israeli ambassadors to European countries—the kind of officially closed session from which leaks are certain, with important comments intended for the media. Three days before, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had retaliated for the Palestinian decision to join the International Criminal Court (ICC) by freezing the monthly transfer of taxes that Israel collects on behalf of the Palestinian Authority (PA). Rivlin said this wasn't smart, and wasn't good for Israel. "With those funds, the Palestinians provide for themselves and the PA functions. It is in Israel's interest that the PA functions," Rivlin said, adding that when he was a working attorney, "I never filed a suit for damages that would end up hurting me." Israel's...

How to Be a Walking 'Confirmation Bias' (Role Model: Mia Love)

It's easy to write off Mia Love and Allen West but these very visible blacks hurt the quest for equality.

ABC News/This Week With George Stephanopoulos
ABC News/This Week With George Stephanpoulos Representative Mia Love, Republican of Utah, appeared on the January 4 edition of the ABC News program This Week With George Stephanpoulos to defend House Majority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana in the wake of revelations that he once addressed a white supremacist group. H ave you ever been in a debate with your right-wing uncle and when you ask him for proof of his wild claims, he pulls up a Fox News article? Instinctively, you roll your eyes. Of course he sought out Fox News as a source—it’s a haven for people like him. Everything he already thinks about minorities, LGBTQ people, Muslims and single moms is there. Automatically turning to Fox News to search for information that he knows will affirm what he already believes is called a confirmation bias. On December 29, news broke that Representative Steve Scalise of Louisiana, the new House majority whip, had addressed a white supremacist group in 2002. Former Ku Klux Klan leader David...

Scalise Scandal Rooted in Secret Societies' Hold on Paths to Power -- Through Violence

From campus rape to the House whip's 'need' to address white supremacists, it's starkly clear that American roots of gender, race and sexual violence run deep. So what are we going to do about it?

(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)
(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File) In this November 18, 2014, file photo, House Majority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana, right, with House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California, left, and Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Republican of Washington, speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, following a House GOP caucus meeting. Scalise acknowledged that he once addressed a gathering of white supremacists. Scalise served in the Louisiana Legislature when he appeared at a 2002 convention of the European-American Unity and Rights Organization (EURO), which was founded by former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke. Scalise is the third-highest ranked House Republican. There’s a direct connection between white male secret societies and group violence that roots gendered racism and raced sexism into our nation’s core. As the campus rape crisis, the Senate's CIA torture report , #blacklivesmatter movement and mainstream political acceptance of white supremacist ideology...

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...

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