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House GOP No Substance, All Talk

House Majority Speaker John Boehner says Americans should not worry.  One arm of the most dysfunctional  Congresses in history is at work.  Really?  On What?
John Boehner
Creative Commons License photo credit: Gage Skidmore

Today, Republican House members tabled the Senate’s bi-partisan payroll tax cut extension and the unemployment benefits extension.  These bills were passed by the Senate in a decisive bi-partisan vote of 89 – 10.  For the 2011 Senate, the margin of approval for the bills was astounding.

Failure to extend the payroll tax cut will result in 160 million Americans paying between $1,000 and $2,500 more in 2012.  Millions more Americans will lose 40 weeks of unemployment benefits.  Passage of the Senate bill would have granted the continuation of these benefits.

Republicans fail to acknowledge that the payroll tax cut has successfully added jobs and increased take home pay while encouraging small businesses to hire.  The country is inching out of the recession.  Unemployment rates are decreasing.  Housing is getting a bounce.  The GDP is off the dime and growing more quickly than expected.

This fragile recovery serves We The People well, but is not to the Republican’s benefit.

The only consistent policies from Republicans is their commitment to replacing President Obama while protecting millionaires and billionaires. To advance these two goals, Republicans and Tea Party politicians have been willing to undermine the economy and intimidate the middle class and the poor; the most vulnerable Americans.    

The essential terms of the Senate bills included:

  1.      Two month extension of the payroll tax reduction.
  2.      Two month extension of long-term unemployment.
  3.      An agreement to discuss the Keystone XL Pipeline.

The Senate passed the extension plan and promptly left town assuming that the House would realize the strong Senate support for the bills and approve them.  This is where things get sticky.

Majority Leader Boehner and Tea Party big shot Eric Cantor refused to bring the bill to the floor for a vote.  Instead, House members opted to move to conference with the Senate in the hopes of carving out a one-year deal.  Of course, the Senate went home understanding that their bill had Boehner’s blessing.

New York first-term Congressman Michael Grimm was interviewed Tuesday morning.  During the interview, Grimm voiced the Republican spin on why the bill would not reach the floor.  The newest Republican spin is that the House rejects a two-month extension during which time final details of the bill would be negotiated.  The extension is called “kicking the can” down the road.

In a midday speech, Boehner called upon the Senate to reconvene and conference with House members to finalize a one-year bill.  Boehner’s premise that the bill that passed the House was more than an extension of the payroll tax cuts.

No matter what you hear, the elephant in the room is the Keystone XL pipeline. 

Republicans downplay the addition of this contingency to what should have been an up or down vote on the payroll tax cut and the extension of unemployment benefits.  As described by the State Department, the pipeline does not have EPA approval. The State Department’s report indicates that the pipeline will create between 3,500 – 4,000 jobs.

What the pipeline will do, is increase the international export business. It will also diminish the supply of the Canadian tar sand oil to farmers in the midwest.  The State Department estimates that the farm belt can expect to pay $0.20 per gallon more than they now pay.

Let’s be clear.  Most of the oil provided under the Keystone XL pipeline will be shipped abroad and not used to reduce American energy costs.  So, if the environment is to be endangered and there are very few jobs connected to the pipeline and if American fuel prices will increase, not decrease, why are Republicans pushing to accelerate the Keystone XL?

You know, don’t you?  Of course, the Republicans are pushing for passage of the Pipeline at an accelerated pace because big oil will reap big profits; not We The People. Once again, the Republicans have included a project, that will benefit We The Few, to a bill that puts money in the economy right now.  Can there be any doubt about the Republican agenda?  House Republicans are shown their immoral persona one more time.  They take huge amounts of money from big oil and they refuse tax breaks for working Americans.  Congress pads their pockets with insider trading and charge taxpayers for their time.  Seems like a good job, don’t you think? Of course, Congress passed legislation banning insider trading but it does not apply to Congress.

It is Republicans that have caused the country’s credit rating to fall.  It is Republicans that held American workers hostage by only agreeing to extend the unemployment benefits if the Bush Tax Cuts were extended in 2009.  The Tea Party has vowed to oppose all tax increases.  But, when an extension of the payroll tax cut was on the table, Republicans suddenly changed direction.  They opposed the Payroll Tax Cut for two reasons.

  1.      The payroll tax cut was working.
  2.      Extended unemployment benefits pump money into the economy.

Republicans added the pipeline to their bill knowing full well that the Senate would not approve.  The addition of this proposal has clouded the middle class benefits and small business hiring incentives.  House Republicans blocked submitting the bill for an up or down vote.  The reason is that Republicans do not want to be on the record for voting against the bill.

A week ago, Speaker Boehner worked with Senate leaders McConnell (R) and Reid (D).  Behind closed doors, Boehner agreed to the deal and represented to the Senate leaders that the bill would pass.

It was not that long ago that Boehner and the President ironed out details on a $4.2 spending reduction plan.  However, when Boehner took the plan to his caucus, he was forced to change directions.  The result was that no plan passed.  The end result was that the American credit rating fell.  This was the exact outcome that the Tea Party and the Republicans wanted.

Today, the big losers are millions of Americans.  There are no winners.  Voters must come to realize how dysfunctional the House is.  Boehner has no control.  He is weak and lacks credibility.  He has been the Majority Leader in an arm of Congress that has the lowest approval rating and worst legislation record in the history of the country.

House Whip Eric Cantor looks familiar doesn’t he?  He is that elementary school bully; the one that does things behind your back.  He is the epitome of the sleazy politician.  He stands behind Boehner with his chesire cat grin and nods his head because every time Boehner changes direction, Cantor takes one more step toward the Speaker’s gavel.  He wants Boehner’s job and there is no hiding it.

Eric Cantor is a dangerous man.  He hides under the cloak of fiscal responsibility in a party that launched two unfunded wars and passed the Bush Tax Cuts at a time when the government needed increased income.  These acts, Bush’s push to socialize and deregulate Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac pushed the economy and the world to the brink.  It is Republicans that caused the socialized relief of the banking sector.  It is We The People who bailed out the corrupt banking system.

When we look into the black hole that Republicans created, remember that when George Bush took office, he inherited a budget surplus.  He set out to fulfill the big spender Texan appetite and placed the country in an unsustainable position.

Every time poor John Boehner takes the podium, viewers suffer the same symptoms as they do when Rick Perry tries to respond to a question.  There is a difference.  Perry actually believes in his philosophy.  Boehner’s political beliefs seem to change after every meeting of his caucus.  It is a matter of time before he is replaced and/or has a public tearful breakdown.

NY senior Senator, Chuck Schumer, said that just last week, Boehner attended a meeting with Senate leaders Reid and McConell.  He left the meeting giving McConnell his proxy.  McConnell and Reid agreed to the revisions and the Senate passed the bill 89-10.  This margin rarely happens.

Adding insult to injury, Boehner now says he never liked the Senate bill.  Untrue! Perhaps he should stayed at the meeting and saved face.  Could he have had a golf date?  One look at Boehner tells you where he spends most of his day. The position of the House has now caused a rift between Senate Republicans and House Republicans.

In summary, the losers are the middle class, the elderly, the infirmed, the poor and John Boehner.  The Speaker’s integrity has suffered.  His credibility in his own party is shattered.  Meanwhile, Eric Cantor is several steps closer to the Speakership. If you want to untangle Congress, vote Boehner, Cantor and Tea Party candidates out…

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Reid To Push Payroll Tax Cut

The Sunday morning talk shows were aglitter with Republicans Michelle Bachman and Ron Paul vying for humiliated Herman Cain’s supporters to jump aboard their campaigns.  In what has become an almost comical  sideshow the Republicans stand firmly divided about their presidential candidate.  The possibility of Ron Paul running independently must sound like a musical dream to Democrats.  If the stakes were not so high, the Republican performers could easily outdo their Saturday Night Live impersonators.

But, the stakes are high, very high.  The tragedy is that the world’s greatest democracy is behaving like a third world government or, worse yet, Greece.  The extension of the payroll tax cuts is just one more example of how divisive politics in Washington have become.  First the Senate rejected the Democratic proposal to extend the payroll tax cut and pay for it on a tax for millionaires.  Last Thursday, the Republican proposal to pay for the extension by freezing federal employee salaries and reducing the work force by 10% failed miserably.

The payroll tax cut is due to expire on December 21, 2011.  On Thursday, the Republican proposal sank when 29 Republicans jumped ship.  Undoubtedly, Republicans are in a quandary.  They have painted themselves into a corner on this one and cannot reconcile how the payroll cut could not receive support without costing thousands of federal employees their jobs.

This tax cut impacts the taxpayer’s take-home pay.  If the extension is not granted, everyday household income will decline about $1,500 in 2012.  Republicans are quick to say the payroll tax cut has not been effective.  Democrats rightly point to the explosive holiday shopping season and economist’s predictions that 4th quarter GDP will rise 3 percent.

The Republicans took another hit on Friday when the U.S. Labor Department published its Non-Farm Payroll report for November.  120,000 new private sector jobs were created.  Additionally, hefty adjustments to September and October payroll reports helped to drive the unemployment rate down to 8.6 percent.  In November another 315,000 persons stopped looking for work.  Republicans suggest that these are discouraged workers.  Maybe, maybe not.  At this time of year, there exist ways for workers to work “under the table.”

In any case, the facts are clear.  The unemployment rate is down and GDP is growing.  All this despite coordinated attacks by Republicans against the will of the people and contrary to the best interests of the people they are sworn to represent.  In reality, the Republicans are more concerned with  denying President Obama a second term than they are to legislate responsibly.

The Republicans emit so many objections that they now seem to be disputing the very tax cuts that they have supported in the past.  How extending the payroll tax cut violates the Republican mandate, Grover Norquist’s pledge, is  confusing, even to the pledge signers.   Voting against extending the payroll tax cut is contrary to the Norquist pledge.

The behavior is so out-of-character that even John Boehner slipped and stated that the payroll tax extension had merit.  He may live to eat those words when the likes of Eric Cantor and his Tea Partiers oppose the extension. With every Democratic proposal, the Republicans appear unorganized, out-of-sync and flailing for more negative input.  Thankfully, many conservatives are making it clear that their Tea Party has run its course.

The public view of Congress is that this is the least effective Congress in the history of the nation.  The national approval rating is dwindling to new lows and resides uncomfortably below 10 percent. Undeterred by the reality that only one in ten Americans think the Congress is functional, the Tea Party continues their barrage of assaults on well-intentioned members of Congress.   No wonder Boehner is confused.  He has never been subjected to such a self-imploding body of government.

Republicans hate that the country is recovering at a slow pace without any help from Congress.  Imagine where we would be with a functional Congress!

Let’s not forget the recent 60 minute documentary that confirmed that members of Congress were permitted to use insider training to bolster their income.  The revelation that 40 members of Congress have become millionaires while serving the people shocked most voters but might help explain the disconnect.  Most likely, the effects of the recession and the unregulated subprime mortgage crisis, served these insiders well.  No wonder the Republicans want less regulation and no tax increases for millionaires. Those initiatives are too close to home.

Republicans are so far removed from constructive governing that they have lost their way.  Instead, they have turned against the very people who elected them.  Congress works in an environment that is totally removed from Main Street.  Fortunately, it is in the best interests of Wall Street and the too large financials to extend the tax cut.  Perhaps Majority Leader Reid’s new proposal, which will be paid for, will get enough support from the other side of the aisle.   Then, we will have to go through the uncomfortable tragedy that is the Republican controlled House of Representatives.

This has the makings for another perfect storm.  One in which Boehner knows the right course but can not sell it to his Republican allies.

Bigger fights are in the immediate future.  Not only is the payroll tax cut about to expire but so are long-term unemployment benefits for million of Americans.  The last time around, Congress held the gun to Obama’s head. Republicans were set to deny 7 million unemployed workers their  benefits.  The President was held hostage.  He grudgingly agreed to extend the Bush Tax Cuts that helped the wealthy Republicans reap big rewards with inappropriate tax cuts while the country was engaged in two Republican wars.  This was Republican George Bush’s formula that  jumped started deficit spending.

The fact is that Congress will be gridlocked until the President is supported by a majority in both chambers.  While we cannot wait until the next election, we cannot compromise.  If Republicans cannot respond favorably to the payroll tax cut, unemployment extension and the Bush Tax Cuts, the President should allow them to expire.  That would create a $4 trillion windfall to help reduce the deficit and to fund worthwhile job initiatives.

If we cannot succeed with bi-partisan efforts, we must vote these dissenters out of office.

Republicans are uniform that the Bush Tax cuts help high income earners create jobs.  Really?  It is impossible to see job creation linked to the Republican tax cuts. It sure is easy to see that the middle class is dwindling and that the poverty that does not exist in Congress is running rampant in the home districts of these self-helped millionaires.  With 44 million American families and 21 million American children living in poverty and with another 45 million middle class families trending toward poverty, how can Republicans look themselves in the mirror?

If things do not change, we may well revisit the 60′s protest era.  Who amongst us believes Mitt Romney or Newt Gingrich will help the middle class or the impoverished?  It will not happen.  When considering all the political possibilities, nothing could be more treacherous and fill the streets with violent protest than Newt or Mitt presiding over a country with a Republican House and a Republican Senate.  It does not get any more dangerous than that.

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Welcome to Senate Guru

This is our first post for the new Senate Guru. Keep your fingers crossed for new ones coming real soon.

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