Category Archives: obstructionism

Who Will End Obstructionism?

end obstruct3

 

I will fight for Hillary Clinton right to the end, whenever that is. I do think women can do as well in the Presidency as men have done. I am tired of women being expected to wait until some perfect moment which of course will never arrive. There are no perfect moments. Even Obama’s seemingly perfect moment was ruined by racism and obstruction. If we get Bernie I will be fine with that but I have to stay in the fight.

The only question that bugs me is which of these two will be able to bring back regular order to Congress, to send the “teabaggers” packing and the Evangelicals out to do good works?

The Conservatives hate Hillary possibly even more than they loathed the idea of an Obama Presidency. Their hate has become rabid and personal. Will we have four to eight more years of obstruction and hate speech, this time against women? Will they just vote over and over to impeach her? There could be 60+ more votes against the ACA. How many more votes will there be to defund Planned Parenthood? More of this will not be good for America. It will not be good for the world, although perhaps it is emotional baggage we must sort through. Does Hillary have a plan to change things just in case we don’t win some seats back in the Senate?

Can Bernie defuse and render harmless the Conservative push to pursue every policy that would be harmful to America? He certainly understands what is harmful about the right wing agenda and he will hold the line against any progress toward the Conservative way. But will he also be unable to breach the obstructive moves of a party that owns 3o state governments, both houses of Congress and the courts? Will it help that he pushes Republican buttons by pursuing policies that are far outside their ken? Will he blow them up to smithereens when he moves to break up the banks and rein in Wall Street? Will revolutionary zeal be better than the strategies of someone who knows everyone and knows her way around the politics of DC? Or will there just be two revolutionary groups in a war of words?

Is there any candidate the Democrats could have put forth who could “treat with” today’s GOP? If a Democrat wins the Presidency and the obstruction continues will the people finally get involved? Will we the people insist that it is not OK to go to Congress if it is your intention to hold the American government hostage until it does what Republicans want?

It is troubling that we cannot see into the future and know who would be able to make headway in America right now against the misguided and unenlightened mess that is today’s GOP. We can, though, and we should certainly contribute to the movements by the Democrats to change as many seats in Congress as possible in 2016. Emily’s List tries to get Democratic women elected. If you contribute to the DNC the dollars get spread around. Even Hillary donates some of her dollars to down ballot elections and Bernie is talking about doing that.

The people’s dollars are stretched thin by all the causes that need our contributions to fight for right, but at this moment winning the election must be a top priority. You don’t have to contribute much because small donations grow very big when millions of people contribute, and there are often richer donors who match or multiply small donations. Think of it as creating a war chest in case we need it.

By Nancy Brisson

Ceasefire in Washington is Temporary

Washington is so quiet right now. It may be lulling Americans into a false sense of hope that the hostilities between Congress and the Executive Branch have ended, but, of course, we really understand that this is a very brief ceasefire in a battle that will rage right through to 2016 (unless Dems take back the House in 2014 and keep the Senate). These years of Obama’s presidency have been full of bitter pills that Democrats have had to swallow. The first African American President came to the White House and we were mean to him. Worse, we did not allow him to govern because either 1) we felt he would ruin American by passing bad laws, or 2) we did not want this man in our history books. I feel embarrassed to be an American when I consider the shenanigans of the past five years by grown, educated people who should know better. So what if he read the writing on the wall early on and he knew that he only had the support of his own party for the Affordable Care Act. He was absolutely right about that. It has been sad to watch elected officials acting like they have been mortally offended by the fact that this is not a bipartisan act and to watch these adults whine that they will get their vengeance, the American people be damned.


It is sad that these same elected officials (who possibly won elections that were rigged so that they would win) have ground our government’s forward momentum to a halt at a time when we needed our government to help us adjust to a changed economic environment that requires action rather than obstruction. In today’s Daily Beastis an article by Nick Gillespie that says that Obama has lost the support of the youth vote in America. They are upset at their job prospects, their low wages, their high levels of unemployment and who would blame them. I suppose they really don’t stop to ask themselves if this is really Obama’s fault since he has not been allowed to legislate anything and if he even proposes a bill it is sure to fail. This is certainly understandable because their prospects are about the same today as they were when Obama entered office. They are young. They don’t care if hope and change take time; they are not interested in political backlash. They need to have a life and they need that now. Obama has also had to face quite a few realities as the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces that have not allowed him to keep campaign promises he made. He promised way too much. When you make strong promises and then don’t deliver and you do that in this hyperactive news cycle, your feet will be held to the fire. The ubiquitous presence of the NSA that we have become aware of is not helping Obama either. If these young people were seeing their chances to build their own affluence unfurling before them, they would be busy building lives and might not care quite so passionately about Obama’s decisions in relation to Afghanistan or Syria. If there had been funding for training programs and infrastructure improvements and research and innovation, the disaffection of our young people might not have been a factor. I don’t want to see these “beginner” adults abandoning the light and going over to the dark side. I wish just saying “do something” would work, but I know it won’t.


I know that the people who are really trying to change America, the people who are trying to offer us a new America that has no resemblance to the real America, are just waiting in the wings. They are taking a break until the next budget battle which comes after Christmas. We know they are still out there pulling their wicked strings to end hard won freedoms because we just saw the Supreme Court uphold a Texas law to prevent abortions after 20 weeks (even in cases where the mom might die). We see them refusing to appoint liberals to the federal courts because it will tip the court’s balance from right to left. They are correct in assuming that Obama wants to stuff the courts. That is what the party in power usually gets to do. But they like the courts that Bush gave us. They want those courts. They are keeping those Conservative courts because they can. I could never have imagined that America would find itself in the middle of this long and intense ideological battle. As soon as I got a load of Glenn Beck’s act I knew, but I didn’t know that Republicans would win the House in 2010, or that they would get a few fingers onto the flying carpet, a few fingers that have allowed them to hoist themselves onto a corner of that magic carpet and keep it from taking off. People seem to imagine that what we are seeing now is just politics as usual, the normal run of political push and shove. It isn’t. This is all push and no shove. This is a war for America’s future; a war where one side prepared mightily for battle and one side doesn’t even realize that engagement has begun. You had better know what vision of America each side espouses and you had better pick a side. You can’t look at just one issue; you have to look at the big picture. Get a grip, America!




This is the view from the cheap seats.


This blog post is also available at www.brissioni.com

Basically A Rant

 

The correct strategies for America are not always the most selfish ones. It’s not all about us all the time. Sometimes we must look at the big picture because everything is interconnected. Some string that is pulled somewhere else can unravel or re-knit our future.

And, then there is the truth that, at this point in time, the Republicans will not allow Obama to pass any new laws that improve the economy, the infrastructure, or jobs. If we don’t elect Democrats in 2014 we have almost 3 long years to concentrate on foreign affairs. If we truly do not want to get involved in any more wars, I would trust Obama much more than I would trust the Republicans to admonish a dictator without getting us involved in a foreign war. The only way the war in Syria can escalate and suck in the world is if a powerful force like Russia joins in. If Putin is serious about helping get rid of the chemical weapons in Syria, then he probably is not interested in starting World War III. If we stay civil and Russia stays civil then perhaps we can pull this off. Americans do not appear to be too fond of civility right now, sad to say. Instead all the little voices fall in line echoing the charge that Obama is a weak President. I repeat; if Obama can end the use of chemical weapons in Syria without starting a new war, then he is anything but weak.

If there is anything this President does that is weak it is to give Republicans another opening to tout his weakness and force him to bargain when these Republicans know all along that they will say “no” to him again and again and again. This does not make Obama seem weak to me. It makes him seem like a President who respects the Constitution and who tries to give Republicans every opportunity to cut out the partisan politics and do their jobs as outlined in that very Constitution that describes how our government is supposed to work. Nowhere in the Constitution I read does it say that people outside the government should be promised a stronger allegiance than is given to a fair consideration of the laws that build a stronger America.

Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Grover Norquist and the Koch brothers should be like the rest of us. They are citizens with one vote each. But they have found ways to pull the strings of large numbers of Americans turning them into disenchanted citizens and puppet voters who repeat, like mantras, arguments drummed into them by skillful pundits. These pundits know the fears some Americans hold in their hearts and minds and they stoke the fires lit under these fears, bank the coals, and then stoke them again. They have fostered a bunch of conspiracy junkies and they will ruin America if we let them. These pundits have been primed to serve the interests of Grover Norquist, the Koch brothers, the Tea Party and whatever other shadowy figures are in the Conservative Cabal.

So we have plenty of time to take the big view, the long view, while we wait for America to wake up and throw off the strings of the mind controllers who have taken over the GOP.

What would we like to see happen in the Middle East? Perhaps we would like to see strong, healthy Middle Eastern countries where government and religion are separate. Perhaps people in the Middle East will chose peaceful coexistence and tolerance over hate and aggression; these nations’ peoples will find a balance that will allow the citizens to live stable and productive lives in which there is no dictator holding on to all of the nations’ wealth. What can we do to encourage this? Wouldn’t such an outcome have a profoundly positive effect on us and the world? Playing a bit of referee doesn’t seem too much to ask from the rest of the world community. After all we have plenty of time right now to keep an eye on the violations of war behavior which result in the horrors of genocide. If we allow these practices we will never achieve that real peace, tolerance, and prosperity we wish for the Middle East and the world.

If you want Obama to accomplish our goals for our domestic future then you had better raise your voice and tell Republicans to stop obstructionism in Congress, to stop encouraging red states to pass laws that challenge the current laws in America, and to stop brainwashing and scaring gullible Americans. We need to elect Democrats in 2014.

This is the view from the cheap seats.

 

This blog post is also available at www.brissioni.com

 

Change Senate Filibuster Rules Now

The two old “dogs” in the Senate, Harry Reid, Majority Leader and Democrat; Mitch McConnell, Minority Leader and Republican are going head to head this weekend on Sunday, Politics Day on TV.  They are deep in a battle about the filibuster and its overuse in the Senate. Today if there are not 60 votes in favor of a bill, there will be an automatic filibuster which will kill the bill. Every bill must meet the same test, from the least important decisions to the largest. Harry Reid wants to change this filibuster rule which has grown more restrictive with time and which is being used to hold up judicial appointments and cabinet appointments among other things.


Here’s Greg Sargent talking in this morning’s Washington Post in an article titled: The Morning Plum: Why the battle over the filibuster reform matters:


“All signs are that Harry Reid is serious about his threat to exercise the nuclear option and change the Senate rules — ending the filibuster on executive nominations — by simple majority. While Republicans could still cave and acquiesce to Reid’s demand for action on a slate of nominations — allowing Dems to avoid taking the ultimate step, which they would plainly prefer — it is increasingly likely Reid will have no choice but to hit the nuke button.

If so, an epic political battle will unfold over whether the move was justified — one focused on public opinion, and even more so, on elite opinion.”



“In fairness to Republicans, it is not easy to prove in a granular, numerical way that GOP obstructionism of nominations in particular is unprecedented, because there are many ways to cut and evaluate the numbers. But the broad strokes of this debate are overwhelmingly clear. It is plainly true that Republicans have effectively turned the Senate into a 60-vote, super-majority body for even routine business, in a way we haven’t seen before. It is plainly true that Republicans are obstructing Obama nominations (such as Richard Cordray as head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau) for the explicit purpose of preventing the agencies themselves from functioning, rather than just out of objections to the nominees themselves.

I’ll have more for you on this case later, but for now, the point is that these things matter. What’s at stake is the functioning of our democracy, and whether all of this should simply be accepted as a new normal. It shouldn’t.”



“This debate is important. And I hope folks will make a serious effort to get to the bottom of it.”



“* WHY THE FILIBUSTER SHOWDOWN IS LOOMING: The Post’s Paul Kane makes an important point: The showdown is in part the result of the fact that Senate leadership on both sides is under increasing pressure from new arrivals to the Senate, with conservatives demanding more confrontation and obstruction, and liberals insisting on more reform.

On the Democratic side, the potential exercise of the nuke option is clearly the result of a new influx of energetic progressives who are genuinely focused on reforming the Upper Chamber and are impatient with Senate business as usual.



* GET READY FOR EPIC BATTLE OVER FILIBUSTER: The Dem-allied Americans United for Change is out with a new web video detailing the scope of GOP obstruction of Obama nominees and legislation alike, and its consequences, labeling the Republicans the “Grand Obstruction Party.” As noted above, this is likely to be a battle over elite opinion as much as anything else, and outside groups are gearing up.”

Me – The U.S. Constitution calls for a majority. A majority is 51 votes. Making it necessary to have a super-majority in order for a bill to pass is of fairly recent origin. It is time for this rule to go away because it is being used to obstruct the party in control of the Executive Branch and the party in control of the Senate. It is being used by that party, you know which one, the one that lost the last election, to obstruct the agenda of the current administration, to hold America in place until the GOP can rig future elections through voter laws and more gerrymandering (actually gerrymandering on steroids, drawn on a house-to-house basis) and their control over state governments to really put their agenda in place, an agenda that will hurt all Americans except the wealthiest. That filibuster rule should never have become the norm and this is the time to change most Senate votes back to votes that can be won by a simple majority.



Robert Reich, who you may think is as much of a lefty wingnut as many Republicans are righty wingnuts, wrote this intriguing little piece in The Huffington Post this week. At any other time in history I would think that his contentions are fear-mongering and extreme, but at this particular crossroads in history his thinking rings true to me. (See my blog about The Gray Men).


An Impertinent Question


Permit me an impertinent question (or three).

Suppose a small group of extremely wealthy people sought to systematically destroy the U.S. government by (1) finding and bankrolling new candidates pledged to shrinking and dismembering it; (2) intimidating or bribing many current senators and representatives to block all proposed legislation, prevent the appointment of presidential nominees, eliminate funds to implement and enforce laws, and threaten to default on the nation’s debt; (3) taking over state governments in order to redistrict, gerrymander, require voter IDs, purge voter rolls, and otherwise suppress the votes of the majority in federal elections; (4) running a vast PR campaign designed to convince the American public of certain big lies, such as climate change is a hoax, and (5) buying up the media so the public cannot know the truth.

Would you call this treason?

If not, what would you call it?

And what would you do about it?

Me – Sadly, I have felt for some time that there is an organized strategy coming out of Republican groups to change the face of America with the goal of drastically diminishing the power of the federal government, ending the social safety web, giving us a “Darwinist America” with a sink-or-swim principle that will turn life into a quagmire for most of us, instituting a flat tax and giving corporations, banks and financial markets free rein, without regulation. America will truly live out the “survival of the fittest” battle that rules most of the natural world without big brains. America will then become a business profiting some, rather than an ideal which attempts to bring out the best our big brains have to offer. 
As Americans we can see that simply adding layers of complex government programs without ever examining their effectiveness or tweaking their efficiency is leading to a federal government and budget that is a bit unwieldy, but streamlining laws and programs is not the same thing as just abandoning them. We could be making a dent in closing loopholes that allow for abuse in federal social safety net programs, but with the insistence on super majorities in both the Senate and the House we are unable to accomplish anything. We are in a massive tug of war for the future of America and the Republicans are toeing the line until they can tug the future in their direction, but they are also creating conditions on their side of the line that will give them an advantage when it is time for that next tug.


We need to encourage our Senators to change the current filibuster rules in the Senate right now because, you may think that you have your hands on the Republican rope and that you will win if you stay on that side, but you are not rich enough to be a Republican, and Republicans will change America in ways that will astound you and hurt you if we don’t wake up now and make some changes to end GOP obstructionism. We need to elect Democrats in 2014.


The IRS and the ACA – OMG


 
 

What role will the IRS play in the Affordable Care Act? Apparently the IRS is expected to play a very big role in implementing and governing the Affordable Care Act and apparently the reason so much of this will be done by the IRS is that the Supreme Court decision about Health Care made it so. (Health and Human Services will play a role and so will the Labor Department.)

1.  47 tax provisions will go into effect (including small business health care credit and the medical device tax.

2.  The IRS will determine whether people qualify for a health insurance premium tax credit as part of the minimum coverage requirement.

3.  Americans will have to report their insurance status on their taxes each year – the agency will review that and collect a $95 penalty on those not carrying insurance.

4.  The IRS will set these rules and collect the penalties when businesses aren’t in compliance.

This information is from an article published in the NationalJournal.com

Here’s another interesting part of what they had to say:

Republicans rushed to connect Obama’s health care law to the IRS scandal, especially after the news that Ingram would oversee the health law’s implementation at the IRS. “The recent deplorable actions at the IRS have shattered our trust that they can responsibly handle the people’s sensitive medical information,” said Rep. Phil Gingrey of Georgia. Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota asked: “Does this means that some government plutocrat can look at my personal healthcare data? Could I be denied healthcare? Could it be delayed?” she asked. The law does not require the IRS to collect or view information about individuals’ health.”

I have always thought that we should go with a single payer system similar to England or Canada, but Obama’s plan does manage to cover almost everyone without completely scraping America’s dedication to capitalism. His plan not only allows millions of health care and insurance workers to keep their jobs, it adds jobs, especially in the ranks of the IRS (apparently about 2000 jobs). This gives it the advantage of being both a health care program and a jobs program. Criticisms that call the plan out for its complexity may prove to have some validity, but since we are almost geared up to implement the Affordable Care Act it seems best to go with it and see how it works. Of course, with so many Republican governors determined to sabotage the plan we may not get a true picture of whether the plan would work or not.

I do not like having health care tied to employment and I really don’t like having health care participation tied to the IRS, but single-payer insurance looks highly unlikely to happen since every time someone suggests it others start calling them “socialists”. I wish we could just stop being so contentious about this, since it is happening anyways, and try it on for size to see if it works. Stop the obstructionism in Congress. Elect Democrats in 2014.

This is the view from the cheap seats.

 

 

Hater Week – Zombies v the American People

 

It is always interesting to watch the GOP in the Obama years as they zombie-up and do nothing except grumble, criticize, and complain; accuse, indict, and convict. We the people have elected a President who, according to the GOP, can do nothing right. Not only is the President wrong but so are the American people. They are so glad that Congress is basically their bitch and that they can correct the mistaken policies that the President and the American people wish to pursue. They are secretly congratulating themselves that they have been able to hold our feet to the cleansing fires of austerity and have been able to keep employment low so that they could continue to blame the Democrats for high unemployment and bad fiscal policy, even while making it impossible for Democrats to have any say in setting fiscal policy since just after the original stimulus plan. OK, through a less than pretty strategy we did get the tax increase at the top, but through a technicality we remained saddled with Grover Norquist.

This week the Republicans have been making my head whip around like that poor possessed woman in The Exorcist. First we have had to listen to them insisting that the Boston bomber should be treated like an enemy combatant even though he is an American citizen. What? When an American joined terrorists in the Middle East and was killed in a drone strike, Republicans were appalled that this traitor was not treated as an American citizen and given a fair trial. Now we have another American, however much we might want to disavow him as a citizen, and this time they are irate that he is not being treated as an enemy combatant. Whiplash! It looks like the only strategy these two complaints have in mind is to indict Obama. Why is our Congress fighting our President when America has so many real enemies? Good question.

These guys are playing a long game of their own. They plan to hold America in place, to not let it move one inch to the left, until they can take office in 2016 and pursue the agenda that they mistakenly believe is the road back to a “morally straight” America, which, if we are totally honest, has never existed. We are human beings; we are flawed; we do the best we can. The GOP will then create the Fundamentalist Heaven on Earth that they swear we will all be grateful for and they will distort America in whatever ways they must to bring the corporations back and keep them here by busting the unions. And we will drill happily ever after until the Rapture.

The second thing that happened this week was this stuff with the air traffic controllers and the Sequester. The Senate came together and unanimously passed a bill to keep control towers open on the eve of their Spring break. Wow! That was the fastest move I have seen this Congress make in the last five years! What, no filibuster? I didn’t see that kind of hustle when toddlers lost their Head Start programs.

I don’t know that I have ever been more aware of how little power citizens have in our government than I have in recent years. We can write our Congressional representatives, we can write editorials, we can march in demonstrations and carry signs, but these behaviors have had almost no effect on Republicans who have their districts zipped up and squared away through gerrymandering and tradition. If they are able to change the election laws in the other ways they would like they will make it even more difficult to unseat Republicans. Yes, I know this is the way American politics works and that all of these things fall under the category of strategy, but there must be lines that are drawn that make some things off limits; some things too manipulative and underhanded to be legal. Where are the lines? They are disappearing. Obama’s new digital grassroots campaign strategies have actually given me the greatest hope that the average citizen can still participate in government but soon these techniques will be co-opted by both the GOP and by the marketplace and their effectiveness will be neutralized.

There seems to be only one way out of this untenable situation, out from under the party that is usurping the rights of American citizens and changing the landscape of our democracy perhaps forever. Elect Democrats in 2014!

Tactics to Deny Obama Appointments

The Republicans are supposedly aghast that Obama tried to make recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board and that he appointed Richard Cordray to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau when Congress, according to the Republicans, was not officially in a recess. Cries of “treason” and “unconstitutional” are ringing out once again from the GOP. Now they tell us how thrilled they are (like little girls) that a DC Circuit court consisting of three Conservative judges has declared that Obama’s appointments were unconstitutional. Obama will also be guilty of causing future Presidents to lose the right to make any recess appointments. How parental; this is like the parent who punishes one child by taking a privilege away from all of the children in the family, thus inciting backlash from the innocent children. Obama, you are a bad, bad boy.

Tangentially, Paul Krugman wrote an article in today’s (Monday, February 04, 2013) New York Timesthat shed a different light on this issue. In his article Friends of Fraud, he talks about Republican actions to block Obama’s appointment of Richard Cordray to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. This agency was recently created in the first term of Obama’s Presidency to protect consumers after mortgage irregularities led to hundreds of thousands of foreclosures, and after a number of predatory credit card practices.

The Republican’s supporters in the financial sector, says Krugman, want the GOP to put the kibosh on this agency. Between having a DC Circuit Court declare Obama’s recess appointment unconstitutional (discussed in a WSJ article) and mounting a filibuster in the Senate against approving Cordray’s appointment (discussed by Krugman), Conservatives seem to be working in tandem to obey the dictates of the financial sector.

Krugman tells us that Republicans are in denial about the role of the financial sector in our recent woes in the housing market and in other unsavory practices of the financial sector which rely on the lack of financial savvy in consumers. In his own words:

“How can the G.O.P. be so determined to make America safe for financial fraud, with the 2008 crisis still so fresh in our memory? In part it’s because Republicans are deep in denial about what actually happened to our financial system and economy. On the right, it’s now complete orthodoxy that do-gooder liberals, especially former Representative Barney Frank, somehow caused the financial disaster by forcing helpless bankers to lend to Those People.

In reality, this is a nonsense story that has been extensively refuted; I’ve always been struck in particular by the notion that a Congressional Democrat, holding office at a time when Republicans ruled the House with an iron first, somehow had the mystical power to distort our whole banking system. But it’s a story conservatives much prefer to the awkward reality that their faith in the perfection of free markets was proved false.”

First of all, as the op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal from Thursday, January 31, 2013 with the title Diminishing the Presidency tells us, Obama is not the first person to make appointments during a recess. This rule used to be applied when Congress was out of session for a long period of time, but Presidents have made use of the rule even in periods of very short recess. Since WSJ skews Conservative they tell us that recess appointments are only used in cases that involve important foreign issues. Obama used this “power” for relatively minor domestic appointments so he broke the rules and he must be punished.

From a more liberal point of view (mine), what choice did Obama have? Why should he stay in meek compliance while Republicans hold up almost every one of his appointments indefinitely? It is obvious that the GOP purposely kept a token presence in Congress so that Obama would not be able to make recess appointments (admittedly not a new tactic). However, you could reason that the GOP has no good reasons that would be acceptable to the American people to block Obama’s (a duly elected President’s) every move. From this perspective it follows that if the treason label fits anyone it is the Republicans who refuse to govern or to let anyone else govern even though, as I cannot stress enough, they lost in 2008 and 2012.

Obama saw a chance that his appointments might get through on a technicality so he took it. It was a gutsy move (and also not without precedent). This is the 21st century version of checks and balances; lots of checks, little balance. I, for one, hope the Supreme Court reverses the decision of that rather biased Circuit Court and allows the appointments to stand.

As for the obstructionist Republicans, well, the things they are doing to our first African-American president will be their legacy in the history books and the shame of it is something the party will have to live with forever, although forever may not end up lasting much longer. I find it embarrassing that people we trust to govern our country discuss and carry out such strategies to thwart this President for reasons that they will someday admit were wrong-headed and backward.