Bishops: Make HHS Mandate a Bargaining Point in Fiscal Cliff Debates

The suggestion is late to the party, but it is about time it finally came.

The Roman Catholic Bishops here in America have finally asked Congressional supporters of religious freedom to do what they should have done in the first place: Make the HHS Mandate a bargaining chip in political “cliff” negotiations.

I’ve maintained all along that if the House Republicans had made the HHS Mandate the bargaining chip in the 2012 cliff fight over extending the debt limit, the HHS Mandate would never have gone into effect. It was one of those rare opportunities when political brinksmanship might have been about something besides the egos of the players and the wishes of the moneyed interests who control them.

What they did instead was engage in their usual fight to get more tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy.

The bishops have finally decided to call for such action directly. They sent a letter to members of Congress, asking them to make the HHS Mandate a bargaining point in the next found of fiscal cliff stand-offs.

All I can say is, it’s about time.

In fact, it’s past time.

It’s not easy for political outsiders to see through the smoke and mirrors of political maneuvering. But it appears that the bishops are beginning to figure it out.

As usual, I support the bishops in this 100%.

A Reuters article describing the bishops’ letter says in part:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Roman Catholic bishops stepped up their battle against President Obama’s contraceptives policy on Friday by urging Congress to use its fiscal debate to free religious employers from a mandate requiring insurance coverage for birth control.

In a letter to all 535 members of Congress, Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore suggested two provisions to extend existing federal conscience protections to the contraceptives mandate and strengthen the ability of opponents to seek vindication in federal court.

“The federal government’s respect for believers and people of conscience no longer measures up to the treatment Americans have a right to expect from their elected representatives,” wrote Lori, who chairs the Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Liberty of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

“I urge you in the strongest terms possible to incorporate the provisions … in the upcoming legislative proposals to fund the federal government,” Lori added.

The conference also plans to send out an action alert via email and text message calling on supporters across the country to visit local congressional offices next week when lawmakers are home on break.

Obama’s 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act requires employers to provide health insurance coverage through group coverage plans for all contraceptives approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, including the so-called “morning after” pill.

The archbishop’s letter underscored a growing sense of urgency among church leaders over the birth control coverage rules that are due to take effect on August 1 for religiously affiliated employers including universities, hospitals and charities.

The bishops have tried several times to get Congress to act over the past year, amid numerous protests and more than 40 lawsuits by religious groups and employers. But Lori’s letter marks their first attempt to use the debates over deficit reduction, the debt limit and government funding.

“To many people, this looks like the main must-pass vehicle going through Congress this year,” said Richard Doerflinger, associate director of the conference’s Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities. (Read more here.)

Debt Limit Fight: House of Representatives Stops Saber Rattling, Starts Negotiating

It sounds like the House GOP is finally listening to somebody besides each other.

In fact, I would go so far as to say that they might actually be responding to the disgust coming at them from we the people.

In a reverse of their previous saber-rattling, they have come up with a proposal that would both raise the debt limit and (hopefully) address the deficit. Kudos to them.

Now, it’s up to President Obama. It will be interesting to see how he responds.

A New York Times article describing this situation reads in part:

In Reversal, House G.O.P. Agrees to Lift Debt Limit
By JONATHAN WEISMAN

WASHINGTON — Backing down from their hard-line stance, House Republicans said Friday that they would agree to lift the federal government’s statutory borrowing limit for three months, with a requirement that both chambers of Congress pass a budget in that time to clear the way for negotiations on long-term deficit reduction.
Related

The new proposal, which came out of closed-door party negotiations at a retreat in Williamsburg, Va., seemed to significantly reduce the threat of a default by the federal government in coming weeks. The White House press secretary, Jay Carney, said he was encouraged by the offer; Senate Democrats, while bristling at the demand for a budget, were also reassured and viewed it as a de-escalation of the debt fight.

The change in tack represented a retreat for House Republicans, who were increasingly isolated in their refusal to lift the debt ceiling. Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio had previously said he would raise it only if it were paired with immediate spending cuts of equivalent value. The new strategy is designed to start a more orderly negotiation with President Obama and Senate Democrats on ways to shrink the trillion-dollar deficit.

To add muscle to their efforts to bring Senate Democrats to the table, House Republicans will include a provision in the debt ceiling legislation that says lawmakers will not be paid if they do not pass a budget blueprint, though questions have been raised whether that provision is constitutional. (Read more here.)

It’s Not About Us or This Country. It’s About Them.

It is not, ever, about us.

It is not, ever, about this country.

Congress is once again heading for another titanic fight over a deadline. This time it’s the debt limit.

Now, I ask you, what would you consider important enough to shut down the government, damage America’s credit rating (all you credit card holders out there, think what happens to your payments when your interest rate goes up) and further traumatize an already traumatized citizenry?

The HHS Mandate? Would saving the First Amendment be enough reason?

Nope.

Ending our cycle of continuous wars? Would stopping the hemorrhage of money and lives that results from always being at way with somebody, somewhere be worth it?

Nope.

What would matter enough to our elected officials for them to push this country to the brink of a full-blown economic shut down and depression. Here, in the words of one of these elected officials, is what’s good enough for them:

“I think it is possible that we would shut down the government to make sure President Obama understands that we’re serious,”

That’s it, folks. Mano y mano. Show the president that we’re for real. Get our side up on the political score board.

We’re talking respect for us from the big guy. Anybody stupid enough to elect us is probably also a total fool. We can “frame our message” so that they’ll let us get away with it.

The Politico article discussing the latest looming nation-endangering political temper tantrum reads in part:

“I think it is possible that we would shut down the government to make sure President Obama understands that we’re serious,”

House Republicans are seriously entertaining dramatic steps, including default or shutting down the government, to force President Barack Obama to finally cut spending by the end of March.

The idea of allowing the country to default by refusing to increase the debt limit is getting more widespread and serious traction among House Republicans than people realize, though GOP leaders think shutting down the government is the much more likely outcome of the spending fights this winter.

“I think it is possible that we would shut down the government to make sure President Obama understands that we’re serious,” House Republican Conference Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington state told us. “We always talk about whether or not we’re going to kick the can down the road. I think the mood is that we’ve come to the end of the road.”

Republican leadership officials, in a series of private meetings and conversations this past week, warned that the White House, much less the broader public, doesn’t understand how hard it will be to talk restive conservatives off the fiscal ledge. To the vast majority of House Republicans, it is far riskier long term to pile up new debt than it is to test the market and economic reaction of default or closing down the government.

GOP officials said more than half of their members are prepared to allow default unless Obama agrees to dramatic cuts he has repeatedly said he opposes. Many more members, including some party leaders, are prepared to shut down the government to make their point. House Speaker John Boehner “may need a shutdown just to get it out of their system,” said a top GOP leadership adviser. “We might need to do that for member-management purposes — so they have an endgame and can show their constituents they’re fighting.”

The country would eventually default if House Republicans refuse to raise the debt limit, which the Treasury estimates will hit in late February or early March. The government would shut down if House Republicans instead were to refuse to extend the law funding current government operations on March 27.

Read more: http://www.politico.com/story/2013/01/behind-the-curtain-house-gop-eyes-default-shutdown-86116.html#ixzz2Hy7M9Fpw

U.S. House Does the Deal

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., left, with Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio

House passes fiscal cliff deal, tamps down

GOP revolt

Despite a divided Republican majority, the House of Representatives late Tuesday easily approved emergency bipartisan legislation sparing all but a sliver of America’s richest from sharp income tax hikes — while setting up another “fiscal cliff” confrontation in a matter of weeks.

Lawmakers voted 257-167 to send the compromise to President Barack Obama to sign into law. Eighty-five Republicans and 172 Democrats backed the bill, which had sailed through the Senate by a lopsided 89-8 margin shortly after 2 a.m. Opposition comprised 151 Republicans and 16 Democrats.

Republican House Speaker John Boehner voted in favor of the deal, as did House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, his party’s failed vice presidential candidate. But Republican House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy voted against it.

Obama, speaking from the White House briefing room shortly after the vote, praised lawmakers for coming together to avert a tax increase that “could have sent the economy back into a recession.” (Read more here.)


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