House Balks. Senate Restarts Talks. Debt Default Looms.

I am out of words for this stupidity.

It appears that the hermetically sealed brains in Congress really do think that this crisis they’ve manufactured is all about them.

I’ve got news for them.

The causes are all about them. But the consequences are about everybody but them.

This reminds me of one of those movies where the bad guy takes a hostage, usually the hero’s best girl or his child, and holds a gun to the screaming, terrified victim’s head while shouting “put down your gun, or I’ll kill ‘em!”

The difference here is that the bad guy is the Congress of the United States, the hostage is the American people, what they’re threatening is great harm to our country, and there is no hero.

You can find your member of Congress here.

From The New York Times:

WASHINGTON — With the federal government on the brink of a default, a House Republican effort to end the shutdown and extend the Treasury’s borrowing authority collapsed Tuesday night as a major credit agency warned that the United States was on the verge of a costly ratings downgrade.

After the failure of the House Republican leadership to find enough support for its latest proposal to end the fiscal crisis, the Senate’s Democratic and Republican leaders immediately restarted negotiations to find a bipartisan path forward. A spokesman for Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the majority leader, said Mr. Reid was “optimistic that an agreement is within reach” with Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader.

With so little time left, chances rose that a resolution would not be approved by Congress and sent to President Obama before Thursday, when the government is left with only its cash on hand to pay the nation’s bills.

“It’s very, very serious,” warned Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona. “Republicans have to understand we have lost this battle, as I predicted weeks ago, that we would not be able to win because we were demanding something that was not achievable.”

House speaker, John A. Boehner, Republican of Ohio, and his leadership team failed in repeated, daylong attempts to bring their troops behind any bill that would reopen the government and extend the Treasury’s debt limit on terms significantly reduced from their original push against funding for the health care law. The House’s hard-core conservatives and some more pragmatic Republicans were nearing open revolt, and the leadership was forced twice to back away from proposals it had floated, the second time sending lawmakers home for the night to await a decision on how to proceed Wednesday.

Eight Members of Congress Arrested in Demonstration

Handcuffs

Eight members of Congress were arrested yesterday in an act of civil disobedience.

The arrests occurred at a rally in favor of immigration reform near the Capitol building.

I would imagine that most of the other protestors had to come from a distance — probably some of them a great distance — to participate in this rally. But Reps John Lewis (D-GA), Luis Guiterrez (D-Ill), Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz), Keith Ellison (D-Mn), Joseph Crowley and Charles Rangel (both D-NY) were able to walk over from their offices.

The immigration reform bill in question is in the House of Representatives’ intensive care unit, awaiting its final dispatch. The Republican leadership of the House has refused to allow the bill to come to a vote. I have no idea if it would pass if it was voted on. I do know that Hispanics voted pretty much as a block for President Obama in 2012, and by doing so swung some major electoral states to his column.

Based informally on the many Hispanic voters I know in my district, I can say that the reason for this — at least among the people I know — was the hostility toward them exhibited by the Republican party. I am speaking of Oklahoma when I say that.

Anti-Hispanic demagoguery masquerading as a concern for immigration reform was a basis of the GOP electoral campaigning here in Oklahoma for much of the first decade of this century. This has pushed Hispanic people to the Democrats. The irony is, that, as small business owners and traditional Christians with a strong family orientation, they have a lot in common with the populist wing of the Republican Party.

However, when people attack you directly, as the Rs have attacked Hispanics here in Oklahoma, it tends to focus your attention.

Based on the 2012 election results, I would say that this Oklahoma situation has a national echo. If that’s true, then it explains the House leadership reasoning for not allowing this bill to come to a vote. Any vote at all will put Republican House members on record on what is a difficult issue for them. If they vote for the bill, they will alienate the voters who have supported them because of their prior positions. If they vote against it, they risk entrenching the feeling among a large and growing segment of the electorate that thinks they hate them.

So … the smart political move is to deep-six the bill. That way, the leadership takes the heat and the membership is shielded.

I believe that is what has happened to this bill.

As for the Congressmen who were arrested yesterday, I can’t look into their hearts to say whether they were making a political statement, a moral statement, or both. It is a statement — and a strong one — either way.

What is interesting is the situation we are in where the government is shut down and members of Congress — who should have the power to speak out in other ways — take to the streets over legislation. Is the minority that hamstrung in the House of Representatives? If the leadership has pushed things to the point that minority members feel called to do something like this to make their point, then there is something rotten in the House. I would say that no matter which party was in control. It’s a matter of democracy.

Were they just demagoguing, or is the House that over-controlled and partisan?

I hope you discuss this question, but please, no name-calling or ugliness. Let’s leave the partisan hatred that is scarring and damaging our country in DC.

From the Journal Star:

At least eight Democratic members of the House were among about 200 people arrested Tuesday after they blocked a main street near the Capitol during a massive rally seeking to push Republicans to hold a vote on a stalled immigration reform bill.

Police would not identify those arrested. Representatives of the social policy organization Center for Community Change and The Associated Press witnessed the arrests of Reps. John Lewis, D-Ga.; Luis Gutiérrez, D-Ill.; Raúl Grijalva, D-Ariz.; Keith Ellison, D-Minn.; Joseph Crowley and Charles Rangel, both D-N.Y.; Al Green, D-Texas; and Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill.,

Representatives of other groups whose members attended the rally, such as United Farm Workers and Farmworker Justice, confirmed that several of their members were arrested as well.

Those arrested will be charged with “crowding, obstructing and incommoding” under the local laws of the District of Columbia, the Capitol Police said. The arrests began about 4 p.m. EDT and had ended two hours later, police said in a statement.

Before being arrested, Gutiérrez said he planned the act of civil disobedience “so the speaker of the House can free Congress and finally pass immigration reform.”

 

 

Read more: http://www.pjstar.com/free/x1868848977/Police-arrest-8-House-members-at-immigration-rally#ixzz2hEXMiGAX

We’re Not Living in Mad Max Land

Dome night2

The shut down continues.

The stock market responds to the shut down with a rumble, but basically keeps its head (so far), and people around the world are scratching their heads over the American shenanigans.

I hadn’t thought much about the response of non-Americans to all this. But for those who are wondering: We aren’t living in Mad Max land here in the USA. Our governance, and the powers that go along with it, is divided into so many pieces that it can clank along quite nicely, even if the money from Washington is cut off for a while.

In that sense, it is a misnomer to call this a “government shut down.” What it is, is a (hopefully temporary) stoppage in federal funding for select programs. I say select programs because Congress has evidently made a list of things that it will fund despite the fight.

The shutdown is entirely partisan in nature. The Ds and the Rs are fighting over who’s the boss. All the issues and rhetoric are just fluff. That’s what the fight is really about. I think it’s quite clear that the side that decided to throw down was the Rs. They initiated the fight. When they claim otherwise, that’s just spin.

The Ds, for their part, appear to be unwilling to talk with their colleagues on the other side of the aisle. Everybody hates everybody else, and nobody cares about much of anything outside their personal vendettas against one another.

What the Rs have in this battle is veto power. They control one house (the House of Representatives) in Congress. The Ds control the other house (the Senate) and the presidency. It takes all three of these bodies to make a legitimate law.

Legitimate laws are different from Presidential executive orders, which are end runs around the legitimate authority of Congress. Legitimate laws are also different from agency rules, which are not always, but can be, another end run around Congressional authority. These orders and rules amount to a kind of presidential fiat which, in my opinion, subverts the power of the people and turns the president into something akin to an elected dictator. For a list of President Obama’s executive orders, go here.

For instance, the First-Amendment-busting HHS Mandate is not a law. It is also not an executive order.  It is an agency rule, written by an appointed committee and signed by the president. Congress has always had the power to reject this rule without even addressing the underlying Affordable Health Care Act. It simply has not — primarily because of blind partisan loyalties — had the will. It is interesting that this HHS Mandate has fed significantly into this budget crisis.

The Rs can’t pass anything into law without the support of the Democrats in the Senate and the signature of the Democratic President. The Democrats can’t pass anything into law without the support of the Rs in the House.

The Ds and the Rs both have enough clout to unilaterally stop laws from passing. Neither of them can pass a law without the other. The increasing abuse of executive orders by each subsequent president for the past several decades has shorn Congress of much of its legitimate Constitutional power. When Congress refuses to enact a law, the President often just writes an executive order and does whatever he wants, anyway.

Congress has also ceded much of its war-making powers to the president. In fact, Congress has ceded most of its power as a policy-making body to the presidency. I think the major reason for this is that members of Congress no longer act as individuals. They are entirely divided along partisan political lines, the country be damned. They have eschewed their rightful concern for the American experiment in representative democracy to promote party ideologies.

The battle of the budget is over one of the few major powers that Congress has not, in its blind party loyalties, ceded to the presidency: The power to fund government.

The Rs are using their veto power to stop the bulk of the federal budget from passing into law. But they are allowing funding for a select groups of agencies and functions. I believe this is largely determined by the political heat they feel when they don’t fund these things.

Congress has become so divided along partisan lines that it is no longer able to assert its policy making authority, except in these destructive partisan standoffs that damage both the country and the institution of Congress itself. This creates a vacuum of power that is increasingly being filled by presidential fiat.

I, for one, would support moves by Congress as a body to reassert itself and its rightful authority in the governance of this country. However, these party-loyalty bear and bull fights do not enhance Congressional powers. They make a mockery of them. Until the people we elect can see beyond party loyalties and begin to act on behalf of the needs of this country and its people, Congress is only going to grow weaker and the presidency will move further toward an elected dictator.

You can find contact information for members of Congress and the President here.

See shut down news from around the web. Keep in mind that even though one house of Congress passes a bill, it is not law until the other house passes it and the president signs it:

House Approves Back Pay for Furloughed Workers

66 Questions and Answers about the Shutdown

Shut Down will Stall Home Loans for Thousands

Shutdown Losers and Not Quite Losers

Boehner: No End to Government Shutdown without Concessions

Stock Market Shaken by Shutdown, but Debt Default Would be Much Worse

Don’t Believe the Debt Ceiling Hike: The Federal Government Could Survive Without an Increase

Global Reaction to Shutdown: USA Looks Dumb and Dumber

What the Rest of the World Thinks About the Shutdown


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