Republicans Suing Obama and Visa Versa, Democrats Fight Republican Border Bill and the U.S. Government Hinders the Economy

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A divided House voted Wednesday 225 to 201 to approved a Republican plan to launch a campaign season lawsuit against President Barack Obama, accusing him of exceeding his limit to constitutional authority, with only one day left before lawmakers go on their five week summer recess, according to the Associated Press, Suing Obama: GOP-led House gives the go-ahead. Five conservative republicans voted with Democrats in opposing the lawsuit: Reps. Paul Broun of Georgia, Scott Garrett of New Jersey, Walter Jones of North Carolina, Thomas Massie of Kentucky and Steve Stockman of Texas. No Democrats voted for it. Obama and other Democrats see the effort as a political stunt to appease conservative voters. The Republican legal action will focus on Obama’s implementation of his health care overhaul and prevent a further presidential power grab and how to enforce laws. John Boehner, R-Ohio, declared, “No member needs to be reminded about the bonds of trust that have been frayed or the damage that’s already been done to our economy and to our people. Are you willing to let any president choose what laws to execute and what laws to change?” Rep. Candice Miller, R-Mich., address the Democrats claims that the lawsuit is frivolous: “What price do you place on the continuation of our system of checks and balances? What price do you put on the Constitution of the United States? My answer to each is ‘priceless.'” Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y., and other Democrats said the lawsuit was designed to encourage conservatives to votes in this November’s congressional elections and will go nowhere: “The lawsuit is a drumbeat pushing members of the Republican Party to impeachment.” In fact, the Democrats have already used that argument to garner campaign contributions with House Democrats emailing one fundraiser solicitation as debate was underway and another after the vote writing: “The GOP is chomping at the bit to impeach the president. We’ve got to get the president’s back.” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said, “Impeachment is off the table. Why hasn’t the speaker said that.” On the road in Kansas City, Missouri, Obama called the lawsuit a distraction from public priorities saying, “Every vote they’re taking like that means a vote they’re not taking to actually help you.” He urged Republicans to “stop just hating all the time.” The Associated Press reports that Republicans accuse Obama of exceeding his power in a range of areas including “not notifying Congress before releasing five Taliban members from the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in exchange for captive Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, blocking the deportation of some children who are in the U.S. illegally and waiving some provisions of the No Child Left Behind education law.” Democrats say Obama has acted legally and used his authorities given to him as chief executive, while the timetable to file the suit has not been laid out by Republicans even though Obama leaves office in January of 2017. Meanwhile, Obama addressed supporters in Kansas City regarding the vote: “I know they’re not that happy that I’m president. I’ve only got a couple of years left. Come on, let’s get some work done. Then you can be mad at the next president.”

It seems not only the Republicans have a beef to settle since the Obama administration decided Wednesday to join two ongoing suits against voting laws in Wisconsin and Ohio, according to the AOL article, Obama Administration Joins Suits Against GOP-Backed Voting Restrictions In Wisconsin, Ohio. In the filings, the Justice Department argues that a federal judge was right to strike down Wisconsin’s voter ID law and Ohio is incorrectly interpreting its duties under the Voting Rights Act provision. Attorney General Eric Holder explained the filings in an interview with ABC earlier in the month saying in a statement Wednesday that they “are necessary to confront the pernicious measures in Wisconsin and Ohio that would impose significant barriers to the most basic right of our democracy. These two states’ voting laws represent the latest, misguided attempts to fix a system that isn’t broken. These restrictive state laws threaten access to the ballot box. The Justice Department will never shrink from our responsibility to protect the voting rights of every eligible American. And we will keep using every available tool at our disposal to guard against all forms of discrimination, to prevent voter disenfranchisement, and to secure the rights of every citizen.” The Justice Department in an amicus brief filed in the 7th U.S. circuit Court of Appeals argues a federal judge correctly decided that Wisconsin’s voter ID law violated Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act due to its discriminatory impact on black and Hispanic voters and violates the 14th amendment by placing unjustified burden on a large group of voters. In addition, DOJ lawyers argue that Ohio is mistaken about its duties under section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. In the year since the Supreme Court killed a key provision of the Voting Rights Act preventing certain states from changing their voting practices without clearance from the DOJ or federal court, the Department of Justice has used another portion of the act to oppose voting laws in North Carolina and Texas which are ongoing cases. In Wisconsin, the state is appealing a federal judge’s decision to strike down a GOP backed law imposing ID requirements on voters in the state, while the DOJ’s filing encourages the appeals court to look at the “totality of circumstances,” including examining whether “social, political, and historical conditions in Wisconsin hinder minorities’ political participation.” In Ohio, civil rights groups are challenging a law passed by the Republican led legislature earlier this year to eliminate a six day period for voters to register and cast an early ballot at the same time. Connected with a suit filed b the Obama campaign leading up to the 2012 elections, a federal judge ordered Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted to restore early voting o the final three days ahead of the elections. However, the lawsuit DOJ got involved in Wednesday revolves around cuts made earlier this year which brought the total number of early voting days to 29 from 35.

Meanwhile, House Democrats are urging members to oppose a GOP authored bill to address the border crisis with Republican senators voicing their own opposition to the House bill and Senate Democratic alternative, Elise Foley and Sam Stein report, House Democrats Fighting Hard Against Republicans’ Border Bill. The Senate voted and passed, 63 to 33, a bill Wednesday to provide $2.7 billion to deal with the crisis of 57,500 unaccompanied minors who crossed the border illegally since October, while the House plans to vote Thursday on a package to provide $659 million in funding with a number of provision that most Democrats oppose. One Democratic leadership aide said, “We’re still in the process of talking to members, but it won’t be many [who vote for the bill].” On Tuesday in a statement, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., explained the opposition to the House plan: “We must have a heart, and look into our souls to guide us in our treatment of these desperate children. While we are reminded of the critical importance of passing comprehensive immigration reform, we must do so much more than the Republicans’ unjust and inhumane proposal.” The same day, Senate Republican Ted Cruz of Texas and Jeff Sessions of Alabama criticized the House bill saying, “That the House leaders’ border package includes no language on executive actions is surrender to a lawless president. And it is a submission to the subordination of congressional power.” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid suggested Tuesday that comprehensive immigration reform attached to the bill could scare many Republicans who are already wary of voting in favor, however, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) wants to pass a bill before the August recess but remains uncertain. While the House struggles to get support for their bill, the Senate’s bill passed on Wednesday morning and now up for debate on legislation faces a huge hurdle among Democrats. The bill must get 60 votes to end the debate and amendment process, unfortunately, as of Wednesday morning, a Senate leadership aid said that do not expect to reach that goal. If nothing passes before the August recess, it would represent the political futility taking place in Congress and both sides would be open to political attacks. According to Foley and Stein, as of 3:40 p.m., the White House issued a formal veto threat Wednesday afternoon on the House Republicans’ funding bill for the border crisis:
“Republicans have had more than a year to comprehensively fix the Nation’s broken immigration system, but instead of working toward a real, lasting solution, Republicans released patchwork legislation that will only put more arbitrary and unrealistic demands on an already broken system. H.R. 5230 could make the situation worse, not better. By setting arbitrary timelines for the processing of cases, this bill could create backlogs that could ultimately shift resources away from priority public safety goals, like deporting known criminals. This bill will undercut due process for vulnerable children which could result in their removal to life threatening situations in foreign countries. In addition, the limited resources provided in H.R. 5230 are not designated as emergency, but rather come at the expense of other Government functions.”

As the bickering seems to be at an all time high in Washington, the U.S. economy certainly reflects the lack of action and inappropriate spending done by government. While the U.S. economy has changed for the good and appears to be on an upswing, federal government spending seems to alway be the giant turd in the economy’s punch bowl, Mark Gongloff reports, The U.S. Government Has Hurt The Economy In 11 Of The Past 12 Quarters. The Bureau of Economic Analysis reported on Wednesday that the U.S. gross domestic product grew at a 4 percent annualized rate in the second quarter which has drastically increased from a 2.1 percent GDP collapse in the first quarter. Everything was up in the quarter including consumer spending, business spending, housing, imports and exports, but federal government spending fell for the 7th quarter in a row. In fact, federal spending has cut into the GDP 11 out of the past 12 quarters meaning the U.S. government has dragged the economy for the past three years coinciding with congressional Republicans holding the government hostage in exchange for austerity measure. The big spending drags, according to Gongloff, began hitting the economy in the fourth quarter of 2010 when Republicans won control of the House of Representative which set the stage for the budget fights to come. However, all of this could change a month from now, but one thing remains constant which is the drag of weak federal spending.

The Growing Economic Divide Between the Haves and Have Nots

Us PovertySequestration Effects

READ NOW: Dozier’s story and 99 others from the past week who have been dramatically affected by sequestration.

As the sequester fades from the headlines and gets reduce to a mere budgetary issues, many families and individual are feeling the effects of the automatic spending cuts. The new studies are downsizing the actual problems facing this country as agencies figure out ways to avoid the more alarming effects of the $85 billion in cuts, while Congress has given up on any solution to end the sequester. The sequester was portrayed by many even our nation’s leaders to bring the country to its knees yet we go on as normally as possible. The grips of the financial crisis are now beginning to be felt and the effects are quite dramatic already with organizations and companies laying off workers and many deciding not to hire for vacant spots. The food pantries that many families rely on are closed and many health services have followed suit. Farmers are forced to go without milk production information causing alarm in the dairy industry as higher milk prices are a possibility. Workers at missile testing fields are facing job losses, federal courts are force to be closed on Fridays and public broadcasting transmitters have been shut down. On a national level, sequestration has caused the cancellation of White House tours and long lines at the airport that never happened yet at the local level has begun to sting.

The Huff Post did an extensive review of the sequestration stories from the past week and found hundreds of stories across the country that took only a few hours to find and left no one immune from the cuts. Some mentions are rural towns in Alaska, missile test sites in the Marshall Islands, military bases in Virginia, university towns across the country, and housing agencies in inner cities are all feeling the cuts.  Cathy Hoskins, executive director of Salt Lake Community Action Program that just closed a food pantry in Murray, Utah, commented: “Absolutely we’re feeling the effects of it. And our employees are trying to absorb the biggest parts of the cuts by taking furloughs and having the agency contribution to their retirement plan suspended.” Michael Jenkins, communications director of the Southeast Alaskan Regional Health Consortium, is also feeling the cuts as his group has to close the Bill Brady Healing Center that provides alcohol and drug treatment to Native Alaskans. Lashell Dozier, the executive director of the Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Agency, had this to say about the effects of the sequester: “We are trying not to lay any employees off, but we will have reduced work schedules. We will also close our offices. there will be days when it is closed every month or several times a month. But if we do not come up with some type of solution or remedy by July, it will equate to 1,700 families losing housing vouchers, which is over 4,800 actual tenants.” The organization is facing $13.9 million cuts this year. Many officials are now grappling with the same issues and are using budget trickery as well as operational dexterity to avoid the pain, but the sequester is a real concern as the people and communities they serve rely on their help.

The cuts started on March 1 after Democrats and republicans could not reach a decision to address the national deficits causing the sequestration to hit at a time when poverty in the U.S. is climbing while the nation tries to recover from an economic downturn not seen since the Great Depression of the 1930s. The U.S. Census Bureau puts the numbers of American Poverty at levels not seen since President Johnson launched the War on Poverty according to the Associated Press. Currently as of January, nearly 50 million Americans which is one in six are living below the poverty line according to the bureau and 20 percent of the country’s children are poor. Under the spending cuts, Baltimore Housing Commissioner Paul T. Grazino believes his agency will have a $25 million shortfall in funds to help the poor with housing while 35,000 people are on a waiting list. Not only that, the city struggles to deal with city clean up efforts as Baltimore has 15,000 vacant and abandoned structures because of population decline over the past fifty years. While the economy tries to recover, improvements for those in deep poverty cannot keep pace with the cuts as the spending reductions hit hardest Americans not directly tied to the economy such as Head Start pre-school programs.

The cuts which also hit U.S. defense spending were put into place two years ago to help lawmakers avoid a federal debt standoff and potential shutdown, but compromise between Republicans and Democrats in Congress seemed impossible as the March 1 deadline came leading to the $85 million automatic cuts to go into effect. Democrats want deficit reduction including increase tax on wealthy, while the Republicans believe the problem could be solved through spending cuts and no more taxes. The Republicans want to see more cuts in next year’s budget resulting in a return to pre-sequester military spending levels and provide tax benefits for the wealthy. The 2014 budget plan proposed by Rep. Paul Ryan calls for $135 billion over the next decade to be slashed from food aid for low income families which helps children who have been hit hardest by poverty and calls for the Medicare health insurance program for Americans age 65 and over to turn into a voucher program providing direct government payment to senior who try to buy insurance on the private market. As Ryan said in an interview with Fox News, reports the Associated Press: “If we never balance the budget, if we keep adding deficit upon deficit we have a debt crisis like Europe has. That means seniors lose their health care benefit, that means the people in the safety net see the net cut and they go in the street. That means you have a recession. These are the things we prevent from happening by balancing the budget. Balancing the budget is but a means to an end. It’s growing the economy, it’s creating opportunity, it’s getting government to live within its means.”

 

Some worry though that the gap between rich and poor will keep widening under the austerity measures. According to the non-paritsan Congressional Research Service last year, “U.S. income distribution appears to be among the most unequal of all major industrialized countries and the United States appears to be among the nations experiencing the greatest increases in measures of income.” Marry O’ Donnell, director of community services at Cathloic Charitirs of Balitmore, has already seen an increase in income inequality during the U.S. downturn stating, “In the last three years, there’s been a great change in the kinds of people we are serving. There are increasing numbers of people who owned a home, lost their jobs, end up living in their car and are coming with children to our soup kitchen,” she said. Her organization spent $126 million the last year feeding the poor, helping the unemployed find employment and housing, running nursing homes, and helping people get on their feet. About $98 million of that money came from various programs funded by the city, state, and federal government as these programs now face cuts because politician failed to do their job in Washington and find a compromise.

 

Seven Score and Several Wars Ago…

An Associated Press analysis of federal payment records found the government is still making monthly payment to relatives of Civil War veterans, 148 years after the conflict ended, leading many to believe that the U.S. government will be doing the same for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. While many military families come to terms with the sacrifices they make to protect their country, the government has had to pay out more than $40 billion a year to compensate veterans and survivors from the Spanish American War from 1898, World War I and II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the two Iraq campaigns, and the Afghanistan conflict with costs rising rapidly at the 10 year Iraq war anniversary. As U.S. Senator Patty Murray explains, “When we decide to go to war, we have to consciously be also thinking about the cost” adding that her WWII-veteran father’s disability benefits helped feed their family according to the Associated Press. Alan Simpson, a former Republican senator and veteran, said that government leader working to limit the national debt should make sure the veteran’s need the money as he said “without question I would affluence test all of these people.” Because of the improved battlefield medicine and technology, a greater number of troops survive costing the government more money in disability payments as the Associated Press analyzed the post war cost in each conflict in four compensation programs which include disabled veterans, survivors, survivors of those who died in war or service disability, low income wartime vets over 65 or disabled, and low income survivors of wartime vets or disabled children. The information obtained by the AP gathered the information from millions of federal payment records obtained under the Freedom of Information Act. The total compensation with each war:

The Iraq wars, Afghanistan and first Persian Gulf 1990s costs $12 billion a year  and total so far at $50 billion since 2003 not including medical car other benefits provided to veterans which is likely to grow.

The Vietnam War costs $22 billion a year 40 years after the conflict and payments are rising as new ailments are added such as diabetes and heart disease. A congressional analysis estimates the total cost of fighting the war was $738 billion in 2011 dollars and the benefits for veterans and families has cost $270 billion since 1970 according to AP calculations.

World War I  which ended 94 years ago has cost$20 million every year while World War II cost $5 billion. The Korean War costs appear to be leveling off at $2.8 billion per year. Of the 2,289 survivors of WWI, one third are spouses and dozens of the are over 100 years old.

 

There are 10 living recipients of benefits tied to the 1898 Spanish American War costing $50,000 per year and the Civil War payments are going to two children of veterans each $876 per year.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sequestration 2013: When will it end?

Sequestration 2013: With Cuts In Place, Obama And GOP Brace For Next Fight.
To all my readers, I find it important for everyone to inform themselves about the actual sequester with an official document sent to Congress  as a direct result of Congress and the President’s inability to reach a decision to avoid the sequester that has now gone into effect on March 1. There is a lot of misinformation going around through various groups so I decided that the actual facts might be nice, then let you the reader decide what is truth. Since both parties the President and Congress refuse to come to a decision on Saturday to avoid sequester, we as a country now face the consequences through automatic spending cuts of $85 billion. Even with last minutes talks and no deal, the sequester which is outline in the official document below has gone into effect with the stroke of Obama’s pen. There are no signs that either group will budge as the Republican refuse any deal with more taxes and Democrats will not do a deal without it. Both parties lay the blame on the other for damages the cuts might inflict which are across the board.  In the words of Obama on his weekly radio and internet address, “None of this is necessary…It’s happening because Republicans in Congress chose this outcome over closing a single wasteful tax loophole that helps reduce the deficit.” The president also commented that the cuts will cause ripples across the economy the longer they stay in place and could cost more than 750,000 jobs not to mention disrupt the lives of middle class families. The next major battle for both will be to negotiate a plan to fund the government beyond March 27 or possibly face a government shutdown and another debt ceiling clash in May.

OMB REPORT TO THE CONGRESS ON THE JOINT COMMITTEE SEQUESTRATION FOR FISCAL YEAR 2013