One Sh*t Sandwich - Hold The Bread.  Coming Right Up!

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Evidently, House Republicans were so inspired by President Obama’s SOTU speech that they stayed up all night dreaming up really cool, bipartisan ways to help him achieve the goals he outlined.

Republicans really hate it when people accuse them of being a do-nothing pack of congressional losers because they have binders—they can show ‘em to you—full of really great laws that would fix so many problems if Obama would just put down his veto pen and quit being such a dictator.

So, this morning, House Republican leaders delivered a letter, to the President, promising to pull four of their favorite 2013 bills out of the circular file and toss them across the aisle and give him one more chance to be a team player, because this is an election year and nobody likes a do-nothing Congress.

Without further ado here are their offerings:

H.R. 803 the Supporting Knowledge and Investing in Lifelong SkillsAct [SKILLS] Act
(those people sure love acronyms)

Here’s a list of all of the ways that the SKILLS Act sucks, drawn up by the National League of Cities back in April, 2013:

H.R. 803 fails because it would:

1. Undermine the local delivery system that has been the cornerstone of job training programs since the Comprehensive Employment and Training Act of 1973 was passed into law 40 years ago by turning the program over to governors and their state workforce boards even though evidence otherwise points to the value of keeping the program locally based;

2. Establish a program that is based on political boundaries (states) rather than on economic regions and local labor markets, or the naturally evolving areas in which workers find paying work, employers find willing workers, and wage rates are determined;

3. Eliminate a strong role for local elected officials but require that they continue to be fiscally liable for funds spent in their local areas, even if they cannot control the use of those funds;

4. Change what was once a program targeted to those most in need - economically disadvantaged adults and youth and special population groups like veterans, migrant farm workers, and low income seniors - into a block grant to governors whose funds may be used to provide training and employment services to almost any segment of the population, including those who are not economically disadvantaged;

5. Contribute to the emerging division between those American’s who have the requisite skills to find employment and those who do not, by failing to target those most in need of job training and employment services;

6. Mandate that certain workforce development programs whose expenditures currently equal approximately $14 billion be eliminated or consolidated into a single $6 billion workforce investment fund (block grant);

7. Cap program funding at $6 billion for seven years which would prevent the federal government, through the normal appropriations process, from responding to emerging economic and employment crises by investing additional resources in workforce development programs;

8. Prohibit thoughtful program consolidation and elimination by failing to focus on the desired outcome, but rather on the larger goals of substantially reducing the total number of programs, and reducing the overall federal investment in training and employment assistance; and

9. Eliminate targeted funding for disadvantaged and disconnected youth at a time when the nation’s youth are facing an employment crisis, with young people three times more likely to be unemployed than adults and youth employment at its lowest level in 60 years.

For America’s cities and towns and the residents who reside in them, this is bad public policy.

If you’d like to see the huge list of American organizations that registered their opposition to the bill you can find it here, in all its glory.

And here’s an excerpt from the Obama Administration’s objections:

While H.R. 803 takes some positive steps, the bill does not adhere to the Administration’s key principles for reform. The bill would eliminate, or allow the consolidation of, many targeted programs, without providing the critical assistance needed by vulnerable populations such as veterans, low-income adults, youth, adults with literacy and English language needs, people with disabilities, ex-offenders, and others with significant barriers to employment. H.R. 803 would freeze funding for the next seven years and would fail to support efforts to innovate and replicate effective approaches.

Next up: 

HR 1900 The Natural Gas Pipeline Permitting and Reform Act which aims, in Republicans’ terms, to “expedite” the review process for natural gas pipeline certificates by giving the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission one year to approve new natural gas pipelines. Other government agencies would have to act within 90 days after FERC’s decision, or else the new pipelines would be approved automatically. 

Republican leadership bill this as a job creation bill i.e., more pipelines more jobs installing them.

That bill passed the House on partisan lines.  Indeed, Rep. Kathy Castor (D-FL)., warned that the bill would “short-circuit” the process and rush environmental reviews.

Clean Water Action sent these objections along to the House:

HR 1900 creates serious negative consequences for states wishing to protect their citizens under Sections 401 and 404 of the Clean Water Act, National Environmental Policy Act, and related laws. States that enforce their own Clean Water Act permit regimes will have their authority superseded by an arbitrary inflexible Federal Government mandated timeline enforced by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC)-­‐ an agency with no expertise with the Clean Water Act. 

Nevertheless, the US Chamber of Commerce’s has given their enthusiastic and full-throated support  of HR1900, going so far as to make it a “key vote” that legislators would be graded on.

And here’s how the Obama Administration saw it:

H.R. 1900, which would allow the automatic approval of natural gas pipeline projects if the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) or other Federal agencies do not issue the required permit, license, or approval within rigid, unworkable timeframes.

H.R. 1900 could create conflicts with existing statutory and regulatory requirements and practices related to agencies’ programs, thereby causing confusion and increasing litigation risk. The bill’s requirements could force agencies to make decisions based on incomplete information or information that may not be available within the stringent deadlines, and to deny applications that otherwise would have been approved, but for lack of sufficient review time. For these reasons, the bill may actually delay projects or lead to more project denials, undermining the intent of the legislation

If the President were presented with H.R. 1900, his senior advisors would recommend that he veto the bill.

I doubt they’ve changed their minds on that . . .

Then there’s our old friend HR 1406 The Working Families Flexibility Act, for this one I can’t do better than to simply quote Teresa Tritch who wrote this opinion in The New York Times:

There are two good things to say about the Working Families Flexibility Act, which passed the House this week with 220 Republican and three Democratic votes.

One, the bill is bound to go nowhere in the Senate and, two, even if it did advance, the White House has threatened to veto it.

The bill, in brief, is worse than meritless; it is a fraud. According to its Republican backers, it’s an expression in legislative form of how much they care for families, work-life balance and, in particular, working women. If this is caring, I would hate to see what contempt looks like.

The bill would amend long-standing labor law by allowing private-sector employers to offer compensatory time off in lieu of time-and-a-half pay for overtime.

For employers, then, the bill is a way to impose extra work at no additional cost, effectively shifting what would otherwise be worker pay into corporate profits.

This is a Republican Golden Oldie as Alex Seitz-Wald of Salon pointed out:

Republicans introduced the same idea in 1996, 1997 and 2003, even making it one of the first 10 bills they moved in the Newt Gingrich-era. The talking points haven’t changed much. “To many working men and women, time with their family is just as valuable as extra money,” current House Speaker Boehner said in March of 1997. “In fact, many would prefer to have time rather than money,” then-Rep. Judy Biggert said in 2003. “Time is more precious to [a working father] than the cash payments,” Rep. Martha Roby told the National Review last month.

But that’s typical Washington, where old ideas get repackaged every year.

And as Ezra Klein noted, if the problem is that working parents don’t have enough free time with their kids, then why not give them more by guaranteeing paid vacation days to employees? The U.S. is the only developed country that doesn’t have a law ensuring all workers get vacations, thanks to fervent opposition from Republicans and corporate interests. “Instead, Cantor is saying that the way to solve the problem of working parents not having enough time with their kids is to give them an incentive to work more overtime,” Klein wrote.

And, finally, the garnish on this GOP shit sandwich is HR 2019 The Gabriella Miller Kids First Research Act of 2013, which should be titled the NIH Funding Shell Game Act. 

Every once in a while, Republicans surprise even old political hands with the lengths that they will go to to push their cynical agenda.  This bill is one of those. 

Here’s how the Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee who had to review this thing described it:

Perhaps this purely symbolic legislation is an effort to distract attention from the House Majority’s actual record of support for biomedical research—a record which has been dismal in recent years. Consider, for example, H.R. 1, the omnibus budget-cutting bill that House Republicans wrote and passed shortly after taking the majority in 2011. That bill would have cut total NIH funding $1.6 billion below the previous year—a cut more than 100 times larger than the $12.6 million increase the Kids First bill pretends to provide. Virtually all House Republicans voted in favor of that bill.

Sequestration reduced the NIH budget by $1.55 billion— a cut more than 100 times larger than the pretended increase in the Kids First bill. Within NIH, sequestration cut the cancer institute by $255 million and the child health institute by $66 million.

H.R. 2019, the Kids First Research Act, does absolutely nothing to advance these goals. For all of these reasons, we oppose H.R. 2019 and urge our colleagues to do the same.

Meanwhile, Democratic aides had a few colorful things to say as well:

“They’re politicizing the death of a child by naming the bill after her,” a Democratic leadership aide told CQ Roll Call on Tuesday. “That’s pretty disingenuous and callous to use a tragedy like hers to advance something partisan.”

The Wednesday vote sets up a politically charged choice for Democrats: Vote to fund politics or vote to fund research for childhood diseases. The attack ads almost write themselves. And by offering the bill on suspension, usually a path for non-controversial items, Democrats will not have a chance to amend it and perhaps find some cover. Because suspension bills require a two-thirds majority, Democrats have the power to kill the bill.

Incensed Democrats note the measure won’t necessarily move money to the NIH — it would only authorize appropriators to do so.

Another Democratic leadership aide told CQ Roll Call that the bill was “disrespectful to the intelligence of the American people” and “a desperate attempt to cover up the GOP’s abysmal record to adequately fund the NIH.”

So.  There it is, Mr President.  One shit sandwich, hold the bread.  Enjoy your meal.

 

Posted by Bette Noir on 01/30/14 at 04:23 PM • Permalink

Categories: PoliticsBarack ObamaBqhatevwrElection '14NuttersTeabaggery

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Steve Stockman is going to file Articles of Impeachment.

This is the end around by Republicans in the ceaseless efforts to obstruct the President, Serve their Plutocratic Masters and harm the American people.

@Grung_e_Gene

Of course he is.  Someone on his campaign “team” (i.e., Steve Stockman)decided he needed a stunt to boost his electoral profile, that, preferably, doesn’t cost anything because no one is contributing to his campaign.

The SKILLS act is sure to close the GOP’s gap with women.  Girls only want boyfriends who have great skills.

Comment by Big Bad Bald Bastard on 01/31/14 at 09:34 AM

First bill: create a slush fund for governors; wouldn’t someone like CC be pleased? 

Second bill: suck some Koch.

Third bill: suck some more Koch.

Forth bill: pretend to love the little children, but only for the cameras and as something that does less than the prior status quo, and mainly do so in order to whack democrats. 

I didn’t think political cynicism could get much worse, but there you have it.

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