August 11, 2010
Some House Democrats and advocacy groups are getting squeamish about the move to fund the $26 billion jobs bill by making cuts to food stamps, a federal assistance program currently depended on by nearly 41 million Americans.
Some Democrats are upset and advocacy groups are outraged over the raiding of the food-stamp cupboard to fund a state-aid bailout that some call a gift to teachers and government union workers.
House members convened Tuesday and passed the multibillion-dollar bailout bill for cash-strapped states that provides $10 billion to school districts to rehire laid-off teachers or ensure that more teachers won’t be let go before the new school year begins, keeping more than 160,000 teachers on the job, the Obama administration says.
But the bill also requires that $12 billion be stripped from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly known as food stamps, to help fund the new bill, prompting some Democrats to cringe at the notion of cutting back on one necessity to pay for another. The federal assistance program currently helps 41 million Americans.
Arguably one of the most outspoken opponents on the Democratic side is Connecticut Rep. Rosa DeLauro, who has blasted the move as “a bitter pill to swallow” but still voted yes.
“I fought very hard for the food assistance money in the Recovery Act, and the fact is that participation in the food stamps program has jumped dramatically with the economic crisis, from 31.1 million persons to 38.2 million just in one year,” DeLauro said in an e-mail sent to FoxNews.com. “But I know that states across the nation and my own state of Connecticut also desperately need these resources to save jobs and avoid Draconian cuts to essential services for low income families.”
The Houston Chronicle reported Tuesday that several state advocacy groups, including the Texas Food Book Network and the Houston Food Bank, rallied for House members to strike down the legislation, which passed 247-161 in the House. Three Democrats voted against the measure, while two Republicans voted in support of it.
Democratic rank and file members, including Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid, say the cuts won’t take effect until 2014 and will merely return food stamp benefits to pre-stimulus levels.
The Food Research and Action Center said a family of four would see benefits drop about $59 per month starting in 2014.
“While we support the education initiatives (in the bill), we adamantly oppose using food stamps to pay for them,” said James Weill, president of the Food Research and Action Center. “The rain on food stamps to pay for other things absolutely has to stop and stop now.”
According to U.S. Department of Agriculture figures, the number of people on the food stamp rolls has been growing to record levels for 18 straight months. Nearly $5.5 billion in aid went out to beneficiaries in May alone. The number of May recipients marked a 19 percent increase from a year ago and the USDA projects that next year’s enrollment will reach about 43.4 million.
Republicans, meanwhile, vocally opposed the state aid bill. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., told Fox News it rewarded “irresponsible states” and their unions.
“It is basically taxpayers from fiscally (responsible) states bailing out fiscally irresponsible states. … Medicaid funding, teacher funding, the more popular of the public unions, what this is, it’s a bailout to prevent states from doing the necessary spending prioritization that they need do,” he said.
The Obama administration pushed hard for the $26 billion bill. The White House argued that it is essential to protecting 300,000 teachers and other nonfederal government workers from election-year layoffs and will not add to the national deficit.
“If we do nothing, these educators won’t be returning to the classroom this fall, and that won’t just deprive them of a paycheck, it will deprive the children and parents who are counting on them to provide a decent education,” Obama said in the White House Rose Garden shortly before the bill passed on Tuesday.
“This proposal is fully paid for, in part by closing tax loopholes that encourage corporations that ships American jobs overseas. So it will not add to our deficit,” he said. “And the money will only go toward saving the jobs of teachers and other essential professionals…I urge members of both parties to come together and get this done, so that I can sign this bill into law.”
June 30, 2010
By Andrew Taylor
WASHINGTON – House Democrats, who are trying to pass a long-stalled war funding bill this week, have attached $10 billion to help local school districts avoid teacher layoffs when schools reopen.
The approximately $70 billion measure is anchored by President Barack Obama’s $30 billion request for the troop surge in Afghanistan and contains money for disaster aid accounts, foreign aid and disability benefits for Vietnam veterans exposed to Agent Orange.
The bill’s release late Tuesday night was the surest signal yet that House leaders are committed to passing it this week, despite great resistance among many Democratic lawmakers and deepening anxiety over the Afghanistan war effort among Obama allies such as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.
The Senate passed an almost $60 billion version of the bill last month. Successful action by the House would send the measure into negotiations aimed at producing a final measure next month for Obama’s signature.
The difficulty in passing the bill in the House is magnified by disagreement between Republicans supportive of the war — who insist the measure be “clean” of unrelated spending — and Democrats who want funding for the unpopular war to carry unrelated party priorities. Republicans are threatening to withhold support for the overall package if Democratic add-ons are included.
February 2, 2010
Orlando Sentinel Star
By Charley Reese
Politicians are the only people in the world who create problems and then campaign against them.
Have you ever wondered why, if both the Democrats and the Republicans are against deficits, we have deficits? Have you ever wondered why, if all the politicians are against inflation and high taxes, we have inflation and high taxes?
You and I don’t propose a federal budget. The president does. You and I don’t have the Constitutional authority to vote on appropriations. The House of Representatives does. You and I don’t write the tax code. Congress does. You and I don’t set fiscal policy. Congress does. You and I don’t control monetary policy. The Federal Reserve Bank does.
One hundred senators, 435 congressmen, one president and nine Supreme Court justices – 545 human beings out of the 235 million – are directly, legally, morally and individually responsible for the domestic problems that plague this country.
I excluded the members of the Federal Reserve Board because that problem was created by the Congress. In 1913, Congress delegated its Constitutional duty to provide a sound currency to a federally chartered but private central bank.
I excluded all but the special interests and lobbyists for a sound reason. They have no legal authority. They have no ability to coerce a senator, a congressman or a president to do one cotton-picking thing. I don’t care if they offer a politician $1 million dollars in cash. The politician has the power to accept or reject it.
No matter what the lobbyist promises, it is the legislation’s responsibility to determine how he votes.
A CONFIDENCE CONSPIRACY
Don’t you see how the con game that is played on the people by the politicians? Those 545 human beings spend much of their energy convincing you that what they did is not their fault. They cooperate in this common con regardless of party.
What separates a politician from a normal human being is an excessive amount of gall. No normal human being would have the gall of Tip O’Neill, who stood up and criticized Ronald Reagan for creating deficits.
The president can only propose a budget. He cannot force the Congress to accept it. The Constitution, which is the supreme law of the land, gives sole responsibility to the House of Representatives for originating appropriations and taxes.
O’neill is the speaker of the House. He is the leader of the majority party. He and his fellow Democrats, not the president, can approve any budget they want. If the president vetos it, they can pass it over his veto.
It seems inconceivable to me that a nation of 235 million cannot replace 545 people who stand convicted — by present facts – of incompetence and irresponsibility.
I can’t think of a single domestic problem, from an unfair tax code to defense overruns, that is not traceable directly to those 545 people.
When you fully grasp the plain truth that 545 people exercise power of the federal government, then it must follow that what exists is what they want to exist.
If the tax code is unfair, it’s because they want it unfair. If the budget is in the red, it’s because they want it in the red. If the Marines are in Lebanon, it’s because they want them in Lebanon.
There are no insoluble government problems. Do not let these 545 people shift the blame to bureaucrats, whom they hire and whose jobs they can abolish; to lobbyists, whose gifts and advice they can reject; to regulators, to whom they give the power to regulate and from whom they can take it.
Above all, do not let them con you into the belief that there exist disembodied mystical forces like “the economy,” “inflation” or “politics” that prevent them from doing what they take an oath to do.
Those 545 people and they alone are responsible. They and they alone have the power. They and they alone should be held accountable by the people who are their bosses – provided they have the gumption to manage their own employees.
December 15, 2009
By David Espo
The end game in sight, Senate Democrats coped with stubborn internal differences as well as implacable Republican opposition on Monday in a struggle to pass health care legislation by Christmas.
A liberal-backed call to expand Medicare as part of the legislation drew strong opposition from Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn. and quieter concerns from a dozen Democrats, raising significant doubts about its ability to survive.
Congressional officials said the administration was recommending the provision be jettisoned to clear the way for the most sweeping health care legislation in a half-century. In response, a top presidential aide, Dan Pfeiffer, said, “The White House is not pushing (Senate Majority Leader Harry) Reid in any direction, we are working hand in hand with the Senate leadership to work through the various issues and pass health reform as soon as possible.”
Disputes over abortion and the importation of prescription drugs from Canada and other countries also flared.
In an attempt to generate support for the bill, Reid promised late in the day that any final compromise with the House would completely close a gap in Medicare prescription drug coverage generally known as a “doughnut hole.” The Senate bill goes only part way toward that goal.
Democrats are “looking for 60 votes,” said Dick Durbin of Illinois, the party’s second-ranking Senate leader — a statement that has characterized their effort to overcome Republican opposition for months.
President Barack Obama, the fate of his top domestic priority in doubt, invited all Senate Democrats to a meeting at the White House complex on Tuesday — possibly the final day for an agreement if the legislation is to clear the Senate before Christmas.
In the interim, the president’s Monday schedule included a meeting with Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., who has been trying to negotiate a compromise on the abortion issue with Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska. Both senators oppose abortions, but Nelson has been outspoken in demanding changes in the bill before he can vote for it.
The overall measure, costing nearly $1 trillion over a decade, is designed to expand coverage and ban the insurance industry practice of denying coverage on the basis of pre-existing medical conditions. Obama has also urged Congress to slow the rate of growth in health care spending nationally, and several days after Reid submitted a package of revisions, lawmakers awaited final word from the Congressional Budget Office on that point.
Additionally, a top administration economic adviser acknowledged Monday that the Democratic-backed health care measure would raise spending in the short run, but she said it would eventually generate more than enough savings to offset the expense of expanded coverage.
“Our bottom line is that the bills as they are coming through will genuinely slow the growth of health care spending, both public and private, by about 1 percentage point a year for an extended period,” said Christina Romer, chair of the Council of Economic Advisers.
Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., led the effort to lift a long-standing ban on the importation of prescription drugs from Canada and elsewhere. Obama favored the plan as a senator, but the pharmaceutical industry is opposed, and the White House appeared anxious not to jeopardize a months-long alliance with drug makers who have been helpful in trying to pass the overhaul.
But the obstacle that loomed largest was a proposal to permit uninsured men and women to purchase Medicare coverage as early as age 55.
It emerged last week as part of a framework agreement between moderates and liberals struggling to define the role of government in the newly revised health care system. Additionally, the proposal calls for creation of nationwide plans run by private insurance companies under the supervision of the Office of Personnel Management, the agency that oversees the system through which federal employees and lawmakers obtain their own coverage.
The two provisions were seen as a replacement for Reid’s initial call for a government-run insurance plan to compete with private industry.
Liberals have long wanted a government-run option, but moderates oppose it as an unwanted intrusion into the health care system. In announcing the agreement last week, Reid told reporters he could finally see the finish line for his effort to pass a health care bill.
Despite that optimism, opposition to the Medicare changes blossomed from doctors and hospitals, who are paid less to treat patients under Medicare than those covered by private insurance companies.
Lieberman announced his opposition over the weekend, but he was not the only critic.
“We appreciate the rationale underlying the proposed Medicare expansion but fear that provider shortages in states with low reimbursement rates such as ours will make such a program ineffective, or even worsen the problems states are experiencing,” a dozen Democrats from across the political spectrum wrote Reid.
Democratic officials said late last week that efforts were under way to try and ease the concerns of doctors and hospitals, as well as defray the cost of buy-in coverage for consumers. Under some estimates, the price tag could reach $7,600 annually or more.
Lieberman said on Sunday he was opposed to the Medicare provision, threatening to deny Democrats his vote if it remained in the bill.
That set off an unusual round of finger-pointing, in which Senate aides anonymously accused him of having flip-flopped on the issue after privately indicating to Reid he was in favor of it.
In a pointed rebuttal, Lieberman’s spokesman said, the Connecticut lawmaker had told Reid privately on Friday “that he had problems with the Medicare provision.” Marshall Wittman, the spokesman, added, “This position was also told to negotiators earlier in the week. Consequently, Senator Lieberman’s position came as no surprise to the Democratic leadership. Any contrary charge by aides who cowardly seek to hide under the cloak of anonymity is false and self-serving.”