On a recent campaign trip, President Obama announced that he was abandoning the line “pass this bill” in favor of “we can’t wait” --- as in, “we can’t wait” for Congress to enact Obama’s jobs bill. He says that if Congress doesn’t enact his $447 billion plan, he will have no alternative but to go around Congress and implement much of his plan by executive order or by using the federal rulemaking process. This new game plan is not only flawed but, to use a baseball analogy, represents an attempt to strike out Congress.
Elizabeth Letchworth | All Articles
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Elizabeth Letchworth is the Owner-Founder of GradeGov.com, 4 times elected United States Senate Secretary for the Majority/Minority, U. S. Senate-retired, presently senior legislative advisor @ Covington & Burling, LLC
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) is considering canceling the results of the November elections by changing the Senate rules when senators conduct their opening day procedures on January 5th. Democrats want to reduce the number of senators needed to invoke cloture (limit debate).
According to a George Washington University study, the Obama administration issued 16,200 regulations in 2009. In comparison, just 28,400 regulations were issued in the period from April 1996 through December 2000. If this doesn’t get your jaw dropping, a 57% increase in the staffing and the federal funds devoted to developing and enforcing federal regulations should have you shaking your head. Also, in order to get an accurate picture of regulators run amok, you need to add to these 16,200 regulations the thousands of regulations included in the financial reform bill, the food safety bill and the health care bill, all passed in 2010. Finally, a full picture of regulators on steroids can be plainly seen if you also add the final weeks in December 2010, when Obama’s regulators continued to issue rules and vote on regulations that had been defeated or vigorously opposed in Congress.
In this era of playing the blame game, can the blame for the current lame-duck session be pinned on President Reagan? I think it can.
With only days left before the midterm elections, the question in many people’s minds is whether the elections will produce change that matters or change what matters. This may sound like a semantics game but it really goes much deeper. You see, the BarackObama.com website boasts that Obama will bring us “change that matters.” Yet it seems to this writer that the Obama administration, along with the Democrat-controlled Congress, actually “changed what matters.” I believe this is why the tea party movement was born. Many organizing these grassroots movements feared that Congress had been quickly changing what matters to the average American.
The Democrat-controlled Congress had to schedule a double-header lame duck session in November in part because Democrats punted on their responsibility to enact so many legislative items. However, when they did so, Democrats picked basically the same expiration date for most of these legislative items. So if you happen to be a C-SPAN junkie and intend to watch one or both of these scheduled lame duck sessions, don’t be surprised if you see a train wreck of sorts. However, a separate train wreck will occur at the end of January 2011, unless Congress steps in to save the day.
This Sunday, many New York Times readers will read that our country spent $787 billion on an economic experiment or test model of sorts. You know, that test model known as the “stimulus.” The New York Times’ White House correspondent, Peter Baker, says that the president admitted in an interview with him that he learned too late that “there’s no such thing as shovel-ready projects.”
This week, many political pundits have focused on the Central Florida congressional race between Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL) and his Republican challenger, Daniel Webster, because of a political ad that Grayson aired. The ad compares Webster to a Taliban member and claims that Webster will force women to submit to their husbands. For those who haven’t seen the ad, it shows Webster speaking about how women need to submit to their husbands. However, the full statement from which the quote was extracted shows Webster saying the exact opposite. He was speaking to a church retreat a few years ago and specifically asked his audience to pick Bible verses that complemented their marriages. He told the men in the group NOT to pick the Bible phrase about women submitting to their husbands.
When members of Congress returned to DC this week from their August recess, they should have been ready to strap on their seat belts and get to work passing the legislation that they failed to pass all year long. Their to-do list includes adopting a budget resolution, passing 12 appropriations bills that when added together fully fund our federal government, and passing a military preparedness authorization bill. After all, Congress’ spending is out of control, the government coffers are growing by leap and bounds, and our brave military men and women are fighting and dying in two wars. Instead, members of Congress will blow off doing a budget, they will package together the 12 appropriations bills and pass them as one bill with little or no debate, and the defense authorization bill is being used by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) as his own personal campaign puppet.
Congress comes back to DC this week after its August recess, which was packed with overseas travel, some constituent meetings and lots of hours spent “dialing for dollars.” The first two tasks are self explanatory. The third might need a bit of “splaining.” It goes like this: Many senior members of Congress and Leadership types are expected to spend a certain number of hours a week dialing the phone to ask their friends, want-to-be-friends and industry and labor leaders for campaign contributions. They talk about the agenda they have pushed or stopped on their behalf and assure them of more of the same, as long as the campaign donations continue to flow.
Members of Congress and their staffs will slowly be making their way back to D.C. this week to prepare for the last session of the 111th Congress before the November elections. There is lots of work awaiting the politicians, but they have already made history: first by being the only Congress to fail to pass a budget resolution through either chamber of our bi-cameral legislature; and second for failing to enact a single appropriations bill before mid-September. Wow, those two feats together amount to quite an accomplishment!
Voters who are considering supporting moderates in November might want to ask themselves: Do they want to be "Stupaked"? From coast to coast and from Mike to Mike, meaning Mike Castle (R-DE) and Mike Bennet (D-CO), congressional incumbents are running on moderate, middle-of-the-road platforms. These folks and all other moderates need to be studied and questioned now more than ever. Remember the health care debate earlier this year, when Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI) bamboozled all of his supporters who believed he would protect the right to life during the House debate on the bill? Stupak said that he was committed to protecting life by making sure government funds never went to pay for abortions. In fact, Stupak is the co-chair of the House of Representatives’ pro-life caucus. But that didn't stop him from voting for a federal health care bill that doesn’t restrict federal funding of abortion. That the health care bill passed — without a provision restricting government funding of abortion — is entirely thanks to the leadership of Stupak, since he led and supplied the health care bill's winning margin in the House of Representatives.
Since Congress is out for their traditional August break, I thought this column could explore some of the ramifications of the larger pieces of legislation Congress has passed over the last few months. The first one that comes to mind is the financial reform bill that was signed into law mid July, 2010. This bill was two years in the making and caused many GOP lawmakers to balk at the sheer size of the bill, the undefined responsibilities outlined in the bill and the lack of even an “honorable mention” in the bill of the famed Government Sponsored Enterprises we know as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The fact is that we the taxpayer own 80% of Fannie and Freddie, and they are expected to get a total of almost $1trillion dollars of our money. This never ending bailout is needed to keep these two mortgage companies afloat when it is all said and done according to Bloomberg money gurus. Notwithstanding this glaring omission in the financial reform bill, the bill did talk much about the FDIC and their ability to operate new programs. One such new program that garnered approval from the FDIC on August 10, 2010 was the “Model Safe Accounts Pilot program.” This FDIC Model Safe Accounts Pilot program is designed to introduce the banking world to the underprivileged which are described as “underserved”, “unbanked” and “underbanked”. These underbanked folks are basically low-income households and minorities. According to the FDIC website, this program will last 1 year and must be subject to quarterly reports. Some of the highlights are:
You have power that no one is telling you about. It works this way. Speaker Pelosi and Harry Reid are planning to call Congress back in session after the November elections. This rare Lame Duck session will be called so they can try and pass Immigration, Cap ‘N Trade, tax increases, Card Check…just to name a few. They hope the session will be a real “doozie.” You see, even if you vote your member of Congress out of office in November, he/she still keeps the job until January 2011. That's the way it works in each election. Except when you have a member of Congress that was appointed to fill a vacancy that occurred for one reason or another. I bet you can think of a few members of Congress who are in Congress today because they were appointed to fill a vacancy. President Obama's Senate seat is one, and then there is the Senate seat VP Biden had for so many years.
“Character is what you do when nobody’s watching.”
“Lead, follow or get out of the way.” This quote by Thomas Paine is unfortunately starting to fit our current president and his administration all too well. Mr. Paine was an author, revolutionary and one of the Founding Fathers. The president might consider this famous quote in the coming weeks and months when it comes to the BP spill and how to handle the results and the future oil drilling in America in the aftermath of the April 20 explosion of the Deepwater Horizon rig.
As most political junkies waited last week to hear what “job” the Administration offered Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pa.) in exchange for him not running against Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) in the Keystone State’s Senate primary, most if not all of us believed the job would be just that, an actually job. Instead, the White House office of legal counsel issued a statement on Friday saying the job that was offered Rep. Sestak was actually not a job but a non-paying position on a presidential board. I don’t know about you but I remember writing my résumé for possible job opportunities “back in the day” and learning that in constructing an impressive résumé, it was clear that the category under “previous or current employment,” the résumé reader should expect to read about a job or employment where you received funds to do the task. Further, when constructing a résumé, there was a specific category where the résumé writer should tout their service on boards or commissions. I guess readers can assume since Rep. Sestak is almost 60 years old, that it has been some time since he constructed a résumé and thus forgot this basic rule in résumé writing.
During this week in Congress, both the House and Senate are expected to consider bills that will cause the current debt limit to swell like Jiffy-Pop popcorn sitting on a hot burner. The Senate will consider an emergency supplemental appropriations bill designed to fund the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, the Haiti earthquake relief, money for clean-up of storms and the gulf oil spill. The House is planning on considering the so-called tax extenders bill, which at press time had a price tag of almost $190 billion. Both of these bills in part contain some meritorious provisions. At issue for this writer is the huge price tag these bills carry.
This week in the Senate may prove to be a big week for the cap-and-trade issue even though most Hill watchers will see the Senate debating the highly publicized financial reform bill. Ever since Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) pulled his support and co-sponsorship in late April of the soon to be unveiled cap-and-trade bill by Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and John Kerry (D-Mass), most believed the prospects for this issue coming up in the Senate this year were severely jeopardized by the senator’s withdrawal. If you add to that, the recent and very tragic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, that disaster would seem to serve to further put at risk the scheduling of any bill in the Senate this year. Finally, in a May 5, 2010 CBO report, the Congressional Budget office reported that capping and reducing U.S. greenhouse gases would result in large decline of employment, specifically saying the coal industry would suffer a decline between 10 percent to 18 percent by 2015. Combining all of these factors together, most logical people would bet that the issue was completely dead this year. However, actions this week in the Senate might just prove that assumption wrong.