Category Archives: Congressional Republicans

Senate Republicans block FEMA disaster relief funds

Hold on, don’t spend that disaster aid money just yet, Republicans in the US Senate have blocked aid to Hurricane Irene victims.

I wonder what Governor Christie and fellow NJ Republicans have to say about this?

Raw Story
Tuesday, September 13th, 2011

A package of disaster relief funding worth $7 billion was blocked from coming up for a vote by Senate Republicans on Monday, drawing sharp condemnation from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) who lambasted the conservative party for abandoning Americans in need.

“Last night, Democrats tried to move forward on a measure that would have granted the Federal Emergency Management Agency additional funding to help communities devastated by natural disasters,” Sen. Reid said in an advisory.

“This ought to be the least political issue going – whether to reach out a helping hand to our friends and neighbors in their time of need,” he continued. “They have lost friends and loved ones. Their homes, businesses and livelihoods have been destroyed by acts of god. Their communities are under water or reduced to rubble.

“It’s in our power to help them. But last night Republicans overwhelmingly voted to prevent us from coming to their aid. They prevented us from getting disaster aid to American families and businesses that need it now.”

The vote was 53-33, with Republicans uniting against measure that would have brought the aid package to a vote and put a rush on some emergency funds. A 60-vote majority was required to pass it.

“They don’t need help next week or next month,” Reid railed. “They need it now. They need it today.”

He added that because of the increased number of natural disasters this year, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has just over $300 million left. President Barack Obama has issued disaster declarations in 48 states since the beginning of 2011.

The funds are so low, Reid said, that FEMA has stopped rebuilding the town of Joplin, Missouri, which was practically destroyed by tornadoes earlier this year. It withdrew funding for the Joplin rebuilding in order to provide food and shelter to the victims of Hurricane Irene.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) said on Monday that House Republicans would include a much smaller package of relief funds, attached to a budget request needed to keep the government operating through the end of September.

Cantor has previously tried to withhold disaster funds to force major budget cuts elsewhere, like vehicle fuel efficiency programs, or public funding for light rail projects.

Leave a comment

Filed under Congressional Republicans, disaster assistance, Eric Cantor, FEMA, Hurricane Irene, President Obama, Raw Story, relief aid, US Sen. Harry Reid

Congressman Rush Holt; "The Latest News On the Debt Ceiling"

Americans are rightly disgusted by the news from Washington. If Congress and the President fail to act within days, or maybe just hours, the United States could be in the unprecedented position of defaulting on our obligations. In essence, the President would be required by law to conduct programs – including Medicare, Social Security, and the national defense – that, by law, he could not pay for.

What would happen next? Interest rates would rise, sending shockwaves through the economy. Home loans, car loans, and student loans would become far more expensive. Businesses, already finding credit unavailable, would have a harder time meeting payroll. The dollar’s status as the world’s most trusted currency would be threatened. And our credibility in the world markets would vanish. Surely, more layoffs, lower pay, and reduced economic activity would result.

This is an unnecessary, artificial crisis. It is not the result of a natural disaster or terrorist attack. It is solely the result of Republicans in Congress holding America hostage. They are threatening a crisis unless Congress enacts their extreme, ideological agenda – an agenda that demands hundreds of billions of dollars in cuts to Medicare and Social Security, all while protecting tax loopholes for oil companies, corporate jet owners, and billionaires.

What is especially troubling is Congress has now wasted weeks in these hostage negotiations instead of doing the real, difficult work required in this economy: putting people back to work. Solving the jobs crisis would do far more to reduce our nation’s deficit than any plan now pending in Congress. In fact, the long-term deficit would improve dramatically if we simply ended the Bush tax cuts for the very wealthy and Big Oil. Removing the Bush tax cuts would do more to reduce the deficit than Speaker Boehner’s bill.

To those who insist that, by refusing to allow America to pay its bills, they can teach the nation a lesson, I ask this question: would you teach yourself a lesson by refusing to pay your credit card bill?

The moment has long since passed to end this self-induced crisis. Let’s raise the debt limit and move on to the real work of rebuilding the American economy.
Sincerely,

Rush Holt

Leave a comment

Filed under Congressional Republicans, Congressman Rush Holt, corporate tax breaks, debt limit, economy, Medicaid, Medicare, national debt, national defense

Cut, Cap and Balance: The Wrong Approach to Deficit Reduction

The following was posted this morning at the White House blog by Jason Furman, Principal Deputy Director of the National Economic Council.

The blog post in response to all the rhetoric being thrown around by the ultra conservative right-wingers and TEA praters, who have taken control of the Republican Party and are risking our country’s economic future and well being over the debate about raising the national debt limit.

These people are pushing for a proposal called “Cut, Cap and Balance” which is legislation that would cut $111 billion out of the budget immediately, cap spending to a percent of the Gross Domestic Product, and send a Balanced Budget Amendment to the states in return for increasing the $14.294 trillion debt ceiling.

On so many levels this proposal is wrong and could lead to a worsening of the economy and handicap future Congresses and Presidents ability to deal with a fiscal and economic crisis.

“Cut, Cap and Balance” is not the answer to our current troubles in this country, fixing the economy and putting people back to work is with sound fiscal policy that has proven in the past to work.

Democrats and Republicans agree that getting our fiscal house in order is one of the critical challenges facing America. To address it we are going to have to make tough choices, bringing to the table a commitment to examine every area of the budget and every loophole in the tax code without presumptively taking any of the options off the table. But it is critical that we not bring down our deficits and debt at the expense of economic growth, innovation and job creation, or place the greatest burden on older Americans and the most vulnerable. That is precisely what the House’s Cut, Cap and Balance plan would do – a proposal that White House Press Secretary Jay Carney described as “duck, dodge and dismantle.”

The House plan fails to achieve a balanced plan to reduce the deficit, which is precisely the approach that has worked successfully in America in the past and has recently been recommended by a number of different fiscal commissions.

Let’s start with the “cut” and “cap” portions of the bill. These sections require spending cuts in 2012 and caps over the next decade identical to those in the House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s plan., By House Republicans’ own design, achieving those spending levels would require cuts that would be harmful to the economic recovery in the short-term while also damaging our long-term competitiveness and placing a higher burden on seniors and the most vulnerable. To give a few examples:

  • The bill would abruptly cut more than $100 billion in spending in the first year alone, a step that Congressional Budget Office Director Doug Elmendorf stated would “affect our projections for GDP growth over the next two years.”
  • The House Budget Resolution plan would cut clean energy investments by 70 percent, infrastructure investments by a third, and education and training by 25 percent – cutting 320,000 children from Head Start and reducing aid for families trying to put their kids through college by hundreds, or even thousands of dollars.
  • It would cut Medicaid by one-third over the decade, and by nearly 50% by 2030. This could, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, result in 36 million people losing Medicaid coverage, including people with disabilities and seniors in nursing homes. And that comes on top of the 17 million who would lose coverage due to repealing subsidies in the Affordable Care Act.
  • And it would cut programs for the most vulnerable – for example, by food stamp benefits for a family of four by $1,760 per year or cut 8 million households from the program.
  • Finally, the House Budget Resolution proposed to convert Medicare to a voucher program, increasing costs for Medicare beneficiaries by $6,400 a year beginning in 2021 – with those higher costs increasing over time.

But “Cut, Cap and Balance” doesn’t stop there. It also includes a requirement that to secure an increase in the debt limit necessary to avoid default – and a devastating impact on families and businesses – Congress must pass a constitutional amendment requiring a balanced budget. Moreover, it is an extreme version of a constitutional amendment that would cap government spending and require a two-thirds supermajority to cut tax loopholes or take other steps on revenue. The President has frequently made clear why he thinks a Balanced Budget Amendment is a misguided effort to absolve leaders in Washington of their responsibility for making tough choices. But it is important to understand what this requirement means when added on top of the cuts in the House Budget Resolution.

To start with, consider that at the end of the next decade, the House plan would still be $400 billion a year short of achieving a balanced budget. Unless Republicans are willing to entertain $3 to $4 trillion in additional revenues over the next decade, that means $400 billion a year would need to be cut beyond the House Budget Resolution.

And when you’ve already made such deep cuts to discretionary spending, Medicaid and other programs, it becomes difficult to imagine any credible ways to achieve those spending levels without including Social Security in the reductions and making substantially deeper reductions in Medicare.

So if the required spending cut were across the board, it would mean all programs, including Social Security and Medicare, would be cut by 10 percent by the end of the decade on top of the House Budget Resolution.If defense spending alone were exempted, it would mean that all other programs (again including Social Security and Medicare) would be cut by about 12 percent by the end of the decade on top of the House Budget Resolution. It would be possible to avoid cuts of this magnitude, but that would require dramatically deeper reductions than the one-third cut in Medicaid and infrastructure currently proposed in the House Budget Resolution.

We obviously don’t agree with this approach. The President has proposed a comprehensive approach that ensures we live within our means and reduces the deficit by $4 trillion, while supporting economic growth and long-term job creation, protecting critical investments, and meeting the commitments made to provide economic security to Americans no matter their circumstances. We want to make significant cuts to government spending, including additional savings that come from further strengthening critical programs like Medicare, while protecting the recovery, strengthening the middle class and making the investments that will promote economic growth so folks feel confident in their futures and their children’s futures.

Representatives from both parties will continue to talk about reaching the largest deal possible. The President is pushing everyone to come to the table, put politics aside, work through our differences and prove to the American people that we can still do big and difficult, but necessary things.

Leave a comment

Filed under balanced budget amendment, cap cut and balance, Congressional Republicans, debt ceiling, default, economy, higher interest rates, Medicaid, Medicare, President Obama, Social Security, tax loopholes

On income taxes and job creation, history debunks GOP views

By Star-Ledger Editorial Board
Sunday, July 17, 2011

We’re used to politicians stretching the truth, but this is getting ridiculous. For months now, congressional Republicans have refused to support any debt ceiling and budget deal that would raise taxes on the wealthy because, these economic wizards tell us, the rich are “job creators.”

Tax increases would discourage these job genies from expanding their businesses. Unemployment, already at 9.2 percent (which says something about the job-creation myth, doesn’t it?), would get even worse, they insist. The problem with this economic philosophy? It’s garbage.

Even Warren Buffett, one of the richest men in the world, knows that: “The rich are always going to say, ‘Just give us more money and we’ll go out and spend more and then it will all trickle down to the rest of you.’ But that has not worked the last 10 years, and I hope the American public is catching on.”

The American public, it seems, is catching on, even if Republicans want to twist the truth about that, too. Speaker of the House John Boehner keeps insisting, “The American people don’t want us to raise taxes.” House Majority Leader Eric Cantor says, “This economy is ailing and we don’t believe, nor do the American people believe, raising taxes is the answer.”

Think again. Americans believe Congress should raise taxes on the wealthy.

A new Quinnipiac survey asked voters if they support a budget deal with only budget cuts or a blend of cuts and taxes on corporations and the rich. Only 25 percent said cuts only. Sixty-seven percent want cuts and a tax increase on the wealthy.

Republican leaders are not only misrepresenting what the American people want, they’re covering up Republican numbers, too. In a recent Gallup poll, only 26 percent of Republicans favored lowering the debt with cuts alone. In just about every poll — ABC News, Washington Post, Bloomberg, Reuters — Americans want spending cuts and they want the wealthy to pay a larger share.

But maybe the American people are wrong. Let’s check the history. Did giving the wealthy a break with the Bush tax cuts of 2001 and 2003 help create jobs? Uh, no. From the end of the 2000-01 recession, just when the first Bush tax cuts took effect, until the beginning of the Great Recession, the economy grew at a slower pace than in any postrecession recovery period since World War II. Pay, adjusted for inflation, fell. And it took 39 months to get the number of jobs back to where it was before the 2000-01 recession.

Despite the same promises of jobs, the economy limped along. And the additional tax cut in 2003 didn’t rev it up, either.

President Bill Clinton faced vociferous opposition to his 1993 budget plan, which raised the top tax rates from 31 percent to 39.6 percent. Republicans called it the “Kevorkian Plan.”

So, what happened? Unparalleled economic growth. The nation’s unemployment dropped from 6.9 percent to 4 percent. The deficit shrank, and in 1998, the federal government boasted a surplus for the first time since 1969.

It seems the economy can survive a tax hike on the wealthy after all. And the tax hike did wonders to reduce the deficit as well, as designed.

More evidence: During the 1950s and early 1960s, when America experienced sustained growth, marginal tax rates on the rich were the highest they’ve ever been — 91 percent for the top bracket. (Even President Ronald Reagan, the Republican economic poster boy, raised taxes after he cut them.)

But Republicans keep chanting the same nonsense — without offering historical evidence to back it up. Instead, they want to bring the nation to the brink of default while protecting corporations (who are sitting on billions in profits) and fat cats — while everyday Americans are squeezed by high gas and food prices, plunging home prices and lower wages.

Let’s call the job-creator stuff what it is: a myth.

Leave a comment

Filed under Bill Clinton, Bush Tax Cuts, Congressional Republicans, Conservatives, debt limit, editorial, Eric Cantor, great recession, John Boehner, President Obama, tax cuts, the Star-Ledger, unemployment

>Republican Plan To End Medicare And "Privatize" Health Care For American Seniors Is Not A Solution

>By Congressman Steve Rothman(D-NJ9)

We must not end Medicare: Too many American seniors would suffer or die prematurely if we did.

WHAT WOULD you say to someone who told you that in order to save something, you’d have to kill it?

On April 15, the Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives voted, 235-193, to end Medicare for Americans who are currently under the age of 55. No Democrat voted in favor of the plan.

For those tens of millions affected, and for all future generations, the Republican plan ends Medicare and “privatizes” health care for American seniors. According to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, the plan, if acted upon, would create a voucher system in place of Medicare. The U.S. government would assign approximately $8,000 to purchase private health insurance for each senior once he or she turned 67 years of age. If they were ill or older, the voucher amount would be slightly higher. But under the Republican plan, the average senior would see their out-of-pocket health care costs double to $12,150 per year, $6,400 more than today — not including co-pays.

Under the Republican plan, there would be no more government lifetime coverage, as we currently have it under Medicare. If you could not afford a private health care premium because you had a preexisting condition (for example, high blood pressure, diabetes, breast cancer, asthma, lupus, heart condition, hip, back or knee surgery) you’d have to find the money to pay whatever premium the private marketplace would charge. The government, under the Republican plan, would not even limit the amount the private market could charge. And so, if you could not afford to purchase a private health insurance plan at the age of 67 or older, for any reason, you’d be uninsured. An American senior citizen, without any health insurance.

Imagine the suffering, pain and terror for those tens of millions of seniors under those circumstances. Where would they turn? Charity? Family members? Early death? And why?

Yes, the United States has a $1.4 trillion annual deficit and a $14 trillion national debt. But what are the best and fairest ways to deal with those extremely serious problems? Should we rely on shared sacrifice in the American tradition, or put the burden disproportionately on the backs of seniors and the middle class?

To me, the Republican plan is at best a misguided approach to solving our nation’s common problems. At worst, the Republican plan reflects their undiminished zeal to “shrink” government by eliminating programs most Americans rely on, including Medicare. As a result, however, this would hurt the middle class and most Americans, leaving only the rich and super-rich to be assured of a good education for their children and affordable health care for them and their children, when they retire.

Remember that the median income for seniors in America in 2009 was $19,167; with most seniors having at least one chronic condition and many having multiple chronic conditions. Can you imagine the premiums they’d have to pay to get health insurance at age 67 and older?

Medicare was created in 1965 precisely because the private market failed to provide seniors with affordable and quality health care. Before Medicare, nearly half of American seniors had no health insurance, and nearly 35 percent lived in poverty. Thus, for me, leaving U.S. seniors again at the mercy of private health insurance companies is an absolute non-starter. We must not end Medicare. Too many American seniors would suffer or die prematurely if we did.

As for our extremely important deficit and debt problems, I believe that all options should be on the table, with sacrifices shared by all, according to assets owned and annual income. That means that the following items must be considered: making additional cuts in spending, including defense; reducing income and capital gains tax deductions for earnings over $350,000 per year; reforming our tax code to prevent individuals and companies from avoiding all tax liabilities; partially, and in some cases completely, eliminating subsidies to America’s richest families; reducing or eliminating subsidies to agribusiness, big oil and gas; ending or proportionately scaling back the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans; and, additional cost control measures to the health care reform law, including a public option.

House Republicans argue that it is necessary to end Medicare in order to balance the federal budget, albeit with continued tax breaks for individuals and companies making millions and billions of dollars in income per year. Forcing seniors and the middle class to bear a disproportionate burden in solving our nation’s fiscal crisis is, in my opinion, unfair and unnecessary. The better, more typically American way to address our common problems is with shared sacrifice and fairness.

Medicare is an essential and successful American program that has worked extremely well for the past 46 years. It makes possible a longer and healthier life for millions of our seniors. It is, also, often the difference between life and death. We must not end Medicare.

3 Comments

Filed under Congressional Budget Office, Congressional Republicans, Democrats, Health Care, Medicare, Seniors, US Congressman Steve Rothman

>President Obama’s Weekly Address 4/16/11: America’s Fiscal Future

>WASHINGTON – In his weekly address, President Obama said that to restore fiscal responsibility, we all need to share in the sacrifice – but we don’t have to sacrifice the America we believe in. Earlier this week, the President proposed a balanced approach to cut the deficit, which matches the $4 trillion in deficit reduction put forward by House Republicans’ plan. The President’s proposal does this by combing the entire budget for savings and asking everyone to do their part. The Republican plan, though, would end Medicare as we know it and make drastic cuts to education, infrastructure and clean energy, while giving away $1 trillion in tax breaks to the wealthiest two percent.

http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/all/modules/swftools/shared/flash_media_player/player5x2.swf

5 Comments

Filed under blog, blogging, budget cuts, clean energy, Congressional Republicans, deficit reduction, fiscal responsibility, Medicare, President Obama, weekly address

>President Obama’s Weekly Address 3/5/11: Cutting Waste, Investing in the Future

>WASHINGTON – In his weekly address, President Obama called for Democrats and Republicans to come together on a budget that cuts wasteful spending without sacrificing job-creating investments in education, innovation, and infrastructure. Noting that his administration has already proposed specific cuts that meet congressional Republicans halfway, he said that he is prepared to do more and that the job can only be finished by working out the differences and finding common ground.

http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/all/modules/swftools/shared/flash_media_player/player5x2.swf

Leave a comment

Filed under affordable education, Congressional Democrats, Congressional Republicans, cutting waste, federal budget, infrastructure, Innovation, Job creation, President Obama, weekly address