Category Archives: The Hill

Facebook to form its own PAC to back political candidates

According to TheHill.com people at Facebook has have filed paper work to form their own political action committee (PAC), possible calling their PAC either FBPAC.org or FBPAC.us.

In doing so, Facebook wishes to avoid the problems that other tech firms like Google and Microsoft have had in the past lobbying lawmakers.

Facebook confirmed it filed paperwork on Monday to start its own political action committee.

“FB PAC will give our employees a way to make their voice heard in the political process by supporting candidates who share our goals of promoting the value of innovation to our economy while giving people the power to share and make the world more open and connected,” said a spokesman via email.

The firm acknowledged the formation of the PAC after reports emerged of Facebook registering the domain names FBPAC.org and FBPAC.us. Creating a PAC is just the latest step in Facebook’s continued expansion of its presence in Washington, but this is the first time the firm will back candidates.

Facebook is likely looking to avoid the type of Washington scrutiny that has affected other firms like Microsoft and Google, which is currently under a Federal Trade Commission antitrust probe. The perception Google was previously sympathetic towards Democrats hasn’t helped with the GOP in charge of the House.

Facebook’s lobbying spending has totalled $550,000 for fiscal 2011, a significant boost over he $350,000 spent in 2010 and $200,000 in 2009.

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Filed under Facebook, Google, microsoft, political action committee, The Hill

Has anyone heard of due process?: Politicians condem NLRB over complaint filed against Boeing

Unions and the rights of their workers are being trampled on, when is it going to stop? Maybe after work conditions and wages are returned to their pre-1920’s standing and the return of the “Robber Barons” who lined the pockets of political cronies to looked the other way.

By Ross Eisenbrey, Economic Policy Institute Vice President
posted from The Hill’s Congress Blog

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) recently filed a complaint against the Boeing Corporation based on evidence that Boeing moved work away from Washington State as punishment for the employees having exercised their legally protected right to strike. Politicians who either don’t know the law or don’t care about it have condemned the NLRB, including Mitt Romney and his fellow Republican candidates for President. They want to rile up the business community by painting the decision as the President’s, even though it was made by a career government employee on behalf of an independent agency outside the President’s control.

Various senators and congressmen are now trying to influence the Labor Board’s ultimate decision, which is not a policy decision but an adjudication. The law and policy were provided by Congress in 1935 when the National Labor Relations Act was passed by Congress and signed by Franklin Roosevelt. The NLRB’s only responsibility is to apply the law to the facts of this case, an undertaking that should be free from political influence or intimidation. And yet a growing number of legislators are threatening to slash the NLRB’s budget and punish its General Counsel if the case proceeds in the manner proscribed by statute.

This attack on the NLRB is political and self-interested. After all, the NLRB’s administrative law judge has not even held a trial yet. The only decision that has been made – and all legal scholars agree it was defensible – was by the General Counsel in response to a charge brought by the International Association of Machinists that there was good cause to believe that Boeing had violated the law. In other words, the union provided enough evidence of Boeing’s motivation that a trial in the matter is justified.

The members of the NLRB will not even review the case unless and until the trial judge’s decision is appealed. So all the howling about the NLRB’s assault on capitalism and free enterprise is premature, to say the least.

Sadly, the political pressure is having an effect already. Even Democrats are racing to say that, of course, business has the right to relocate anywhere it wants to, even to a so-called right-to-work state like South Carolina. And they’re right, up to a point.

Businesses are free to relocate to other states or countries. South Carolina has been a stop-over for businesses relocating from the north for decades; many companies, from textile manufacturers to furniture companies and paper processors, often go on to countries like China after absorbing the tax breaks and other subsidies South Carolina offers them. Unions are rare in South Carolina, but independent unions in China are actually illegal, and wages are even lower in Chinese textile plants than in Gaston or Winnsboro.

But the motive for a relocation matters. Moving for cheaper labor is legal. But closing a plant in Los Angeles and moving to North Dakota to avoid hiring Hispanics or African Americans is not legal. Shutting a factory in New York and moving it to South Carolina to avoid hiring Jews or Muslims would not be legal, either. One can imagine other illegal motivations, but the point is that we reasonably limit relocations when they violate laws. In Boeing’s case, the bad motive that has been alleged is a desire to punish the machinist union members for exercising their legally protected right to strike. E-mail traffic among Boeing managers is alleged to show that it was due to the desire to punish the Washington State Boeing workers for having engaged in lawful strikes that airline production work was transferred. Congress has prohibited job decisions based explicitly on unlawful animus, whether it’s hostility to blacks, women, Mormons, Muslims, Jews or unions. Instead of browbeating the neutral prosecutor and judge, why not let them do their jobs and apply the law to the facts? We used to call that due process.

Ross Eisenbrey is a lawyer and former commissioner of the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Review Committee. He has been vice president of the Economic Policy Institute since 2003.

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Filed under Boeing Corp, Congress, Congress Blog, Franklin D. Roosevelt, labor unions, National Labor Relations Board(NLRB), North Carolina, Republican Candidates, right to work, The Hill

Reid: Democrats will use 50-vote tactic to finish healthcare within 60 days

By Michael O’Brien from the Hill.com’s Blog Briefing Room

Democrats will finish their health reform efforts within the next two months by using a majority-vote maneuver in the Senate, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said.

Reid said that congressional Democrats would likely opt for a procedural tactic in the Senate allowing the upper chamber to make final changes to its healthcare bill with only a simple majority of senators, instead of the 60 it takes to normally end a filibuster.

“I’ve had many conversations this week with the president, his chief of staff, and Speaker Pelosi,” Reid said during an appearance Friday evening on “Face to Face with Jon Ralston” in Nevada. “And we’re really trying to move forward on this.”

The majority leader said that while Democrats have a number of options, they would likely use the budget reconciliation process to pass a series of fixes to the first healthcare bill passed by the Senate in November. These changes are needed to secure votes for passage of that original Senate bill in the House.

“We’ll do a relatively small bill to take care of what we’ve already done,” Reid said, affirming that Democrats would use the reconciliation process. “We’re going to have that done in the next 60 days.”

The move would allow Democrats to essentially go it alone on health reform, especially after losing their filibuter-proof majority in the Senate after Sen. Scott Brown’s (R) special election victory in Massachusetts.

Republicans have protested the maneuver as a hyperpartisan tactic to ram through a health bill, and have said that plans to use the reconciliation process make moot a bipartisan summit at the White House this week, where both GOP and Democratic leaders are supposed to present their ideas on healthcare.

Reid said that the final Democratic bill is likely to be unveiled Monday night.

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Filed under health, health care reform, The Hill, US Sen. Harry Reid

Poll: President Obama ends first year with 57 percent average approval rating

From The Hill.com

President Barack Obama will round out his first year in office with an average 57 percent approval rating, according to Gallup.

Interestingly enough, that would place Obama nearly last in a ranking of former presidents’ first-year job approval averages, pollsters noted.

Former Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush all ended their first year in office with much higher job approval totals. Former President Ronald Reagan tied Obama at 57 percent while former President Bill Clinton scored far below Obama, at 49 percent.

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Filed under approval rating, Gallup poll, President Obama, The Hill

Obama tweets for first time

From The Hill.com
By Kim Hart –

President Barack Obama has “pushed the button” to send his first-ever tweet during a visit to the D.C. offices for the American Red Cross.

Obama used the relief organization’s page to tweet: tweeted: “President Obama and the First Lady are here visiting our disaster operation center right now.”

The next tweet read, “President Obama pushed the button on the last tweet. It was his first ever tweet!”

It was the first time that the president who made history using social media during the 2008 election had personally used the technology.

While both the White House and the president’s campaign have Twitter accounts (with extensive lists of followers, no less), those accounts are managed and written by staff — something the president has in common with a majority of officials who are on Twitter.

Obama remarked on the occasion, according to several reporters who witnessed the act.

“I just tweeted. The first time I tweeted,” Obama said, noting as well that the Red Cross had raised $21 million through Twitter to send relief to earthquake-stricken Haiti.

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Filed under President Obama, The Hill, Twitter

RNC chairman doubts GOP will win back the House this November

The Hill
By Bob Cusack

RNC Chairman Michael Steele said Monday night that he doesn’t think Republicans will win control of the House in 2010 .

Asked by Sean Hannity on the Fox News Channel whether he believes the GOP is going to take over the House, the chairman of the Republican National Committee responded, “Not this year.”

Pressed on his prediction, Steele later said, “I don’t know yet.” Steele said, “We’re going to see, I think, nice pickups in the House,” but added it is difficult to provide a number because it is still early in the 2010 cycle.

Other Republicans, including House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (Va.) and House Chief Deputy Whip Kevin McCarthy (Calif.), have expressed more optimism about the chances the GOP will retake the lower chamber this year.

Hannity urged Steele on Monday night to draft a new Contract with America before the November elections.

Steele did not completely commit to a new contract, but said, “I think you’re going to a see a definitive document with clear definitions of who we are.”

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Filed under Fox News, RNC Chairman Michael Steele, Sean Hannity, The Hill

Health care is a right, not a privilege

by U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders

June 8, 2009
Let’s be clear. Our health care system is disintegrating. Today, 46 million people have no health insurance and even more are underinsured with high deductibles and co-payments. At a time when 60 million people, including many with insurance, do not have access to a medical home, more than 18,000 Americans die every year from preventable illnesses because they do not get to the doctor when they should. This is six times the number who died at the tragedy of 9/11—but this occurs every year.

In the midst of this horrendous lack of coverage, the U.S. spends far more per capita on health care than any other nation—and health care costs continue to soar. At $2.4 trillion dollars, and 18 percent of our GDP, the skyrocketing cost of health care in this country is unsustainable both from a personal and macro-economic perspective.

At the individual level, the average American spends about $7,900 per year on health care. Despite that huge outlay, a recent study found that medical problems contributed to 62 percent of all bankruptcies in 2007. From a business perspective, General Motors spends more on health care per automobile than on steel while small business owners are forced to divert hard-earned profits into health coverage for their employees—rather than new business investments. And, because of rising costs, many businesses are cutting back drastically on their level of health care coverage or are doing away with it entirely.

Further, despite the fact that we spend almost twice as much per person on health care as any other country, our health care outcomes lag behind many other nations. We get poor value for what we spend. According to the World Health Organization the United States ranks 37th in terms of health system performance and we are far behind many other countries in terms of such important indices as infant mortality, life expectancy and preventable deaths.

As the health care debate heats up in Washington, we as a nation have to answer two very fundamental questions. First, should all Americans be entitled to health care as a right and not a privilege—which is the way every other major country treats health care and the way we respond to such other basic needs as education, police and fire protection? Second, if we are to provide quality health care to all, how do we accomplish that in the most cost-effective way possible?

I think the answer to the first question is pretty clear, and one of the reasons that Barack Obama was elected president. Most Americans do believe that all of us should have health care coverage, and that nobody should be left out of the system. The real debate is how we accomplish that goal in an affordable and sustainable way. In that regard, I think the evidence is overwhelming that we must end the private insurance company domination of health care in our country and move toward a publicly-funded, single-payer Medicare for All approach.

Our current private health insurance system is the most costly, wasteful, complicated and bureaucratic in the world. Its function is not to provide quality health care for all, but to make huge profits for those who own the companies. With thousands of different health benefit programs designed to maximize profits, private health insurance companies spend an incredible (30 percent) of each health care dollar on administration and billing, exorbitant CEO compensation packages, advertising, lobbying and campaign contributions. Public programs like Medicare, Medicaid and the VA are administered for far less.

In recent years, while we have experienced an acute shortage of primary health care doctors as well as nurses and dentists, we are paying for a huge increase in health care bureaucrats and bill collectors. Over the last three decades, the number of administrative personnel has grown by 25 times the numbers of physicians. Not surprisingly, while health care costs are soaring, so are the profits of private health insurance companies. From 2003 to 2007, the combined profits of the nation’s major health insurance companies increased by 170 percent. And, while more and more Americans are losing their jobs and health insurance, the top executives in the industry are receiving lavish compensation packages. It’s not just William McGuire, the former head of United Health, who several years ago accumulated stock options worth an estimated $1.6 billion or Cigna CEO Edward Hanway who made more than $120 million in the last five years. The reality is that CEO compensation for the top seven health insurance companies now averages $14.2 million.

Moving toward a national health insurance program which provides cost-effective universal, comprehensive and quality health care for all will not be easy. The powerful special interests—the insurance companies, drug companies and medical equipment suppliers—will wage an all-out fight to make sure that we maintain the current system which enables them to make billions of dollars. In recent years they have spent hundreds of millions on lobbying, campaign contributions and advertising and, with unlimited resources, they will continue spending as much as they need.

But, at the end of the day, as difficult as it may be, the fight for a national health care program will prevail. Like the civil rights movement, the struggle for women’s rights and other grass-roots efforts, justice in this country is often delayed—but it will not be denied. We shall overcome!

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Filed under health care reform, Medicaid, Medicare, Senator Bernie Sanders, single-payer system, The Hill, World Health Organization