Category Archives: Congress

House passes Russian sanctions bill by a veto-proof majority

Back in June, a bipartisan Senate majority easily approved legislation imposing new sanctions on Russia in response to Russia’s interference in the U.S. election on a vote of 97 to 2.

Putin’s pal in the White House launched an aggressive push to derail the bill, or to at least water it down considerably in the House.

The White House efforts failed.

Today the House passed a revised Russian sanctions bill on an overwhelming  — and veto-proof — vote of  419-3. That bill now goes back to the Senate where it is expected to pass by a veto-proof majority, again. What is Putin’s pal in the White House  to do? House passes Russia sanctions bill, setting up veto dilemma for Trump:

The House on Tuesday voted overwhelmingly to advance new financial sanctions against key U.S. adversaries and deliver a foreign-policy brushback to President Trump by limiting his ability to waive many of them.

Included in the package, which passed 419 to 3, are new measures targeting key Russian officials in retaliation for that country’s alleged interference in the 2016 presidential election, as well as sanctions against Iran and North Korea in response to those nations’ weapons programs.

Members of the Trump administration, including Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, have resisted the congressional push — in particular a provision attached to the Russian measures that would require Congress to sign off on any move to relieve those sanctions.

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Democratic Party announces a ‘Better Deal’ for America

On Monday, the Democratic Party began to get separation from its standard-bearer Hillary Clinton in 2016, and moving forward with a first draft of a plan for the 2018 midterms. The New York Times reports, Congressional Democrats Promise a ‘Better Deal’ for American Workers:

The Democratic Party wants to pick a fight with corporate America to win back Congress.

The big ideas in the economic agenda that congressional Democrats unveiled on Monday, including a higher minimum wage and lower drug prices, are aimed at reclaiming the party’s populist mantle from President Trump.

Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the driving force behind this “Better Deal,” said that Mr. Trump won the presidency by promising to help working Americans, only to abandon them. The Democrats are now hoping to reclaim Congress by making a number of the same promises to the same people.

“Old-fashioned capitalism has broken down to the detriment of consumers,” Mr. Schumer said on Monday afternoon in Berryville, Va., about an hour west of Washington.

Yet there were some striking omissions in the plan. There was no talk about health insurance beyond prescription drug prices. There was no discussion of trade policy beyond a placeholder sentence promising more details later; Mr. Schumer’s office said Democrats planned to roll out a detailed trade agenda in the fall. And party leaders did not embrace liberal concerns about the outsize economic role of the financial industry.

The focus, instead, was on a fairly small set of battle-tested ideas. And though Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont was not present on Monday, the imprint of his presidential campaign was unmistakably present. Democrats proposed to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour — an idea the party’s 2016 nominee, Hillary Clinton, never heartily embraced.

The “Fight for $15” has energized parts of the Democratic base, and it has racked up impressive victories in states including New York and California and cities from Seattle to Washington.

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D-day for Health Care Vote in Senate (updated)

Evil GOP bastard Mitch McConnell is forcing a procedural vote today to advance an “Obamacare” repeal and “Trumpcare” replacement, even though there is no bill that senators have had a chance to read and review, even as late as this morning.

Adding to the drama, Sen. John McCain, recently diagnosed with brain cancer, is flying back to Washington for the vote so that he can cast a vote to take health care away from 20-30 million Americans, including more than 400,000 of his own Arizona constituents. It takes a real “hero” to do that.  He will also vote to blow up the health insurance markets by reintroducing segregation of the health insurance market, one for the young and healthy, and one for the old and sick with pre-existing conditions, with higher deductibles and premiums that make health insurance unaffordable to the latter group. All for the purpose of giving the wealthiest Americans another undeserved tax break (the real purpose of these GOP bills). Such a “maverick” from a man who enjoys the best health care in the world. Cynical old bastard.

The New York Times reports, Senate Braces for Health Showdown With McCain on Hand but a Plan Unclear:

Senate Republican leaders, keeping alive their push to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, are barreling toward a showdown vote on Tuesday to begin debating a repeal of the health law. And Senator John McCain announced Monday night that he will be on hand to cast his vote, despite a diagnosis of brain cancer.

Before Mr. McCain, an Arizona Republican, announced that he was jetting in to cast what is expected to be a vote in favor of starting debate, President Trump spent Monday ratcheting up pressure on Republican senators to get onboard. Mr. Trump criticized their inaction and warned that they risked betraying seven years’ worth of promises to raze and revamp the health law if they did not.

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Tom Perez, the Democratic National Committee chairman, countered, “No matter how many ways President Trump tries to twist or hide the truth, the facts won’t change: The Affordable Care Act has been a lifesaver for millions of Americans.”

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Senate showdown on ‘Obamacare’ repeal set for Tuesday

Evil GOP bastard Mitch McConnell has scheduled a vote on Tuesday in his last ditch strategy to repeal Obamacare:

Talking is no longer working. It’s time to vote.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is taking the rare step of forcing his members to take a tough vote on an Obamacare repeal bill, H.R. 1628 (115), that is on track to fail, making them own their votes.

Senior Senate Republicans believe the high-profile vote expected Tuesday — followed by conservative backlash over the GOP’s failure to fulfill its seven-year campaign pledge — might provoke enough heat from the base to bring senators back to the negotiating table.

It seems like a long shot. But McConnell may be playing the long game — making his members walk the plank not as an act of desperation but as part of a strategy that just might work. He’s used it before to get what he wants.

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If the strategy doesn’t bring senators back to the table, the vote could demarcate a decisive end to at least the public Obamacare repeal debate for some time. That would allow the Senate, which has already spent two months trying to dismantle and replace the health law, to move on and notch some legislative wins [or not]. Many are more than ready to turn to other priorities, like tax reform.

Still, holding a doomed vote is unusual for McConnell, who typically goes to great lengths to protect his members from politically difficult votes.

“Everybody has to be held personally accountable,” said Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), who has been furiously whipping the repeal effort. “Everybody is a good enough politician that if they’ve got a reason to justify their vote, they’ll be able to sell that.”

The vote Tuesday will be to start debate on Obamacare repeal. But it is unclear as of now which bill would serve as the actual policy — an extremely unusual move. McConnell said earlier this week the Senate would vote on a repeat of a 2015 bill that repealed much of the health care law. Since then, senators have floated the idea of voting on multiple options, including repeal, the Senate’s repeal-and-replace measure or a combination of these and other policies.

That would be moot if the Senate doesn’t even vote to start debate.

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Team Trump to attack Justice Department investigators, explore pardons

As I posted yesterday, the Trump administration is seeking to discredit anyone in the chain of investigators investigating the Trump campaign and his financial connections to Russia in order to provide grist to the conservative media entertainment complex to wage a propaganda campaign against Special Counsel Robert Mueller and his team of investigators, for the purpose of laying the groundwork for Trump’s eventual move to a “Saturday Night Massacre” and finding someone at the Justice Department to “Bork” (fire) Robert Mueller.

Trump is also working on a “get out of jail free” card by having his lawyers explore the parameters of his issuing a presidential pardon to his ne’er-do-well family of grifters and con men, and more importantly, to himself.

If Trump is as innocent as he claims, he would be cooperating with Congress and the Justice Department to resolve this matter as quickly as possible to clear his name. He would not be going to war with his own Department of Justice. Trump is plainly behaving as a man who has something to hide.

The Washington Post reports, Trump team seeks to control, block Mueller’s Russia investigation:

Some of President Trump’s lawyers are exploring ways to limit or undercut special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s Russia investigation, building a case against what they allege are his conflicts of interest and discussing the president’s authority to grant pardons, according to people familiar with the effort.

Trump has asked his advisers about his power to pardon aides, family members and even himself in connection with the probe, according to one of those people. A second person said Trump’s lawyers have been discussing the president’s pardoning powers among themselves.

One adviser said the president has simply expressed a curiosity in understanding the reach of his pardoning authority, as well as the limits of Mueller’s investigation.

“This is not in the context of, ‘I can’t wait to pardon myself,’ ” a close adviser said.

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The Yin & Yang of Public Policy: Can We Achieve Balance?

The Yin and Yang mosaic

The Yin and Yang.

On one hand, the news media often tells us that we are a country divided. Social media fuels this idea with countless stories of political and ideological intransigence despite mounting societal needs.

On the other hand, the news media also often tells us how much the general population agrees on certain topics. For example, although Congressional Republicans have been working for seven years to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA or “Obamacare”) and return to the glory days of market-driven health insurance, polls show an increasing majority of Americans “believe the federal government has a responsibility to make sure all Americans have health care coverage.”

An Associated Press story published today reported that “Americans overwhelmingly want lawmakers of both parties to work out health-care changes, with only 13 percent supporting Republican moves to repeal ‘Obamacare’ absent a replacement.”

“Nearly everyone wants changes to the Obama law, while hardly anyone wants to see it abolished without a substitute in place,” according to the AP. If 80-90% of Americans think Republicans and Democrats should work together on healthcare insurance reform, why not do this? Why the complete disconnect between what the people want, what’s good for the health of the population, and what the Republicans in Congress are doing?

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