The Irony of Ironies via Republican Poison Pills

H.R. 2577 is a conglomeration of a number of bills (Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2017) that  the Senate needs to take action on failed a super-majority vote (60 votes) for cloture (the ability to be considered and voted for/against on the Senate floor).  One version of that bill was passed by the House and a different version of that/those bills passed the Senate.  Thus, it’s now gone to conference committee to work out the wrinkles between the two versions.

This conference agreement now includes the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2017, the Zika Response and Preparedness Appropriations Act, 2016, the Zika Vector Control Act, and an unacceptable ‘division’ on funds to be rescinded from programs the Republicans don’t particularly like.  That’s what came to the floor for a cloture vote, and it failed miserably — 52-48.

Really, Senator McConnell?  It’s too difficult for the general public to understand?  I don’t think so.

It’s one thing for Republicans to short-change President Obama’s funding request.  It’s another thing to start attaching ‘poison pills’ to the proposed legislation that limit or outright prohibit women’s choices.  When you introduce a funding proposal that limits the distribution of contraceptives and that prevents family planning organizations like Planned Parenthood from participating in the effort to help women in Zika-affected areas delay pregnancy, from a disease that not just contracted from a mosquito bite, but from sexual activity with an infected male partner, did you really think that Senate Democrats would just roll over and vote for that?

When you start gutting provisions of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act, did you honestly believe that Democrats would just roll over and just vote for that?

SEC. 2. MOSQUITO CONTROL WAIVER.
Notwithstanding section 402 of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (33 U.S.C. 1342), during the 180 day period following the date of enactment of this Act the Administrator of the United States Environmental Protection Agency (or a State, in the case of a permit program approved under subsection (b)) shall not require a permit for a discharge from the application by an entity authorized under State or local law, such as a vector control district, of a pesticide in compliance with all relevant requirements of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (7 U.S.C. 136 et seq.) to control mosquitos or mosquito larvae for the prevention or control of the Zika virus.

When you start stripping funding for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), did you really expect Democrats to just roll over, see the light and vote your way?  Or, when you decide to fund your bill by stripping balances  from the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, did you really expect Democrats to go “oh yeah, that’s a great idea” and vote in favor of your bill?  Or better yet, given that we already know that you stripped a bunch of funding from the State Department for Embassy security that might have made the outcome in Benghazi drastically different, did you really expect the Senate Democrats to let you strip even more funding for the State Department and other Foreign Operations?

Are you nuts?  They certainly weren’t and neither am I.  It took me hours to sort through all the links on Congress.gov, but here’s what I found:

DIVISION D–RESCISSIONS OF FUNDS

Sec. 101.
(a) $543,000,000 of the unobligated amounts made available under section 1323(c)(1) of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (42 U.S.C. 18043(c)(1)) is rescinded immediately upon enactment of this Act.

Sec. 1323. Community health insurance option. Requires the Secretary to offer a Community Health Insurance Option as a qualified health plan through Exchanges. Allows States to enact a law to opt out of offering the option. Requires the option to cover only essential health benefits; States may require additional benefits, but must defray their cost. Requires the Secretary to set geographically adjusted premium rates that cover expected costs. Requires the Secretary to negotiate provider reimbursement rates, but they must not be higher than average rates paid by private qualified health plans. Subjects the option to State and Federal solvency standards and to State consumer protection laws. Establishes a Start-Up Fund to provide loans for initial operations, to be repaid with interest within 10 years. Authorizes the Secretary to contract with nonprofits for the administration of the option.

(b) $100,000,000 of the unobligated balances available in the Nonrecurring expenses fund established in section 223 of division G of Public Law 110-161 (42 U.S.C. 3514a) from any fiscal year is rescinded immediately upon enactment of this Act.

DIVISION G–DEPARTMENTS OF LABOR, HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES, AND EDUCATION, AND RELATED AGENCIES APPROPRIATIONS ACT, 2008
Title I–Department of Labor
Title II–Department of Health and Human Services
Title III–Department of Education
Title IV–Related Agencies
Title V–General Provisions
Title VI–National Commission on Children and Disasters

(c) $107,000,000 of the unobligated balances of appropriations made available under the heading Bilateral Economic Assistance, Funds Appropriated to the President, Economic Support Fund in title IX of the Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Act, 2015 (division J of Public Law 113-235) is rescinded immediately upon enactment of this Act: Provided, That such amounts are designated by the Congress as an emergency requirement pursuant to section 251(b)(2)(A)(i) of the Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit Control Act of 1985.

Personally, I side with Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid who declared, “It is unbelievable that somebody would have the audacity to come to the floor and say it’s Democrats’ fault. A significant amount of American women, especially young women, go to Planned Parenthood, and the Republicans want to say, ‘you can’t do that.’” Why indeed would Democrats not just prohibit Planned Parenthood from providing any services, but gut the EPA’s ability to assure clean water and harm HHS’s ability to manage health insurance options for not just Puerto Ricans, but millions of American families across our nation?  Apparently Sen. McConnell completely missed the irony of claiming to improve women’s health by prohibiting and defunding health opportunities for women altogether.


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If you won’t speak up for yourself, who will?

— by Nick Hanauer, via Democracy for America

President Obama and the Department of Labor just proposed giving millions of Americans a raise, increasing the overtime threshold from $23,600 a year to $50,440. From the fearful squawks coming from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other business lobbyists you’d think the sky was falling.

But all this trickle-down scare-talk about job-killing regulations and unintended economic consequences is just that — trickle-down scare talk —  without an ounce of empirical data to back it up.

Business lobbies are already hollering this will kill jobs. Baloney. We call it: Chicken Little Economics.

Far from the end of the world, middle-class Americans never did better than when the overtime threshold  —  the annual salary below which workers are automatically entitled to time-and-a-half overtime pay — was at its peak.

President Obama’s plan is a courageous step in the right direction. It’s like a minimum wage hike for the middle class. The Department of Labor has started the rule-making process to make the increase official. They’re taking public comment right now, and we need you to let them know you support it.

Say no to Chicken Little Economics! Join me, Robert Reich, and Democracy for America and tell the Department of Labor that you support President Obama’s plan to raise overtime pay.

A half-century ago, more than 60 percent of salaried workers qualified for overtime pay. But after 40 years in which the threshold has been allowed to steadily erode, only about 8 percent do. If you feel like you’re working longer hours for less money than your parents did, it’s probably because you are.

The erosion of overtime and other labor protections is one of the main factors leading to worsening inequality. But a higher threshold would help reverse this trend.

Under the higher salary threshold, employers would have a choice: They could either pay you time-and-half for your extra hours worked, or they could hire more workers at the standard rate to fill your previously unpaid hours. Employers could put more money into your pockets, or put more leisure time at your disposal while directly adding more jobs. And either would be great for workers and great for boosting economic growth.

Submit your comment to the Department of Labor today: tell them to raise the overtime threshold.

Here’s why the right-wing and the business lobbyists are wrong about overtime. Lower- and middle-income workers don’t stash their earnings in offshore accounts the way CEOs do . When workers have more money, they spend it. Businesses have more customers; and when businesses have more customers, they hire more workers.

A higher overtime threshold would increase total employment, tightening the labor market and driving up real wages for the first time since the late 1990s.

Conservative pundits and politicians will attempt to preserve the status quo by warning that a return to more reasonable overtime standards would somehow cripple our economy, hurting the exact same workers we intend to help.

But that’s what they always warn about every regulation – from the minimum wage, to Obamacare, to child labor laws. Yet it never turns out to be true. And trickle-down economics looks more like Chicken Little Economics with every passing day.

Let’s put an end to Chicken Little Economics. Join me, Robert Reich, and DFA: tell the Department of Labor you support the new overtime rules.

Thank you for taking a stand against income inequality.

39 Days left in this Congressional Session

Congress is back on today from August recess, and it faces two big issues in its first full week of work:  whether to approve military action in Syria and a 2014 federal spending.

Authorizing Military Action in Syria 

On Aug. 31, the President sent Congress draft legislation that would authorize use of the US military “in connection with the conflict in Syria.” In the past week, more than 2,700 POPVOX users weighed in on the President’s proposal — overwhelmingly in opposition — and even the media took note: Check out POPVOX on NBC news and The Hill.

Last week, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved its resolution to authorize the limited and specified use of the US Armed Forces. The resolution allows up to 90 days of military action against Syria, and due to a bipartisan amendment in committee, it allows the Administration to take steps to change the “momentum on the battlefield” to help Syrian rebels.  Weigh in on the Senate’s resolution at POPVOX.

  • The resolution passed the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in a close 10-7 vote, and the Obama Administration will be pushing Senators to support it before this week’s vote. It’s not yet clear if the Senate can pass the resolution given scant public support for a new military campaign, even one that the Administration says would be very limited and would not involve ground troops. Meanwhile, House leaders have indicated they would let the Senate act first, and might consider Syria language later in the month. There’s also a chance the House doesn’t vote at all, particularly if the Senate fails to pass its language.

Learn more and find other bills related to Syria in PopVox’s Issue Spotlight.

2014 Federal Spending 

The House will take the lead on 2014 spending, by considering a short-term continuing resolution. The plan is to allow the government to operate for the first few months of the new fiscal year, so Congress can spend time working on a debt ceiling agreement. As of Friday, the House had not revealed the text of the continuing resolution it hopes to pass.

Also in the House

The No Subsidies Without Verification Act (HR 2775): would prohibit any federal subsidies for Obamacare’s health insurance exchanges from being provided until there is a system in place that verifies eligibility as outlined by current law, according to the bill sponsor.

  • HR2775 reflects Republican disapproval of an Obama administration decision not to verify eligibility of people receiving subsidies. Many Republicans said failing to see if people qualify for these subsidies will only lead to more demand for the payments, which would drive up the costs of Obamacare.

Finally, the House will consider several suspension bills early in the week, including several Senate land use bills:

As you can see, Immigration Reform is nowhere on the House agenda at this point.

GOP Targets Women With Ads For Bill That Would Weaken Overtime Pay

— by Bryce Covert on Apr 30, 2013 at 3:30 pm

In a bid for women’s support and votes, the GOP launched an aggressive ad campaign on “mommy blogs” on Tuesday. The ads will tout its deceptively titled Working Families Flexibility Act that would weaken overtime pay laws:

The banner ads will be featured on over 100 websites popular among women and geo-targeted to be viewed by residents in 20 Democratic-held congressional districts targeted by the GOP for 2014. […]

The $20,000 ad buy, running on sites including Ikeafans.com and MarthaStewart.com through Friday, will call on Democrats to vote with House Republicans next week on a bill to give hourly private sector workers more flexibility to choose between compensatory time and cash payment for overtime work.

“Tell Rep. Kyrsten Sinema you shouldn’t have to choose between work and family,” reads one ad set to run in Sinema’s suburban Phoenix district. “Will Rep. Collin Peterson stand up for working moms?” reads another that’s slated to run in Peterson’s western Minnesota district. The banner ads link to a petition site calling on lawmakers to support “more freedom for working moms.”

There’s no doubt that many Americans are overworked and in need of policies that better allow them to balance their families and their jobs. But the GOP’s solution is not much of a solution at all. Rather than giving workers the ability to accrue paid leave through regular working hours, it would instead allow workers and employers to trade traditional time-and-a-half pay for overtime hours for compensatory time off.

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) currently requires overtime for work over 40 hours, providing a disincentive to push employees to work long hours, which could diminish if they can offer comp time offered instead. The current law is also already difficult to enforce, as many workers claim they are denied time-and-a-half pay, and some employers may force their employees to use comp time instead. On top of all of this, employers may be able to deny requests to use comp time if they can claim it “unduly disrupts the operations of the employer” or that the request didn’t come in “within a reasonable period.”

There are other policies that Republicans could focus on if they are interested in promoting family friendly work solutions: They could support paid family and medical leave (currently only guaranteed as unpaid leave), paid sick days, and protections for workers who request flexible working conditions.


This material [the article above] was created by the Center for American Progress Action Fund. It was created for the Progress Report, the daily e-mail publication of the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Click here to subscribe.


H.R. 1406: Working Families Flexibility Act of 2013

Sponsor:  Rep. Martha Roby [R-AL2]

4/9/2013–Introduced.

The summary below was written by the Congressional Research Service, which is a nonpartisan division of the Library of Congress.

Working Families Flexibility Act of 2013 –

  1. Amends the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 to authorize private employers to provide compensatory time off to private employees at a rate of 1 1/2 hours per hour of employment for which overtime compensation is required.
  2. Authorizes an employer to provide compensatory time only if it is in accordance with an applicable collective bargaining agreement or, in the absence of such an agreement, an agreement between the employer and employee.
  3. Prohibits an employee from accruing more than 160 hours of compensatory time.
  4. Requires an employee’s employer to provide monetary compensation, after the end of a calendar year, for any unused compensatory time off accrued during the preceding year.
  5. Requires an employer to give employees 30-day notice before discontinuing compensatory time off.
  6. Prohibits an employer from intimidating, threatening, or coercing an employee in order to:
    1. interfere with the employee’s right to request or not to request compensatory time off in lieu of payment of monetary overtime compensation, or
    2. require an employee to use such compensatory time.
  7. Makes an employer who violates such requirements liable to the affected employee in the amount of the compensation rate for each hour of compensatory time accrued, plus an additional equal amount as liquidated damages, reduced for each hour of compensatory time used.

Section 5 of this bill specifies that it will “sunset” or in other words, “expire” in a mere 5 years after the date of enactment.  If this is such a great idea, why are they proposing to spend a lot of money to jump through all the administrative hoops, just to do it for a very short period of time?  It’s like a monumental tease, something designed to rope you in, just before they pull the rug out from under your feet.